The Ann Raber Project

I’m not sure how climbing photographers are climbing photographers. This was the most intense and overwhelming set of photos I’ve ever gone through. So many photos. So many faces. So many so many so many and it was only two afternoons of shooting. It took me almost two months to give climbing badass Ann Raber‘s photos the attention they needed and I’m positive they still haven’t received all the time and attention from me that they deserve.

Regardless, here are my favorites from our shoot at Mayhem Cove. Routes include Physcho II (5.12b) and Cajun Hell (a two pitch 5.13a), among others. You may see the entire gallery here.

Fall Climbing in Tahoe

I’m so thrilled to have my friend Ann Raber in town. Ann had been talking about visiting Tahoe for ages, ever since she sold all her stuff and decided to go on a never ending climbing trip. Ann is a ClimbTech Team Ambassador, a savvy traveler, an amazing climber and all around just a fun smart lady. My friend Damion, otherwise known as my brotha from anotha motha and the Resident Expert on Tahoe Climbing, took us to Mayhem Cove for some amazing fall climbing. We wanted to show off Tahoe’s sport routes and I was tasked with getting some photos of Ann for her sponsors.

I probably hadn’t been to Mayhem Cove in five years which may also amount to the number of years that’s its been since I’ve actually climbed in Tahoe. I had a BLAST. I forgot how much I love climbing.

If you’ve never spent fall in Tahoe, it’s absolutely prime-time for climbing. It’s cool, but not freezing: the temp is lovely to sweat in and the rock is nice and grippy.

Ann’s photos will come as soon as I edit them. In the meantime, you’ll have to do with this sweet silhouette of Damion on Psycho II (5.12b) at dusk.

Damion Estrada on Psycho II in Mayhem Cove, South Lake Tahoe, CA

Want to come climb this fall in Tahoe? Here are your best resources for local crag info.

-SuperTopo Guide to South Lake Tahoe.
-Lake Tahoe Bouldering information.
-Gear at Sports LTD.
-Nothing tastes better post climbing than pizza and beer at Lake Tahoe Pizza Co. Order the whole wheat crust!

In addition, Lake Tahoe Community College offers a Kids Climbing Course weekly or over certain weekends of the year taught by none other than Damion himself. If you have children who love the outdoors, this is a great way to give them hands on experience in getting dirty, having fun and becoming connected to the world around them.

Vathi!

Our 7th day in Greece was the first day of full sunshine that we’d seen in awhile and we were all SO thankful. We planned a big trip for the day: to Vathi, a port town near Pothia.

The road to Vathi is one of the newest additions to the island; it’s corners were much less fear-inducing than those on the rest of the roads and it’s pavement was super smooth. It included a long descent into the agricultural farmland of the island: orchards filled with citrus fruit, olive groves and a visible lack of goats.

Vathi’s name comes from the Greek word meaning “deep or depth” or “deep harbor,” which is exactly what we found when we arrived: a picturesque harbor filled with small fishing boats and a long deep channel out to sea.

Photo: Greg Brooks

We really wanted to go to Vathi to take advantage of the deep water soloing. It was one of the reasons that Kalymnos was even on our radar. While we had intended to charter a boat to get to the cliffs, it turns out that most of the restaurants in the square will simply take you to the cliffs on boats for free, provided that you eat lunch at their restaurant when you return. We were, to borrow Michelle’s word, dubious to say the least. Despite the fact that people had been overwhelmingly generous in a trustworthy way our entire trip, the American in all of us still said, “but wait, what’s the catch?”

The catch was that the boat doesn’t stay. The captain literally left us on the side of a cliff and pointed to a cluster of rocks in the corner of the small cove and said with a very thick Greek accent, “tiny beach.”

Photo: Erik Moore

So, here we were, on the side of a cliff, with a tiny beach for two, in the sunshine and beautiful water, left to jump and climb to our heart’s contents. I’m not sure if you know this but I LOVE jumping off things.

Photo: Erik Moore

The boys climbed in the cave here and there, but apparently the deep water soloing is lackluster in Greece compared to the amazing crags that have been discovered on Lake Travis. Ellen snorkeled and taught me about sea urchins. Erik took photos. I jumped off the cliff a whole bunch. Greg and Suzee hung out on the tiny beach. Erik commented that he “really wanted to go to the beach but it was already too crowded.”

Photo: Greg Brooks

Our captain returned, as promised, exactly two hours later and we headed back to Vathi to eat lunch at the restaurant as promised. Ellen, Suzee and I also picked up some really amazing scarves. Side note: I was told to take scarves to Europe to blend in and now I, who at first said, “pffffft, me, in scarves! I scoff at that!” am now obsessed.

That evening, our hosts Dimitri and Evie had secured for us a leg of goat that was roasted similar to a pot roast along with pearl onions and potatoes. It was one of the last things on our Greece Bucket List to check off.

The Sikati Cave

You wake up. Slug a bunch of percolator coffee and stuff some Greek yogurt and abs fitness cereal in your face. It’s slathered in the most amazing honey you’ve ever had. You all get on scooters and begin a terrifying ride over a mountain pass littered with goats, one random street sweeper and various scree, rocks and miscellany that could seriously impale itself into your skin if your scooter crashed.

When you arrive, you walk 50 minutes through some goat gates, across some hills and dales and there, in the distance, you see it. The Sikati Cave. And there, just below it, a private beach. Well, private to you and the goats that followed you here.

Photo: Erik Moore

The Sikati cave is located on the northeast rim of the island and although climbers call it Sikati, the locals call it Alatsia. It’s less cave and more gigantic hole in the ground: it has no roof, is as tall as 70 meteres on some sides and 60 meters across. To get there, you descend down a fixed line into the depths of the cave.

Photo: Erik Moore

The walls, when you descend down the fixed line, is filled with tufas and stalactites.

Photo: Erik Moore

The boys started warming up while us ladies sat back and enjoyed the view and explored dead goat bodies. There were a few goats lingering inside the cave, up high on some of the walls above the climbs. I was concerned for their safety, of course. We found two dead and decomposing goats down below.

Photo: Greg Brooks

I finally determined by the proliferation of goat shit on the ground and the lack of dead goats that the goats do frequently come into the cave and are clearly able to get themselves out. Whew.

Photo: Erik Moore

The climbing in the cave was incredible. The boys all took turns on one particularly wild and inspiring 25m route, a 7b+ (5.12c) called Morgan. It was nothing but overhanging power moves all the way to the top.

Climber: Eric Bentley Photo: Erik Moore

Climber: Greg Brooks Photo: Erik Moore

Bentley climbed first and watching him made my heart race a bit. The climbers we had seen on the route before him had a tough time and honestly, watching someone climb on something so long, so enduring and requiring such strength made me very nervous. He managed to send the climb though and we were all really excited for him.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/31875914]

It was less and less nerve-wracking with each boy that went and they all did a great job. Before too long though, Suzee, Ellen and I were itching for our private beach afternoon so we bailed. I wasn’t kidding when I said we had to share.

Photo: Erik Moore

The water was warm, shallow and amazing. The goats, after first checking to see if we had anything to eat, meandered off. It was one of the more memorable places I’ve been.

After a long much more arduous hike back out to the road, we were on our way back to the villa. After warm showers for the first time in a few days, a few of us went over to the Artistico Cafe for happy hour.

Photo: Greg Brooks

That night we feasted at Harry’s like kings again: zuchinni croquettes, meatloaf with hardboiled eggs hidden in the middle, steamed spinach and a really amazing curry chicken. It wouldn’t be a birthday (Greg’s this time!) without Ouzo shots, though I skipped out this time, and some Greek yogurt for desert. Greek Yogurt: it’s not just for breakfast.

The Grande Grotta

The Grande Grotta is one of the largest, most prominent and beautiful climbing areas in Kalymnos.

But of course, I needed coffee so I didn’t go there right away. Ellen, Suzee and I walked into Massouri and had coffee and breakfast from a wonderful little cafe that baked tiny sandwich pockets filled with delightful things like cheese and ham. We drank loads of coffee and watched men fish while the boys climbed.

Photo: Erik Moore

The climbs there were amazing: 40 meter long over hanging awesomeness. Sadly, I tried to follow one climb and made it about two feet before I realized that my body was so fatigued from the run the day before that it was absolutely futile to even attempt. Instead, I watched and it was worth the view. Mostly for the goats.

Photo: Erik Moore

But also for the climbing.

Photo: Erik Moore

The boys were buzzing with happiness over the routes they were able to get on. I followed Suzee, Greg and Bentley down to Massouri for more coffee and a beer while Blaine, Ellen and Erik stayed behind to climb. We were sitting at our favorite Massouri cafe, Ambience, run by a woman from Miami, for a relatively short time before it started to pour again. At the first break of the storm, we all decided to book it back to our village where more cold showers awaited us to avoid scootering in the rain. Most of us had already learned a valuable lesson three days in: do not bring only swimsuits on your Greek Island Vacation. Fleeces, more pants, and rain jackets would have been nice. In fact, Erik, Blaine and Ellen would get caught in such a downpour that the scooter engines would fail on their way home. I’m really happy I came back early!

You may think I’m exaggerating but this is the day in our vacation when we started doing a lot of this:

Photo: Greg Brooks

It’s also the day that we all started sitting around spending a lot of time doing nothing so we ended up hearing a lot of memorable quotes during stories, like the one where Bentley explained what he “learned from two lesbians on the internet.”

We didn’t quite have cabin fever yet but it would come.

Photo: Greg Brooks

Kalymnos: my first full day

When you sleep in Kalymnos, you sleep with your garden facing patio doors open, with the feral cats meowing incessantly as soon as you wake up, the roosters serenading the town every night at 4 am and the random clinks of goat bells as they pass by the building or stir in the neighbors yard.

Photo Credit: Erik Moore

Breakfast is often Greek yogurt: Total Fage, thick and creamy like it’s been whipped to a frenzy, covered in local thyme honey, fruit and cereal we found at the corner store that we referred to as “abs fitness” because of the woman on the box.

The landscape is strange – similar to the high desert at home, filled with mountain brush and sage, but then limestone and just below, the crystal water of the Aegean Sea.

Photo Credit: Erik Moore

On my first day there, Bentley and Greg headed to the crag early to get some climbs in before any other climbers showed up. October signifies the start of the busy climbing season for Kalymnos and busy is a bit of an understatement. Not only have I never seen such a proliferation of climbs in one small place, but I’ve never seen so many climbers in one place. By noon every day there would be 10-15 people deep lines for some of the more stellar climbs at EVERY crag. There was no escaping it. Greg’s system was to beat the climbers there with the intent of getting more climbs in before early afternoon, which would allow him to relax at the beach the rest of the afternoon. His planned worked, for the most part.

I, however, having spent an entire day traveling the day before, wasn’t quite so jazzed to wake up at dawn and get started and thankfully a few of the crew were with me so the rest of us slept in a bit, ate breakfast and had coffee and then headed up.

The crag we climbed in the first day was relatively close to our small village. There was a bit of a scramble to get up there and the walk was littered with, yes, goats.

The climbing was nothing short of fantastic. Huge tufas and holds graced the entire wall. I was in climbing heaven. The rock reminded me of why I began climbing in the first place and then, why I no longer do in Tahoe. Dynamic powerful athletic moves await you in Kalymnos (but sadly, don’t even try looking for those in Tahoe).

Photo Credit: Erik Moore

I only got on one climb that day, my endurance sapped by years of not climbing, but it was really fun to watch the boys bolt up impressive routes. We headed back to our village for lunch: swordfish and Greek salads from one of the neighborhood restaurants and then a long leisurely afternoon laying on the beach.

Photo Credit: Erik Moore

On the island the stores only stock non-perishable food and things like milk, yogurt, cheese and butter. Every night the “fruit truck” would drive into our village. His truck bed was filled with boxes brimming with fruit and vegetables. No matter how much you tried to refute him, he would insist that you have a bag. For a few euros you could secure a feast of kiwis, bananas, grapes, apples, whatever you fancy.

That night we had happy hour up in Greg and Suzee’s room before heading up to “fancy” restaurant in town. Our hosts, Evie, Dimitri and their family were celebrating their one year old’s first birthday with family and friends at the house and while we thought we were being respectful by giving them their space, they were extremely disappointed we didn’t come join them. Instead, we had a dinner of Greek salads, meatballs and roasted chicken up on the hill overlooking Emporios. It was about a quarter mile walk up there and we capped the evening off with an even longer stroll.

Photo Credit: Erik Moore

Cuba Climbing

A few years ago, my friends and I traveled to Cuba to climb in Vinales. It was the most amazing trip of my life. This October, we’ll be repeating our trip but in a new place: we’re headed to the island of Kalymnos in Greece for some deep water climbing and then Turkey.

Yesterday, Blaine sent over a link to a climbing blog that’s been posting video installments on Cuba and Vinales climbing. They portray an extremely accurate essence of Cuba, especially the first video on Havana. Takes me back! Follow the link to watch all three installments. The first one is below.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/20517716]

>ACL Fest 2010: Day 3

>By day 3 of ACL Fest I’m always feeling pretty sluggish. Al was feeling the same way so I set her up in the gospel tent (always a rabblerousing good time) and headed over to catch local Austin band SPEAK. I had a chance to see them in May at the Mohawk and was super impressed.

After that, I headed over to chill in the tent with Allison and caught the Relatives, a gospel band from (I think) Dallas.

We left Al in the tent and went to see The Morning Benders, one of my favorite new bands. They’re pretty mellow so it was a nice break in the day to lay in the shade of the sound tent, take in the wafting melodies and cat-nap.

Next up was Yeasayer, who I already saw this spring at the Filmore. Their show was a bit grander at the festival, though I definitely prefer the dark smallness of a club combined with their experimental beats.

We were all really stoked to check out Edward Sparpe and the Magnetic Zeros, whose insane musical frolicking was the greatest riot and most memorable show of the weekend. The stage, however, was PACKED and we could hardly get through to see anything.

While I’m fairly certain that Edward Sharpe was tripping, next up was The Flaming Lips, who have a show for people who are tripping. Seeing, back-to-back, the stark difference between the Edward Sharpe show, which was intensely disorganized, from the Flaming Lips show, which is a highly orchestrated and practiced performance, was fascinating.

The last show of the night, and of the festival, was indie critics’ favorite The National. While I really enjoyed their last album, the Boxer, I don’t listen to it so often that they are on my list of must sees. Their moody glam rock is a far cry from the poppy dance tunes I normally choose. That being said, their show was the stand out for me of the weekend. It slowly built to an unbelievably inspiring crescendo that left us all in awe.

Overall, the 9th Austin City Limits festival went off smoother and with less heat, mud and sweat than any previous. I was in heaven. 85 degrees, sunny, calm. The overwhelmingly large crowds on Friday were a bit much, but if that’s my biggest complaint, then I don’t have much to complain about. Sadly, they’ve moved the 2011 festival back to September so I can look forward to the possibility of 110 degree days once again.

If you have more time on your hands then you know what to do with, you can check out all the pictures.

Monday I was able to spend time with my friend Maya who just had a brand new baby (Cetta), eat at her husband Brett’s workplace, Uchiko, where I had the most amazing meal of my life (big eye tuna sashimi with fuji apples and goat cheese in a vinegar dressing of some sort), and spent the evening drinking beer with all my best Austin friends at the Crown and Anchor. Tuesday I was lucky enough to head out to Lake Travis for an afternoon of climbing with Greg. It was essentially all my favorite things to do in Austin crammed into two days with friends. Wonderful.

>Austin Trip!

>When The New Pornographers and the Dodos announced their joint tour together, I knew I had to make a trip to see them somewhere. Between the city and Austin, I decided a trip to Austin would probably in the long run cost me less (no hotel, tex-mex instead of fancy dinners) and allow me to see my friends. My friend KD and I bought tickets to the show at Stubb’s, one of my favorite venues, and it was nothing short of amazing. I LOVE Neko Case’s voice and the Dodos were just as delightful and entertaining as always.

I spent four days there and I’m not sure why I packed so many clothes knowing how hot it would be. I basically just cruised around on a bike, sweated, read my book in coffee shops, hung out at Barton Springs, had a lot of margaritas, celebrated a birthday for our friend Brett and did some deep-water soloing. Super fun awesomeness.

The following photos are the property of my good friend and amazing photographer Erik Moore and may not be reused without his permission:

Erik and the Central Tx Climbing crew have been doing a ton of climbing on Lake Travis and he’s taken some really sick photos. If you would like to see the rest of them you may do so here.