Monday, January 14, 2008

Reading List-2007

Really, there’s a stalker book? I gotta read that one.

Jim Carey, Eternal Sunshine

Do not think that I am so pretentious to think that anyone really cares what I have been reading this year. I just thought I would include it because I have read some really good books this year even though most of the books that filled my year were not reading books but guide books. Enjoy!

Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand

Fantastic, for a while… good, for a while… still there, for a while…. And it continues to go on and on and on… and on. Still working on this one.

· Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer

A must read, I couldn’t put it down… mysterious and compelling; loved the movie

· A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Liked it but after I read some cliff notes on it I couldn’t finish it; only got half way through the book

· Decision at Trafalgar, Dudley Pope

Excellent; on the Napoleonic battle at Trafalgar

· The Plot Against America, Philip Roth

Terrifyingly believable… fantastic… but the end was awful, suddenly everything magically worked out

· I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, Tucker Max

Amusing… one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

· Walden, or Life in the Woods, Henry David Thoreau

Boring… just stick with Thoreau’s famous quotes, the rest is

a waste of time.

· To the Ends of the Earth, Gordon Wiltsie

Brilliant… this would be my career of choice.

· Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Aaron Ralston

Well written… I suggest reading the book, its must cheaper than paying $50,000 to hear the bastard speak.


· Central America on a Shoestring: Lonely Planet

I spent hours upon hours in this book… good but out of date

· Yucatan: Lonely Planet

· Lonely Planet Blue List 2007: Lonely Planet

· Mexico’s Volcanoes: The Mountaineers

· Rock Climbing New Mexico: A Falcon Guide

· Jemez Pock and Pecos Area: Sharp End Publishing

· Indian Creek: A Climbing Guide: Sharp End Publishing

The best written guide book I’ve ever seen

· Hikers and Climbers Guide to the Sandias: University of New Mexico

· New Mexico Hikes: The Mountaineers

· Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills: The Mountaineers

Has been a favorite for many years, and many to come

· Self Rescue: NOLS

· Cookery: NOLS

· Fifty Summits, Joseph Poindexter

· Colorado Ice, Jack Roberts

· Colorado Ice Climber’s Guide, Cameron Burns

· Ice: Tools and Technique, Duane Raleigh

Poetry, Selections, Short Stories, and Essays

· All the Hits So Far, Bradley Hathaway

Inspiring and amusing

· A Leaky Tent is a Piece or Paradise, Short Stories

Most of these essays aren’t written by outdoorsy people at all but by people who went on a hike… once… a long time ago.

· Mixed Emotions, Greg Child

Vivid tales of mountaineering

· Lewis Thomas

· Friedrick Nietzsche

· Plato

· Ayn Rand

· Thomas Hobbes

· Henry David Thoreau

· Ralph Waldo Emerson

· Robert Frost

· Langston Hughes

Monday, December 31, 2007


It’s been a great year, probably the best of my life, and I just wanted to write something to celebrate it, and to share it. The most exciting things that happened this year involved my family, traveling, snowboarding and climbing.

Probably, the greatest thing that happened this year was Kenny and Hannah graduating from NMSU and moving up to Albuquerque. Now instead of only seeing my brother and few times a year, I get to see him several times a week and Hannah feeds me almost as much. We also had another addition to our family with the birth of Ethan Anthony Baker on May 30th, now I have two nephews to get into trouble with.

If you didn’t know, my biggest hobby and my greatest ambitions have to do with one thing—climbing, and I sure I did a lot of it this year. I started off the year with a two week trip to central Mexico to do some high-altitude climbing (this isn’t rock climbing but mountaineering) on the 3rd highest and 7th highest peaks in N. America, Pico de Orizaba (18,405 ft) and Iztaccihuatl (17,126 ft).

After taking more than a two year break, I finally renewed my membership to the climbing gym, and for the first time, started working out and training, climbing several times a week and climbing outside every chance I got. This year I also went to several climbing areas that I had never been to before including: New Canyon, El Rito, Big Block, and Enchanted Tower. I also started bouldering and entered into my first competition, the Yard n’ Yank, winning 3rd place in the beginners class.

We also went down to the Pie Fest in Pie Town, mostly for climbing but also for the pie and I won the pie eating competition becoming the king of Pie Town for the year.

I also started lead climbing this year and have been out several times in the Sandia Mountains with my brother. My first lead was the Northwest Ridge (5.6) on the Thumb, my second was Crackula (5.8) on the Techweeny Buttress, and the third was Hummingbird (5.8) on the Point; all in the Sandia Mountains. Then in November Kenny and I, along with four friends from Las Cruces went to Indian Creak, UT, the crack climbing capital of the world for some for climbing. However, my first time crack was not a complete success; I attempted several routes but I only completely led one route.

I also did a little bit of dry tooling this year to get ready for this winter when ice climbing begins. I just ordered some new ice tools and can’t wait to use them. I also had the privilege of taking my nephew, Dylan, climbing for his first time at the gym; I think I’ll wait for him to get a little older before I try again.

I did a lot of traveling this year, a lot of it had to do with climbing and snowboarding but some of it was just to get out and see the world. For spring break I went with some friends to Southern California for a little surfing, my first time ever surfing. Then I went with some friends to Denver just to hang out and see another friend for his birthday.

This summer, when my lease was up at my apartment, I just packed up and headed down to Central America (not South America) for 9 weeks. I started at the bottom and just bussed, hiked, ferried and hitchhiked north until I arrived home. I traveled through: Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico doing just about everything you could possibly imagine.

I also got back into snowboarding after taking a two year break, going 13 times last season and having already been 5 times this season.

I also did a lot of backpacking this year (my biggest trips have already been mentioned, my Mexico climbing trip and Central America trip) with a backpacker to the Jemez with my sister and Matt Ray, a trip to the Gila with my brother, Hannah, and all the guys for Las Cruces, and my first backpacker to the Grand Canyon for a week at Havasu Falls with Matt Ray and Chris Sanchez.

After this year I can’t even imagine what 2008 will bring me but I can’t wait to find out. I hope to continue improving my climbing and snowboarding and hope to try my luck in ice climbing. I’m also going back to school this year and who knows, maybe it will lead me somewhere this time. For updates on what I’m going this year just keep checking back here.

Love ya,


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Indian Creek

This is the most beautiful place on Earth.

There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, known or unknown, actual or visionary….There’s no limit to the human capacity for the homing sentiment . Theologians, sky pilots, astronauts have even felt the appeal of home calling to them from up above, in the cold black outback of interstellar space.

For myself I’ll take Moab, Utah. I don’t mean the town itself, of course, but the country which surrounds it—the canyonlands. The slickrock desert. The red dust and the burnt cliffs and the lonely sky—all that which lies beyond the end of the road.

Edward Abbey, Dessert Solitude

What are you talking ants? I’ve been up
here so long the world has evolved into talking ants.

Kenny Dunn
Talking to his belayer while climbing the Incredible Hand Crack.

The Bridger Jacks

Driving down Highway 211, in Southwestern Utah, my eyes search the endless bands of rock that line both sides of the road. I don't know exactly what I'm looking for, but what I see overwhelms me: cliffs speckled with shades of red, brown, and tan, in sharp contrast to the blue, cloudless skies above; enormous round buttresses, one after another, lined with long, straight cracks, stretching up toward the sun; and climbers scattered across these rock faces, resembling the bugs that decorate my windshield. This is what we have been searching for. This is Windgate sandstone. This is one of the most famous climbing areas in the world. This is the crack climbing mecca, with over a thousand routes on these long, splitter cracks and dihedrals. This is Indian Creek.

Day 1
We arrived in Indian Creek just a few hours before sunset, so we had to hurry to get in some climbing. None of us had ever been there before and it was kinda funny watching all of us wander around trying to figure out where we were and where we wanted to climb- everything looked the same. Eventually, we ended up on the Blue Gramma Cliff to climb a couple of routes before the sun went down. Ben led an unnamed route (5.9+)-hands to wide hands; Kenny “The Chainsaw” Coppage and I top-roped it. Matt made a valiant attempt on Dawn of an Age (5.10)-fists. Chris and Kenny “Patches” Dunn followed with no success-Indian Creek had a lot to teach us.

Matt on Dawn of an Age (5.10).

Day 2
Today we traveled to the Power Wall, which had a long approach. I
was eager to climb today and jumped on the first route we came to, Batteries Not Included (5.9+)-splitter hands to big hands. This would have been my fourth time to lead trad. (The first was the Northwest Ridge (5.6) on the Thumb, my second was Crackula (5.8) on the Techweeny Buttress, and the third was Hummingbird (5.8) on the Point; all in the Sandia Mountains). I only made it up about 10 feet before I had to come down. It was with this retreat I earned the pink bandana; we became quite close during this trip, earning me the nickname “Pinky”. At the same time, Chris attempted an unnamed route (5.8)-twin cracks, mostly thin hands-just to my right; he led about half way of the route before coming down. Kenny “The Chainsaw” finished this route.

Then Ben attempted Batteries Not Included, and climbed until he noticed a cut in the rope, the cut went all the way through the shield and into the core; we don't know how it got there. Ben backed off the climb about 10 feet short of the top. Kenny “Patches” finally finished the route; Chainsaw and Matt top-roped it.

Ben on Batteries Not Included (5.9+) right before he had to retreat because of a deep cut in the rope.

Excuses for Failure… My Favorites

1) The crack is too big (or small).
2) My tape fell off. (It took a few attempts to learn how to make tape-gloves)
3) I don’t have enough cams—used a couple of times.
4) I suck at crack climbing—I used this excuse several times.
5) I’d rather smoke crack than climb it—Chris
6) What is this, a crack for ants? This crack has to be at least 3 times this size!—"Patches"
7) The rope’s cut.—Ben

Day 3
Kenny “Patches” made us wake-up with the sun on this morning to get an early start on the Supercrack Buttress-the most popular wall at Indian Creek. We arrived at the parking lot at 8 AM; we wouldn’t even see a car drive down the road for another three hours and only one other group would climb this wall on this day. Kenny “Patches” started out on the Incredible Hand Crack (5.10)-hands; the same size crack almost the whole route-probably the most climbed route at Indian Creek. There is a slight overhang that Kenny had trouble getting past, mentally not physically, but after almost an hour, Kenny—finally— finished the route. “Chainsaw” was the only other person to attempt this route; he top-roped it.

Kenny taking his sweet time on the crux of the Incredible Hand Crack (5.10); if you can't see him click on the picture to enlarge it.

Matt attempted 3 AM Crack (5.10)-hands to wide hands-and in the process took a fall.
Then he attempted to aid his way up the route, but eventually had to retreat, having a lot of fun down climbing.

Chris leading Twin Crack (5.9)-his first trad lead ever.

We spent a lot of time on Twin Crack (5.9)-twin hand/finger cracks-today. First, Chris led this route, his first trad lead ever; then “Chainsaw”, “Patches”, and I followed, all leading (finally, leading my fourth route).

Finally, Kenny made his way to Supercrack (5.10)-wide-hands splitter, the route that started all of the hype at Indian Creek—one of the most famous routes in the world. Matt was the only person to successfully top-rope this route.

Kenny making his way up Supercrack (5.10).

Day 4
Originally, we had planned to climb a tower on our last day at Indian Creek, but we realized we had too big of a group to make this feasible. Instead we went to Potash Road, just on the other side of the Moab. I was excited to get away from crack climbing and eager to do a little sport climbing but I misunderstood the guide book and the first route I looked at was both trad and crack; I decided to do it anyway.

The route I had decided to climb goes from a slab to an overhang to another slab.The guidebook says that this route receives a lot of “flailing, cursing and complaints”. I put in my first cam at about 12 feet and another about ten feet above that, just before the overhang. As I was lowering on to the second cam, to rest before starting the overhang, I let go, falling about a foot to the first cam... I did not stop. The first cam had blew out (bad placement) and. I felt the rope tighten, briefly, a couple of feet above the ground. Then I continued falling and hit. My first piece had also blown out. Seeing blood on my shirt, Kenny made me take it off, suspecting that I had cut up my chest somehow; it was blood from the cuts on my hand. I managed to escape the fall with only a few scrapes and bruises on my hands, knees, and ass; I also had two long, parallel scrapes down the back of my leg, where I rode down on a cam. I went on to a different, sport route after my fall. (I don’t have any information on any of the climbs we did at Potash Road).

Me leading an unknown route just a few minutes before my fall.

Later, we went into Moab for a great dinner; thanks Ben. Weather had been great all week, but after dinner ,when we arrived back at Indian Creek, a cold front had come it; we were glad it was our last night.

I definitely climbed really bad this week but had a lot of fun. Because I did not climb that well, I also did not get a lot of the pics that I wanted —pics looking down, not looking up. Besides gear, everyone only had to pay $25, which was for food; not bad for a week of climbing.

Newspaper Rock.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Yank n' Yard '07

I hate bouldering. In bouldering, they call routes, problems, but I have a problem with the whole sport. What's the point of climbing up a rock that's only ten feet tall? It's like a bunch of people that were scared of heights wanted to rock climb, so they created bouldering. And it could take you all day to figure out a single problem; many times, I've had to come back to finish a problem another day. Bouldering requires a lot of technique, and you know what they say, technique is for the weak. I guess I'm lacking in technique and strength.

Since I got back from Central America, Kenny and I were working on some endurance training at the gym, climbing as many routes in a row as we could. As you may or may not know, Kenny and I are going to Indian Creek with some friends in a couple of weeks; Kenny wanted to get stronger for the Creek, so he wanted to switch to bouldering for awhile. Needless to say, we started bouldering a couple of weeks ago.

The only video of me climbing at the competition.

Just a few days ago, Lexi asked me if I was competing in the bouldering competition, the Yank n' Yard, at the gym. I didn't know anything about it, but it sounded like fun so I signed up on Thursday, two days before the comp.

I was curious to know how points were scored at a comp but it's pretty simple: Every problem is worth a certain amount of points, depending on how hard it is. You can climb as many problems as you want and your score is the total of your best 8 problems. You have as many tries on a problem as you want. We had 4 hours for the competition.

On Saturday, I arrived at Stone Age and was a little nervous but very excited for the competition 67 new problems in the gym is like a fat kid walking into a new chocolate store and telling him he could sample whatever he wants.

I started off the comp with some easier problems and was climbing better than I expected. As I climbed, I began to get more and more comforatable and tried harder and harder routes. The first half of the comp went really well, I finished 6 problems that were progressively harder and worth more points.

As I started climbing routes that were
harder, I started taking a lot of falls. I tried two harder routes and with about a dozen falls between the two routes I started getting pumped out; I never finished either route.

Then I heard that here was only 30 minutes left in the comp and I still had two problems to finish. I tried to finish a couple of easier routes but I was already pumped out and could hardly stick to anything. I finished the comp having only competed six of the needed eight problems; needless to say, my score was very low.

Initially, I had registered in the Beginner Class but a couple of friends told me that I should probably move into the Intermediate Class; having never been in a comp before, I took their advice. As it turns out, I did so bad, they kept me in the beginner class and I took third place; believe me, I'm not bragging.

I was really disappointed with my performance at the competition; I know I could have done a lot betteroh well. I haven't been bouldering that long and it was my first comp, but it was a lot of fun, I met a lot of people and learned a lot from the whole experience. Unfortunately, during the comp I fell into the trap, and like every other simple mind, I gave into bouldering and I think I'm gonna stick with it for a while.

Video's of us Screwing Around After the Comp.

One of my favorite probs from the comp.

One of the two routes I didn't finish at the comp, this is my first attempt after the comp. Kenny is filming me and holding on with one hand at the top of the bouldering cave...

Sean acting like a girl. He looks a lot better than me through the whole problem but he doesn't stick it at the end.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Havasu Falls

A few pics from a week at Havasu Falls.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Into the Wild

After waiting for over a month, I was finally able to see Into the Wild... and it changed my life. If you haven't seen the movie yet, you may think that I'm exaggerating-I'm not. The movie, based off the best-selling book by Jon Krakuer, and inspired by the true story of Christopher McCandless and his great adventure to find himself, was written and directed by Sean Penn. The movie started off a little slow, and I was worried that it was going to be a disappointment. Especially, after having thoroughly enjoyed the book, literally, not being able to put it down once I picked it up. Needless to say, I was not disappointed by the movie; on the contrary, I think that the movie might actually be better than the book- that never happens.

Jon Krakuer, in the book, did an amazing job of investigating the cause of McCandless's death and the motives that he had for disserting his family and hitchhiking cross-country. He showed the similarities between Chris's life and those of other young explorers, including one of his own adventures. In the movie, Sean Penn followed every detail in the book and did a great job of capturing the nature of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) and all of his adventurousness, ideology, and the unforgiveness that led him to his ultimate, and fatal, adventure in Alaska; the story of Christopher is a classic all by its own merits but Penn did a fantastic job of capturing the true story behind a troubled adventurer.

Emile Hirsch along with the rest of the cast does a great job of portraying Chris' life and his adventures. By the end of the movie, you might be crying but you will definitely be questioning who and what's important in your life; the movie challenged me to forgive a few people in my life that have injured me and to try and love... everyone.

Watch this movie if you like adventure, epics, humanity, and traveling or if you have come to the realization that people make honest mistakes. Watch this movie if you believe in spiritual journeys and challenging the norms of society. Watch this movie (mom and friends) if you want to understand why a little about me and why I do the things I do; though the comparison to McCandless is only minimal. Do not watch this movie if you are judgmental and think that if someone hitchhikes cross- country and backpacks into the wild to survive off the land is deranged freak. Do not watch this movie if you think that just because someone dies in the wilderness that he is an idiot and did not know what he was getting himself into. That's the nature of the wilderness and that's why we go, if we didn't want a challenge, or a thrill, of something new and challenging we would stay in the box where it is "safe".

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Day I Took on Blackbeard!

Another awesome week, I went climbing 5 times this week, 3 times in the gym and twice outside.

Rough n' Readies
First, I went down to Las Cruces to go climbing with the outdoor Adventure Program, the program that my brother used to work for. We went down to to the Rough n' Readies again and I was able to see a lot of old friends.

Kenny just above the crux of Rough Rider(5.11a) on the Reddi-Wip Wall at the Rough n' Readies. Photo by Jonathan Dunn

Kenny "The Chainsaw" finishing up Halitosis Monkey (5.10c) on the Original Wall at the Rough n' Readies. Photo by Jonathan Dunn

Mike pulling through an Unnamed route (5.8) on the North End Wall at the Rough n' Readies after not climbing in over two years. Photo by Jonathan Dunn

Kenny climbing on Halitosis Monkey (5.10c) on the Original Wall at the Rough n' Readies. Video by Jonathan Dunn

Sorry Matt that I didn't get any pics of you this weekend but you'll notice that they're aren't any of me either.

El Rito

Then today, I went up to El Rito with Lexi and Sean for some more great climbing. This was my first trip to El Rito and I thought that all of the routes were really fun even though it was pretty chilly today.

Sean's a beast. Photo by Jonathan Dunn

Lexi gettin' it done, Unknown Route on Schoolhouse Slab at El Rito. Photo by Jonathan Dunn

Sean on the Tooth Fairy (5.10 b) on the Gnar Wall. Photo by Jonathan Dunn

Jonathan Dunn on the crux of Blackbeard (5.10c/d) at the Pirates Wall in the El Rito Climbing Area. Photo by Alexia Seebeck

We only climbed 4 routes today because of the weather but all the routes were fun and I thought that Blackbeard was one of best routes I've ever climbed.

Sorry I don't have a lot of time to post a better blog but I'm just climbing too much these days; like that's possible.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

I Wanna See Booons!

I went to the Balloon Fiesta this morning with my sister, Cherith, and my two nephews, Dylan and Ethan, or just E. The only way I can describe it is—out of control. It started when my sister woke me up at 5:30 in the morning and continued the entire drive to the Balloon Fiesta Park while Dylan screamed from the back seat, "I wanna see boons, I wanna see boons!" Alright kid, we get the point already; this was Dylan third balloon fiesta and little E's first.
Dylan waving goodbye to the "boons."

These are a few of the pics I was able to take with a monster tied to my arm.

Somehow Cherith was lucky enough to get the kid that slept through the whole thing. Me, I had Dylan: running around me and getting me tangled up in his leash, wanting me to pick him up just to have me put him down five seconds later, and he always wants to see the camera while I'm trying to take a shot.