July 2, 2013

Unearthed : Rock Climbing along the Green River

Green River, Utah is well known for it’s world-class crack climbing and beautiful walls. The North Face athletes, Alex Honnold, Daniel Woods, Renan Ozturk and Matt Segal took a close-to-home trip last month to explore the area and teach Daniel, one of the world’s best boulderers, a thing or two about what it means to trad climb.

Over the next 9 weeks we will cronicle their adventure through their own eyes and their words.  Follow us here : www.neverstopexploring.com/blog/unearthed/ or check out their photos on Instagram using #greenriverrock

July 15, 2013

Daniel Woods

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Daniel Woods. Photo by Renan Ozturk

Alex Honnold proposed an expedition idea to go traditional climbing down the Green River in Utah. The terrain was mostly virgin, so the objective was to establish new routes in a remote area. Matt Segal hinted that I should join in and try something new (I had never trad climbed before). I was intrigued by the idea, so I decided to go. The crew consisted of Alex, Matt, Renan Ozturk, Taylor Reese, John Dickey, and Celin Serbo. I had a feeling this was going to be a good adventure into the unknown.

We all gathered in Moab, UT to prepare our gear needed for the trip. The climbing is only accessible via rafts and canoes, so packing for 10 days was going to be tricky. We had one main raft and 3 canoes. After preparation, we all went to dinner at Milts (best burger and shake I have had), then passed out to be ready for our early morning departure.

The first day was dedicated to rowing. The length of the trip was 25 miles in the blazing sun. It was a peaceful experience to just float and eye up the amazing sandstone buttresses surrounding us. I felt secluded from reality, which made the experience meditative. After a full days worth of rowing, we made it to our first camp: The Green River Buttresses. Our team quickly transported our equipment from water to land, we set up camp, then prepared that night for our first day of climbing. I had no idea what to expect. I had never placed gear or read a crack before… this should be interesting.

Alex, Matt, and I went for a walk to scope out potential new lines. We found some established ones, along with some killer looking projects. Alex went to work prepping his vision. This line was going to be 3 pitches with an intro 5.13- bolted pitch. The next pitch involved 5.12d fingers (splitter), finishing with a chossy 12- pitch. The line looked sick! Matt and I had our sights set on another project to the left of Alex’s proj. The climbing ranged from face to hand jams, and was going to require many different skills. For my first day, I thought it would be a good idea to practice hand jamming and placing cams, before jumping straight into an unknown project. There was a nice splitter hand crack on the next buttress over, offering textbook placements. I went up on top rope once to see how the cams would go in. After this was figured, I went for the lead. Woah, leading is way different despite difficulty. I had never fallen on gear before, so the picture of potential ground fall entered my mind. I quickly learned to block those thoughts out and focus on the present situation. I soon found myself at the anchors. I was stoked to have learned/ completed something new. To the left of this route was a 10- corner layback. Matt showed me how it was done, then I followed suit. This climb had fewer and smaller gear placements. I definitely found myself shaking a couple times. The fear of falling still loomed in the back of my mind. I knew this was going to be an issue and falling on my gear was the only way to get over it. We wrapped up the day with Matt explaining some techniques to me, then we were off to make dinner.

The next day, Alex finished cleaning his project and began trying the sections. Matt went up the left project to clean it up and check out some of the moves. It looked pretty difficult and intimidating. The line started off with a v6 dyno from an undercling slot to a jug hueco (protected by 3 lowballs), and went straight into 11d face climbing (protected by 00 and 000 TCU’s). At the end of the face climbing began the finger crack. This was the crux of the pitch. The remainder of the climb was a 5.10 corner leading straight into a splitter, depositing you to the anchors. This line had every style to it, creating an obsession to climb it. I tried on top rope and figured out all the moves. I was hesitant though if I could lead this one or if it was over my head. The next go up, I practiced placing the cams. I sent the route on top rope while placing. All that was left was the lead.

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Photo by Renan Ozturk

The next day was our last day before departing to another area. Alex just sent his project calling it The Green Dragon (13-R) and dispatched the line that Matt and I were working on as well. Matt was psyched to see Honnold on the project we were working. We later gave him the nickname “no crack stands a chance Honnold,” due to how effortless he climbed cracks. He called the project 50 Shades of Green (13-R). Matt soon did it after Honnold. It was motivating to observe Alex and Matt in their element and see their confidence while climbing. I knew it would take numbing my mind to send. The evening session came into play. I knew this was my chance to send. I racked up then studied the climb. I felt nauseous before my first lead attempt. “I could fall on the intro boulder and hit the ground or fall in the crux and potentially hit the deck.” These were not positive sending thoughts. Leaving the ground, I felt psyched and committed. I made it up to the crux and placed my 2 saving cams. I entered the crux, but froze above my gear. I took the fall and huge relief hit me as the gear caught. I lowered and tried again. This time I made it to the end of the crux and whipped on a 00 TCU. This planted confidence that my gear will hold if placed correctly. The sun started setting behind the mountain. I rested briefly before my final go. I felt my mind go numb and I climbed the moves in control as if I were soloing. All that remained was the final corner to hand crack. My adrenaline was high, but I kept my pump under control. I clipped the chains in the dark for 50 Shades of Green. An eternal emotion was let out in pure excitement. This was the coolest feat of climbing I had completed so far. I could not of done it without the support from Matt, Alex, John, Renan, Taylor, and Celin. I conquered my mental game, and that is what I wanted to accomplish.

The next day we set sail for the Witches Tower (10 miles down river from the Green River Buttresses).This area had a few already established pitches, along with some undone lines. We landed in camp and completed the same process of transporting our equipment from water to land. This combined with rowing consumed all of our time for the day.

The next day, Alex continued his rampage by sending the Weidner (fingers into a number 6 cam) and a few of the already established lines. My goal was to fill in my pyramid, so I started with a couple of 5.10 onsights. I then managed an 11- hands to number 4 cam splitter, then finished the day off with an amazing 12-. I began to feel comfortable with leading and focused on the climbing rather than the consequences. I learned that if you place good gear, it is like having a bolt for protection. Sometimes the gear is not so good, and that is when you need to be cautious. I was psyched to sample some of the other lines and get a better feel for placing.

This trip was the ultimate experience. I was a beginner again, entering the unknown. I had to accept failure regardless of difficulty and learn the traditional techniques. Having Alex and Matt as teachers was the best situation for me. They really took the time to teach me and were patient with my progress. Alex and Matt killed it, giving me inspiration to try hard and not give up. This was a life changing experience that I will always remember.

Photos by : Renan Ozturk 2013

July 18, 2013

Daniel Woods Video

“If we didn’t have the failure, what fun would climbing be?”

Team climber Daniel Woods reflects on his experience learning how to trad climb on the Green River, Utah with Alex Honnold, Matt Segal, and Renan Ozturk.

Stay tuned for blogs and episodes from each of the athletes at UNEARTHED

July 22, 2013

Alex Honnold

This years expedition down the Green River was my first time proposing a trip and shepherding it through the whole selection process. I got the idea from our photographer, Celin Serbo, who’d done the trip before with some other friends. They’d all raved about how much untouched rock there was and how much opportunity for new routing. The Green seemed like the perfect place to have a low commitment, low budget expedition, yet one that still provided a good climbing adventure.


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Organizing logistics, like making reservations, coordinating arrivals, and buying supplies, generally stresses me out, so the lead up to the trip was a bit trying for me. I wondered if it was really worth the hassle trying to make the dates fit for 7 different people who all live on crazy schedules. Putting down deposits, learning about the boats, packing everything – it all felt like a bit of a chore.

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On the river

Unsurprisingly, those kinds of feelings melted away as soon as we actually boarded the boat. We had three long canoes and a raft, Celin and I got one canoe, Matt and Daniel another, and the third was mostly piloted by John Dickey, the extra cameraman and all around desert hardman. Renan and his girlfriend Taylor mostly managed the raft, which probably had about 1000 pounds of camera gear, batteries, and general camping/climbing equipment. At the original put in all the boats rode precariously low in the water, a testament to how much food and equipment we had. But thankfully as the trip wore on the boats got lighter and lighter.

The Green was indeed a paradise of untouched splitter cracks. We saw buttresses on both sides of the river for miles and miles, though we only actually stopped and camped at two main areas. The hassle of unloading the boats and setting up camp sort of dictated a strategy of choosing a promising buttress and then working new routes on it for several days before moving on again. It was a great pleasure for all of us to walk along the base of untouched walls, looking up and imagining the possibilities. I felt like a little kid again, always wandering the next corner hoping that I’d find a miracle splitter. And we were lucky enough to find a few real gems, one of them a 3 pitch monster that went all the way to the top of the wall (which we named the Green Dragon).

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Writing on rocks

After a few days of nonstop climbing and exploring, the outside world had completely disappeared from our thoughts. We stayed focused on finding new routes – or for Renan, Celin, and John, on capturing the process in a creative and beautiful way. But I think the most inspiring part of the whole trip for me was watching Daniel learn how to trad climb. When he arrived he’d never lead on gear, and never climbed cracks for that matter. Though obviously being one of the strongest climbers in the world helped his learning curve a lot, so within 3 days he lead his first 5.13. But each one of his leads, whether a 10 hand crack of a 13 tips crack, was an epic battle for him. Watching him overcome his fear and try his hardest each day was really an inspiration for all of us on the trip.

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Loading up the canoes

Matt and I have both been climbing on gear a long time and sort of take it for granted – watching Daniel push himself so hard every day was a really good reminder that learning and growth are at the heart of climbing. The Green expedition was a really good way for us to get back to our roots in a way – a simple trip to a beautiful area with nothing to do but climb on new rock.

July 25, 2013

Alex Honnold Video

Alex Honnold a.k.a “No Crack Stands a Chance” made the most of every opportunity on his trip to the Green River, Utah with fellow athletes Daniel Woods, Matt Segal, and Renan Ozturk.

July 29, 2013

Matt Segal Update

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Photo by Renan Ozturk

Don’t get me wrong, I love Indian Creek. I’ve been going there for a lot of years. I love the climbing, the people – the place. But, as is the case with so many classic destinations, it’s gotten comfortable for me. Maybe too comfortable. I was immediately intrigued when Alex Honnold asked if I wanted to join him on a boating and climbing trip down the Green River, where he promised Indian Creek sandstone and splitter cracks—alongside exploration, first ascents, choss, and most notably, Daniel Woods taking his first plunge into traditional climbing.

This would have been enough, so I was especially sold when I heard Renan Ozturk was joining our party. Renan played an influential role for me in the “school of hard cracks.” I met him and his crew in the Fall of 2004 when I took my first trip out to the sandstone mecca of Indian Creek. I was fresh off a competition climbing season but competing and chasing difficult climbs had lost its allure and I was in need of something more engaging, and less comfortable.

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Photo by Renan Ozturk

I met Renan at the base of the cliff and was amazed at the sense of community I witnessed. Everyone was sharing cams and top ropes and there was zero sense of competition. It was as if everyone was in it together. At the end of what was a normal climbing day for Renan, I was completely bloody and haggard.  Climbing cracks was very different from bouldering in the gym, but that didn’t matter. I was just excited to be in the desert. It was something new to me to be treated as part of a tribe, and I remember sitting around the fire with everyone eating a communal dinner that Renan had harvested from a Trader Joe’s dumpster.

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Matt and Alex / Photo by Renan Ozturk

I had stumbled into the heart of the dirt bag climbing scene and couldn’t imagine going back to the gym. This first trip to Indian Creek sparked a sense of adventure and community that I would never forget, and ultimately played an imperative role in forming who  am today as a climber.

Knowing that the Green River rock would be akin to the splitter climbing in Indian Creek, I was really excited to show Daniel the desert, its climbing and the sense of camaraderie that it fosters. It would be the perfect opportunity for Alex and I to show our love for traditional climbing to Daniel just like Renan had done for me years before. Plus, Daniel’s climbing roots are similar to mine and with his sense of openness towards new and challenging experiences, I knew he would at least deeply appreciate the experience.

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Daniel rowing / Photo by Renan Ozturk

Daniel is one of the most impressive humans at bouldering, sport and competition climbing I have ever witnessed; it’s undeniable that he has changed the game on numerous occasions. His psyche is unparalleled and his determination is endless. Over the years we’ve known each other, we have chatted about going traditional climbing together, but just never made it happen. I knew this would be the perfect trip for him to begin his personal journey of learning how to trad climb.

Alex, Renan and I threw Daniel directly into the depths of crack climbing and he took it like a champ. Day after day he would get shut down on grades twice as easy as his normal warm-ups, but after every pitch he lowered down with an earnest smile on his face which was inspirational to us all.  In only 10 days he managed to climb his first 5.10,5.11,5.12 and 5.13 trad routes!

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Matt Segal / Photo by Renan Ozturk

While Daniel was having the learning experience of his climbing life Alex proved once again to be completely unstoppable. We dubbed him Alex “no crack stands a chance” Honnold because he seemed to be completely unfazed by every pitch. It didn’t matter if it was a finger crack or a massive off-width, he sent everything with ease. I spent the whole trip just trying to keep up with Alex, and at the end of 10 days I was worked.

Traveling down the river, hanging with some of my closest friends, establishing new routes and getting to see Daniel through his first adventure trad-climbing trip was inspiring, and I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off my climbing season. It was an unforgettable mission and I’m already dreaming up plans for the next adventure with the crew.

August 5, 2013

Renan Ozturk

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Photo by Renan Ozturk

The sand was everywhere. Red, silty and windblown into every crevice of everything. But as gritty as it felt against our dry dusted skin, we were psyched to be there. Matt, Alex and myself have spent many years cutting our teeth climbing parallel cracked cliffs and towers surrounding the Canyonlands of Utah. Even though we were exploring new parts of Canyonlands by floating down the Green River, tapping into the endless first ascent potential, it felt like home. Daniel, on the other hand, was a fish out of water in this dry alien landscape. For him, standing at the base of a 500 foot ‘splitter’ crack was like being on the surface of mars. Although Daniel is one of the strongest competition and boulder climbers in the world, this type of ‘trad’ climbing was a completely different, contour-intuitive and painful type of the climbing to learn. But he had the best of teachers. Alex and Matt have certainly put their time, passions, and energy into the most difficult cracks in the desert. I knew it was going to be a great trip the minute I got the call from Honnold.

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Photo by Renan Ozturk

We woke up everyday in the shimmering riverside light, filtered the mud out of river water, and cooked up oatmeal or bacon before heading up to the buttresses, intent on squeezing out every drop of daylight. Each day Alex’s energy was unwavering, pushing the team forward to the next untouched piece of stone. Rest days were not in the vocabulary, even on day 10 when the rain came in Alex pushed for one more line, one more tower.

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Photo by Renan Ozturk

If Daniel’s courage could have been measured, the day he led his first trad route, it would have been counted by the beads of sweat collecting on his and all of our brows, the nausea of pushing past the pain threshold, the look of wide-eyed wonder, fear and enthusiasm that intensified in the corners of his eyes every time Alex said, “Don’t worry dude. You’ll be fine.” But it was Alex’s mentorship, his genuine enthusiasm for Daniel and giant persistent smile, that made this trip the most memorable for me. It was the times that Daniel, and all of us really, would try and fail and try again that reminded us that climbing is a journey you never quite arrive at.

This was certainly one of those unique trips that so seamlessly combined the old and new. Back to our roots in this red desert, we discovered new climbs and joined Daniel on an all-time learning and mentoring experience. I enjoyed the motivation that came with being a climber on the team, as well as a shooter and storyteller. It had me up before dawn each morning, looking for the perfect light, and wandering the riverbanks long after dark shooting images of the stars. This trip was an opportunity in rare form, a chance to bring a story to life that combined the power of this landscape, one that has given me so much over years, with the human emotion of my teammates.

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Photo by Renan Ozturk

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Photo by Renan Ozturk

It was the moments when the ferocious sand-pelting wind died down, the sun dipping below the horizon and we found ourselves stumbling back into camp that I’ll remember. It was the teamwork, the contagious nature of wanting to help each other all push further. We were glowing from shared climbs, shared fear, shared success, and endorphins kicking. Now that the dust has finally settled on this adventure, those are the emotions I most hope to share. An honest look into each of our characters and the special way of the life that is desert climbing… UNEARTHED is the revealing of these things.

Thanks for following!
~renan

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Photo by Renan Ozturk

August 5, 2013

Matt Segal Video

While on a close-to-home trip on the Green River, Utah, team climber Matt Segal reflects on why he was initially drawn to trad and crack climbing.

Green River, Utah is well known for it’s world-class crack climbing and beautiful walls. The North Face athletes, Alex HonnoldDaniel WoodsRenan Ozturk and Matt Segal took a close-to-home trip last month to explore the area and teach Daniel, one of the world’s best boulderers, a thing or two about what it means to trad climb.

For the last 5 weeks we have cronicled their adventure through their own eyes and their words.  Read it here : www.neverstopexploring.com/blog/unearthed/ or check out their photos on Instagram using #greenriverrock

August 29, 2013

Renan Ozturk Video

Artist, photographer, and climber Renan Ozturk had a unique perspective as storyteller on the climbing trip to the Green River, Utah. Catch him in the final episode of Unearthed…

Green River, Utah is well known for it’s world-class crack climbing and beautiful walls. The North Face athletes, Alex HonnoldDaniel WoodsRenan Ozturk and Matt Segal took a close-to-home trip last month to explore the area and teach Daniel, one of the world’s best boulderers, a thing or two about what it means to trad climb.

For the last 5 weeks we have cronicled their adventure through their own eyes and their words.  Read it here : www.neverstopexploring.com/blog/unearthed/ or check out their photos on Instagram using #greenriverrock