Sunday 18 August 2013

Free-Soloing Lost Arrow Spire - "The Doubts and Ecstasies of a Highline Free Solo"

During our last trip to US Jordan and Jan accomplished their goal to free-solo "Lost Arrow Spire" Highline. It was a long-time goal for both of them. For Jan it took another 6 years after his first ascent of L.A.S. back in 2007 to go back and feel ready for this challenge. It was even more meaningful because this time it was a 2-team friends mission. It was quite a process to get to this point when free-soloing Spire seemed like a good idea and it took some sweat and pain to get there. The topic of free-soloing is quite controversial and we would like to say we don't want to encourage anyone to do it (although we do really like it and it means a lot to us). We do want to inspire people and even if one day someone takes their first leashless steps on the highline because of us we are sure it is because of their own will and need. Another thing is we never heard of someone who would just go free-solo something without any preparation. Even with a lot of preparation and right mindset it is hard to let go and commit. Lately Jordan and Jan put up a story which was published on the Outdoor Research website. The photos used in the article are snapshots from footage taken by a friend Grant Thompson. We want to say thanks to everyone who inspired us and believes in what we do. We would also like to mention that the same day Jordan and Jan free-soloed the Spire, the line saw another beautiful free walk from the friend of ours Braden Mayfield.

'The Doubts and Ecstasies of a Highline Free Solo'

"In May, Outdoor Research and Somewhereelseland Team members Jan Galek and Jordan Tybon became the first two-man team to free solo the Lost Arrow Spire highline in Yosemite. Here’s Jordan’s breathless play-by-play of their feat, with additional notes from Jan.

We had just two days to complete what was, in hindsight, a somewhat ambitious adventure: to rig, walk, and free solo the Lost Arrow Spire highline. It was early May and hot—really hot. Jan and I were in Yosemite and spring had finally arrived, the Valley alive with excitement.

We had rigged the spire some weeks before—it had been an excuse to see some friends who were in the valley and a quick distraction from the stress of an AFF skydiving course in Lodi. It was good to get on the line again before the free solo mission to remind ourselves of the rigging details. We noted exactly how much equipment we needed, and it would be tough to carry off with only a two-man team. As a highliner, I have a pretty intimate familiarity with heavy backpacks. But the packs for the spire weighed in at about 135-140 pounds, considerably more than I’ve had the pleasure of carrying for any project in the past.

Yosemite Falls Trail is steep, slippery and full of rocks and lovely endless switchbacks. We made it in about two hours and managed to set up our tent just before rain came crashing down. On any other day, I would have suggested we wait until the next day to rig, but I knew that we were pressed for time, so out we went as soon as it stopped raining, leaving just before dark to rig a complicated highline.

The spire is about a 20-minute walk from the campsite. After fixing our first abseil, we descended to the flake and began to build the anchor, placing the four blue cams, equalizing with an industrial sling and attaching the line to the anchor. We used very dynamic webbing with high stretch and a thin 8.5 mm twin rope as backup. Everything is redundant in highline systems, and when rigged properly, highlining is quite safe. The lines were attached to my harness and I trailed them behind me, taping them together at large intervals to reduce the chance of a line getting caught as we climbed the backside of the spire."

To continue reading click HERE

Peace & SlackOn!

Monday 20 May 2013

US Trip 2013 - Take 9; Yosemite Epic RAGE - Part 1

After short rest day in Davis caused by sustained rage-time in Castle Crags, Jordan and I were off to Yosemite Valley. The destination which consists most of our goals for the trip. It was really awesome to get back to the Valley after 3 years since our last visit. I was even more psyched because this time I was going to touch Yosemite granite and do some climbing. I mean, don't get me wrong, highlining is really cool and we had and still do have lots of crazy plans on a high slackline but climbing in the Valley was always my dream.

Rainy welcome to the Valley (photo by Jordan Tybon)
On the 'almost tensioned' longline at one of the Yosemite Meadows (photo by Jordan Tybon)

We arrived late in a night and luckily at the time when Camp 4 still had some space available. Next morning the weather looked pretty good but we knew there was a storm coming. Our friends Preston, Jared, Max and Braden were up at the Yosemite Falls. Knowing that the Yosemite Falls Highline is up and ready to go we decided to pay them a visit and do some training for our "24 hour highline marathon" project. We started kind of early at the morning. I was feeling really fit after all of that hiking we did in Castle Crags and finished running up Yosemite Falls Trail in one hour. That felt really good and I knew I am ready to do the trail in 1,5 hour with the 10kg backpack I will have for the 24 hour run. I got to the Falls and surprisingly none of my friends were there. I assumed that they must be on the Spire rigging their slope highline project. I took some time to eat and drink lots of water and then got on the line and sent it on the first try both ways. That felt really good although the rigging was really unusual. Nothing like anything I walked before. It felt amazing to cross this line. I've helped bolting ad rigging it for the first time back in 2007 together with Damian Cooksey and Jon Ritson but even I tried lots of time I could only sent 3/4 of the line.

Right after my send Jordan and Faith finished their approach. The weather was changing and you could see the storm was coming fast. Jordan sent a line after few caches and Faith crushed OS-FM. As soon as she step off the line it started to rain and hail. We packed our stuff and went back to the woods where we thought our friends set up their camp.

Epic stormy weather (photo by Jordan Tybon)
Wet but happy (photo by Jordan Tybon)

We waited for a while but they weren't there. Later this week we learned they had some epic scary moments during the storm while sitting on top of the Lost Arrow Spire. We hiked down as fast as we could. After getting back to Camp 4 it rained even more. We decided to go sesh Taft Point highlines next day.

To read the full post click HERE

Wednesday 8 May 2013

US Trip 2013 - Take 8; Castle Crags - Round 1

During our short visit in Ashland were we stayed together with Scott Balcom for couple days we made a plan to go explore and establish new highlines in Castle Crags. He recommended to us using words like; epic, beautiful, unexplored, forgotten or remote. Just two of these coming out of Scott's mouth was enough to get our immediate attention. Even though the schedule of our trip was already pretty tight we were stoked to re-organize our schedule for this exciting adventure. I was a bit afraid it might be a bit too ambitious because as we learn establishing new stuff is always way more work then repeating existing spots but it is also way more exciting, rewarding and besides we are pretty experienced and good in it already. It was decided then, we were going to storm the Castle!

Our second day in Castle Crags. In search of new possible lines. Psyched in front of the Castle Dome!! (photo by Jordan Tybon)

Jordan and I went to Castle Crags after our visit in Humboldt. We had lots of problems finding bolts and bolting equipment. It seemed like there is no store in Northern California which carried them at the time. We were getting really frustrated but then finished ordering glue-in bolts from Fixe online and buying 8 expansion bolts from a really nice guy we met at the "Humboldt Highline/Longline Festival". We thought the problem is solved until ... ;)

We finished leaving on Monday (29th of April) and after stoping to get even more supplies we arrived on the campsite which happened to be really expensive ($25 per day!). We spent there one night and at the morning drove to Vista Point from were we thought we could start our hike to the Crags. Unfortunately the info we had was wrong and you can not leave there your car overnight. Damn it! This part of our trip started to be more and more 'cowboy style'. We drove to Mt. Shasta to the local outdoor store planning on getting more info about good spot to park and start hiking and buying a climbing guidebook. The owner of the shop happened to be really nice guy and provided us with some info although the climbing guidebook is out of print (new one is in preparation process right now). We finished with little info about the whole area which was pretty much just a confusing hand-sketch of the trail system and few black & white photocopies of the biggest walls in the area.

Pretty much whole info we had for our trip to Castle Crags

Well, the good place to park and start your hike is Soda Creek exit of the I-5 highway and that was where we finished. After eating breakfast and packing most of the stuff (not including highlining gear) we were able to realize how heavy our backpacks were and that was just the first load. I definitely didn't feel excited about that hike.

The gear we carried up and down way to much for almost a week (that doesn't include food and water) (photo by Jordan Tybon)

We finished hiking up in 2 hours finding our selfs confused and dodging around in order to find a right path. Jordan found an awesome and well hidden spot five minutes away from our water source (Indian Creek) which turned out to be amazing, first-class bivy. We also worked on it during next days so now it has a nice fire-pit, 4 seats, 'gear-tree' and nice flat tent spot. After quick snack and setting up our camp we went up with just drilling equipment and few cams and a rope for a scouting mission. We checked pretty much whole lower ridge where we found and bolted our first spot. It turned out to be really cool and we scrambled, hiked and climb 4-5th class terrain for the whole day. The ascent on the far sight of the potential highline spot turned out to be pretty scatchy. It doesn't look like but climbing slabby and mossy terrain in hiking shoes with 100m drop on one side was kind of challenging experience. We placed 5 bolts in total (3 on tensioning side, 2 on the spire side + 2 existing climbing bolts for back-up) and started our hike down to the campsite.

It's nice to hike with a light backpack (photo by Jordan Tybon)
Almost at our first highline spot (photo by Jordan Tybon)

We couldn't stop staring at the Mt. Hubris aka The Ogre Summit and the wall next to it. The notch between this too was calling for the most obvious and epic highline in the whole area. We decided to climb up to the top of The Ogre next day following region's classic 'Cosmic Wall' (8 pitches, 5.6R).

Fixing to leave after bolting first highline in Castle Crags ever! Feels good ... The target for our next day is just in a background (photo by Jordan Tybon)
Route-scheme (
Chilling next to our "rager-fire" (photo by Jordan Tybon)

Next day at the morning we went up to our climb. We definitely didn't find the path and did some EPIC bushwhacking. I was lucky enough to have long pant on but Jordan's legs were fucked when we got to the place were out route starts. The climb was really fun but the day was brutally windy. It was windy to the point when it's hard to enjoy yourself but we did anyways ;) ... We couldn't hear each other on the belays and I was cursing my self for not bringing my new walkie-talkies. We finished the route in about two hours, linking it by climbing in total 5 pitches. The view from the top was definitely rewarding. Behind our spot way in the outback is even more spots. On one ridge there is probably around 8-10 rock spires alone. This place is just amazing! We were out of words. Another good news was the spot between the peak we just climbed and another wall was definitely 'highlineable' and way epic. After grueling rappel in a wind which kept the ropes horizontal making them get stuck on every each rock tooth and descend to the campsite we could rest for couple hours.

To read the full post click HERE