Million Dollar Challenge – “More Than a Ride” by Bob Kain

This blog post is about Mesa Rim Co-owner Bob Kain’s epic 7-day cycle journey down the California coast for the Challenged Athletes Foundation Million Dollar Challenge.


As an avid road cyclist for over a decade, I knew about the Challenged Athletes Foundation Million Dollar Challenge (MDC). For most of that decade I dreamed of doing the ride. Who would not be seduced by a fully supported ride down the California coast from San Francisco to San Diego? Even before I was a road cyclist, when I mainly road mountain bikes on trails, the romantic draw of riding through Monterey, Big Sur, and Santa Barbara appealed to me. The California coast is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. With a full time Biotech job at Illumina, partial ownership of a rock climbing gym, and a family to consider, taking a week off to ride the coast wasn’t in the cards.

During the last few years my goals switched to climbing goals. My thoughts about epic adventures took me in other directions. I wanted to climb Half Dome in a day, to find long moderate multi-pitch routes in the Sierras and other climbing meccas around the world. Thought of traveling to Italy and climbing in the Dolomites excited my imagination.

This past year though my life took an interesting turn. I left Illumina and jettisoned the weekly travel schedule. No surprise that I then had time to fit a week long ride into my life. One question remained, could I do it? Could I ride 620 miles in 7 days? It was time to find out. I signed up and started training.

Training 5 years ago would have entailed 10 – 14 hours a week in the saddle. Riding 4 days and 10 hours a week initially, working up to 5 days and 14 hours a week as the date grew near. However, as a climber who wasn’t going to give up climbing, training became a compromise. Near the ride date I was riding 4 days and 10 hours a week, however I was climbing and doing Yoga 9 hours a week. My legs might not have been finely tuned spinning machines, but the body was ready to go for it.

CAF Million Dollar Challenge

Rider check-in was Friday October 10th at the Embarcadero in San Francisco. As it turned out I needed to be in Boston on Thursday. To add to the drama, I took a redeye flight to Boston Wednesday night, worked Thursday, and then flew to San Francisco to check-in. After 2 days of hectic airline and auto travel, I was ready to spend a week on the bike.

Saturday November 11th we woke to a hearty breakfast and some encouraging words from our supporters at CAF. At just past 7:30 am one hundred riders took off with police escort through San Francisco, under the Golden Gate bridge and down the coast to Santa Cruz. The riders broke into 4 main groups outside of SF and made their way down the coast at different speeds. It was to be an adrenaline filled ride for me! With the help of a head wind, we reached speeds of 28 mph on the flats and arrived in Santa Cruz by early afternoon.

CAF Million Dollar Challenge

At our hotel mechanics took our bikes, support crew handed out room keys, bags were delivered to our rooms, massage therapists worked out legs, then food and drink awaited us. Each day 4 groups started from the hotel. Group 1 was the fastest and often started 30 minutes later than the rest. Group 4 would take their time and stop to shoot many pictures, finishing late in the afternoon. Mostly I finished between group 1 and group 2, group 1 ½ we called ourselves.

Ok here are the stats for those who want to know what is involved with riding the California coast from San Francisco to San Diego. The total ride is about 627 miles spread over 7 days. Every day was a new and different experience. The list below includes hyperlinks connected to topo maps and charts for the day.

CAF Million Dollar Challenge

DAY 1: SAN FRANCISCO TO SANTA CRUZ – 89 miles
DAY 2: SANTA CRUZ TO BIG SUR- 86 miles
DAY 3: BIG SUR TO PISMO BEACH – 114 miles
DAY 4: PISMO BEACH TO SANTA BARBARA- 121 miles
DAY 5: SANTA BARBARA TO SANTA MONICA – 86 miles
DAY 6: SANTA MONICA TO DANA POINT – 72 miles
DAY 7: DANA POINT TO LA JOLLA SHORES – 55 miles

I’ve completed many long single day rides in the past, with the longest being 217 miles through the Angeles Crest and the Los Padres mountains. However, up until this year, I’ve avoided riding two long days in a row. Leading up the event, I was worried about waking up and getting back on the bike on day two and day three. I figured that if you can ride three days in a row, you can do 7. My strategy was simple, ride at my own pace and enjoy the scenery.

Every day was challenging, exciting, and scenic in a very unique way. As with all starts during the ride, Santa Cruz to Big Sur begun with an easy ride out of the hotel with Group 2. When group 1 passed just before lunch, my friends and I decided to abandon our group and go for it. We jumped on the train. The next hour was spent speeding through 17 Mile Drive, barely able to keep up as over 20 cyclists would break and then accelerate through the many turns. It was a crazy with little opportunity to enjoy the world class views. What fun. Lunch was on the beach in Carmel by the Sea. We quickly ate and mounted our bikes for the final couple of hours to the Big Sur Lodge.

CAF Million Dollar Challenge

Day three was 112 miles and 7500 feet vertical for the day. We cruised along the best coastline in the world as Big Sur was put behind us and we headed for Pismo Beach. As we pedaled the better part of the day, we couldn’t help but wonder what Day 4 would be like given the 121 miles distance from Pismo to Santa Barbara. I took my time and road from 7am to 4pm. Big Sur morphed into San Simeon (Hearst Castle), Morro Bay, SLO, Solvang, and finally Santa Barbara. The legs felt good, as long as we didn’t get too anaerobic. This was not a day that many of the hundred riders wanted to attack on.

CAF Million Dollar Challenge

Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara was 121 miles, more importantly though, it was a physiological turning point in the ride. So many of us were focused on the 112 mile and 122 mile days coming after two already challenging days in the saddle. Yes it was hard, yes the day was long, and yes our legs were tired, but we made it.

The days following were going to get progressively easier. For many of us we were also approaching home territory. I had ridden many miles on the Central Coast over the years, including a three day weekend in Santa Barbara just a month earlier. We were home. We had conquered what we thought of as the two toughest days. The road ahead was all going to be all downhill, or at least it was headed south anyway.

Part of my plan was to get hour long massages every other night. They were calculated to help the legs rest and recover. In fact, every muscle in the body was thankful for the attention. Massages also are also a welcome luxury that balanced out the hard riding. The whole week was a balance of riding for hours on the bike, and nothing but pampering off the bike. It is hard to calculate the importance of having almost no stress in our day. We wake up and food is there. The bike is handed to us before the ride. Rest stations along the route provide plenty of good food and drink. They also address most medical needs including ibuprofen. Food, beer, wine, are there at the end of the ride, along with a key to a hotel room that already contains our luggage. No stress. Just eat, ride, and sleep.

The last few days went by fast. Ventura, Malibu, Santa Monica, LA, Orange County, Camp Pendleton, San Diego. Did I mention Malibu… Did I mention Santa Monica? We stayed near the pier. In fact my riding friends from the Bay Area, and I, arrived at our hotel first. For many reasons, including a minor crash, three of us finished 15 minutes ahead of the next riders. It’s not a race, on the other hand it does feel good to finish first.

We had plenty of time to enjoy the hotel and the beach. While friends took a dip in the water, I hungered for some climbing. The beach has a series of permanent workout structures, including rings, ropes, pull-up bars, and slacklines. Against my better judgment, I couldn’t help but climb the ropes. At 18 feet, I started to think “bad idea. Wouldn’t want to fall, twist and ankle, and abandon the ride.” Couldn’t resist topping out though. Needless to say, I didn’t fall and finished the ride. (That’s not me by the way, but I did finish the climb.)

CAF Million Dollar Challenge

We woke up the last morning in Dana Point. A mere 55 miles from our finish point at La Jolla Shores. The pace was casual and the mood was mixed. Like the final pitch on a 5 day multi-pitch project, we were excited to finish, elevated by a beautiful ride down the coast, and honestly a bit disappointed that it was ending. The 100 plus riders rode at their own pace toward our meet-up point at 12:30 a mile before the formal finish. Most stopped for lunch or coffee along the way. My friends and I decided to have lunch in La Jolla Shores. As a result we crossed the finish line an hour early and ride on to a celebratory Mexican feast.

CAF Million Dollar Challenge

CAF puts on a great ride in support of a very worthy cause. Riding with the challenged athletes and hearing their stories was inspiring. It helped us hold back our minor complaints and view the ride from a different perspective. I’m thankful for having the opportunity to do the ride and to finish it.

CAF Million Dollar Challenge


Bob Kain • Founder + Co-Owner of Mesa Rim

CAF Million Dollar Challenge

Trekking Utah by Keegan Dimmick

Heading to Zion National Park is a rock climbers dream. You’re surrounded by 2,000 foot, navajo sandstone walls, with approaches that rival walking across the street. Apparently the weeks that I spent daydreaming about climbing in Zion, didn’t make it important enough for me to pack the climbing rope. So for the week, we became hikers.

Day 1
Once we accepted that we were going to be hikers we grabbed a hiking guide from the visitor’s center and began to choose our destiny for the next 6 days. According to everyone we “have to do Angel’s Landing first thing!”, so we did Angel’s Landing first thing! Angel’s Landing rewards you with steep hiking, loads of exposure, and a towering 360 degree overlook. After descending Angel’s Landing we hiked a short loop to check out the Emerald Pools. We really enjoyed the pools, and were taken back to the waterfalls of the Red River Gorge. Day one set a great trend of hiking immediately followed by me wanting some ice cream, and then relaxing at the campsite.

Day 2
Day two arrived much as day one had. There was lots of strong wind and me just waiting for the sun to stretch its arms over the red walls, and grace the campsite with warmth. It always bothers me a little bit that the sunlight takes 8 minutes to reach me from the sun. I really could use that 8 minutes for something more useful than waiting, but I digress. Motivation was a little lower today so we decided to hike the Hidden Canyon trail. A very short hike brings you to a intimidating traverse around sheer cliffs and you end at the mouth of a small canyon. Thus ends the hike and you can venture deep into the canyon. Get ready for some 3rd class moves and viewing a truly beautiful, hidden ecosystem. This was a pretty short hike that left us time to head to Zion Outfitters and pick up our canyoneering shoes and a walking stick.

Day 3
I recommend that everyone get the canyoneering shoes and a walking stick when hiking The Narrows. I just can’t believe how amazing day three was. When you step into the chilly Virgin River and see the enormous walls, it really hits you that you are about to partake in a memorable adventure. We sloshed, trudged, waded, and smiled between the slot canyon for nine miles. We hiked as far as you can go without a permit, which ended us at Big Spring. I recommend that everyone do this hike at some point in their life.

Day 4
Day four started with a drive through the Tunnels and over towards the East Entrance. Lots of really cool scrambling and steep hiking littered the East side of the park. We ended up seeing fearless mountain goats and having a really enjoyable day. This side of the park was a lot quieter and it was nice being able to drive your own car around, and not wait for the park shuttles.

Day 5
We spent our last day of the trip hiking to the Kolob Arch. The Kolob Arch is a 14 mile round trip that takes you through some more amazing scenery. Once you get to the arch you are blessed with the sight of the second largest freestanding arch in the world. This hike is downhill on the way in, and uphill on the way out which makes it a pretty tough hike, and a very rewarding day. Sore feet took us back to the campsite for a pleasant ramen noodle dinner and our final sunset in Zion.


– Keegan Dimmick • Team Member Supervisor

Mesa Rim Progresses Toward New Facility With Climbing Walls by Entre-Prises.

We are excited to announce our partnership with Entre-Prises Climbing Walls for our second location! Read the full Press Release at www.epusa.com. Check out a sneak peak of the design below.

 

Mesa Rim Progresses Toward New Facility With Climbing Walls by Entre-Prises.

 

 

How Earnestly We Strive, Moments in Squamish B.C. by Rosie Bates

Thank you to Rosie Bates and Jonathan Finch for choosing to re-publish this post to Mesa Rim’s blog.

Through vignettes and photographs Rosie, with the help of photographer, Jonathan Finch, recollects adventures that her and Connell had in Squamish, BC this past August. 


I’m going to try something new here. Since i’ve been bad at keeping a journal and extra bad at keeping up with my blog, pictures have served as a filler for the details that naturally fade. I don’t know if this is a good replacement because pictures only capture one moment and leave a lot for debate–but that is a topic for a different time.

For the last half of our trip in Squamish, Connell and I were greeted by our good friend Jonathan Finch. We met Jonathan while studying at the University of San Diego. Since then he has he returned to Montana to pursue a career in photography–no surprise since he has a great eye for capturing beauty. Long story short, we all met up again in Canada to climb, photograph and explore. Jonathan expressed that he wanted to start writing little vignettes along with the photos he took. I immediately latched on to this idea and asked him if I could take some of the photos he took of us and write–clearly he said “yes”.

A good picture should tell a story and a good story should paint a picture–and the combination of two should… create a symphony? On that note (pun intended) I will try my best to create short symphonies with the words that Jonathan has already written with his photos.

“The time we spend waiting”

Squamish B.C. by Photographer Jonathan Finch

The mist burns my lungs. My imagination fills in the blanks–faces behind the fog. I remember weekends spent like this–“dad, why do you think this is fun?” Trudging aimlessly, impatiently–lost through the evergreens. But he knew. You don’t have to close your eyes out here–dreaming with your eyes wide open, the canvas is half painted. It’s hard to appreciate the process if you don’t wait, patiently. Patiently I hike, forward moving towards the big reveal. Sometimes not long enough. The wet moss soaks through my beaten boots and I wonder the worth of the time we spend waiting.

“That smile”

Squamish B.C. • Connell Ford by Photographer Jonathan Finch

That smile. Un-provoked, no punch-line. The moment when memory blurs the line between past and present. Frozen, like a picture he smiles. Long after the picture is taken he smiles. Looking at everything and nothing he smiles. The time we spend waiting for memories that paint lines on our faces.

“Peace”

Squamish B.C. • Rosie Bates by Photographer Jonathan Finch

Eternally frozen we focus on the familiarities that distract us from the goal–I have seen that tree before, used this gear before, tasted that cool, cool water before. I find peace in knowing that my shoes are tied the same way, the left and then the right. There is peace in knowing that close up, granite crystals shine in the same way–black valleys sprinkled with white snow. The final peace is knowing that the fear will come, but not yet. Created by rituals we find solace in habit–comforted by the details we find silence in chaos.

“How earnestly”

Squamish B.C. Rock Climbing by Photographer Jonathan Finch

The wall hangs heavy overhead. The route seldom changes–years of movement trace the hidden cracks–suffocating the pores, draining down the face. Standing at the base I am trapped by the notion that every person is the same–every move mapped out. A puppet directed by anger and fear the wall spits me off and chalk coughs in my face. I search for gratitude and no words come–half hearted smiles fill the gap between us. It is when all expectations fade that I am left, stripped-free–the rope directed decisively by MY hands. The clarity comes in waves, washing clean, calloused limbs. “How earnestly should we strive”–Petrarch lamented to himself, “not to stand on mountain-tops, but to trample beneath us those appetites which spring from earthly impulses”.

“I can tell the way you hang your head”

Squamish B.C. by Photographer Jonathan Finch

Assuming the position you march the well-traveled path. Like the end of a vacation, you reflect–the gait and order so dependent on success. You create your own realities. The mind spinning with “what ifs” and “why nots”. How can one succeed while the other does not? As a unit you find gratitude– their strength is your strength, their weakness yours. Together you wander–often lost.

“The Life”

Squamish B.C. by Photographer Jonathan Finch

We are dangerously perched on the edge of materialism. We laugh at ignorance and proudly walk through the masses–they don’t even know the life they are missing. Pride masks the noise that keeps us up at night–haunts us during the starless nights. We laugh at them, but they laugh at us. How foolish they are, to never live this life.

“Warming up”

Squamish B.C. • Rosie Bates by Photographer Jonathan Finch

Overshadowed by what you will regret is what you will not. Sometimes warming up is the best part of the day and that is okay. I spent so many years just enjoying the view–when did that become not enough? The lines that create our life are filled with moments that fade because they felt so easy. To err is to assume they are insignificant.


-Rosie Bates • Head Coach at Mesa Rim
Find the original blog post and follow Rosie blog at www.rosaliebates.com

All photographs courtesy of Jonathan Finch.
Website: jonathanfinchphoto.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/jonathanwfinch
Facebook: www.facebook.com/JonathanFinchPhoto

Adaptive Rock Climbing: Competing at Nationals by Jillian Bukoski

This blog post is about Jillian’s experience competing at a national adaptive climbing competition which is open to select individuals with disabilities, and how this competition provides hope, motivation, inspiration, and the feeling of accomplishment for not only Jillian, but others personally affected by disabilities that strive to live beyond setbacks.


As a young child growing up in a very small town in the mountains of New Jersey I was very active. I danced, climbed, hiked, skied, ran you name it and I probably did it. Moving to California where you could be outside all year long was perfect for me. I was excited to have the opportunity to learn to surf, go snorkeling, and all the other fun things San Diego had to offer, but shortly after moving here my plans changed a bit.

In August 2013 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a degenerative autoimmune disorder that leads to a host of issues with no known cure and very unreliable treatment options. To make things worse, in January 2014 I learned that I had begun the process of losing my vision due to a condition called Optic Neuritis, a common ailment that often accompanies MS, but one I did not expect to experience for at least ten to fifteen years. Thousands of miles from home, and overwhelmed with everything going on I threw myself into climbing as a way to stay sane.

A few months later, I was helping run an adaptive climbing clinic in Santa Ana when I began talking with adaptive athlete Ronnie Dickson about a national adaptive climbing competition taking place during the summer in Atlanta, Georgia. The competition would be open to any climber with a disability ranging from amputations, to blindness, to neurological diseases like MS. The competition immediately piqued my interest and I quickly consulted Mesa Rim’s head coach Rosie Bates for some mental and physical training tips.

The competition was about more than just climbing to all the athletes involved. It meant overcoming obstacles, showing the world that having a disability doesn’t make you disabled, and proving to our families, doctors, friends, and most importantly ourselves that we are strong, passionate climbers.

After months of finding any time I could to train I boarded my flight to Atlanta to meet up with my mom who had driven all the way down from northern New Jersey to watch me compete. The anxiety was really beginning to set in, but my amazing husband, Taylor, did his best to ease that when he surprised me by showing up the day of the competition. I was also super stoked that Mesa Rim adaptive athlete Trent Smith was competing with me in the amputee category. Dozens of athletes showed up at Stone Summit Climbing Gym to show off their skills. The groups were broken up into arm amputee, leg amputee, blind, neurological, and seated. We had three hours to log our best climbs.

When the timer started, I hopped on one of the lower point climbs I thought might be easy only to get half way up and take my first fall. This definitely did not start my mental game off on a good note. After coming down I started wondering what I was even doing here if I couldn’t even make it up a warm up route. Taylor grabbed me by the shoulders, gave me a shake, and said “You are a climber. This is what you do, now shut up and go kill it.”

The next three hours was the most inspirational time in my life. I was surrounded by climbers from all over the United States with all these insane problems going on, but were here to give their disability a slap in the face. Nobody felt bad for themselves, nobody was limiting themselves, and nobody was giving up. We fought hard to be there and we were going to fight hard to finish the best we could. Throughout the competition we climbed, and we fell, and we screamed, and we got up and did it all again. Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” On that day we were all insane, but we weren’t stopping until we finished that route.

By the end of the competition everyone was completely exhausted. We all gathered together to talk while the results were being tallied up. Most people seemed very relaxed and happy it was over, but as a naturally competitive person I just couldn’t wait to hear how I did. An hour later the scores were posted and I had received third place. Getting third means I qualified to be a part of the United States Paraclimbing Team and that I would be eligible to compete at the World Cup in Gijon, Spain. I turned around to see my mom in tears and Taylor with the biggest smile I’ve seen. I was so excited that I actually felt strangely numb for the next few days.

All of my doctors had told me my condition would get in the way of my climbing, but I was able to prove to myself that nothing could be more wrong. It’s hard to be twenty one and be faced with a diagnosis like this, but knowing I will always have the support of the climbing community makes it a thousand times easier. This journey taught me that life isn’t about what you can and can’t do, but more about setting goals for yourself and fighting like hell through everything to reach them. I hope this story will inspire someone dealing with their own problems that when life hands you a bag of lemons all you have to do is drink that lemonade and go climb.

I find it really important to thank all of the people who helped me get to that competition:
• The undying support of my amazing mother throughout my life.
• My husband Taylor for never allowing me to use my disability as an excuse for anything other than the occasional nap.
• The Mesa Rim adaptive athletes for encouraging me to compete and being the most inspirational group of people I have ever met.
• Ian Mcintosh for supporting the adaptive climbing program at Mesa Rim allowing Trent and I to become a part of this community.
• Scott Parlett and the crew at Crossfit 760 for starting my training program off right and giving me the knowledge and skills to continue training on my own.
• My Mesa Rim family for always being supportive and motivating.
• All the United States Marines at the 15th MEU for keeping my psyche super high throughout training.
• Alison Botsford for the super sweet hotel room I had all my panic attacks in pre-competition.
• Everyone who ever told me I couldn’t do it.

Are you or someone you know interested in Mesa Rim’s Adaptive Climbing Program?
Email Jillian at AdaptiveClimbing@mesarim.com


- Jillian Bukoski • Team Member and Adaptive Climbing Coordinator at Mesa Rim

Mesa Rim is Climbing Higher with a New Location!

Mesa Rim is Climbing Higher with a New Location

We are very excited to announce that Mesa Rim is opening our second location near the heart of San Diego in late 2015! While the planning process and key decisions are still underway, there are some key points that we are able to share with the community now:


• We have secured what we consider to be the perfect site located near the
 heart of San Diego Metro area

• We are actively working with the city to ensure smooth permitting and construction process
• The facility size and scope of services will be complementary to our first
 location
• We are very excited to share more information once we break ground later this fall

• Your Mesa Rim Membership will be valid at both locations!


Thank you for your continued support. You, our loyal customer, have helped us come a long way. We are extremely excited to grow the Mesa Rim community at this new location!

Marathon Magic by Debbie Fischer aka BOSS-MOM

This blog post is about Mesa Rim Team Member Debbie Fischer’s determination and journey to run the Boston Marathon this year and the goodness and strength of human spirit that is #bostonstrong.


Two days after the Boston marathon bombings last year I said to my running buddies, “we have to try and qualify for the 2014 marathon and show our support to the people of Boston and for our love of running”. This would be no easy feat because I had to find a race that was a certified Boston qualifier, still had room, close to San Diego and was before September 15th, which was the last date you could run and qualify for Boston.

Luckily I found one in Ventura on September 8th, 2013. My last marathon was eight years ago. Usually I need about six months of training to run one successfully. The marathon has it’s way of letting you be a victor or a victim. I had a little over four months to train.

Fast forward to September 8th, 2013. Ventura, perfect weather, flat course, I was ready.

Not having ran a marathon in eight years, you forget how difficult it is. The pain you put your body through is rough, especially when you make all the rookie mistakes I made. I went out too fast, had poor nutrition along the course, and didn’t drink enough water and electrolytes. By mile 18, I was tripping over myself and was tempted by the sag wagon for a lonely eight mile ride back to the finish line. But I reminded myself of why I was doing this, and pushed to finish within my qualifying time so I could be in Boston on April 21st, 2014. I did finish. The moment I crossed the line my legs could not take another step and I had to be carried to the medical tent and packed in ice. I qualified, I won my age group, I am Boston bound!

Fast forward April 2014 Boston marathon weekend.

Magic! Marathon magic! The city was ready, the race staff was ready, I was ready, and so were 36,000 runners. This was my first time in Boston for the marathon. The pre-race activities were very emotional and I will always remember my time there. Walking down Boylston Street, the finish line and the site of the first bomb, brought me to tears. Seeing the flowers and little momentos at the site was quite moving. There were people at the Old South Church, also at the finish line, where they were giving out hand made scarves in the blue and yellow colors of the marathon.

They were expecting people to knit 2000 scarves, they received over 8,000! Each scarf had a hand written note with a blessing and the name of the person who knitted the scarf. Again, I cried as they placed the scarf around my neck. Then there was the one mile run for the first responders and survivors of the bombing. Some ran, some walked, some used crutches or wheelchairs for their memorial mile down Boylston Street. I cheered and cried again as they crossed the finish line. I couldn’t wait until Monday, race day!

Race Day!

It was clearly the biggest and boisterous Boston Marathon, and the crowds were everything I heard about and more. The cheering and the signage were wonderful. Every step of the way they were yelling “Boston Strong”, “You’re amazing”, and “Thank you for running”! I made sure to take it all in. I high-fived the kids. I smiled! I danced/ran when I ran past the music. I smiled. I kissed a Wellsey college girl along the way (its tradition)! I smiled! And I finished! And I qualified for 2015! Next year’s room is already booked, I’m Boston
bound, again!


– Debbie Fischer aka BOSS-MOM • Mesa Rim Front Desk Team Member

Baby steps in Joshua Tree by Alexis Diller

This post is about Mesa Rim manager Alexis’s rock climbing weekend in Joshua Tree and gaining confidence in not only trad leading and placing gear, but also setting up anchors and top belaying.


This is how it goes: The left hand side-pull is okay. A voice insists that my left foot is bomber. My right foot? Oh, hell. My right hand? Can it seriously reach that stupid cam on the left side of my harness? Oh, hell. Before I proceed to take action, I note that I dislike falling enough to make this placement work. I take a couple of deep, slow breaths and proceed to get high on The Bong…

Trad climbing scares me. Why? So many factors to consider: Is this the best placement of my protection? Will my protection hold if I fall on it? Is there a chance that the rock will expand or break and bye-bye protection? How far will I fall if I can’t get this pro in? What will I hit when I fall? On and on and on…watching clips of weekend whippers doesn’t help. In conjunction with climbing ability, trad climbing know-how, and environment, is overcoming mental barriers — Something I work at constantly only to feel like there’s something holding me back. Oh yeah, my own mind.

Friday
I usually have an idea of what to expect at Joshua Tree: Slab, crack, sticky, beautiful, and humbling rock. My climbing friend, Mateo, and I typically pick a new spot or spot we haven’t climbed on in a while. This time around, we stayed overnight in Hidden Valley. The weather was excellent and our friend, Tony, had graciously reserved a campsite for us (right next to Stem Gem).

We arrived early evening on Friday, with enough time catch a beautiful sunset, bake a German chocolate cake via dutch oven, and jump on Toe Jam (5.7) by moonlight.

I expected to lead a sport route or two this trip. What I realized was that it was time to expand my wings a little more.

Saturday
We spent morning to late afternoon at The Cathouse. The routes are short, generally good protection, though a little chossy. It was windy in the mid section, but totally fine about 15 feet lower. Bolted anchors at the top convinced me to practice some trad lead. A successful attempt was more than a nudge towards bigger plans the next day.

Late afternoon and evening included hiking around Barker Dam, practicing anchor building around the campsite, and befriending some lads attempting Stem Gem (v3/4 or in my opinion v-not gonna happen).

Sunday
Matt’s friend Tony stopped by in the morning to grab his tent that he set up to help reserve the campsite. His morning was free and happily suggested a great beginner trad route for me and offered to supervise my anchor set up and be photographer. Since he lives in the area and is an outdoor climbing instructor, we welcomed his advice and company. The route was called The Bong and located just around the corner of our campsite.

I agree that it is a great beginner route for trad leading – 5.4 crack with great places for protection, nice holds, and a huge boulder for a nice anchor set up at the top. The crux is a small roof, which I admit is where I questioned my ability and confidence. Having supervision during the climb and at the top reinforced what my fear keeps making me forget: I can do it.

After climbing The Bong, Tony took off and we proceeded to The Eye, where I was left to my own devices. The conversations I had with myself up The Eye were question and answer format, no time for small chit chat, but only to check off safety points and silly assuredness. Besides the rope drag, everything went as planned, if not better. A hiker dudette even asked if she could take a picture of me and my set up. I felt good. I felt safe.

I definitely have more to learn, but this weekend in Joshua tree I made great progress. Internal reward: Accomplishment and confidence. External reward: The view, a fist bump and Jamba Juice.

“The joy of life consists in the exercise of one’s energies, continual growth, constant change, the enjoyment of every new experience. To stop means simply to die. The eternal mistake of mankind is to set up an attainable ideal.”
-Aleister Crowley


-Alexis Diller • Marketing Manager at Mesa Rim

Good Days in the Sun’s Rays: Red Rocks Climbing Trip by Alex Carolin

This blog post is about Mesa Rim Team Member Alex’s bouldering and sport climbing trip in Red Rocks, how the two forms of climbing are different yet complementary, and the pleasure of doing both at one of the most inspiring places to be on the wall.


In early January, I had the opportunity to go on a climbing trip to Red Rocks, Nevada. Having never been there before, and itching to go on another outdoor trip, I immediately began to research what routes and boulder problems I wanted to get on, in the few days we had to spend there. My friend Graham and I shared a campsite with other Mesa Rim members, Andrew and Mike.

On the first day, we climbed in the Kraft Boulders area. It was a nice surprise to run into Sam and Mesa Rim setter Leo while we were out there. They were crushing harder problems than I could handle! We started on some warm-up routes, then moved on to a couple harder v2s, Potato Chips and Monkey Paw. The sun was setting, so we decided to set up camp and get on early start for sport climbing the next day.

The next morning, after some campfire roasted sweet potatoes and coffee, we headed over to the the Calico Basin area and led some easy sport routes to warm up. We took our time exploring, scrambling, and traversing through the vast rock formations in the canyon. The sun was hot enough to melt pockets of ice into pools, while in the shade there was still rock hard patches of ice. Red Rocks offers gorgeous views of various type of rock and geological formations. It was truly inspiring to be in a natural part of the earth that we’re lucky enough to be part of.

The initial approach wove through a dry and rocky river bed, and curved into some interesting scrambling through sandstone cliffs and corridors. We finally found some open routes and decided to start at the Magic Bus wall. We started off by climbing Neon Sunset and Technicolor Sunrise. They were super easy, fun leads right in the sun, with no wind.  We moved on to Electric Kool-aid and Queasy Sunrise, which I enjoyed greatly. By this point, the area started getting a little crowded. Because this area is known for considerably easier or introductory routes, it is a popular spot for people that are new to leading or want to set up top ropes for beginners. We decided to do some yoga in the sun and take a little nap. Again, as the sun set over the mountains we decided to head back to camp for awesome card tricks by Andrew and campfire stories.

On the last day, we decided to go back to Kraft and try a harder v2, Darwin Award, a fun v1 called Monkey Crack, and then move on to the Pearl, a super crimpy v4. I wasn’t able to send the Pearl, but Graham was successful after a few tries. He says what truly helped him was having the right beta for the first half, to move efficiently from a left finger pocket to throwing to a thin crimpy rail with his right hand. The trick was to have a correctly positioned right foot for enough leverage and balance to make the move. It’s unbelievable what a difference the angle and position of your feet can do for a climb. After that, we decided to call it a day and head back to camp. With sore fingers and weary bodies, we felt nothing less than accomplished with our abilities on the rock.

This trip has inspired me to boulder more to improve my lead climbing. Because I am so new to bouldering, I noticed that sequencing crux moves is something that I can improve on. Patience and dedication to one problem is not easy, but it is quite gratifying once you have worked hard to earn a reward that at first seemed unreachable. I returned to san diego refueled and inspired to train harder, and be grateful for what I have accomplished in my climbing so far. I’m sure I will return soon!

Red Rocks routes and problems at a glance that we did:
Kraft Boulders Area: Potato Chips, Monkey Paw, Darwin Award (v2s), Monkey Crack (v1), Pearl (v4)
Calico Basin Area: Magic Bus Wall – Neon Sunset (5.8), Technicolor Sunrise (5.8), Electric Koo-aid (5.9+), Queasy Sunrise (5.9+)


Alex Carloin – Mesa Rim Team Member
Red Rocks by Alex Carloin

Goal-Setting and Sticking to Your Goals by Rosie Bates

Mesa Rim Head Coach Rosie Bates talks about about the challenge of not only making goals, but sticking to goals. Particularly, goals that are related to climbing and physical fitness.


I have come to believe a choice is a choice only if you stick with it. I started this story at least 5 different times, each time pressing backspace as a new idea popped into my head. Those words disappeared never to reappear again—at least in that order. In those erased words I made a choice—to write, and then to erase.  This may seem like two choices but the decision to write was null after the decision to erase was made and what stood was the choice to erase. So many times in my life I have made what seems to be a life changing decision and two days later I ate the chocolate, I re-activated my Facebook, and I talked to the person I swore I would never speak to again. Those choices, that in the moment, seemed to be the most significant choice of my life were in fact just attempts to justify, explain, and control my insecurities. The choices that matter, that at their core follow the actual definition of change are what stick with you for an eternity and never leave you wondering if you took the right path.

Goals are dependent on a series of choices you make, and not just once a year or once a month but every second of every day. I struggled for a long time—am still struggling—with effective ways of setting goals because I look to where most people point me: “the big picture”. While the big picture is enticing it is easy to get caught up in the allure of dreaming big and aiming high—and often a year later I am left feeling further away than ever because I failed to be where I imagined.

The thing about climbing is that supposed “mastery” in the sport consists of peaks and valleys depending on a multitude of factors related to training, health, motivation, type of climbing, weather, and the list goes on. So when you look back at your ability one year, or even two years from today there is a strong possibility despite being an objectively stronger, more well-rounded, experienced climber today, quantitatively you were a “better” climber then. So in a sense you have to look at the big picture—and this is where I contradict myself.

My goals have always been grandiose yet vague, I have always known “sort of” what I want but been too afraid to pinpoint it exactly for the fear I would never attain “it”. Goal setting seems to be a series of contradictions, distracting me from the true nature of change. I don’t want to stop having goals or looking to the future, but when I try to narrow my focus I become obsessed with the failures of my past. So this is where I return to my first statement “a choice is a choice only if you stick with it”. Each and everyday I make choices and decisions that cancel out and contradict each other so what I end up with is habit—a daily routine that can either lead me towards my goals, or keep me looping repeatedly on a broken reel.

The true nature of change is fueled by deliberate action or a choice made that is honest and true—not out of fear for the unknown. I didn’t know at the time that choosing to quit drinking would open up doors leading directly to my goals, I didn’t know because at the time it was just a choice and I wasn’t positive it was the right one. I wasn’t sure because the prospect of jumping into the unknown and having to justify why, scared me. But now I am positive. I am not suggesting that quitting something will open up doors, but with that deliberate choice I fixed the broken reel and the story continued. Perhaps then the most important part of setting goals is to look at your life and assess whether your habits are serving you and your dreams. If not, you must then make a choice to rid of the habit or re-write the goal.

I still have habits, routines I am holding on to. But the goals I have will not fall into place until I can accept those as obstacles and strive to let them go. Rather than only looking at the big picture or focusing solely on the small details I must do both, knowing when and where to assign my attention and focus. It is easy to look to numbers for progress or have vague ideas for the future but usually goal setting requires the vagueness coupled with the tangible. As Arno Ilgner asserts, “If we’re end-result motivated all the time, then our attention is constantly toward the end. When we get down from a climb, we revel in the success of that ascent and miss out on a lot of the climbing process”. Appreciate and revel in the process—the time spent working towards your goal rather than aiming only to succeed. Give yourself clear deadlines and define your goals with detail but allow yourself the freedom to explore the path as you travel.

Learn strategies for effective goal setting and meet others that might share similar climbing, yoga, or fitness goals:

Goal-Setting Clinic at Mesa Rim
When: Thursday, January 23rd
Time: 7:00pm-8:30pm
Cost: FREE
Where: Meet in the mezzanine
Limited Space: Sign up at the front desk


Rosie Bates – Head Coach and Setter at Mesa Rim
Rosie Bates - Head Coach at Mesa Rim