About Me

I am a photographer based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Last fall I wrote about a project called Pimp My Wall, where a group of friends, in the spirit of an HGTV Extreme Makeover type show, built a surprise climbing wall for Greg Kottkamp, a climber and med student sweating it out in Augusta, Georgia. 

Here is the video from that project, which I showed at the Dirty South Climbing Film Festival in Atlanta last week. Enjoy!

Pimp My Wall from Andrew Kornylak on Vimeo.

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Ian Harding:

Pretty awesome video, and idea. I've been climbing a lot myself lately and am constantly trying to think about how I can incorporate it into my home. Also, love your photographic work. I'm hoping to attempt some climbing photography later this season. Keep it come'n!

(05.20.10 @ 10:22 AM)

Great clip!

I need a bunch of friends like you! :-)

(07.05.10 @ 11:52 AM)

Sweet video and really cool wall!

(07.05.10 @ 12:09 PM)
Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Pimp My Wall: The Video . TrackBack URL for this entry: http://theblindmonkey.com/darkroom/mt/mt-tb.cgi/54
Manpower, Part 2:

Washerwoman and Monster from camp. Zack stoking up.
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Sunday, March 14:

Trent: It was getting late and I wanted to get back to camp before it got dark. I waited for Chaz to fiddle with his shoes and then fiddle with his pack. I didn't want to just leave him but I wonder if he realized that he was risking us having to walk down in the dark. We finally ended up descending to camp ourselves rather than waiting for Andy, Zack and Devin. I wonder if they were pissed that we didn't wait? Soon it was clear that we were lost. It was a little bit of a scary feeling, but we knew we couldn't be more than an hour from our camp. It was cold as soon as we stopped! Chaz was shivering and ended up spooning against me for warmth. I was not thrilled about it but "you got to do what you got to do". Then it started raining. ...I think I slept a lot better than Chaz. I suggested he wrap his legs with our Bluewater double ropes. It took half and hour in the morning to get all the knots out.

Chaz: An amazing day on washer woman and monster, and a long, fucking cold night pretty much sums up day 2. 

Two towers in the bag. Heading out from the Monster group to Monument Basin

Trent and Chaz stumbled back to camp the next morning, just as the rest of us were gearing up for a rescue mission. They were tired and ragged-looking, but after hearing their story, our tension gave way to laughter, and with two towers already down, we decided to take an easy biking day and plan for the next climb, of Standing Rock, a 320-foot flute of layer-caked rock jutting from Monument Basin, 15 miles away. The climb was described in an old guidebook as "the most serious and dangerous route in the desert."


Monday, March 15:

Chaz: A pretty chill ride to Monument Basin and some resting under the shade of a juniper helped speed a recovery for the next day's ascent of Standing Rock, which will hopefully not topple over by morning.

TrentStanding Rock looks like it's tipping over a little. I think we were all a little intimidated by how narrow it looked. Chaz and I took a nice nap while everyone else hiked in to check out the tower.

Standing Rock, just barely.

Zack: Tomorrow is the climbing day that tackles the tower. 4 pitches: 10b/c, 10d, 11c, 7. Lots of work and I'm trying to get my head together. I'm not concerned about act of doing the pitches; it just looks so sketchy from here. The tower looks like it could tip over at any strong breeze.. I'm sure it won't seem so thin and shaky when I'm 2 feet away from it. The desert is so beautiful! 

Halfway through our trip, we were using more food and water than we had planned. We'd soon have to face some tough decisions about our style. During the next few days, the stress of climbing, biking and staying self-contained would test us.

Sunrise at Monument Basin

Tuesday March 16:

Zack: Gorgeous sunrise! An awe inspiring walk across the basin floor to the Standing Rock. One of the most eye catching, intimidating things I've ever climbed. Sketchy, and at 5.11c,  harder than anything I'd done in the desert. 

Desert Rack
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DevinClimbing Standing Rock went off without a hitch. As usual, Zack and Trent made it look easy and kicked ass on a lead that would have scared the shit out of me. Tomorrow will be a long, hard biking day, about 27 miles. Water is becoming somewhat of an issue.

Left: Trent leading Devin up the first pitch of Standing Rock. Right: Pitch 2
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Zack: We're down to two gallons of water a piece so it must be getting close to time to go home. I have one more tower to climb and lots of gnarly uphills to bike, but I know the end is within reach. Today was the roughest biking day so far. A lot of uphill pushing. These cadis flies and mayflies are about to cover me up. 

Chaz resting after the last hill of the day

That afternoon we headed a few miles down the trail for another campsite. We had some gnarly climbs, and had to team up to push eachothers' bikes up the last hill. The riding was getting really hard and we had a day's worth of water left. 

Miles to go. Headed down to the Green River on the longest biking day of the trip

The next day was a huge amount of biking, and as we neared the Green River, our only hope for water, we hit sandy sections you could barely walk, much less ride. I hung back a little, partly to take photos and partly because I was whupped. Chaz, being the strongest biker, was constantly offering to take gear from each of us to lighten the load, and always seemed to have an extra Snickers bar in a hidden pocket. As I crested the final hill to the river, I was astonished to see Trent filling two empty jugs with fresh water from a woman in a Jeep.

Left: Chaz on mechanical duty. Right: Zack under some rare shade near the Green River
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Wednesday March 17: 

Chaz: 10 miles of rolling downhill along the White Rim past Candlestick Tower brought us to the banks of the Green River. A casual lunch of peanut butter and tortillas followed by rest in the shade of a Cottonwood. 

Trent: Some lady offered us water and I let her fill up one of my 2 gallon jugs. Then everyone else reminded me that we were self contained. I felt stupid. We then filled up some jugs of water with river water. Zack and Chaz swam in the river for a while. I really wanted to get as far as possible into Taylor before dark but I didn't feel like telling them not to swim. We started biking into Taylor Canyon towards Moses and encountered a lot of sand. Zack finally protested and said it was a waste to keep going all the way into the canyon. He said he had looked at the map and since it was relatively flat, it was going to be deep sand the whole way. We camped in the wash and made plans for an early hike and then climb. I sensed a little tension in the group. Zack explained how he knew the shit would hit the fan and how he was ready for it. Zack decided he would get up at 3:30am and hike the remaining 5 miles into Moses. ... I didn't say anything. 

Chaz wading into Green

Zack: To think we climbed Standing Rock yesterday morning is sick. It seems more like a week ago! I'm tired and hungry. I'm down to less than half a gallon of water with two days left. We got water from the Green River today but it's murky and kinda sketch. Tomorrow we climb Moses, the last tower on the list. The approach is 6 miles off the main trail. We stopped, bivyed, and will wake up at 3:30am. The whole trip culminates tomorrow. Today was the first sign of difficulties. Team dynamic becomes apparent and very visible. I believe now is go time. Buckle down, do the deal, whatever it takes. Climb Moses and get the hell out of here self-contained, under Man Power! 

3:30 AM. Moses.

Thursday March 18:

I was personally pretty cashed and I knew this day would be a killer. We thought we could bike the 6 mile approach from camp, but it was all soft sand, so it turned into a 12 mile round trip hike. Pretty much out of food, and with the last water supply at camp, we had to decide whether to camp another night after the climbing, or gun for the trailhead on the canyon rim, a full days worth of biking away and uphill the whole way.

To try and speed things up, I decided not to join the team on the climb. I explored the area and photographed while everyone else tagged the summit. It was a beautiful day, but part of me regrets that decision.

Looking back 6 miles toward camp from the base of the first pitch of Moses

Trent at the base of Moses, and Primrose Dihedrals (5.11d), Pitch 1

Trent: We got up and hiked in to Moses. It was still very dark and cold. Chaz seemed extremely tired. He would take twice as long as me to follow the pitches. I felt bad and tried to console him even though I knew time was of the essence on the trip.

We took some cool photos on the summit and began rapping down the north face. We then began hiking back to our camp in the wash. It was getting extremely hot. We sat under one of the tarps and rested. Zack proposed the idea of biking all the way back to the truck and driving home. The map came out once again. I believe there was way too much map analysis. We made dinner and boiled water. I wanted to bivy but Zack and Andy were jacked on coffee and wanted to keep riding. A vote was taken and Chaz was the deciding vote to go all the way back to the truck. I was a little amazed after all the climbs we did together and how much he had slowed me down. I guess my emotion boiled up and I said "thanks a lot Chaz". He freaked out a little because he has this need to make everyone happy. He then said he wanted to camp at the top of the hill as a compromise. I could feel the tension between everyone.

Mid-day back at camp

After some grueling but mercifully hard-packed biking, we gained mesa at 9:30pm. The next morning at the rim we were elated. Though we had no breakfast and just a few sips of water left, everyone looked forward to a casual few hours of flat biking to the car. That's when most of the journal entries, and the photos, stopped. 

Psyched! Devin on the morning of day 7.
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Friday March 19 : 

Andy: We suffered today. Out of water. We rode on seemingly endless hard pack, up and down hills, across a barren landscape, constantly stopping to examine the map, in hopes that we were getting to a shortcut that led to pavement. At the shortcut, I was bonking, so was Zack. I asked if anyone had food left. Chaz miraculously produced several Clif Bars, chocolate bars and a precious Snickers, which Zack and I devoured. Taking the last swig from my bottle, I felt at least able to go the 3 miles or so in the growing heat until pavement. The shortcut was twisty and sandy. Lots of walking, and silent resting under the paltry Juniper trees here and there. 

I sucked my tea bag dry, which I had brewed last night in river water. The group was spread out. I saw what I am fairly certain were mountain lion tracks over the fresh bike tracks ahead of me on the trail. I thought about how the pride seeks out the weakest member of their prey, the lame one lagging behind. I increased my pace, but I had no more hammer left. I had kept a strong pace on the switchbacks last night, full of hype, but now as I realized  that today would be at least as grueling as the last six, I was demoralized. I felt strangely sleepy and found myself thinking about how cool the sand might be to curl up into. How long would they go ahead before they turned back for me? Would they find me devoured by lions? Not such a bad way to go, I remember thinking... 

And then we were at the road! No elation yet, we still had miles to go, but I found extra strength, my tongue swelling, stomach in knots, legs jello, brain pudding. I stupidly tried to shift my gears lower and lower, even though I was walking the bike. 

Finally in the distance: the entrance station! I was so happy. We had put together this crazy project and here we were, finished! 

Done, doner, donest.
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We descended like locusts on the nearest convenience store, hungry, tired and elated. On the way out, passing the train of jeeps and trucks laden with bicycles and gear queued up for the Trail, we felt we had accomplished something truly special. By being bold in our objectives and committing ourselves to a principle, we had climbed a proud desert-rat's tick-list, biked a fat-tire dream ride, and spent six nights under the stars of the southwest desert, all in one trip.

To propel oneself slowly across the still-awesome American wilderness is a profound joy. The window of opportunity for this kind of adventure in our public backyard is still open to anyone, yet it dims and sags with time, neglect, and the "march of empire." Once that window is closed, we may gaze through it and remember, but it will be closed forever.

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J V:


(11.16.09 @ 06:55 PM)

again, thx-
see link to our- more-modest- adventure!

(02.21.10 @ 12:53 PM)
Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Manpower, Continued . TrackBack URL for this entry: http://theblindmonkey.com/darkroom/mt/mt-tb.cgi/37

The Roadless Rule was a Clinton-era gift to wilderness adventure put in place in 2001. The policy protects 58 million acres of federal land from road building. It was effectively rendered null when the Bush administration left it up to each state to draft their own Rule. For nearly a decade, the status of this policy remained in the limbo of the Courts. President Obama expressed his administration's support for a federal Rule, but there are many conflicts to resolve, and policing the federal timber inventory is not exactly high on the agenda these days. 

In April 2004, I photographed four friends on a unique little adventure in Canyonlands, Utah. The goal was to free climb four classic desert towers over 7 days along the remote, 100-mile White Rim Trail. The real challenge? To do the whole thing self-contained, by human power alone.  This trip is a celebration of the kind of adventure you can have by leaving the car behind for a little while.

"Manpower" is a story of this adventure I wrote and re-wrote over the years, and it's never been published in its entirety. I had asked everyone to keep a journal and with their permission included their personal thoughts in the story. It's a little long for a blog entry, but I think I'm going to try something new here and post it as a two-part serial. 

Enjoy and feel free to share this content.

Manpower, Part 1:

The 600-foot twin sandstone towers of Monster (left) and Washerwoman

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Rain drops sent up puffs of dust around me as I burrowed deeper into my bivy sack. I clicked on my headlamp and looked at my watch: 10:30pm. Clouds had begun to obscure the stars and moon a couple hours ago when Zack, Devon and I were still finding our way out of the canyon. Our two friends Trent and Chaz had left before us, and we expected to arrive at our campsite to blazing stoves and bright tents. Instead it was dark and silent when we stumbled into camp. The cliff-lined amphitheater surrounding us was treacherous in the dark, booby-trapped with loose ledges, and direction-robbing side canyons. You could easily run out of light and get lost out there, or worse. Tired and hungry after a full day climbing, we cooked dinner, hollering into the dark. We finally made the decision to stay put until morning, and to send out a search party at first light.

I couldn't sleep, feeling that familiar buzz from another night out in the wild. Days away from any road, service, or even water, we were committed to the landscape. We were also committed to an idea: to travel through this landscape on human power alone, in one of the few places left in America that you could still die trying to find your way out of: the desert Southwest.

Chaz, keeping Utah wild. The start of the 100-mile White Rim Trail is visible in the canyon below.

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At the start of the 21st century there were more automobiles per American household than licensed drivers, and a well-planned, well-maintained system of highways covered the nation. In 1925, seeing the first mass-produced autos coming off the line, naturalist Aldo Leopold wrote, "The time is almost upon us when a pack-train must wind its way up a graveled highway and turn its bell-mare in the pasture of a summer hotel. When that day comes, the pack-train will be dead, the diamond hitch will be merely rope, ... and thenceforth the march of empire will be a matter of gasoline and four wheel brakes." A century later, the march goes on. Even the "graveled highway" of Leopold's time would seem quaint and primitive if encountered today. 

The idea that some public land should be protected from mechanized development was in its infancy in Leopold's time. The invasion of the automobile and paved road into the American landscape added urgency to this movement. Arthur Carhart first officially used the term "wilderness" in 1920 to designate Trappers Lake in the White River National Forest in Colorado as forever "roadless." The effort to officially protect land from development was further championed by Leopold. Since humans cause destruction of the land, he reasoned, humans ought to be responsible for protecting and preserving it.  The New Mexico forester was one of the first to voice a purely ethical argument for preserving wilderness, one that remained unpopular until much later.

Roadless. Canyonlands, Utah

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Decades of movement toward preservation of America's last wild lands culminated in 1964, when Congress passed the Wilderness Protection Act. Though wilderness was defined as "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain," it also sought to preserve "outstanding opportunities for solitude and unconfined and primitive type of recreation." This new 105-million-acre primitive playground was not open to all however. Mountain biking, unheard-of in the '60s, but now the pursuit of an estimated 35 million Americans, is a prohibited activity in Wilderness Areas. Though knobby tires, when used responsibly, cause no more harm than foot or hoof, the mountain bike fell under the same "vehicle" category as off road vehicles and snowmobiles.

2001 was a good year for pedal-pushers. That year, the Forest Service issued the Roadless Area Conservation Rule in the last days of the Clinton Administration, putting nearly 60 million acres of National Forest land under protection from most logging and road-building. Unlike Wilderness Areas, Roadless Areas would allow mountain biking. For proponents of man-powered recreation, as well as conservationists, it was a huge victory. But the party didn't last long. In the wake of a half-dozen lawsuits by states refusing to follow Federal mandate, George W. Bush suspended the Rule immediately upon taking office. On July 12 of this year, the Forest Service officially overturned the Rule, throwing up its hands and leaving designation of roadless-ness as an issue to be lost in state bureaucracies.  Those who choose to shun "gasoline and four wheel brakes" in favor of self-propelled forays into the wild can only hope their governor feels the same way.

Shrinking Wilderness. Green River, Canyonlands.

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"Wilderness," said Leopold, "is a resource which can shrink but not grow." But there are areas of land that can be reclaimed, where roads can be closed to motorized vehicles, de-emphasizing the imprint of man and encouraging a return to Leopold's classical definition of wilderness. These reclaimed roads could still provide a way to get deep into the backcountry, while still providing a wilderness experience. In the deserts of the Southwest, many roads that were built for mining or other resource exploration have been long abandoned or designated for recreational use as jeep trails. 

The Colorado and Green Rivers carve a torturous path through Utah's Canyonlands National Park, eventually joining near the southern border. Between them has formed an immense arrowhead-shaped mesa called Island in the Sky. The White Rim Trail, built by the Atomic Energy Commission in the 1950s in a vain search for uranium, follows the outer rim of this mesa, encircling a rugged "middle world" of sandstone towers, walls and canyons. The Trail is popular with four-wheel drive enthusiasts, and with local outfitters, who use off-road vehicles (ORVs) to support multi-day mountain-biking trips into the park. With modern biking equipment and some smarts though, many of these roads can be traveled by manpower alone.

The Manpower Team (left to right): Devin, Trent, Chaz, and Zack, racking up in Salt Lake City, UT.

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My old friend Trent Baker, an intense multi sport athlete and lawyer in Salt Lake, wanted to apply this ethic to this most quintessential American wilderness. His idea: we would free climb four major towers in Canyonlands in a single push. The climbing would be tough, but the main difficulty would be the style: self-contained, with no motorized vehicles on the trail itself. We would propel ourselves using only manpower, traveling by foot and mountain bike. With little access to water, foot travelers rarely spend one night out in this rugged backcountry, and most cyclists do so only with the support of an ORV. By embracing this style, Trent reasoned, we could set a precedent for low-impact travel in a wild area heavily burdened by motorized use, while at the same time reaching ever greater levels of adventure. Our four climbing objectives, Monster, Washerwoman, Standing Rock and Moses, are all located near the White Rim Trail, and it seemed barely possible to access all four by mountain bike.

Giving water to the desert outside Moab, Utah.

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Trent had enlisted two friends from Salt Lake. Chaz, an MD/PhD student, climber and expert mountain biker, was Trent's partner on past climbs. He would be the bike "leader" and would also serve as the trip medic. His friend Devin, another climber and mountain biker, was added later to help distribute the loads. I would be along to photograph the adventure, and Zack, an ace free climber from Atlanta, joined me. This would ensure two strong climbing teams of two and a fifth as backup. Months of planning followed; email planning sessions, gear testing, training and securing travel plans had us all eager to leave our worlds behind and head for the desert.

Best best place for a dirt sandwich in all of Canyonlands. Chaz heading downtown.

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The first two days of our trip were eye-openers. I had barely touched dirt when I got the first flat tire of the day, less than a mile from the truck. Our bike guru Chaz fixed it quickly, but both Trent and Zack had flats within the next 5 miles, perhaps owing to the heat on the wheel rims as we descended thousands of feet of steep switchbacks down to the Colorado River. We each pulled nearly 80 pounds of food, water and gear, and our overloaded bike trailers threatened to torque us right off the edge of the dizzying road.

Zack, Trent and Chaz all wrecked multiple times, their rigs bucking like wild animals over the bumps before taking them down. In those couple hours, the trailers with their bright yellow dry bags earned the nickname "squirrel". By the time we finally arrived at our first campsite, we were tired, but eagerly anticipating the day of climbing ahead.

Stop. Think. 

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We each kept a journal of our trip, and everyone agreed later to share our entries for this story.

Saturday, March 13:

Trent: We stocked up on fresh bagels on the way out of town. Strange people hanging out in the bagelry at 6am, I guess they probably thought we looked strange as well, decked out in technical fabrics and matching sunglasses. Everyone seems psyche. Zack seems like a nice guy. I am not sure whether Andy wants to climb or take pictures. Devin seems to be very interested in the exact mileage and altitude details. We stopped at the visitor center to get our permits. Andy said the Ranger girls thought we were "hard core" for biking the White Rim self-contained. He didn't even mention that we were also climbing 4 towers.

Chaz: Three bike mechanicals in the first 3 miles had me a bit worried, but no problems for the next 12. Hope I brought enough tubes. I thought it was pretty sweet that the whole group was talking environmental issues and politics on the ride down. Group dynamics seem to be working well; this was my main concern for the trip. My other concern is someone's bike having a major mechanical problem and my ass being on the line for it.

Devin: I'm really excited to have such good climbers along. The climbs seem a bit intimidating but desert towers wouldn't be much fun if not a little scary at least. Aside from the slightly sore ass from the saddle, the start of the trip has been great. It's not going to be any kind of cake-walk but the challenge is what it's all about.

Zack: The first day comes to a close. Everyone is off to bed and the uninterrupted evening sky is new overhead! It feels good to lie down. The team seems to be in good spirits; lots of laughing and joking, but still a sense of business. The bike moves well and the trailers are better than I had expected after the trial ride in Salt Lake City. Tomorrow we climb and I'm happy to not be getting on the bike first thing. I'm glad to be a part of this journey: around the White Rim, up the towers, and into myself. I felt weak on the bike, but tomorrow I can do my thing!

First tower in the bag. Zack Pitts at the camp under Washerwoman and Monster Towers

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On the second day, we woke up to some beautiful architecture. We were camped in a sandy wash just off the trail, a highway of skin-colored rock dotted with sage, and the surrounding canyon rose around us like a coliseum, with dozens of giant stair steps leading to two 600-foot columns of sandstone, Monster and Washerwoman. We hadn't given too much thought about our exit strategy after a day of storming the towers. Hasty to return to camp after a hard day of climbing, Trent and Chaz had gotten separated. That night the rest of us mulled over how Trent and Chaz might be faring, somewhere in the canyons above, as the rain and temperature fell.

Sunday, March 14:

Zack and Devin, threading the needle on pitch 2 of "In Search of Suds" (5.10+, III), Washerwoman Tower.

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Chaz and Trent on pitch 1 of North Ridge (5.11, III), Monster Tower

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Zack: First climbing day was a total success. Two teams, two towers, two routes. The views were astonishing. One of the best climbing days of its kind for me.  Trent and Chaz finished about 1 hour before Devin and I and took off for camp. When we got to camp they were nowhere to be found. It was well after dark when we arrived.

Devin: Badass day of Climbing! Both groups made it up both towers and were able to give beta from one tower to the other. One problem: Chaz and Trent haven't made it back to camp yet... 


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Michael Carney:

awesome. I can't wait for Episode #2

(11.10.09 @ 07:52 AM)
Catherine Conner:

Hey this is so inspiring! Can I go on your next desert tower trip? Great stuff, unique plan!


(11.13.09 @ 12:14 AM)

I'm drooling here...
Can't wait to get there some day. You guys have an amazing playground there.

(02.18.10 @ 07:54 AM)

thx for the episode, enjoyed it very much. took me back a few years when we did Washerwoman by approaching from Mesa Arch.

(02.21.10 @ 12:16 PM)
Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Manpower : Lost in Canyonlands, Utah . TrackBack URL for this entry: http://theblindmonkey.com/darkroom/mt/mt-tb.cgi/35
Just posted a snack from the first leg of the 2009 Triple Crown Bouldering Series, with footage from Brandon Ward, a a producer/director from Knoxville, TN

Triple Crown 2009: Hound Ears Wrap-Up from Andrew Kornylak on Vimeo.

We'll be posting ASAP recaps after each event in addition to the regular Beta footage to keep it hype! Great job to everyone who competed and stay tuned to the Triple Crown website for results.

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Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Triple Crown! 2009 - Hound Ears . TrackBack URL for this entry: http://theblindmonkey.com/darkroom/mt/mt-tb.cgi/30
It all started six months ago, post-pump at Fellini's Pizza with the usual climbing crew. We got to thinking about our old buddy Greg Kottkamp. 

One of the most talented and understated rock climbers the South has seen, Greg was in medical school at the Medical College of Georgia, in Augusta. The closest climbable surface from there is one of the Atlanta gyms, 2.5 hours away. In the last few months Greg was making that insane day trip just to session with his friends for an evening study break, but now things had changed.

Word was that Greg's wife Katy, also a great climber, was doing her veterinary externship in Wisconsin, and Greg was dug in deep, diligently studying o-chem solo in his Augusta lair, with no time to flip through the latest Rock & Ice Magazine, much less get his climbing fix. 

Now, Greg's a dedicated guy, and puts just as much focus on the books as on a sick redpoint, but everyone needs a break sometime. So after a couple Sweetwater 420s, we hatched a brilliant plan. Greg needed a climbing wall. A pimp wall, fit for a climber who can onsight 5.13 trad FAs off-the-couch, but also one that would integrate into his new lifestyle as a monkish med school gunner. And - the best part - it would be a total surprise.

Katy provided us with some pics of Greg's home office and the rough dimensions. 

Greg's Lair in Augusta, pre-Pimped. photo by Katy Kottkamp

We knew we wouldn't have much time to install the wall once we got there, so we fabricated as much of the wall as possible, knowing we would have to be flexible with how it would attach to the structure of the room. 

Chris Sierzant, owner of the Escalade Climbing Gym was our point man for the wall. Chris assembled the wood panels, which make up the climbing surface, pre-drilled and T-nutted to accept interchangable climbing holds. Kenneth McGinnis, an electrical contractor and veteran climber, also helped with the design, and would do the actual install, as well as any rewiring we would need since we would have to relocate some electrical outlets and lighting. 

We chose climbing holds from Illinois-based So Ill. These guys make some of the best holds out there for training, and have some outrageous designs, including lots of anatomically-themed shapes that would be perfect for keeping Greg's mind on his studies, and body on the wall. Cooper Roberts of Big Up Productions donated some new films, and we would reconfigure the office complete with a Sony iPhone Deck to keep the psyche up. Josh Fowler was set to film the whole thing.

As the word got around, tons of people chipped in to help out. In the end, the biggest challenge was figuring out how to get Greg out of the house on a day when our crew could spend a day in Augusta for the install. Six months later, it all came together!

Below, The Crew: Clockwise from upper left: Danny Paulete, industrial sculptor and hardman, champion climber Kate McGinnis, her husband and longtime Southern strongman Kenneth, your's truly, climbing rep and idea machine Charlie Maddox, and her lesser half, Josh Fowler - a Nat Geo cameraman who can do pinchgrip pullups on a two-by-four.


We met early on a Sunday with a rental truck full of climbing goodness, with Greg safely out of town with the dogs. Greg and Katy were due back that evening, so we relied on Katy to stay in text-message contact with us during the install. Left to right: Josh, Charlie, Danny, Kenneth, Kate.


We got to Greg's house around noon, and got right to work. Moved all the furniture out and cleaned the space. Danny started crawling around in the ceiling looking for structural beams. The big question was, should we make it free-standing or could we attach it to the structure? Luckily, the room was perfect for the latter, and Kenneth and Danny were able to design an elegant, bombproof design with the panels Chris had prepped that would give us an 8' x 11' wall that overhung slightly more than 45 degrees - a perfect home training wall - and still leave space for the stereo and shelving on either side. 


Early that afternoon it poured rain, so we had to continue construction inside. Meanwhile Charlie and Kate planned the post-wall layout of the new office, and we made a couple trips to the local hardware store, for a new fan, lights, a curtain to keep chalk dust contained, and other odds and ends.


Wall up, we were way ahead of schedule, with time to think about the details that would make life more bearable inside four walls (make that five now): pimp iphone deck, shelving behind the wall, new lighting, new outlets, new fan, efficient re-org...


We hit Waffle House while we waited for the increasingly shortened text messages from Katy: eta 2 hours... 1 hour... half hour... Would Greg confront Katy about all this secret texting and blow the suprise? Would the dogs come in before them and tear us apart? Would there be any beer left? Stay tuned for the video to see the conclusion to Pimp My Wall...
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Todd Combs:

That's bad ass. I'm sure Greg will appreciate the stress relief.

(09.02.09 @ 04:46 PM)
Steve Bowman:

very impressive - both vision and stills
just bought a D300s and playing / we do mainly Transportation / Aviation/ Ships / Big trucks/ Trains
You should have a very ready market with a MAJOR library
worth exploring - miles of rubbish being supplied very few winners
I do have a long and good relationship with Corbis for what it is worth !!!

(10.12.09 @ 02:04 AM)

Thanks Steve - I've had a long and great relationship with Aurora Photos, which also distributes through Corbis and Getty worldwide.

(10.12.09 @ 02:18 AM)

Good job guys! Are you expensive? I have friends who may hire you :-)

(02.18.10 @ 07:46 AM)

Constantin- Thanks - probably not the most cost-effective thing to hire us to build a woody. But if you wanted to hire us to do another episode (episode 1 coming soon on video) let us know!

(02.19.10 @ 10:05 AM)
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