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Rock Climbing in Southern Illinois – Jackson Falls

April 27, 2012

True Adventures trip to Southern Illinois last weekend.  Eight people’s worth of fun and awesomeness. Miranda led the trip and did a fabulous job as always.  It’s maybe six hours south of Chicago, and totally worth the drive.  Hundreds of sport climbs and trad climbs.  All in a gorgeous canyon, terrific hiking, a pretty waterfall, and free camping.  Which is very cool.  Make sure you bring your own water for camping as there isn’t any there, aside from the little creek if you’d like to filter your own.  They’ve recently put up some more signs to make it much easier to find the camping.  Climbs range from 5.6 to 5.13.  So happy.  Such a great, relaxing, excellent climbing spot and place to experience nature.  Have any questions about where are the best spots to climb?  Feel free to email me.  I can give some pointers on how to get into the canyon and where to go once you’re in.

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Joe rocks his first lead, a 5.9 no less. Near Munchkin.

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Why'd I skip the first bolt I wonder? Or did it come unclipped...

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The westy performs flawlessly, what a machine.

 

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Thirteen Attempt 14er Mount Belford, Six Summit

October 22, 2009
True Adventures headed to Colorado for a long weekend, Thursday through Monday in mid October 2009.  I took fourteen people from True Adventures out with me.  We met at church the weekend before and I asked how many had experience with mountaineering or winter camping.  Right around zero people raised their hands.  So we were off on a crash course on winter camping and the mountains and altitude!  I taught them as much as I could that day and over a series of emails during the ensuing week.  People were able to either purchase what they needed or rent it from REI or borrow from friends.  I love the first part of a trip – buying gear and packing is half the fun.  We all flew into Denver and managed to get cars and all meet up in Leadville where we spent the night at the Alps motel, quite clean and reasonably priced.  The next morning we woke up and distributed food – all $270 worth from Costco!  We had plenty.  Off to the trailhead for the Missouri basin route up Mounts Missouri, Belford, and Oxford. 
On the trail up into Missouri Basin

On the trail up into Missouri Basin

We hiked up the very steep first section of the trail about two hours, the girls leading the charge to our campsite where we took a break and set up camp near an old dilapidated log cabin around noon.  After a lunch of pb&j’s on pita we all packed up our daypacks and headed further up the valley, quickly getting above treeline and into a stunning valley with a fresh blanket of pristine white snow.  Read the rest of this entry »


Kayaking the Apostle Islands

September 24, 2009

 

The True Adventures Apostle Islands Crew

The True Adventures Apostle Islands Crew

We did a True Adventures trip to the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior for a very long weekend last weekend.  I have to say it was one of my favorite trips in recent memory.  The scenery and location were really special, the people were great, trip went smoothly, weather was absolutely ideal (sunny and low 80s), and not a mosquito to be found.  Really spectacular.

Read the rest of this entry »


Random Clips

September 10, 2009

I haven’t posted in a while and have a hadful of random things to talk about that have occurred the last month or so.

First is this video of my friend Tadd Maudlin, cruising on his sailboat off the coast of Belize, doing a dance that I used to do in college and most likely still do called “the Trimmer”.  I’m very jealous of him – bought a boat and is cruising on it indefinitely with his girlfriend, they are now in the Carribbean off Belize – follow them on their blog at http://lastknownposition.blogspot.com 

Speaking of boats, mine was broken for two long weeks – the motor went out while we were sailing, so we had to sail her into the can with pretty much no wind – super fun and challenging.  Then I tried a zillion differnet things to fix her, all to no avail and making it worse over about ten days.  Called a boat mechanic named Doug Pietz recommended by my boat neighbor.  He met me out on the boat and proceeded to tear into the motor fearlessly – fixing three problems, each of which could have been a major issue on its own, all in the span of under two hours.  A true professional and it was really amazing to watch him work.  I was very impressed with his skill and his pricing and efficiency and fun attitude.  If you need boat engine work done certainly call him at 847 533 9030, he is spectacular.

This past weekend I went to another lake house, also in Michigan and on the shore of Lake Michigan and its spectacular giant sand beaches – they are truly stunning if you have a chance to check out the west coast of the lower peninsula definitely do, they seriously rival many of the great beaches around the world in my opinion in the summer, and also very cool to experience in the wintertime.  Stretches a couple hundred miles up the coast.  Here’s a view from the kitchen:

 View of Lake Michigan from the west coast of Michigan

Took different crew sailing each day of the air and water show including Friday – very fun and gorgeous days.  Check the picture of the enormous American flag on a sailboat we saw. 

At the Air and Water Show in Chicago 2009

At the Air and Water Show in Chicago 2009

Went to Devil’s Lake one Sunday a couple weeks back to rock climb with some climbing friends, great time had by all.  Gorgeous, perfect day and terrific group of climbers. Devil's Lake near Upper Diagonal

This weekend we head to Lake Superior to kayak the Apostle Islands for five days, should be a great trip, sevn of us are going, really looking forward to it.

Went to a Purdue football game last Saturday, very fun to see all my old buddies and wander by my old apartment.   In college I managed to jump a car over the embankment shown below, they seem to have put up posts to stop this in the future.

Scene of trouble back in the day

Scene of trouble back in the day


Winter Backpacking Trip to Kettle Moraine, Near Chicago

March 30, 2009

Went on an amazing winter backpacking trip on a section of the Ice Age Trail (which stretches across the entire state of Wisconsin) in Kettle Moraine State Park Northern Unit.  Incredible terrain, big rolling moraines with the trail often following the ridgelines, big sweeping “kettles” or giant rounded indentations, often with water in the bottoms. 

Hiking the second day up a moraine

Hiking the second day up a moraine

 Beautiful weather – that is if you’re into winter camping.  We had about 40 degrees and clouds the first day, snow then blue sky the second.  The first day we hiked about ten miles after a couple hours of driving up to the park.  Ten miles is a long ways let me tell you, especially in uneven terrain with thirty or forty pounds on your back and a pretty nasty cold to boot.  We finally straggled into camp, all twelve of us, ice-age-trail-backpacking-trip-015with plenty of daylight left, surprisingly plenty actually.  We had the tents set up, fire made, gear organized and were well into our dinner before it even turned dusk, around 7:30 or so.  And thank goodness we had followed Will’s suggestion and set the tents up immediately because a snowstorm rolled in – which was very fun to have.   A thick blanket of snow covered the ground and grew deeper through the night, probably six inches worth.  Ryan, the trip leader brought his Samoyed, a siberian-bred dog, big puffy white fur – he was about as happy as a dog could be, he was born for that weather and played and thoroughly enjoyed himself. 

Jason and Cirque - happy campers

Jason and Cirque - happy campers

 Food was excellent, and eventually after some storytelling and laughing and huddling around the fire as the snow gathered on our backs and hats, people retired to their various tents.  I and several others slept in the shelter on the benches along the side.  We were all perfectly warm with our winter sleeping bags.  I slept like a champ as did the others.  The next morning we gradually broke camp, no big rush, getting out of shelter #3 finally at eleven and meandered another six miles, which again is a good bit of distance.  And the second day the terrain was quite rugged, especially considering we were so close to Chicago – it was a true wilderness experience.  The trail crossed a few roads but we saw only one other hiker out there the entire trip – amazing.   The shelter was very cool – I had heard they existed in the midwest but had never seen one.

Shelter #3, fire and snow

Shelter #3, fire and snow

  It very much reminded me of the Appalachian trail shelters.  At the end of the trail a few folks had to drive the car we dropped back to pick up the others at the trailhead where we’d left them the previous day, took over an hour – no matter as we all laid down on a dry section of concrete and enjoyed the sun – many getting a good bit of color.

Crashed out waiting for the shuttled cars to arrive

Crashed out waiting for the shuttled cars to arrive

  A great time was had by all.  We all met up at Perkins a few miles down the road for a well-deserved late lunch, and then made our way back to the city, refreshed, tired, sore, and generally refreshed, mentally, spiritually, and physically.  I left my blackberry off the entire time, what a great feeling.


Starved Rock Ice Climbing was a Terrific Time

February 6, 2009
Happy Ice Climbers

Happy Ice Climbers

So much fun ice climbing!  We ended up having sixteen total, one girl bailed.  It was such a great and memorable day – from the very beginning, meeting people in the parking lot at church on a freezing cold Saturday morning at 7:15am – you know you’re going to be hanging out with cool people all day if it starts like that.  One girl brought hot Chai she served up right there from a thermos – she had made it with spices she brought back from India – yum!  Rides got organized easily and we met up in the parking lot a couple hours later by the beautiful Starved Rock lodge.  We all hiked into the forest, one group actually was late but no big deal as they had directions to the climbs.   Got people climbing on the easier French Canyon

Climbing at French Canyon

Climbing at French Canyon

and simultaneously got folks going on the 65 foot Wildcat icefall.  Everybody was so great, so helpful, so excited, and so into it, it was amazing.  Girls and guys alike.  I found it interesting to note that the earlier climbers, the ones who went first were more timid, but as a group, the more people that went, the more comfortable everybody got with the idea of it and gradually people went higher and higher until a few of the girls made it to the top.  So exciting!!  One girl told me “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done!”  That’s a solid endorsement if I’ve ever heard one. 

Wildcat Climbing

Katy Schaffer climbing Wildcat

Everybody who wanted to got to climb twice, and lots of chilling out, watching others, helping out, eating, hiking, chatting, laughing, having fun.  Met two terrific guys who stayed with us and helped us climb all day, getting everybody geared up and belaying lots of us.  We helped them out as well.  By the end of the day the waterfall was flowing pretty good so climbers would get soaked during the climbs.

Afterwards we went to Duffy’s bar and grill in town.  A couple of us got turtle, pretty yummy.  So fun, lots of laughing, good stories, and good ideas for future adventures.

Rachel nears the top of Wildcat!

Rachel nears the top of Wildcat!


Ice Climbing Tomorrow With 17

January 30, 2009

Taking 17 (!) people ice climbing tomorrow!  Yikes!  Should be a great trip, have three excellent leaders heading out of the city around 5:30am to get to the icefalls and set the ropes for us.  The rest of us are leaving around 7:15am.   Below are a couple of the emails we sent out before the trip to give you a taste of it.

 

Ice Climbers – 

We had a spectacular response, the trip closed two hours after the signup became available.  We have a bunch going and are going to do our best to get everyone on the ice at least once, we think it will certainly be possible but we’ll need to be efficient in getting people geared up before climbing and “un-geared” after climbing.  Fun and positive attitudes will help it be a great day for all of us.
 
Seems we’ve been lucky and gotten lots of cold weather 😉
 
Please email me your shoe size.  We have adjustable crampons and would like to batch people with similar shoe sizes.  We have a couple sets of boots with crampons that snap on to them that we can share if they fit.
 
Danger
Know that this is an inherently dangerous activity and you could certainly get hurt in any number of ways.  We’re going to do our best to be as safe as possible, but it is ice climbing, and ice climbing is quite dangerous.  On that note please sign and return the attached waivers to me via email or fax at 312 794 7094.  Make sure you do that before Friday or you cannot come.  If you’d like to back out no worries, just let me know and we can refund your money.
 
Directions
I’ve attached a map of Starved Rock State Park – when you enter the park,  you’ll need to sign in at a small blue cabin – it’s on the right just after the parking lot to the visitor center before you go up the hill – it’s a bit abandoned looking, there is a piece of paper on the porch where you need to sign in.  After doing that, continue up the road – go up a fairly steep hill, then take a left into a parking lot, park near the trolleys.  Ideally we will all arrive fairly close together and can hike down to French Canyon as a group.  If you’re late, the trail begins to the right of the cabins, by some totem poles.  Head down and go left when you see the french canyon, and go down some stairs.  It may involve some wandering to find it, I haven’t actually been there, only to Wildcat Canyon.  Map is attached.  Plan is to climb the easier French Canyon icefall and then maybe do the larger and steeper Wildcat icefall, we’ll see how the weather is, if the climbs are solid, and if they are available.  To get to the park itself, you take 55 south to 80 west to 178 south, exit 81, then follow the signs.
 
Clothing
Bring hiking boots (heavy snow boots won’t fit the crampons), layers!, rain pants/ski pants, rain jacket/waterproof coat/shell, sunglasses/safety glasses, a thin hat that can fit under a helmet, lots of gloves (especially water resistant/proof), extra socks, and maybe chemical hand/foot warmers.  You might also want another set of dry clothes for dinner and the drive home.
Food
You are responsible for your lunch, drinks and snacks.  We’ll have some food and some warm drinks and soup.  Afterwards we’ll meet at Duffy’s for dinner – you’ll drive by it on the way in, it’s in the little downtown area.
 
Other
If you have the Motorola Talkabout walkie-talkies please bring them, the two canyons are about a half mile apart.  We’ll use channel 7-7.
 
Please remember to thank Jeff and Chris and Drew profusely for going early and setting up the ropes for us and for spending their climbing day getting all of us on the ice.  Also others helping out such as Nadine who is coordinating the food along with Chris for us.
 
I’ll send out rough riding groups, but we can sort it out at the church – let’s plan to meet in the parking lot at 7:15am on Saturday.
 
If you want to go hiking before or after your climbing, it’s a beautiful place.  Right on the Illinois River.  Apparently the eagles winter there.  There’s also a pretty amazing lodge that you can check out (and use to warm up in if hiking and climbing and warm drinks and lots of layers don’t work for you).
 
I’m sure there will be more emails to follow, but this is the plan for now.  My cell should work there but may not – it’s 773-965-2546.  Jeff’s I know works in the park, he’s at 312-505-2813.
 
Looking forward to it!  😀
 
Tom
 
PS – This is a True Adventures ministry event, our basic tenets are to do especially adventurous and fun activities in the outdoors with Christians and non-Christians and share a meal together afterwards.  In the past we’ve gone caving, sailing, sea kayaking, midnight canoeing, mountain biking, and whitewater rafting.  Watch for more events this year.

 

And the second email a couple days before the trip:

Almost time to climb!!

We’ve been really lucky – the weather’s been amazing for ice climbing – and supposed to be cold through Saturday, where it should warm up a bit for us.  Should be plenty of great ice for us.
 
Plan is still to meet in the church parking lot (1001 North Crosby) at 7:15am and head out shortly thereafter.  At Starved Rock, let’s wait up for each other about ten minutes or so in the parking lot near the trolleys and totem poles and hike down together.  If you’ve missed us for whatever reason french canyon and wildcat canyon are fairly easy to find with some wandering and lots of stairs, cell phones and walkie talkies should work.  Our rope chiefs will be leaving around 5:30am. 
 
If you’re not coming please let me know – we have people that would like your spot.
 
Plan is to climb in the easier french canyon and then climb the more severe Wildcat formation – they may not be available in which case we may climb at Tonti canyon – which is definitely worth the hike even if we don’t climb there – two very cool ice formations in a pretty impressive canyon a few miles past French and Wildcat.  Coincidentally the Munising Ice Fest happens to be this weekend (not because of my brilliant planning, wish I could say it was) so fingers crossed there won’t be as many other climbers around.
 
Plan to head to Duffy’s for dinner in Utica afterwards, it’s a few minutes from the Park in downtown Utica, we drive right past it at 

101 Mill St
Utica, IL 61373

(815) 667-4324.

 
If you don’t have a fax or scanner, bring the waivers Saturday, no worries.  We’ll have some blank ones there if you need them.
 
Rides as follows, (drivers you’re responsible for finding your riders Sat am):
 
Rachel, Leah, Kristen in Rachel’s car (or Leah’s or Kristen’s)
 
Sean, Jason, Keith, Andrew in Andrew’s car
 
Katy, Amber, me in my car
 
Liz, Nadine, Colin, Nick in Nick’s car 
 
Chris, Jeff, John, Drew – our champion lead climbers are organizing themselves.
 
Did I forget anything?  If so let me know, any questions email or text or call me, 773-965-climb.
 
A brief lesson on what will happen if you haven’t climbed before.  First you will put on a harness around your waist and legs and snug it down.  Then you’ll fit the crampons (spiky metal boot thingers) to your boots and strap them on.  Then tie in to the rope.  Next put the ice axe straps on your wrists and take hold of the axe handles.  Check out your belayer’s setup and have him check your harness and knot.  Then cruise up to the ice and say “climbing” and wait for your belayer to say “climb on!”  And off you go, up the icefall.  Easy as that 😉  We’ll show you how to do everything.
 
If you have happen to have “gaiters”, used for hiking in deep snow, bring them to keep from cutting up your pants with the crampons.
 
Can’t wait!
 
Tom