2015 recedes in the rearview mirror. The time to review my goals for last year and prepare those for the new year has arrived. First, why not look back at some of the stuff that happened in 2015? That’s right, time for another GoPro compilationâ€”Year Six. Climbing and canyoneering take center stage and the usual copious jumping shots. Diving, paragliding, tubing, and some ancient ruins found their way into the cut as well. IncorporatedÂ is some ofÂ the footage shot on my three week roadtrip throughout the West and includes contributions from Alden Anderson, Steven Calcote, and Tommy Day. You can watch it above on Vimeo or on YouTube.
I have been searching for an intriguing topic for a long-form canyoneering documentary for awhile. Reviewing footage and reflecting back on eventsÂ from my three-week roadtrip finally Â aligned the tumbling Tetris pieces in my mind. The topic became clear: Class C Canyoneering, big water Canyoning. There are lots of intriguing, exciting, funny, and possibly heart-breaking stories all linked by the exploration of the wettest of canyons. My hope is to bring together several groups of canyoneers and filmmakers over the next 2-3 years and record those stories.
Why will it be called Scuba Climbers? As we exited Cascade Creek in Ouray, a woman pulled into the trailhead and stopped before us. “Are you guys climbers or SCUBA divers?” As popular as Canyoneering is becoming, it is still foreign to most people. Whether we call ourselves canyoneers or Scuba Climbers, our image is equallyÂ confusing to many people.Â But the main reason is because I am a smart-ass.
In the meantime, check out the teaser video above featuring some of the footage we acquired in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado.
July 14 through August 19 is a bit of a blur. A convergence of events laid the groundwork for five weeks of productive travel. 35 days on the roadÂ split by 2.5 days at home. It began as a plan to attend a wedding in Puerto Morelos, Mexico (near Cancun). Erika and I decided it would be a good idea to do some additional exploration in the area since we would already be flying to the Yucatan. Thus, we visited Belize and Guatemala after leaving Mexico where we did a fair amount of diving, cave tubing, ruin touring, chicken bus riding, sweating, and swimming. We then returned to Los Angeles. I had been hoping to shoot some canyoneering footage in the Pacific Northwest and had made some loose plans with folks in the area. I also had begun recording several interviews for an outdoor podcast I was developing while simultaneously working on ways to bring more outdoor related video business to Butcher Bird StudiosÂ (that’s my business with some other dudes). The fates alerted me to the fact that the Outdoor Retailer Show and Ouray Canyoning Festival were occurring in succession this summer around the time I was hoping to go to Oregon. The idea for chinnyroad2015 was born. Upon returning from Central America, I would head out on a 4600 mile road trip 2 days later. I piled a large amount of gear into my car and leftÂ for San Francisco.
Over 21 days, I travelled from Southern California to Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona. I ran 11 canyons (shooting several), recorded 6 podcast interviews, attended the Outdoor Retailer Show, Attended the Canyoning Festival, learned to line dance from elderly strangers in a park, visited many new places, slept in campgrounds, slept in my car, tried Airbnb for the first time, acquired my first smartphone, flooded my new instagram account with photos, made dozens of cool new friends and business contacts, won some prizes, saw a dog standing on a roof, visited a cool science museum, ate dinner at Twitter, spied a “Bigfoot Research Vehicle,” fought the smell of mildew from wet gear in my car with the urinal rich smell of a “new car scent” air freshener, reunited with many long-distance friends across the West, listened to every type of radio program available, slept in a murder motel, visited the shop in “The Middle of Nowhere,” appreciated my hammock, hoped rain wouldn’t turn into flash floods, watched Alden cut out his own stitches, shot footage of the no longer orange Animas River in Durango, watched fawns nursingÂ at a campsite in Silverton, paid for a straight-razor shave, and never once got to climb any of the awesome rocks I saw.
The aftermath of these two trips will sporadically appear in this journal for some time I imagine. And often at chinnyroad2015flashback.
Spring. Flowing water. Tolerable heat. Rampant poison oak. Road trips.
Post Red Rock Rendezvous, life has been a flurry of canyons, climbs, driving, tabletop war, jumping, riding in cars, camping, recording interviews, and work squeezed into the cracks. After learning our descent of the stellarÂ San Jacinto was unfortunately illegal and thankfully avoiding any fines, we headed to Arizona where the Canyons Gods toyed with the weather. Rainy nights and occasional day-time drizzle did not impact us in the end and we were able to run Punchbowl, all of Waterslides, and Christopher Creek. The latter two IÂ highly recommend if in the area. Highlights included stealth rappelling to avoid further scaring a baby mountain goat perched precariously on a ledge, superb natural slides, short rappels that transitioned into jumps, and a roadside sign for “Adult Cabaret” topped by a cow sculpture.
G.O. Get Outside is going to become more than just a video web-series and I am actively recording an audio podcast to accompany it. Ten interviews are currently in the can, the first was recorded in Yosemite’s famous Camp Four featuring a wacky Aussie traveler I met earlier this year in Red Rock. During our short stay in Yosemite, Jeff and I climbed The Grack on the apron of Glacier Point. It was a great confidence builder and a chance to test out theÂ newish GoPro Hero 4.
I ran back to L.A., knocked out a bunch of work, squeezed in a few climbs and a few podcast interviews, then hopped back in the car for a long day of driving, canyoneering,Â and car shuttling (and a little bear spotting as well). Salmon Creek features a spectacular ~680 waterfall that can be rappelled in multiple stages. We tackled the wall by posting a man at the top of each stage, rigging each rap, then descending in sequence leaving the option to ascend and escape if necessary. This led to a fun-filled hour of standing on a small ledge watching each person rap past while entertaining myself by badly singing bad songs. Hanging 500 feet up on a wall while belting out “Hooked on a Feeling” is something you should all add to the Bucket List. Five stars. The unfortunate part of the canyon was the never-ending bushwhacking during the egress and the poison oak that covered my torso afterwards.
Early June brought a quick trip to one of my favorite climbing spots, Tahquitz, where Brian and I climbed Angel’s Fright and The Trough. The exposure on the last pitch of Angel’s Fright was exhilarating. Brian forgot his climbing shoes in the car and had to lead The Trough (and follow Angel’s Fright) in approach shoes. He does not recommend it. Climbing two multi-pitch routes (even easy ones) in a single day is exhausting, but good practice for my longer term goal to ascend El Cap’s 3000 foot Nose.
A week later brought me to the fabled Jump Trip. It wouldn’t be a true Scott Merrill trip if weather didn’t threaten to interfere. Thankfully, despite the forecast, skies were clear during the day and we were able to descend the upperÂ Section on a Saturday, followed by the more intense lower section the next morning. The two-part Jump Trip is beloved in the canyoneering community for many reasons: gorgeous scenery, interesting wet rappels, copious jumps of varying heights, ample swimming, easy approaches and exits, and the occasional waterslide. Two features I particularly enjoyed in the upper canyonÂ were a stemming section and a twisting, dark, and wet boulder tunnel. Jump is notorious for injuries. There are several down-climbs and traverses that can end in tragedy if the canyoneer doesn’t have the experience to navigate them or makes a mistake. Also, some ofÂ the jumps, slides, and rappells can be tricky.Â After my shake-up last year from my egregious errorÂ leading to a 50 foot fall, I was a little intimidated. It was odd seeing myself approaching many of the jumps without my trademark zeal, but with a little trepidation. It was a great prescription for rebuilding my courage and confidence. One inÂ our group twisted his ankle a bit, but we otherwise descended without incident.
Spring is nearing its close. Temperatures are rising. Summer is beckoning.
Ben Pelletier carried a camera through Jump Trip with us and got many quality photos. A few are featured in the second half of the gallery below.
Many aren’t aware of it, but most have seen photos of the falls and creek. Havasupai is an Indian reservation in Arizona on the western end of the Grand Canyon. The waters are saturated with travertine, a mineral that gives them a surreal bluish tint and make a desert creek look like a secluded island paradise.
A week ago, a group of us made the 10 mile hike down into the canyon to camp for a couple of nights and explore the various falls in the area.
Four years of GoPro use have passed quickly. The image quality has improved dramatically (although the battery life has suffered) and I even got to strap it on a few radio-controlled helicopters this year. Above is my annual compilation of footage shot throughout the year with my tiny beaten and bruised GoPro 3 (and some of my friend’s GoPros also). This year I decided to take a different approach with the music selection by using a moody piece by First Aid Kit. Go buy their music.
My favorite canyons are wetâ€”preferably with flowing water. Throw in a variety of rock formations/obstacles, some slides, and a few interesting drops and I’m happy. I’ve run a fair number of canyons this year, but one that particularly stands out isÂ Seven Teacups in Kernville, CA. It is a natural waterpark with no lines.
The arrival of Summer was a strong incentive to better manage my work life and my personal life. May was populated almost entirely with work including a small job where I played a military officer and had to chop off all of my hair (much to Erika’s chagrin). Yet June and July were a beautiful balance of manageable work hours and many days off to get out of town. Among the more interesting activities were summiting Half Dome, hitting four canyons in Zion, and hiking up and down the Grand Canyon (it rained on us this time). Comic-Con was pretty enjoyable this year also. So far August has been promising. I was able to run an extremely fun and wet canyon in Kernville called the Seven Teacups, eat some crawfish at the Long Beach Crawfish Festival, and Steven got to test out his quadcopter while we climbed in Texas Canyon (video below).
Not too bored yet? Maybe these pictures will put you to sleep.
It feels like all I have been doing this year is working. To a certain degree that is true, but when I look through my calendar and photos from this first third of 2013, I see the truth isn’t so glum. The year started out well. I was canyoneering several times a month, lead my first trad routes, hit the gym hard and regularly, and was balancing my workload well. Lately, though, work has been eating into everything. I did still manage to make it out to the Red Rock Rendezvous (best year yet) and backpacked through Surprise Canyon again (last time was over 3 years ago). I’m thankful for all the work, but hopefully outdoor time will start wedging its way back in. Currently Half Dome, Zion, and the Grand Canyon are on the calendar. Maybe they’ll help me get my balance back.
On a semi-tangent, back in February, I faced my first burrowing tick. I’ve had ticks crawling across my skin many times, but this was the first time one managed to dig into my flesh. I returned home after running Bailey Canyon under a full moon and found a big monstrosity protruding from my hip. After a struggle I managed to yank it out and its disgusting buried head. I’ve almost healed emotionally from the feelings of violation. Regardless, ticks have become my sworn enemies alongside cockroaches. Seriously, avoid those fuckers. And by avoid, I mean kill with extreme prejudice. We are talking tick genocide.
Being self-employed is always worrisome. I constantly expect the work to suddenly dry up and everything to fall apart. So far I have been lucky and work continues to flow in. We shall see if I can maintain it. Below are a few of the highlights from many projects that have seen completion so far this year: (There are some cool things I can’t share yet also.)
- Shlain and I were interviewed by a company called ZoomTilt
- Shelf Life Season 4 was completed and has been releasing regularly – check out two of the episodes where I had to do a crapload of visual effects: EP 2 & EP 9
- There have been lots of commercials and promo videos, but one I particularly enjoyed putting together was this one:Â
That’s enough yakking. Enjoy some photos below. Hopefully I will post something substantial soon and not just more of this Â “Dear Diary” bullshit.