Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Owltoberfest 2015 & Tarantula Hawk Wasps

The third annual Owltoberfest will be this October 17 & 18. Saturday we'll be at the Owl Tor, camp that night, and climb at Mr. Lee's Sunday. Six great companies have sponsored the event:
Maxim Ropes
Fixe Hardware
Misty Mountain
Kilter Climbing Grips
Santa Barbara Rock Gym
So we'll have a good prize for...

The Lord of the Forest
This term, as far as we know, was created by the legendary Klem Loskot. We award the title yearly to the Owltoberfest climber that has pushed their own personal abilities more than anyone else at the event; thus, the title is open to everyone. Elijah Ball won it the first year by redpointing his hardest route ever (at the time): Gala Gala Happy, also a first ascent. Brian Spiering won last year by redpointing Sea of Love, a deceptively hard 12b that is yet to be onsighted, or even flashed. A person could win the title without even climbing... it's a matter of being creative. For example, you could catch a tarantula hawk wasp with your bare hands — maybe even let it sting you. That would get my vote, because...

The Tarantula Hawk Wasp
Whenever I think we've uncovered all the hellacious components to climbing at the Tor, she brings us a new one. Everything about these guys makes me laugh. We've spotted them the last three weekends and Elijah noted, "they fly around like they just don't give a shit." As a fan of the absurd, I read Wired's "Absurd Creature of the Week" column and they covered the tarantula hawk wasp just a few weeks after Antonio brought this critter to our attention:
“There are some vivid descriptions of people getting stung by these things,” says invertebrate biologist Ben Hutchins of Texas Parks and Wildlife, “and their recommendation — and this was actually in a peer-reviewed journal — was to just lie down and start screaming, because few if any people could maintain verbal and physical coordination after getting stung by one of these things. You’re likely to just run off and hurt yourself. So just lie down and start yelling.”
A tarantula hawk wasp at the Owl Tor.  Photo: Antonio Labaro
Justin Schmidt is an entomologist that has been stung by hundreds of insects; and this NY Times article makes him sound pretty cool. He rates the tarantula hawk as the second most painful; number one being the bullet ant. Fortunately for us, the wasps are not at all aggressive towards humans — you really have to try to get stung by one of these. This BBC article and this article have some more interesting information and descriptions of the sting:
“A sting feels like a lightning bolt struck the spot; the pain is beyond imagination,” 
"To me, the pain is like an electric wand that hits you, inducing an immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations."
Owltoberfest 2015
As usual, I will be making martinis and there will be the standard shenanigans going on; so, there are many exciting reasons to visit this year's event. I'm even camping out this time, so I don't miss all the late-night ripping. I hope you can make it. Here's the flyer, which links to a PDF, please help us promote the event! There is a public facebook event with information and updates.
Recent Sends
It's been hot, very hot, at Santa Maria; but there was some progress. First, I completed the extension from Steve Edward's Drunken Master into the finish of Crocodile Hunter. There's an excellent rest between the two sections, but still, I'd say it bumps the grade from 12d to 13a. Elijah got a two-for-one by redpointing Drunken Master, unclipping the anchors and downclimbing to the rest, then redpointing the new extension — absurd, funny, and excellent work! Elijah also did Wild Kindgom with the extension 13b. Micah redpointed Crocodile Hunter for his first 13a: rad. I videoed 5 or 6 of his attempts, but not the redpoint; here's his last redpoint failure before sending...