Welcome to Extreme Exposure, a weekly column bringing you the best photography and news from the world of action and outdoor sports. Lots on the list this week as climber Chris Sharma set his sights on California’s giant Redwoods, Jackson Strong goes really big and we introduce you to Millie, the climbing cat.
World-class climber Chris Sharma grew up climbing trees near his home in Santa Cruz, Calif. “That’s how I got into climbing, before I knew what rock climbing was,” the 34-year-old tells SI.com.
So it wasn’t a stretch when he recently put a route up a 253-foot Redwood tree in Eureka, Calif. Sharma worked with two UC Berkley biologists who were studying the health of Redwoods during California’s epic drought. For Sharma, who’s completed some of the hardest climbing routes in the world, it was a chance to break away from the norm. “I’m always trying to do new stuff,” he says. “I can’t say I’m going to stop rock climbing and just climb trees but I wanted to create a (project) that would blow people’s minds and pay homage to trees and my California roots.”
To set the top rope and avoid setting gear that might deface the tree while lead climbing, Sharma went medieval, using a crossbow to shoot a nylon line over the top of the tree so he could then pull his rope over and secure it. He was surprised at how difficult the climbing was and the sheer face the 700-year-old tree presented, despite its obvious round shape. And he didn’t “redpoint” it (completing it in one go after practicing), like he has so many of his climbs before. Sharma found the bark patterns confusing compared to choreographing a difficult climb on stone where he could mark his route. “But it wasn’t about being cutting edge or doing the ‘world’s hardest ascent," he says. “It would almost be silly to force that scenario and make it less authentic. This was just unique and beautiful.”
Look out for an exclusive feature from SI's Austin Murphy on Sharma and his Redwood project later this week.
The Redwood forests have always been super special places for me. They are a symbol of being home, and whenever I'm back in Santa Cruz I always make it a point to spend time in these forests. They make you feel so small but at the same time protected, safe and embraced by nature. It's a place I've always gone when I want to get away from everything and just appreciate being. After spending my life seeking out perfect lines to climb, it's been a dream of mine for a long time to climb on these giant living things. They are perfect! It was amazing to finally get the chance! On top of that, to do it along side scientists Anthony Ambrose and Wendi Baxter and study the trees with them and make a film to raise awareness and pay homage to these giants made it that much more special. Thanks to everyone who made this possible. @katiann84 @ashleysmeltzer @redbull and to @ladzinski for making an awesome film about the whole experience! @redbull @prana @evolvusa @sanukfootwear @sterlingrope @petzl_official @justinvitcov
Australian freestyle motocross rider Jackson Strong threw down the first ever “Double Drop” last week at the Metal Mulisha Compound near Temecula, Calif. And he didn’t just pull the trick—he got his hands really dirty, working with the backhoe at the compound to build the quarter pipe exactly to his liking (more on that later). To the naked eye, the double drop is difficult to discern from a double back flip. The 23-year-old Australian and former X Games Gold Medalist described it as a “double flip transfer/roll.” Regardless, it’s impressive, other than the nasty landing that whipped Strong’s neck in awkward fashion (see the video).
Still, pulling his now-signature trick had to be somewhat redemptive for the Aussie, who two weeks ago pulled out of the X Games quarter pipe best trick competition because he didn’t feel the ramp was built to his riding style. As he said on social media, it was, “suited for another rider and didn’t allow me to do what I wanted to do.” The controversy went mostly under the radar in Austin. Another reason pulling the Double Drop, and bathing in the media attention that followed, had to feel good.
Last weekend, the best athletes in the sport of SUP swarmed the small town of Cascade, Idaho along the banks of the Payette River to compete in the Payette River Games. Competitors competed in the Super G, where they were timed in their respective runs through a rapid, and the SUP Cross (heats of four paddlers on the course at the same time). The winner was decided on points earned in the two events. Hawaii’s Mo Freitas won on the men’s side and California’s Rebecca Giddens, a 2004 Olympic Silver Medalist in whitewater slalom kayaking, captured the women’s crown. As of right now, the $50,000 purse is the largest prize payout in the sport.
Cat-like Climbing Ability
From the, “We Don’t Know What to Make of This,” file comes the story of Millie the climbing cat. Millie’s owner, Craig Armstrong, an avid climber from Utah, takes his feline with him on climbs in the Utah backcountry. He’s outfitted the cat with a special harness and Millie has done a number of legitimate climbs and garnered significant media attention, creating adorable click bait for the likes of the Daily Mail, ABC News and National Geographic channel, among others. My only question: Does the cat purr when it on-sites a tough route?