You guys, I’m seriously…is Burning Man really right around the corner?

Yes, it is. In between all the logistical planning, outfit making, and canned soup buying, we managed to decorate and then take apart Mr. Boulder Jr. Soon, it will be thrust into a truck, at which point it will be accompanied by many yurts, some bikes, and some other random crap, and brought out to the frickin’ desert. Can you believe it? We hardly can. So let’s just let the photos do the trick.

Vikki and Captain Oz are taking off on Thursday morning. Some of the Camp UPpers are already up there, and the rest will trickle in behind us. We are hoping to have the wall built and standing and all that by the end of Saturday, and then Sunday will be reserved for bolting holds on to the wall. Monday thru Saturday: Climb!

Okay, enjoy the photos!

The hands, painted by Nour and Danny. Lots of little details in this central piece. A lot of fun to examine.

The finishing touches.

The best this wall will ever look! Caitlin Tracy's piece on the left (subtle use of color, right?), Nour and Danny's in the middle, and Dylan Hosey's aquatic theme on the right.

The sections are coming off...

The overhang comes down...we should leave it like this, actually, it would be a sweet ass roof. Foreman?

The vertical sections are coming down now. Yes, that is Eliot behind the wheel of a forklift. Yes, we are all still alive and healthy.

The beast in its constituent parts, ready to be loaded.


Hello Campers! As we approach the midnight hour, as our reunion on the glorious parched playa draws ever nigh, you can rest assured that we are busting our buns putting the finishing touches on our masterful wall. Today we finish skinning the bugger, as well as beginning the process of building auxiliary supports. Already, the decoration team (headed up by the fabulous Nour, Danny, Dylan and Caitlin) has begun their beautification by paint, and we are finalizing the lighting situation and nighttime enhancements. Photos to come.

In the meantime, please enjoy this written piece by Nour.


It’s that catch, that click that sticks in your throat

It’s your heart welling up, that swelling, expansion, implosion,
exploding, pounding, quickening, quaking, shaking your core from

It’s that jarring motion, the commotion, fire burning, surging raw
emotion, jaw clenching, mouth cotton dry

It’s the blurring around the edges, the morphing; it’s panic,
bewilderment, but it’s enlightenment, it’s revelation

It’s feet flying, crashing against loose scree; rocks crumbling,
crackling, gravel spraying; bounds, leaps downhill, dust rising, the
cracking smash of feet on loose ground, muscles clenching,
contracting, electric nerves firing, legs taut; unrealized, unknown,
of embodiment of ultimate grace

It’s white saltwater spray, the waves silent, deafening roar, the
softly sung song of the wind beckoning, whispering in your ear

It’s elation, flying down the steeps, the whirring wheels spinning, wind
whipping, hair streaming, eyes blinded by tears, the childlike peals
of laughter you can’t hold back

It’s the apex, the height; the world rushing toward you- once drawing
away but now falling back, ground hurtling fast; clutch with every
last fiber to your nerve, praying it saves you, that ninth life

It’s that dynamic leap, the jump, the twanging twine of taut muscle, a
spurted sharp exhale of a breath followed by a flood of joy,
exaltation, elation

It’s the scrabbling, grasping, grabbing, desperate clutching fingers
clinging, tendons snapping, as you grip, as you slip

It’s the pop, the snap; it’s a single second that changed everything,
a second that broke you in half

It’s the screeching, screaming squeals of a guitar that stream
straight through the veins of your body furrowing into your heart, a
climax that consumes every sense of your being and explodes out of the
fibers of your body as pure energy, leaving you shaking, spent,
consumed, drained, junked, fueled

It’s the slashing strokes of a watercolor paintbrush across the sky,
seething, teeming, bursting shades of red, orange, pink, a fiery orb
falling into a darkening world;

It’s the brightening pinpricks of sparkling, pulsing light blinking
from within the depths of oblivion, the watchful souls high in the
ionosphere, mirrors of the stars that danced behind your eyes

It’s a moment of pure ecstasy, hands running through soaked hair, the
gasp for air, the convulsion, the ripple of jaw-dropping oblivion, a
choking inhalation, an unrestrained cry

It’s the arching back, that unspoken acknowledgment of union

It’s the gentle trickle of fingers on bare skin, the shiver that courses through

It’s locked contact, pupils widening, an unknowing realization of the
ledge that’s dropping out from under you

It’s color, motion, emotion, stimulus; it’s unstoppable, it’s the
explosion in your head that no one sees burning behind your eyes, the
madness behind them that marks you; you stand there, struggling,
surrendering. eyes darting, heart thumping, blood pumping, as the
crowd streams around you, blissfully unaware

It’s the flip you switch.

Stop. Drop. Fall.

First order of business: We made it! YOU helped us raise $7,405 on Kickstarter, out of our goal of $6,900! Or, to put it pictorially:

Oh hell yeah baby, now we can stock our camp fridge with imported beer and furnish our yurts with teak wood! Just kidding…now we’ll be able to recoup the cost of buying materials, renting space to build this heavy bastard, dragging the thing up and back, and for the decoration and accessorizing. Thank you all for helping us avoid brokedom, and I promise that your time on the wall will be extra rewarding knowing that you had a direct hand in helping it come to fruition. On behalf of the members of Camp UP, I once again salute you for your generosity. It seriously means the world to us.

Another piece of good news, which I mentioned in the previous post, is that we have officially been placed at the 4:30 Plaza, at 4:30 and Graduation streets. Yup, pretty psyched on that one. It should be the perfect blend of consistent traffic and relaxed atmosphere.

Finally, a quick build update: Our tenure at NIMBY has been short but incredibly productive. We have bolted together all of the sections that make up the first layer, for a contiguous 26 foot wide wooden wall. See?

Then, on Sunday, we put up the rest of the vertical sections (the ones on the left of the photo above) for a total of 14 feet. Thanks to the various NIMBY-ites for their forklift assists, como asi:

Does this look dangerous? I hope not. The other top section is to Spenser's left, and it also went up. One last plywood panel got drilled in the middle, overlapping the connection.

Then we bolted in some steel brackets, so this thing will resist the pull of thousands of human sapiens on the playa. Thusly:

In answer to your next question, yes, we are serious about workplace safety.

So basically, it’s almost done! We will need to add a crapton of cantilevered bracing and such to ensure that the thing doesn’t collapse and cause a playa tragedy. That would be, as Eliot says, “sad face.” There will also be stakes in the playa, which we will use to anchor the wall. Otherwise, we would have a giant wooden sail. And that, too, would be sad face.

We are hoping to have the full wall bolted, skinned, and T-nutted by Saturday July 30th for the Flaming Lotus Girls‘ fundraiser, which is going on at NIMBY that night. So, if you would like to see what we’ve done, and if you haven’t yet, to meet some of the crew, come on down! You’ll recognize us: we’ll be the people frantically trying to keep a climbing wall from catching fire.

Spenser “Captain Oz” Tang-Smith (that’s me!) turned 27 this weekend, and between watching silk aerialists (Nour and friends), eating too many oysters, climbing on the beach, visiting the ER to get Foreman McDrinky stitched up (nothing major, don’t worry), and procuring MC Hammer bobblehead dolls from the Oakland Coliseum, I had one of the best, most eclectic birthdays in history.

Better yet, I had a lot of great presents in the form of gifts to the Camp UP climbing wall! See the image below? Yup, that’s right, we’re 94% funded as of this writing, with 69 hours left in our campaign! I think I speak for all of us when I say that we are honestly shocked at the generosity of our friends, family, and the climbing community in helping us reach our goal. A year-long dream is coming true, and we couldn’t ask for anything more.

And best yet: Camp UP now has a home! While your recondite family of 55,000 people inhabits Black Rock City, your favorite Camp UPpers will be at the 4:30 plaza, at 4:30 and G street! A big thank you to the rather busy team of placers, who dealt with a record number of theme camps this year. We can’t wait to find out who our neighbors are, but anyway, now you know where we’ll be! Click here for a map…

In Construction News…

We got it up. It wasn’t easy. There was once a time where we could use just our imaginations, and there it would stand, in all its glory. Then we were able to use our hands. But it’s gotten to the point where it took a forklift and some people on ladders to get the woodie up. Damn this thing is heavy.

Yup. The vertical sections are up at NIMBY! This thing is tall. We’re hoping to frame the rest of the missing sections (two of them), then slide them in and put the whole wall together by the end of the week! If we can get most of the wall up and running by the time the Flaming Lotus Girls have their fundraiser at NIMBY on July 30th, it will be a great way to showcase our creation and get people hyped up about climbing on the Playa.

We are also beginning to get the decoration process rolling. A fellow climber named Fiamma had gotten in touch with us early on about helping to design and paint a large mural on the piece, and there will be a meeting later on this week. It’s almost up, and now it needs to be pretty.

More updates and some photos to come soon…


If you’ve been over to our Kickstarter page recently, it looks like this:

Oh yeah baby, that’s what I’m talking about! Thank you SO MUCH to our awesome backers. Because of you, we’re more than halfway there. But with 14 days to go we still have almost halfway to go. So please…if you want to see the beloved Boulder Jr. on the playa this year, please dig deep for a couple of bucks and send them our way by clicking on the photo above. And please implore your friends to do the same. You can click “Like” on the bottom of the video on our page and it’ll show up in Facebook. Spread the love and we’ll spread the climbing!

In Other News

…We have a new home at NIMBY! For those not in the know, NIMBY (which stands for Not In My Back Yard) is a sort of warehouse collective that traditionally hosts builders of all kinds of Burning Man projects, along with other freaky-cool artistic endeavors, from mutant vehicles to fire-breathing apparatuses to sculpture, and everything in between.

Construction-wise, Eliot says:

“With Zack having cut the metal brackets, we began piecing the wall together and placing the brackets at the seams. There were some minor snaffus involving the angle of the wood pieces which has halted progress (as had our lack of room to roam), but we’ve been drilling the brackets we can get into place, and the added stability is rather kick ass (as one can see by Vikki climbing that portion of wall in the picture). Now that we’ll have a new spot to put our wood in (giggity), the moving about and such will be made much easier. The next step is lots of drilling holes, bracketing, and then a full mock construction, you know, to see if we can do it.”
And there you have it people. Stay tuned. The MAN BURNS in a paltry 64 days!!!!!

Gentle readers, the Hombre burns in 69 days, and while that sounds like a lot of time, it ain’t! But rest assured, your Camp UPpers have been hard at work behind the scenes making sure that the climbing scene at Burning Man will be represented.

Here’s a quick update on our progress, with a list of help still needed. And please send an email to if you have any questions, comments, or help to give!


We’ve finished framing, skinning and connecting about 90% of the climbing surface. It’s big. And woody. We’re making metal brackets that will reinforce the overhanging section, because we don’t want a dust storm to flatten our wall, or the climbers on it. That would be a buzz kill.

Still left to do: Drill holes and pound T-nuts; build the supporting frame; decorate!


With 26 days left on our Kickstarter campaign, we’re up over $2,000! But we’re also short $4,900. Friends, countrymen, countrywomen, countrytrannies, lend us your cash! Without money, this bad boy ain’t goin’ nowheres.


You might’ve seen our boxes at Bridges, Ironworks, and Great Western Power Company, asking for your used shoes. We’ve gotten a good start, but we’re missing many sizes. We want to provide these to participants, and since anything is better than barefoot, we’ll take what you’ve got stinking up your closet, holes and all. Drop them in the boxes or give us a shout.

We’re also hoping to provide a safe landing. We’ve got about 8 or so crash pads between our personal pads and borrowed ones, but we need more! We’ll return them dusty, but c’mon, when was the last time you went bouldering and gave a damn about the cleanliness of your pad? If you’re not going outdoors in late August/early September, please consider loaning them to Camp UP!


We need holds, badly! Already two generous folks have promised us their personal collections, as long as we mark them and return them. But we need more!

If you’ve got a home woody you don’t use, or a collection that you never put up, please let us know. We’ll happily put them to good use!

Thanks for reading, and if you know some former climbers who dropped out due to injury, spouses, or lack of psyche, please send this to them so they can give their old crap a good home!

Our fund raising page is live and direct, coming to you from the fine folks at Kickstarter! Please click on this link to go there, watch a pretty hilarious video, peruse our schwag options, and if you can, please spare a few bucks to help those of us giving up our weekends to bring climbing to the Playa.

I was going to post the video here, but nah. I’m going to make you all go over to the page and watch it. That gets you one step closer to donating, so yeah. Git on over there.

Why are you still here reading this? You want some updates on progress or something? Fine. But you have to promise to click on this link when you’re done reading. Okay? Okay.

Danny and Eliot helped out. Nour has a rad jacket.

We spent the past weekend at the yard, skinning and assembling various sections. Li’l Brudder Eliot and Danny Botello gave us a big hand, as the pieces we’re working with are getting progressively heavier. Besides, having a few people to measure and screw makes the screwing process faster. Yay, screwing!

Almost wooded

A 14' vertical section almost skinned...

At this point, almost all of the climbing surface has been put together. We’ll have to remove the panels, drill holes, and introduce the element of the T-nut, as well as the decorative paint. Then, of course, we’ll have to assemble the whole thing. We’ll put a call out for some muscle when we get to that point…and then we’ll have to break it down to bring it to BRC, then build it again. But that’s a ways away, so for now, enjoy some photos!

This is perpendicular to how it will be...


We made a giant deck chair

Eliot takes a rest. Note all the skinned sections, underneath and leaning against the fence!

The Man burns in 85 days! Down with the Man!

Nudge...nudge...ah f**k it close enough.

An overhanging panel gets framed

Since we last reported, the Camp UP team has been killin’ it (or, “doing quite well”). We are nearly done framing all of the sections of our wall, and Zack (AKA Foreman McDrinky) and I just purchased a half-ton of plywood. The plywood will be the skin of the climbing wall, and this weekend we hope to have the whole wall skinned and ready for assembly, decoration, and of course, climbing. Building is nearing completion!

Our progress on this project is not fully reflected in the material world yet. Much work has been done behind the scenes on all of our parts.

Read the rest of this entry »

We have begun.

Many months spent agreeing that the project sounded like a good idea eventually led to designing our wall, which then led to refinements and concept testing. We then rented a small shop space.

A couple weeks ago, we purchased a bunch of 2 x 6’s and cut them to the lengths that we’d need to start framing our wall. See?

Safety is frickin' sweet.

Vikki enjoys her first encounter with a large saw.

Last week, we gathered up some boards and screws and drove to the nearby outdoor lot that will serve as our construction lot. We finally drove our first woodscrews! Like so:

So you're saying this device actually drives the screw?

Fastening is fascinating.

We got a good start, framing two of the lower sections. Each of the framed sections will then receive a plywood skin. Said plywood will be impregnated with T-nuts, which will then hold our artificial climbing holds to the wall! Cool, non?

Ladder for sale. Brand new. Smells great. $50.

One of our "kicker" panels, framed!

Hi. Spenser here. Thanks for stopping by.

I’m currently in the small town of Bishop, CA. It lies along Highway 395, about 45 miles south of Mammoth, or for you Burners, about 200 miles south of Reno. Until I began climbing, I had no idea this town even existed. Now I’m drawn to it like a camper to a campfire. I live in San Francisco, but have already spent about a quarter of 2011 here. The climbing here is unparalleled for fun, variety, concentration, and of course, the climbing community.

I’ve shared a love of scaling geology with innumerable people across the world over the past 7 years. I have met nearly all of my best friends, and some of my worst, through climbing (one needs balance, after all). I’ve discovered long-lost friends from childhood at gyms and crags, and made new friends across the globe, bridging the language gap by communicating through pantomime. Speaking of Rites of Passage, I can confidently identify climbing as the most significant in my life.

In general terms, the Burner community exists because of a remarkable shared experience, reflecting a passion for exploration and often culminating in profound changes in lifestyle. The climbing community exists for many of the same reasons, and the results are equally dramatic. In most cases, these changes are undeniably positive, as both burners and climbers, we seek to introduce this shared experience to as many as possible.

We cannot recreate the perfect boulders of Bishop, set in the high desert and surrounded by stunning mountains. We cannot hope to give participants the feeling of hundreds, or thousands of feet of air beneath them, nor the sense of smallness and humility that comes with it.

But we can offer a glimpse. We will bring people a new sense of fluidity of movement. We will provide a novel form of personal challenge. Our wall won’t be dangerous, but it will be the only intentionally challenging climbing structure on the Playa. And, more than anything, we will be bringing to Black Rock City an extremely fun experience. It is our sincere hope that this excellent introduction will result in many participants becoming part of the climbing community as well.

Please follow along on our little journey of construction. On behalf of Nour, Vikki, and Zack, Camp UP welcomes you!

Contact Us!

Send us an email!

Logo design by Lisa Cox, an awesome SF artist who generously donated her time and creativity. Thanks Lisa!