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All posts by Mike Anderson

European Vacation

The Southern Colorado Andersons (that’s Mike, Janelle, Lucas and Axel) are finally on our way to Europe!

NATIONAL LAMPOON'S EUROPEAN VACATION, Jason Lively, Dana Hill, Beverly D'Angelo, Chevy Chase, 1985

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S EUROPEAN VACATION, Jason Lively, Dana Hill, Beverly D’Angelo, Chevy Chase, 1985

We are flying into Frankfurt, Germany, then heading south to the Alps.  We’ll be staying in Ellmau, a quaint ski village in the heart of the Tirol region. We hope to sample Austria’s incredible rock…specifically the limestone and granite.

This is our shortlist of Austrian crags we want to visit:

  • Schleier Wasserfall
  • Steinplatte
  • Paradies
  • Edelweisswand
  • Sparchen
  • Bergstation
  • Neiderthai
  • Gotterwandl
  • Ginzling
  • Sonnendeck

I know…the list is too long!

If you know these areas, please give us your route recommendations. We’ll be psyched to try any great routes from 7a to 8c!

When I planned the trip, I was dreaming of limestone, but as I’ve done more research, I’ve become more and more intrigued by the granite, which looks spectacular. Especially Bergstation and Nederthai. I love limestone, but it turns out that my hardest ascents have all been on granite, so I seem to have an affiinity for it. I’m looking forward to trying world-class routes like 5 Sterne, Le Miracle, and Elements of Addiction.

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5 Sterne, 7c+ at Bergstation, Austria

If you’re a fan of the Rock Climber’s Training Manual, or a fan of our website, we would love to meet you out at the crag!

We will be posting updates of our climbing and our plans through our new Instagram  account (see the feed on the right side of this page), so check that to see ourplans. Our instagram name is:

@rock_climbers_training_manual

If you’re not into Instagram, just e-mail me at: rockclimberstrainingmanual_at_gmail_dot_com. I’ll let you know our plans, or we can arrange to meet at a crag.

During our trip, we also intend to make shorter visits to the Italian Dolomites. We hope to do some longer alpine routes as a family, and try some via ferrata. We’ll probably check out some Italian sport climbing as well.

We will be in Austria until July 10th, then we’ll drive to the Netherlands to present our latest research on the Trango, Rock Prodigy Forge hangboard at “The Engineering of Sport 11”, the 11th congress of the International Sports Engineering Association. The Forge has been really well received by those that have tried it and contributed to our survey, and we look forward to sharing those results with the international sports engineering community!

Wish us luck, and we hope to hear from you soon, or see you at the crags!

 

 

 

Insurrection!

By Mike Anderson

As I said in my last article (Spring, Sprain, Summer, Send?), I’m having somewhat of a “Cinderella Season”…with things just clicking despite some minor adversity. As I bragged in that post, I sent one of my “life list” routes, Grand ‘Ol Opry (5.14c) at the Monastery. It went faster than I expected, leaving me with just under three weeks of “bonus climbing” before our big trip to Europe…what to do…in Colorado…in the summer?

We tried Wild Iris on the first weekend, and found it too hot, so instead, we opted for Independence Pass…maybe the coolest (coldest) climbing in Colorado.

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Mike showing off after sending “Before there were Nine”, 13d at Indy Pass, back in July 2012.

 

Waaaay back in 2012, I worked and sent Tommy Caldwell’s route Before there were Nine (not his name, as far as I know). While I was working the route, Mark visited and we spotted a “futuristic” (for us) line of holds in the middle of the Grotto Wall that we were sure could hold a route.  I was living in Florida at the time, and the proposed route was out of my reach, literally and figuratively.

Mark returned, however, and bolted the line in the Fall of 2013, and sent it just over two years ago, establishing, Insurrection, 5.14c and the hardest route on Independence Pass. He described his epic send in this article from May, 2014. I always wished we could have worked the line together, but, as I said, it was beyond me, and I’m glad he got the First Ascent.

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Mark Anderson on Insurrection, 5.14c, back in May 2014. Stretching for the sloping edge at the end of the redpoint crux. Check out those awesome micro-crimpers!!! Photo by Adam Sanders.

So, with about two weeks, I thought maybe I had a shot at sending Insurrection, and completing what Mark and I envisioned four years ago.  It would be really tight, but if it didn’t work out, I could return in the fall to finish it off.

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The best part about climbing at the Pass is the camping!

 

I busted out of work on Wednesday, the 8th of June, with my good friend and trusty belayer, Shaun. I checked out the route, and it seemed plausible, but hard.  The holds were much smaller than those on Grand ‘Ol Opry, and the rests were not as good (or almost non-existent). Nevertheless, there was nowhere else cooler to climb, or better to prepare us for the granite-laden Zillertal region of Austria, so I figured I’d give it the old college try with the roughly 2 weeks I had left.

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Mike Anderson on Insurrection, 5.14c. In the crux section by the 3rd bolt, setting up for a powerful undercling move. Janelle Anderson photo.

 

Since the 8th, I managed 5 climbing days on the Pass, and squeezed in two ARC’ing sessions at the gym to build up my ability to recover on the route.  This last Saturday, everything clicked…we had great weather (waking up at 4:45 AM helps with that!)  I had the moves dialed by now, and my fitness is peaking, thanks to the work put in on Grand ‘Ol Opry. I sent Insurrection on my first go of the day…a rarity for me. I usually get flash pumped on my first go, and really think of it as a warmup burn.  This time, I warmed up really carefully, took time to stretch thoroughly, and massage my forearms before the send.

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Mike Anderson on Insurrection, 5.14c. Making the powerful undercling move. Janelle Anderson photo.

The climbing is a power-endurance test piece with hard, dynamic moves and little rests, so for me, the send was all about rationing my effort.  I really focused on breathing and relaxing my grip on every hold…this is especially important with dynamic climbing because you tend to tense up and stop breathing when you dyno, as you engage your core. The key is to recognize this, and make a conscious effort to relax after every dynamic move. The mileage I got on the rock while working Grand ‘Ol Opry really helped me dial-in this technique, and it showed on Insurrection.

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Mike Anderson on Insurrection, 5.14c. Sticking the flake and getting ready to make a strenuous clip.  Janelle Anderson photo.

 

Insurrection is a brilliant route! It’s in the center of Independence Pass’s most prominent crag, and one of Colorado’s most historic sport cliffs. It’s now the centerpiece of that crag. The rock is excellent, and the moves are really cool, especially if you love crimping like I do!

My experience is limited, but I think the 5.14c rating is legit, and I think I’m in a good position to make a comparison to Grand ‘Ol Opry. GOO took me 6 climbing days, and 14 days from start to finish. I was able to send Insurrection in slightly less time…5 climbing days spread over 11, but that was with the benefit of the fitness and technique I developed working GOO. GOO is longer, and has more moves to dial in, but it has much bigger handholds and pretty good jam-crack rests, one huge rest right before the crux. Insurrection is in your face from the start on very small, crimpy holds, and you have to do a long, 3-bolt crux section with no shakes. You really have to hold it together mentally. Regardless, it’s a great route, and it brings Independence Pass back into prominence as a cutting-edge sport crag, the best summer destination in Colorado.

I’m feeling my strongest ever now, at the age of 39, and I have really high hopes for Europe. This winter and spring were humbling for me, and I had to re-dedicate myself to training and climbing. My birthday was May 5th, and at that time I told myself: “it’s a new year…forget about 38 because 39 is going to be your best year yet!”  It’s working so far, and I plan to keep it up! Training on Trango’s Rock Prodigy Forge, with it’s specially engineered micro cripmp, has really paid off. My crimping is the strongest it’s ever been and it’s showing in my climbing.

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How I got this way! Thank you Forge hangboard for your awesome micro crimps that help me train smart and climb hard!

 

Thanks Mark for having the courage to bolt this line and see it through to a route. Your passion and dedication are a huge inspiration to us all!

Spring, Sprain, Summer, Send?

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Mike Anderson working on Grand ‘Ol Opry, 5.14c, The Monastery, CO. One of the few dry crags in Colorado this spring.

By Mike Anderson

This has been a crazy spring/summer for most of us in the Intermountain West.  It was winter, then it got a little warmer, then BAM! Blizzard after Blizzard struck, and in between blizzards would be ludicrous heat waves. It has not been a spring for sending at most crags. Even now, many crags are running with water from runoff.

That being the case, it turned out to be good timing for me when I severely sprained my ankle while training:

Ankle Montage

Check out this beauty! My right ankle a couple days after spraining it badly in a bouldering fall. 🙁 Is my season over?

Let me back up a bit….

This is a common scenario, and we get a lot of questions like this:

“I was part-way through my training cycle, and I got injured.  What do I do now?”

This scenario can also apply to other situations besides injuries such as fitting in a trip midway through a season, or otherwise being pulled away from training for unexpected reasons.

I began my training cycle with my first hangboard workout on March 9th, gunning to be entering peak fitness in mid-May — in time for the best conditions at Rifle, the Monastery and Wolf Point (in Lander, Wyoming). I also had to fit in a spring break trip from March 19th -27th.  So this was the plan:

  • 4 HB workouts from March 9th – March 18th (with typical 72 hour rest period)
  • 1 climbing day on spring break, March 21st (at The Pit, near Flagstaff, AZ)
  • 1 HB workout on March 23rd
  • 1 climbing day on spring break March 26th
  • 4 HB workouts from March 29th – April 9th

I did the first 4 HB workouts, and had a great day climbing at the Pit, even On-Sighting a couple 5.13s, including Total Recall, the crag’s premier sport route:

Total Recall

Total Recall, 5.13b at The Pit, AZ.  I managed an on-sight of this rig waaaay back in March, mid-way through my hangboard training.

 

Then all hell broke loose 🙂  Half-way through spring break, I flew home for a day of work (and to do my 5th HB workout). Then the first of many freak storms hit us.  I wasn’t able to fly back to complete spring break, so I did another 5 HB workouts from March 26th – Apr 9th (fitting in an outdoor day at Shelf Road to compensate for the lost day over spring break).

Aside: If it makes sense, I don’t mind fitting in a couple outdoor days amidst hangboard training. Mark and I tend to differ on this, where he is more consistent about only hangboard training during this phase.  If I’m going to do it, I try not to go more than 5-6 days without a hangboard workout. On your outdoor days, try to do hard, fingery climbing.

Things were going well at this point, and I entered my power phase with a few sessions of bouldering at the gym.  I was feeling really strong, and really enjoying the chance to boulder at the gym, which I usually don’t like because the setting isn’t fingery enough (too may huge/unrealistic dynos, slopers and pinches). I did a campus/limit bouldering workout on April 17th, then on the 19th, everything changed in a blink of an eye!

I was limit bouldering at the gym, came flying off an awkward topout move that put me in a position such that I couldn’t brace for the fall and I landed directly on my right ankle, rolling it to the inside and tearing my Anterior Telo-Fibular tendon (along with other damage, I’m sure).  Now what…10 days into my power phase, hoping to peak in the next couple weeks? The prognosis from the doctor (and based on previous experience) was about 6 weeks.  I hoped to be back to climbing even sooner than that.

I had limited options.  Obviously bouldering would be out for several weeks, if not the entire season, so hangboarding made sense. I wouldn’t be able to get into “send mode” when I wanted, so I re-adjusted my expectations for my peak, and the crags I would climb at. I went back to the hangboard in the hopes of extending my season long enough for my ankle to recover for sport climbing. Sport climbing would be far less risky than bouldering on a bum ankle. We also had a 3 week trip to Europe in the works, starting on June 21st, so I would set my goals towards that trip, rather than the spring climbing at the aforementioned crags.

I also immediately called my friend & colleague, Dr. Jared Vagy (aka “The Climbing Doctor”), a doctor of physical therapy, and he gave me a personalized plan to follow for rehab that has worked miraculously!

The train-wreck of a hangboard phase that my season turned into.

The train-wreck of a hangboard phase that my season turned into.

These are examples of Hangboard Maintenance training sessions.

These are examples of Hangboard Maintenance training sessions.

That same night of the injury, I finished off my workout by running through my 8 grips on the hangboard stations at CityROCK climbing gym, then I settled back into hangboard training. From April 24th – May 4th, I did 4 more hangboard workouts, for a total of 15 in the season (way more than I normally do ~8-10).  I also did three HB maintenance workouts, one before the injury, on April 17th, and two after, May 11th and May 26th – more on this topic in the second edition of the RCTM!

Starting on May 7th, I was able to do some sport climbing (my ankle was strong enough), and I aimed for fingery/bouldery routes because this was replacing what would normally be campusing and limit bouldering. We went to Shelf Road, and I climbed well…making repeats of the Example, among others.

The example

Colin Lantz putting up The Example (5.13a-b) at Shelf Road, back in the day!!!

By May 11th, I felt confident enough in my ankle to do some “easy” campusing (moves that I knew I could control so that I wouldn’t take unexpected falls). I coupled this with a hangboard maintenance workout. For the next couple weeks, I mixed in roped bouldering (climbing on hard routes at the gym or crag) with these campus/hangboard workouts.

By the middle of May, I was itching to try something hard. Janelle and I went up to the Monastery, outside of Estes Park, CO on May 14th…and one of those freak storms hit. This time it was heavy rain, and the crag was socked in with wet, humid clouds.  For this reason, the ankle injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  For most of April and early May, the state was getting clobbered with non-sendable weather, and I was content to toil away on my hangboard…I did feel bad for everyone else, though.

The next weekend, May 20th, I returned, gunning to try Grand ‘Ol Opry, Tommy Caldwell’s testpiece route, and a climb I had been dreaming of doing for at least ten years. It has been referred to by several people as the best sport route in America, and recently made Climbing Magazine’s top 100 list.

I would have liked to start this project back in April to ensure ample days of good, cold, crisp conditions. At this point, I was happy to have any dry rock to climb on and two reasonably strong ankles to do the climbing. That said, this late in the season, the pressure was on to get the send done as fast as possible.  I was halfway expecting that this spring effort would mostly serve as a recon for a later campaign next fall.

I took inspiration from my discussions with Mark that led to this post about not putting your project on a pedestal. I had done one other 5.14c (Mission Impossible), and I wanted to treat this route as if 5.14c is “no big deal” (despite it being quite a big deal in my mind…when I started climbing, the grade hadn’t been invented yet!!!)  What that means is this: It’s OK if I don’t have perfect conditions, ideal “sending temps”, and it’s OK if I don’t have unlimited time to work and send the proj.  Because, if it’s “no big deal”, I EXPECT that the route will not be at my limit and I will be able to climb the route pretty rapidly, in less than perfect conditions.  Well that was my desired mindset…time would tell if I could pull it off.

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Mike working out some moves around “The Africa Plate” — the redpoint crux  of Grand ‘Ol Opry.

On May 20th, I got on the route, and was able to work out reasonable beta.  I vowed to figure this route out for myself — no watching online videos, or bribing Mark with chocolate chip cookies to get his videos.  Part of the process is learning the beta, and part of treating this as NBD (no big deal) was resolving to be self-sufficient. The next couple weeks were fairly stable weather, and I struck while the rock was cool.  We would stay the night at my lovely in-laws’ house in Longmont, wake around 5:30am and get to the crag around 7:30am. Temps up there would be in the upper 40s and lower 50s until about 11am, giving me time for 2 long burns per day.

I got in three good days of working burns climbing every other day, then went back to train on the 26th. This workout was a mix of bouldering and hangboard maintenance…trying to keep my power and finger strength up to snuff. It’s important during the peak phase to keep up occasional training. The sweet siren song of the project will try to lure you out of shape.  We all know that climbing or projecting is not the same as training (it’s necessary, but different), so it’s very helpful to sprinkle in a training day every week to ten days.

I went out again to the route the next weekend, and was making steady progress, but started to feel a plateau.  Saturday, May 28th was my 4th day on the route, but it had been my 6th climbing day out of the past 9 days (if you include our romp up the Flatirons – a fairly tiring day), which is unheard of, if you know the Anderson’s — we love our rest days!  I was feeling powered down, but didn’t want to pass up good weather. That Saturday was a bit of a backslide, but I stayed positive, and on Memorial day, Monday, the 30th, I had a great day!  I made new highpoints; redpointing deep into the redpoint crux. My last burn, I made it to the final dyno to the top of the “Africa Plate” that marks the end of the redpoint crux.  I felt that the send was imminent…

I studied the weather forecast, lined up partners, and negotiated for time off from work. The following Wednesday looked promising, with cool temps, but the possibility of rain.  It had been raining like crazy up and down the Front Range. The route is steep enough that the climb doesn’t get wet directly, but the rain makes the air humid, and the glacier-polished granite that makes up Grand ‘Ol Opry are unusable when it’s humid.

My good friend Shaun went out with me on Wednesday. It had rained a ton the night before and conditions were iffy.  We made the arduous 40-minute hike to the crag and I did two warmup burns on Psychatomic, a nice 12d that Janelle recently sent (nice work babe!) My Hygrometer was measuring 48 degrees and 70% humidity.  The rock felt like soggy fettuccini pasta…it was awful.  I had a partner, a day off work, and I was at the route, ready to send, but I made the disappointing decision to bail. If I tried to stubbornly persevere in these conditions I risked thrashing my skin and destroying my confidence. We decided to reset and try again the next day.

That night it didn’t rain, the dawn was dry and crisp. It was a little warmer, but much dryer.  The meter registered about 56 degrees and 30% humidity…much more like sending temps. My first burn was awesome, I stuck the dyno at the end of the redpoint crux…then my left foot popped off a terrible glacier polished smear.  Still, it was a new highpoint, and I felt great. I called it a “warm-up burn”, and would try again shortly.  In the mean time, I belayed Shaun as he got his first send of Psychatomic as well.

The second go was a disaster. I flummoxed beta on the extremely tenous, insecure opening moves, and I could tell I was stressed. I bobbled my way up to the rest before the redpoint crux and shook for over 5 minutes. I was able to get it back, and I felt pretty good.  I was able to overcome my previous bumbling and climbed really well through the redpoint crux. So well, that when I got to the final dyno, I felt I could do it a little more statically than normal.  Big mistake! I narrowly missed latching the hold, and took another 30-foot fall. This was demoralizing. I had been certain I would send on this day, and now it wouldn’t happen. By now it was getting warm, nearing 60 degrees, but the humidity was lower.

I did resolve to do one more go, just so I could work the top in preparation for next weekend, but I knew I wouldn’t send. I never send 3rd go.  I was very fatigued at this point in the day, but I climbed the opening four bolts flawlessly, such that I arrived at the rest feeling not-too-taxed.  I was able to recover really well at the rest. This is typical for me…as I work a hard, pumpy route, I’m initially unable to recover well at rests, but as I work the route, usually a week or two into it, I start to gain the ability to recover. This is a consequence of both the endurance training, and familiarity with the route. The lesson is, early on in your project, you need to “believe” that you will get recovery by the time you’re ready to send.

At the rest, I focused really hard on my breathing, and remembering the key points of beta for the crux. “hips in for the pinch…undercling…breath…twist hips for the match…drive your toes into the crappy smears“. I launched into the crux and could hear Shaun coaching me:

“Breathe Mike…you gotta want it…try hard!” It was the perfect advice.

Making the long right hand cross move to setup under the Africa Plate.

Making the long right hand cross move to setup under the Africa Plate.

 

I sailed through the first technical moves…a gaston, a slippery pinch, another gaston, undercling, gaston. A long right hand cross through to an edge, then match and grab a pair of underclings — hugging “Africa”. Powerfully pop my feet up…get a little shake for the left hand, then set up with two underclings for the final throw.  Go for it big…don’t half-@$$ it. Stuck!  REMAIN CALM…work the beta, move your feet…believe in the beta. I was perched over the Africa plate, but too pumped to let go and clip.  I had rehearsed this many times, but you can never rehearse the pump or excitement from nearing the send. I shook for awhile on three OK holds at the top of Africa, but with terrible feet and I stared down the draw, mentally rehearsing how I would clip…took two short breaths, and clipped as fast as I could…snap…stuck it! Back to the holds, then moved up to a good shake. The last two bolts are still hard…probably 5.12, but with the beta wired, I flowed up it with an ARC’ing mindset: breath, relax, shake, you can climb this all day long.

Setting up for the final redpoint crux dyno.

Setting up for the final redpoint crux dyno.

Moments later, I clipped the chains!  My second 5.14c in the bag.

I had climbed it fast, just like I told myself I could.  A total of 6 days working on it in a span of 14. I didn’t have perfect conditions, I wasn’t in perfect shape, I didn’t have two good ankles, and I didn’t send it first or second go…it was NBD!  The accomplishment is special, and I’m proud of it, but the route is not special…not in that sense. It’s not too hard, too daunting, or too famous for me to climb. I can do it, and I did it.

Get ready Austria…here I come!

Celebrating the send at the Cherry Pie Capitol of Colorado...in Big Thompson Canyon on the way to the Monastery. I got a cherry pie!

Celebrating the send at the Cherry Pie Capitol of Colorado…in Big Thompson Canyon on the way to the Monastery. I got a cherry pie!

Guest Article: See the Send — Use Visualization to Up Your Climbing

This is a guest article by long-time Rock Prodigy enthusiast Philip Lutz. Phil has had tremendous success recently at applying the Rock Prodigy Method to his climbing, particularly bouldering.

If you would like to contribute content to the site, please contact us!

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Heather cruising The Bowling Pin, in the Buttermilks.

Over the past six months, I have been obsessively working my projects to death in the least physically demanding way. On rest days, while lounging around in the sun or on nights before a hard redpoint while curled up in my sleeping bag with homemade skin salve slathered all over my hands, I meticulously visualize climbing my goal route.  From the point in which I take one final glance at my knot and give my shoes a quick wipe against my pant leg to when I am relaxing into my final clipping stance and dropping my rope smoothly through the quickdraws at the anchor, I use my mind to live and practice everything I need to perform during the send go.

 

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Looking down the Eastside of the Sierra Nevadas after a tiring day at the Happy Boulders. Photo by Philip Lutz

I don’t know exactly what motivated me to start rehearsing my intended climbing performances over and over in my head. It could be that I spent the last five years of my life preparing for classical guitar performances.  The associated habitual practicing and eventual performance is similar to climbing in that you must memorize a ton of information, execute all the cruxes correctly and consistently, and then bring a whole performance to life at a particular moment in time.  While I could practice guitar at any hour of the day or night in a prominent music conservatory where you are expected and encouraged to practice at least five hours every day of your life, I could not endlessly rehearse the moves of my climbing projects which were six hours away in Kentucky.

Besides the physical distance and limited time that I had in my life, it also wasn’t an efficient use of skin and physical energy to “remember” and reacquaint myself with a project when I only had a day or two to send.  I realized the more information I could keep fresh in my mind while I was away from the project, the easier it would be to recall those moves and then bring that experience into reality.

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Overlooking Bishop from the Druid Stones. The views and bouldering at the Druids are definitely worth the uphill trudge (if you ever get sick of simply jumping out of your car at the Buttermilks and instantly being at amazing boulderfields).  Photo by Philip Lutz

Regularly running through the correct beta through visualization is not only a great way to make sure that you won’t forget a key foothold mid-crux after paddling past 20 meters of power-sapping pockets; it also builds mental confidence. While many people are putting in the hours “working out” and possibly training (if they have the discipline, patience, and organization) in order to build their physical ability, many are not performing a critical step; putting in the work needed to believe the goal is possible.  In my mind, the easy part of getting better at climbing random pieces of rock that were never intended for people to be on is the physical training.

THE Training Manual clearly and specifically describes all the exercises that you need to do to prepare your body to climb the routes of your dreams.  If you get organized, do the exercises (while trying as hard as you can), rest even harder, and repeat following the structured training plan, then you WILL be physically stronger.  This is one of the most valuable features of the RCTM and was what lured me into the program in the first place. However, the real treasure of the RCTM is the full suite of tools presented that work together to assemble the ultimate climbing machine.  Climbing performance is highly dependent on one’s mental ability, and the mental preparation discussed in the RCTM is a great way to navigate the abstract adventure through your own mind.  The confidence built through mental training like visualization, or positive self-talk, is what I seek to gain during my performance phase and is what I need to send.

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A technical training goal of mine is to use heel-hooks more effectively. I have always avoided them when I could and I never felt totally comfortable on them.  A large part of this is mental, and physically feeling the positions and movements are a way for me to overcome the lack of confidence.  I think I made some progress this season, but there is still a ton of room to improve.  In this photo, I’m about to pull the lip crux on the characteristically crimpy Milk the Milks, V6.  Photo by Charlie Marks.

After weeks spent hanging off a plastic edge and hopping between wooden rungs, visualization is a common homework assignment that gets me ready for the final exam. When I visualize a route, I sit down, close my eyes, and actively climb the route in my mind.  I do not imagine watching myself climb; I go through each move exactly how I perceive it in reality.  Stick the right hand edge, readjust it to a crimp, look down at that ticked pocket to my left, highstep my foot…  Just like repeating a difficult section while learning a route, repeating moves in your mind will make you “stronger” and allow you to do them more consistently.

This is where my approach differs slightly from what is presented in the RCTM. In the RCTM, the Andersons suggest that some may benefit from taking a third-person view during visualization (imagining you are a spectator, watching yourself climb the route), yet I have avoided this as I think it would create a meta-distraction in my climbing performance.  My climbing is purely between me and the rock.  I feel the best when I am completely self-motivated.  If I created a third-person presence that would expect me to send the route, I would simply be annoyed and probably become detached from the present during the performance. On the other hand, you might perform better with an external presence created from visualizing in the third person view, and this is dependent on each climber’s unique personality.  It is important to spend time learning about yourself in order to figure out what will improve your mental game.

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Upon arrival in Bishop and during my hangboarding phase, I managed to do some easy outdoor mileage and enjoyed classics like the Buttermilk Stem, V1. Outdoor mileage specific to your goals is a great opportunity to improve your mental abilities for later in your training cycle.  Photo by Charlie Marks

A little over three months ago, I moved to Bishop, California to gain access to world-class climbing, beautiful weather, and a relatively low cost of living while working a simple job and figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life. Because I want to greatly improve my power while I am somewhat young and because I have an abundance of quality bouldering within 30min of driving, it seemed like an obvious choice to devote at least a few months (maybe seasons) away from ropes and bolts.

Due to the high arousal level needed to complete powerful moves at your limit and a limited amount of quality attempts on seriously abrasive rock, visualization is an incredibly useful tool for bouldering around Biship.  In between redpoint attempts, I can build my mental confidence while ensuring that I take a moment to slow down and adequately rest.  For example, if you don’t trust that you can prevent your feet cutting as you hit that sharp two finger pocket, what is the point of getting all “agro” and grunting your way up a route? You’ll probably just end up with a bad flapper and wasted time spent training.  A fear of success, or rather an inability to believe that a goal is attainable, can be just as crippling as a fear of climbing above the bolt or fear that your spotters won’t protect you.

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Soul Slinger Right, V8. The problem that ended my bouldering season. I missed the pads and sprained my ankle, but before swelling set in, I gave it another burn and sent.  I failed on this problem in January when I first visited Bishop, and this send was more satisfying than my Thanksgiving turkey. Photo by Charlie Marks.

I recently finished my first bouldering-focused training cycle, and I was very impressed with my resulting performance. Due to a variety of factors, my main projects were in the Volcanic Tableland.  I managed to send my first two V10s, and visualization played an important role in the redpoint process of each problem.

The first one I sent was Acid Wash, which begins with a crunchy, tweaky, and powerful drop knee move to a huge slot jug.  Consensus seems to be that, from the jug, the climbing is around V7. From my initial impression of the problem, I knew I could send it.  The first move was very inconsistent, and I only stuck it 10% of the time.  Visualizing the whole problem calmed my nerves and eliminated all the thoughts that separated me from the present moment when I would stick the opening move.  There were three attempts when I stuck the first move and my mind would begin to race as I continued to climb.  Those attempts ended up with me being very distracted and eventually I would fall off at the reachy bump move to a crimp jug.  Moments before my send go, I had one of these attempts, and after a nice yell (letting the whole canyon know my frustration), I stepped away from the tiny cave to relax and collect my thoughts.  On the send, thanks to my visualization routine, I didn’t have any doubts, and the moment I hit the initial jug, I kept climbing, feeling calm and focused.

Video of Phil sending his first V10, Acid Wash, The Happy Boulders, CA:

Deep inside a more secluded section of the Tableland, I found myself getting cozy on cold, windy evenings after work in the Ice Caves. Despite the constricted corridors and an exceptionally high risk of dabbing at any moment, the Ice Caves have many steep and difficult lines including Beefcake, V10, a power-endurance roof problem.  Figuring out and internalizing the sustained 8 hand-move (and at least twice as many foot and hip moves) sequence was steady and physically draining work.

On one really good evening, despite getting shut down in the Buttermilks earlier that same day, all of the pieces of the problem began to come together as I flowed to the last hard move of the problem, a large cross-over move to a jug pocket.  I fell on the final move from the start three times in a row, and despite the immense progress, I could not have been more pissed off.

Over the course of two rest days (yes, you can be in Bishop and take rest days), I climbed the problem countless times in my mind.  I had it wired, and I was just waiting for the moment when my body was ready to fight again.  On the next evening out at the Ice Caves, I went through my usual warm-up circuit and then very briefly warmed up the moves of Beefcake.  With all the holds brushed and ticked appropriately, I sat at the start and laid down on the crashpads to mentally climb the problem one more time.  I topped it out, opened my eyes, and then pulled up into the sloping undercling.  Sending Beefcake felt like V3, and it was one of those rare moments when climbing was perfect and effortless.

Video of unknown climber sending Beefcake, V10, the Buttermilk Boulders, CA:

Visualization is a very important exercise for my climbing performance. It allows me to keep a large amount of information fresh in my mind; builds confidence in my ability to complete moves and achieve goals; and eliminates doubts and distracting thoughts that cloud my brain while climbing.  When climbing routes, I find it most convenient to visualize on rest days and right before going to sleep on nights before a performance day ( I don’t think my climbing partners would appreciate me as a completely spaced out belayer). When bouldering, I find it helpful to visualize between attempts in addition to my nightly mental rituals.  There seems to be much more inactive time while bouldering, and often, it is beneficial to take a little more rest than you think you need.  Visualization can be a good use of this time, and it will hopefully prevent you from hastily returning to your project.  The “smarter, not harder” mantra/theme throughout the RCTM has become an integral part of my personal improvement, and visualization is one of many ways discussed in the book to train the mind, and thus, train smarter.  Like any training program, attention to detail and commitment to quality are essential to visualization, and the results can be extremely satisfying.

Adjustable Hangboard Mount (3.0) – Easiest yet!

Rock Prodigy Training Center  and Rock Prodigy Forge hangboards are revolutionary tools for developing elite finger strength. The split board design allows you to customize it to fit your body, improving the ergonomics, making it safer to train hard, and really boost your finger strength!

To really take the most advantage of the split design, you can mount the two halves in a way that allows the spacing and rotation to be adjusted on-the-fly…an “Adjustable Mount”.

The picture below shows one way to utilize the Adjustable Mount to enhance your training. In this pic, I’m training my “Index-Middle” 2-finger pocket. If you’ve tried this, you know that your fingers never fit in the pockets quite right because the middle finger is so much longer than the index. With the adjustable mount, I’ve widened the board spacing, and rotated the boards by placing shims under the outside mounting brackets (Counter-clockwise on the right, and clockwise on the left). This vastly improves the ergonomics, reducing skin wear and flapper potential. This makes a once-awkward grip really fun to train, and my IM 2F strength has improved substantially.

HB Rotation Montage

In two previous articles, we’ve presented methods for creating adjustable mounts: Adjustable Mount for the RPTC and Adjustable Mount 2.0 for the Rock Prodigy Training Center. The first method uses a “French Cleat” system:

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RPTC mounted with French Cleat

The second method uses fence post brackets bolted to a backing board that allows it to slip over a fixed-mounted 2×10:

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Fence brackets mounted to the RPTC. These easily slide over a 2×10 beam.

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The RPTC with Adjustable Mount.

Recently we developed the all-new Rock Prodigy Forge, (see this post to understand how awesome it is: The World’s Most Technologically Advanced Finger Training System – The Forge)  This hangboard is super-kick-ass, but it’s a little shorter than the RPTC, so I wasn’t sure my “Adjustable Mount 2.0” would fit on it. Therefore, I had the motivation to finally try an idea I’d had for an easier Adjustable Mount, that I’ll describe now.

In a nutshell, this system is created by bending sheet metal into a U-shape, then simply epoxy-adhering them directly to the back of the board. With the right equipment, it takes about 30 minutes to create this.

Here’s the final product:

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The RPTC (top) and Forge hangboards with adhesive-mounted brackets.

 

Here’s how to make it….

Start with the brackets. I used galvanized steel Simpson Strong Tie framing backets, and used a “bending brake” to bend them into the desired U-shape. If you can find some, try to get brackets that are already shaped to fit over a 2×4. I picked some up at home depot, the HTP37Z. These are about $2 each, and they are a pretty heavy duty gauge (16 Gauge):

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This is another option, the A44 but more expensive, at $4.50:

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Here’s another option. It’s pre-formed, but it’s a thinner gauge of steel (18-Gauge), and a little smaller, so it would provide less surface area for adhesion. Most importantly; I haven’t tested it:

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OK, so you have your brackets. If you need to bend the brackets, measure them carefully and account for the material that will be used up in the corners for the bend radius. I suggest buying an extra bracket in case you mess up.  A bending brake is the best tool, which I have access to at the Air Force Academy’s Applied Mechanics Lab:

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A simple bench-top vice will work too:

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Here’s the desired shape:

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You need two brackets per half of the RPTC or Forge, so four total to mount a hangboard system.

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THe HTP37Z bent into shape.

This step is critical!  For proper adhesion, you must prepare the surface of the steel brackets. I used a sand-blaster, but sandpaper, or a Dremel tool works too…it just takes longer. Sand the surface of the steel that will adhere to the RPTC or Forge to rough it up and remove any contaminants so that the epoxy forms a good bond. This is critical because the brackets will have a thin film of oil and other debris on them. Once you have treated the surface, don’t touch it or otherwise let it get dirty. The hangboard can be lightly sanded as well, but in my experience, simply wiping it down with a paper towel and solvent is adequate.

I used West System 105 Resin and 205 Fast Hardener, shown below, but any number of commercial adhesives will work, such as Gorilla Glue, Loctite, JB Weld, etc. The surface preparation is far more important than your choice of epoxy.

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If using a 2-part epoxy (which I recommend), make sure it is mixed thoroughly. Here, I’m using a paper cup and a tongue depressor that I’ve trimmed the end off of so that it is flat and can cleanly scrape the bottom of the cup. Follow the instructions for your epoxy carefully.

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Now glue the brackets on…. Take care to get proper alighment. On the Forge, the top edge should be parallel to the ground, so I used a straight edge, as shown below, to line up the brackets with the top edge of the board. This ensures the board will hang parallel to the ground. Don’t fret, if you make a mistake and the brackets are uneven, you can always add shim material afterwards to level it out.

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Once the brackets are in place with epoxy, they may drift a little before the epoxy sets, so tape them down with some masking tape. If your brackets have fastener holes, like mine, cover the holes with tape so epoxy doesn’t bleed through the holes. If it does, it can impede the brackets from sliding over your 2×10 (you can sand any excess epoxy off, but it’s a pain). You want to place the brackets as close to the outside edges of the board as possible to prevent unintended rotation when using the outer holds, such as the pinches.

Blank 2x10

A “blank” 2×10 mounted in my basement, ready to accept my bracket-equipped hangboards.

 

The back view.
The forge hanging on the 2x10.

Finally, let the glue dry and mount your 2×10, if not done already. Here’s an earlier article describing how to do that: How’s Your Hang? Now enjoy your adjustable mount!

If you’re skeptical and discerning like me; you may be wondering…how strong is this adhesive mount anyway? Well, since I have access to the best undergraduate mechanics laboratory in the world, and the best undergraduate students, I decided to find out. I assigned a group of cadets to investigate (Cadet Mike Hyde, Cadet Nate Dickman, and Cadet Tim Welkener). They are Mechanical Engineering students at the Air Force Academy, and this testing served as their final project for their Experimental Mechanics course (lest you think I’m abusing my powers 🙂 ). Trango donated some hangboards, and the cadets replicated the mounting system, then tested them to failure. Here are a couple pics of the testing:

Mounted Boards

Mounted boards – Note they only are using one bracket per board. This setup is not for “operational use”, only for testing. The bolted-on brackets at the bottom are used to ensure a solid connection for testing the epoxy-mounted brackets at the top of the boards.

 

MTS Test Setup

An MTS Tensile Test machine. This was used for static strength testing and fatigue testing (repeated loading and unloading). Here they are testing an un-formed bracket (the bracket is flat) to isolate the epoxy-polyurethane bond. This is the “pure shear” test.

Testing of 2x4 mount

The RPTC with bracket mounted over a 2×4 for testing.

2x4 loading condition

Close up of 2×4 mount.

The cadets did a few tests:

  1. Pure Shear Test – here, the brackets were flat and held in the hydraulic grips of the MTS machine. This test isolates the epoxy bond. They ran a couple variations to test different surface preparations and epoxy combinations, but found little difference that would matter to us. In these tests, a single bracket held over 3,000 lbs!  Consider that you will be hanging from four brackets (two per RPTC/Forge half), and the epoxy is plenty strong!
  2. Cyclic Fatigue Test – In this test, the goal is to determine if repeated loading and unloading weakens the bond over time. With our MTS machine, we can apply repeated loads very quickly. They performed two variations on this test: Cycle load of 0-200 lbs for 650,000 cycles and 0-400 lbs for 75,000 cycles. The bond didn’t fail in either of these tests. I perform 24 sets of hangs on 8 grips per workout, which is 144 hangs per workout, so 75,000 cycles is the equivalent of 520 hangboard workouts, or about 52 seasons of hangboarding. I think we’re good!
  3. Formed Bracket Test – This test is probably the most relevant to us because it test the entire system, not just the epoxy bond. Here, the bracket is bent into the proper shape and placed over a 2×4. This was another static strength test, meaning the load was not repeated, just gradually applied until failure. The system failed when the steel brackets deformed (un-curled from their U-shape) at a load of 624 lbs. Again, this is for only one bracket — you will be hanging from four brackets.

Here’s a picture of the epoxy bond after the shear test:

After Test failure

…And the deformed brackets:

Deformed bracket post testing

Here’s a of quick video one of the pure shear tests.

 

In conclusion, I think you can hang with confidence off your new adjustable mount!

Introducing the “Rock Prodigy Forge User Experience” Survey – Win some shwag!

Take the “Rock Prodigy Forge User Experience” survey!

Last winter we asked our loyal readers to provide feedback on the Rock Prodigy Training Method, and the Rock Prodigy Training Center. Your responses were overwhelming, and we really appreciate the feedback! Some of the data from that survey was published in our research paper, “A novel tool and training methodology for improving finger strength in rock climbers”.

The all-new Rock Prodigy FORGE, by Trango. The world's most advanced finger strength training device.

The all-new Rock Prodigy FORGE, by Trango. The world’s most advanced finger strength training device.

Well, now I’m at it again. After incorporating your feedback, we launched the all-new Rock Prodigy Forge hangboard this past fall, and would like to get your feedback. If you’ve tried the Forge, please take a moment to complete our new survey. It’s much shorter than the last one (sorry about that 🙂 )…only 10 questions this time, and should take you 5 minutes or less. The survey will ask questions such as, how long you’ve been using the Forge, any improvements in your climbing performance since using it, and your overall assessment of its effectiveness. Before completing the survey, it may help to review this article that describes its new features.

Once again, the data from the survey will be incorporated in a research paper to be published at the annual conference of the International Sports Engineering Association (ISEA 2016).

New this year…all survey respondents are eligible to enter a raffle for free shwag from Trango and autographed merchandise from Rock Prodigy Training!

To enter the raffle, after you have completed the survey, enter “Raffle Entry” in the “Leave a Reply” comment box at the bottom of this page. WordPress will automatically send me an e-mail with your contact information. This will keep your survey responses anonymous. Thanks for your help!!!

Here is the link to the survey.

Spain Part 2: Cobblestones & Milestones at Montserrat

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Montserrat climbing

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Barcelona! What an incredible city full of life, people, culture, food, history and so much more. It has to be one of my new favorite cities of all time and we just scratched the surface. We will get into Barcelona highlights in a future post, right now I want to focus on climbing.

First, I want to tell you about a real gem, Montserrat. From a distance, Montserrat looks like a multi-peaked jagged saw tooth mountain, which lends to its intricate rocky maze.  As you approach and drive up the windy road, you can see that hundreds of rounded, cobblestone towers, domes and cliffs create this beauty of a climbing destination. Besides the climbing, Montserrat is also a very popular tourist stop and once you reach the parking lot at the end of the road, you’re ripped from your dream-like state of amazement. The touristy stuff is pretty obnoxious and it seems to go on for a mile full of cars, huge buses, people and souvenir stands. Don’t let this deter you. Press on past the tourist stops, and you will be rewarded just as we were!

We were aiming for the sunny tower in the middle of this photo.

We were aiming for the sunny tower in the middle of this photo.

The reason for the tourists; nestled on the hillside about 1000 feet up from the base but beneath the towers is an old Benedictine Abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat. Our goal, however, was to sample some of the moderate multi-pitch climbing that it is world-renowned for. We only had a few hours of day light so we had to move quickly, hiking up the narrow valley past the abbey. The hike to the base of the route was literally one stair case after another winding up between these towers. It was absolutely beautiful and provided wonderful views of the surrounding area. We were aiming for one of the more prominent summits, Gorro Frigi, and the Stromberg route seemed like a good choice. At the base of the route, we quickly geared up while admiring the colorful cobbles we were about to climb. The rock was gorgeous, and we were eager to test out these cobbles. Mike took the lead while I took out the camera.

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Stairs…

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lots of stairs!

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The stairs eventually turned to trail as we neared the base

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Pitch one up the sea of cobbles

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Trango was representing in Spain!

 

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Mike starting the second pitch. The Monastery is in view nestled in the rocky canyon below.

Sport climbers remembering their rope management at the belay

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Pretty amazing view of the abbey

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Final pitch

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Janelle taking in the summit views.

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Mike next to the summit cross

The climb was very casual, super fun and the views were tremendous. I loved the Catalonian conglomerate cobbles and definitely want to go back! Doing a mutli-pitch climb as a couple is very rare these days, and not something we do with kids in tow (well, not yet anyways).

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Hazy air on the way down made for a cool photo highlighting the pillar we had climbed

We finished before dark and headed straight into Barcelona during rush hour. This was a completely fun and terrifying experience on it’s own. However, with Mike’s defensive, confident driving and maneuvering, we made it to the hotel in one piece. It was time to  head to the Sports Engineering conference in Barcelona, but I don’t want to waste any time getting to the most exciting climbing day of our entire trip! Therefore, we’ll describe Barcelona and the conference in more detail in our next post.  Instead, here’s the exciting conclusion to our Montserrat climbing….

After our first taste of Montserrat, we knew we would need to go back during this trip. The relatively easy one hour drive was perfect for an early morning out on the rock. We left Barcelona before dawn one morning and were rewarded with an incredible sunrise on tall towers above us. Mike had a spring in his step while I hobbled along on my bum ankle. I could tell he was psyched! Today was going to be a great day!!

 

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Gorgeous view in the first morning light

I want you to hear it straight from Mike…this not only was a great day, it was one for the Anderson history books!! Here’s Mike to tell about his incredible experience, and reaching a goal he has had for years and years!

I came to sector Guilleumes at the recommendation of Jonathan Siegrist aka JStar. It wasn’t covered in our guidebook, so we got some sketchy beta at a local shop in Barcelona and hoped we’d be able to find it. On the way to the crag, I had a wave of psych come over me as I watched alpine glow on the cliffs above and just thought about how awesome it was to be here in Spain.

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More morning light making the cliffs glow. Check out that cool thumb rock too…the Caval Bernat. There’s a long multi-pitch climb on that tower we wanted to do, but the hike was too much for Janelle’s hurt ankle. Next time!

When I reached the cliff, I was instantly impressed because it reminded me of my favorite home crag, Smith Rock, but with slightly steeper walls full of pockets and edges. It was extremely inspiring. I did a warm-up (Catximba – “Bong”, 11c) and got on what I thought was another 12a (Diedru – “pipe”). After a little climbing, it was clearly a little more than I bargained for. I realized I was on an 8a (Bolita Moruna), not a 12a (7a+) so I decided I would save it for an onsight. I kept going until the climb got a little too hard then I climbed down.

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La Catximba (“bong”), 6c+ (11c – though the polish made it feel WAY harder 🙂 ). A nice warmup, covered with cool flowstone.

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Higher on Catximba.

After belaying Janelle, I got on the 8a (Bolita Moruna) again, gunning for the on-sight. I felt very smooth and strong, the climbing came naturally to me as I cruised from pocket to pocket. I had trained for this a long time. I reached the crux section, shook out and thought about the moves. I figured out a sequence and went for it. I had to trust some pretty polished feet but I did it and stuck the moves. From there, it was just  managing the pump through some small but positive pockets. A short tufa took me to the chains and I was very psyched to get another 8a onsight!

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At the chains of Bolita Moruna, 8a (13b) after nabbing my second 8a onsight of the trip!

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Mike celebrating his on-sight of a “Grade 8” route at Montserrat.

Now, I had to decide go for another 8a or push myself and try for an 8a+ (one was located just to the right.) Though I have come close a couple times, I have never on-sighted an 8a+ (13c) before, and it has been a goal of mine for years. It was one of my goals for this trip, but there is always the risk that you blow it and wreck the remainder of your climbing day. I took a moment and decided that “I would only live once” and this was my opportunity, so I went for the 8a+. The route looked really cool, following a solitary gray streak from top to bottom with small pockets reminiscent of France. This was what we came to Europe for!

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Rastafari, 8a+ (13c) follows the prominent gray streak up the center of the photo, then up over the roofs to the left.

The route had no draws, and little chalk, so this would be the real deal…no crutches…I didn’t even have a guidebook description (not that Spanish guidebooks have descriptions anyway 🙂 ). What I would have given for a Smith Rock/Alan Watts-esque  play-by-play run-down with accompanying crux-by-crux topo map? In retrospect, this was the perfect situation. No info, and no preconceptions!

The pocket sequence at the start was much harder than I anticipated, and I had to really go for it on some small but positive pockets, making long reaches . I also thought I would be able to get many rests in the opening sections but I was wrong. I had to manage the pump, stay relaxed and pace myself. At the end of the long grey streak, I reached a roof at about  the 2/3 height and was able to shake. To my horror, this is where the real business began! Over the roof I was instantly slapped in the face with hard moves. Long lockoffs to small pockets with bad feet and over-hanging. I had to do a hard mono move with my right hand to reach a good pocket. I stuck it though (yeah hangboard training!), then I got a horizontal crack that I thought would be a great rest, but it turned out to be very slopey. I milked it as best I could for a long time. This climb was taking forever! (maybe an hour to send it?) I was starting to worry I would flame out, but I tried to remain calm and optimistic.

I climbed above the poor ledge and was instantly in panic mode. The holds were too small and I could not see them because there was no chalk. I climbed into a sequence that I was certain I would not be able to do, and thought I would certainly fall . However, I was able to down climb enough to get a good heel/toe cam in the horizontal crack that allowed me to shake enough to recover. I had been here in Spain long enough that I was FINALLY able to recover at rests.  I shook again for probably ANOTHER 10 minutes. I had enough back and had stared at the wall long enough that I had an idea of what to do.  I pulled up on some good pockets with bad feet.  Above me, but a long way away, was a tufa under cling. I reached far, as far as my tired little toes would let me, and I was able to grab it! I was thrilled! I pulled up my feet and locked into the under cling.  I clipped, and was able to shake a little. I moved on, did a couple slopey crimps and slabby moves with decent feet. I was able to reach a sinker pocket…finally something GOOD to hang on to! The angle was rolling back now, so I knew I had it in the bag at this point, but I kept my wits about me. I climbed deliberately to the next bolt where the angle eased significantly. From there it was cruising to the chains. I let out a whoop, clipped the anchors and was totally stoked! My first 8a+ onsight while hanging the draws and with no chalk to boot!

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Whoot! He did it!!! He really did it!

Two climbers from Spain showed up right after Mike topped out. We needed photos of this climb and luckily, they agreed to belay so I could take a few photos.

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Mike “re-enacting” the final moments of his on-sight of “Rastafari” 8a+ (13c). A new milestone for him.

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Another action shot of Mike “re-enacting” his on-sight of “Rastafari” 8a+ (13c).

This day was one for the record books! After Mike’s onsight of the 8a+, he went on to onsight another 8a, “Xilum” making the grand total 3 – 8a’s in one day!!!!!!! Probably his best sport climbing day yet. There was something in that Spanish air of Montserrat…maybe a little magic? It was very magical it was the years of dedication to training, focusing on his weaknesses and setting goals that sealed this deal!

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A local climber, Guilleme, trying “Xilum” 8a (13b). This is the third 8a Mike did that day. Doesn’t this remind you of Moonshine Dihedral at Smith Rock?

 

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Super psyched…what a day!

Coming soon…details of our travels in Barcelona, and the Sports Engineering Conference, complete with VIDEO of Mike’s presentation on hangboard training with the Rock Prodigy Method and RP Training Center. For now, enjoy these teaser photos….

 

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Scooters and motorcycles dominate downtown and seem to be the preferred mode of transportation. Watch out pedestrians!

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Local school

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Downtown soccer field

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Mediterranean Sea with beautiful toasty brown beaches

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Tight streets

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Incredible buildings like the Cathedral of Barcelona

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Mercat La Boqueria

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So, Spanish eggs don’t need refrigeration 😉

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The not so “secret” secret Iberico jamon was EVERYWHERE!

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Cool exotic fruits

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Seafood and sea-critters I didn’t know one could eat

 

 

The World’s Most Technologically Advanced Finger Training System – The Forge

The all-new Rock Prodigy FORGE, by Trango. The world's most advanced finger strength training device.

The all-new Rock Prodigy FORGE, by Trango. The world’s most advanced finger strength training device.

The new Rock Prodigy Forge hangboard will be available from Trango beginning this week, and I’d like to share with our loyal readers just how it came to be. I’m confident The Forge is the most technologically advanced finger strength training device ever created. While it may not appear to be a complex product, it was developed iteratively using the latest engineering technology, and based on the latest finger strength training research.

The all-new Rock Prodigy FORGE, by Trango. The world's most advanced finger strength training device.

Solid model rendering of the Forge.

In 2013, we launched the Rock Prodigy Training Center, and we’ve collected user data on its effectiveness, and compiled customer suggestions for improvement. The Forge is the result of all of that experience and a published, peer reviewed research paper on the Rock Prodigy Training Method and Training Center, and what we have developed is incredible. Of those who have had a chance to product test it…four-out-of-four psycho-hangboard-fiends love it!

Perhaps the biggest innovation is in how the Forge was designed. Like with the RPTC, we wanted to apply the latest Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) tools and techniques to what has traditionally been considered the “art” of hold-shaping, and the Forge is the result of that which yields perfect symmetry in the design and some pretty cool other features. With this computer-aided process, we would only need to design one half of the board, then the other half would be replicated automatically. Besides the obvious manufacturing advantages, the computer-aided processes would allow us to quickly create prototypes to test different grip shapes so that we could iterate on the shape of each grip individually. This iterative process was an enormous improvement, and enabled us to really perfect each grip. For example, we created over 8 different designs and prototypes for the Closed Crimp grip alone!

Our computer-aided iterative design process that allowed for rapid design evolution to make sure we got it right!

Our computer-aided iterative design process that allowed for rapid design evolution to make sure we got it right!

The Forge is intended to be a compliment to the Rock Prodigy Training Center, not a replacement. It is more compact and in most cases it offers more advanced (i.e. “difficult”) grips for those climbers who have experience with hangboard training and would like to progress to more difficult holds, while other holds are simply improved to benefit climbers of all abilities. Many of the holds are replicated from the RPTC, but have less depth in their geometry, making them more difficult. There are also some new holds, and other features to increase the training intensity. These are all described below in more detail.

Psych-Hangboard-Tester, Mike Anderson taking the new Trango Forge through its paces.

Psycho-Hangboard-Tester, Mike Anderson taking the new Trango Forge through its paces.

First, let me introduce some of the key new features of the Forge:

1. New Holds:

The Forge incorporates several new holds, which I’ll detail here.

The re-deigned Micro Crimp, with a thumb fence to prevent DIP joint injury.

The re-deigned Micro Crimp, with a thumb support to prevent DIP joint injury.

– Advanced Micro Crimp with DIP guard technology:

This is similar to the Micro Crimp on the RPTC, but Mark ingeniously came up with a “thumb support” to prevent climbers from wrapping their thumb over their index finger during training. This practice is perfectly acceptable on hard moves, and makes a stronger grip, but doing so repeatedly in training is risky because it places a lot of stress on the Distal Interphalangeal (DIP) joint of the index finger. It also can create skin problems in the cuticle of the index finger. This guard allows you to train the grip in the proper position, without excessively loading up your DIP joint.

The Micro Crimp with DIP guard in action.  It appears that my thumb is wrapping over my index finger (which would put it under a lot of stress), but in fact, my thumb is resting safely on the thumb support.

The Micro Crimp with DIP guard in action. It appears that my thumb is wrapping over my index finger (which would put it under a lot of stress), but in fact, my thumb is resting safely on the thumb support.

The re-designed Micro Crimp with Thumb Support. I've added some cardboard shim material to make this grip more maniacally heinous for my thumb size. Your thumb will probably fit perfectly :)

The re-designed Micro Crimp with Thumb Support.

The “support” was designed with a lot of depth to accommodate climbers of all sizes, but I added some shims to mine to make the grip extra difficult to hang onto. Only super-psycho crimping fiends would want to do this 🙂 Most thumbs will fit perfectly. I also sanded a little bit of the texture off the thumb support to prevent myself from “milking it” too much. That’s one great thing about this board…it can easily be customized. Early testers love this re-designed crimp!

The Forge's new Slopey Crimp grip.

The Forge’s new Slopey Crimp grip.

– Slopey Crimper:

This is something our customers have been clamoring for, and I was happy to be able to incorporate it into the Forge. The new Slopey Crimp was modeled after an eGgrips hold I’ve been training on for years. It uses a slightly open-hand crimp grip with a thumb catch, and is complimentary to the closed crimp grip. This is a grip I find on routes all over the place, so it’s useful to train. This grip took some work to perfect, but you can see in the photos below that, in the end, the new slopey crimp creates the finger joint positions we were designing for:
– I: bent at the DIP
– M: bent at the PIP
– R: bent at the PIP
– P: bent at the DIP

The new Slopey Crimp was modeled after an eGrips hold I've been training on for years. It uses a slightly open-hand crimp grip with a thumb catch.

The new Slopey Crimp was modeled after an eGrips hold I’ve been training on for years (the orange hold in the photo). It uses a slightly open-hand crimp grip with a thumb catch. The center photo is the Forge, the right photo is the eGrips hold.

New 30 degree and 40 degree slopers.

New 30 degree and 40 degree slopers.

– Slopers

You asked for steeper slopers, so here they are! The Forge incorporates two slopers; a totally heinous 40 degree sloper on the top-center of the board, and a more reasonable 30 degree sloper above each pinch. Note that the 30 degree sloper is an add-on caused by the pinch, and the palm will sit on the pinch when training this hold. Boulderers may find some application for this in training for slopey, groveling topouts, but most sloper lovers will stick to the 40 degree sloper.

Re-designed Pinch grip with "honesty bumper".

Re-designed Pinch grip with “honesty bumper”.

– Re-designed Pinch with Honesty Technology

The pinch grip has all-new geometry (detailed next), but we also added a little bump to keep us all “honest” while we train 🙂 This will make it harder to migrate higher on the pinch, or reach the sloper with our fingertips. This was another feature that YOU, the customer asked for, so thanks for the great suggestions!

Large, Flat Edge for pullups, etc.

Large, Flat Edge for pullups, etc.

– Large Flat Edge

This was added in place of the large jugs on the RPTC. It can be used for standard grip training, warming up, or just as a convenient surface to do pullups, etc. The geometry was designed to allow it to be used without interfering with the Slopey Crimp just below it.

2. All-New Hold Geometry

As I said, we intended the Forge to be complimentary to the RPTC, not a replacement. Therefore, every grip on the Forge is distinct from the RPTC. There may be similar grips (i.e., 2-Finger pockets), but the depth is different, generally creating a more difficult grip for more intense training. The changes are summarized in this table:

Summary of the Forge's advanced grip geometry.

Summary of the Forge’s advanced grip geometry. These are the depths of each pocket in inches (why didn’t we use metric?).

For the Variable Depth Edge Rail (VDER), we also reduced the range, or rate of change of depth, which is another suggestion we received from multiple users. Doing so makes the VDER more consistent for each finger because the depth change is less noticeable. But wait, there’s more! We changed the basic sizes of all of the grips, but we also made other modifications to improve ergonomics and/or increase training intensity, which I’ll detail below.

3. Equation-Driven Hold Lip Radius

Typically, climbing holds and many hangboards are shaped by hand, and it’s up to the shaper’s artistry. For hangboard training, little details like the shape of a hold’s lip are absolutely critical because a bad shape can cause major skin irritation, and flappers. Our computer-aided design and manufacturing process gave us more control over the lip designs, and we wanted to take advantage of that. This would allow us to ensure consistent shapes across several different hold types (e.g., the VDER (Variable Depth Edge Rail) and two-finger pockets have the same lip profile). The RPTC features circular lip radii, which were very comfortable, but on smaller holds you have to make those radii pretty small to be functional, and we wanted to push the envelope of comfort and training specificity on the Forge. We knew that a logarithmic shape would be a better lip profile for most grips, so we west to work. The design software I used enabled us to specify the shape of a curve, and apply it anywhere on the design. We developed several different profiles, created prototypes of each, and tested them until we settled on the perfect shape. Our automated process allowed us to apply that shape to all of the pockets, and the VDER. Who knew math was so cool? 🙂

Different hold lip profiles. Note the difference between a simple circular radius and the logarithmic shape.

Different hold lip profiles. Note the difference between a simple circular radius and the logarithmic (exponential) shape.

4. Drafted Pockets

“Draft” is a slightly increased slope on the interior of a concave surface. All of the pockets, including the VDER are drafted at a slight angle, which essentially turns them all into slight slopers. It may seem like this would make the grips harder to hold onto (and it would, if taken to an extreme). However, if the optimal slope is added, it reduces the resulting angle of DIP joint flexion without noticeably increasing the difficulty of the grip. This allows for greater skin contact in the back of the hold (where a flat surface would leave dead space), thus increasing skin comfort and DIP joint safety.

CAD model of the Forge. The draft that was added to all of the pockets is apparent in this screen capture, indicated by the extra line at the bottom of each pocket (and circled in red).

CAD model of the Forge. The draft that was added
to all of the pockets is apparent in this screen
capture, indicated by the extra line at the bottom of
each pocket (and circled in red).

To experiment with the draft, Mark modified his RPTC hangboard setup to allow it to rotate about the base, as shown in this photo (note the hinges at the bottom):

Rotating hangboard fixture to allow us to test Draft. Note the hinges at the bottom.

Rotating hangboard fixture to allow us to test Draft. Note the hinges at the bottom.

We experimented by setting different angles, then hanging from edges and pockets on the board to find the perfect draft angles:

Mark testing out a potential draft angle as Adam Sanders of Trango supervises the operation and records the angle.

Mark testing out a potential draft angle as Adam Sanders of Trango supervises the operation and records the angle.

Those of us who have tested it absolutely love the draft! In some cases we find it makes the holds easier to use, and in all cases they are much more comfortable on the skin.

5. Improved Texture

Sorry, no pictures for this one, but trust me…when you get your hands on the Forge, you’ll love the texture. It’s not as rough as the RPTC, so grips may feel a little more slippery at first. However, this should produce a more consistent training surface across the life of the board, and it absolutely creates a more comfortable grip when using high levels of resistance. It’s also a safer option for preventing skin injuries on the smaller holds of the Forge. And Highly Obsessed Hangboard Fiends (HOHFs) should note that a very rough texture will wear more over time, making it difficult to compare results. Additionally, users have the option to make adjustments to the texture to meet their preferences. Just a little sandpaper can remove or add texture (finer grit to remove, coarser to add). You may want to practice first on an unused surface!

6. Rotatable Board

Ok, so this isn’t really new or unique to the Forge…the RPTC had this capability too, but I think it bears repeating while I’m on a roll here. The great thing about the split hangboard design is that the spacing can be adjusted, but the angle of rotation can be adjusted as well! This should be done to improve ergonomics for certain grip types. For example, I find this particularly helpful on my “Index-Middle” finger, two-finger pocket grip. When you hang from a two-finger pocket with your index and middle finger, your middle finger is longer, and the load on each finger is unbalanced, and often uncomfortable. (The opposite is true for MR grips, which is why the MR two-finger pockets on all Rock Prodigy devices are slightly angled.) By rotating the pockets (rotate the right pocket counter-clockwise, and the left clockwise), the holding surface for the middle finger moves farther from your wrist, and it is possible to create a really comfortable grip. Take a look at the photos:

By rotating the Forge slightly (canted inward), Janelle's fingers line up better with the pocket surface.

By rotating the Forge slightly (canted inward), Janelle’s fingers line up with the pocket surface perfectly.

To create this rotation, I simply place a 3/4″ shim material (wood block) under the outer bracket that holds the Forge (see this post on how to create an adjustable mount, with more adjustable mount designs on their way). The angle of rotation can be adjusted by changing the thickness of the wood shim, or placed under the inner bracket to rotate in the opposite direction (which you might want to do for your “Middle-Ring” two finger pocket).

By rotating the Forge slightly (canted inward), Janelle's fingers line up better with the pocket surface

By rotating the Forge slightly (canted inward), Janelle’s fingers line up better with the pocket surface

Finally, please remember, the Forge is a more advanced hangboard than the RPTC! If you’re transitioning your training over to it, you need to adjust your expectations in terms of what weight you expect to be able to hang on these new grips. The new features of the Forge such as reduced geometry, draft, new texture are all conspiring to increase your training intensity, so expect to need to ratchet back the externally applied intensity (the weight you hang) on each grip.

Now go out there, get a Forge, and hammer your fingers into the best shape of your life!

Order your Forge here!

Thunder Strike – Part II — the exciting conclusion!

Mike Anderson on his new Thunder Ridge route "The Legacy, 5.14a"

Mike Anderson on his new Thunder Ridge route “The Legacy, 5.14a”

In an article a few weeks ago (Thunder Strike – Part I), I unveiled a couple new routes I established last spring at Thunder Ridge, Colorado’s premier granite crag (IMHO). As soon as I made the first redpoint of Game of Drones, I went directly to the next on the list; an unfinished route ominously listed in the guide as “Kevin’s Mega Project“. This was a commanding line taking a fairly direct path up the center of the tallest and most imposing face at Thunder Ridge.

The spectacular Brown Wall at Thunder Ridge.

The spectacular Brown Wall at Thunder Ridge.

This line was envisioned and mostly bolted by Kevin Stricker, a long time Colorado climber and route developer. He had worked on the line from the ground up, putting in 8 bolts, but never completed the project before taking a long hiatus from hard climbing (though he had gotten really close on the lower crux sections). When I arrived on the scene, the route ended with a bolt in the start of the high roof, which looked intimidating.

I led up the route with a selection of draws and cams, and trailed a line so I could haul up any bolting gear I might need. I quickly discovered the crux around the 2nd and 3rd bolts. It would require very intense crimping on micro-edges with terrible feet…my specialty! Taller climbers may be able to leave their feet on the big ledge below while reaching for a better crimp up high, but I would need to rely on my finger strength.

Exploring the crux of the "Mega Project" on my first foray up the route. Note the "Thumb Crimp", which would be crucial beta, and wore a whole in my thumb.

Exploring the crux of the “Mega Project” on my first foray up the route. Note the left hand “Thumb Crimp”, which would be crucial beta, and wore a whole in my thumb.

At the 3rd bolt, it’s possible to swing out left into an “open book” that provides a nice rest, then some 11+ climbing leads up to the slab, and eventually the roof. As I worked the route, I would later decide that the line could go more directly between the 3rd and 6th bolts, making the route more sustained and more aesthetic. On a later trip I re-routed the line, adding a bolt, and removing another, to straighten out the line.

On this first trip, though, I just needed to reach the top of the wall. When the bolts ran out, I fired up my trad skills and went exploring!

Climbing up over the "Mega Project" the first time. The rope drag was heinous!

Climbing up over the “Mega Project” roof for the first time. The rope drag was heinous!

Relieved at reaching the top of the wall. The features are incredible!

Relieved at reaching the top of the wall. The features are incredible!

Though I was able to make it to the top on gear, I didn’t want to establish a route like that, so on my way down, I put in an anchor and added two bolts to protect the roof. Now the fun part – learning the beta and preparing to send. I had just finished my last hangboard workout, so my Power phase was just beginning. I would need a couple weeks to get into my peak fitness, so that gave me time to learn the moves, and most importantly, toughen the skin on my fingers to be able to hold onto the sharp crimpers. It was at this time that we got hammered with snow a few times, so the timing worked out pretty well. On one visit, I burned an entire day waiting for the wall to dry, only to realize it was being fed by a massive cornice/snowpatch on the summit, and my patience was unjustified 🙂

In the interim, we enjoyed some of TR’s other great routes. Every day, I warmed up on Chocolate Thunder, a face climber’s dream route on the right side of the Brown Wall:

Janelle Anderson cruising "Chocolate Thunder (12a)".

Janelle Anderson cruising “Chocolate Thunder (12a)”.

We also were able to make time for the kids to climb on nearly every trip. Thunder Ridge is an awesome family crag because there is so much variety in grades and styles, and it’s easy to rig top ropes. The bouldering is also incredible:

Axel working his "proj", a super-fun 5.5 slab.

Axel working his “proj”, a super-fun 5.5 slab.

Axel bouldering with some USAFA cadets below the Brown Wall.

Axel bouldering with some USAFA cadets below the Brown Wall.

My first full day working on the route wasn’t until about a week after I finished bolting it. For my entire first burn I was still unable to do the crux move…getting to that good crimper at the 2nd bolt. I could envision the move, and touch the hold, but couldn’t stick it yet. I was frustrated because the holds were really tearing up my skin, but I took solace in the fact that it was still very early in my power phase. On my second burn, I still couldn’t stick it, so I continued to the top of the wall to work the rest of the route. On my way down, I decided to try that crux move one last time, and to my immense surprise, I stuck it for the first time! Now I knew for sure the route would go…assuming the weather and my skin would hold together. I had figured out a subtle hip twist that gave me just a bit more extension to reach the crux hold with my right hand. It was just what I needed to end the day on a high note and keep me psyched to train through my Power phase!

The wall faces West and slightly South, so it stays shady until about 11:00, but my best burns were early in the morning. I didn’t often get more than two burns per day, which was fine because my fingertips couldn’t handle much more. I wouldn’t get back on the route for another 2 weeks due to other travel (wedding and work). Fortunately, this gave me time to bring my power up, but it put me under pressure to send before the hot weather arrived.

I made it back out to Thunder the first week of May, well-trained and with bomber skin. My first go on the route was already an improvement…I was able to do the crux move on my first try. This is also when I re-engineered the line to make it more direct. I got 3 really good burns that day, and was able to link through the crux on my last burn (I fell on the new direct sequence, which turned out to add significantly to the pump factor). I don’t usually climb 2 days in a row, but I had to in this case, to capitalize on the weekend and good weather. My previous burns had been pretty short due to the sun/shade situation, so I wasn’t as worked as I would normally be. We went out again on Sunday, and this time a few of the Cadets from the USAFA Climbing Team joined us. It was their first time at Thunder, and it’s always an awesome experience to share a cool crag with someone for the first time. It helps reinvigorate your psyche, and it also helped entertain the kids 🙂

I warmed up by climbing the upper part of the project, which allowed me to rehearse the new direct sequence again, then gave it a burn. Being second-day on, I knew this was my best chance. I set up for the crux perfectly, then did that critical hip twist and really exaggerated it to make sure I was doing it right. I stuck the crux hold, then motored-on through the next crimpers, pasting my feet on mere shadows. The sequence ends with a wild dyno straight left to a good hold, but with your feet cutting off and swinging wildly. I managed to stick this, then tried to relax for the remaining sequence up to the slab. This involved the re-engineered portion of the route, which has 5.12 climbing on rounded edges. It’s nowhere near as hard as the crux, but it’s hard enough, and with worn out skin, those edges are hard to hold onto. I focused on precise footwork, and my feet pushed me through to the slab.

Halfway through the crux sequence on The Legacy. The crux ends with a wild dyno left to a good hold below the hanging draw.

Halfway through the crux sequence on The Legacy. The crux ends with a wild dyno left to a good hold below the hanging draw.

I was able to rest really well on the slab, and rely on my decades of slab climbing to get through some pretty non-trivial moves. The roof, though large and intimidating, is actually relatively easy, but makes for some nice photos. These were shot by Chris Alstrin with a quad-rotor “drone”:

Pulling the first roof on The Legacy - Chris Alstrin photo.

Pulling the first roof on The Legacy – Chris Alstrin photo.

Pulling the second part of the big roof. The chicken heads are AWESOME!

Pulling the second part of the big roof. The chicken heads are AWESOME!

I monkeyed through the roof, and the “Mega Project” was a project no more. The Legacy was a hard struggle for me, and I decided to rate it 5.14a, which makes it one of the hardest routes in the South Platte. It is a truly outstanding face climb, but it’s much more than that, with killer climbing of all varieties. As I mentioned, pro filmmaker Chris Alstrin came out to document the climb, and we have some incredible aerial gigs of Thunder Ridge and The Legacy that we will premier as part of a larger film. For now, check out the last part of Chris’ highlight reel to get a teaser of what is in store (00:24 and 00:48).

In the following weeks, I made several more trips out to Thunder to climb some of the classic routes, and make sure that I had a good feel for the grades. I made a point to try the hardest routes in order to establish some credibility for the ratings I was proposing. I was able to make on-sights of Thunderstruck, 13a, The Penetrators, 12c, and The Shadow, 12b at the Brown Wall, Starlight, 12d in Wasp Canyon, and The Rodeo, 12d at the Quarry Wall. These routes were tough, and great lines, and the difficulty of the climbing was consistent with what I would expect for granite face climbing, so I feel confident in the grades I’ve assigned to my new routes.

Getting to explore Thunder Ridge this spring and summer has been a real treat…one of the highlights of my climbing career. Thank you so much to all the pioneers that developed routes there before me, and especially to Kevin Stricker for envisioning what would become The Legacy, and graciously offering it to the community. I have plenty more to explore in that area, and look forward to many crisp days on the Thunder’s perfect granite.

Thunder Strike – Part 1

Upping the ante at Thunder Ridge - Mike Anderson established "The Spark, 5.13c" at Thunder Ridge in April.

Upping the ante at Thunder Ridge – Mike Anderson established “The Spark, 5.13c” at Thunder Ridge in April.

Thunder Ridge is a beautiful, but tiny climbing area just West of my home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is somewhat of a backwater crag these days, frequented by locals who know how good it is, but ignored by most. The rock is impeccable granite – possibly the best quality granite in the entire Rocky Mountains (if not North America?) with extremely fine, tight crystals that make for pleasant and bomber climbing, and its walls are covered with gorgeous brown patina that forms wonderful handholds. Unfortunately, this magnificent rock is concentrated in a very small location in the South Platte region of Colorado. By some geological quirk, Thunder Ridge has this impeccable stone, while most of the South Platte region ranges from fair to horrible granite.

Thunder Ridge - before the fire.

I am one of the lucky ones, living only an hour’s drive from the trailhead. Thunder Ridge was discovered in the late 80s, and most of the routes were developed by the mid-nineties under a shroud of secrecy. It wasn’t in any guidebook, and they wanted it that way. Those who knew about it were sworn to secrecy, amidst fears that the sport climbing masses from would descend upon it with their rap bolting tactics and destroy the “traditional” character of the climbing. (The South Platte region of Colorado had long been considered a “traditional” area, with no rap-bolting allowed. Many people felt, and still feel, that it should always be that way.)

The major developers climbed what they could in that time span, and eventually stopped putting in new routes. When all was said and done, hundreds of brilliant routes were established throughout its maze of canyons and walls. The most difficult climbs topped out in the 12+ and 13- range owing to the geology of the rock, such as the cliff angles and hold sizes.

I was extremely lucky to first visit Thunder Ridge in 1998, when I was a cadet at the Air Force Academy. A friend of the “officer in charge” of our climbing club, who was an F-15 fighter pilot living in town happened to be neighbors with Kevin McLaughlin – the driving force behind TR climbing. He knew where the crag was and offered to show it to us. I enjoyed the climbing a lot that day, but I was really too inexperienced to really appreciate what a gem it was as a crag. I never went back until just this past spring.

Climbing in Thunder Ridge's Wasp Canyon in 1998, when I was a USAF Academy Cadet.

Climbing in Thunder Ridge’s Wasp Canyon in 1998, when I was a USAF Academy Cadet.

Last summer Jason Haas published a new guidebook to the area, and he got me fired up to take down some long-standing projects in the South Platte, among them a few lines at Thunder Ridge. We ventured out in April to have a look, and were immediately blown away by the potential for high quality, hard routes. I dusted off my drill and a bunch of stainless steel bolts, and got to work at The Brown Wall – Thunder’s biggest and most dramatic wall. Normally, I would try to climb through the grades at a new area, getting to know the climbing style, and getting a feel for the grading, but I was so psyched on the potential first ascents, that I did very little of that.

The spectacular Brown Wall at Thunder Ridge.

The spectacular Brown Wall at Thunder Ridge.

The first order of business was a line that had reportedly been tried on toprope and Jason had recommended to me. It was a perfect, vertical swath of granite painted with dark brown patina. If this could be free climbed, it would be absolutely brilliant! I decided I would go along with the tradition of the area and establish these routes in the ground-up style. It was something I hadn’t done in awhile, and I thought it would be fun. So, I piled on the gear and I launched up the wall. First bolt…the threads got stripped while it was pounded into the hole because the rock is so hard (and good). I couldn’t tighten the bolt, and I was going up on lead, so I couldn’t do much about it. I clipped the manky bolt and continued. As I went, I could tell the climbing was going to be awesome, and HARD – my dream come true!

My first project would explore the brown indentation just right of the green rope.

My first project would explore the brown indentation just right of the green rope.

I got three more bolts in, covering most of the crux when my old Hilti battery died…shucks! I still had about 40 feet to go before I could get good gear, and I wanted to do this route now, not wait for another trip! It looked like I could get a marginal piece of gear another ten feet up, so I decided to punch it on some easier climbing. I sketched through this and made it to a point where the face rolled over to a heavily featured slab, covered with crazy “chicken-head” holds. I was able to place plenty of gear, and I cruised to the chains. I lowered down, brushed some holds and rehearsed the crux. At the crux, you have a couple nice handholds formed by a 2″ wide ledge, then a long patch of featureless rock. Higher, there is a rounded seam feature, so I thought I might be able to lock off from the ledge and reach very high to a Gaston in the seam. If I latched it, I would be very stretched out and tenuous, so I needed to work out the foot moves to unwind from this. I discovered a possible sequence and lowered down to go for the free ascent.

On redpoint, the moves turned out to be more challenging than I had first envisioned, and the long reach, that had seemed fairly straightforward on the hang, turned out to be quite hard. My first try, I fell, then rehearsed the sequence again. It was getting late, but I decided to give the route a second redpoint attempt. I fell again! I rehearsed the move yet again, and lowered down again. The third try was the charm, and I was able to get through the crux sequence. I had only managed to get four bolts in, so I had to climb the upper part again with no protection, but I knew the moves fairly well by now. The extra fatigue added some spice, but I made it through, for the first ascent of The Spark. At 5.13c, it was now the hardest route at Thunder Ridge. The name is an allusion to what I hope will be the start of a long love affair with Thunder Ridge climbing.

Psyching up for the crux at the mini-ledge.

Psyching up for the crux at the mini-ledge.

Bearing down on the tiny crimps in the crux of The Spark.

Bearing down on the tiny crimps in the crux of The Spark.

Continuing the taxing, technical climbing exiting the crux sequence.

Continuing the taxing, technical climbing exiting the crux sequence.

5.11-ish face climbing after the crux. This bolt and the next one were not present during the FA, but I was able to get a weird cam placement in the horizontal crack feature above the next bolt.

5.11-ish face climbing after the crux. This bolt and the next one were not present during the FA, but I was able to get a weird cam placement in the horizontal crack feature above the next bolt.

Some funky slab moves.

Some funky slab moves.

Finished with the hard climbing, and ready to enjoy the cruiser chicken heads that lead to the chains.

Finished with the hard climbing, and ready to enjoy the cruiser chicken heads that lead to the chains.

While working on The Spark, I realized there could be two routes here. The section of stone to the left appeared much easier…maybe a nice 12- route, but further inspection revealed the potential for something much harder. This would be the next order of business. I borrowed a friends brand new Bosch, so this route went in much easier…no hijinx were required to get the bolts in. I enjoyed the lead bolting because it made the puzzle a bit more complicated, even if it sometimes leaves the bolts in weird spots.

The route, which I’m calling “Game of Drones” (for reasons that will soon be revealed) turned out really nice. It’s not as cruxy as The Spark, making for a nice sustained face climbing with hard, but not stopper moves that build a nice pump:

Psyching up to try for the first free ascent of Game of Drones.

Psyching up to try for the first free ascent of Game of Drones.

Check out the sculpted incut holds!

Check out the sculpted incut holds!

Getting into the cruxier moves, with long reaches between less-positive holds.

Getting into the cruxier moves, with long reaches between less-positive holds.

A crazy-long undercling move to a good edge.

A crazy-long undercling move to a good edge.

Nearing the big flake that leads to the neighboring "Schmausser Traverse" route...the FA is in the bag now!

Nearing the big flake that leads to the neighboring “Schmausser Traverse” route…the FA is in the bag now!

After these two successes, I was psyched, and a little obsessed with the power of Thunder Ridge. Jason had turned me on to another potential route, also on the Brown Wall. It was listed in the guide as “Kevin’s Mega Project”, and reported to be quite hard. This would be next on the agenda. Was I up to the task? Stay tuned to find out….

Alias

Mike Anderson

Hometown

Colorado Springs, CO

Motivation to Climb

I believe the essence of climbing is exploration, and this is what motivates my climbing. I have an unquenchable curiosity about what is around the next corner, or over the next rise. I’m always on the hunt for first ascents, hopelessly optimistic that I’ll emerge from the scrub oak at the base of the perfect splitter finger crack, or gently overhanging streak of two-finger pockets. I’m also searching for my own potential – a fascinating expedition through sports science – that drives me to forge my body into the best climber I can be.

Most Memorable Climb

Starting out climbing in the ‘90s my brother, Mark, and I dreamed of one day free climbing Yosemite’s biggest wall – El Cap. But there’s a difference between a dream and goal – a goal is something you think is possible! We toiled through the grades, and by the early 2000’s we naïvely believed we could do it. We made a multi-year plan to build to an attempt on Freerider (5.12d, VI). Meanwhile I tore through Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon, climbing every 5.12 I could find to hone my granite skills. Finally in Yosemite in 2004, we stoically worked up the climb. When I flashed the crux 23rd pitch, I realized that I hadn’t yet fallen or weighted the rope on the climb, and that I had a chance to flash the whole route – a feat that had never been done (and still hasn’t been matched). At the base of the next crux pitch, the Great Dihedral – nearly 3,000 feet up – I was suddenly very nervous, knowing what was at stake. It was a perfectly smooth corner, with a flared and bottoming crack in the back – my specialty! I recalled all my practice and training, I believed in my footwork and stemmed my way up the corner, thinking only of the climbing and the brilliant position. Before I knew it, I was looking at the belay. I finished off the last few pitches, and the first flash of El Cap!

Favorite Climbing Spot

I started climbing as a good excuse to indulge in the splendor of the mountains, so my favorite places to climb are those with stunning scenery and dramatic climbs. For my money, the most spectacular climbing venues are Smith Rock, OR and Zion, UT. Smith takes the cake for dramatic lines and inspiring scenery, while Zion is a labyrinth of mysteries with lifetimes of rock to be discovered. I’m convinced that perfect, 1000-foot-long finger crack is still waiting for me, safely tucked away in a remote canyon of Zion’s backcountry.

Bio

Mike Anderson has been climbing since the early ‘90s, and has enjoyed all aspects of the sport from bouldering to high altitude mountaineering. He has climbed extensively throughout the US, and is strongly attracted to the aesthetics of climbing – the quality of movement, and the climb’s setting. In the rock climbing realm, Mike has climbed 5.14s in several states, and regularly onsights 5.13. Mike particularly enjoys free-climbing long multi-pitch routes which he views as the ultimate crucible for testing his skills. Mike has established many long free routes up to grade VI in Zion, Yosemite, and the Wind Rivers. His most notable first free ascents include The Thunderbird Wall (5.13a, VI), Touchstone Wall (5.13b, IV), and Spaceshot (5.13a, IV) in Zion National Park, and Arcturus (5.13b, VI) on Yosemeite’s Half Dome. Mike is also a writer and photographer, recently publishing The Rock Climber’s Training Manual. Mike is married to Janelle Anderson, and has two sons Lucas and Axel.

[full bio]

Visual/Written/Motion

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