All posts by Trango

Stung in the FACE!!!

Its been a while since I’ve been stung.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, when I was a little kid, I’d find ground bee nests and fill them up with dirt for as long as I could until I got stung so many times, that I had to stop.  I think, even at that age, I enjoyed getting stung.  I mean.  Yeah.  It hurts, but its a good kind of hurt right?  Totally kidding there.

So I was rappeling off a route to clean some gear (it had started to rain) and I had already tried my rope to a tree a bit away (I tied Raina off too – there was a mean dog.)  Well, I was going to directionalize around this tree until I got nailed.  Once on the chin and once on the leg.  I was really lucky too.  I looked back (I dropped everything and ran) and there was a WHOLE SWARM of them.  As I was surveying the situation from 30 feet away (My rope was partially wrapped around the tree and my rope bag was laying there loose) another one flew straight at me like a bullet and nailed me above my left eye!!! OUCH!!!

Anyways, I managed to directionalize off another tree, the swing over to the anchor of the route to get the gear…so no biggie there, and my buddy Neal used my stick clip full extended to retrieve my rope bag.  No harm done.  So today’s lesson?  Be careful near the edge of the cliff when there are yellow jackets around!!!

sEndless Wall…

I only got out one day this weekend and it was yesterday (Sunday) at Endless Wall for me.  I met my buddy Neal and his GF Andrea and we started at Fern Point.  Its funny – how, when starting at Fern Point, you tend not to leave it…Well, that was the case for us.  I had a long-standing project – “New Age Equippers” which has historically and is presently rated 5.11c, though I’d like to point out that in Brian McCray’s guidebook that was out a dozen years ago, he gave it the upgrade to 5.12a.  Mind you, this was around the time that he sent “Proper Soul.”

What a freaking Sandbag!  I rappelled off the top and brushed all the holds.  This is required for these low-traffic endless wall routes.  I hung the draws and worked out all the sequences.  Its funny, to use siege tactics like this on 5.11, but I wasn’t taking any chances on this one!  The last time I was on the route was maybe ?5 years ago; I totally got my butt kicked on the route and decided that I would never get on it again.  Well…I think that’s what I said 2 years prior to that attempt as well.  Well, Sunday I sent it, but by the skin of my teeth.  I swear, that thing is 5.12a all day long..and maybe harder!

Now that I have it ticked in my book, I think that I really am not ever going to climb it again…

I was looking through the new book and was suprised to find the low star rating for some of my favorite endless wall slab routes include “Is It Safe?”,  and the Exquetion which are both 3 or 4 start routes in my opinion.  Oh well….

I managed to get stung in the face!! I was cleaning “Dangerous Liaisons” fo Neal; I was at the top of the cliff getting ready to Rappel off (It was raining) when I got nailed!!!  A whole nest of yellow jackets lit me up.  I was lucky – only two stings to the face and one to the leg.  Thankfully I wasn’t tied in yet or anything so I just ran for it.  So I would strongly suggest that no one try to rap off the top of that route this season!

I did my long-term project!

Last summer, I decided to project my anti-route: Lactic Acid Bath.  I’ve definitely climbed a bunch of routes at the grade, infact, I’ve even flashed a route at the grade, but for me, Lactic was hands down, the hardest route (for me) that I’ve ever done.  As the name implies, Lactic Acid Bath is a pump-a-thon, though it is by-no-means, pure enduro, but rather, 70? feet of power enduro.

My major weakness for some reason has always been underclings.  I’m not really all that tall (5’8″), but I do have just shy of a 6′ wing span, so face climbing has always been a strength of mine.  No roofs…not so much.

Lactic Acid Bath, New River Gorge, Kaymoor.

The crux of Lactic Acid Bath is a 7-move undercling section with high (jacked) feet.  Because of the bolt placement, you can’t really work the moves unless you stick clip; if you fall on any of the moves, you’re hanging and space and have to either lower or boink and since you’re gonna be pumped silly, you’re only feasible option is dirt…

Anyways.  Last summer, my buddy Matt and I did “hole” sessions where I put 5 or 6 burns in on lactic at least once a week after work.  I essentially had to high point every under cling hold and basically did that high-point only once in each of those sessions.  My first few times, I couldn’t even to get to the undercling section, the start-in-of-itself being maybe 11+ or 12-.  I distinctly remembering sticking the first undercling and trying-but-failing to match it as a high-point on several sessions.  Through the summer I managed to progress through it, sometimes, doing the entire sequence off the hang, though only once actually making it through the underclings on point, only to fail at the second crux.

I blew my finger out this Winter as you may have read about earlier, so I did P90x which was actually quite awesome for my climbing.  Once thing that I majorly trained was “curls” as I worked especially hard at these during the p90x workouts.  It paid off too.  My first session this season on Lactic, I managed to high point through the undercling section!!! I was so excited, and nervous, that I totally fubbed the upper section (still 12- or 12 off the hang.)

Devil Doll, New River Gorge, Kaymoor.

Last week, however, on an after-work session, I got through the underclings to the knee-bar rest before the last crux.  I wasn’t even pumped, which surprised me.  I figured, what the heck and just fired it!!! I was so excited.  And funny enough, I was being videoed for both my warm-up and send!!! A friend of mine is doing a video series (not specifically climbing) about photographers and we decided to that Lactic would be an easy rig.  I’ll post the video once its up, though I have a feeling it’ll be a while since video is such a pain!!

My next project is Devil Doll.  After working out Lactic (they share the 12- start), it feels laughably easy. Last Thursday, I managed to RP all the way to the anchor clipping jug, falling going for it which was my third try on it!!  If weather permits, I’m hoping to do it this Thursday!!

Kelly Cordes: Head-Bashing 101

Kelly's Bloody Face

Kelly Cordes after his fall.

We all love Kelly Cordes. After all, he’s one of the few climbers out there who can keep up with me in the coveted “Tough To Kill” category. He’s also about as badass as you can get in the highly competitive “Alpine Badass” category. We all got a wake-up call when he and Josh Wharton dropped their rack on the third pitch of a 7,400′ route they were attempting on Great Trango Tower and decided to keep going! Brief story here, and a great write up you can download from the American Alpine Journal, here.

In the meantime, Kelly was climbing a sport route a few days ago, fell, flipped over and whacked his head a good one. Check out the pics below (NSFW). I heard about it when he emailed me with the attached photos and asked if I could hook him up with one of our helmets. I couldn’t resist, so Kelly now sports a shiny new Skull Cap.

Here’s his email:


hey mal, how are ya? hope all’s great there.

leave it to me to make the safest climbing possible — overhanging
sport climbing — as dangerous as possible. was at wizard’s gate
yesterday, feeling good, just onsighted a super steep 12a without
getting pumped (that stuff normally pumps me out), and then jumped on
a 13a — knowing we’d tag-team it, flail up it, work on it. anyway, at
the steepest part i pitched off, and my body was fairly horizontal but
i think my foot stayed on the hold just a little longer, thus
launching me into a back flip, and somehow along the way the rope spun
me and i swung back into the wall head-first. smashed my head and
face, blood dripping into space, gnarly. fortunately my neck is fine
and i didn’t fracture my skull. really, i felt fine. lowered, put a
sweatshirt on my head, and walked out, freaking people out on the
trail, and thought about just going to the bar — fuck it. went to the
ER first, good thing — 13 staples in my head and 14 stitches in my
face and mouth. just what i need — i just got uglier.

has me reconsidering wearing a helmet even on good rock on steep sport
climbs. granted, it’s super random and rare for this to happen, but a
super light helmet might be worth my wearing. it probably wouldn’t
have saved my face, but…

anyway, blake says he loves the Skull Cap, and it looks as light and
low-profile as they come. wondering if i might be able to score a pro
deal on one? probably color blue — anything but black, i guess (too
hot). seems i have a lot of gray/silver things already, too. but
whatever. if it might work out, color would be the least of my
worries. lemme know if ya get a chance.


Kelly, post up some pics when you get them and, uh, climb safe.


This is what 13 head-staples look like.

On the way to the bar... via the ER

CB BLAK: A Mnemonic to Save Your Ass

About 20 years ago my partner and I were inspecting the route “Sequential” in the Kloof Alcove in Eldo. I rapped off first and, just when I had gone into free-hanging mode about 5′ below the edge of the roof, one end of the rappel ropes ran through my brake hand.There I was hanging free in space, 40′ off the deck with most of the rope on the ground but only 5″ of tail of one of the strands in my hand. Holy SH*T! My partner, who unlike me, still had his sh*t together, grabbed both ropes up at the anchor and squeezed like hell to keep them from sliding around and I was able to quickly rapped down on the single line.
So here’s what I do now, EVERY TIME I go on the rope, either to climb or to rappel. I repeat a mnemonic (like SEReNE but actually useful. See my post here.) I made up: CB BLAK. I say it every time. It’s my mantra and I repeat it to myself before I climb up, lower off, rappel or anytime I make any transition move. CB BLAK. Every time.
Stands for Check Buckles, Belay, Landing, Anchors, Knots
Duh. Make sure they are buckled correctly and that your harness is snug.
Confirm that I’m on belay. I do this, not just when I’m about to lead or TR a pitch, but also when I’m about to take and lower at the top of a sport or gym route. Eye contact with your belayer is good.
Good one for starting a rappel. Can you see BOTH ENDS of the rope ON THE GROUND? If not, tie knots.
Check all that are appropriate. Keeps me attentive at the top of a sport route and makes me check one last time before I start to rap. If you’re starting to lead a route high up on a multi-pitch route, is the belay secure for an upward pull? Based on what I see at the crags, I’d say usually not.
Check all of them all the time.
Climb safe,

Why I Hate Cordalettes

Malcolm Daly, Trango founder, trying to figure out why he would ever use a cordalette.

Last summer when I was belaying my partner on the Bastille,  another climber came in from the side a began to set up a belay about 15′ away. I was at the big ramp on the top of the long first pitch of the Bastille Crack and he came in from Wide Country/XM and was headed up and right to finish with Outer Space. The belay there is a splitter crack in great rock with plenty of cam and nut placements available. He quickly sank in two cams and a nut, whipped out his cordalette and, in 60 seconds, knotted up a perfect SERENE Anchor, clipped in and yelled “off belay”!

Not too bad, I though, he didn’t even waste much time. But things went down from there. His partner arrived, they re-racked the gear and then led off right to the hanging dihedral that is the first pitch of Outer Space. The problem instantly became obvious. Like EVERY cordalette anchor I’ve ever witnessed, this one was perfectly oriented to equalize the load of the hanging (or standing and leaning back) belayer. As soon as the leader put in her first piece it was clear to me that if she fell, the anchor would get loaded, not in the 6 o’clock direction in which it was oriented to equalize, but at 2 o’clock. Sure enough, when she boomed off at the top of the pitch, the belayer was first yanked to the right (2 o’clock) then, when the directional nut (where the leader changed from traversing to climbing up) blew, yanked further up and right. The lowest piece in the cordalette troika popped out and, fortunately, the other two held and that was where the epic ended. I asked the dude if he was okay and he responded with, “Yeah, I sure am glad I had a SERENE anchor set up.”

So, not only was this dude clueless as to what had happened, he was glad that he had done the wrong thing.

My bottom line is that I think climbers are over-thinking anchor
systems with all this talk. Blown belay anchors are extremely rare yet
we lose sleep over them like they were killing people right and left.
They’re not. Maiming and death come from bad belaying, not wearing
helmets, having running protection pull out, rappelling accidents and
getting lost or benighted. I’m aware of 3 anchor failures in the US in the last 30
years: one was from clipping into an
American triangle that had decomposed webbing. The other 2 were both
from the total failure of perfectly set up SERENE anchors that weren’t

Again, I urge you consider where you are spending your energy. The
single most important skill you need to have in your tool box is to be
able place and recognize bomber protection, whether on lead or while
setting up an anchor. If you get to the end of a pitch and you don’t
have the right size piece, or if the rock is all choss, your first
instinct must be to move to a more suitable location. Only if that is
completely out of the question should you worry about equalization or
load distribution.  Choss is choss and a SERENE anchor will only go so

The Best Way to Rig the Lower/Rappel off of a Sport Route

Here’s a cool method for topping out on a sport route that eliminates the need for daisies or chicken slings. Better still, the climber re-threading the anchors will always be secured through at least 2 points.

The leader climbs normally until they reach the anchors.

The leader then clips each anchor with a 24″ runner rather than a draw. Check that you’re still on belay and that your belayer is paying attention and lower.

When the second gets to the last draw before the anchors, she unclips the draw and clips it to the other strand of rope.

At the anchors she unclips one of the runners from the rope and clips it directly to her belay loop. Then the other.

Now, still on belay through the last bolt, plus being clipped in directly to the two anchors, she unties and re-threads the lead rope, or even better, pulls up 6′ of slack, pushes a bight of rope through the anchors, ties a F8 on a bight and clips in with a locker or two.

Now the leader “takes” to check the system then unclips and cleans the runners to lower off.

During this transition the leader is never off belay and is always clipped into at least two pieces.

The two runners at the top are nice because if gives the climber room to make the transition without having to have extra gear.

This system works well regardless of whether the climber lowers or raps.

Climb safe,





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