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Category Archives: Rock Prodigy Training Center

Review of the Latest Climbing Research

By Mark Anderson

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Our friends at Trango generously footed the bill to send Mike and I to the International Rock Climbing Research Association’s (IRCRA) annual conference, held in Telluride, CO earlier this month. Ben and Jason at Fixed Pin Publishing also stepped up big-time to provide attendees with complimentary copies of The Rock Climber’s Training Manual. The conference was a who’s who of climbing researchers, medical experts and performance gurus, providing a great opportunity for us to spread the word about our system of training and line of Trango training products. We had the opportunity to meet and compare notes with the likes of hangboard queen Eva Lopez-Rivera, Volker Schöffl (climber-surgeon and author of the landmark book “One Move Too Many”), mental master Arno Ilgner (author of The Rock Warrior’s Way), Ben Spannuth (badass sport climber and creator of the Bam Board), Eric Horst (author of the Training For Climbing series of books), as well as prolific climbing researches Phil Watts, Nick Draper and Vanesa Espańa-Romero.

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Mark discussing the evolution of hangboard technology that preceded the Rock Prodigy Training Center.

 

Our primary purpose in attending was to present our two papers: “Evaluating the Rock Prodigy Training Method” and “Finger Strength Improvements with the Rock Prodigy Training Center Hangboard.” We gave a 30-minute presentation covering both topics. It was a bit intimidating presenting pseudo-scientific material to a conference room full of PHD physiologists and researchers, but we were very well-received and generated a great discussion about the evolution of hangboards and the importance of ergonomics in training tools. A number of attendees came up after our presentation to compliment us on the Forge and RPTC designs (and ask where they can buy one in Europe!)

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The highlight for me was a long—albeit broken—conversation with Eva Lopez. We compared notes on hangboard training methods, hangboard design (Eva designed the innovative and popular “Progression” and “Transgression” hangboards), and laughed together about the many internet debates over whose hangboard routines are superior. [We heartily agreed that the climber’s strengths, weaknesses, and goals are surely the most important factor in selecting the optimal routine.]

The world’s foremost hangboard experts (in no particular order)? From left to right: Mark Anderson, Eva Lopez, Mike Anderson

I also learned (from the truly impressive Volker Schöffl and team) that there are a lot of climbing injuries I’d never even heard of. One key takeaway is that, if I ever have a serious climbing injury, I’m going to Germany to get it diagnosed and treated. Dr. Schöffl is on a whole different level when it comes to understanding and treating climbing injuries. He’s done extensive studies comparing the various treatment options (that he likely pioneered) on injuries that your local hand surgeon has probably never even heard of (let alone treated).

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Mike going through the survey results

 

Our secondary objective was to learn about the latest advancements in climbing training and injury treatment knowledge. There were some 35 papers submitted from a truly international cast of experts (including contributors from Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, France, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, and perhaps the most remote relative to rock climbing: Michigan). Below is a BRIEF summary of the findings I found most interesting/relevant to performance-oriented climbers. I’ve tried to provide links where possible so you can dig into the details if you’d like more info. [At some point all of these papers should be posted to the IRCRA web site, but they did not seem to be posted as of the date this post was published]

    • Dr. Vanesa Espana-Romero of Universidad de Cadiz, Spain presented a review of the literature to update our understanding of the physiological components of rock climbing.  According to her summary of the research, the top 3 key attributes are finger strength (relative to body weight), finger intermittent endurance and upper body power. There is little or no correlation between systemic aerobic fitness (measures such as heart rate, VO2 Max, etc), however, climbers tend to have better local aerobic endurance (within the forearm muscles). Also, flexibility isn’t correlated to climbing performance…I still plan to stretch though.

 

    • Shaking of the hand “near the body” while resting increases re-oxygenation [thus improving recovery?] ~32% compared to simply relaxing your grip over a hold (and NOT shaking the hand). Presumably because placing the forearm under the level of the heart increases vasodilative responses, thus increasing blood flow. [Reference]

 

    • Time to failure when performing repeated crimp grip contractions (10s on, 3s off) at 40% of 1 Rep Max (1RM) was significantly increased in “cold” conditions (50 degF, vs. control of 75 degF). The temperature difference did not significantly affect 1RM. I recommend taking a copy of this study to your local climbing gym in hopes of convincing the management to turn down the thermostat. [Ref. “The effect of cold ambient temperatures on climbing-specific finger flexor performance” by KC Phillips, B Noh, M Gage, T Yoon]

 

    • Dehydrated climbers did not perform as well on a Treadwall test. [Ref: “Effect of hypohydration on climbing to failure on a treadwall” by KD Hewitt, T France, G Gonzalez, M Probst, et al]

 

 

    • If you want to improve your 1 Rep Max for a 5 second dead hang, training for 8 weeks with 3-5 sets of 1, 10-second rep (with 3 minutes rest between sets) is superior to training for 8 weeks with 3-5 sets of 4-5, 10-second reps (with 1 minute rest between sets). [Ref. “Comparison of the effects of three hangboard training programs on maximal finger strength in rock climbers” by E Lopez-Rivera & JJ Gonzalez-Badillo]

 

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Eva Lopez presenting her paper comparing three 8-week hangboard protocols.

 

    • The use of chalk significantly increases hang time to failure on a hangboard (compared to NOT using chalk). [Reference]

 

    • Intermediate-level climbers make more technical mistakes when leading routes than when toproping. [Ref. “Anxiety level and ability to climb routes in recreational indoor climbing” by P Czermak]

 

    • “High” climbing level and/or intensive finger training (such as campusing) correlates with risk for early onset osteoarthritis in the hands of young climbers. [Ref. “Long term Radiographic Adaptations to the Stress of High-Level and recreational Rock Climbing in Young Athletes” by P Hoffman, S Hinterwimmer, AB Imhoff, T Kupper, and V Schöffl]

 

    • Forearm compression sleeves might beneficially affect lactate removal after climbing. [Reference]

 

    • A couple different presenters showed research that supports the theory that “near term” finger strength improvements may be mostly due to neurological adaptations, rather than hypertrophy. However, nobody directly studied this.

 

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Mike and I discussing training philosophy with Eric Horst at the end of our presentation.

Thanks again to Trango for sponsoring our trip, and thanks to all of you who participated in the Rock Prodigy survey! If you have any questions about any of the research presented, or would like to discuss any of the finer points, please post up in the Rock Prodigy Forum.

Coming back to Training

I basically took this spring off.  Not from climbing.  But from training.  I was doing what most people consider training: Climbing and projecting boulder problems at the gym during the week and climbing outside and trying to send routes on the nice weekends.  I basically “let myself go back to my base ability.”  Of course, that’s not true..but it felt like it.  We are a product of our past training.  It turns out my “not-training” base is climbing 12d second or third go and onsiting 12a and b.  So pretty hard to complain right?  Now that I’m successfully married and honeymooned, its time to get serious with my training.  I think sometimes taking a break is really good – like I am so excited to train right now, I’m bursting with it!
Ryan Smith on Blood Raid 5.13a, New River Gorge.
I’m a dedicated student of training – like all of us right?  So what is my primary weakness?  My natural strength has always been my pure enduro.  I’m a big guy (for a climber) which means I have tons of gas in the tank.  Unless I’m at my limit, I rarely fail on a route because of enduro or power enduro.  Because of my previous hangboarding workouts, my finger strength is awesome – I can hold just about anything.  I will certainly do a new hangboard workout this winter, but I’m skipping my summer hangboard workout to focus on my true weakness:  Power.
If you’re not sure what your weakness is, I would first ask your friends.  Training your strength is good and fun, but its not effective for breaking through barriers.  There are also some online quizzes.  If you’ve never done core training – I’ll tell you right now.  Your weakness is your core.  Especially if you don’t climb “super smooth.”
My climber bro, Ryan’s primary strength is his power, so I’ve been consulting with him and today at the gym, he’s going to take me through a series of ring exercises he’s been doing.  I’ll be training on the rings for core, stabilizer muscles (super important), some pull, and I want to do flies to improve my compression strength – which flat out stinks.  I’m also going to do weighted pull ups as well as train for a one-arm pull up.  I would say right now my 50/50 focus will be the general pull stuff as I described above and the campus board.  Once I get a good base on the pull stuff, I’ll probably move into 80/20 campus board, ring stuff.  I have about ten weeks before I’m going to regularly climbing outside (its hot as crap here anyways.)
All that on top of running of course.  I love running.  Once I get it all sorted out, I’ll post my routines and see if I can get some input from you internet readers.
Lauren Brayack doing some training in Cartagena, Spain
Me doing a little bouldering on the Rock of Gibraltar

Anderson Brothers Interview at PaleoTreats

Anderson Brothers thinking about training.

Anderson Brothers thinking about training.

Earlier this week Mike and I were invited on Nik Hawks’ podcast over at PaleoTreats.  PaleoTreats is a web-based mail order company that makes delicious and nutritious desserts for active and health-conscious folks.  In their own words,

“…We’ve been making foodie-approved Paleo desserts since 2009. We are serious about flavor, texture, ingredients and Paleo. Yes, all of them. We’ve shipped around the world, from Australia to Afghanistan, and we’ve ironed out all the kinks of getting a great dessert to your door.”

Nik’s podcast isn’t really about that though.  He’s interviewed an impressively diverse group of folks covering the gamut from elite athletes, to coaches and nutrition experts, focused on a wide variety of sports.  He’s really interested in the pursuit of excellence, and the common factors that make athletes successful, regardless of their athletic vocation.  Our podcast covered a variety of topics, including:

  • Goal-Setting in life and sports
  • How to develop the ability to work hard in yourself and your kids
  • The time and place for skill development in climbing
  • What we’re most proud of (in a training sense), and what we would change about the RCTM
  • How self-esteem (or lack thereof) has impacted our motivation and success
  • The next big innovations in climbing training

(Pretty much the only thing we didn’t talk about is food)

Check out the podcast here!

This photo has nothing to do with the adjacent text. Sticking the crux dyno on Nailed It, 12d, at the Sterling Wall.

This photo has nothing to do with this blog post. Sticking the crux dyno on Nailed It, 12d, at the Sterling Wall.

Adjustable Mount 2.0 for the Rock Prodigy Training Center

The finished adjustable mount. Keep reading to learn how to make your own.

The finished adjustable mount. Keep reading to learn how to make your own.

In a previous article, we showed you how to build an Adjustable Mount for your Rock Prodigy Training Center so that you can take maximum advantage of the built in ergonomics of the most innovative fingerboard on the market. While it gets the job done, the French Cleat technique described in that article is difficult to execute, and the result is bulky. We’ll show you an alternate method here that can be built for about $20 in parts and an hour of work.

The finished product is shown above, and the backside view is shown below. It uses “Door Stop” hardware I found at Home Depot to drape accross a 2×10 (or 2 x whatever you like..) Besides being much lighter and lower profile than the French Cleat, this design is also extremely portable. this mounting system could be hung from any 2×8, if you were on the road and needed to get your training in…think of the possibilities…

Rear view of the finished adjustable mount.

Rear view of the finished adjustable mount.

The base board is 3/4″ plywood, which the RPTC and Door Stop hardware mount to (with T-Nuts). I had some nice scrap plywood laying around that I used, but you could use a lower grade to save some money. I used my RPTC to trace out the shape for the base boards, and cut it with a jig saw, which is ideal for cutting curves. Before you cut, plan out where the screws for the RPTC are going to be, and where the bolts for the door stops will go so that they don’t interfere. It’s a good idea to drill the holes for the Door Stop hardware before you cut, but it isn’t necessary.

Cutting the 3/4" plywood base board with a jig saw. Use safety glasses!!!

Cutting the 3/4″ plywood base board with a jig saw. Use safety glasses!!!

I left about a 1″ margin at the top of the board, as shown in the next photo.

Note the ~1" overlap at the top of the RPTC.

Note the ~1″ overlap at the top of the RPTC.

Here is how I laid out the bolt holes for the door stops:

Laying out the holes for the Door Stop. You'll want to mount this as close to the top of the baseboard as possible.

Laying out the holes for the Door Stop. You’ll want to mount this as close to the top of the baseboard as possible.

Every climber should have a bucket of 5/16″ T-Nuts laying around, but you may need to pickup some 3/4″ x 5/16″ bolts and washers. You’ll want to torque these pretty tight so that the T-Nuts suck in to the plywood and are flush with the plywood. This will ensure the RPTC can be mounted to the base board without interference from the T-Nuts.

Torquing the bolts into the T-Nuts.

Torquing the bolts into the T-Nuts.

Here is the finished backplate with Door Stops, bolts, and washers:

The finished backplate.

The finished backplate.

And this is the front view, showing the T-Nuts flush with the plywood for easy mounting of the RPTC:

The front side of the backplate. Note the T-nuts are flush with the plywood to allow you to mount the RPTC flush.

The front side of the backplate. Note the T-nuts are flush with the plywood to allow you to mount the RPTC flush.

The next step is to mount your RPTC on the base boards. Carefully select your screws (length in particular) so that they DO NOT protrude out the back of the plywood. If they do, you’ll need to cut them off with a cutoff wheel or grinder, and that’s a pain you should try to avoid.

Selecting the right length screws from my collection to mount the RPTC with.

Selecting the right length screws from my collection to mount the RPTC with.

Here are the finished adjustable mounts with RPTC halves mounted:

The RPTC mounted on the base plates.

The RPTC mounted on the base plates.

At this point, if you throw your RPTC up on a 2×10, you’ll notice some slop in the mounting. The Door Stops are not 1.5″ deep like a 2×4, they are deeper, which leaves a gap. You may be able to live with this gap (and in my experience, it isn’t a problem). If not, you’ll need to mount shims on the backside of the 2×10 to “widen” the 2×10 and eliminate that gap. Something in the range of 3/8″ to 1/2″ shim will work. I used 3/8″, and this works well for me.

Shim material mounted to the back of the 2×10 that I use for my cross beam:

Shims added to the back of my 2x10 cross beam. And a poop tube (for some reason?)

Shims added to the back of my 2×10 cross beam. And a poop tube (for some reason?)

Cutting out the shim material with my Jig saw:

Cutting the shims.

Cutting the shims.

Finally, if you are accustomed to your hangboard residing at a particular height, you will want to relocate your cross beam. As I described in this article on how to mount a hangboard, I like the bottom of my board 81″ off the floor. The adjustable mount will raise the level of your board a few inches, so you may need to lower your crossbeam by a corresponding amount. If you have other boards or holds mounted on your crossbeam, you might want to just live with it, and build yourself a platform as described in the aforementioned article.

Lowering my cross beam to account for the increase in height provided by the door stops.

Lowering my cross beam to account for the increase in height provided by the door stops.

Here is the finished product, and the happy new owner of an adjustable hangboard:

The finished product.

The finished product.

The Bubble

Hello, this is Janelle…Mike’s wife. Since someone is off to Germany enjoying his 12 hour long flight, I thought I would seize the moment and post on his beloved blog without permission. HA!

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You know your husband is a little INSANE when he turns the basement into a movie set straight out of the ET!

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Keep in mind; the word “insane” is used quite loosely by one very understanding, supportive, kick ass wife! Many things over the past 15 years have been labeled “ insane” a little prematurely and this is no exception.


I digress…


After moving from high, humidity Florida to dry, arid Colorado; we thought we were in the clear for hangboard workouts. We were going to have crisp, dry mountain air and every workout would be just perfect, right?! Well, our basement proved to be a wonderful little humidity hoarder during the monsoon summer experienced here in Colorado Springs. After our first hangboard workouts, it was quickly apparent that we needed to do something about it. It was at this point that Mike revealed to me one of his long-held fantasies (ooh, still some excitement after almost 12 years of marriage)! Apparently, ever since we moved to Dayton, OH back in 2008, Mike has suppressed urges to create a hermetically sealed hangboarding bubble in which climate could be easily and precisely controlled. Well, apparently, Colorado’s humid air was the “last straw,” and Mike had snapped. Clearly he had put some thought into this, because once the decision was made, there was no pause for planning or analysis, just a fury of activity.


Had the man lost his mind???

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A view of the The Bubble

Mike stopped in at Home Depot and picked up six 8-foot 1×2’s, plastic sheeting, and one heck of a cool zipper kit (both available in the paint department).  You will also need duct tape and a staple gun with staples (if you’re following along at home).

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These are awesome and very easy to install. We may use the other one to make a two zipper door.

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Lots of plastic!

The general plan was to block off a section of the basement and fully encase it in plastic. Here are a few things required for this whole operation to work: The bubble needs to include a window so you can run A/C.
– Needs electricity
– Large enough for the HB equipment
– Needs to be more-or less sealed
Had the man lost his mind???
I reluctantly offered up some assistance which was not turned down. We lined the ceiling with plastic first because of the open floor joists (which would have let air in) then draped walls of plastic to corner off the new hangboard bubble.

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We used plastic to cover these ceiling joists to prevent air from escaping.

With an unfinished basement, the bubble went up quickly. We used staples to tack up the plastic and then reinforced and locked the seams with duct tape. We did have to use some 2X4’s/2×6’s on the ground to tuck and hold the plastic on the floor, some 1×2’s to reinforce the ceiling connections (duct tape helped but was not cutting it) and the zipper door was an added bonus.
About half way into this project, I began to realize that this just might work. Maybe my “insane” husband isn’t so crazy and I should help out with a little more enthusiasm. If it did work, my hangboard workouts would definitely benefit too!
Soon, we had the air conditioner blasting to test the bubble theory out. Besides some strong suction everything held into place except for the temperature and humidly which kept dropping — RAPIDLY. We were amazed at how quickly we were able to regulate temperature compared to our old HB room in Florida which was a bedroom approximately 11’ x 11’. Cracking the window eliminated the suction (which Mike surmises comes from a leaky A/C unit) and ta da! We had ourselves a climate controlled hangboarding bubble room! I was pretty impressed.

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Looking up at this corner, you can see where we stated hanging the plastic wall after covering the ceiling joists. We used staples, then white duct tape followed by the 1″x2″ wood trim.

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Sticker zipper.

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Looking down at the floor, these are the 2×4’s used to tuck the bottom of the plastic.

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A/C next to window and up on a stand so the cold air blows directly on the hangboard.

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Another view from inside The Bubble

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Looking out from inside The Bubble. This is where we might add another zipper.

Yes, Team Anderson came together despite the skeptical wife! I would now like to take this opportunity to introduce myself again as the very understanding, supportive, kick ass wife who recently had the best hangboard phase to date!
The Bubble is awesome.


Not only does it capture that cool dry air, it keeps all the chalk from decorating the rest of the basement/house. I’m a huge fan and would recommend something similar to anyone out there struggling to get good conditions while training. We really should have tried out this insane bubble idea in Ohio and Florida where the humidity really is ridiculous. After reaching new personal bests during my latest hangboard training phase, I’m a believer in The Bubble.


In case you find yourself going a little insane, here is a material list to get you started:
– HDX Clear Plastic Sheeting 10ft X 100ft (1000Sq Ft…way too much for our project so we have plenty for other fun bubble projects)
– Duct Tape
– Staple Gun
– Staples
– One box of Heavy Duty Zipwall Zippers (2 pack)
– 2X4 boards or 2X6, whatever you have lying around
– 1X1/2 boards
– Measuring tape 
– Saw?.

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Already to go!!!

Happy Hangboarding!

Independence Day

In honor of our nation’s liberation from the tyrannical tax policies of King George*, we hope you take the opportunity to free something that was, for you at least, previously subjugated by the oppressive bonds of “A0”.

In other news, we have a bunch of random announcements to make.  First, if you haven’t already, please check out our Podcast Interview with Neely Quinn over on TrainingBeta.com.  We discuss a number of fascinating topics, including:

  • How we got into training
  • Our biggest accomplishments in climbing
  • How much we train, and how little YOU need to train
  • Balancing work, family, training and climbing
  • Training in Afghanistan
  • The best training tools, and who should use them
  • JStar’s training program
  • Running and climbing
  • Diet
  • How to polish off a long term project

If none of those topics interest you, you can make a fun 4th of July drinking game out of trying to guess which one of us is talking at any given point in the interview.

Second, the entire Anderson clan will be in Lander, Wyoming next weekend for the International Climber’s Festival.  If you’re in the area come say hello, or sign up for our clinic.  We will be at the Trade Fair Friday afternoon at City Park (look for the Trango tent), then at Wild Iris (the crag, not the shop) Saturday morning for the shoe demo and clinic.  You may also see us around the crags before or after the official events.  You’ve been warned 🙂

Keith North trying my new 13b-ish line Apoca-Lips Now.

Keith North trying my new 13b-ish jug haul Apoca-Lips Now.  Photo Mark Anderson

Finally, we’ve been climbing a fair bit over the last few weeks, uncommonly so.  I’ve been fortunate to help out with the development of a new eye-popping crag in Clear Creek Canyon.  This crag will be described in Kevin Capps’ upcoming Clear Creek guidebook, published by Fixed Pin, which should be available sometime this Fall**.  The crag is unusual for Clear Creek in that the routes are super steep, relatively juggy, and yet, quite continuous.  It reminds me a lot of the Arsenal (at Rifle).   The rock quality is “mixed”, to put it nicely, but the best rock is outstanding, reminiscent of the best quartzite at the Gunks.   If you’re willing to climb through short sections of flaky pegmatite there is some really fun climbing to be had.

Kevin Capps near the lip turn on Apoca-Lips Now.

Kevin Capps near the lip turn on Apoca-Lips Now. Thirty feet of horizontal climbing on mostly massive jugs! Photo Keith North.

Thanks to Keith North for providing a few of the photos.  You can check out more of his shots of this crag on his blog.

Figuring out the foot sequence before the FA of Full Metal Jacket, 5.13c.  Photo Keith North.

Figuring out the foot sequence before the FFA of Full Metal Jacket, 5.13c. Photo Keith North.

Video still of me on the FA of Valkyrie, 5.14a?

Video still of me on the FA of Valkyrie, 5.14a? The green fixed line is attached to the Valkyrie anchor, and is directly “behind” me, providing a good indication of the crag’s steepness.

*To our many readers residing in the UK or the other realms of George’s descendants, we say, “Solidarity brothers (and sisters)…and sisters! 🙂

**I don’t have the best track record when it comes to predicting publication dates

 

 

 

 

 

Focus – New Post on RCTM.com!

Check out my new post on “Focus” over at RockClimbersTrainingManual.com:

“Focus is all about summoning maximum concentration and attention at the moment it is crucially needed.  Most climbers think of this when its time to send, but the ability to summon and maintain sufficient focus is also vital during daily training.  With training cycles that last for months, often involving several weeks of training on plastic, maintaining this focus can be quite a challenge.  When I have to post-hole through two feet of fresh snow to get to the Lazy H for a workout, the moment of tying in for a difficult send may be the furthest from my mind.  Regardless, the effort & attention given to the ensuing workout, completed two months before booting up below my project, could have as much bearing on the eventual outcome as the effort put into the redpoint attempt….”  Continue Reading

Slideshow in Golden, CO, May 14th @ 6:00pm!

I will be presenting a slide show at Bent Gate Mountaineering’s Community Night on Wednesday, May 14th.  Festivities run from 6:00-8:30pm.  Here’s a Google Map of the location.

I’ll be talking about how I evolved from a novice climber to my current level, and key ascents that inspired me to improve along the way.  In particular I’ll be talking about some of the hard milestone climbs I’ve done recently like Mission Impossible.  There will be loads of SWAG–Trango has been extremely generous and will be giving away a Rock Prodigy Training Center as well as a few rope bags and other goodies.  There might also be a very special RCTM celebrity guest (TBD).  It promises to be a good time, and I hope to see you there!

Mark_Anderson_Facebook_Poster

Slideshow in Golden, CO, May 14th @ 6:00pm!

I will be presenting a slide show at Bent Gate Mountaineering’s Community Night on Wednesday, May 14th.  Festivities run from 6:00-8:30pm.  Here’s a Google Map of the location.

I’ll be talking about how I evolved from a novice climber to my current level, and key ascents that inspired me to improve along the way.  In particular I’ll be talking about some of the hard milestone climbs I’ve done recently like Mission Impossible.  There will be loads of SWAG–Trango has been extremely generous and will be giving away a Rock Prodigy Training Center as well as a few rope bags and other goodies.  There might also be a very special RCTM celebrity guest (TBD).  It promises to be a good time, and I hope to see you there!

Mark_Anderson_Facebook_Poster

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