Category Archives: Uncategorized

Partner Spotlight: Southeastern Climbers Coalition

From November 22-28, Trango is donating 10% of all purchases at to the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. To support the SCC, simply purchase Trango products or become a member of the SCC (link below).


About the Southeastern Climbers Coalition:

The SCC’s mission is to protect climbing areas for generations to come.  This happens in a variety of ways for us, but the biggest being that we BUY climbing areas!  The SCC currently owns 8 areas and each of these will remain open to the public for free forever! We also help manage over 30 climbing areas across the southeast.  We do this through maintaining relationships with private and public land owners and managers and doing trail days and clean ups.

The SCC in Action:

We host between 20-30 trail days and clean ups each year.  One big initiative we’ve got going this year (thanks to a Cornerstone Conservation grant from The American Alpine Club) is graffiti removal! Here’s a sweet video the Access Fund Conservation team put together at one of our trail days:

What’s New at the SCC?

Another initiative we’re working on is called our Conservation Legacy Program.  A program for large donors ($500-1,000+) in which every penny goes into a fund for future climbing area purchases!!  Our goal is to get 20 CLP donors a year, so we have $20k to put towards new climbing purchases every year!  This will help us pay off areas in no time…which means we can move on to buying more!

Here’s more info on that:

Get Involved:

To join the SCC, click here.

Trango Announces Season of Giving

Each week during the 2015 holiday season Trango is donating 10% of purchases to a different climbing organization. These organizations have been selected based on their positive impacts on local climbing areas, stewardship of climbing access and contributions to the climbing community at large. During this season of giving, Trango would like to support these organizations of dedicated climbers that give so much to some of our favorite climbing destinations throughout the year. Please join us in supporting these local organizations throughout the holiday season.


2015 Season of Giving Partners:

All orders over $99 at ship free (including the Crag Pack!)

Rock Prodigy Forge

Finger strength is the single best thing to train to be a better Rock Climber.  There are almost ALWAYS small holds in crux sequences.  It is what makes climbing so hard…grabbing those terrible little holds.
Much empirical and some actual studies strongly suggest that hangboard training significantly increases a climber’s abilities to hold smaller holds (trust me it works.)
Rock Prodigy Forge

The hangboard evolution has come a long way.  I remember the earlier boards being different versions and adaptations of medieval torture devices.  With the large climbing hold revolution in the 90s and 2000s, hold and subsequently hangboard designs were artistic rather than functional.  The point was to “look good” while hanging from your doorframe. 

Most folks who bought hangboards would do pull-ups from them now and then and maybe challenged their drinking buddies to see who could hang from the smallest hold.  This was a bad time in the life of hangboards.  Sure, they looked good, but their functionality suffered.  Those who dedicated themselves to actual hangboard workouts still either took the pain or modified the available boards – sanding down some of the texture, reshaping the most usable grips and cutting their boards in half.  Because of poor hold layout, most of the holds on the boards were useless anyways.  Each board really had only 2 or maybe 3 (if you’re lucky) usable holds.  For the other holds, the hangboard got in the way.

The steadily growing training revolution took a large upswing in 2013-14 with the release of the Anderson brother’s Rock Climbing Training Manual and Trango’s Rock Prodigy Training Center (the street name seems to have settled on ‘The Trango Board.’)  This board seriously revolutionized the hangboard, taking all of the benefits of the various boards on the market and addressed the drawbacks.   The board is awesome and a good all-around board for training.  I used the board for 5 hangboard cycles but started maxing out the smallest two finger pockets.  I consider adding more than 30 lbs to a hold to be “maxing it out.”  I was starting to wonder what I was going to do – maybe just consider pockets my “strength” and focus more on crimps?

Rock Prodigy Training Center

Then I heard that Trango was developing a new board.  Voila.  The Rock Prodigy Forge.  I haven’t had a chance to train on the new board; my next hangboard won’t start until this February some time, but just from feeling out the holds and doing some test hanging, I immediately realized that this was this board is seriously awesome and has smaller and more difficult holds for me to train.  The texture is finer too.   Further, I noticed that the pockets are sloped (drafted)!  I really can’t wait to start training on this thing!

The revolutionary step is the ability to train the closed crimp.  In their training book, the Andersons present scientific evidence that supports the theory that grip angle matters. For example, if you train open grip (120 degrees), this does not necessarily translate to a closed grip (90 degrees.)  Only a madman would attempt to close crimp while hangboarding (injury issues) but the Forge Board uses a dedicated thumb support so you can effectively and safely train the closed grip position!  Total genius….and that’s why I love Trango. 


Red River Gorge in the Fall Part 1 of 2

The blessed kiss of death – aka Fall had not come the weekend before Rocktoberfest at the Red River Gorge.  It was still hot.  and humid.  mostly humid.  We fought the conditions.  Conditions won a few battles.  The conditions won the war.  It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t that good either.

The weather report said rain and as promised, it poured.  But with the steep routes and tall nature of the cliff, rain doesn’t make much of a difference other than “getting wet on the hike” and sometimes “getting misted at the chains.”

Where’s the Beef 5.12c at Bob Marley – Photo Mike Wilkinson

We climbed at Muir Valley Saturday and I was feeling pretty ok.  I got on “Mirage” 12c as my warm-up, hanging the draws for my buddy in the group who wanted to do the route.  I was pretty surprised.  I had flashed the route maybe 5 or 6 years ago, but hadn’t been on it since and with my training, specifically my hangboarding, it felt pretty easy.  All of the “bad” holds were definitely much better than the Rock Prodigy Trango Crimp which I trained this summer.  I asked my belayer, David, “?Where is the crux on this thing?”  “You just did it,” was my response…Boo-Yah!  That was a good sign for my climbing for the weekend.

I’m weird and atypical in that I like to warm-up hard.  I’ve been climbing for 16? years now and my fingers are pretty strong and I know my limits, so I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone.  But…well…I just like to get on stuff close to my onsite/flash limit for my warm-up.  I find no value in doing a 5.10 to even a 5.11 to warm-up for a 5.13.  A lot of times, the limiting factor for me is skin; I have about 5 or 6 pitches in me in a day and I don’t want to waste them on routes that I’ve already done warming up for my project for the day.

There are a lot of crags for me at the red that are no-goes.  As I’ve talked about in the past, what I really like to do in climbing is new routes.  I’d rather climb a 5.7 slab then repeat a 12+ that I’ve done before.   I don’t know what it is about me, but I just… doing new routes.  The problem with the red for me is that I’ve already done MOST of the routes at all the older crags.  This makes the new route development a key to my happiness. 

At the “Solarium” there were two routes I hadn’t done:  “Bundle of Joy” 13a and “Urban Voodoo” 12d.  I tried “Bundle of Joy” but wasn’t able to do the last move.  I could complain conditions and stuff, but really I just think that I wasn’t strong enough for it.  Instead, I set my sites on “Urban Voodoo.”

I went up the route, but fell at the low boulder problem onsite.  The climbing here involved a couple REALLY small two finger pockets and a big move.  I figured out what holds I wanted to use on my next go, but didn’t do the move.  As I typically do with a project, I won’t do the crux until I’m on the go or at least I won’t put 100 percent effort into the crux until…I’m on the go.    

If you actually read my blog, I’m telling you – this is really important tactics for getting routes done fast and it really pays off for me.  If you know how to do it, and you are pretty sure you can do it, you’re wasting your time doing it off the hang over and over to “rehearse” it.  Total waste of time.

The guidebook says the crux is the upper roof section of the route, so I climbed up to there and took on the bolt since I had already fallen.  I felt the ticked holds and these didn’t feet very good.  I made a few attempts and wasn’t getting anywhere. 

Being a route developer, I’ve learned to “not just grab the ticked holds.”  I found a decent and previously un-used hold a bit left of the ticked sequence – a good two pad edge.  Getting to the hold wasn’t too bad either – with some heels, but a core intensive bump.  From this hold, I had to do a big move back to the “official” sequence and I actually did this move once to feel out the body position.  The sequence, however, relied on a key left heel-hook that was pretty bad.  My Tenaya Iati’s were brand new to me, though they had already earned their street credit on “Mirage.”  So far, the Oasi’s have been performed admirably for me, but if my heel blew – or even wobbled a little bit, I was out of the sequence.  I would have normally worn the Oasis on anything at the red, but I found the extra stiffness of the Iati’s pays off when toeing in hard on ripples and the heel on them fit my foot like a glove.

The Tenaya Iati

Another key-to-sending tip of mine is to shotgun the route.  It was chilly (though it felt hot and humid while climbing.)  I lowered to the ground, did a good shake, pulled the rope and got right back on.  I was essentially trading the pump and fatigue for warm-up and psyche.  For me, this trade is usually worth it.  I immediately fired the opening boulder problem, bearing down REALLY hard on a tiny two-finger pocket.  My hangboard training paid off and the hold – maybe a ½ pad felt like a jug to me and I stuck the good holds.  There was a good rest so I walked up to the roof, clipped the bolt, then came back to compose.  I wasn’t actually SUPER worried about the first crux, though the roof, I knew, was going to be pretty dicey.  And I was really worried about the heel-hook.

I took a deep breath and pulled into the sequence, sticking the shouldery jug crimp I found.  I crossed around, pulling over the roof and stuck a so-so crimper.  I looked hard at the sketchy heel-hook hold, said a prayer, and slowly placed my heel on.  My abs and core tension felt solid thanks to all the abs I’ve been doing.  As routes usually go for me, the move was easy.  I stuck the next good hold and my heel didn’t move a cm.  The shoes re-affirmed their street credit and I did the easy but pumpy section to the chains for my 446th 5.12 lifetime redpoint.

I’ve talked about this in several older blog posts, but I tend to “discover” holds and sequences at the red a lot.  Two notable routes are “Tuskan Raider” 12d and “Zen and the Art of” (I’m at work.) 12d.   On Tuskan Raider, I found a new pocket in the cheese-pocket section that made the route significantly easier.  All of my friends also used that hold last I checked, it’s now the obvious chalked pocket.  On Zen, I found a series of ½ to ¼ pad crimpers before the leftward traverse which takes that crux down a notch.  I don’t know if I’m just a bad person, but when it comes to climbing routes, I’ve found that “looking around some” instead of just blinding going for the chalked holds has paid off.  I don’t feel like I’m cheating – I mean…the holds are there, right on the bolt line.  …I know I know….I’m ruining climbing for everyone….

Our second day at the red for the weekend was definitely hotter.  I got an email from Mike Wilkinson asking me of he could take pictures of me climbing.  Being a climbing photographer, I have limited experience with other climbing photographers, so I was stoked.  We sorted out climbing plans and met up at the Bob Marley crag. “Bob Marley” is another crag where I’ve done most of the routes, though my last trip there, I scoped the line “Skinny Love” which is advertised to be the “Tuna Town” of the Bob Marley crag.  I found the route to be actually a much easier version or Tuna Town, but still pretty awesome. 

Skinny Love -12d starts easy.  Really easy – about 50 feet of 5.11- climbing through good holds.  It’s a new route, so stuff is still breaking off and some holds are questionable (please don’t blow please don’t blow.)  There’s a full on ledge rest after the initial 5.11 section and the stone turns bullet (more bullet at least.)  From the ledge, there’s a really neat V3 boulder problem that leads to an almost-no-hands rest.  From here the business ensues.  A 15 foot power boulder problem on smaller holds, culminating with a big move to a good holds and then a couple “don’t blow it moves” before the jug ledge.

I didn’t get it first go – I missed some holds, but after a long rest and some serious focus, I ticked this one off pretty easily second go.  (number 447.  I’ve always been an obsessive person.)  Standing under the final headwall in the rest, I realized the crux of the route was about the height and angle of our premier wall at the gym here in Charleston.  My power and strength were good for my training, I relaxed and fired the rig.

Having ticked off that route, and it being hot, there weren’t any routes that I was super stoked for, so I got on “Where’s the Beef” for Mike to shoot photos.   I had already done the route, so I wasn’t worried about falling or sending the route, so I just clowned around some for the photos, trying to do crazy things like throw my feet over my head and stuff.  Climbing IS suppose to be fun right? !!

Sorry – I don’t have many photos from this trip – it rained you know?  :)
Here’s a preview for my next blog post coming soon:
Brenna Priest at the Gallery – RRG
Erica Lineberry at the Gallery – RRG

SPAIN Part 1: Not just Tapas & Tufas!

terradets 2

A favorite of ours was this incredible crag at Terradets called Paret de les Bruixes


Don’t get me wrong! The Tapas and Tufas in Spain are pretty amazing as well as prolific! However, there was so much more in the climbing world, the history, the culture, the parks, the food and the people. How do you sum up a whirlwind nine days in Spain? I’m not really sure you can but I know how it goes, other people’s trip photos and stories can get a touch boring. I’ll try not to bore you with painful details but I might fail!

Tapas! Small Spanish savory dishes, typically served with drinks at a bar

Tapas! Small Spanish savory dishes, typically served with drinks at a bar


Tufas! A variety of porous limestone formed from calcium carbonate deposited by springs or the like

As the traveler, everything is new, exciting and your senses are stimulated to the max. The sights, sounds and even smells are burned into your brain and the dream-like state of ignoring your day-to-day obligations is something you don’t want to let go of. This trip was no different except for the fact that we were kid free!

Kid free did not come without a price. I’m quite certain the most stressful part of my trip planning was writing lists of contacts, schedules, this club, that practice, pick-ups, drop-offs, snacks, meals, maps, activities, etc. all created to give the Grandparents help and guidance with the kids here at home. Packing was the simple part especially with my mantra, “Less is more plus a credit card!” Oh yeah, don’t forget to notify the credit card company or sign up for the global plans on our phones. These details about fried my brain and gave me little to no preparation for the actual trip.

Insert Mike! This is when the team concept in a working marriage is so valuable. When I was taking care of the pre-trip kid preparation, he was researching crags, must-sees and do’s, restaurants, routes, hotels and all the in-country items. Somehow, all the “i’s” were dotted and “t’s” were crossed!

With a relatively short travel window mixed in with official business, precise planning was key. We wanted our nine days to be jammed packed. I really do have to give all the planning credit to Mike; he was our leader, planner and tour guide. I was the navigator and tourist along for the ride relieved knowing the kids were taken care of back home.

Our plan going in was pretty ambitious. We wanted to check out Rodellar, Terradets, Monteserrat, Siurana, Margalef and any other crags along the way. These areas are all within a 3 hour driving radius of Barcelona, our hub. However, we learned that driving the mountains of Spain was time consuming and we wanted to actually climb, not just drive. We dropped Siurana and Margalef from our list mostly due to the hot weather of September and their out-of-the-way coastal locations.

Flying over the Mediterranean Sea close to Barcelona.

Flying over the Mediterranean Sea close to Barcelona.

After 3 flights, one rental car and a 2 hour drive, we found ourselves checking into our first hotel in Huesca. This tightly compact village was clean, quaint and cozy. The buildings seemed glued together sharing walls and the streets cobbled not lending to any dirt, grass or weeds. We felt like we were on a spy movie set! I was thrilled to be there but I have to admit, I was out of my element. My very limited Español did not help while staring at restaurant menus expecting something to look familiar. With our broken Spanish and the local’s broken English we were successful in getting our first meal and a sigh of relief came over me. We were here, we were in Spain…this was no dream!

Climbing Destination One: RODELLAR


Lots of limestone just outside Rodellar


A few canyons and caves of Rodellar

After finding out that nothing is open on Sundays, including grocery stories, we relaxed and settled in for the hour drive to Rodellar. This less than straight road was a wonderful introduction to the gorgeous countryside, small villages, olive orchards and an unlimited supply of limestone that can be found in Spain. Beautiful gray, orange and white limestone cliffs lined the hillsides like garland and I was quite certain we would run off the road looking at it. The village of Rodellar is nestled atop a multi-fingered canyon which is also called Parque Natural de Sierra y Canons de Guara. We stayed at the Kalandraka Refuge de Escalada which sits on the rim above this gorgeous limestone canyon.


We had arrived!


Kalandraka has a wonderful restaurant which we highly recommend and not only because of it’s location. Excellent prices and meals.


Our private stone hut

All the climbing was within hiking distance and in good ol’fashioned Anderson style, we woke up at sunrise to get early starts. This is not the norm in Spain! The only people who wake up early are the business men and women in the big cities who are eager to get their café con leche and croissants!


Can you blame them? :)

The climbers, we started to see them trickle into the canyon at lunch time.


View hiking down

Rodellar is visually stunning with huge caves, long routes, and cliff line after cliff line. Each bend in the river opens to another crag and the most stunning feature was The Delfin. A climbable arch with stunning views and a few wild goats watching us crazy climbers! Many of the cave routes were reminiscent of Rifle with big blocky holds and few pockets. The big difference was the addition of tufas! These petrified drips of limestone goo formed vertical tubular holds in all sizes and lengths. Many reminded me of extra-long elephant trunks glued on the wall. We were intrigued by tufas but quickly realized just how hard they are to read for the novice tufa climber. This made onsighting very difficult but we did start learning about the hidden holds and occasional kneebars tufas provided. I definitely struggled the first few days and wish I could only blame the jetlag. I was strong from training but jumping into a new world of steep, powerful, tufa climbing was humbling for sure. It was going to take a few weeks to get used to this place and we did not have two weeks. I had to remind myself that this was a recon trip and not necessarily a sending trip.


The Delfin

—Mikes Rodellar Viewpoint….he made no promises about boring you with details! HA!

Rodellar is an amazing crag, with several lifetimes of rock. Its popularity is well-deserved! A little ACT/SAT quiz for you: Rodellar is to __________ as Indian Creek is to splitter cracks ??? Of course, the answer is, TUFAS! We made a point to hit all of the classic tufa routes, while also taking time to challenge ourselves with routes at our limit. We had agreed that we wouldn’t camp out under a project…we would climb new crags and new routes each day, so on-sighting was the name of the game. There was definitely a learning curve, and adjusting to the jet lag, so my performance ramped up slowly over the first few days. We hit many classic crags: Surgencia, El Camino, Ventanas, Gran Bovida, Pince sans Rire, and Café Solo.

Here are some of the highlight climbs:

Ironman, 12+ (This was my best onsight of the first day)…a classic vertical tufa line with a rare face climbing crux that suited me well.



Janelle learning all about tufas!

Leo, 12- Another classic tufa line.

El Corredor de los Muertos, 13b (Reminiscent of a Red River Gorge endless jug-haul. I came close to the onsight, but was stymied by my lack of tufa experience, still a tremendous route!)IMG_9569

Kalandraka, 13- My first international 5.13 on-sight! A killer vertical tufa line with a deceptive thin crux. This was a newer route, so not as polished as the classics.

Gran Bovida:

L’any que ve Tambe (12d) – One of the world’s most classic sport climbs, a series of absurdly ginormous tufas. It’s the most polished route I’ve ever climbed, but the holds were so good, it didn’t matter.

Las Ventanas:


Janelle “warming up” on La del Taco 7a+

La vara de Florentino (13a) – This was a glorious moment for me, as an international crew of Germans, Canadians and Spaniards were all throwing themselves at this route. I casually slid into the que, and on-sighted it! It is a wonderful climb with interesting, powerful boulders separated by pumpy rests. At the top, I had to make a blind huck for the finishing jug, and I stuck it!


Climber on La vara de Florentino 7c+

Pince Sans Rire:

Pince Sans Rire (12c) – Translation: “Pinch without laughing”, and it was hard to do. This was one of the most memorable experiences of the trip. Everyone told us that “it doesn’t get in the shade until about 4:00, so you have to wait all day. Not the Andersons! We woke early, hiked into the canyon by headlamp and warmed up quickly enough to send this rig before sunhit. We had the entire canyon to ourselves, and when the sun did rise, it beautifully accentuated the tufas on this wall. It was a great way to end our visit to Rodellar!


Janelle at the top of Pince Sans Rire


Tufas, tufas and more tufas

Café Solo


Knee pads were a necessity at Rodellar


View looking out the cave from the base of a climb called Molondrio

All-in-all, Rodellar was a whirlwind. We visited a ton of crags in a few days and tried lots of routes. We didn’t rest as much as we normally would because our priority was climbing volume over pure performance. Nevertheless, I was able to on-sight three 13a’s, and several 12+’s, and came close on three 8a’s (13b), but didn’t quite crack that nut. It would have to wait for the jet lag and some rest….

Rest Days:

It was very important to us to utilize not only our climbing days but our rest days. Rest days were our opportunity to see parts of Spain, learn about the culture and try new food. There would be no sitting around “resting” on our rest days! We woke up early one morning and drove to National Park called Ordesa y Monte Perdido. Along the way we made a quick stop in Ainsa to walk through the historic medieval town center. Walking up the narrow, cobbled, hilly streets to the church on top of the hill was so cool. Come to find out, these tight knit villages where the norm out in the country.


Cobbled streets of Ainsa


Intricate stones paved the streets in almost all the small villages we visited


Looking north from Ainsa towards the National Park


Hilltop church in Anisa

The road winded up the hills passing adorable little villages always marked by the church steeple found on the highest point. The rocky cliffs grew bigger and bigger as we entered the Ordesa y Monte Perdido. We found the parking area and opted for the “classic” hike, where we were treated to numerous waterfalls along the way. The canyon was tremendous and the limestone cliffs thousands of feet above lined the canyon like a castle wall. Most of the hike was in a thick dense forest but each waterfall view point was spectacular. We eventually got high enough to get out of the trees and really enjoy the incredible valley and mountain top views. Having twisted my ankle hiking around Rodellar the day before, it soon became a game of correct foot placement to prevent making it worse. Luckily, with a newly purchased  brace, this ankle would go on to be an annoyance but not hinder my trip.




Approaching Ordesa y Monte Perdido



Limestone cliffs were EVERYWHERE teasing Mike!

Start of the classic hike

Start of the classic hike


Stunning waterfalls


Another waterfall


Ice blue crystal clear water


Getting above the trees


Janelle near the cascading waterfalls, this was our end point


Mike too!


Fall was approaching, I can only imagine how gorgeous this place would be when the leaves turn colors


Cute Euro rental car leaving the park


Streets of Torla



Gift Shop hoarder! This place was crazy and there was no touching anything…probably to prevent an avalanche

After a 10+ mile hike and a quick stop to see the local village of Torla, we raced down the road to the Castle de Loarre! Located out in the country past agricultural fields of Loarre, Spain, the Castle de Loarre sat built on a rocky outcrop of limestone on a hillside with incredible views. Construction on the castle began in 1020 so it’s been around a few years and is in amazingly good shape.


Castle de Loarre




Castle cathedral


Queens tower


Inside Queen’s tower


Parade ground in the center of the castle


Beautiful views from another tower


Hills behind castle speckled with limestone formations

The main purpose of the trip was for Mike to present his hangboard and training research at a Sports Technology Conference in Barcelona, but we were able to fit in some leave for climbing as well. So after Rodellar, we headed towards Barcelona for the conference, but stopped by another world-renowned sport crag on the way: Terradets. Few climbers at Rodellar had even heard of it, which just goes to show how faddish climbers can be. In it’s prime, Terradets was THE crag in Spain, but now Rodellar is the hot new crag, and the younger crowd has moved on. We enjoyed Terradets, and its solitude, immensely!


Getting closer to the mountains and Terradets


We were headed for the valley (center of photo)


Limestone lined the hills in overwhelming quantity


Huge stunning cliff walls


Multi-pitch sport routes baking in the sun


View from hotel room at Hotel Terradets

Terradets has several crags, but the premier crag is Paret de les Bruixes; an unbroken cliffline, gradually transitioning along a ¼ mile from vertical to about 25 degrees over-hanging, with a small cave at the end. The rock was immaculate limestone, reminiscent of the Blasphemy Wall at the VRG, but with the occasional tufa drip. The climbing was much more our style, and the morning shade it offered better suited our lifestyle. This was our 4th climbing day out of 5, so we were tired, and only planned on a short day due to this fatigue, our need to get to the conference, and the fact that our hotel had a free breakfast buffet that we needed to sample before it closed at 10:30. The quick stop was definitely worth it! We learned that we loved this cliff and definitely wanted to come back.

Terradets 1

Terradets – Paret de les Bruixes


terradets 4

Looking across the canyon at the limestone layer cake. View from Paret de les Bruixes

terradets 3

There was no end to the cliffs lining this canyon

We woke early, as usual, approached the crag by headlamp, and set an alarm for 9:30, at which point we would have to decide if we were going to race back to the hotel for the buffet, or keep climbing. My goal for the day was to on-sight an 8a. We started on some slippery 11s (the guidebook had warned that Terradets was “getting polished”, but in our opinions, it was nothing compared to Rodellar!) I did a stellar 12- called “L’Ansia” that climbed a 30m gently overhanging wall that started with intricate tufas, and ended on long lockoffs between crisp, one-pad edges. It left me psyched for my day’s goal: another try at an 8a on-sight. (You have to realize that in Europe, because of French grades, the 8a grade is that significant milestone that all climbers aspire to, much like 13a in the US, but I would say it’s even more important in Europe. I have on-sighted many “8a’s” in the US, but I really wanted to do it on their soil.)


Shade, solitude and cool morning temps


Warm-up time


Tufa blob found at the base


Getting his 8a psyche on and his Tenaya Inti’s which were a perfect shoe for this wall


More tufa blobs


Tufa lined rock usually led to a cleaner headwall above

I picked my quarry, “Millenium” based on an alluring photo in the guidebook that showed beautiful brown limestone reminiscent of the best rock at the VRG. With little else to go on, it seemed like a reasonable metric. Apparently many others like the route too, as it was pretty polished. (One problem with constantly gunning for 8a’s is that, because it’s a milestone grade like 13a, many climbers are seeking that tick, so the routes are very crowded and/or polished). Millennium started with a very powerful boulder problem through some hand-sized tufas. I had to read the sequence well, and try hard! This is always tricky to do on-sight because you are trying to ration effort, but sometimes you HAVE to go for it. You try to finesse as much as you can, and use intuition to decide when it’s time to “go all-in”. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes you try again. This time it worked. I was able to shake out on some moderate climbing, thinking (wishing?) that I was through the crux. I eventually rolled onto a slab and got a good rest, but was suckered out left on some sucker chalk. I soon realized that I had another crux in my way…a slippery slab crux…my specialty! I rested until my calves started to weaken, then went for it. I had to really trust my feet on holds much more polished than I’m used to. Our visit to Rodella paid off in that regard! I used some pitiful crimps, rocked onto terrible feet, and stuck a nice tufa to the right that ended the slab crux. I felt hopeful, but a roof loomed above…would this be the crux?

Paret de les Bruixes Millenium

Millenium 8a+ Photo courtesy of


An example of a terrible foot hold but surprisingly, they worked!

I was able to get a nice shake before the roof, and could climb up and feel some of the holds. It looked like I might have to do a long dyno, which is a nightmare on an on-sight, especially being so high on the route, after having invested so much to get there. The end of the breakfast buffet was looming, so I had to hurry J. I got up under the roof, and too my surprise, some undercling crimps and high feet allowed me to reach over the roof statically to a decent rail. I clipped the last bolt, then emptied my tank with some long, powerful lockoffs on more crisp edges which took me to the chains! I had finally bagged my European 8a!



Should we stay or should we go? The sun was creeping…BUFFET TIME! We are coming back to this crag!!

I left a Trango Phase biner on the chains as my offering to Spanish climbing (and as a tactic to get back to the buffet faster) ad lowered off in bliss! We rushed down the trail, with Janelle walking as quickly as she could with her weakened ankle, and sped off to the hotel, a mere 3 minutes away. The buffet was definitely worth it, as we were able to try a selection of local foods without committing to an entire entrée. Our favorite dishes were the Chorizo and Eggs (cooked perfectly), and the interesting cured meats made of who knows what. They were salty though, which always hits the spot after climbing!


Buffet sampling

After stuffing out guts, we headed on to Barcelona for some engineering, sights and more food!

It Is Fall. But the weather didn’t get the memo. Jackson Falls.

Fall is here, but I don’t think the weather got the memo.  It’s been pretty miserable so far here in West Virginia. 

King Snake 5.12d.  Photo Lauren Goff

Two weekends ago, we made the long drive to Jackson Falls in Southern Illinois.  I haven’t been there since I put the finish touches on the guidebook I published for the area last fall.  It’s about an 8 hour drive for me.  Yusuf Daneshyar, my buddy and author or the book asked me early this summer if I could do a trail day and I told him that I would try.

Confirming the trip with the female administration, we set out late Thursday night after work for the long haul.  Though it’s a long drive, the climbing at Jackson Falls is AWESOME plus I really wanted to help out with the trail day.  I didn’t know what it would be, but it ended being right up my alley! I’m trained as a bridge engineer and we built a pedestrian bridge over the waterfall!

I promised Lauren all these awesome waterfalls and funny enough, it had been so dry this summer there that all the waterfalls were dried up! It made building the bridge a lot easier though.  Now, I stated I’m training as a bridge engineer, but that doesn’t actually mean that I can build a bridge.  Thankfully, there were several guys in the group who were carpenters and we snapped the thing together pretty quickly and efficiently.  Being a route setter, I’m pretty good at screwing.  So I just spent most of the time holding wood and screwing.    Yusuf promised me he would send me pictures of the bridge with water flowing, but until then, just use your imagination.

Though we had the trail day, we still had a crap ton of climbing time.  The way Jackson Falls is laid out, the camping is right at the crag, so once you’re there, you don’t really move your car at all.  The closest amenities are far enough away that climbers are better off just bringing in all their food/water for their trip.  Its pretty awesome not driving anywhere for such a long time and I think those 3 days may have been my longest “no driving” time of my life.  I’d really have to think about that…but yeah.  Kind of crazy to think about right?

Parking the Car for 3 Days.

I actually like climbing (I’m definitely not the best climber at the crag.)  With the conditions being so hot and humid, I backed things off and did a bunch of easier pitches for the most part.  I started strong and got a second go and onsite of two short 5.12cs – “Heavy Horses” and “Storm Watch.”  Both of these involved short but hard boulder problems on small monos and two finger pockets.  Because of my training and specifically my hangboarding, these are my greatest strengths.  I mostly stuck to cleaning up on the classic 5.10s and easy 5.11s, climbing as many pitches as I could convince my girlfriend to belay me on.

King Snake 5.12d.  Photo Lauren Goff

I set my sites on one route:  King Snake 5.12d.  Conditions and the holds on this one especially were just plain awful, but I strapped on my brand new Tenaya Iati’s which earned their street credit on this route.  I didn’t get the route, but fell, my hands slipping off the last HARD move of the route. I was really bummed, but also really stoked.  The route is really difficult for about 30 feet of super intensive power enduro bouldering – big moves between good and not-so good holds with really bad feet.  This route is now my main project at Jackson Falls!  To be honest, I was surprised I got that far.  I snapped a picture of my temperature/humidity gauge.

83 % Humidity.  66 Degrees F

It’s just so hard to climb in the mank.  I chalk like a madman and use a lot of isopropyl alcohol, but I still feel like I just got out of the pool!

All in all, I really banged it out at Jfalls, despite the bad conditions! (Almost all of these were new routes for me.)

What it Takes (for me) to Climb 5.13.

My climbing buddy Fred Gomez once asked me, “Who’s the best climber at the crag?”  I had not heard the expression so I looked around and said, “Well, you I think.”   “NOoooooooooooo!” he exclaimed, “The climber who is having the most fun!”

I thought about that and really I don’t think that’s true.  The best climber at the crag is generally that person that is one foot-slip away from a full fledged roid rage.  You know – the one who seems angry all the time and has his/her draws on that really hard route at the crag…and is blaring really bad euro-trash techno.


One of my friends once told me, “It’s pathetic that you need to train to climb 5.13.”  I guess that could be true in a sense, but it’s what it takes for me to climb hard.  My “don’t really care” baseline these days is easy 5.12, but I really need to push myself to keep in the upper 5.12 and 13- range.

The biggest thing I have going on in my life is rock climbing and I train very hard for climbing.  But I’ve been thinking a lot about my training lately.  What are my goals?  What is my motivation?  In the “Training Manual” which is the street name for “The Rock Climber’s Training Manual,” the Andersons prescribe to choose a goal route and then train for that route specifically.  But I have trouble really just focusing on one route.  I will typically make a broad decision – the Red River Gorge, or the New River Gorge (or 50/50) and my focus toward one or the other (more power or more power enduro.)  I just can’t focus on one hard route.  Why not? 

The Darkside at the Red River Gorge.  Me sending “Tuskan Raider 12d”

I’ve come to realize that I train for the sake of training.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to be a better climber, but I really just like the beat down!  My typical strength phase is a very demanding and grueling part of my life.  I wake up between 400 and 430.  I run between 5-10 km (30 minutes to an hour.)  I then go to work for 10+ hours.  If it’s a training day I will do a 2-hour hangboard workout including warm up, then come home, play some Mario Kart and go to sleep.

While running, I’m not dreaming about the crimpers on my 5.14 life goal route.  I’m thinking about it time to time of course, but most of the time I’m just thinking about normal life things.  My dog.  My girlfriend.  Whether or not I can afford a new engine for my boat.  Whether someone is going to run me over with their car.  It’s 4 in the morning and I haven’t eaten yet, so I’m thinking about donuts (just kidding.)  The run is very demanding of me, but the motivation of the run is just pushing myself.  If I just tried to think about climbing the whole time, I’d just hit the snooze and go back to bed!

I made my list of routes that I want to do this Fall season. I feel a little awkward sharing it though.  There aren’t any big numbers or anything.  I do have in my mind a couple “big numbers for me” that I want to try though – things that I have trouble even writing down in my climbing journal.  Here is my short list of routes for the season:

Ryan Smith – The Pod 13a/b
Erika Thompson on Apollo Reed, her first 13a.  She climbed “Slash and Burn” 12d, though which is considerably harder last season!
New River Gorge:
  • ·      Sweetest Taboo 13b
  • ·      Travisty 13a
  • ·      Dial 911 13a
  • ·      Diamond Life 13a
  • ·      Nude Brute 13a
  • ·      Logotherapy 13a
  • ·      Original Crankster 13a
  • ·      The Pod 13a
  • ·      B52 13a
  • ·      Krag Kommander 13a

Mercy Seat 13a.  Not on my project list, but on my “Do it so I never have to do it again list”
Red River Gorge:
  • ·      Darth Mall 13b
  • ·      Golden Boy 13b
  • ·      Paradise Lost 13a
  • ·      Convicted 13a
  • ·      40 oz of Justice 13a
  • ·      Calm Like a Bomb 13a
  • ·      Dog Fights and Fist Fights 13a
  • ·      American Dream 12b (seriously this one is hard)
And of course, my dream routes (don’t tell any of my friends though):
  • ·      Kaleidoscope 13c
  • ·      Mango Tango 13d
  • ·      The Project 13c
  • ·      BOHICA 13b
  • ·      Proper Soul 14a

Ten Sleep – Part 2 (the meat and potatoes)

When we last left the action, our tragic hero had decided that he wasn’t a crappy climber and it was time to “Tie one on” to poorly-quote Stephen King’s – Lisey’s Story.

The Cigar at Ten Sleep

With my Spanish buddy, David, we hiked our butts up to the “Slavery Crag.”  Did I ever mention how tough the hikes are at Ten Sleep?  Well.  After doing the hike to the “Ark”, the hike to Slavery really only did take us 15 minutes!  I was feeling STOKED.  PYSCHED.  CRUSH MODE.  I warmed up on “Head Like a Hole” (12a) by hanging the draws.  This route is pretty popular so I figured I’d do the nice guy thing and leave my draws on it for the day. 

Calm Like a Bomb 12d climbs the right of center crack

My goal for the day was to try and send the fairly steep “Calm Like a Bomb” 12d.  The route is one of the non-descript pitches at Slavery.  Most people spend their time on “Happiness in Slavery” 12b and “EKV” 12c, but I had already done those pitches.  “Calm Like a Bomb” climbs a crack that peters out toward the top.  The first half of the route is pretty easy – maybe 10+ or 11- climbing, but then it gets real, really fast.  I had the pleasure of hanging the draws as well, and started pulling pretty hard – semi-small moves between really small holds and bad feet.  As with any onsite climb, the details are pretty fuzzy, but I definitely remember hanging a draw on a really bad right-hand pinch and clipping.  I think this was right in the middle of the crux!  I managed to hang on though.  I did a few more hard moves and was moving over into the “vert section” and I had one more hard move. 

Once again, the details were fuzzy, but I remember being really out of balance on some pretty bad holds.  I looked down, saw a really bad looking smear, and made the instant decision to trust my Tenaya Tarifa.  They stuck and I stuck it!  I spent some time on the last rest before the final boulder problem shaking (I was onsite) but the move to the anchors ended up being only 12- or 11+ and BOO YAH!  I was so stoked.  It was my Third 12d onsite and probably my second legit one.   

Georgie Abel on Shut the Duck Up 13a at Pyschoactive
Lena Moinova – Go Back to Colorado 12b at Psychoactive.  Lena swears that move is totally necessary.

The next day I took a semi-rest day to shoot photo and hang out with my fellow Trango teammate Ethan Pringle and his gal Georgie Abel.  We climbed at the “Psychoactive Wall” which stays in the shade almost all day (just in the early and late day sun FYI.)  Last year I sent the 13a pitch “Shut the Duck Up” so I had no problem warming up on the route with a few takes to get the line rigged for images.  I was pretty proud of myself – doing all the moves first try on it (off the hang for the crux.)  I shot some images of Georgie working the route and did “Mirth” 12a onsite.  Remember my prime directive – climb as many 5.12s as I can (that was number 434 lifetime.)

Did you see that cow?????? WOOF!

The next day, my friends and I checked out the “Sidewalk” area at Ten Sleep, a notable and atypical morning crag.   I warmed up sending “If Dreams Were Thunder” 12b hanging the draws.  THE route to do, however is the super duper luper long (25 bolts) route:  “Sheep Reaction” 12a.  This one just goes on FOREVER.  I’m a pretty good enduro climber and this one felt easy for the grade – I was never pumped and not a single move felt hard.  It was a really nice and good experience though.  It was great to get so much climbing in!  I certainly recommend this route to anyone who is looking for adventures.  I don’t really like adventures myself, but every now and then, its good to get into one so you can remember why you try to avoid them.

Bob Value on Sheep Reaction 12a at the Sidewalk
You said 25 draws right?  Plus anchors yeah.

The next two days were hard going.  Its rained on us, and we couldn’t climb :/.  The end of the trip was approaching quickly so I really had to get some routes done. 


We went up to the cool kid’s crag and I decided to try a new route that Eric Horst bolted at the Sphinx.  It was a good pitch and he rated it 12b.  I got the onsite pretty easy – it being small holds and big moves, both of which suit me well.  

I then set my sites on the “Tangerine Fat Explosion” 13a. 


I heard that this route was a total gimme and a pretty easy onsite, so I tried it.  The bottom of it was wet and it was pretty humid out, but I managed to fire through the boulder problem pretty easily.   Coming out of the boulder problem (it climbs over a small roof) I made a dead-point move to a sloper hoping it was good and it turned out to be…good enough.  The next sequence involved (I think) some smaller holds and maybe a mono with good feet and then a rest.  Then there was a run-out section; there are generally two types of run-outs on hard sport climbs: 


1.  The climbing is so easy that it doesn’t matter. 

2.  The climbing is so hard, you can’t stop to clip. 


Well.  It was one of those cases where the climbing was hard :/.  But I managed to make it through the boulder problem.  Having good grip strength is one of the most important aspects in climbing and thanks to the Mark and Mike Anderson training program, that is one of my strengths.

Another hard day at camp

There was some butter and bread climbing for a few bolts with big holds to stand on and incut jugs to rest, though I continued to climb conservatively.  On routes like this, I’ve learned there is usually one more big punch at the end.  And so was the case.  Guarding the last bolt and some obviously easy flow-stone climbing, there were a series of chalked holds.  I went up off a big lock-off and felt several of them and immediately sorted out my strategy.  I made a big lock-off (skipping several holds) going up right hand to this right facing sidepull and stepped my feet up.  For the second time on the trip, my onsite depending on standing on a small really bad smear.   My Tarifa came through for me and, out of balance, I made a dead-point move for the hold below the bolt.  I remember thinking…….please let it be good please let it be good, though I was prepared for it to not be good.  And the hold was – a nice ¼ pad incut crimper!  BOO YAH!  Onsite baby!  And also hanging the draws.    

This is where they put bad people who downgrade Tangerine Fat Explosion

The trip was quickly winding down and I had one more day.  I was feeling good and we headed up to the “Downtown Area” which contains the phallic free-standing pillar…the…uh..cigar…yeah…Really doesn’t look like a cigar to me ;).

The previous two years, I worked the route “Sleep Reaction” 13a to no avail.  Conditions weren’t super good, but after about 30 or 40 tries, I finally got route!  For me, sending the route revolved around a single movement – grabbing two of the worst holds I’ve ever grabbed in my life.  I was actually quite close to being able to just hold the holds and do a pull-up, but I couldn’t and I had to actually use my feet which was quite hard.  When I got it, it was pretty anti-climatic for me.  I was happy to get it of course, but it really didn’t feel like a major accomplishment for me. 

Sleep Reaction 13a
Sleep Reaction 13a
Sleep Reaction 13a

I think my most memorable send was also my last major send of the trip: my onsite of “Heart Breaker” 12c.  This route starts off pretty easy as it shares the start with a 5.11.  “Heart Breaker” however, busts out of the dihedral left directly into some seriously HUGE moves.  I’m good at big moves.  I have long arms and I have a lot or power, so the first couple big ones were pretty easy for me – I didn’t have to jump or anything, just make big reaches.


At one big move I felt that I would have to jump.  I was going from a good hold to another (seemed to be) good hold but at the last second, I intuitively dropped a really high back step and just reached.  OMG….that’s right OMG.   Not a good hold.  Not a good hold at all.  “OH DUCK OH DUCK OH DUCK.”  Yeah.  I did that a few times when I grabbed the hold, matched up, then fired for a good glory jug. 

Don’t forget the dog!
Where’s Raina?

And that’s when the pump settled in.  I was on a really good horizontal rest with so-so feet (the option of too high feet or lower, but worse feet.)  I took a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiig lonnnnnnnnnnnnnng rest here, but really couldn’t get the tingles out.  It looked like there was one more hard move before the glory section.  (Seems to be a theme at Ten Sleep?)  I made a exploratory move up to what looked like a mono.  It was a VERY deep drilled mono that was big enough for me to two-finger stack.  I committed to the move and hiked the feet going for a left-hand sidepull….which was crap.  Totally crap.

Our campsite

I was red-lining and couldn’t hold the sidepull so I WENT HARD again left to what ended up being a ½ pad jug crimper!  Glory!  I was still super pumped, but the rest was cake. Back to “OH DUCK OH DUCK OH DUCK OH DUCK OH DUCK.”  I couldn’t stop saying.  That route just blew my mind.  That was for sure one of the best experiences of my climbing career. 

After climbing, we crawled back to the camp site and started packing things up.  We had to leave in the morning and I had a 24 hour drive to do.  It was sad to leave the campsite – my home for the past two weeks.  I took a few photos, jumped in the creek naked on last time for good luck and waved good bye to Ten Sleep.  Maybe forever?  Maybe just for another year. 

Who’s ready for some beeeeeer!

This could be all yours for 350k  Its for sale.
The cup cakes at Dirty Sallies are excellent

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