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The Big Year – Part 1 (casting off)

What would you do with a full year off of work?

A few years back a friend of mine proposed that question.  Hmmm.  Like school kids we sat around and day dreamed.  Patagonia, Pakistan, Nepal, Italy, Spain…. the list went on.  About a year after this conversation, I decided to start saving my money and make this dream a reality.  Eighteen months after that, I finished up my last work stint in Western Africa and moved what I needed into a 94 Chevy van.  Late December, with music blaring and sunglasses on, I headed towards a year of adventure!   Here is a recap of 2015, my big year:

I have always had an affinity with the east side of the Sierra in California.  With countless seasons spent in Yosemite Valley, many of my friends reside in the small high desert town of Bishop.  I spent my first three weeks here, clipping bolts in the Owens River Gorge and bouldering in the Happy’s and the Buttermilks.  Rest days usually involved hanging at the Black Sheep coffee house and soaking in the local hot springs.  Amazing how easy I found it to fill days even though I didn’t have a job!

The author climbing in the Gorge, Photo credit Jean Tucky.

The author climbing in the Gorge, Photo credit Jean Tucky.

In the third week of January, I made a last minute decision to attend the OR trade show in Utah.  Expecting to be away from Bishop for only a week, I even made climbing plans for my return.  But after a great trade show I received a call from the inventor of the big year, Justin Griffin.  “Its going off up here in Bozeman,” he said, “come on up.”

Well I thought I am already half way there.  The stars are pointing me towards the north! 

About a week later, I found myself bouncing and bumping on a Montana back road with a PBR in hand, riding shotgun with Bozeman hard man Justin Griffin.  “Its going off in Cook City, stuff that hasn’t come in in years is in shape,” Justin said.  “I have my eye on a three pitch unclimbed line.”  That night we slept in his beater old tow behind travel camper just minutes from the climbing.  We were up early and stepping outside the cold bit my face hard, my eyelashes freezing together.  That day we established a new line: Thunder Bird, 600 feet M7 WI6.  It was a spectacular day out with a good friend.  As luck would have it, I would forget my ice tools below the last pitch hanging perfectly off a stone.  The second ascent (which still awaits) will receive a nice little prize!

Thunder Bird

Thunder Bird

Feeling confident after our ascent of Thunder Bird, I asked Justin for the beta for Winter Dance, a cult classic in Hyalite Canyon.  I had been dreaming about this climb for the last 15 years.  A monstrous four hour approach is required for this gem established by Alex Lowe and Jim Earl in 1998.  It’s a beautiful four pitch climb rated M8 WI6, that starts a dizzying 3,000 feet off the valley floor.   To my good fortune, a good friend of mine, Ken Kreis happened to be in Bozeman looking for a climbing partner for his first ever trip to climb in Hyalite.  “I have the perfect climb for us, Ken,” I deviously said!  The climbing proved steep and exhilarating, this combined with the interment snow flurries, gave it a big mountain feel.  Fun day in the hills, and Ken did great!

Winter Dance pitch 2

Winter Dance pitch 2

Ken Kreis atop pitch three Winter Dance

Ken Kreis atop pitch three Winter Dance

When I finally arrived back into cell reception, I got a voice message from Justin, “Get some chow on your way home.  We are climbing with Jack Tackle tomorrow.  4:30am wake up call.”  I looked at my watch.  11:30pm.  Oh man, this is gonna hurt, I thought to myself.  But, I had never met Jack before, and being a long time hero of mine, I knew I had to go!  We climbed Petrified Dreams, a climb in Yellowstone National Park that Jack had put up back in the 90’s.

Jack Tackle, Justin Griffin, and I, Petrified Dreams in the background

Jack Tackle, Justin Griffin, and I, Petrified Dreams in the background

Sadly this would be the last time I would climb ice with Justin in his home territory. Justin tragically passed away in Nepal nine months later pursing his dreams as an alpinist.

Stay tuned for my five part blog series the big year.

Craig DeMartino Joins Team Trango

Trango is proud to announce the addition of Craig DeMartino to the Trango athlete team.  “I’ve been a fan of Trango’s gear for years and the chance to join such an elite team athletes is amazing. I’m stoked to take the gear out on all my adventures and work with the team to spread the Trango vibe to the tribe”, says DeMartino.

craig hvar1

The Trango athlete team strives to support strong climbers, like Craig, who are good stewards and contributors to the climbing community at large. Craig returned to climbing in 2002 after a 100 foot ground fall that resulted in the loss of a leg, a fused back and neck, and a renewed love of being outside and the simple movement found in climbing. Craig’s determination to climb hard, give back and provide motivational speeches and clinics to other disabled climbers makes him an ideal addition to the team.

Trying hard(er) in the Gym

V7 at Joe’s Valley

I’m not the type of person who does the whole new years resolutions.  To me, New Years is just another day.  I understand that people need “fresh starts”; “A time to change their lives.”  I listen to NPR podcasts all the time and I see why its important for humans to try to change our bad habits and also, all those fitness gyms need their “black January 2nds.”

Myself, I am constantly looking for ways to improve; not just my climbing, but my life overall.  My bro Ryan and I were talking about how to improve our climbing and we had a revelation: 
We never try hard in the gym.  Like….ever.  
In fact, most of the time, I just half bass it (not a typo.)   The Energy Rock Gym in Charleston has been HUGE for all of us here.  Our collective climbing has gone through the roof, mine included.  I had observed how several of the folks have improved a lot faster than I had; I wondered what I was doing wrong and what I could do to improve.  We did notice that they tried REALLY hard in the gym…their entire lives for 3 hours revolve around sending the purple problem.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I agree that gyms are ruining climbing all over the country.  (Just kidding, its an inside joke.)  I don’t take gym climbing very serious; nowhere near as serious as climbing outside. When I’m climbing outside, I try as hard as I can and push myself to, and sometimes past what I think are my physical limits.  In the gym though…I’m like “meh…didn’t send the blue problem…not gonna try and hold that hold…meh…(meh.)  Its lame anyways….” 
I would like to say that my hang-ups are practical things like “injury prevention” or “saving myself for the weekend.”  But honestly, I’m just lazy and don’t really give ‘er.  (I do actually try and push my limits while training though.)

So I’ve decided that I’m going to start trying as hard as I can (it will be a process) in the gym.  The conclusion being that the harder I try in the gym, the more the gym will improve my climbing.   Hopefully I won’t injure myself or ruin myself for the weekend. 
I’m in my hangboard phase of my phased training, but I am also setting for our annual climbing competition.  I even ACTUALLY decided to try as hard as I could for one problem yesterday.  It’s a start.  (I’m totally going to send the purple cave problem!!)

2015 Ends in Sends – Drew Ruana Sends V14 in Bishop

Team athlete Drew Ruana finished 2015 in style by sending his first V13 and V14 in the same day. That day also happened to be December 31, the last day of a year that included  many impressive ascents and accomplishments including 1st place at USA Climbing Sport Climbing Youth Nationals and an ascent of “New World Order” (14c) at Little Si, Washington.

Drew Ruana on Direc North, V14

Drew Ruana on Direct North, V14

In addition to his first V13 (Direction, Buttermilks) and V14 (Direct North, Buttermilks), Drew put together a lengthy tick list of Bishop’s toughest and most classic boulders (see below).

Drew Ruana on Bubba Butt Buster (V11)

Drew Ruana on Bubba Butt Buster, V11

“This was by far the best bouldering trip I’ve had yet; I climbed a lot of routes that I was not capable of climbing last year, as well as finishing up old projects and getting personal bests on new routes.” – Drew Ruana

Video Highlights

Drew’s Bishop tick list:

  • Direct North (V14) – Buttermilks
  • Direction (V13) – Buttermilks
  • Bubba Lobotomy (V12) – Happies
  • He Got Game (V12) – Happies
  • Scanner Darkly (V12) – Get Carter Boulder The Bubba Butt Buster (V11) – Happies
  • Bubba: The Legend (V11) – Happies
  • Thunderbird (V11) – Buttermilks
  • North of Center (V11) – Buttermilks
  • Center Direct (V10) – Buttermilks
  • Evilution to the Lip (V10) – Buttermilks
  • Acid Wash (V10) – Happies
  • Twin Cracks (V9) – Get Carter Boulder
  • Jug Start to Acid Wash (V9) – Buttermilks
  • Last Dance (V9) – Buttermilks
  • Magnetic North (V8) – Buttermilks
  • Fly Boy Sit (V8) – Buttermilks
  • Checkerboard (V8) – Outter Buttermilks
  • High Plains Drifter (V7) – Buttermilks
  • Go Granny Ho (V7) – Buttermilks
  • Pope’s Roof (V7) – Buttermilks
  • Seven Spanish Angels (V6) – Get Carter Boulder
  • Atari (V6) – Buttermilks
  • Pope’s Prow (V6) – Buttermilks
  • Fly Boy (V5) – Buttermilks
  • East Rib (V3) – Buttermilks

*videos and photos courtesy of Matt Grossman

2016 Winter Training Season

It’s January here in West Virginia.  Normally by now, the weather is terrible, it’s snowing, everything is wet and everything will stay wet.  And it is way too cold to climb.  That makes training season easy!  Not this year though.  The weather has been unnaturally hot.  In-fact, it was almost TOO hot to boulder in December.  Things have finally cooled off though.   I finished my Fall/Winter climbing season by bouldering at Meadow Top area of the New River Gorge last weekend.
There’s No I in Illiterate V7.
After a short warm-up, I jumped right on “There’s no I in Illiterate” V7 and the companion problem “Mechanical Sensei” V5, flashing them both.  Not too bad right?  The carry-over finger strength from my summer hangboard is still with me!  I then set my sites on “Thomas Pinch-Ons” V8 and after working it a good bit, managed to send it too.  Not a bad way to finish up the season!
Now its time to train!
Thomas Pinch-Ons V8.
I’ve been running and dieting, trying to stay slim.  I find that my hangboard phase is also my best “running and dieting” phase too.  I pay a lot of attention to my weight and when I work HARD to gain 20 lbs on a particular grip, it reminds me how important being slim is for me.  (And how not-important ice cream and pizza are for me.)
Sunshine Arête V5.
 Trango has released the Rock Prodigy Forge.  This is basically a more hardcore “difficult” version of the Rock Prodigy Training Center.  I basically (what I consider) maxed out all the two finger pockets on the first board.  Some folks like to overload holds – adding 20, 30, 40 lbs per hold, but because of my climbing style, I prefer not to load up a grip more than 20 lbs.  I’m a static and slow climber, so I don’t feel like I need to gain body weight ++ on ANY grip.  That’s just me.  So long story short, I try to pick grips that I start at -30 or so lbs and try to work these to 0,5,10 etc.  I did this with the smallest pockets on the Rock Prodigy Training Center through 3 hangboard cycles.
Trango Forge
I did my initial workout on the Forge last Monday and found that the new (smaller) pockets were perfect!  My first hangboard workout of a cycle is usually pretty sloppy; its hard to know which weights to start with, but I did pretty OK on this one.  On the Forge board, I got to train the closed crimper for the first time.  For me, this is the revolutionary step in hangboarding technology.  It’s VERY dangerous to train the closed grip position on a normal hangboard.  The Forge uses a thumb bar to safely train this angle. I LOVED IT!
Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center
In the Rock Prodigy Training Manual, the Andersons present scientific evidence about how “joint angle” while training matters.  Below is the page that talks about it, but long story short, training tiny crimps in the open grip, doesn’t necessarily translate to the closed grip.  I close crimp holds all the time – including slopers (I know, I’m weird) so it will be great to get this trained!
From The Rock Climber’s Training Manual by Mike and Mark Anderson
For my supplemental training, I’ve also decided that I will start working on my flexibility.  If there’s such thing as a new years resolution for me, I guess that’s it!  BE MORE FLEXIBLE.  I’m not very flexible. I do P90x abs after every hangboard workout as well.

2016: What’s in Store

In a follow up to our final post of 2015, we asked our athlete team what they’re most proud of from 2015 and what they hope to accomplish in 2016.

Erik3-Johnny Coe

Erik Eisele

I have two favorite memories from climbing in 2015. One is in an arena I have limited experience in—bouldering—and the other is in the mountains.

This spring I was spending a lot of time wandering through the New England woods with a pad, shoes and no idea what I was climbing, where I was going. But I was finding boulders. Grades didn’t matter; I was just climbing whatever I came upon. I would throw myself at problems until exhausted or I stood on top of them, no numbers, no ego. It was like rediscovering climbing, that version back before redpoints and onsights and grades and ethics and all that other nonsense. It was amazing.

Then a few months later that same spirit came to life again in the Caucus Mountains of Georgia. I was there on a climber exchange through the AAC, and we had very little information about what we were looking at. They were 13,000 to 16,000-foot summits streaked in rock and snow, but that was all we knew. Unpainted canvas. I was with Americans, Armenians and Iranians, and we just threw ourselves at climbs, exploring blindly. I soloed a 2,500-foot snow line to a summit on the Russian border and amid swirling fog climbed a scrappy exposed face to a knife-edged peak I didn’t know the name of. It was raw exploration, a chance to fall into the unknown without pretense. It was awesome.

That is what I’ll be looking for in 2016—chance discoveries, adventures that remind me climbing isn’t about numbers or ego, but about the unknown, about practicing for all the other unknowns to come. Walking towards each mystery with openness and curiosity. Seeing perfection in the movement, not the outcome. The outcome will always only be the same.

Delaney Comp

Delaney Miller

Favorite 2015 accomplishment:

Making it in the top 15 in my first complete World Cup circuit. It was a long, exhausting season, but It was also one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I’m excited to do it all over again (and hopefully do it better!) in 2016. I plan on focusing more on my training this year as well as perfecting my routine.

Resolutions for 2016: 

  • Make it back to finals in a lead World Cup and Not skip any clips! (as I unfortunately did in Briancon)
  • Finish academic career at CSU
  • Coffee, books, music


Mike Anderson

2015 was a banner year for my climbing, so it’s hard to decide. I had an incredible trip to Spain, did my first 13c On-sight, and developed the Trango Forge hangboard, but the highlight was definitely sending Mission Impossible, my hardest yet, at 14c/d. I was also super stoked to hear about all the breakthroughs people made, pros and novices alike, after reading our book, The Rock Climber’s Training Manual.  It was also an incredible experience taking over as coach of the City Rock Youth Team with Janelle, and watching those passionate, hard working kids exceed their goals.

In 2016 I want to help more people reach their goals by furthering my research on climbing training, developing new products with Trango, and coaching.   I have a couple climbing goals too, but I never talk about a deal before it’s signed :).


Chris Barlow

Favorite 2015 Accomplishment:

This is sort of a weird one, but I’m proud of failing a lot. I put a lot of effort and time into goals that I didn’t achieve, ones that I’ll have to continue working toward, which is motivating. I even spent the final days of the year attempting a first ascent on El Mocho in the Torre group of El Chalten and never climbed more than two pitches off the ground!

2016 Goals:

I want to work on my mental toughness and improve my ability to climb well even when I’m exhausted, scared, and dealing with poor conditions.

Wall of the 90s-25

Janelle Anderson

There’s no way to pinpoint a favorite memory or even a specific accomplishment in 2015. What I am most proud of is finding BALANCE in my life that keeps our family going strong. Between personal bests in training, outdoor adventures, climbing, volunteering at the school, training, sharing Trango love, climbing, eating delicious tacos, training, work functions,  climbing, selling the Rock Climbers Training Manual, training, landscaping, climbing,  baking cookies, training,  managing rental properties, climbing, traveling to Spain, training, coaching youth climbing team, climbing, being a kickass wife, training, spending time with family & friends, climbing and being a cooler-than-ever Mom…I’ve somehow found BALANCE in all these moving parts!

2016 goals:

#1. Continue to find BALANCE in my busy, crazy life.

#2. Continue to push myself as a climber; tackling weaknesses, gaining confidence in strengths and widdlingdown the mental barriers that can be so destructive.


Drew Ruana

One of my biggest accomplishments in 2015 was finally winning youth nationals for sport climbing. For the past 5 years I had come in second place and last year I was finally able to clinch the win. I had trained really hard all year for it and my hard work paid off. My coaches and I had planned out detailed training programs and I put in work to make it a reality. I was really stoked!

My second accomplishment happened on the last day of 2015. I climbed a v14. I had trained for a couple months to get as strong as possible to boulder hard and I accomplished my goal of climbing v13 or harder on the last day of the year.

A 2016 resolution of mine is to boulder outdoors as much as possible. Last year, I went for a trip to bishop over new year’s (2014/15 and 2015/16),  and a one day bouldering session in October. I feel like I need to start putting more effort into getting outdoors more in order to progress my climbing, both indoors and outdoors. Once I get my driver’s license hopefully this will become easier!

2015 in Review: What We’re Proud of


Ethan Pringle

Favorite Memory from 2015:

Ok so my fondest memory/most meaningful accomplishment of 2015 is predictably, redpointing Jumbo Love… Kind of anticlimactic, but it really was like, the highlight of my climbing career. It was just a perfect day with good friends, and the culmination of an eight year dream/nightmare. A close second was redpointing La Reina Mora in Siurana on my last day in Spain. That was one that I really suffered for, and tortured myself over.

Resolution for 2016:

A few New Year’s resolutions (that I’m willing to share with a public audience) are, to write (a lot) more, and waste less time staring at my phone. And eat less sugar. And drink less alcohol. And watch less… never mind.


Mark Anderson

Favorite Memory from 2015:

Not a single thing, but the the fact that I did 24 first ascents/first free ascents in 2015, and I bolted 44 more routes (that I haven’t had a chance to try yet).

Resolution for 2016:

Obviously for next year the resolution is to finish what I started and send those 44 routes!


Skiy DeTray

Favorite Memory from 2015:

My favorite memory of 2015 is of standing on the summit plateau of the unclimbed 6500 meter North Buttress of Taboche in the Khumbu region of Nepal. My partner Justin Griffin and I had battled cold temperatures and serious technical climbing over the course of five consecutive days.  It felt amazing to set such a hard and challenging goal and than through training, hard work, and perseverance accomplish the goal!

Resolution for 2016:

In 2016 my three major goals are to have fun, train every day,  and climb over 7,000 meters on a highly technical face in Nepal!


Dan Brayack

Favorite Memory from 2015:

Seeing the benefits of training apply to bouldering here at the New River Gorge. I’m mostly a route climber, but took a break from that this year to wrestle some pebbles. I pushed new boundaries both in highball and in difficulty (for me.)

2016 Resolution:

My resolution for this year is to stretch more; to be more flexible. Also, to train harder and push through both bouldering and route plateaus as well as finishing up the Rumbling Bald guidebook that I’m publishing.


Erica Lineberry

Favorite Memory from 2015:

My main goal for 2015 was training for a 10 day family climbing trip to Wyoming this summer. My goal was to send as many classic 5.12’s as possible, and I surpassed all of my expectations by walking away with 10. (FYI the Rock Prodigy Training Method works!!!) My favorite moment of the trip was completing a “birthday challenge” on our last day in Ten Sleep – ticking my 35th lifetime 5.12 on my 35th birthday.

2016 Resolution:
I’ve got several routes on the tick list for 2016. Some are routes I’m looking forward to trying for the first time (Orange Juice 12c at the Red), others are routes that were left undone in 2015 (Jesus and Tequila 12b at the New). Regardless of what gets sent or not though, the main goal as always is to log as much family climb time as possible at our favorite crags.


Jason Haas

Favorite Memory from 2015:

2015 will be a year to remember for me. I took training seriously for the first time and saw the tremendous benefit of it on my trip to Yosemite. While weather prevented us from freeing El Capitan, it was quite special to be one of the last (maybe the last?) to do the Regular Route on Northwest Face of Half Dome before a major portion of it collapsed. On that trip, we also spent about a week in the Needles of California and I have never experienced a higher concentration of classic routes. Every time we tied in, that route or the next pitch became my favorite and I thought it couldn’t be topped. But with each subsequent pitch, each route that followed, spanning all grades, the next favorite just kept coming. If you’ve never been there, put it on your bucket list for sure.

Several proud sends occurred and many more climbing trips ensued throughout 2015, including another trip over Labor Day weekend that will become an all time favorite when we took our three-year old son and nine month old daughter to Vedauwoo for four days with four other couples that had similarly aged children. It’s become a whole new adventure trying to share this lifestyle with our kids and it’s been an incredible experience as we stumble along learning how to get all our gear to the crag, how to car camp in a very different way and so on.

But then in the fall, when conditions were best and psych and fitness was the highest, and I was ready to dispatch project after project, life took a very unexpected turn. After experiencing a mini-stroke while mowing the lawn landed me in the ER, an onslaught of tests began. The next several months became quite introspective and difficult as the doctors told me to “get my affairs in order.” Things didn’t look good and my wife and I had to seriously think about what the future would look like without me in it. I tried to maintain some semblance of normalcy during that period and was able to get out a few times during those months to rock climb but had difficulty with dizziness. I had to take or grab gear/draws unexpectedly at times when my head became to spin and I even took a massive fall off a boulder while hiking along a trail when I became disoriented. I resigned to toproping, and then, not climbing at all.

Resolution for 2016:

Now, as 2016 looms overhead, the dark cloud has dissipated and I am proud to say I will be a part of it. Even 2017 for that matter. I still have a long road ahead and my diagnosis has not been pinpointed, but it has no longer been classified as terminal and the cocktail of medications has allowed me to climb again. I even started ice climbing after a nine-year hiatus. Exercise seems to help more than the meds so my wife and I are working on creating a training schedule that works well with our lives and the kids lives and will be sustainable with family and adult life. I’m excited about some prospective trips in 2016 and hope to write a very different write up for next year’s blog – one with never ending stoke and a long list of sends, family adventures, and incredible memories.


Alex Johnson

Favorite Memory from 2015:

Branching out more into other elements of the sport.

Resolutions for 2016:

Not becoming complacent!

Delaney Miller Joins Team Trango

Trango is proud to announce that Delaney Miller has joined team Trango. Delaney began climbing at age 12 in Frisco, Texas, and has been hooked on the sport ever since. She began competing in 2008, making USA Team her first youth sport nationals and going on to win her final four years. A two time SCS Women’s National Champion, Delaney broke into the world cup scene in 2014, making finals at her first world cup season in Imst and placing seventh. Delaney loves climbing because it has brought new perspective into her life – the sport lets her meet new people, travel, and listen to the world around her. Her favorite climbing areas are the Red, where she sent God’s Own Stone 5.13d, and Ceuse. These days, Delaney lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, where she studies sports medicine at CSU.

Delaney Miller Headshot

In 2016, Delaney plans to continue competing internationally and climbing hard sport routes outside. In the far future, Delaney is excited to explore all aspects of the sport as well as continue her education in neuroscience research.


The vision for the Trango athlete team is to find climbers who embody our brand’s values and support them in their climbing endeavors. We focus on the character of the climber, their passion for the sport, and their desire to contribute to the community.

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