climber

Stoke(less)tember: What to do when you’re broke on stoke

Sunset over Vedauwoo

Sunset over Vedauwoo by Alton Richardson

It’s finally September. You’ve spent the summer thumbing through your guidebook in search of the perfect route. You know every movement by heart and have rehearsed each one over and over during those long hangboard sessions. You’ve visualized the perfect sequence of micro movements that will unlock the crux. The 10-day forecast has finally let up and you’re daydreaming of redpoint burns. Then it hits you. The motivation wanes, the approach seems longer than usual, and gravity seems a bit heavier than normal. You’re broke on stoke.

It’s a rite of passage. If you have climbed for any amount of time, you have inevitably experienced this phenomenon. The preparation is done, you’re strong enough, you know the route, and for whatever reason, you are not into it. Keep heart, climber friends – we have 3 quick ways to regain your stoke.

Relax

Breath, pause, and take a step back.

Drew Ruana Smith Rock

“Take breaks. I don’t climb when I’m not “psyched” or interested in it. Forcing psyche is like forcing patriotism-you should WANT to do it, not be forced to. Then resentment starts.” – Alex Johnson

 

Recharge

Smile a little. Remember what got you stoked in the first place. That perfect sequence that fits your style, the incredibly aesthetic line you’ve been eyeing all summer, and inevitable breakthrough you’re hoping to experience during the send. Think about the process – how far you’ve come and how much growth has come from the struggle.

Sharing beta

Sharing beta by Nate Gerhardt

“Talk to friends, look at photos, guidebooks, youtube videos of great climbs you want to do.” – Mike Anderson

 

Re-Frame

Sharing the rope is about more than a lifeline – it’s about shared passion and a new perspective. The best partners know when you’re struggling and when to crack the perfect joke to lighten the mood and re-frame the experience. Pick your partner wisely.

Bouldering

High fives all around by Nate Gerhardt

“Partners. You need to have partners that are there for you. They make you laugh, encourage you when you’re struggling, don’t judge you when you are climbing poorly, and can be a good person to just simply have a conversation with. If you go into your climbing day with the idea of just getting outside with a good friend when your motivation is low, you can’t have a bad day. Talk about your life – decompress about your job, relationship, whatever. Listen about their life and just enjoy each other’s company. I’ve had plenty of terrible climbing pitches/attempts but very few bad climbing days. I’m careful about who I climb with and cherish those people dearly. After two decades of climbing, I remember the people more than the routes. Plus when your stoke is high – it’s contagious so you motivate your partner and visa versa. If you only climb when you’re stoked or sending at your best, you’re really limiting yourself to some great experiences.” – Jason Haas

“I motivate myself in many different ways but I think the best was is having partners you love spending time with and who can push you.” – Ari Novak

 

Bonus: Re-Caffeinate

When all else fails, re-caffeinate 🙂

Pamela Shanti Pack

Pamela Shanti Pack sips coffee before redpoint burns

“Drink a lot of coffee” – Drew Ruana

Striking Distance

By Mark Anderson

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Mark Anderson on the first ascent of Striking Distance, 5.14b, Gaudi Wall. Photo Derek Wasiecko

Last year I stumbled upon a rad little north-facing cliff I’m calling the Gaudi Wall (for famed Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi).  In fact the wall is not exactly “little”, with pitches up to 38 meters.  The rock is super high-quality Gneiss–I would argue some of the best in Colorado.

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Entering the burly crux of Striking Distance, 5.14b. This route has incredible stone and really rad movement. Photo Derek Wasiecko.

I put in about 20 routes on this wall in spring/summer 2017.  This is easily the best crag I’ve developed and I’m really proud of it.  Last weekend I polished off the last of my original lines–an outstanding lightning-bolt seam in a sheer, 20-degree overhang called Striking Distance.  The line starts with really gymnastic, sequential and technical liebacking to a good rest, followed immediately by a boulder problem featuring super-burly underclinging that I figure is around V11 in its own right.  My main objective over the last month was just to get some mileage on rock while passing the time until I’m ready to start training for the Fall season.  This was the perfect route for some roped bouldering, but to my surprise it started coming together despite the summer heat. On Sunday I lucked into an unseasonably cold and windy day and everything clicked on the second go.  I spent 11 days on the route spread over a year, and in that time I only linked the crux boulder problem one time–during Sunday’s send!

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Ben Lindfors climbing On Till The End, 5.13c.

I’m working on an informal print guide for this wall and a few of the other crags I’ve been developing since 2015 (more on this to come in a few weeks, or months, but hopefully not!)  I’m apprehensive about publicizing the crag because the access route passes through a residential area which could cause conflicts. If you have the opportunity to visit this place, please be courteous to the local residents, carpool, drive slowly and keep the stereotypical obnoxious-climber-behavior to a minimum.  In the mean time, here are some photos of some of the Gaudi Wall’s best lines. Enjoy!

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Derek Wasiecko toppint out The Underflinger, 5.12b. 

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Evan Howell flashing Wrench Wrun, 5.12a.

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Mike flashing Oh Wow!, 5.12a

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Ben Lindfors in the high crux of On till the End, 5.13c.

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Derek New crushing The Underflinger, 5.12b.

Ten Sleep Canyon Part 4 – Superfly 12c/d

So after a patriotic day at the rodeo on the 4th, the next day was back to the canyon for business as usual.  As I said in Ten Sleep Recap Part 2, the 3rd day on in our 3 day chunk was spent scoping out the moves on Superfly 12c/d at the Slavery Wall, so let’s rewind back to there for a minute.  The main difference we noted between Slavery Wall and everywhere else we had climbed was that it was WAY hotter in the morning, due to the lack of tree cover at the base of the cliff.  Thankfully though, our main objective climbed an east-facing corner, so it went into shade earlier than everything else.  

Some new found friends on the 11a beside Superfly

On our reconnaissance day, we warmed up on a route everyone that ever climbs in Ten Sleep Canyon simply must do once – Beer Bong 10b.  The face climbing on it is pretty polished in places, and the movement is just okay.  But the exposure and position out over the chimney in the last 15 feet is what earns this route its stars.   For a more interesting perspective than the typical crotch shot at the finish, we decided to take the drone up to capture some better angles while waiting for Superfly to go into shade (video here.)  

Beer Bong 10b

Hanging draws on Superfly was exhausting – 100 feet of technical climbing that demanded focus for almost every move.  After an hour (and a lot of stick clip hauling), I gave up two bolts from the top.  CragDaddy took a turn, and while he was able to clip chains, it wasn’t without aiding through the crux lurking right before the anchors.  To be honest I was a little discouraged tying in again, this time on toprope so I could work the crux more efficiently.  But my second run went awesome – I actually linked most of the lower section.  And though my initial attempts at the final sequence were pretty dismal, I ended up finding a pocket that CragDaddy had missed before – it made the move juuuuuust doable enough for me (though I had my doubts as to whether that beta would work coming in hot on a redpoint burn.)

Big C shakin’ his money maker

Knowing that a 3rd burn on a 3rd day on would likely do nothing but further rip my skin to shreds, I opted to quit while I was ahead, in the hopes of coming back a muerte on our final day in the canyon.  So fast forward past the rodeo, and past another day at FCR.  Last day equals last chance, so nothing like a little pressure, right?  The morning dawned sunny and hot, as the temps had steadily been rising since we’d arrived 10 days prior.  Although it would for sure be much cooler in the canyon, highs in the town were forecasted at 100!  That said, no one was in a rush to get up there right away, considering the lack of shade.  So we took a nice drive through the old road in the canyon, stopping here and there to play with the drone and take some token Christmas card pics.  

When we finally made it up there, we opted for the Red River Gorge strategy of warming up – a bolt to bolt run on the project.  Superfly is not a terrible warm-up option – the difficulty builds very gradually, with nothing harder than 11a in the first 40 feet.  Then come two back to back cruxes, the first being a hard lock off, the second using a series of insecure feet.  More long moves on decent holds leads to a pretty solid rest stance at 80 feet , followed by a little more hard 5.11 filler before setting up for potential heartbreak at the anchors.  

Having only had one run at it before, and therefore needing more beta refinement than me, CragDaddy offered to hang draws.  A welcome gift, especially considering that a lot of my tick marks had washed away during the freak deluge of rain from the night before.  Using the new hidden pocket I’d found the previous day, he also was able to do the final sequence, and lowered down feeling more optimistic about his send potential.

Down low on Superfly

My strategy for the first run was to climb like I’m sending until it becomes apparent that I’m not – ie, don’t get sloppy, and don’t get flash pumped.  I executed well, remembering most of my beta.  I got stalled out in the 2nd hard sequence, but managed to make it through and up to the rest.  After getting as much back as I was going to, I proceeded, til I was one bolt from the top, staring down the gauntlet of the final sequence.  I took a breath, pictured the moves then executed – Crimp, crimp, pocket, mono, make clip.  Done.  Get feet up and reach high for the hidden pocket – got it!  

I was almost out – all I had left was to bump my left hand to a better hold, smear my feet really high, and toss to a flat hold where I could then mantle to the chains.  But in my haste to hit the hidden pocket, my feet were lower than they were supposed to be.  Also, my right finger was sliding out of the shallow mono, and I was way too insecure to re-grip.  Not to mention that ever present pump clock.   Despite the fact that one of the cardinal rules of redpointing is to STICK WITH YOUR BETA on a send attempt, I just knew my original beta was done for.  I needed to go Rogue.

Now Rogue Beta is a slippery option that can only end in one of two scenarios – you either feel like a genius for making a wise, in the moment choice, or you feel like a chump because you hesitated and didn’t execute correctly.  Honestly it’s usually the latter, but I felt like I had no choice.  Instead of going left hand to the better hold, I went right hand, which allowed me to leave the mono early.  However, the hand mix-up cost me.  Not only was the mantle more awkward, it also left me out of reach of the finishing holds!  Panic started to set in again – the chains were literally at eye level, but too far to the right to clip.  True confessions – I thought about grabbing the quickdraw, but I knew I would hate myself for it on the ground, and that after all the effort I’d just put in, I couldn’t count on getting there clean again.  It really was now or never.  I held my breath, stepped my right foot level with my right hand, and precariously started to rock over, praying a gentle breeze wouldn’t blow me off.  Right when I thought I was about to tip backwards, I felt my center of gravity settle over my feet, and I could stand up.  Clip chains = DONE!  

CragDaddy high on Superfly 12c/d Photo by @izzyjams

CragDaddy sent on his next go as well (with far fewer dramatics.)  After a nice long break, he got some revenge on another near miss from 2015 – Strut Your Funky Stuff 12a.  Even Big C got on the send train with his toprope onsight of Shake Your Money Maker 5.7.  I was hoping for a similar effect on Momma’s Mental Medication, also 12a…but I fell going for the final pocket.  Womp womp.  That said, nothing could dampen our day too much.  It was a grand ending to an even grander trip!

Me with my favorites.

Initially, we had thought that this 3rd time to Ten Sleep might be our final time.  After all, there is so much rock to climb in the United States, it hardly seems fair to keep our pilgrimage in the same spot…but guys, I just don’t know if we can give up going to this place!  Especially now that the kids are older and are so vocal about how much they love it.  One advantage to growing children however, is that road trips are a lot easier now…and with homeschooling, it’s pretty darn easy to take our show on the road.  So who knows, maybe next time we’ll drive?  Anyone got any fun ideas for stops along the way?  For now though, it’s good to be home.  See you at the New this fall!  

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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Ten Sleep Canyon Part 2 – Superratic

Big C crushing Boy Howdy 5.9

Our typical “vacation climbing” (ie, more than a weekend) strategy involves a smattering of rest days in addition to climbing days, so that we can climb as close to our best as possible whenever we are on the wall.  We generally try to avoid crowds by planning rest days for a Saturday, when the crag would be most crowded from local day trippers.  For this trip we also wanted to make sure we were in town for the 4th of July celebrations, so we ended up climbing in 3 “chunks” – 2 days on, 1 day off, 3 days on (with the 3rd day being short), 1 day off, 2 final days on, then home.  

The first two days of that middle “chunk” were spent at Superratic Wall, an area that, while absolutely stacked with classics, we’d not spent much time at prior to this trip.  Our 2015 trip had featured Tricks for You 12a, and Great White Behemoth 12b.  So for this time around, we started at the other end of the wall, with a relatively short but seemingly holdless line called Black Slabbath 12b

Now sometimes the routes at Ten Sleep, especially the very popular, classic ones, are accused of being soft at the grade, and sometimes I would agree…but not this one!  This one packed quite a punch in only 50 feet – starting with just getting onto the wall.  The holds were microscopic, the feet were barely there at all, and the climbing was so insecure it seemed as though the slightest hint of a breeze would blow you right off.  On my first go, I think my stick clip hung more draws than I did, but I rehearsed the harder sequences on the way down and managed to rally for a solid 2nd go send!  CragDaddy took a few more tries, but eventually put it down (video of his send here.)  In between his redpoint burns, I gave Tetonka 13a a couple of toprope tries.  Boy was that thing sharp!  It wasn’t pretty, but I did get up it, and I did do all the moves – although I have no idea how on earth I’d ever make the 3rd clip.  

Working on my ninja moves on Black Slabbath 12b

Big C’s climbing highlight of the trip was Boy Howdy 5.9, a juggy but steeper-than-it-looks little number that he got on both days, and was psyched to “toprope send” on the second day (video found here!)  His motivation for climbing can sometimes be hit or miss, and we certainly don’t want to push, but there was no question he was having a blast on this route.  Mental note – find more just like this for that boy!!!  

Same route, different climber!

Our second day at Superratic was even better than the first.  We decided to up our game a little bit with Walk the Dog 12c – while significantly longer than Black Slabbath, this one did have both better holds and better rests.  We both thought the grades should be switched?  It was CragDaddy’s turn to hang draws, and I was psyched that his tick marks left me a pretty good road map to follow.  My first attempt featured some hangs, but I was able to methodically figure it all out, and on the way down, I rehearsed the moves in chunks between rest stances.  And…we both sent! (video of me sending here.)

This much fun is exhausting….

We still had some time left, and CragDaddy wanted to take a turn on Tetonka since he’d missed out the day before, so I volunteered to hang draws.  I wanted to see if it felt any more doable now that I’d worked out the moves.  I actually was able to link a surprising amount of the bottom section, making it through the first crux section clean, but my power meter struggled hard around the 3rd bolt, and I ended up having to jug through to finish. In hindsight, considering how shredded my skin was after this end of day attempt, I probably should have left this one alone and opted for something easier, but it ended up being fine.  CragDaddy had a similar experience…

Sending smiles!

The close of our second day at Superratic marked that we were somehow already over halfway done with our trip.  We decided that our 3rd day on would be a reconnaissance mission to the Slavery Wall, so we could suss out the beta for Superfly 12c/d, a route that had been recommended to us earlier in the trip.  More on how that went later, but the next post will be all about our rest day shenanigans!  

 

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[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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Ten Sleep Canyon, Part 1 – French Cattle Ranch and Valhalla

CragDaddy working through the opening boulder problem on Pussytoes 12d

Not sure about your summer, but ours has been nuts – especially the month of July. Last Friday I had vocal cord surgery (don’t worry I’m fine), and the week before that we were at the beach with extended family. So it’s hard to believe that it was just a little over 3 weeks ago that we were living the climber’s dream out in Ten Sleep, Wyoming! Since Ten Sleep is one of my very favorite places in the world, I could go on all day about it, but I’ll spare you the day’s work, and try to limit myself to just 4 blog posts – 3 parts for the areas we concentrated our climbing efforts on, and 1 part for our around town/rest day shenanigans. Sound good? Here’s part 1…

FRENCH CATTLE RANCH ~ 
FCR offers some of the best rock in the canyon, but as for most areas in Ten Sleep, you gotta work for it to get there.  Make no mistake, this hike is long.  Guidebook suggests 45 minutes, which seems about right if all members of your party have grown-up sized legs and hike with purpose.  But if you add in a pair of 8 year old legs, along with some 4 year old legs, and your focus is more intent on meandering through fields of wildflowers, plan on around an hour and a half to get up there.  It’s worth it though, trust me!

Now the way most people do the south-facing side of the canyon is to sleep in late,  show up around lunchtime when the wall goes into shade, and climb until late, as the sun doesn’t set til around 10 in the summer.  But coming in with kids on East Coast time didn’t provide us with that luxury – ie, our first morning began at 430 (630 EST).  Our strategy was more of a get-out-early-and-suffer-through-the-warm-up, then enjoy the shade until 5 or so.  As my fellow east coasters know,  heat WITHOUT suffocating humidity is really no big deal.  Besides, the base of the cliff in most areas has plenty of tree cover for shady hang outs, and often times even filtered shade on the lower part of routes.  

Beauty as far as the eye can see!

We’d tackled all of the super classics on the Shinto Wall on our last trip, in 2015, so our main goals for day 1 at FCR was to shop around for potential projects later in the trip.  (CragDaddy also wanted to wrap up some unfinished business with Center El Shinto 12b/c from last time.)  But getting accustomed to the limestone was harder than we anticipated – on previous trips, we’d always climbed somewhere else first to get acclimated, either Spearfish, or Wild Iris, and were always feeling great by the time we rolled into Ten Sleep.  This time around, we probably should have factored in a little more adjustment time.  

Jedediah 12a

I did manage to send a 12a on Day 1 called Who the F*** is Jedediah?  And let me tell you, I don’t know who he is either, but this route felt pretty darn hard.  Multiple long, sustained cruxes without a hint of chalk…probably would have felt different by Day 10, but this one took me 4 valiant efforts to put down.  Other routes of note were Tutu Man 10d – a fabulous warm-up that climbs a shaded corner, and Euro Trash Girl 10b – a decent warm-up that unfortunately didn’t climb as good as it looked.  

As far as project shopping, we tried a few, but more or less struck out on Day 1.  We did end up going back to FCR on Day 8 with a little more success.  CragDaddy was able to put down Center El Shinto first try of the day, but still got shut down on Pussy Toes 12d.  Second time around I found I could in fact do the boulder problem on Zen Garden 12c, but it also felt very sharp and tweaky, and by that point I wanted to save my skin (and tendons) for our final day.  I bailed on it in favor of an onsight attempt (and success!) of Crazy Wynona 11d – I’d done 2 of the other 11’s on the wall during our 2012 trip, and this one was just as good as I’d remembered the others! 

 

 

Big C on Macaroni 5.8

VALHALLA ~
The 2nd day’s main goal (along with more project shopping), was Cocaine Rodeo, one of the few five-star 12a’s we’d yet to touch.  The hike was a good deal shorter (estimated family hiking time = 50 minutes.)  After warming up on the super fun Heroin Hoedown 11a, we got down to business.  CragDaddy onsighted like a boss!  I unfortunately blew my flash by getting sucked into his tall man beta at the 2nd bolt, but was wisely told to come back down, wait a few minutes, and start again.  I did my own thing the next go and got through, and with the CragDaddy beta hose spraying me down for the rest of the route, the next go send came easily enough…although I did get stalled out for a hot minute in the middle, as the big mono move was NOT a sure thing!  (Had I not been on point, I probably woulda hung!)  

Also worth mentioning from Day 2 –Dicken’s Cider 12c and Last Dance with Mary Jane 11b/c.  After waiting out a freak hailstorm in the middle of the day, we attacked both of these in the afternoon.  I was psyched to nab the flash on the latter, but the former kicked both of our butts.  Great movement on some really cool holds, but didn’t feel doable for a short term trip.  

If you’ve followed us at all on here or social media, you are probably aware that in addition to being climbers, we  are certified nature dorks.  One of our favorite things to do on any hike is to identify any flora/fauna that we see, then go home and draw it in our nature notebook.  We were looking forward to being in a new environment with new critters and wildflowers to observe.  In fact, my 8 year old has such an exciting memory of us stumbling upon a moose on one of our hikes here in 2015, that he said the one thing he absolutely wanted to see was another moose.  And, wouldn’t you know on our hike out Day 1 from FCR, we almost literally ran smack dab into a mama moose with her “teenager” looking calf!  We kept our distance, but they didn’t seem bothered by us in the slightest.  We shared the trail with them for at least 5-10 minutes, until they finally got tired of us following them and loped down off trail into the meadows below.  Amazing experience, and one that I hope both kiddos will remember (at least via photos) for the rest of their lives.  

There are moose on the loose!

Part 1 = done!  Stay tuned for our adventures at the Superratic Wall coming up next!

 

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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More Sport Climbing in the Dolomites

By Mark Anderson

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Fantisilandia, 7a+, Becco d’Ajal

Now that I had figured out which characteristics to look for in Dolomite sport crags I was much more psyched for the upcoming crag days.  One crag that piqued my interest is called “Rio Gere” and was merely 4 Km from our Condo in Cortina. Though the book raved about it, a quick recon of the area left me skeptical.

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Rio Gere–a massive boulder in the forest just east of Cortina.

The cliff is a mixture of yellow, fractured stone and (at that time) heavily seeping pocketed flowstone. Since I was unsure of its quality, I left it for the afternoon of a big hiking day when I was already tired. I began the session with the old strategy of climbing the dry yellow stone, which went as expected—I sent everything, but felt dirty afterwards. I decided I would have more fun slipping out of muddy water-sculpted pockets than teetering up dusty choss, so I climbed a set of flowstone lines that all turned out to be incredible, despite the mud.

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Climbing rad (but muddy) flowstone pockets on Che Pizza, 7b+, Rio Gere.

I also learned that by taking my grade down a few notches I could pretty much climb through a shower head without falling, and when I clipped the chains I felt a real sense of accomplishment. There was no question—I was having more fun climbing the best rock, even if it was wet. That made the choice of the next crag obvious.

IMG_1774aEasily my favorite crag of the trip was Beco d’Ajal—a group of massive boulders just outside of Cortina. Of the crags I visited, this is the other contender for “best sport crag in the dolomites,” and really, the distinction would depend heavily on taste. While Laste is more of a vertical technician’s dream, Beco d’Ajal is all about the steep overhanging pockets. The best comparison I can think of is Sector Cascade at Ceuse. Though not as tall as Ceuse, the cliffs are completely covered in sculpted flowstone jugs.

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No Worries, 7a+, at Beco d’Ajal

The crag is guarded by a burly 45-minute uphill trudge, but it was well worth it. As expected, pretty much everything was wet, but by now I was quite used to climbing through it. The scenery from the cliff was spectacular, looking onto the Tofana Group and Cortina, and the climbing was incredible. If I had one day to be teleported to any cliff in the world, I would go there (when its dry!), Becco

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Fantastic, 7b+ Becco d’Ajal.

For our last day we were all pretty tuckered out, so I selected a cliff with a short drive and even shorter Approach. Crepe de Oucera (Alti) was not quite up to the level of the previous three crags, but it was really good. It’s a favorite of the Cortina locals thanks to its short approach and southern aspect. The climbing here is generally near-vertical with lots of pockets, reminding me of the more pocketed rock at Sinks or the less-featured walls at Ten Sleep. This felt like a more traditional European crag with easy access, well-worn stone and lots of options. Though only one route really blew me away (a 12b called Cuba Libre), it was refreshing to climb some high quality dry rock for a change.

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White Line, 6c+, Crepe de Oucera.

There were a number of other intriguing crags we didn’t visit due to seepage. If I return in drier conditions I would definitely make return trips to Beco d’Ajal and Laste, but based on what I saw, I’d also like to climb on these crags:

– Sass Dlacia: steeply overhanging walls of pockets

– Malga Ciapela: less-steep, techy flowstone

– Tridentina/Eiszeit: Overhanging pockets

– Cinque Torri: Well-traveled/historic collection of large boulders tilted in wild directions

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Cinque Torri

All told, I really enjoyed the sport climbing. Given the amount of rock and variety I think it’s a very worthy destination for sport climbers, certainly worth considering for those looking for a holistic vacation with options for other adventure-oriented activities. That said, try to visit in the Fall when the rock is presumably less wet!

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Fantisilandia, 7a+, Becco d’Ajal.

Coming Soon: more non-sport-climbing adventures in the Dolomites!

The Best Route I Never Sent

As climbers, we are driven by one unifying accomplishment: the send. No matter the grade or the discipline, we are all chasing the elusive top out, the chains, or the summit. Sends gained make for a good tick list, but many of the best stories revolve around the next send – the one that’s in process, on hold, or just a dream right now. We asked our athletes about the best routes they’ve never climbed, here’s what they said:

Alex Johnson

Alex Johnson Monster Skank send

Photo: Ray Davalos

Everything on my list that I’ve never gotten to. I have such a long list and each route on the list is there for a specific reason, and everything not climbed, I’ll never know what I’m missing, but I feel like I’m missing a lot. Maybe Nirvana in Red Rock.

 

Drew Ruana

Biographie, 5.15a, at Ceuse. It ascends a perfect blue streak of limestone with comfy crimps and pockets the entire way. It is also maybe the most historic route in the world.

 

Jason Haas

Photo: Jon Glassberg

Jules Verne (5.11b) in Eldorado Canyon. It’s in my backyard and I’ve shown up numerous times to climb it but something has always gone wrong – a partner is sick, flakes out, some of the pitches are wet, you name it. I’ve done almost all of it in pieces but never been able to do the whole thing. It really gets to me I haven’t done it. Actually, I forgot about it until this question. Now I can’t stop thinking about it. Thanks. Guess I know what I’m doing this weekend.

 

Mike Anderson

Something in Spain, I’m sure. I’ve been there once…climbed about 5 days and always wanted to go back. That, and Necessary Evil at the VRG in Arizona…currently my nemesis – a super incredible route that I’ve poured 2.5 years into, but conditions are so finicky, I’ve struggled with lining up the planets to make it happen. Also Just Do It at Smith Rock.

 

Ari Novak

Photo: Jacob Raab

The best route I’ve never climbed completely is Bridal Veil Falls WI6+ in Telluride CO. On my first attempt on the route I climbed with the late great Scott Adamson but as we left the second belay another climber in our group got ill and we had to bail to offer assistance. My second attempt was a few years later. As I left the car to begin the approach I got an international call from my dad. Normally I don’t take calls when I’m on a climbing mission but for some reason, I picked up. We had a brief conversation and then I took off for the climb. Remarkably just a few minutes up the trail Ajax Peak avalanched. It was a massive slide that took full trees down in its path. Had I not taken the call it most likely would have been my last walk in the mountains. That said I hope that my third attempt will be successful. We’ll see…

Sport Climbing in the Dolomites

 

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People Mover, 7c+, Laste.

By Mark Anderson

Despite its staggering collection of world-class, bolted multi-pitch lines, the Dolomites aren’t known for sport climbing. In fact I’d argue the sport climbing in the Dolomites is pretty much completely unknown, evidenced by the heck of a time I had finding information about it when I first set out. But I knew a range of thousands of (essentially) limestone peaks had to have a few killer sport crags sprinkled about. It was just a matter of uncovering them. As I suspected, they were there in abundance. Once I found them, the challenge was wading through the endless possibilities to identify the most-worthy crags.

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Rope-swing at Salares, with Passo Valparola on the right.

After scouring the internet, I collected a couple guidebooks. The Rockfax guide claims to be a combined Trad, VF and Sport guide. This book is absolutely stunning, and I recommend it to any climber visiting the Dolomites, for general orientation if nothing else. However, it is NOT a sport climbing guide. It only includes a handful of over-used crags, none of which seemed particularly appealing. I ended up using “Sportclimbing in the Dolomites” by Vertical Life. This book is short on details but provides the bare minimum needed to visit more than 50 distinct crags of all varieties, with text provided in three languages including English.

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Prepping the photoshoot at Salares. The cliffs of Val Badia are off to the left.

In the end we visited six different crags. I’d like to say we saw the best in the area, but it’s hard to know for sure when there are so many options. We arrived the last week of May, which is definitely early-season, and the biggest downside of this was that many of the best crags were seeping. In fact, all of the best crags were seeping. I dare say all of the best routes at all of the best crags were seeping! If you want to visit the Dolomites primarily for sport climbing, I’d guess early Fall is the best time to go, but we had to make the best of our window.

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La Chica Bonita, 7a+, Salares.

I started by looking for crags that promised to be dry. These were fairly easy to find (the yellow stone tends to be dry), but I quickly regretted this strategy. We visited two dry-ish crags in a row, Franchi (aka Scheweg) and Salares, and both were disappointing. Granted we arrived at Franchi in a rain storm, and were lucky to climb at all. Only a couple lines were dry, neither were remarkable, nor were we impressed by the appearance of the wet lines. The defining memory of that day was an interminable game of keep away we played with a local crag pup (I absolutely could not leave without my left Oasi—it was only the first day and those shoes are king on overhanging polished limestone!)

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Achtung Baby, 7a+, Salares.

Salares was a distinct improvement, but I quickly noticed a pattern—the dry yellow stone tended to be heavily fractured. I mean egregiously fractured! In fairness, I never broke any key holds, but it was unnerving to be constantly teetering on what appeared to be vertically stacked rubble. It certainly made me think twice about the alpine rock routes. The saving grace of Salares was the incredible view of Val Badia off to the left and an exciting rope swing. So after two days of disappointing rock, I decided we would go for what looked like the best stone, and just deal with whatever wetness we encountered. This turned out to be a great compromise.

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Laste.

We turned our attention to an incredible table-top of limestone below the Marmolada called Laste. Laste is in the discussion for “best sport crag in the dolomites.” The setting is idyllic, with stunning views of the north face of the Civetta, among rolling hills of lush green grass. The rock is excellent but…weird. It’s very reminiscent of the lower left cliff at Rifle’s Anti Phil Wall. The holds are generally angular pinch fins, with lots of underclinging and sidepulls, a few pockets and only rare horizontal edges.

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Trippa per Gatti, 7a+, Laste.

The rock quality was flawless, though spider-webby in spots due to lack of traffic (I even found a mini-scorpion in one pocket). The stone is very light grey making chalk virtually invisible and onsighting incredibly challenging. The west wall of the formation was pretty-much completely dry and the climbing here was phenomenal. All the routes were long, sustained, cerebral and rewarding. I really felt like I accomplished something every time I clipped the chains at Laste. This was also one of the only crags where we encountered other climbers, on a weekday no less, surely a sign of its quality.

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Cilum, 7a, Laste.

It took three days, but I felt like I finally figured out how to pick the crags. We still had most of the trip in front of us and now that I knew what to look for, I was really excited to check out some more incredible-looking dolomite crags….

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Picnicing at the Laste parking lot, with the north face of the Civetta in the distance.

Eastern Offwidths: Big Bros Take on China

When you think of climbing in China, limestone sport routes probably come to mind. This spring, Irene Yee and her crew of offwidth aficionados took on some of China’s lesser known terrain…offwidths. Donning a rack of Big Bros and tape gloves, these climbers went on an offwidth rampage through the cliffs of Liming, China.

Adventures can sometimes start with steel and glass before they become rock and sky. Danny, @cheyeah, and Ashley, @ashleyreva head off for a China adventure.

 

Off-width Tip: choose a side. Mainly the reachable one that is not all awkwardly stuffed inside the crack. Ashley, @ashleyreva racks up.

 

Ashley, @ashleyreva, placing a Big Bro in Off-Width Research Center, trad 5.10+ Liming, China.

Photos and video by Irene Yee (@ladylockoff)

Exploring the Dolomites

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Hiking the alpine meadows below the Odle Group.

By Mark Anderson

The Dolomites are a jagged range of mountains in North-Eastern Italy, immediately south of the Austrian border. The range is composed of a form of limestone called dolomite (also found throughout Wyoming, at crags like Sinks Canyon and Wild Iris). The rock is heavily featured, and at times heavily fractured, providing unusual challenges for climbers and incredibly dramatic landscapes for sightseers.

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The Tre Cime (R) and Monte Paterno (L).

To climbers, the Dolomites are renowned for their long, dramatic alpine rock routes. The range is home to countless long classics, including one of the six “Great North Faces of the Alps” (the Comici Route on the north face of the Cima Grande). Reinhold Messner maintains they are the most beautiful mountains in the world—“each mountain in the range is like a piece of art.” After spending a couple weeks there with my family last month, it’s hard to disagree.

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On the trail to the Tre Cime, with the Cadini di Misurina group behind.

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Lago Sorapiss and the Dito di Dio spire.

There are so many ways to enjoy these mountains, its hard to know where to start. We wanted to do some sport climbing, some via ferrate (more on these subjects in the coming weeks), but mostly we wanted to explore the incredible and complex landscape.

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Routefinding….

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Climbing art in Ortesi.

For basecamp we chose the vibrant village of Cortina D’Ampezzo. This is a quintessential ski town complete with designer fashions and exorbitant prices (though to be fair, it’s not as bad as Aspen!) It even hosted the Winter Olympics in 1956. It’s got all the essentials (except a pool) and is ideally centered between several legendary climbing attractions.

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Exploring the Cinque Torri, a historic climbing crag. The Col dei Bos can be seen in the distance.

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Kate near the summit of Lagazuoi Piccolo, with Tofana di Rozes behind.

The weather in the Dolomites is incredibly consistent—it rains every day! However, in our experience the mornings were dependably awesome, usually bluebird, with clouds beginning to form around mid-day, culminating in relatively brief-but-violent thunderstorms. We never lost a day to weather, though we did postpone an activity when we awoke to threatening clouds. A typical day for us began with a dawn start, 5-7 hours of some climbing, via ferrata or hiking adventure, followed by a few hours siesta while the rain passed, then another short hike, etc and a visit to town for well-deserved gelato.

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Logan on the exposed trail to the Sorapiss Group.

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Amelie in the Odle Group, with Sassolungo obscured by clouds.

A well-maintained network of roads and cable cars makes it easy to explore, even with small kids (though the cable cars can be pricey). We were there in early season, so many lifts were not operating, and many via ferrate were impassable, but we found plenty to do for two weeks and grew to appreciate the relative solitude once the first wave of summer crowds arrived on the last weekend of our trip.

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Misurina, with the Sorapiss Group behind.

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The Haunold “Funbob.” No relation to Alex?

The kids did a great job of putting up with our insatiable desire to hike and climb. It was the most fun we’ve ever had on a vacation, but also the most exhausted we’ve been at the end. There always seemed to be one more hike, one more mountain pass, one more lake worth visiting. The only thing we failed to find was a good time to rest. Despite that, it feels like we barely scratched the surface of this marvelous place. I’m eager to go back once the kids are big enough to share a rope with me up one of the many towering alpine walls.

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Admiring the Sella Towers from Sella Pass.

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