climber

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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Climbing back from Cancer

June 2017

I slowly awake out of a deep anesthesia-induced slumber. I have a massive tube shoved down my throat emptying my stomach contents. My mom is there.

“What happened?” I ask her. I’m still hopeful that when they did the exploratory surgery that they wouldn’t find anything. “They found a tumor on your appendix. They removed it as well as 6 inches of your large intestine. They hot soaked all of your organs with chemo.”

I can’t control it. I start crying. Tears and emotion are flooding out of me. I’m angry, sad, afraid that my body has failed me. I hold my mom’s hand as the reality sets in. I have cancer.

Just a few months before

I’m at the top of my game, projecting hard rock climbs above the Andaman Sea in Thailand. The world is my oyster, as I traipse around the planet, only pausing for a part time job in Western Africa. I feel strong, lean, and fit.  I’m beginning to mentally heal from some recent accidents in the mountains, so am very excited when Bruce Normand asks me to attempt a new line with him in Pakistan on Gasherbrum 4 that spring.

I have a little discomfort in my abdomen, but chalk it up as a muscle strain. Over time, the pain increases. Thinking it’s due to a recently diagnosed hernia, I opt to get it fixed before considering a trip to the Himalaya. How quickly things can change in our lives. After the hernia operation, I’m dumbfounded when my surgeon says, “We found something off during the surgery. It looks like cancer.”

Three weeks later.  June 2.

D-Day.I’m on the operating table for what doctors call the MOAS (Mother Of All Surgeries). I spend a week in the hospital and then five more bedridden. My climbing muscles atrophy away day by day. The combination of coming to terms with having cancer and not being able to exercise leads me into dark depression and anxiety. With the pain, I also find perspective. By chance, I befriend a Tibetan monk. He teaches me that the suffering is all in my mind. He teaches me internal peace is possible through meditation and mindfulness.

I think the worst is over by week six, and I’ll be able to start slowly climbing again. Boy, am I mistaken. Next up is oral and IV chemotherapy. For the next few months I feel like I am dying.  Fatigue, exhaustion, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping. It’s pure and utter hell.

August 14th

A few of my good friends rally with me to the City of Rocks for my birthday. I am struggling something fierce on a 5.8.  But the beautiful, high desert rocky landscape inspires me.  I look at the guidebook and decide, against the wishes of all my friends, to attempt Terror of Tiny Towna beautiful 5.11 technical corner.

“To hell with cancer,” I say. I want to prove to myself that I am still strong.  I slowly make upwards progress using every trick in the book. Side pull, smear, edge, lock off. For a moment, it feels incredible to be free of the nightmare I’m living and be completely lost in the movement. My heart is racing and my breathing is out of control.  For 25 minutes, I battle tooth and nail to total and complete exhaustion. I lower down, pulsating with endorphins and euphoria.

Then I get dizzy. Then I start to dry heave. By the time I get back to camp, I am running a fever. I lie in the fetal position, moaning like an animal just hit by a car.

Once I get home, I proudly recount the story to my doctor with a big smile on my face!  She promptly scolds me!

“Look Skiy, this is life and death. You need to take it easy!”

Finally accepting that it’s all real, I start taking my health very seriouslyeating right and resting daily. It’s a few long and slow months, but finally the doctors say I’d had enough chemo and I am cleared to slowly start rebuilding.

Thirty days post chemo.

I go visit my good buddy Dave Allfrey in Las Vegas.  Dave is a bona fide hard man and all-around crusher.
“’I’m pretty under the weather” I tell him. “Oh, no problem,” he says.  “I have the perfect climb for us. A three pitch 5.6 with a short 20 min approach.” His enthusiasm is contagious and for a moment I have forgotten how low my blood counts are.  “Heck ya, perfect!” I say. I jump out of his Sprinter and for five minutes I feel like a million bucks!  Then I start to slow, and pretty soon the uphill feels like the Hillary step on Everest.

“Dave,” I say, trying my best to hold back the tears, “it’s too far.” So humbling to have to bail on the approach to a 5.6!  Dave is a trooper though, and sets up a top rope on a 5.8 nearby.  After my fourth take we are laughing hysterically at the ridiculousness of the situation!  “You’re making that look like 5.14” he says. “Trust me, I know!” I reply.

But I don’t care. It feels so good to touch the stone and to move on it.  To be tied in with a good friend.  It’s a reminder of how healing climbing can be.  But still, I am terrified with thoughts that I would be weak and frail for many years to come.  Will I ever get my life back?

A few more months go by.

Finally, I start feeling strong, exuberant, full of energy, but also restlessness. Ignoring the advice of friends and family, I buy a one-way ticket to Thailand. I need the sun. I need the ocean. I need my climbing community to help heal my mind. I land in Bangkok and promptly head for Tonsai. I spend 5 weeks clipping bolts and making new friends from around the world.

It’s strange to brush your own mortality. As scary as it is, it’s also awesome and powerful. Every time I make it through to the other side, whether in the mountains or in life, I strangely feel more alive. More in touch with my true self. More able to appreciate the simple things and not take stuff for granted. I’m always amazed how much each new experience teaches me.

It’s hard to emotionally digest what has happened, but I move forward each day with optimism and stoke. What else can I do?  I continue to follow my passion as a climber and continue to set goals. I feel lucky to live in Bishop CA, where I am able to look to the mountains that color the skyline and find continual inspiration and joy.

Today is a new day, and I will enjoy every second!

Friday is the New Saturday

What do desperate climbers do when the past umpteen weekends have had a crap-a-delic forecast?  Play hooky and make Friday the new Saturday!  While our last-minute decision to leave a day early made for a hectic start to our earlier-than-normal weekend, it was well worth it for us all – and we got plenty of rest on the back end of the weekend to prepare for the upcoming week…I think I could get used to this strategy!

Burly jump start of Headbutt 11d…cool pic, but no send.

While the New was beckoning to me like a singing siren to a delirious sailor, we ended up going to Hidden Valley so CragDaddy could get a crack at his project from last year before the weather turned too hot.  He’d been working on the 13a slab start to Spurs, a line more commonly done as a 5.9 hand crack to an awesome 5.10 jug haul.  Last spring he was able to link much of the opening crux, and after jump training all summer, was able to get the dyno crux at around 50% success rate during the fall…but then just couldn’t put the lower moves together.  But thankfully, it all came together for him this time around, and he earned his ticket to the 5.13 club in fine style!  We got a little bit of video of the send – check that out here.

That’s a 5.13 climber up there!!!

I’ve got nothing on the dyno, but lucky for me, CragDaddy was done by mid-day and we had the rest of the afternoon to spend at the SNL wall, where I was psyched to try the Coneheads Link-up line.  

This line connects the bottom half of Coneheads #2 (12c) with the upper half of Coneheads #1 (13a).  The former I completed last fall, and the latter I’d never touched.  The bottom half begins with a crack, which CragDaddy and I both have pretty darn dialed at this point, as the opening crack is ALSO shared by Blues Brothers 12a, which we ALSO did last fall.  After the crack is a weird sequence around a big block, which although not incredibly hard (11a?) is fairly burly and a little bit scary cutting feet with the large brown slab looming below you.  The fear factor can be neutered with a piece of gear, then the rock kicks back into a sea of overhanging bucket jugs for a couple of bolts to intersect with the upper section of Coneheads #1.  Pulling onto the upper headwall involves a big rock-over move and long toss to a jug, followed by sustained technical face climbing similar to it’s neighbor, Coneheads #2.  The headwall sequence on this link-up is a little easier though – not quite as powerful, and not quite as long.  There’s a decent row of holds a few feet from the anchors that takes the edge off and allows for a clipping stance, thus avoiding the same long runout found on Coneheads #2.  

Clipping just before embarking on the block move, Coneheads Link 12c

My first go was just okay.  The upper section was covered in dirty silt from all the recent rain, and after repeatedly getting dirt and lichen in my eye from trying to brush the holds at the extent of my reach, I ended up stick-clipping my way through the crux so I could save my sight and brush from above.  Although I rehearsed the sequence again when I lowered, I was pretty tired and the sequence was so much to remember.  I also wasn’t super confident about my beta for the scary block move down low, and due to the steepness of the middle section, couldn’t get back down to it to practice it again on lower.  So because of all that (and also because sometimes I’m a pansy ;)) I decided to toprope for my second go, figuring it would be easier to refine my beta in those questionable sections, knowing that it really wouldn’t matter since I wasn’t ready to send anyway. 

Chicken winging my way to the send…Coneheads Link 12c

But.  You guys I did it!  Only not really, because I was on toprope.  Dangit.  The bottom part was smooth sailing, and I felt like I had all day in the upper section, casually cruising through the crux (all the while bemoaning my mistake that was becoming more and more obvious with every move.)  Moral of the story – believe in yourself, and don’t be a pansy!  

Thankfully though, the story doesn’t end there, as I still had enough time for one more shot.  This time the bottom part went just as smoothly as before, but by the time I got to the big rockover move, I was a lot more pumped than I wanted to be.  I barely made the move, but I shook out best I could, told myself I only had about 8 feet before another decent hold, and launched into the upper crux.

And then a familiar feeling started to creep in…you know the one.  It’s like when you’re watching a basketball game and the team that’s been winning the whole game starts making a few mistakes, and the losing team capitalizes on those mistakes.  You can feel the tide turn as the losing team begins gaining momentum, and all of a sudden the winning team starts “playing not to lose” rather than “playing to win.” As a climber I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon in the redpoint process – when that previously pumped-but-managing-to-stay-in-control state starts to unravel and panic starts to set in a little bit, there’s a temptation to shift from “climbing to send” to “climbing not to fail.” 

Everyone had an awesome day.

My pump clock started ticking faster and faster.  I reached up for my next hold, but it wasn’t where I thought it was going to be, and I burned several seconds (and valuable forearm juice) trying to find it.  By the time I got back on track I was red-lining, and that panicky feeling had turn into desperation.  I concentrated on my foot placements and keeping as much tension as I could, and somehow still made the long lock off to the clipping hold at the last bolt.  My inner monologue had told myself it should have been over at that point.  And it should have.  Just a handful of moves left, on thin feet, but decent edges.  But coming in hot on lap #3 of this route, the battle was anything but over.  The sun was now filtering through the trees at an angle that made everywhere I looked either blindingly bright or completely shadowed, and I couldn’t for the life of me find the right footholds for the final moves.  After a few moments of panic, I just smeared my feet and hung onto the final edges with everything I had.  The finishing jug was huge…but there was so much rope drag that I almost couldn’t even clip.  I got the rope in probably only a couple of seconds from my hands completely opening up.

All smiles

While I’ve been on harder routes before, and certainly made my share of desperate moves before, I don’t think I’ve ever been THAT pumped and had to try THAT hard for THAT long…and still been successful.  I credit that success to the training I’ve been doing with Kris Hampton of Power Company Climbing.  This was the first time I’ve ever sent 12c in a day before, and in essence, I sent it twice.  Had I not given in to self-doubt and pulled the rope to get the legit send on the 2nd go, I would have been delighted with how easily the route had gone down.  But even though it wasn’t the way I would have planned it, forcing the try hard burn at the end of the day was a pretty cool experience, and showed me that maybe I’ve got a lot more in the tank than I thought.  After all, sends that are bought by sheer will power, the ones you feel like you maybe “got away with” a little bit, are always the most memorable! 

And apparently I really did leave it all out there on Friday, because when Saturday rolled around I had nothing!  My second day was filled with unsends, thrashings, and flailings of all kinds.  I’m sure it didn’t help that it’s mid-April and this was our first time climbing two days in a row all spring…thanks rain.  But on the bright side, the forecast for this coming weekend is looking like we may get a spring after all!  Fingers crossed.  

Looking forward to lots more of this in the coming weeks!

 

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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Spring, then Winter, then Spring at the Red

So it’s been a loooooong time since I’ve written on this blog.  While I never write as often in the winter, usually I can at least put together a post or two, but apparently not this time around!  The intention was there.  We did some cool stuff worth writing about – skiing, snow tubing, hiking, a kid climbing day at Rocky Face, and even a daytrip date with CragDaddy to Rumbling Bald.  But that whole “time-to-write” thing kept eluding me.  However, with the beginning of spring season upon us, it’s time to find the time again.

Big C soaking up the sun at the Solar Collector

It’s only fair to warn you that this first trip report of spring will not be nearly as exciting as the last trip reports from fall, where I broke into a new number grade for the first time in 7 years.  Actually, compared to the high I felt then, this trip report is more than a little lackluster, perhaps downright boring.  In fact, this trip report is the kind of post that I sometimes am tempted to just skip out on altogether.  But the reality is, THIS kind of trip report is what happens the majority of the time for all of us.  Lots of try hard, lots of failure, and juuuust enough success to keep the stoke high enough on the psych-meter.  

That said, the first real climbing trip of the season can be summed up like this – it was spring, then it was winter, then it was spring again.  We knew going in that we would have 1 bad day sandwiched in between 2 good days.  We debated back and forth whether the long drive to Kentucky was worth it.  But after months of daydreaming about spring climbing, desperation won out and we went anyway, and of course, made the best of every situation presented to us.  

Day 1 was spent soaking up the sun at the aptly named Solar Collector wall in PMRP.  After training with Power Company Climbing all winter and seeing some pretty good gains in the gym, I was anxious to see how those gains would translate on real rock.  I tied in to Decline of Western Civilization 10a and promptly hang-dogged my way up it.  (To be fair, the rock was still REALLY cold….;) )  My next pitch was decidedly better – I flashed Mona Lisa Overdrive 11b.  Thank goodness for huecos!  Pitch #3 was Buddha Hole 11d.  No send, but I put in a really valiant flash attempt and fell just a couple of moves before hitting the 5.10 jugs.  I felt pretty trashed afterwards so I didn’t get on it again, but looking back, I wish I would have.  Perhaps decisions like that should not be made when your forearms are still hard as rocks…

From spring to winter…

After hiking around to check out the (ironically still shaded) Bright Side, we ended up back at Solar Collector, this time by the slabs on the right side.  I was really proud of myself for hanging on for the onsight of Butt Sweat and Tears, but was disappointed to find out it was only 11b, as it had felt a lot more intense than that to me.  Regardless of grade however, it was super fun, although it would probably get more action at the New than in it’s current location (perhaps that’s why I liked it so much!)  Everyone ended their day on Brambly Downslide 10a, including the Big CragKiddo!  While he’s been getting up some mid-10’s at the gym lately, this was by far his hardest outdoor climb to date.  He rested several times, but did all the moves.  Some of them were pretty hard and I was proud of him for sticking with it and not getting frustrated! 

We woke up the next day to snow, which the kids were super excited about.  The snow was forecasted to shift to a cold rain after lunch, so we bundled up and headed out for a snow hike.  Being the nature dorks that we are, we were delighted at all the animal tracks we were able to identify in the snow – deer, rabbit, raccoon, and even fox!  The rest of the day was passed with games, reading, and a trip to the Kentucky Reptile Zoo (if you are into reptiles, you should definitely make a point to visit some time!) 

Day 3 dawned cold but sunny, and we went to Muir Valley.  We spent the first part of the day over at the Inner Sanctum, where CragDaddy onsighted Psyberpunk 11c and I nabbed the flash.  Big C worked his way up Netizen Hacktivist 9+, proclaiming “This is so fun!” at least 4 or 5 times throughout the climb, then we moved over to the Sanctuary, where things started to fall apart a bit.  I got stomped on the opening moves of Immaculate Deception 11d, then came closer to a big flapper than the chains on Jesus Wept 12d.  We shifted around to the now-sunny Indy Wall, where I got draws up on Posse Whipped 12a, a very technical line I’d tried once several years ago.  The movement is very crimpy and sustained, with pretty terrible feet in the crux.  I think I would have had a good shot at it next go, but unfortunately it was getting pretty late in the day and we needed to get on the road, so I didn’t wait nearly long enough before tying in again.  I fell at the end of the crux when my hands got mixed up.  

Huecos make the route go…Mona Lisa Overdrive 11b

So two days of climbing and the best I had to show for it on paper was a couple of mid 11’s.  Again, kinda lackluster compared to the end of last fall.  However.  While I may not PHYSICALLY be where I want to be yet, I was in a really good place MENTALLY.  Many times I start out a new season feeling timid and scared to fall.  It takes me a while to ease in to “trying hard.” But this time around my head game felt great.  I moved confidently and without hesitation, even when my forearms were going numb, and took some good ole try hard falls.  And with the exception of the routes at the Sanctuary, I felt fairly strong…I just got PUMPED!  And I guess for a season opening trip to the Red, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.  

Now if only this rain would stop, we could get on with spring and start going to the New!

Netizen Hacktivist 9+

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Podcast: Panel Discussion on Training

By Mark Anderson

On January 17th, the Boulder Rock Club hosted a panel discussion on training. The panel included myself, renowned climbing coach Justen Sjong, Chiropractor & Physio Dr. Brent Apgar, double-digit boulder and author Peter Beal and Physical Therapist Dr. Stacy Soapmann. It was a really fun and informative event. We fielded questions submitted online as well as questions from the live audience. The discussion was pretty lively and lasted a good 90 minutes.

Louder Than Eleven was on-hand to record the event for the community. You can listen to the Podcast here:

 

Our discussion covered the following topics:

  • How to identify Strengths & Weaknesses (@ ~2:49 in the podcast)
  • How to get Strong Fingers (8:12)
  • What is Core Training and is it a waste of time? (10:09)
  • Injuries, Prevention, Rehab and how these relate to Training Volume and Intensity (18:40)
  • The problem with the Gym; Indoor Training vs. Outdoor Climbing; balancing learning how to move well vs. how to perform well vs. training to get stronger; and what is Good Technique? (33:13)
  • The importance of Adventure and Route Finding, and the value of figuring out Beta (47:13)
  • Selecting the right Project, how to train for Freerider, onsight vs. redpoint grade (51:29)
  • Rehabbing Over-use Injuries in climbers, hardware vs. software and the power of the mind in healing (56:15)
  • Youth Climbing, training & injuries; American Ninja Warrior and the future of Comp Climbing; and is it healthy to be elite? (1:06:45)
  • Definition and value of Antagonist Training, training Patterns vs. Parts, proper Form (1:15:51)
  • Diet, Nutrition & Fuel with respect to performance; Alex Huber; individuality & variety of diet; sleep & rest; intermittent fasting (1:22:46)

I hope you find some of this useful, or at least entertaining. Thanks to everyone who participated in the panel, all the attendees, the BRC for hosting, Tara Gee for moderating and especially Brent Apgar, Aubrey Wingo and Mark Dixon for organizing.

Training Takeover: Power Endurance and Linked Bouldering Circuits

Today is the last day of our two week Training Takeover of the Trango social media channels. We have laid out the framework for an 8 week training plan that will help you jump start your climbing training and push yourself to new levels. This program is an abbreviated version of the protocol laid out in the Rock Climber’s Training Manual and will help even the newest climbers delve into the world of climbing training.

The Details

This program consists of 4 training “Phases,” followed by an on-the-rock “Performance Phase.” The training phases are:

  1. Base Fitness – 1 Week
  2. Strength – 3 Weeks
  3. Power – 2 Weeks
  4. Power Endurance – 2 Weeks

During the 4 training phases, you will perform the following training activities, some of which you may have heard of before:

Aerobic Restoration & Capillarity (“ARC”) Training
Hangboard Training
Limit Bouldering
Campus Training
Linked Bouldering Circuits

Today, we’re focusing on training Power Endurance through Linked Bouldering Circuits.

What is power endurance?

Power Endurance is your body’s ability to sustain climbing longer and harder movements for a longer period of time. This comes into play when you have to do a number of difficult moves in sequence on a project route. For this training program, we will train for Power Endurance by doing a Linked Bouldering Circuit.

What is a Linked Bouldering Circuit?

In essence, a Linked Bouldering Circuit is climbing boulder problems back to back without setting foot on the ground. That means climbing up and down each problem and continuing on to the next problem without stopping. Here’s a quick explanation of Linked Bouldering Circuits and how they impact Power Endurance training.

 

Linked Bouldering Circuit Workout:

Select a series of boulder problems that can be climbed in sequence without stopping. The boulder problems should include a total of 25-50 hand moves or 1-3 minutes of climbing depending on the type of route you are training for. Completing all of the boulder problems in sequence is 1 set. To start, you’ll do 3-5 sets for each workout with 5 minutes rest between sets. As you progress through your training cycle, you’ll want to decrease the amount of rest time to around 2 minutes between sets.

Be sure to warm up adequately.

Here’s an example circuit:

Thanks for following along with our Training Takeover and make sure to download the 8 week training program. You can find blog posts for each training phase below. Now go crush!

Intro

ARC Training

Installing and Using a Hangboard

Limit Bouldering

Campus Board Training

 

 

Training Takeover: Intro to Campus Board Training

Last week we began our two week Training Takeover of the Trango social media channels. We laid out the framework for an 8 week training plan that will help you jump start your climbing training and push yourself to new levels. This program is an abbreviated version of the protocol laid out in the Rock Climber’s Training Manual and will help even the newest climbers delve into the world of climbing training.

The Details

This program consists of 4 training “Phases,” followed by an on-the-rock “Performance Phase.” The training phases are:

  1. Base Fitness – 1 Week
  2. Strength – 3 Weeks
  3. Power – 2 Weeks
  4. Power Endurance – 2 Weeks

Today, we’ll introduce Campus Board training and give you some working examples of how it works and why we use it.

What is Campus Board Training?

The legend of the original Campus Board is well-known and often re-told, not unlike the Epic tales of the ancient Greeks. The incomparable Wolfgang Gullich installed the first board at a Nurnberg gym known as “The Campus Centre” to help elevate his finger strength to levels that could only be described as “futuristic”. The board consists of a ladder of finger edges, and the training method is to move dynamically between these edges with feet dangling.

The concept behind the Campus Board is to apply methods of “Plyometric Training” in a manner that is specific to rock climbers. Plyometrics have been around for a while, originally developed by Soviet Track & Field coaches in the 1960s to help train explosive power in their athletes. Early plyometrics involved activities like jumping off a high surface, landing on a lower surface and immediately springing back up to the original height. Theoretically the landing causes an involuntary eccentric contraction in the leg muscles which must be immediately converted to a concentric contraction in a very short period of time. This type of training is still widely regarded as the best method for improving explosive power. Gullich’s visionary adaptation of these concepts proved to be the key to his ground-breaking ascent of Action Directe in 1991, amazingly still one of the hardest routes in the world.

You can find out more about the History, Theory, and Construction of Campus Boards in this post:

Campus Training Part 1: History, Theory & Campus Board Construction

 

The Benefits of Campus Board Training

Considering that (simplistically speaking) Power equals Force divided by Time, there are two key reasons Plyometric Training is effective at developing explosive power.  While it helps increase muscle fiber recruitment (key to maximizing the force element of the equation), there are many ways to increase recruitment some of which are likely more effective.  What sets plyometrics apart is the dynamic aspect of the training, which helps train muscle fibers to contract more quickly, allowing us to generate high levels of force in short order.  The obvious application to climbers is to use plyometrics to improve “contact strength” (if you’re unclear on the definition, read this), the key to performing difficult dynamic climbing moves (and often the key to success on hard routes or boulder problems).

In addition to the pure strength benefits of Campus Training, this method is very helpful for improving the inter-muscular coordination required for good “accuracy” in dynamic movements.  The more you practice dynoing or campusing, the better your brain gets at aiming for holds. In a few sessions I can pretty quickly get to a point where I’m basically deadpointing every campus move, which makes the moves much easier. This accuracy translates directly to the rock, although on rock, every move is different, so your accuracy on an onsight will likely never be perfect, but it should improve over time.  The more you practice dynamic movements, the better your body & mind get at remembering those types of movements, meaning you should find yourself better able to “dial” dynamic moves on your projects over time.

Finally, its well known that some climbers just don’t do well on dynamic moves.  This could be due to a general lack of aggression or a strong desire to remain “in control” on the rock.  Campusing can work wonders with these issues.  By encouraging aggressive and committing movement in a low-risk environment, climbers can overcome years of overly static movement after only a handful of short campus sessions.

For more on the benefits of Campus Board Training, read this post:

Campus Training Part 2: Frequency & Exercise Overview

 

Getting Started

Like any training activity, begin with a thorough warmup.  I like to start with 15 minutes of low intensity ARC-style traversing.  Treat this period like any ARC set, focusing on using good technique and smooth, relaxed movement.  Near the end of this period do some active stretching while still on the wall.

Next do what we will call a “Boulder Ladder” for lack of a better term.  Begin with easy bouldering (starting at V0 or whatever the easiest available problems are).  Complete one to three boulder problems at each V-grade before progressing to the next grade (the number of problems completed at each grade should depend on how many grades you need to step through, with the goal of completing the Ladder in 20 minutes or so).  Continue stepping up the Ladder until you reach your typical boulder flash level.  The goal is to do each problem first try, but if you fall off, feel free to repeat the problem or move to another problem of the same grade.  The goal is NOT to get entrenched in an epic project.  Take typical rest periods between problems, which varies between climbers.  If you rest a lot between problems, the set may take more than 20 minutes.  That is ok, this is not a race.  By the end you should have completed between 10 – 15 problems of increasing difficulty.

The final warmup activity is 15-30 minutes of limit bouldering (again, the duration will depend on how long you rest and your level of fatigue.  For me, if I spend more than 50 minutes from the beginning of my ARC traverse to the end of my limit bouldering, my Campus workout will suffer, YMMV).  Pick 2-3 problems that you cannot flash and work them for 5-10 minutes each.  These problems should be right at your limit (in other words, avoid problems you can do 2nd or 3rd try), and they should be powerful, with one or two REALLY hard moves that you can’t do (as opposed to 10 consecutive pretty hard moves that result in a pump-managment challenge).  Its easy to get side-tracked during this activity, so keep your eye on the clock and stay focused on the big picture.  Once completed, take a good 5-10 minute break, get some water, then get ready to rage.

For a sample Campus Board workout, check out this post:

Campus Training Part 3: Basic Routine

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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