climber

Kelly Cordes: Head-Bashing 101

Kelly's Bloody Face

Kelly Cordes after his fall.

We all love Kelly Cordes. After all, he’s one of the few climbers out there who can keep up with me in the coveted “Tough To Kill” category. He’s also about as badass as you can get in the highly competitive “Alpine Badass” category. We all got a wake-up call when he and Josh Wharton dropped their rack on the third pitch of a 7,400′ route they were attempting on Great Trango Tower and decided to keep going! Brief story here, and a great write up you can download from the American Alpine Journal, here.

In the meantime, Kelly was climbing a sport route a few days ago, fell, flipped over and whacked his head a good one. Check out the pics below (NSFW). I heard about it when he emailed me with the attached photos and asked if I could hook him up with one of our helmets. I couldn’t resist, so Kelly now sports a shiny new Skull Cap.

Here’s his email:

————————————————————-

hey mal, how are ya? hope all’s great there.

leave it to me to make the safest climbing possible — overhanging
sport climbing — as dangerous as possible. was at wizard’s gate
yesterday, feeling good, just onsighted a super steep 12a without
getting pumped (that stuff normally pumps me out), and then jumped on
a 13a — knowing we’d tag-team it, flail up it, work on it. anyway, at
the steepest part i pitched off, and my body was fairly horizontal but
i think my foot stayed on the hold just a little longer, thus
launching me into a back flip, and somehow along the way the rope spun
me and i swung back into the wall head-first. smashed my head and
face, blood dripping into space, gnarly. fortunately my neck is fine
and i didn’t fracture my skull. really, i felt fine. lowered, put a
sweatshirt on my head, and walked out, freaking people out on the
trail, and thought about just going to the bar — fuck it. went to the
ER first, good thing — 13 staples in my head and 14 stitches in my
face and mouth. just what i need — i just got uglier.

has me reconsidering wearing a helmet even on good rock on steep sport
climbs. granted, it’s super random and rare for this to happen, but a
super light helmet might be worth my wearing. it probably wouldn’t
have saved my face, but…

anyway, blake says he loves the Skull Cap, and it looks as light and
low-profile as they come. wondering if i might be able to score a pro
deal on one? probably color blue — anything but black, i guess (too
hot). seems i have a lot of gray/silver things already, too. but
whatever. if it might work out, color would be the least of my
worries. lemme know if ya get a chance.

—————————————

Kelly, post up some pics when you get them and, uh, climb safe.

Mal

This is what 13 head-staples look like.

On the way to the bar... via the ER

P90x…

So I’ve decided to try the P90x workout – It was suggested to me by Ray Ellington (he’s a beast) and I figured it would be good for me to do some general fitness stuff. It will certainly cut into my climbing performance; its a 7 day program and I’m going to cram it into 5 days (Day 6 is Yoga and Day 7 is stretching – gonna skip stretching and put Yoga)

I’m officially starting next week – though I’m going to do some of the workouts this week just to get some of them down.

Yesterday – I did the “Chest and Back” + ABs. – I did one cycle through Chest and Back (it does each twice) – then did abs…and it just crushed me…it was awesome – Tonight is Plyometrics….to quote my facebook post “I’ve always wondered what it would be like to wake up hours later in a pool of my own blood” – since plyometrics is the “art of leaping”…Its a 3 month schedule and I modded it to get it into five days…

I also did a bitch of switching around so Friday’s are “light”

Week 1-3:
1. Monday – Chest and Back/Abs
2. Tuesday – Plyometrics
3. Wednesday – Shoulders and Arms/Abs
4. Thursday – Legs and Back
5. Friday – Kenpo and Yoga
Week 4:
1. Monday – Yoga
2. Tuesday – Core
3. Wednesday – Kenpo
4. Thursday – Core
5. Friday – Yoga
Week 5-7:
1. Monday – Chest, Shoulders and Triceps/Abs
2. Tuesday – Plyometrics
3. Wednesday – Back and Biceps/Abs
4. Thursday – Legs and Back
5. Friday – Kenpo and Yoga
Week 8:
1. Monday – Yoga
2. Tuesday – Core
3. Wednesday – Kenpo
4. Thursday – Core
5. Friday – Yoga
Week 9:
1. Monday – Chest and Back/Abs
2. Tuesday – Plyometrics
3. Wednesday – Shoulders and Arms/Abs
4. Thursday – Legs and Back
5. Friday – Kenpo and Yoga
Week 10:
1. Monday – Chest, Shoulders and Triceps/Abs
2. Tuesday – Plyometrics
3. Wednesday – Back and Biceps/Abs
4. Thursday – Legs and Back
5. Friday – Kenpo and Yoga

Week 11:
1. Monday – Chest and Back/Abs
2. Tuesday – Plyometrics
3. Wednesday – Shoulders and Arms/Abs
4. Thursday – Legs and Back
5. Friday – Kenpo and Yoga
Week 12:
1. Monday – Chest, Shoulders and Triceps/Abs
2. Tuesday – Plyometrics
3. Wednesday – Back and Biceps/ Abs
4. Thursday – Legs and Back
5. Friday – Kenpo and Yoga

and that’s all folks…..

Day 3: Continued
The hike out to the boulders – for once – wasn’t a horror show…and the boulders were quite cool. We met up with a couple dudes that have been helping to establish and keep the place open – they were really cool and I shot a bunch of photos of them and their female counterparts.
We’re talking about maybe checking out the “TV-Tower” crag tomorrow – with the major draw being the short(er?) approach. I sure hope it’s a short approach.
The interesting part about “the Dump” is that is a really sensitive ecological area. The Ontario group (OAC) was pretty key in negotiating the opening of the boulders, but you have to be really careful to not trample/mess with the flora – especially this special “Daisy.”

Day 4:
The bugs were really bad last night – I basically said – ok sorry dude, but screw this I’m going to bed (despite napping twice and the fact that I wasn’t tired) – I just couldn’t stand the swarm of mosquitoes…A few made it into my tent, though I didn’t wake up with any painful bites – I do remember swatting at a few that were buzzing around my head.
On a road trip – I think that rest days are the most difficult thing…more so making the decision that we need a rest day. We need a rest day today…but screw it – we’re going climbing. We’ll definitely need a rest day tomorrow – for sure…I think we’re talking about checking out this white sands beach or something…
I’m not sure where we’re going to today yet, though we may check out the “TV Tower” crag since it supposedly has a short approach (God I wish!!!)
This trip is really nice – It feels like I’m climbing full time again – I’ve been gone away from work long enough that I don’t really think of that as my “life” – not that I really do much anyways – having a 3 day weekend every weekend.

—–Day 4: Part 2——-
Today has definitely been the most humid day – we drove out to the T.V. Tower crag (funny enough the one guidebook lists it, but doesn’t even give directions to it – how lame right?) – well it was a total poison ivy fest/chosspile….well maybe the one route there looked good – but we said screw it – not worth it….well maybe…but not really…We ended up just taking a rest day….
I think we’re gonna climb at Lion’s Head tomorrow…

Day 5:
Totally got my butt kicked – its sad for me to admit, but I’m not climbing 5.12a anymore ☹. I really need to whip myself into shape – I put 3 more goes into “Busted at Bedford”, but was unable to do it…the third go I made it all the way to the anchors and was just too scared to risk the forty foot whipper on rusty bolts…the anchor clip is probably the crux – the holds end about 2 feet below the anchor so you basically need to dead-point clip the anchor, then lock-off and pull up rope and clip…well maybe next year right?
I did manage to scare myself up this really cool 5.10c trad route (on the Latvian Ledge) – Fastball? Or something like that…Totally thought I was gonna die…but whatever right? If you’re not scared – its not a trad climb? I need to get back into tard shape – I was feeling pretty good last season…
The bugs here….are….reallllllly…bad!

Day 6:
Today was more of a “mellow” day – at least we didn’t try anything harder than 11a – though we did try, but fail miserably to find “Katrina and the Wave” – after a nastyish bushwhack and a bunch of arêtes that all looked the same (and we didn’t seen any bolts), we headed back to past the Latvian Ledge to do a line that caught my eye several days ago – we rappelled in and did “Lady Slipper” 5.10a which was probably the best pitch we’ve done so far – then we did the companion line (mind you it took me three goes) – “Magica Moment” 5.11a. I didn’t expect to do anything hard so I only brought my “one-size big/comfy/smear shoes” to the rappel ledge…oh well…you got hosed tommy…you got hosed…
..I’ve come to realize that I am a very smear oriented climber – and well…smearing on blank limestone walls doesn’t cut it like it does on sandstone…I really need to work on my edging…I just always default to smearing when I can…We finished up by doing “Skunks Do It In Tevas” 5.9 – a high quality, variety climb with two mono moves….it was really cool. Looks like two more climbing days – and so far – NO RAIN…did I just curse myself? We shall see…
We’ve been hitting the Lion’s Head Inn every night for dinner…the food is…well pretty good – a big pricey- but I guess you get what you pay for – especially in Canada…

Day 7
You know is gonna be a tough day when its 10:00 am and you’ve already taken your daily max of Ibuprofen…
Totally hosed us – it rained today. We got exactly as low of an elevation from the car as possible when the storm hit – we went into the boulder field at Half Way Dump only to get totally dumped on…well that’s life I guess right? So we went driving around a bit – and found this really really nice, warm beach on the other side…of course it was raining… jumped in anyways…the water was actually warm…and nice – of course it was freezing so I got out pretty quick and high-tailed it…
We’re not sure but if it rains again tomorrow, we may be pissing on the fire and calling in the dog and heading to a boulder/climbing area in PA called the Allegheny Nation Forest (ANF.) – not sure yet…
We drove up to Tobermory today – it was…well…it was nice. There were trees. And some roads…and I think we saw a few rocks. We got out at this visitors center and Bob got to see what a Fisher looked like “oh and a biiiiiig bear too”. I just waited in the parking lot. I used his phone and saw a picture of a Fisher too. Of course – all these photos of this gorgeous blond popped up too. Go figure. Try doing a Google image search for a “Fisher.”

One thing that I’ve noted here on the Bruce Peninsula is the people – they’re really nice and cool – I think every night at the Lion’s Head – we chit-chatted with locals – the waitresses – other patrons – we even had two people stop by our campsite to talk to us. Super rad…

Day 8 (The day that the music died):

Day 2 and Day 3 at Lion’s Head…

Day 2:
We did Lion’s Head proper today – you know – I’m starting to see a theme around here (other than limestone and pockets) – freaking long and heinous hikes! At least there aren’t any hills…but man – they’re really long!!! – especially when carrying the camera…
We did a handful of pitches today – including two really good moderate warm-ups, a decent 11b (that felt easy) and I put two burns into this HEINOUS 5.12a called Busted at Bedford. The 2nd burn, I made it through the crux, but was just too scary to clip the darned draw! I think if I get back on this one – I’m gonna hang a dyneema from the bolt and clip mix crux instead of trying to clip off of good hands and no feet.
The climbing at Lion’s Head was on the “blue” limestone, though the nature of the routes, the movement and the sketchy bolting was very reminiscent of climbing on Endless Wall at the New River Gorge…We saw this really cool crack climb – I think we’re gonna come back and do it (and maybe hopefully send that darned 12a)
I snapped a few images today – once the sun came over, the lighting was just exquisite. After loping back (more like staggering the way my feet were feeling), we did Dinner for the 2nd night in a row at the Lion’s Head Inn.

Day 3:
“We were pondering how many ‘Toonies ’ it would take at the local brothel to figure out what a ‘Rusty Blackbird’ (V5) was, but later learned they named the problems after the Flora and Fauna in the park.”
Has it really only been three days? I’m feeling totally whooped – I guess that we’re calling today a rest day anyways – but not really – we went bouldering at this place called “Half Way Dump” or “the Dump” – the bouldering was pretty good – though limestone (I was hoping for granite – but you can’t always get what you want…)
I basically got my butt kicked – though I’m totally blaming “day 3 in-a-row” – my guns were just thrashed and I kept falling any time I needed to call in the reserves. I did do a handful of V3s that were quite good.

Lion’s Head Part 1!

I typed a trip report while at Lion’s Head – I’m gonna post it in parts….
I’m holding photos hoping to get an article in DPM

Day 0:
…was basically that – Day 0 – driving….about 8 or 9 hours of it with stops from Pittsburgh, to the campsite which is – what – not at Lion’s Head – yeah that’s right – Cape Croker. It was fairly expensive here – $100 CAD for a week – I guess all said in done that’s not terrible though.

There was a lot of cool things on the way up – though I drove the whole way and just wasn’t into the “take photos of things” mood – though I will probably try and shoot all the goodies on the way back – granted – all the cool stuff was in Canada – like the Wind-mill farms….We saw a place that had an “anti-wind energy sign” – I think I’m gonna write a separate satire against wind energy…that sounds fun?

I had threatened to be sassy to the border guard – to basically tell him to piss off – I’m an American and could go wherever I wanted – but I ended up being more like – ummm yyyes sssssir….nnooo nooo sir….West ViiiVirginia Sir….tthhhthahhank you sir.
Last night = we hiked up to the climbing at Cape Croker, though I think that we are seriously lacking for a guidebook to the area – the area was cool, with some good looking lines, but short. The mosquitoes were in fact, really bad…I must have killed 30 or 40 of them – I’m glad that I brought my hoodie – to keep them off my face and arms.
Yesterday was “Canada Day” – I guess it celebrates the day that Canada fought and won it independence or something….I’m not sure what we’re up to today, though I think that we had mentioned doing White Bluff – since its in the sun for Bob and STEEEEEEP for me ☺

I warmed up this morning on the playground at the campground here – it really is quite nice, though really busy. I guess all the Canadians are really happy to celebrate the day that they fought for their independence…

Day 1:

Not a bad day – I did sorta get spanked though! We climbed at White Bluff – which actually has a pretty crappy and long hike – no seriously – it was long! Nice though – nice scenery, nice million and half million dollar houses that we walked by on the way.
The mosquitoes here really suck which is a bummer – but they’re not horrible horrible – no worse than WV during the worst time of year for them.

I did manage to onsite two 11s and a 5.8 – though totally got spanked (one hung) this really good route – They Live (5.12b) – pretty sketchy and pumpy – I fell the first go on it because my feet slipped (Limestone is tough!) and the second time I just pumped out – I’m hoping to send it next go or two – if we make it back there.

We drove around a good bit today – mostly being tourists. I went into the water -which was cooooooold but nice…just up to my knees – I knew better than to jump in jump in – I would have frozen my butt off!
I think that we’re gonna try and climb at Lion’s Head proper tomorrow…

CB BLAK: A Mnemonic to Save Your Ass

About 20 years ago my partner and I were inspecting the route “Sequential” in the Kloof Alcove in Eldo. I rapped off first and, just when I had gone into free-hanging mode about 5′ below the edge of the roof, one end of the rappel ropes ran through my brake hand.There I was hanging free in space, 40′ off the deck with most of the rope on the ground but only 5″ of tail of one of the strands in my hand. Holy SH*T! My partner, who unlike me, still had his sh*t together, grabbed both ropes up at the anchor and squeezed like hell to keep them from sliding around and I was able to quickly rapped down on the single line.
So here’s what I do now, EVERY TIME I go on the rope, either to climb or to rappel. I repeat a mnemonic (like SEReNE but actually useful. See my post here.) I made up: CB BLAK. I say it every time. It’s my mantra and I repeat it to myself before I climb up, lower off, rappel or anytime I make any transition move. CB BLAK. Every time.
Stands for Check Buckles, Belay, Landing, Anchors, Knots
Buckles
Duh. Make sure they are buckled correctly and that your harness is snug.
Belay
Confirm that I’m on belay. I do this, not just when I’m about to lead or TR a pitch, but also when I’m about to take and lower at the top of a sport or gym route. Eye contact with your belayer is good.
Landing
Good one for starting a rappel. Can you see BOTH ENDS of the rope ON THE GROUND? If not, tie knots.
Anchors
Check all that are appropriate. Keeps me attentive at the top of a sport route and makes me check one last time before I start to rap. If you’re starting to lead a route high up on a multi-pitch route, is the belay secure for an upward pull? Based on what I see at the crags, I’d say usually not.
Knots
Check all of them all the time.
Climb safe,
Mal

Why I Hate Cordalettes

Malcolm Daly, Trango founder, trying to figure out why he would ever use a cordalette.

Last summer when I was belaying my partner on the Bastille,  another climber came in from the side a began to set up a belay about 15′ away. I was at the big ramp on the top of the long first pitch of the Bastille Crack and he came in from Wide Country/XM and was headed up and right to finish with Outer Space. The belay there is a splitter crack in great rock with plenty of cam and nut placements available. He quickly sank in two cams and a nut, whipped out his cordalette and, in 60 seconds, knotted up a perfect SERENE Anchor, clipped in and yelled “off belay”!

Not too bad, I though, he didn’t even waste much time. But things went down from there. His partner arrived, they re-racked the gear and then led off right to the hanging dihedral that is the first pitch of Outer Space. The problem instantly became obvious. Like EVERY cordalette anchor I’ve ever witnessed, this one was perfectly oriented to equalize the load of the hanging (or standing and leaning back) belayer. As soon as the leader put in her first piece it was clear to me that if she fell, the anchor would get loaded, not in the 6 o’clock direction in which it was oriented to equalize, but at 2 o’clock. Sure enough, when she boomed off at the top of the pitch, the belayer was first yanked to the right (2 o’clock) then, when the directional nut (where the leader changed from traversing to climbing up) blew, yanked further up and right. The lowest piece in the cordalette troika popped out and, fortunately, the other two held and that was where the epic ended. I asked the dude if he was okay and he responded with, “Yeah, I sure am glad I had a SERENE anchor set up.”

So, not only was this dude clueless as to what had happened, he was glad that he had done the wrong thing.

My bottom line is that I think climbers are over-thinking anchor
systems with all this talk. Blown belay anchors are extremely rare yet
we lose sleep over them like they were killing people right and left.
They’re not. Maiming and death come from bad belaying, not wearing
helmets, having running protection pull out, rappelling accidents and
getting lost or benighted. I’m aware of 3 anchor failures in the US in the last 30
years: one was from clipping into an
American triangle that had decomposed webbing. The other 2 were both
from the total failure of perfectly set up SERENE anchors that weren’t
multi-directional.

Again, I urge you consider where you are spending your energy. The
single most important skill you need to have in your tool box is to be
able place and recognize bomber protection, whether on lead or while
setting up an anchor. If you get to the end of a pitch and you don’t
have the right size piece, or if the rock is all choss, your first
instinct must be to move to a more suitable location. Only if that is
completely out of the question should you worry about equalization or
load distribution.  Choss is choss and a SERENE anchor will only go so
far.

Wedding and the Red River Gorge


This weekend, I shot photos at Jeremy and Kim Shahan’s wedding – definitely a nice and fun wedding =). Being in the area, I decided to boulder at Coopers Rock on Friday. Conditions were hot and moderately swarmy – though temps were DECENT. I ran around Roadside and did most of the easy classics – my power was quite good – though I was having trouble hanging onto the smaller holds (taking into account the greasy holds)

I had an enjoyable time in Clarksburg WV at the wedding, – then drove down the Red River Gorge in KY.
Temps were hot…..kinda nasty, really but then its training season right? I did a few new moderates – some classics actually – two at the “What About Bob” wall – No Sleep ’til Campton and Kentucky Flu – both 5 star five tens.
I was really disappointed with the Chicka Bonitta wall though – not only did we get moderately lost on the way – but I got on a “4 star” route – The Dude Abides – I was pretty beat up but still – the bolt job was just terrible – you either climbed the obvious holds and didn’t clip the third bolt at all….or did a silly move…its just a bad bolt placement…..
and the first bolt was loose and came unscrewed on me while climbing it – I guess I was just being a Sally – but I didn’t have much fun on that route…..

The Best Way to Rig the Lower/Rappel off of a Sport Route

Here’s a cool method for topping out on a sport route that eliminates the need for daisies or chicken slings. Better still, the climber re-threading the anchors will always be secured through at least 2 points.

The leader climbs normally until they reach the anchors.

The leader then clips each anchor with a 24″ runner rather than a draw. Check that you’re still on belay and that your belayer is paying attention and lower.

When the second gets to the last draw before the anchors, she unclips the draw and clips it to the other strand of rope.

At the anchors she unclips one of the runners from the rope and clips it directly to her belay loop. Then the other.

Now, still on belay through the last bolt, plus being clipped in directly to the two anchors, she unties and re-threads the lead rope, or even better, pulls up 6′ of slack, pushes a bight of rope through the anchors, ties a F8 on a bight and clips in with a locker or two.

Now the leader “takes” to check the system then unclips and cleans the runners to lower off.

During this transition the leader is never off belay and is always clipped into at least two pieces.

The two runners at the top are nice because if gives the climber room to make the transition without having to have extra gear.

This system works well regardless of whether the climber lowers or raps.

Climb safe,
Mal
@maldaly

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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