Saturday, December 22, 2007


It certainly seems that Luke has been doing most of the blogging recently, which is mostly that I've been so ridiculously busy with school that I've barely had time to do anything except schoolwork and sleep.

But now, finally, I've reached the Holiday break (actually, I started it about a week ago, but was busy climbing in JTree with Luke and doing all the Christmas wrapping here at home). Home, however, is now Poulsbo, Washington (not far from Bainbridge Island or the Navy base in Bremerton, if you're familiar with the area). So even though I have free time, it's pretty much been raining outside the entire time I've been home, which makes it a little hard to do any climbing outside. Hopefully today I'll get my act together and go running in the rain.

Whatever I do, I'm pretty happy to have this opportunity to catch up on life - do some research into grad schools, which I'll probably be applying to next fall, go running, chill out with the doggies, read a book for fun (Wicked by Gregory Maguire)! Hopefully I can regain some of my motivation for climbing, too. School can tend to make me so stressed out in general, that even climbing becomes stressful. It's so frustrating! It's been really hard to balance everything and to really believe I'm giving everything what it deserves (school, climbing, frisbee, and Luke, in no particular order). I'm hoping that a new term at school and a new (very exciting) geology research project can help me get my crazy life under control. Next term will also mark the beginning of the Ultimate Frisbee tournament season, meaning that although several weekends will be dedicated to frisbee, our coach will resume running our practices, which takes a big load off myself and my co-captain.

For now, though, I'm just excited for our New Year's trip to Arizona - new climbing areas (BASALT!!! hopefully), a new state to visit, and hopefully some sweet crack climbing to kick me back into gear to prepare for Indian Creek in March. So many 5.11's and 5.12's to send!

For now, hope everyone's having a great holiday season (maybe enjoying some fresh powder?)!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays

2007 has been an amazing year for climbing and this will most likely be my last post of the year. Moving to a new place has allowed me to climb more often and at a whole bunch of amazing areas. I look forward to 2008 and many months of exploration and climbing! I thought I would add some photos to for a bit of spice, hope you enjoy!

Lizzy is already in Seattle for Christmas and I will be flying up there tomorrow. We will be in Seattle until the 28th visiting family and friends.

Climbing has been winding down recently as the temps have been a bit colder. Our only trip in the last three weeks was to Joshua Tree this past weekend. We had some really warm weather which was nice and unexpected! We did a bit of trad, sport, bouldering and multi-pitch. The mix of everything was nice and I even hopped on Iron Resolution (photo above/right) which was really cool despite the fact that it is way too hard! We also got to climb the Headstone at sunset which was fun(photo below). I had never lead before in my down jacket and it ended up being a good decision. It probably dropped 20 degrees in the hour and a half before sunset.

We are going to try to head to Arizona for a short New Years climbing trip. I will be posting up a trip report when we get back.

Thanks to everyone that reads our blog. It has been a great experience writing these blogs!

If anyone has questions or topics there are interested in let us know via comment or email. DreamInVertical at


- Luke

Monday, December 10, 2007

Climbing Shoes

So the recent news is that the V10’s are going to be discontinued by Five Ten. This super aggressive slipper is going to be replaced by the brand New Jet7. As far as I know RockCreek has exclusive distribution of the Jet7 until 2008 and they have a limited stock. I heard that Paul Robinson climbed in the Jet7 during the Triple Crown. Despite crushing at this comp he has created a petition to bring back the V10.

I think that people should not be worried about the V10 yet. It was almost 3 years from the first initial news of the cobra being replaced until La Sportiva stopped selling it. The same was true of the old Five Ten dragons. The new dragons are being worn by lots of super strong climbers proving that change can be a good thing. While a replacement slipper may not be in the works for this year perhaps Five Ten is going to bring a new slipper to market in late 2008. Hopefully I can do some research and find out. Edit: See the comments for more discussion on the V10.

The Climbing Narc had a post a while ago about shoes and how many shoes people have. I know most people only have a few pairs of shoes but I own or have worn out about 25 pairs of shoes or so. This has been a product of many years of climbing and a desire to experiment with different models of shoes. A large reason for the number of pairs of shoes is that I can usually get a new pair cheaper than I could get an old pair resoled. I think there is something amazing about a shoe right after it breaks in.

Over the last 5 years I have climbed between two and five days a week for the majority of the year. I would climb more in the summer and at least half of those days were in the gym. I like to savor my climbing shoes and I don’t usually mix between outdoor shoes and indoors shoes. Once a shoe became worn down it would get delegated to indoor duty. Thus I end up doing most of my climbing on plastic in blown out pairs of shoes

For the majority of my climbing I like a sensitive flat shoe that is tight to put on but becomes useable with a bit of warmth and sweat. I am currently on my 6th pair of cobras which were my favorite shoe for the longest time. They jam well, are easy to take off and are very sensitive. As well they smear really well; the biggest problem is they don’t make them any more and they don’t resole well. Because of this I rarely use my remaining pair of cobras. After these shoes stopped being produced I “discovered” the Muira after much prodding by my girlfriend. I now have 4 pairs of these shoes and use them for almost everything. They have an amazing heel cup and are a great all around shoe.

The one thing that both the Muria’s and the Cobra’s lack is a down-turned toe. This can be essential to small edging and steep boulder problems. I have one pair of Testarossa’s that I use exclusively for this type of climb. They are really tight and I only wear them when I am trying to send a project or I need to pull extra hard with my toes. The aggressive curve of the rand on the Testarossa’s is amazing and it gives a lot of power that the Muria’s lack. I really think that different shoes make a significant difference on certain climbs. It may just be the mindset that my feet can stick to anything, but I usually send harder wearing the Testarossa’s.

Each person will have a different preference for climbing shoes and the fit of your foot should be the biggest consideration. It is also important to make sure that the shoe is designed for what you plan on using it for. If you plan on steep heelhooking it might not be the best thing to buy a slipper. You don’t want your toes curled too much for crack climbing and velcro shoes can be problematic with jamming in hand cracks and larger. If you get a shoe that is too tight or down-turned it can be very difficult to smear.

This year I hope to get a pair of the Es Pontas and the new Anasazi 2.0. I wish that more US climbing shops would stock the Scarpa climbing shoes since they look very cool. I don’t know how they size their shoes and with the addition of Mad Rock and Evolv it is almost impossible to know what size climbing shoes you should buy.

That’s all for now,


Friday, December 7, 2007

Projects and Goals

I dream about rock climbing all the time, the routes I want to do, the places I have been and the people I have climbed with. Climbing is so much more than an extreme sport or a test of physical prowess it really is a lifestyle. My climbing lifestyle is motivated by the places I read about and the routes that I want to go out and climb. I train, go to the gym and work on getting stronger so that I can climb all of these projects. To be able to travel the world and sample the best routes at a given area is my ultimate goal.

There are just so many places to climb in the world and so many stunning routes. From simple boulder problems at Bishop to the tall granite walls of Yosemite. Because I want to be able to climb them all the majority of my goals revolve around being a well rounded climber. My list of projects varies in both style of climbing and global location. While there is a clear focus on long hard traditional routes I also enjoy single pitch sport climbing and bouldering.

Motivation is very important for training and a key element in a day to day climbing routine. It can be hard to keep doing those sit ups every week or those hang board sessions when you don’t have some goal to shoot for. I find that medium term goals are very important so that I can stay excited about climbing. Even though a medium term goal may not be your dream route it will keep you positive about climbing. Going all out when training can be problematic since you have to make sure to pay attention to your body and avoid injury. If a climber sets there short or medium term goals too high it can be hard when you can not meet your expectations. It is much better to be honest and set a moderate goal before worrying about finding a really difficult project for a long term goal.

When attempting a new project it can be necessary to gain new skills and fitness in order to succeed. To determine where you need to focus your training energy it can help to break the climb down and compare it to your strengths and weaknesses. One of my project routes is Romantic Warrior 12b. This is an eight pitch route on the Southwest face of the Warlock in the Needles. It includes four hard pitches one 11d, two 12a and one 12b. While I might aspire to onsight this route it will most likely take me multiple visits so I will get a feeling of the climb before I send it. In order to train for this climb I know that I need to elevate my endurance so I can handle leading so many hard trad pitches. As well the 12b and 11d pitches involve tricky stemming and RP’s. This has motivated me to find other routes with similar characteristics of lower grades to provide a ramp up. These medium term routes will help me gauge my fitness and let me know when I am ready to go try to climb Romantic Warrior.

This fall Lizzy and I traveled out to the Red River Gorge for the Petzl Roc Trip. This was a very motivational trip for the both of us and we spent a lot of time doing specific training in preparation. Instead of doing a jumble of bouldering, trad climbing and sport climbing we focused on clipping bolts and training endurance. With all of the work we put in we were really excited for the trip and both climbed very well and pushed our limits. The trip was an excellent motivator and gave us a time line to train and get into the proper shape for hard sport climbing.

Projects and Goals are really important as we come into winter. This weekend looks like all rain and last weekend was a bust as well. The temps are dropping and climbing must be done inside to maintain fitness. Many people don’t enjoy the gym but if you can find a way to make it fun it will greatly help you ability get back on projects in the spring. Training hard all winter has helped many climbers push the grades much harder than if they had just stayed home.

If you have a big list of routes to do it can put a lot of pressure on you since there is so much to do. It is important to remember that there is a lot of time and that you do the best at climbs that you train for. At the Red I excelled on crimpers since that had been what I was training on. When I did a slopey route I had a lot of trouble since I had not been climbing on slopely holds. So take one goal at a time and maximize your skill level for the climb you are focusing on. Pressure while climbing will only distract you and keep you from pushing to the limit. Remember Climbing is FUN!!

Here is a list of climbs that I want to do in my lifetime. I would like to do most them in the next five years or so but its tricky to know where I will be. This list comes from reading climbing magazines, chatting to other climbers and reading guidebooks. Many climbs are area classics or are very aesthetically pleasing. Desire for many climbs has stemmed from a really nice photo of the climb. Enjoy!

- Luke

Grand Wall

The Needles:
Romantic Warrior

Steck - Salathe
The Rostrum

NW face of Half Dome
Nose in a day
Free Rider

Toulumne Meadows:
Bachar – Yerian
Lucky Streaks

Red Rocks:
Cloud Tower
Original Route, Rainbow Wall

The Gift

Smith Rocks:
Astro Monkey
Chain Reaction
Heinous Cling

Joshua Tree:

Indian Creek:
Ruby’s CafĂ©
Way Rambo

Red River Gorge:
No Redemption
Table of Colors Direct


Birdman from Alcatraz
Mr. Joshua
The Totem Pole

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Climbing Style – Effects of Traveling and Road Trips

Climbing well is more complex than just being strong and pulling down hard. Climbing is about being in touch with your body and understanding the style of movement required for a particular ascent. As climbers we travel for many reasons beyond the simple pursuit of cranking in new places. I enjoy the different scenery, rock texture and challenges provided by new areas. As well I am excited to climb local classics and learn a new style of movement. Traveling can allow a climber to increase their repertoire of moves as well as their fitness.

All over the world there are destination climbing areas and each has a bit of specialized style that allows a climber to excel in that area. Some skills are more easily translated between areas but others must be learned. Many people try to split climbing into three simple categories of bouldering, trad and sport each having a different style of movement. I think there are more subtle attributes to climbing than these divisions. The way a climber moves on routes at the red river gorge is very different than how they would at maple canyon, even though both are sport climbing areas. It comes down to the fact that steep cobbles provide an alternate challenge to pockets and sloping rails. Each of these styles requires different strengths and will teach climbers a specific skill.

While most areas provide a variety of hold types there are some where locals have clear advantage. Areas such as Horsepens have a very distinct style and can be very tricky for the traveling climber. Slopers the size and grain of horsepens are rare and require subtle movement and squeezing that has to be learned in order to send the local test pieces. Being able to spend many days figuring out the intricate of southern slopers will allow a climber to push themselves harder.

I have never been a true local at any climbing area. I have been a weekend warrior and sent all of my hardest climbs on road trips. Near the end of a stay at a climbing area I would have tailored my skills to fit the demands of the given rock type. Learning how to pull on the holds or how to keep the pump at bay would allow me to take the next step. Beyond just adapting to the style of the rock an extended trip would allow my body to flow better over rock. Constantly climbing for even a few days can give a climber a better awareness of how to pull and move their body.

The problem is that mentally it can be hard to climb at your limit if you keep mixing up the style you climb in. Bouldering one weekend on granite the next on sandstone and then sport climbing on limestone can put a person out of touch with how to move. A climber needs to balance variety so that they can still benefit from different challenges. It can be really annoying to switch rock types when you have finally dialed your footwork in one style. I think the key is to take something from each experience and try to apply it to the next; sometimes it will work even though other times it will be a step backwards.

When I started leading I was a sport climber and to this day I probably still am. I started trad leading a year or so later and it made convinced me that the Yosemite Decimal System could not relate bolted climbs to those where you had to place cams and nuts. There was no way I should get spanked so badly by a 5.9 crack when I could clip up 5.11.

Trad climbing came to me slowly and I started going through the grades. As I placed more gear and cam sizes became obvious I realized that it wasn’t trad climbing it self that could be more difficult but rather the type of routes that one would place gear on. Certain rock types and climbing areas lend them selves to particular types of routes. It wasn’t the gear placement that made the trad climb harder as much as the expectations of the route and the style of movement.

This past weekend, climbing out in Red Rocks, I found my self in a new situation. The end of the day yielded an onsight of both an 11a crack and an 11a face route but which had been more difficult? In recent times I have been trying to remove doubt I have had about falling while trad climbing. While I have not taken more than an eight foot fall on a cam I have been able to push my self to trust the gear more than when I first started. While I had to place gear on the crack I did this weekend I found the climb slightly easier than the face route. The jamming was slightly insecure but the line and sequence was more obvious and faster to decipher. For once it seemed that with the right mindset I could keep pushing into the next level for trad climbing.

With trad climbing and sport climbing, granite and sandstone, it is important to keep an open mind and keep learning. Don’t take bolts for granted and don’t forget how to place cams. Take each jamming experience and relate it to your latest crimpy test piece. While I believe that it may be beneficial to specialize in a style of climbing there is much more to gain from being an all around climber. It allows one to travel all over the world and climb classic routes without having to worry about bolts or hold types. Whatever way you take it go on a road trip and test your self in a new area!

- Luke

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hesitation and Commitment

'I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.'

- Bene Gesserit "Litany Against Fear" from Dune by Frank Herbert

A climber’s mental attitude has everything to do with how he or she is going to perform on a climb. While hesitation and commitment can be lumped in with motivation I want to explore these mental elements as they effect the moment. The thoughts that are rushing through your head as you climb above your last piece or try to top out a boulder problem are very insightful. How can a climber improve their mental game so that the negative self talk can be reduced or eliminated?

When climbing a route or problem I think that climbers exert varied amounts effort throughout the duration. While the amount of physical exertion may be easy to gage the amount of mental effort can be harder to comprehend. Some times on a climb it can be very important to keep the right mindset even when the difficulty eases. A climb may be runout, have serious fall potential or a bad landing where hesitation could cause an unsafe fall. Keeping focus all the way to the top will help to insure success.

Comprehension about the gravity of a situation can have large consequences on the ability for a person to perform the needed actions. Many times a climber can deal with runouts and dangerous situations because they are not fully aware of the potential consequences. A climber can be unnerved when their belayer warns of ground fall danger or other possible problems that the climber thought they had under control. This mental insecurity can easily translate into a bigger problem if the climber starts over gripping or making bad decisions.

There are different mindsets that I think can be very helpful when climbing in order to be more successful. Pressure to send a route can be problematic when it causes a climber to be tentative or worrisome. Being able to be in the moment and distance ones self from expectation and pressure can be quite helpful. Many climbers do not recall the details from hard sends because they were fully engaged in the moment.

Being in the zone does not solve everything; being able to have control over your emotions can be as powerful if not more so than the zone. A problem with climbing in the zone can come when you snap out of it when the climbing becomes more difficult than expected and you are not properly prepared. Willingness to commit to difficult movement can be necessary and mental toughness is necessary. A mind set that allows commitment without taking difficulty for granted is very powerful.

Expectations of a route can have varied effects on a climber. Some climbers are easily intimidated by cruxy routes while others fail to maintain mental energy through sustained climbs. Knowing where a crux is on a route should give the climber an advantage because it allows them to mentally prepare for the complex or difficult sequence. A climber can make sure that they are rested and willing to give 100% to the next section of rock. We as climbers must strive to conquer our fears and hesitation and give a genuine effort.

As the act of climbing becomes more challenging I find my self more engaged in the movement. Clipping bolts and placing gear become integrated into the climbing motion and I am not overly worried about fall potential. Many times when I fail to assume the right mind set or am worried about falling I will dwell on the gear or bolts. The action of clipping a bolt does not help a climber recover lost energy but it often helps bolster a climber’s confidence. Many times I will feel much better after placing a cam even though the difficult of the climbing has not eased.

Looking at how climbing changes our mental state will ultimate lead to both a better understanding of ourselves and a break through in our climbing. Climbing highballs out at bishop this past weekend really made me think about how mental climbing really is. I would be perfectly able to do all of the moves on a climb but my body would not allow me to continue when I would climb far off the ground. Conquering this fear would open a new realm of climbing and it will be interesting to see how I can deal with fear in the future.

- Luke

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Levitation 29 part 2 - Dealing With Fear.

Climbing routes recently has been a mental push for me. I don’t know if it has to do with a low level of motivation or just being disconnected from the zone. I have been feeling a larger than normal amount of uncertainty with my climbing. Perhaps it has been all of the sport climbing and the disconnect from the do not fall mentality. Maybe climbing at my limit more often has given me more doubt. I don’t exactly know the cause but I hope to fight through it and figure out how to climb more confidently.

Doubting my ability comes into play when I climb because I am in the middle of a burn and I struggle to keep climbing, since I don’t feel I can do it. It has been a bit frustrating to have all of this doubt when there is no obvious cause. There seem to be a few different mind sets that I encounter when I am climbing. They range from a relaxing send, free from doubt, to a fearful onsight where I struggle to commit to every move. I think what is happening to me is that I am hesitating and unable to commit because I am afraid of failure. I am tied to the success related to sending the route and unable to fully commit my self because of fear.

My hardest trad onsight to date came on a tricky finger crack in Squamish called Crime of the Century. It was much harder than anything I had tried to onsight before. The lack of precedence allowed me to give everything. Even though it was very difficult I was less worried about failing to onsight the climb. This disconnect from having to send allowed me to be less hesitant and through a lot of grunting and hard work I got to the top.

This all relates to Levitation 29 because it is a route that has been in my mind for over a year now. The goal was to onsight the route and when the time came to go out and try the route this weekend there was a lot of intimidation. I was afraid that I would not be strong enough; I would be too tired after the long approach or that I would just fall/fail.

I had recently been training on longer sport routes but nothing would compare to a nine pitch route. Almost half of the pitches were 11a or harder and I would be leading all the hard pitches. While the crux fifth pitch would stand out as the technical crux of the route I would have to make sure to keep it together to the top.

The first hard pitch was the 2nd which I linked to the first. The climbing was fun and complex to a difficult crux. It seems height dependant as there are good holds but they were too far away for me to reach. This lead to some easier pitches which I followed and then the 5th pitch. The plan had been to skip bolts and link this to the next pitch for 150 feet of fun. As I started climbing up the climbing was harder than expected and I knew I would have to climb the pitches separately.

The crux of the 5th pitch started from a good 2 foot long hand jam sized pod. It moved from there up a few moves of laybacking into a fist pod with some bad face holds inside and a decent left hand crimp. You had good feet for the clip but had to move up to smears for the next move. This move, my crux, was a reach from either a bad fist jam(for my hands) or from the small but positive left crimp. I watched my right fist sliding out of the jam as I stabbed for the next finger lock. I got it and moved up to the next clip but I was physically and mentally fried.

I had spent so much time trying to find a better sequence through the crux that I was now really tired. The pitch did not ease up for many more clips so I really had to fight for the onsight. I wanted to send this route so bad and I knew that I could do it. This quote from this Steph Davis Blog was in the back of my mind as I kept refusing to let go.

“I’ve done all my groundwork. I am totally capable of doing this, and I know it for a fact, because I trained, practiced, meditated, and I am absolutely prepared to pull this off.”

I still climbed slowly and hesitantly through the pitch but I managed to make it to the anchors without falling. The next pitches were less difficult but I was still quite tired. I wonder if climbing the crux pitch faster would have been successful and saved me energy. I am still trying to figure out the best strategy for climbing onsight. I have to learn to work through my trust issues and climb with more certainty.

This climb was an amazing experience and I would be excited to go back and do it again. It pushed me both physically and mentally and I am still reflecting on the experience and learning lessons.

- Luke


Just wanted to post up a couple exciting Equinox-related links.
Current thread on SuperTopo about the Equinox FA
I love this part:

"Largo first showed me that crack. He said" Ho man, you gotta see this thing". We thought he was nuts but Richard Harrison knew about it too. He gave me the look and said " yep" and off we went.

Long also brought this young girl with us out there. She just started climbing and could only do 5.10c on a toprope. Anyway when we finally got there my jaw dropped.

We set up a top rope and Harrison asked the girl if she thought she could do this thing. She said, "Oh yeah, no problem". She went first and started laybacking the initial fingercrack section and actually made past the first crux! Our eyes popped out. She actually laybacked the slightly offset finger crack start. Her name was Lynn.

Anyway, I remember we all tried it and I top roped it that day"


Also, check out this video of Kevin Jorgenson sending it... his first week of trad climbing... (how ridiculous):

Monday, November 5, 2007

Levitation 29

So we just got back from Las Vegas and the ever-impressive Red Rocks. Overall it was a really successful weekend.

On Friday morning we drove out to Vegas and after picking up the 2 new guidebooks (both of which are excellent and highly recommended!) and procuring a campsite (which was good because the campground was full when we got back that night) we headed out to Black Velvet Canyon. We've done a couple routes out here before - Prince of Darkness (5.10c, 6 pitches, lots of bolts) and Epinephrine (5.9, 13 pitches, lots of chimneys, we topped out after dark and nearly epic-ed the descent with tricky cairn-finding in the dark). So the approach was no big surprise. We finally got to climb Dream of Wild Turkeys (5.10a, 7 pitches), which was super fun. I followed the last pitch in semi-dark and we rapped and got back to the car safely, where we had some yummy breakfast burritos for dinner in the parking lot.

After passing out before 10pm on Friday night, we awoke early on Saturday morning to head out to Levitation 29. We left the Oak Creek Canyon parking lot at about 6:45am after lots of repacking of bags, breakfast, and the several miles of loop road preceding the parking lot. I've climbed Johnny Vegas, Solar Slab, and Black Orpheus before, so the first bit of the approach was already familiar to me. We made really good time hiking up the wash to the Black Orpheus approach, although we still had tons of wash to hike up. We had hoped to take a shortcut (approximately following the Black Orpheus descent I think), but due to a misunderstanding ended up hiking the standard (long) approach that goes up the wash to the really big pine trees. But it was ok because we were the first to the base of the route and actually had Eagle Wall entirely to ourselves save for two guys who climbed part of Eagle Dance.

Luke linked the first 2 pitches into one and I followed, unfortunately falling at the 5.11b roof crux. I lead the next two easier pitches (5.8, 5.10b) which were really fun, getting us to the base of the crux pitch, which Luke lead brilliantly :-D I fell once at the crux of this pitch, struggling with a wide pod that I couldn't even fist jam. The pitch was surprisingly sustained and I was really tired after following it. The next pitch was a little less steep, but still quite hard with many small crimps (which were very common on the route). This was followed by a weird, hard pitch with some rather crappy-quality white rock. I fell near the top of this pitch at some strenuous layback moves - my hands were cramping so badly I was losing motor control of my fingers - not able to keep holding on. Then there were just 2 more pitches, which Luke lead for me (and linked) to the top featuring some more sketchy rock. Hoping to use the remaining light to get back to the wash the faster way, we rapped immediately from the top of the 9th pitch (where we saw some climbers topping out Black Orpheus). We got to the ground with some light to spare, and started working our way down the wash. We ended up at some sketchy steep downslabbing in the dark, but found a rap station and rapped/bushwhacked our way back into the wash, making it back to the car by 8pm.

It was a great experience and a huge challenge for me and for us. The hiking took us about 2.5 hours each way, which added to the challenge of the route due to the shortness of the November days. The hard pitches of the route were a lot more challenging than I might have expected and I really struggled with keeping up my energy throughout the day. We left our sandwiches at the base to be lighter, so I ended up doing most of the climb on a package of shot blocks, a gu, and a clif bar, which considering the difficulty of the route was probably nowhere near enough food. We also only brought 2.5 liters of water, so I think both of us were also pretty dehydrated, which contributed to both of us getting cramps in our hands (which had never happened to me before). It's made me think a lot about how we could have addressed this problem better - different food, more food, supplementing our water with some gatorade, or maybe even a potassium supplement to fight the cramps. These are really important things to consider and learn about because as we push ourselves more it's only going to become more critical to be adequately hydrated and fed to be able to function and achieve at a higher level.

I do think all our efforts to improve our efficiency did help us out, though, because our belay transfers were in general fairly efficient and (due to the bolted belays) were able to keep the wasted or excessive gear to a minimum.

Hopefully this is just a starting point for us for climbing routes of this quality and caliber of difficulty. We were dreaming on the route back about future projects in Red Rocks, including Cloud Tower and the Original Route on the Rainbow Wall, both of which involve much harder cruxes and (in the case of the Rainbow Wall) long approaches.

I'm sure Luke will have more things to say about Levitation 29... what a day...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Long-term projects (a.k.a. dreams)

Long-term projects. I would hazard a guess that every climber has at least one. I have a lot. They're the climbs that you dream about. That page in the guidebook you just have to look at. The dream. The goal to train for.

My list is much longer than you'd ever want to read (and the relative importances of different projects are nowhere near the same), but at the moment there are three that capture my desire and imagination much more than any others...

Sunshine Dihedral, 5.11d, Smith Rock. I first saw this route right after I'd onsighted it's neighbor, Moonshine Dihedral, 5.9, which was my hardest onsight (trad or sport) at the time. A beautiful, perfect, soaring dihedral with a tips and fingers crack that is ideally suited to my smaller fingers. Delicate and technical stemming, one of my favorite types of climb because the movements feel so natural to me and even the unusual body positions seem to flow so easily. I have only touched the bottom of the route, but I'd like to train enough to give it an onsight go (maybe if we get out to Smith this next June) because such a beautiful route deserves it.

Coyne Crack, 5.12, Indian Creek. I've never been to Indian Creek, but I dream about it all the time. This route, to me, exemplifies the reasons behind my desire for IC. Vertical, perfect splitter. A difficult start with a section of mandatory off-finger jams (for any hand-size) leads to red camalots forever (which just happens to be my perfect hand jam size). The idea of the route is so motivating - a sequence of some of the most challenging size jams right off the ground followed by the sweetest reward of running up perfect jams. What makes it more exciting is that I have no idea how my abilities stack up against the route, how hard that beginning section will be, whether or not I will get pumped from all those hand jams up higher. But the chance to go to IC (in March!!) is a dream - so much straightforward jamming, so many different routes to try, skills to test and improve. Crack climbing heaven :-D

And last, but certainly not least, the crown jewel of my dream routes,

Equinox, 5.12+, Joshua Tree. I first stumbled upon this route online and immediately fell in love. Such a steep, perfect crack is really unusual for J-Tree and I knew I had to see it, to feel it, even though it was (and still is) far above my ability to lead. The location is incredible. After driving several miles out Geology Tour road, you walk out into the desert towards one of those big jumbled piles of rocks so particular to J-Tree. The excitement builds as you approach the formation, because you can't see the route until you are quite close. But then you round the curve of the base and there it is - a clean, beautiful crack curving gently up the vertical face of the largest granite block, perched on the top of the pile. I couldn't believe it could be so perfect, that the setting could be so fitting to the beauty of the crack. And then there's the crack itself. It starts with a crazy move pulling onto an ear-shaped flake, then some nice finger jamming (green alien, which is perfect fingers for me, but my fingers are small...) with less than awesome feet (the trend of non-stellar feet continues most of the way up the route because the face is a little slick for smearing and the crack a little small to really be effective jamming your toes in). And then you get into the fun part. As the crack widens to yellow aliens, you pull through a dead-vertical/slightly overhanging section and the crack continues to widen. That's when it gets really hard - grey aliens, somewhat offset, and left-leaning. This size is the hardest I have ever encountered for me personally because it's not quite ring locks or thin hands, but that nasty size in between where nothing feels secure (luckily the two times I've tried it I was on TR so I haven't had to take the whip... yet...). This crux is followed by an increasingly easier traverse left as footholds (!!!) appear when you hand-traverse the crack to the top. Although it has so far proven incredibly difficult for me, I can't help but be motivated and inspired by this route. It is so pure and so beautiful, the ultimate project. (By the way, if you are reading this and happen to be someone short with small fingers who has send Equinox, I'd love some advice for the hard part.)

So those are my dream projects. I think it's really important to have routes that inspire and motivate me. I can often be too much of an aesthetically motivated climber for my own good (although I've been sending harder at the Riverside Quarry, which isn't exactly picturesque), struggling with routes that don't get my heart beating faster. But I find that when I have my goal routes, it's easier to motivate on other climbs that I would otherwise struggle with motivation because I can see them as a stepping stone towards the ultimate goal. That off-size crack in the gym? That's training for Jaws (Mt. Woodson, hopefully not too burned up). And Jaws, well campusing that is training for Equinox.

In related news, this weekend Luke and I are going to try to onsight one of our other long-term projects, Levitation 29, III 5.11, in Red Rocks, so wish us luck!

Grades, Grades, Grades…

As I have been attempting more “hard” routes recently I have been mulling over the concept of grades. Within a given number, whether 5.9 or 5.13, the variability of perceived difficulty can be quite vast. Rock type can vary between crags as can the grading ethics and the style of climbing. How can we relate a 5.9 on Yosemite granite to a 5.9 at the Red River Gorge?

At one point our grading system rated a climb based on its hardest move, but now we try to rate the overall effort required for a climb. Sustained 5.9 moves yield a rating of 5.10a at certain crags despite the lack of a 10a move. These ideas are not set in stone nor are the agreed upon throughout the world, yet people all over base so much on these simple numbers. Is this because we need an expectation for the route we are going to climb? Do we need compare climbs to each other and to our past climbs? What do we need from these grades?

I found this quote about Dave Graham’s feelings on grades quite interesting. It was originally posted here.

"Do we comprehend as a community a system of grading? As a community, are we confident in our current theories about the complex abstraction of high-end grades?

I think the media did a lot more consolidating of grades than we ever did as a community of climbers. For generations it has happened. Capitalism, money, "fame",...these factors of our world are real, and they have a serious influence.

Grades will never be the most inspiring abstraction donated by climbing. They rank low in overall importance. From an artistic point of view, the possible inspiration one can attain from a grade (it being an after-the-fact interpretation of something special) can never compete with the inspiration donated by the actual experience of climbing.

I changed a lot of my ideas about grades throughout my experiences climbing. I learned a lot about how to compare personal experiences and deduce their relativity. I think its amazing, as a community, how everyone involved, can appreciate the attempt to articulate (with a little number) how challenging something felt, or how one experience compared to another."
--- Dave Graham, 2004 ---

I completely agree that climbing is too complex to be expressed by “a little number”. As a community we should work together to push the limits of climbing and make sure not to be confined by grades.

This article really sheds some light on the John Gill B scale. It is cool to see that a younger climber, Klem Loskot, agrees and his explanation of how to grade problems that are so difficult. It is especially important how he says that grades should really just be a personal reflection of the difficulty of a climb. As well that sometimes the best way to look at the difficulty of a problem can be its relation to other climbs you have done.

Personally I use grades as a measure of performance and a way to gauge progress. I target grade ranges when I travel to crags so that I will push my self climbing. In the past I have been too concerned with sending given grades at the sacrifice of other parts of climbing. I would climb 11as instead 10ds since they are the next number grade up and thus more important even thought both grades be quite similar in difficulty.

While I do think the grades do characterize different types of movement I can still be surprised by the effort required to do 5.9 versus 5.12. Just because a climb is graded harder doesn’t always mean it is more difficult. Difficulty is so abstract, especially in climbing, because there is a varied mix of mental and physical effort. A climb can seem more difficult if the moves are harder to unlock compared to a climb with simple pulling.

Overall I think that the most important thing is to keep climbing and trying different styles of routes. A person’s body can learn so much from a variety of challenges. After man years of climbing cruxes will make more sense and perhaps grades will seem less important. The key is to challenge yourself and have fun doing it.
- Luke

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Injuries and Recovery

This week has been pretty crazy down in San Diego with the out of control wild fires. What this mean in climbing terms is no time outside for cardio and no going to the gym. I usually bike to work and because of air quality issues I have been quite hesitant. I may try it out tomorrow since the wind has been calming down but we will see. The climbing gym has been closed the last two days and we will see if it is open tonight.

What this means for me is that I forcibly got a bunch of rest. While I don’t like to take so many days off from climbing I think it has been really good for my finger. I have had some minor tendon pain that occasionally was a bit intense. This has been an injury that is usually solved with tape. It gives me little pain while climbing and is tender afterwards. A bit of massage and stretching help a lot and this injury doesn’t really affect my climbing.

About a year and a half ago in March of 2005 I dislocated my right shoulder at a climbing comp. I was on some thuggy boulder problem and was doing the typical cut feet campus beta. I was not working on technique I was just trying to get it done. I hit the next hold with my left hand but in that instant I felt my right shoulder lift out of its socket. I jumped down and walked out of the cave with my right hand in the air. It felt weird but not very painful. I moved my arm around a bit and it popped right back into the socket, lucky me. I had what is considered a subluxation and I was pretty lucky.

This injury put me out of climbing for the next few months and really changed my attitude towards how I climbed. In the past I was a very dynamic climber and didn’t really consider movement very carefully. I had learned how to propel my body in the right directions and to pull really hard. As well my training was to get huge forearms and be strong, not at all considering that I would need muscular balance.

As Lynn notes it is important to pay attention to our bodies and make sure to develop them correctly. Personally I need to make sure that I get the proper amount of sleep and adequate days off between hard climbing days or workouts. After injuring my shoulder I had to make sure to pay lots of attention so that I did not re injure it. My doctor told me that if I could keep from dislocating it again for the next few years the likelihood of a complete recovery would be much better. I started physical therapy and after the sessions I would ice and massage my shoulder. It was amazing to see how weak my shoulders really were and how much I how little weight I could lift.

In addition to more cross training I am constantly trying to learn how to move better. I have been inspired by a lot of the blogs that Lynn Hill has written lately. This one on prevention really strikes true because I know campusing that boulder problem led to the dislocation of my shoulder. As well, as she notes, staying injury free is really key to continued improvement. How can a climb expect to climb more routes if they are nursing old injuries?

Having hurt my shoulder has led me to climbing in a new style. While some times I am more hesitant I am climbing stronger now than I was before my injury. I have to step away from certain routes and problems because of reachy or dangerous moves but I still have plenty of things to climb. In terms of climbing harder and more routes I am constantly looking to improve my technique. By climbing more I have been increasing my move vocabulary but I want to keep learning. This blog about visualization is pretty cool since I am not that much in touch with my body yet. I still am struggling with how to do some of the moves that I am already familiar with.

Hopefully in the future I can learn how to better listen to my body and how to use it while climbing. Currently I pre-visualize sequences, foot positions and which ways my hips point. Taking this a step further to examine forces and where my center of gravity is may allow me to climb routes while expending less energy and using smaller holds. It will be exciting to try these techniques out next time I am at the crag.

- Luke

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

California's Burning

Just like the Augustana song,
California's burning, burning, burning to the ground
And I'm here, wondering where the sun has gone

Even here in Pasadena, where we have had only the slightest breath of wind in the past week, the air smells a little smokey, the light is so orange that it feels like it's been twilight all day, and the sun is just a fuzzy reddish spot amid the haze above. My internal solar biological clock is reeling with the confusion.

It's pretty crazy how cyclical and predictable fires like these are. We had a record low rainfall this past summer, plus super hot, dry weather (several weeks of 100+ degrees here in Pasadena) - everything is just waiting for that tiny little spark. And even though the couple days of rain a few weeks ago might have lulled us into a false sense of security, the plants can't absorb the water if they're already dead (as my Global Climate professor told us in class the other day, it's like dumping water on a dead bush and then blow-drying it with those warm Santa Ana's - the bush is still going to be primed for burning). And what's remarkable is how often fires like these occur. This is the first really big fire season for me in 3 fall seasons living in SoCal, but 2003 was apparently also a big fire year, along with 1994, when fires came through Altadena and the north parts of Pasadena.

The thing is, the fires are pretty much unavoidable. The climate here is hot and dry, the Santa Ana winds are a function of the geography - they're not going to stop any time soon, and in our modern day society, there's always going to be that accidental spark source - cigarettes, electricity, etc. And its not quite the same as with flooding (which is also pretty cyclical and unavoidable) because where a fire goes (and where it starts) can be random. Pasadena was burning 13 years ago, but it's perfectly safe now (*knock on wood*). The house I'm living in right now is over 100 years old. That's 100 fire seasons.

Anyways, what this all comes down to is that I am a little jealous. My family up in the Pacific NW were just dealing with windstorms and power outages (and I'm still young enough to remember that those can be fun), while down here it was raining (lightly, but still raining) ash this afternoon while I was trying to run my team's ultimate frisbee practice. My throat felt scratchy after only an hour and a half outside. And meanwhile, my sister got to snuggle inside the house while the wind blows the cedars and the raindrops, and I'm sure when she finally went outside after the storm abated, it smelled like freshly cut evergreen branches, not like burning.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Red River Gorge Reflection

This past week, after returning from the RRG, has been super busy without the normal regiment of climbing. Since we got back late Monday I had some hours to make up at work and some sleep to regain. The four days of climbing and travel took a lot out of me so I decided to take some days off from the gym to recover. I didn’t get back to the gym until Thursday and my finger was still nagging me from the trip.

For the last few weeks one of my old tendon injuries has been acting up. It doesn’t really hurt when I climb but afterwards the flesh below my knuckle is quite tender to the touch. This weekend became a rest weekend and I had some additional time to recover. I hope to write a blog later this week about injures referencing some of Lynn Hill’s recent blogs.

The lack of climbing and the recent RRG trip have given me food for thought about “hard” climbing. During our stay at Miguel’s I saw more talented climbers than I have ever seen before. It was almost like Dosage 5 or something. I have been to some bigger comps and have seen many of the stronger boulders before but this was something new and inspirational. After seeing all the climbers and reading about their many ascents at the Red I began to wonder about my personal climbing.

The beauty of having all of these talented climbs was that they were sending routes that I was familiar with. Climbs I had stood below in awe of the beauty and difficulty of the line. Not climbs I had sent or even tried but climbs that I dream about getting on. These were climbs not far away on the gorgeous cliffs of Ceuse but here in the USA in the RED!

This trip really taught me a lot about motivation, hesitation and mind set. Of the nine hard routes that I attempted I was able to send five of them. Compared to past trips to the Red I was thrilled with my level of fitness and the climbs I did. More important though were the climbs that I “failed” to lead cleanly. Even the attempts on the climbs I did send taught me a lot about what I need to be working on.

The biggest thing I learned from trying all of these hard routes was the effect of hesitation on the outcome of the climb. In simpler terms when I failed to commit to a move or sequence on a climb I would waste time. There were times when I could have done a move had I tried it first go but I was un-willing to commit. These decisions made me doubt my self and prevented me from giving the 100% needed for the climb.

While my fitness has been improving I think that figuring out how to commit and how to suppress negative thoughts will be a bigger contribution to my climbing. Climbing more routes, as opposed to boulder problems, has really shown me this weakness in my climbing.I think working on this will help me be in better touch with my self and allow me to climb harder.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Petzl Roc Trip Recap

This past weekend Lizzy and I journeyed east to meet up with friends and enjoy the rock at the Red River Gorge. Friends from all over converged by plane and car to meet up relax and enjoy the wondrous sandstone. Good people along with an amazing film and the most stacked campground scene rounded out this fun trip.

A Wednesday night red eye from California got us into Tennessee the next morning. A 3.5 hour drive awaited us but that was the price for cheap tickets. With perfect temps we spent the afternoon at Roadside crag sampling the RRG classics before the crowds showed up.

Friday our crew had doubled and we spent the day between Left Flank and Military Wall. Climbing at the gorgeous table of colors wall was the highlight of the trip for me. Amazing colors and unique holds coupled with steep athletic climbing. Near by was the balancy test piece Hen-ry which played to Lizzy’s strengths. I got to climb Mercy the Huff which had excellent moves on sweet holds separated by fairly decent rests. No knee bars or ledges but good holds.

Saturday we saw maximum capacity with seven people by the end of the day. We had a perfect weather day at Drive-By crag which hosts some of the most fun climbing ever. It seemed each route had just as interesting holds as the last. I took my longest fall to date on a flash attempt on Primus Noctum. I cruised the route to the last bolt and rest spot but I had no beta for the crux which led to the anchor. With many grunts and desperation I slapped my way up getting one hold from the end; I missed the crucial knob and plummeted twenty or more feet through the air. On the way down I screamed with desperation but after flying through a tree and knocking loose some leaves I knew it was all right. Still falling I let out a yipp of pleasure and was gently caught by my belayer.

Sunday was our slow day as pizza and beer from the night before delayed our morning departure. We fought the crowds in Muir valley and climbed on some new routes. These routes, only having been established in the last few years, were still dirty and needed more traffic. I got a chance to lead a very atypical RRG line that I managed to redpoint on my second go. This line, so new it wasn’t in the guide book, was full of slopers and balancy moves. The end, with pumped forearms, required sequential crimping that thwarted my flash attempt. It was amazing how many lines are still left to be bolted and how much rock is still unclimbed. I was lucky enough to meet the equipper of this route and brave enough to climb it.

The trip was quite the success and full of fun memories. My mind is still buzzing with crux sequences and foot placements. I can still see the holds on Jersey Connection and Tic-Tac-Toe, feel the sharp jugs from Mercy the Huff and taste the scream from Primus Noctum. I love the Red and will always be excited to go back, no matter how far way it may be.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Resting and Redpointing

This weekend was my long weekend and it involved a bunch of climbing. Training has been going well with a bit more focus on power problems and campusing. I would like to get back to some more pure endurance training but I am without a belayer.

Friday afternoon Lizzy and I struggled through traffic to get to the Riverside Quarry. Despite its less than aesthetic surroundings I am a big fan of the routes there. While many have been heavily cleaned and glued most are natural lines without chipping. As well most of the lines are quite long a minimum of 7 bolts and the longest line is 21 going for almost a full 60 meters.

Since we arrived late we only climbed a few routes. For training and for timeliness we stuck to onsight climbing and the same routes. I climbed an extension of Lizzy’s warm-up called double whammy. It had a tricky crux with a cool sloper and a powerful gaston high foot combination. This route was super typical of the quarry with mostly easier climbing to a stopper crux if you don’t commit.

The style of the routes at the quarry is very different to those we had be climbing out at echo. While both offer vertical climbing with possible hands free rests the hold consistency is very different. The quarry can have huge jugs quite close to tiny crimpers. The most constant part of the selection of holds at the quarry is that they are far apart. Echo usually has very similar hold size and type that leads to much more sustained climbs. I would find my self tired at the quarry from all the long reaches but not nearly as pumped as at echo.

Saturday I went to Rock City to take pictures of some of the guys I have been bouldering with in San Diego. It was pretty tight to get to take pictures of such a strong crew and I even got to put down the camera and climb a few problems. I probably should have warmed up a bit more and ended up tweaking one of my fingers a bit.

Sunday Lizzy and I met up with two of her friends from Caltech and went out to New Jack City. The previous time we had been out there it had been perfect weather and we got sunburned. While the sun was still shining bright we also got a nasty cold wind this weekend.

The cold and the overall fatigue from the previous days seemed to set in on my first hard climb. The warm up went well but on my first try on my weekend project I got shut down at the crux. I had yet to really figure out how to use my feet and was not sequencing it quite right. After getting through the crux I figure out the rest of the route hanging my way up and setting the draws. After coming down I was ready for rest and Lizzy had fun on a really long easy warmup.

Usually with my hard route of the weekend I hang the draws figure out the beta and then rest and send on my next go. I must have been tired from the comp and chilled since my next try went sour. I struggled clipping the second draw and couldn’t pull the crux. I took, we pulled the rope and then I rested. My next try went similarly with a struggle for the 2nd clip and then I barely made it through the first crux. I got to the next hard part and just couldn’t crimp on the last small hold. My feet were totally insecure and I was probably shaking. I hung, finished the route and cleaned all the draws.

I was totally shut down and not too happy about it. We rested for a while and then went on to some more routes. The first one was cool but I got spit off at the top which was annoying since it was at my usual onsight grade. So then we went to find something a grade easier for Lizzy to do. I botched this one too and missed the onsight and developed the full on funk.

Lizzy top roped this last route and decided it was weird and that we needed to get me smiling again. I think that I had taken my failure on my project a bit hard. I was out of whack and after dogging three routes I was out of my element. I don’t know if it was rest or the cold but I had been shaky all morning. My newly resoled shoes weren’t helping the matter and I needed to kick start my attitude.

We went back to the project and I finally sent Red Devil placing a few draws on lead. The second clip felt hard but I could actually hold on to the small crimp that was my red point crux. This helped swing my mood back to happy and the rest of the day was much more fun.

Monday I was really tired from all of the tries on Red Devil on Sunday and just pretty exhausted from the whole weekend. It wasn’t until this morning, Tuesday, that things seemed more normal.

I am excited for our trip to the RRG and will be resting today and tomorrow in prep. It is interesting as I am trying to keep pushing my self and trying to climb harder to examine how the climbs I try effect my mind set. I had been disappointed by failing to onsight climbs at echo but redpointing them second go helped with that. I guess there are always days we don’t feel quite as strong as we like and Sunday was one of those days. Rest is always key and necessary for improvement.

Quite a bit of a blog but it has been a while since I had last written. Lots of thoughts as it becomes fall and the Petzl Roc Trip approaches.

Till next time,


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Circular Patterns and Onsight Climbing

It’s always funny how we learn things. Some times we go out and search for answer and other times we stumble upon them.

Something like this can often happen in climbing. The crux beta may be given to us or perhaps it is obvious and it just works. Other times we must work through sequences to find the way that works for our own body.

Training will help give you more time and more possible sequences on the rock when trying to onsight a climb. Recently I have been falling off onsight attempts because I am too pumped and either unable to climb the required sequence or unable to figure it out in the time I have.

In the past month I have been out to Echo Cliffs, in the Santa Monica Mountains, twice. I have been trying to push my onsight limit and have been getting really tired on my onsight go. The next try however, after having hung the draws and found all the holds has gone quite well. I am able to milk the rest more on my second try and reach the anchors without the bulging forearms I encountered on the onsight go.

I think that since I am getting really tired on my onsights I either need to be committing faster or need to keep training endurance. On my first hard onsight attempt I committed to the wrong sequence of holds and found my self with nowhere to go. The second time I could not figure out the sequence and I couldn't last on the holds I was on. It was particularly interesting because this sequence took me a while to figure out and then on my redpoint it worked so well. It still felt a bit awkward but the movement linked together perfectly.

I learned a bunch about commitment this weekend and that you need to keep pushing since you can do amazing things if you want them enough. I thought I was going to fall at the 1st crux on my onsight but I made it through even though I had to try two different sequences before it worked.

The start of this post was about learning and how we learn funny things at different times. I was reading this article about saber tooth tigers and it mentions "coup de grace". This is the name of a Dave Graham route in Switzerland. I had wondered what it meant and I now had the opportunity to find out. Coup De Grace is the blow of death (or death blow) and seems suitable for a yet unrepeated 9a.

Dave seems to have lots of cool names for climbs that sound good even if you don’t know what the mean. A recent FA he did in Rodellar is called Los Borrachos Del Mascun which translates to The Drunkards of the Mascun. You can see a video of the FA on

That’s really all for now but ill be writing more about training later this week.

- Luke

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Training, Progress, Belief

Climbing fitness and strength are linked, by many, to the ability to send hard routes. There is definitely something to be said when you can hang onto smaller and smaller holds. Climbing, as with most things, usually shows improvement with time. While a climber may not always improve in a linear fashion I think that things usually change for the better. Personally I find that climbing a lot and getting in the right mindset really helps.

In recent times I consider myself a fairly fit climber but I often struggle with the mental game involved in climbing. I have a hard time pushing to my limit and getting past thoughts of failure and falling. Belief in yourself and the ability to keep pushing when you might fail I feel are key to improving.

As we develop as climbers and move up through the grade ranges the routes tend to demand more from the climber. Bigger holds on slabby faces yield to crimps on a vertical wall. Jugs become slopers and foot holds become smears. This transition can be mentally difficult as a climber finds themselves holding on to progressively smaller holds. Cruxes can be harder to decipher and holds can be directional. Footwork and pressure come into play and all the while you have to keep from getting pumped. The difficulty of a route not only demands more physically but mentally as well.

I think that training in some form or another can be important to steady progress. Personally I keep track of all the routes I have climbed and have a fairly accurate picture of the last 4 years of routes I have sent. A more in depth idea is a Training Journal where one keeps a log of all workouts for future comparison. Both of these things help to keep tabs of where you are and how you are doing.

Personal evaluation is essential to taking the next step and breaking through to the next level in your climbing. Weather the goal is to send a give route or onsight a certain level knowing where you are at shows what a climber needs to work on. The types of routes that you do well on can help you figure out what you are strong in. If one wants to be an all around climber one cannot only go to the same crag and do the same routes. To really grow as a climber one must try and climb the things that are the most difficult. I found this quote fitting as many new climbers become strong boulderers yet struggle with routes.

“If you focus entirely on power based bouldering training you are asking your muscles to work 100%. You have ‘recruited’ all your muscle fibres to work in one explosive effort. The minute you go on a route you are asking your muscles to work at 70% for 10 times as long. No wonder you get pumped!” From Katherine at

Right now I am trying to keep a large variety in the types of routes I climb outside while maintaining fitness while climbing and training inside. The biggest breakthroughs that I expect to be making in the next 6 months will be mental. In addition, I want to gain more endurance as well as learn how to push through when plagued with doubt.

Til next time,


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Harrrrrrd Trad

I'm a little behind on this news, but Sonnie Trotter is at it again. Apparently he's redpointing another contender for one of the world's hardest trad climbs, The Path, at 5.14R. Like the East Face of the Monkey Face in Smith Rock, The Path was originally bolted. Sonnie, however, lead it as a trad route. You can watch the video here.

Those who know me know that Sonnie is not necessarily my most favorite climber, especially for scooping the cutest Swiss climber that ever did be on the Cobra (and not even doing it ground-up). (Really, who could prefer Sonnie and his too-cool backwards baseball hat to Didier and his "zis is not ze crux" middle finger undercling jam?) However, I can overcome my dislike to make a general statement about the current trad scene - wow!

The new cool thing (other than bouldering in RMNP or emulating Sharma) seems to be hard trad climbing. It's not just the Canadians (Sonnie) or the Euros (Didier, among others); Americans are in on the action too. Climbers like Eric Decaria, Matt Segal, and Renan Ozturk are pushing the limits of trad climbing beyond what previous generations might have considered possible. They're taking skills and movements learned from sport climbing and applying it to trad. They're making bolts obsolete. And I think that's pretty damn cool.

It's great (especially for a traddie like me) to see trad back at the leading edge of the climbing world and it's beyond impressive to know that there are climbers out there who are pushing the limits of possibility without all the sponsor-plastered, rappel-placed, pre-placed draws.

In other news, Mountain Hardwear is sponsoring a contest for awesome, outdoorsy women called Diva and Conquer. You can read the entries so far or enter yourself or a friend (with permission). There are also special Ladies' nights at local stores carrying Mountain Hardwear products with special deals, special guests, and gear giveaways. Sounds cool, so check it out!

So get out and climb some trad! (Or clip some bolts to prepare to send some trad)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Movement and Flow

As I have been climbing more freqently I have really began to think about how we climb. I am an active reader of all things climbing and I love watching videos of the pros. It is quite fascinating to see how they move over the rock and how impossible looking routes get sent with ease.

My current infusion of climbing info has been coming from the multitude of blogs that I have found around the web. Instead of having to wait to see an ascent feature in Climbing or Rock and Ice I can read about it first hand. No longer does a DVD have to come out for there to be footage of the hardest sends. All of this information is much more easily accessible and I am loving it.

I have been reading Lynn Hill’s blog and she recently had a great entry about Flow . It coupled with recent climbing outings has made me really think about how we move over rock.

This past weekend I was out at New Jack City and got destroyed by one route by my style. Decent climbing fitness and strength allows me to power through routes when I should be thinking more about moving my body. I struggled on an initial boulder problem of a route many grades below my usual onsight limit. I got confused, pumped and I fell. The second time I got through this cruxy section but without much more technique. I made a sequence and grunted through it wasting much energy.

On comes my girlfriend who shows me a thing or two and sails through this beginning section. She used more feet and less power and had a much easier time with the route.

When I climb at the gym as many climbers do I think we forget that you don’t have to be square. Using feet out to the side and leaning and pulling with your body can be very effective. Strength can help with bigger moves and core tension but I forget to “train” technique.

I think that the biggest problem I face when confronted with irregular movement is how to properly assess the forces and apply the right pressures. I think what this all comes back to is move repertoire. Climbing more routes, especially with funky sequences can really help expand your mind. I think that believing in your movement and proper evaluation of your options can lead to climbing crux sequences more easily.


Despite the ridiculous (rainy!) weather in the general SoCal area this weekend, we managed to get some rock climbing in on Sunday at New Jack City. The weather was perfect - not too hot, but nice and sunny with a little wind and the routes were in general cool and thought provoking.

I was really excited to be pushing my sport climbing limits on lead, redpointing a 10d/11a on the first try and getting very close to a crimpy 11a on several tries, although I still need to return and send it. It's been great to start climbing routes again after so much bouldering this summer because I've really started to feel that there is a lot I can gain in my trad climbing from becoming a better sport climber - the climbing version of cross-training.

I've realized that a big reason that I struggle to push my limits when trad climbing is that I don't believe enough in my ability to not fall - I freak out when I think I need to place gear from a "bad" stance, I take a long time to commit to difficult moves (and tire myself out while doing so), and I am sometimes easily intimidated by a route. I'm beginning to realize that all these issues are problems that I can work on through sport climbing.

Clipping bolts gives me the opportunity to practice clipping quickly and from less-than-ideal stances or holds, which I think will help me realize that I can place protection quickly, safely, and efficiently while trad climbing even if I don't have a great stance or a bomber handjam to do it from. I think these skills would be especially helpful somewhere like Indian Creek, where protection is barely more challenging than clipping a bolt since the placements are so straightforward. To be able to still place pro from a sub-optimal jam would be an invaluable skill.

Sport climbing is also helping me realize that I need to commit to moves instead of wasting time and getting pumped. On the 11a I was working on this weekend, I kept falling at the crux, which involved a few moves off very crappy crimpy holds near the top of the route, because I had trouble committing to a long, balancey move below the crux and was getting too pumped to hold onto the small holds above. Every time I rested below the crux, I could pull the move fairly easily on the first try. I've realized that I need to focus on memorizing and committing to the lower moves so that I have enough energy left for the crux. I'm pretty sure that if I work on this skill through sport climbing I will see a big improvement in my trad climbing, too.

And finally, I think I can also work on my problems with intimidation through sport routes. I often can get psyched out by a route from the ground, resulting in low self-confidence that definitely affects my performance. Sport climbs, for me, are an easier way to approach intimidating scenarios like big moves, overhangs, or difficult grades because bolts seem to require less commitment than gear placement. I'm already learning to take on more challenging routes and have a positive and open attitude towards the route instead of worrying about falling or succeeding (and getting intimidated).

Anyone who knew me a couple years ago probably knows that I used to want to climb only trad routes and turn up my nose at other kinds of climbing, but I've lost that attitude recently. A lot of skills from bouldering and (especially) sport climbing are very applicable to trad climbing and all the best trad climbers also climb fairly difficult sport routes. Overall, I'm actually really excited to keep clipping bolts and pushing my limits because I feel like I'm gaining a lot of valuable skills, especially by stepping out of whatever rut I may be in with my trad climbing.


Friday, September 14, 2007

all about the karakoram

It often seems like the mystical realm of "mountaineering" is so far removed from the rest of rock climbing. But that's not to say that those massive snow-covered mountains don't hold an enormous allure even if you (like me) don't really want to trudge up them.

And what mountain is more alluring, mysterious, or frightening than K2, the crown jewel of the Karakoram range. But really, what is the Karakoram range?

Well, you asked for it, so here it is: all about the Karakoram range, which is mostly in Pakistan, but also extends into China and India. Like the Himalayas, the Karakoram was formed when India collided into the Asian continent, which is why these 2 ranges have many of the highest mountains on the planet, none of them volcanoes as we are so used to finding on the Pacific Rim.

K2 is the tallest peak in the Karakoram and the 2nd tallest on the planet at 8,611m, followed by Gasherbrum I at 8,068m and Broad Peak at 8,047m. Other notable peaks in the range include Gasherbrums II, III, and IV, Masherbrum, and Chogolisa.

Why K2? It was the 2nd peak discovered in the Karakoram by a group of explorers (pretty unoriginal, right?). Other mountains were initially called K1, K3, K4, and K5, but are now known as Masherbrum, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum II, and Gasherbrum I. The Chinese government still calls K2 Qogir, a name derived from a word created by Westerners from the local Balti words for "high" and "mountain."

K2 was not summited until 1954, when an Italian expedition, including a young Walter Bonatti, succeeded in getting two of its members to the top, while Bonatti and a local porter were forced to spend a night unprotected at extreme altitude. A second ascent was not achieved until 1977, when a Japanese team employed 1500 porters to reach the top. The following year, a strong American team led by James Whittaker reached the summit via a new route, the East Ridge. Although K2 has been summited successfully many times since then, it has earned a reputation as the world's most dangerous mountain. The weather is much worse than that on Everest and the easiest route is much more challenging and dangerous than its Everest equivalent. Ten times more people have climbed Everest than K2, while only 4 times more people have died on the big E than on the Savage Mountain. No wonder Ed Viesturs was more concerned about K2 than any other 8,000-meter peak.

Many thanks to Wikipedia for statistics and background info.