Unfinished Business Part 2: Insurrection – New Post on RCTM.com!

Check out my new post on “Unfinished Business Part 2: Insurrection” over at RockClimbersTrainingManual.com:

“In July 2012, Mike and his family took an extended road trip through Colorado, visiting a number of crags, included the ultra-scenic and oft overlooked Independence Pass. I spent that entire summer re-habbing an A2 Pulley Strain, so I was not climbing, but the family and I visited the Pass one weekend to hang out. Mike was working a classic 5.13+ face climb established by Tommy Caldwell called Before There Were Nine, located on the right end of the overhanging central shield of the Pass’ proudest cliff, The Lower Grotto Wall.  I wandered up to the wall, and between burns Mike and I gazed at the large swath of flawless, unclimbed granite to the left of his project, fantasizing about a potential directissima through this shear and stunning wall….”  Continue Reading

Sunny St. George Part I: Breakin’ The Law

On rare occasions I take a short hiatus from thinking about training, writing about training, and training, to actually go rock climbing.  Over the New Year’s Holiday the family and I headed west to the warm climes of St. George, Utah for a week of climbing.  St George is home to a vast array of rock climbing possibilities, from the Grade VI Big Wall free and Aid climbs of Zion, to the bouldering of Moe’s Valley, and everything in between.  The guidebook lists more than 40 distinct crags, and the area hosts a wide variety of different rock types, including sculpted sandstone, basalt, Volcanic tuff, conglomerate, and some of the best limestone in the US.

Sunny steep stone in the capitol of Utah's Dixie.  Photo Dan Brayack.

Sunny steep stone in the capital of Utah’s Dixie.   Fencing with Tortuga, 5.12a, at The Turtle Wall.  Photo Dan Brayack.

My primary objective for the trip was a power endurance route called “Breakin’ the Law“, which climbs out the upper of two shallow limestone caves at the Black & Tan crag.  The route was the vision of Salt Lake hardman and fellow training advocate Jeff Pedersen.  However, a young Dave Graham nabbed the first free ascent, and the name is reminiscent of the confessionary “I Am a Bad Man” (now known simply as Badman), so-named by JB Tribout after his friend Alan Watts told him, ‘you can have any route [at Smith Rock] except that one’.

The Black and Tan Wall.  Breakin' the Law climbs out the subtle dihedrdal in the left side of the higher cave.

The Black and Tan Wall. Breakin’ the Law climbs out the subtle dihedral in the left side of the higher cave.

The route begins with big moves up a steep wall to reach the roof of the cave.  The crux is climbing out to the lip of the cave, then turning the lip to get established on the headwall. It would be quite a challenge for me to send a .14b in a week, but I’d heard from various accounts that the line was soft.  However, just before we set out for Utah I talked with a prominent, much-stronger-than-me climber, who assured me the route was quite hard for shorter folks.  Apparently tall climbers can get a big stem/dropknee that essentially eliminates the first, harder crux.  So as we left Colorado I was apprehensive and anxious to find out for myself.

Breakin' the Law: Midway through the first crux, a difficult traverse to the lip of the cave.  Photo Dan Brayack.

Breakin’ the Law: Midway through the first crux, a difficult traverse to the lip of the cave. Photo Dan Brayack.

We planned to split up the long drive with a break in Grand Junction for lunch and a hike out to Independence Monument.  I avoid aerobic exercise when I’m in performance climbing mode, but I like to go on “brisk walks” at least every rest day.  It helps keep my metabolism humming (for the purpose of weight management), and it allows an opportunity to clear my head.  The trail was snowy and muddy in places, but it was still a fun hike.  I’ve climbed Otto’s Route at least three times that I can remember, and I suspect I’ll climb it again with Logan some time in the next decade.

Hiking to Independence Monument outside Grand Junction, CO.

Logan and I on the hike to Independence Monument, outside Grand Junction, CO.

We spent the night in a flea-bag motel in fabulous Salina, Utah, then continued toward St. George the next day, making a beeline for Black & Tan.  We met my friends Dan Brayack and Lena Moinova at the crag, who happened to be on vacation as well.  Dan is a fellow Trango team-mate, and an outstanding climbing photographer.  A hefty chunk of the photos in The Rock Climber’s Training Manual were generously provided by Dan. Some of Dan’s images are peppered throughout this post, or you can check out his amazing gallery here. 

After warming up , I got on my presumed project.  The climbing starts out with fun, huge spans between large holds.  There’s a big jug at the crook of the roof, then the first crux comes traversing from that jug to the lip of the cave.  You can either shuffle or cross between several holds, but you end up with a good incut crimp and a tufa pinch.  Depending on your sequence you can either dyno into a big iron cross, and then struggle to climb out of it, or you can make a wild lunge to a flat edge at the lip.  I think this is where the drop knee would be used if you were tall enough, allowing either sequence to go statically.  Since I was not able to use the dropknee, I tried the two alternatives and settled on the Iron Cross solution. 

Struggling to climb out of the Iron Cross on Breakin the Law. Photo Dan Brayack

Struggling to climb out of the Iron Cross on Breakin’ the Law. Photo Dan Brayack

Once at the lip, a really hard crank off a thin, sharp crimp gets you onto the slab.  I struggled quite a bit with this move, perhaps because I was tired from working the lower crux.  I figured this would end up being the redpoint crux but I was too exhausted to really work it.  I moved on to the headwall, which was mostly fun, technical face climbing, but hosted one sinister move in which you have to high-step your right foot onto a polished block that slopes away at a 45-degree angle.  There is a faint bit of patina on this block that allows you to toe-in a bit, which is key since you next have to reach for an over-head undercling, using this dire foothold to push against.

Beginning the second crux, a heinous crank to gain the headwall.  Photo Dan Brayack.

Beginning the second crux, a heinous crank to gain the headwall. Photo Dan Brayack.

At the end of the day I had all the moves worked out.  Typically if I can do all the moves, I can send, but I had no idea if the moves would come together in the four climbing days remaining. The second crux requires a pretty hard crank after a long series of hard moves, and that is something I struggle with.

"Rest Day" hike to the West Rim of Zion Canyon.

“Rest Day” hike to the West Rim of Zion Canyon.

The limestone surrounding St. George is much more monolithic than the stone at most US limestone crags.  That means it’s not very featured, and generally quite sharp.  There are the odd pockets, but most of the climbing is on small edges.  The result is that the climbing tends to be less steep at any given grade than you might encounter at other, more featured limestone crags like Rifle, or the Wyoming crags.  This is great for technicians like me, and these crags really shine in the 5.12+ and up range.  Below that, the climbing often isn’t all that fun; it’s certainly not the type of climbing you want to do on vacation.  Fortunately St George is all about variety, and there really is something for everyone.

Jumanji is one of the better limestone 5.12a's in the area.  It's a fine route, but its sharp, polished, and so not particularly fun by holiday standards.  Photo Dan Brayack.

Jumanji is one of the better limestone 5.12a’s in the area. It’s a fine route, but its sharp, polished, and so not particularly fun by holiday standards. Photo Dan Brayack.

With this in mind, we opted to experiment with some different warmup crags over the next few days.  The notorious Chuckwalla Wall is often derided by serious climbers, but I really enjoy climbing there.  It’s by no means a wilderness setting, but the routes are just plain fun, and the approach takes about 90 seconds, which is key for climbers with kids.  The cliff is stacked with 30+ classic sandstone jug hauls from 5.9 to 5.12, and they make for great warmups and fun all around.  For the next two crag days we started at Chuckwalla, then after my last warmup we hopped in the car and raced down Highway 91 to Black & Tan, slightly frantic to get on my project before my warmup had faded (note: it took us about 50 minutes to get from crag to crag, approaches included; this turned out to be quick enough that I never lost my warmup.)

Unwinding from the Iron Cross.  Photo Dan Brayack.

Unwinding from the Iron Cross. Photo Dan Brayack.

I made good progress on the second day, primarily refining my foot sequences, and rehearsing the big dyno into the Iron Cross at the lip.  I was able to do the crank onto the headwall much more consistently, and on my second go I managed a 1-hang, which is always a nice milestone, but certainly no guarantee of future success.  We celebrated New Year’s Eve by watching Logan’s Strawberry Shortcake DVD 4 or 5 times in a row and hitting the sack at 11pm.

Spotting Logan while while hiking near the Chuckawalla Wall on New Year's Day.

Spotting Logan while hiking near the Chuckwalla Wall on New Year’s Day.

On our third climbing day we revisited Chuckwalla, then hightailed it to Black & Tan.  My last warmup route felt really soft; either that or I was just feeling really strong.  We got the kids situated (i.e., turned on the Ipad), rigged the rope, and I started up.  Often I have a tendency to sprint on short power endurance climbs like this.  Each of the crux sections involve careful foot placements and subtle pressing to stay on the wall.  Perhaps since I didn’t know the moves super well, I took my time and made sure I did every move correctly, following Alex Lowe’s adage to ‘never move up on a bad [ice tool] placement’.  I expected to pump out at any moment, but I just kept motoring, going from one move to the next until I was on the headwall.  After a nice long shake I hiked up the headwall to the chains.

Logan and me at Black & Tan.

Logan and me at Black & Tan.

The total effort took 5 burns over three days.  I think the route is comparable in difficulty to Mission Overdrive in Clear Creek (which took me 6 goes over 3 days), which is to say its a hard 14a or easy 14b, without the stem/dropknee.  I’m inclined to go with b 🙂  I’ve been crushing the campus board lately and I believe my power has reached a new level.  Occasionally periodization doesn’t work out quite like you hope, but this time I think the timing of my fitness was perfect for the characteristics of Breakin’ the Law.

To celebrate, we headed to Kelly’s Rock (named for my old friend Kelly Oldrid) and climbed “K-8”, ‘one of the best 5.11s in Utah’, according to the guidebook.  The climb includes two exciting roof pulls and some of the most amazing jugs I’ve ever seen.  Certainly a worthy line and easily the best limestone 5.11 I climbed that week. 

Tune in next week for Sunny St. George Part II!

Celebratory Double Meat with Everything (hold the cheese), add whole grilled onion and chili peppers, from In N' Out Burger. Definitely not on the diet plan but well worth it.

Celebratory Double Meat with Everything (hold the cheese), add whole grilled onion and chili peppers, from In N’ Out Burger. Definitely not on the diet plan but well worth it.

Logan stoked at In N' Out.  His new favorite food is Chocolate Milk Shakes.

Logan stoked at In N’ Out. His new favorite food is Chocolate Milk Shakes.

Shelf Anchor Replacement Wrap Up

The inaugural Shelf Road Anchor Replacement Weekend was a big hit.  We had a lot of volunteers and a lot of fun.  We replaced tons of mank hardware at The Bank and Cactus Cliff, and built a fence at the Bank Campground for the BLM. Anything we can do to maintain positive relations with landmanagers like the BLM is time well spent, but the main objective was hardware replacement. 

Much of the hardware at Shelf is getting to be 30 years old, so I think its really important that we take a pro-active approach to upgrading hardware whenever we can.  Fortunately there are guys like Bob D’Antonio and the American Safe Climbing Association working to make that happen.  In addition to Bob, Bruno Hanche and Derek Lawrence were instrumental in pulling off the event, providing hardware, and upgrading anchors.  Bruno in particular has spent several consecutive weekends at Shelf with Bob, working their way around the area, replacing hardware.

A fraction of the hardware replaced on Saturday

A fraction of the hardware replaced on Saturday

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to present a slideshow on Saturday night.  “Untapped: The New Wave of Shelf Road Free Climbing” detailed my efforts over the last few years to push the upper end of difficulty at Shelf Road.  It was an interesting logistical challenge, since the show was at the Bank Campground, where there is no power and basically no facilities of any kind.  Trango lent me their projector, which I was able to run using a beefy Black and Decker 500 Watt inverter hot-wired directly to my car battery.  I built a movie screen by stapling a white bedsheet from Goodwill to a rectangle constructed from four 2×4’s.  It gets really windy at Shelf, so I was worried about the screen.  I brought a pile of rope and stakes to rig up the screen, but we found we could mount it quite nicely with a few screws to the new fence we constructed that morning 🙂

Once we got all the construction completed the show went off without a hitch. There was a great crowd, and I got a lot of good questions and compliments after.  Unfortunately I was too distracted to get any pictures of the show.  If anyone has any, please let me know!

Kate and Logan giving back at the 2150 Wall.

Kate and Logan giving back at the 2150 Wall.

The next morning the heads of state were already planning next year’s event.  I’d love to see this turn into an annual affair, and considering the massive number of routes at Shelf, it will realistically take many years to completely upgrade all the sketchy hardware.

Roped Bouldering in Cowboy Country

Logan enjoying the Fall foliage along the Loop Road

Logan enjoying the Fall foliage along the Loop Road

We recently spent a few days in Wyoming to take advantage of the last week of Kate’s maternity leave. Sinks and Wild Iris are among our favorite crags.  I can’t ever recall having a bad day at Wild Iris.  Even when I get bouted by a project there (which happens often enough), the warmup climbs are so fun and the setting so magnificent its hard to leave the crag without a smile.

The weather on our trip turned out to be a bit schizophrenic, varying from highs in the 80’s to snow and a high of 40 only a few days later.  This kept us bouncing from crag to crag in search of bearable conditions, but we were able to spend a gorgeous day at Wild Iris and a few at Sinks Canyon. This was our first serious climbing trip with two kids, so we weren’t sure how things would go.

Sending The Urchin, 5.13a

Sending The Urchin, 5.13a

We started at the Killer Cave, and I managed to climb a number of great routes, including a pair of classic 5.13s.  I attempted an onsight of The Urchin, a short, gymnastic roof climb right at the top of the approach trail.  I fumbled the roof sequence, which was probably a blessing because I doubt I could have kept it together on the tricky finishing slab.  I also sent Virga, a super fun, super reachy .13c or d (d in my experience, at 5’7″).  Quite a fine effort back in the day by the frequently underestimated Paul Piana.  Virga climbs some of the best limestone I’ve seen in America, but it only lasts for about 20 feet, and the winch start is literally as long as the route itself.  Still, the climbing is super fun and definitely worth doing if you like dynamic pulls between sinker two-finger pockets. Pretty much every move on the route is burly, but the moves are so big that its over in a flash. 

One of the big moves on Virga, locking-off a sidepull almost to my knee!
One of the big moves on Virga, locking-off a sidepull nearly to my knee!

After a couple of days dragging 60 pounds of Logan-plus-climbing-gear up the steep slog to the Killer Cave, I wanted convenience.  I’ve climbed quite a bit at Wild Iris, but I had never been to the OK Corral, which is located almost on top of the car-camping area.  The cliff is about 100-feet from the road, making it the perfect choice for weary parents. 

I had heard that the rock at the OK Corral wasn’t as good as that at the rest of the Iris.  I couldn’t tell; it was way better than any other limestone I’ve climbed in the last year! I set out with two goals for the day, first to tick ten routes, a major challenge with kids in tow, and second, to try to send the elusive “White Buffalo”, an enourmous boulder with a 3-bolt mini-route on its Southeast face.  The route is given 5.13d/V11, which is a good indication of the way things are graded at Wild Iris.  At any given grade you should expect to have to crank much harder moves than you usually would.  This is presumably because the routes are often quite short, but I think it’s as much an indication of the quality of climbers that have graced the Lander community through the years. 

The Rock-over move

The Rock-over move

Based on the forecast it seemed unlikely I would get another day at Wild Iris, so I would have to give it my best shot to send the line that day.  I took my time getting warmed up, climbing a number of really fun but never trivial warmups.  White Buffalo gets sun most of the day, so I kept running between the main wall and the boulder to check the shade status.  It seemed like the sun was hardly moving at all, so I kept dragging out my warmup waiting for shade.  My final warmup climb was a brilliant “12a” buttress called “Give My Love to Rose”.  It had quite a burly mono crank on it, and to be honest it felt like about a 12c effort to get up the thing onsight…so its probably soft by Wild Iris standards!

At the slopy 1-pad edge

At the slopy 1-pad edge

Around 4pm White Buffalo finally went into the shade, so I jumped on it.  The route overhangs maybe 5 or 10 degrees, and follows tiny imperfections up an otherwise impeccable wall.  The stone is so smooth it looks more like the polished quartzite of Arapiles than Bighorn Dolomite.  The route starts out easily, but quickly gets down to business with a huge rock-over move to a diagonal, left-hand 1/4″ crimp. The crux is standing up with this left hand and moving to a pad-and-a-half-deep four-finger pocket. Its possible to reach this pocket with either hand, either with a huge windmill move with the right hand, or by using a half-pad mono sidepull for the right hand and then bumping the left hand to the pocket.  I experimented with both options for a while but couldn’t manage either.  After 15 minutes or so I moved on to the upper panel.  Relative to the crux, the finish is not too bad, but none of the holds are positive and the feet are small, so each move feels desparate and inscure.  From the 4-finger pocket, a slopy, 1-pad edge allows a clip, then a a pair of 3 finger pockets and a big high-step lead to a committing huck to the lip of the boulder.

Gunning for the lip of the boulder
Gunning for the lip of the boulder

I was a bit demoralized, having failed to do the crux move at all on my first go, but with the sun beginning to set conditions were improving rapidly.  I rested for 45-minutes, trying to cool off my skin, and debating which hand sequence I should use at the crux. Heading up a route without a clear plan leads to hesitation, and on routes like this, hesitation almost always results in failure. Certain routes, like White Buffalo, are best climbed with momentum, barreling onward, leaving the climber no time to contemplate his unlikely position, clinging spider-like to a sheet of glass. The windmill beta was less tenuous, but low percentage.  I commited to trying the mono beta and tied on for my second go.  The natives were getting restless for dinner, so it was doubtful I would get a third try.

I climbed smoothly up to the rock-over move, and latched the left-hand crimp. The rock was much cooler and the tiny edge now felt much better. I carefully stood up, shifted my hips slightly to the left, and delicately placed my finger into the mono sidepull. I popped my left hand to the four-finger pocket and exhaled. After a quick dab of chalk, I reached the sloping edge, clipped, and clawed my way to the high pockets.  I brought up my feet, gunned for the lip, and mantled over the top of the boulder.

Anderson Climbing Team Version 3.0, in the Tetons

Rest Day in the Tetons with Anderson Climbing Team Version 3.0

Good Things Come in Threes

It’s been a nice long summer and as usual I’ve been neglecting my blog. I have some good excuses this time around though. I’ve been really busy the last six months or so working on three exciting projects (well, two really). The first one came to fruition on June 28th, when my second child, Amelie Karen Anderson was born. I will concede, my contribution to the initial 9-month phase of this project was minimal, and admittedly not all that time-consuming 🙂 though the beginning of the 18-year second phase has kept me quite busy over the last two months. Amelie came out happy and healthy and Kate is doing great.

copyright Katy Moses Huggins 2012

Amelie Karen Anderson at one week, photo copyright Katy Moses Huggins 2013

At this point we are beginning to adjust to life with two children. The adjustment from one to two is much easier than the adjustment from zero to one, but that said, having two is really hectic. With one child, parents can tag-team and its not too difficult to get some alone time. With two, both parents are occupied most of the time. Logan’s arrival didn’t really affect my climbing life until he was about a year old, but I think having two will make climbing quite a bit more difficult. Just the sheer volume of crap (literally, in some cases) that has to be hauled to and from the crag is overwhelming. Fortunately we live in a place with lots of crag options. We may have to be more selective for a while but I’m sure we’ll find a way to make it work.

The next two projects I’ve been working on were just unveiled at the Outdoor Retailer show last week, so its time to let the cat out of the bag. First, I’m co-authoring a book with my brother Mike Anderson on the subject of climbing training, tentatively titled The Rock Climber’s Training Manual. The book will be published by Fixed Pin Publishing and will hopefully be out some time this winter. Mike and I have been kicking around the idea of writing a training book for many years, at the suggestion of many different people. The book is loosely based on “The Making of A Rockprodigy”, a training article Mike wrote for Rockclimbing.com. Many climbers have had tremendous success using the Rock Prodigy training method and they have encouraged us to write something more expansive.

We began hashing out an outline in early November, and spent all winter writing more than 300 pages of copy for fifteen chapters. Here’s a preview of the table of contents to give you a rough idea of what the book is all about:

Part I: Taking Action

– Chapter 1: Introduction
– Chapter 2: Goal Setting and Planning
– Chapter 3: Skill Development

Part II: Physical Training

– Chapter 4: Foundations of Physical Training
– Chapter 5: Base Fitness
– Chapter 6: Strength
– Chapter 7: Power
– Chapter 8: Power Endurance
– Chapter 9: Rest, Injury Prevention, and Rehabilitation
– Chapter 10: Building a Training Plan and Other Training Considerations
– Chapter 11: Weight Management

Part III: Performing

– Chapter 12: Preparing to Perform
– Chapter 13: Red-Point and On-Sight Climbing
– Chapter 14: Traditional and Big Wall Free Climbing
– Chapter 15: Bouldering

Fixed Pin began the layout work in March, and we conducted a couple of photoshoots with Tommy Caldwell and Paige Claasen to help illustrate the concepts described in the book. The book will be in full color with more than 200 figures and pictures. If nothing else, I’m confident this will be the most visually appealing training book every produced! At this point the layout is almost complete and with a bit of luck the book should be off to the printer in a few weeks.


Photoshoot strategery at Movement Climbing Gym with Tommy, Paige and my publisher, Jason Haas.

I’m really proud of this book. It was a ridiculous amount of work, but I think it will help a lot of people and it breaks a lot of new ground. Readers will notice right away that its very prescriptive. The book tells the reader exactly what to do and when, but it also goes to great lengths to educate the climber on how to tailor the workouts and schedule to meet his or her own specific needs. I think people want a step-by-step guide that removes the guess work form training, and that is exactly what this book does. Climbers with more training experience will easily be able to evolve the programs detailed in the book and make them their own, but at the same time beginners can follow each workout exactly as described and see amazing results.  The book also includes a helpful “Quick Start Guide” that will allow the reader to get to work immediately so they don’t have to read the book cover-to-cover before they can get started.

Many other books provide a catalogue of potential training activities, and then leave it up to the reader to decide how and when to put those activities together. This book provides an easy to follow formula for identifying a specific goal or set of goals, then explains exactly how to devise a comprehensive plan for attaining the goal, along with a detailed schedule explaining exactly which training activities to perform and when. No other resource spells out how to make your climbing dream into a reality quite like this.

CH9 draft1 high_Page_6

Sample page from Chapter 9. Photos on the lower left courtesy of Frederik Marmsater.

Furthermore, every exercise, tactic, plan, etc, we describe in the book is something we know works, because we actually do it ourselves. There are other books out there that go way out on a limb, describing exercises and training methods that the author obviously has never used (at least not extensively). This is not one of those books. The techniques and methods described in our book have been extensively tested and proven to produce serious (5.14-serious) results.

The project started as a detailed manual on physical training, but it also provides plenty of practical information on other improtant topics like skill development, weight-management, injury prevention and rehabilitation, and on-the-rock strategy and tactics. In particular, this is the first book I’m aware of that discusses strategy and tactics for Big Wall Free Climbing. Check back here for more details and status updates as the release date approaches.

The first sketch of the hangboard

The first sketch of the hangboard

The third and final “project” I referred to was spawned by the book. In February, after reviewing some of the early drafts of the book, my friend Adam Sanders at Trango texted me to see if I would be interested in designing a hangboard. I’ve long–well “fantasized” is really the appropriate word–about designing a hangboard. I’ve been using hangboards seriously for training for more than twelve years, and I’ve been through countless boards over that time. I’ve never been satisfied with any hangboard, and I’ve come up with many ideas on how to improve the concept. I was really excited by this opportunity, so I put together some concept sketches for Trango. 

In my view, there are three primary innovations with this product.  The most fundamental and obvious is the two-piece design, which has a number of benefits, including eliminating dead space and wasted plastic in the center of the board, allowing the board to fit climbers of different shoulder widths (thus reducing injury risk to shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers), and allowing for more “clearance” for inactive fingers when using pocket grips.  The next second innovation is the pinch design.  Without going into a bunch of detail, I’ll just boast that the pinches on this board will blow all other commercial hangboard pinches out of the water!  Finally, this board incorporates a variable depth rounded edge that will allow climbers with different finger sizes to find a nice, comfy edge that is repeatable while allowing for steady progression to smaller and smaller edges (more on this later).

HB Sketch Rev2

After about a week of discussing with various hangboard experts (Mike and Lamont), the sketch evolved into this.

Often you start with a noble vision, but reality, budget constraints, the laws of physics, and so forth get in the way. When Trango responded to my concept sketches I knew I had found the right partner. Trango was completely supportive of my ‘outside the box’ vision for the hangboard, and trusted me to make the board the way I wanted to. The result is something that will be both innovative and practical. My hope is that the “Rock Prodigy Training Center by Trango” will be a leap forward for hangboard design.

Lamont's CAD Model.

Lamont’s 3D CAD Model.

To be blunt, designing a hangboard is much harder than it looks, and that is why so many boards fall short. I learned this early on in the process, so we took our time with this board. I built mock-ups of all the grips so I could test them to ensure they were comfortable and ergonomic, but still challenging. My friend Lamont Smith built a CAD model of the design so we could tweak hold locations and shapes. We spent literally months fine-tuning the dual-texture finish to come up with a final result that looks good, performs well, and doesn’t trash your skin.

An early prototype of the left half, testing different texture options.

An early prototype of the left half, testing different texture options.

The Training Center should be available for purchase by early October. I will post a full (though admiteddly somewhat biased) review here before its released, including a detailed explanation of why its designed the way it is. I will aslo let everyone know when and where to get it. Trust me, if you have any interest in ever using a hangboard, you’re gonna want one of these!

Both halves in action.  This is another prototype before we settled on the final texture solution.

Both halves in action. This is another prototype before we settled on the final texture solution.

Joshua Tree

Over Easter Weekend the family and I flew out to San Diego to visit our good friends Rob and Julie and their toddler Samuel.  The first day we headed out to JTree for some mellow sight-seeing and car camping.  This wasn’t a climbing trip but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to check out JTree’s amazing boulders. 

My friend Will has a house near there and he hooked me up with a few crashpads and a guidebook.  It always helps to have nice tall stack of pads, and the guidebook was a huge help.  I’ve heard it can be hard to find your way around the maze of boulders and jumbled rock formations, but the Miramontes guide has great maps and photos and I was able to find everything with only a small amount of aimless wandering.

The bouldering was really outstanding.  I didn’t know what to expect since the rock at JTree is notoriously fickle, but all of the problems I did were amazing.  I spent most of my time in “The Outback”, but also tried a few things in Hidden Valley.  The rock is sharp for sure, but its not all thin edgeing and smearing.  There are a lot of huecos and scoops, and even though edging is my cup of tea, I really enjoyed the steeper, thuggier problems too.  I would go back in a heart beat, but probably not in late March.  It was really hot for my taste (75 deg F), which limited my options quite a bit.

Here’s a little video of some of the stellar problems I did:

We also did some hiking and what I would call “wandering”–trying to get lost in the amazing landscape.  Joshua tree is completely surreal.  Its a great place to explore and linger.  We headed out toward the Astrodomes and found some cool rock tunnels. Logan had a blast crawling around the tunnels, and managed to burrow himself into several chambers that we couldn’t reach. 

Logan tunneling around in the Wonderland of Rocks.

Logan tunneling around in the Wonderland of Rocks.

Logan loves to scramble around no matter where he is: the house, the park or in the wild.  I’d love for him to be a climber at some point, but I don’t want to push him into, so I’m psyched that he seems to have some inate interest in climbing.

After our all-too-brief stay, we headed back to San Diego for an obligatory Easter Egg Hunt and a beach trip.  Rob is my surfing coach, so we headed out for some waves.  I’m not any good but California seems like a great place to learn, in my limited experience.  The surf was tiny (2-3 feet), but we were able to catch most of the waves we tried for and we had a great time.

Logan scoring some booty.

Logan scoring some booty.


Back in August my good friend and “Route Setter to the Stars” Lee Brinkerhoff emailed me to inquire about potential Fall climbing vacations.  Lee is an amazing climber who never seems to get pumped.  He is a master on sight climber and I’ve learned a lot watching him climb over the years.  I met Lee at the end of the last millenium when he was managing Stoneage Climbing Gym in Albuquerque.  Stoneage has the best route setting of any of the 50 or so gyms I’ve climed at, and Lee is a big reason for that.  Lee has set for national comps and helped nurture the likes of Cody Roth and Jon Cardwell.  Lee was my partner on Serpentine (Taipan Wall, Australia) when by dumb luck we happened to run into each other at the Grampians Campground. 

Working out the beta for Lee’s flash of Serpentine, 5.13b.

After much negotiation we settled on Maple Canyon, UT over Halloween.  I tried to convince Lee that we should go earlier in the season, but he really likes cold rock and insisted we arrive just before the first storms of winter.  I had climbed at Maple once back in 2004, and managed to climb exactly one route before a massive thunderstorm erupted causing flash floods in the Box Canyon.  I’ve wanted to return for a long time so I was quite excited when we finally made it out.

The canyon is quite unnasuming from the highway and could be easily overlooked by someone searching for a world class sport crag.  Once in the canyon a maze of cobble-coated slots appear around every corner.  Bulbous hoodos and soaring buttresses pierce the skyline.  This is the type of crag that is just fun to look at, even if your feet never leave the ground.

Kate crushing the Waterfall Route

I decided to focus my energy on on sighting, and just generally trying to climb as many routes as possible at as many different crags as possible.  With so many nooks and crannies there are many different crags to visit and they all seem to offere a little something different.  Fortunately the canyon is densely populated so its pretty easy to visit multiple walls in a single day. 

The objective for day one was to investigate the notorious Pipe Dream cave.  This thing is massive, with rope stretching routes that clip as many as 30 bolts.  The Waterfall Route was one of the best 5.11s I did all week but the 5.10s were a bit slopey and dusty.  I did the classic Orgasmo then attempted to on sight Sprout, apparently the best of the 13a’s that climb out the main cave.  It was a good effort complete with wild dynos but I hosed the kneebar beta turning the lip of the cave.  Next I did Deliverance which turned out to be one of my favorite routes of the trip.

The name pretty much says it all: Orgasmo, 5.12c

That night was Halloween and we were all anxious to take the boys trick-or-treating so we could raid their stash after they went to bed.  We stayed at the Red Apple Cottage in Fountain Green which was an awesome experience we plan to repeat.  The first order of business was to carve our pumpkins, and we even got a few Trick-or-Treaters before the pumpkins were done.  We got the kids suited up then headed over to the park where there was a “Trunk or Treat” in progress.  This novel innovation entails a line of cars in the parking lot with folks handing out candy from their tailgates.  As an engineer I was very satisfied by the efficiency of this development.  As a lazy glutton I was stoked that we wouldn’t need to get any unintended exercise walking from house to house for a single fun size snickers.  I have to say though, it takes some of the fun/challenge out of trying to race around town to maximize your take.  I was happy to see that most of the kids went door-to-door once the trunk line was exhausted.

Dylan & Logan show off their costumes and pumpkins at the Red Apple Cottage.

The next climbing day we started at the Box Canyon which was quite cold.  After some fun warmups (including the enjoyable Brown Hole) I attempted a couple of harder routes, in particular Captain Bullet which was outstanding in movement and position.  Unfortunately I blew the onsight when I fumbled one of the roof holds and was unable to clip.  I ran it out to the next draw, hoping to find a clipping jug (which I didn’t), then whipped in spectacular fashion, clearing the berm of the road by only a few feet.  Next we headed to Pipeline where I did a number of fun lines, in particular Golden Boy and Chia Pet.

The line at the Trunk or Treat. Despite no prior experience, Logan picked up the Trick or Treat thing really fast. It must be instinctive.

That night my buddy Steve Bechtel arrived with his 4-1/2 year-old son Sam, and it was a full on slumber party at the Red Apple Cottage.  Dylan and Sam hit it off right away and Logan was simply in awe of their boundless energy and…let’s say, “volume”.  It was a really fun next few days with the kids playing on the rocks and toddlers playing in the dirt. 

Saturday we hit the Minimum crag which is an outstanding, tall cliff overhangning around 20 degrees.  All of the routes I did on this wall were excellent long enduro jughauls (Zoaster Toaster was probably my favorite route of the trip), and it was a great hang for the kids (though a bit cold).  Next we hit the Zen Garden and Craggenmore, where we climbed another great 5.11, The Black Waterfall.  The Knezek guidebook has a stunning photo of Stupid Sexy Flanders (on Simpson Rock) and that photo, along with the irresistable name, had me itching to give it a go, so I did that to end the day.

Attempting Captain Bullet. Probably should clipped that draw at my waist. Photo Lee Brinkerhoff.

The final day was a flurry of cleaning and packing, ending with a quick trip to the Low Standard Cave, which has another great 5.11 (Oneida) and a worthy 12a (When Cobbles Fly).  Steve suckered me into Eat Your Liver, which is kinda neat but probably best saved for someone who has climbed all of the more obvious options.  Fortunately he cleaned it for me as it overhangs severely.  We finished off the trip with a quick stop at the Windshield Wiper wall on the way out.  This cliff is reminiscent of Minimum, though not quite as steep and a bit less clean.  The climbs were stellar and with traffic will become among the very best at Maple.

The trip was probably the most fun I’ve had climbing in several years.  The routes are just plain fun and the glassy smooth rock allows you to climb for days on end.  There was a great group of people and perfect weather.  By the end of the week I think I even started to figure out how to climb cobbles.  I can’t wait to go back!

Dreams of Ten Sleep

It was a long, hot summer on the Colorado Front Range, so after a seemingly interminable climbing drought the family was fired up to head north and check out the latest rage that is Ten Sleep Canyon.  We’ve had lousy luck when it comes to Ten Sleep.  I first bought the guidebook in the Spring of 2007, with plans to head there that coming summer.  I developed a curious Sesamoid injury (that’s in your foot) that was mis-diagnosed as a stress fracture, so I spent that entire summer in a walking boot, meaning Ten Sleep would have to wait.  I don’t exactly recall our excuses for the next four summers, but to sum up, each year we made firm plans to go to Ten Sleep, each year those plans fell through, and each year the new edition of the Ten Sleep guidebook doubled in size.

The French Cattle Ranch, its just like France!

So you can imagine my surprise when we finally rolled through Ten Sleep Canyon early on Friday morning.  My objective for the trip was my friend Matt Wendling’s brilliant “Sky Pilot” and the recently tacked on extension at the aptly named “French Cattle Ranch”.  The highest compliment we can bestow on an American limestone crag is to compare it favorably to France.  This has been a running joke between me and Kate for literally ten years, when we first began exploring the limestone crag of Palomas outside of Albuquerque.  During one of our first visits we met some friendly chaps from Durango that had been lured several hundred miles to our humble bluffs by the dubious claim that it was ‘just like France’. 

But the Sector D’or et Bleu really is just like France–except that France has a lot more routes and the crowds to go along with them.   Not to worry, with five 5.14s, as many 5.13s and a number of projects, there is plenty to keep you busy.  The rock is beautiful pocketed stone, overhanging at barely 5 degrees, involving extremely thin, tweaky and technical climbing.  I imagine this is what the hard routes at Buoux are like: invisible footholds, half-pad monos, and calf-straining in their continuity.

Kate warming up on Tutu at the FCR.

After a fun warmup on the popular Tutu and the diminutive Lil Smokey I put two burns into my project.  To be honest I was a bit dismayed by the continuity of the line.  I hadn’t done a lick of Power Endurance training in almost a year, and I was assuming the hard lines here would have short, bouldery cruxes with lots of rest like the lines in Lander.  Although my power was as good as ever, I didn’t fancy my chances of stringing together so many hard moves in only three climbing days of work.  Wendling’s original vision ends at what is currently the 9th bolt, and it was all I could do to suss the moves to that point on my first go.  The next burn was dedicated to figuring out the newer 4-bolt extension.  I had decided to gamble and go for the whole enchilada, accepting that the effort expended working the harder finish may sabotage my chance at sending the easier original pitch.  I was able to work out all the moves, but they seemed unlikely to coalesce in such a short period of time.

After a long day of driving and climbing we headed in to Ten Sleep to explore the dining options.  Or should I say option.   I hear Ten Sleep is a bustling tourist town in the summer, but by early October the show has moved on.  The only establishment still open was the Ten Sleep Saloon, which fortunately had a diverse menu (the Carne Asada burritos I ordered were outstanding).  The real shock was that there was not a single grocery store in the entire town.  We had never even considered such a possibility.  We had enough power bars to get us to the summit of Everest but we had no real food.  A quick stop at the Pony Express convenience store lead to a brief panic attack at the thought of eating rotisserie hotdogs and HoHo’s for the next four days.  We were extremely elated to discover that full-service Worland was only 25 miles further west down US16, and made plans to visit first thing the next morning.

Some interesting possibilities at Castle Gardens

I’m a big advocate of rest days, primarily for injury prevention, but also for the plain fun of it.  The great sport crags of America all seem to be in the middle of nowhere, and it turns out there is a lot of fun to be had in such places.  We were psyched to explore a new venue.  We headed out to find Castle Gardens, somewhere in the badlands between Ten Sleep and Worland.  I managed to get us lost literally within 100 yds of turning off the highway, but after a twisting 20-mile detour we found the clearly posted sign pointing the correct route.  The Gardens are formed by gnarled hoodoos of Mesa Verde Sandstone and were a big hit with Logan.

My favorite rest day activity is staring at rocks, so after a grocery stop in Worland and an afternoon nap for Logan we headed up Ten Sleep Canyon to check out the seemingly unlimited supply of Big Horn Dolomite.  Far too much for one rock-staring session, so we planned to focus on the right half of the Mondo Beyondo cliffband.  The Slavery wall looked amazing, stacked with fun, steep lines and beautiful marble-streaked stone.  We passed countless tempting lines along the hike, and lots of friendly climbers taking advantage of the cool evening temps. 

The next crag to take my breath away was the Superratic Pillar, which lives up to its billing.  This crag also hosts a number of hard lines, but I was disappointed to see an obviously drilled pocket on “F’d in the A”.  I think its pretty sad that chipping is still taking place in this day and age.  I’d like to think that as a community we’ve learned from the short-sighted mistakes of the past.  Anyway, enough ranting.  Two lines here really caught my eye, “Hellion” and “He Biggum….”; I would love to return for these routes some day.

Logan on good toddling terrain at Sector Shinto

The next order of business was to find a good crag for warming up.  Logan is right at the age where he can walk like a champ and is starting to run–on flat, level ground.  Not much of that at Ten Sleep, so it was a real challenge to find crags where he could cruise around unsupervised.  By dumb luck the Sector D’or et Bleu was just such a crag, but there weren’t many good warmups there.  And frankly, Ten Sleep’s best-selling point is its plethora of delightful 5.10s and 5.11s.  We wanted to sample as many as possible during our short trip.  So we continued along the cliff to the far end of the FCR in search of crags with a nice flat base for worry free toddling.  The Big Kahuna Pillar had just what we were looking for, and a new cliff, the aptly named “Whiny Baby Wall”, though not ideal, was serviceable with a creative belay strategy.

“Racing Babies”, an airy arete at the BIg Kahuna Pillar.

With temps nearing 80 degrees in town, we decided to wait till the shade arrived to start our next climbing day.  This strategy backfired when Logan began falling asleep on the short drive to the crag.  Logan takes one nap per day, and that must coincide with climbing to get the most out of the crag day.  We knew if he fell asleep he wouldn’t take another nap, so we rolled down the windows, started tickling him, singing songs, and generally driving like maniacs to get us to the cliff before he went down.  Fortunately he brightened right up once it was time for the approach hike, and he took a nice long nap as soon as we got to the crag, allowing us to climb two stellar 5.10s and a nice 5.11 at Sector Shinto. 

I was able to get through the redpoint crux on my first attempt of the day on Sky Pilot, but I couldn’t get decent recovery at the mid-point rest.  I was able to fight through the growing pump for a few more bolts but eventually grabbed the last draw to forfeit the battle.  Normally I would beat myself up over such an act, but I hesitated for quite a while to consider the situation before throwing in the towel and I think it was the right call.  Falling while clipping is not an acceptable option in my opinion.  No single burn is worth getting hurt over.  After a nice long rest I was able to put some good work into the crux sections and find some slightly better rest stances, hinting that I might have a shot at this thing after all.  Unfortunately the slow building pump took so much out of me that I was pretty much shot for the day.  I gave it another go but it was over almost as soon as it started. 

Finishing up the entrance exam of Sky Pilot while Logan naps below.

At this point in the project cycle we approach the “Bargaining” stage.  What would I be willing to trade for a redpoint?  I have no firm plans for the next few weekends, but a quick look at the forecast reveals four consecutive days of snow, beginning the day after our planned departure.  Will Tuesday be the last day of the 2012 Ten Sleep climbing season?  One day left for all the marbles…

Sky Pilot is in your face from the get go, with long cranks off a pair of tight monos that feel more like finger locks.  This time slapping for the marginal rest jug seems relatively routine.  Not really pumped yet, so no need to shake, except my left middle finger tip is numb from the mono-lock.  After a few chalk cycles I step up to an awkward pod and execute a gymnastic traverse that leads to the redpoint crux.  A big stretch to a shallow sloping two finger pocket spit me off twice on redpoint.  Getting the pocket isn’t so bad but the hold is so smooth its very difficult to dead hang, let alone pull past.  As luck would have it, the otherwise plentiful footholds suddenly vanish right at this point, making the move downright desperate.  My solution is a tiny foot chip–really, a calcite stain–less than half a millimeter deep.  Fortunately I have a brand new out of the box pair of Tenaya Inti’s. 

Beginning the traverse with a big cross to a two-finger pocket.

Today is the hottest day of the trip, and with a 6+hour drive still on the agenda, there is no time to wait for cliff to cool off.  The pocket feels as slimy as ever, and I’m nearly certain this will fail, but I stick to my beta and pop my left hand to a miserable sloper, followed immediately by the right hand to another sloper just above the pivotal pocket.  Amazingly I’m still on, so I cruise to the route’s one truly good shake and set up camp.  Literally 10 minutes pass, including a super-not-recommended T-shirt removal episode that thankfully provided slight relief from the oppressive heat.  I can feel myself passing the point of diminishing returns and decide its now or never.  A big high step leads to a three-finger crimp, a shallow 2-finger dish, and a marginal shake in a shallow scoop.  This rest is a trap, so I shake only long enough to clip, chalk up, and rehearse the ensuing boulder problem in my mind. 

Mantle, scrunchy stem–powerful clip feels effortless this time.  Chalk one last time, cross, precarious wide stem, gaston, left hand to sharp mono, shuffle then bump to sinker mono, jug.  Clip the 9th bolt.  Sky Pilot is in the bag, so I won’t leave empty-handed, but the extension is looming.  Another trap shake at the Sky Pilot anchor, then quickly up through a sea of sharp coral dishes and micro crimps to another dubious rest stance.  The shake is good but hellish on the legs.  My left calf is screaming for relief but my fingers can’t take the extra strain.  Much longer here and I won’t be able to feel my feet…

Match the last good pocket, work the feet up.  Right hand: half-pad mono.  Step up, lock off mono to right shoulder.   Hips right, left hand windmill to two-finger chip.  Stand up tall, belly to rock, stab right hand to half-pad mono; precision is key.  Bump left foot.  Breath.  The jug looks too far. “Watch me!”  Dyno to jug…. 

That’s all for now, but we will be returning to Ten Sleep soon….


It doesn’t happen very often, and perhaps that’s what makes it so sweet, but sometimes, everything just works out perfectly.

Los Hermanos de la Penitente

Last weekend Kate, Logan & I headed down to the beautiful San Luis Valley to participate in the inaugural Penitente Canyon Anchor Replacement & Trail Repair weekend.  The weekend was a huge success.  Despite a questionable weather forecast, over 40 climbers made the trek, some from as far as Albuquerque, NM and Boulder, CO.  The BLM was there to organize the trail and campground maintenance, and the legendary Bob D’Antonio directed all of the anchor replacement.

The legendary Bob D, rallying the troops.

For those who don’t know, Bob was one of the key protagonists of Sport Climbing in the US, and is certainly the leading figure in the history of sport climbing in Colorado, having established hundreds, if not thousands of routes over the last 30 years.  If you’ve been sport climbing in Colorado or New Mexico, there’s a very good chance you’ve clipped one of Bob D’s bolts.  Like most of Sport Climbing’s founders, Bob was quite an accomplished trad climber, establishing numerous first ascents and early repeats of significant testpieces in Eldo, The Gunks and elsewhere, but unlike many of his peers, Bob had the vision to see the potential in the faces, and the courage to break from the herd.  Well into his 50’s, Bob’s still climbing within a few letter grades of his personal best, and has plans to climb 5.13 again this summer.  Guys like Bob are an inspiration to the rest of us!

Kate enjoying some classic slabbin on “What The Hey”

Anyway, we showed up Friday morning to do some laid back climbing.  Penitente is one of the most beautiful sport crags in the country, with amazing volcanic rock that forms striking features.  Its always a pleasure to climb in the canyon, though at just over 3 hours form Denver, we don’t make it down there too often.  Friday night was our first night in a tent with Logan.  It actually turned out pretty well.  He woke up about 5 times, but we all managed to get just barely enough sleep to make it through the next day.

Resurfacing the entrance area

Saturday began with several hours of trail work and campground/picnic are improvement to help out the BLM.  Its always nice to be able to demonstrate to land managers that climbers are a positive influence on the areas they frequent, and nothing says it better than showing up to offer some free, enthusiastic labor (and two kegs of beer!).  The BLM guys were great, had a good sense of humor about their relationship with the user community, and were extremely grateful for our help.  We spread several tons of gravel around the Gazebo area and the bathrooms, planted new shrubs in several restoration areas, repaired the washed-out trail from the upper campground to the Gazebo, pruned some of the overgrown trails in the canyon, and resurfaced many of the tent pads at the campgrounds. 

After a hearty lunch of free brats, Bob and fellow Mountain Project Administrator Mike Howard gave a quick tutorial on bolt replacement.  About five of us had bolting experience (and drills), so we rounded up groups of novices for some hands-on learning.  Everyone was eager to get involved and learn what goes into properly bolting a route.  I took a great group out (Mike, Adam & Jen), under specific orders from Bob to retrofit Sheer Strength & Sheer Lunacy.  Unfortunately everywhere I turned I saw hardware that needed replacing, so we got a quite distracted.  Thank goodness Kate was willing to watch Logan by herself so I could get as much work done as possible.  We replaced the anchor bolts of The Serpent, then replaced every bolt on Persophone, right niext door.  As we were packing up to head to the Sheer Wall, a pair of climbers asked for help repairing Bucket Slave, so we moved over there to help out.  They already had a rope up, and the route only needed new hangers, so I gave them some hardware and a quick run-dopwn on what to do. 

Sketchy hardware on Sheer Lunacy

We finally made it to the sheer wall, and I decided since we were doing two routes it would be quicker just to come in from the top on rappel.  I’m glad I did.  Sheer Strength was the first, and that was a piece of cake.  We removed several feet of unsightly chain and replaced it with a nice cammo’d ring anchor, and replaced all of the lead bolts.  Last but not least was Sheer Lunacy, and we were appaled by what we found.  I brought Mike up with me so I could show him up close how to replace a bolt.  Mike began unscrewing the first bolt and it came out after only a few turns.  Mike called up that he had broken the bolt off, so we had Adam send up the drill to put in a new hole.  While I was drilling Mike broke the second bolt too, in the same place.  ‘That’s odd’ I thought.  After closer inspection, neither bolt was broken, that was the entire bolt, 3/4″ long!  And easily 1/4″ of that was taken up by the bolt hanger, so less than half an inch of shaft was in the rock!  This thing was a ticking time bomb, just waiting for an unlucky soul to fall at the wrong place.  I was totally shocked.  I’ve never seen such sketchy bolting in my entire career.  But, that’s what this weekend was all about, and I hope that in addition to scoring some free beer and SWAG, we were able to prevent a few accidents.

Sheer Lunacy with fresh hardware in place

It started to drizzle just as we were placing the last bolts, so we headed back to the parking lot.  The party had already started, and we were all psyched to indulge in some great free beer from San Luis Brewery and 3 Barrel Brewery.  There was a pretty good, local Bluegrass Band (complete with Jug Bass), great food, and of course, a SWAG raffle.

Logan getting his groove on at the after-party

The raffle is always the highlight, but this one of the best I’ve every been to.  Trango, Black Diamond, Petzl, OP, Arc Teryx, Wolverine, R&I and Falcon went all out.  Everyone who attented one at least one prize, and many folks got two.  There were free shirts for everyone, courtesy of the AAC, and everyone got a free copy of Rock & Ice, and plenty of stickers courtesy of Trango, BD & Petzl. 

Thanks to everyone who showed up, and here’s hoping this becomes an annual event!

Logan enjoying a sweet stick he found at the campground