Weekly Wrap-Up: 9/8 Yosemite Edition!

As I’m typing there is a fan pointed at the back of my head, my knee is wrapped in ice, I’m drinking cold Kombucha (like a good hippy), and still there are beads of sweat dripping onto my keyboard.

There’s only one place I’ll put up with this kind of heat, and that place is a good 500 miles and four mobile limbs away from me right now. In honor of the infamous valley, I present the Yosemite Edition of the Weekly Wrap-Up. Get your fill of post-summer beta and hit camp 4 in style knowing that all the tourons have flocked back to Arkansas to be replaced with patched down jackets and converted vans.

Yosemite Facelift 2014

Each year the Yosemite Climbers Association put on a killer event in the valley to show the park that climbers are more than just low-impact users of natural resources, we are stewards and janitors to our little paradise. The event will be held from 9/23 to 9/28 and sign up information (including free camping!) can be found here. 

Fire Behind Half Dome

This past week a small fire broke out just past Little Yosemite Valley near Half Dome (300-500 hectare). Hopefully this fire is little more than a beautiful backdrop and no damage to personnel or infrastructure happened. Check out the helicopter flying over the meadow for scale. Yikes!

El Cap Report

While some may find this old news, each year an El Cap veteran Tom Evans makes the long drive from out West to El Capitan Meadow to take amazing long-distance photographs of climbers making their way up California’s most epic Monolith. Famous for his hard-ass playful attitude and penchant for good natured humor, his dedication to calling out people for cheat sticks and bails make it a sort of right-of-passage before braving the biggest wall in Yosemite, with even yours truly learning the hard way.

Check his web site for updates starting mid-late September, right as the crisp weather rolls in.

elcapreport.com

Joshua Tree Climb Smart 2014

Ben Dover

Well, National Park edition might be more appropriate.

Each year the Friends of Joshua Tree (FoJT) put on an incredible event full of classes and seminars at an incredibly low price ($119), this year from October 17 to October 19. The weekend includes camping and meals and is always a blast. Check the event out below, and while your at it cruise over to their Facebook Page.

Climb Smart 2014

Videos

Hey look, they are all Yosemite videos! Go figure.

Yosemite Nature Notes

For those who like to pass out watching Netflix, I present an alternative to Bob Ross and Carl Sagan Remakes. Each video looks into a different unique aspect of the park, ranging from the high country glaciers to waterfalls to lowland meadows. I’ve linked a favorite, however click HERE to watch the entire playlist (29 Videos!)

The Salathe Free

To those who grew up climbing in California, who made their way from the tiny flares of Joshua Tree to the grainy cracks of Idyllwild before finally laying seige to the walls of the Valley, there is no greater rock climb than the Salathe Wall. The style of ascent in 1963, casting off from 1/3 of the way up without fixed lines and placing only 3 bolts (!!) in 3,000 feet, defined a generation of climbers interpretation of wall climbing. The climb has been a feature for bad ass stories and will continue to do so, and I offer you one of the latest renditions with Mayan Gobat-Smith freeing the headwall the hard way – Linking 3 5.13 pitches into a monster 230-foot crux pitch 3,000′ off the deck.

A Gift From Wyoming

One of the legends of the Valley, whose legacy included the First Free Ascent of the Salathe Wall and Direct North-West Face of Half Dome, had visions that superseded his time on Earth. Our Hero Alex Honnold checks out the Late, Great Todd Skinner‘s undone project, a direct start to the Leaning Tower route he had lost his life working on. The sit-start, A Gift From Wyoming, is yet another leap in style and vision for the newest generation.

Park Life

Awwwwwwwyeahhhhh. If the Valley has two speeds, Bouldering is spent on either extreme. Killer explosive movement and desperate slaps amid standing around in a brightly colored down jacket huffing warm air into slippers. This is the life. Lets roll out of bed at noon, climb harder than everyone in a 40-mile radius for a period of no more than 120 seconds, then sip a late while our foreign beau massages spent forearms.

Le Guides

Heading to the valley? Check out these killer resources

The best guides in the Universe (plus camping and travel info!)

The best Training in the Universe

The best Gear in the Universe

The best instagram in the Universe

 

Why You Aren’t Trad Climbing

The sight is common in Yosemite and Joshua Tree – a honed and fit 20-something male with a dancers body tries to finesse around and lieback up weird cracks, choosing to horrendously run out large sections rather than hang out and place gear he has no trust or experience with. Clearly he is skilled at moving over rock, as his strength and ability to compress between features got him up the route – this time.

Sidewinder (10B), a true Adventure climb

Sidewinder (10B), a true Adventure climb

While making a 5.9 feel 5.12 might constitute success in some eyes, our humbled hero moves the goalposts of what climbing means and exclaims to his buddies “I hate crack” before slouching away with a bruised ego and swollen forearms.

And who can blame him? The convenience of sport cragging has likely robbed him of necessary skills to actually climb up rocks, not a handful of particularly familiar rocks. Without having to learn to down-limb out of a tough spot or place safe anchors quickly, or a myriad of other ‘traditional’ climbing techniques, he’s gotten by with a resume of climbs not worth the paper it’s written on - rock climbing is a skill beyond ‘sport climbing.’

First off, this is only a portion of sport climbers – many are skilled at a variety of disciplines and have acquired whatever skills necessary to push themselves. This portion is ever-present, and I hope to eliminate the huge number of failures and psych-outs from strong climbers learning to expand their disciplines.

The next time you are at a climbing gym, in a city a few hours drive maximum from a cliff with good trad climbing (this is most of the Western U.S.). Ask around – “how long have you been climbing? Have you tried trad climbing?” Usually you’ll hear three things – Scary, expensive, don’t know how. Luckily, in 2014, you need look no further than a blog to put these three fires out.

1. Trad climbing is scary

Do you know which style of climbing has almost zero deaths? Bouldering. If you are on a rope, you are forcing yourself to perform a sequence of tasks that, if performed improperly, can result in your death. Study closely accident reports, you’ll find that simple techniques learned on the first day of outdoor rock climbing are often the culprit of tragedies. Rappeling errors, tie in errors – these are the VAST majority of accidents, with run outs on dangerous terrain contributing to few.

When our guard is down we are at risk to a higher percentage than when we are alert. I’ve climbed thousands of ‘traditional’ pitches and have never injured myself – the reality of the situation is that learning not to climb into a situation that is dangerous takes skill, skill acquired with patience and experience.

There is nothing magic about a bolt, and micro-fractures or corrosion can be a hidden (though rare) time bomb for unassuming climbers. Protection is protection, and learning to asses and commit – or not – to gear is a NECESSARY skill set for any leader. Whether a bolt, a cam or a crash pad, if the protection and fall are safe than the risks are negotiable. I’ve been bouldering above some VERY technical terrain that made a safe landing difficult, but possible, and I’ve climbed easy, straight in hand-cracks where gear can be almost ‘thrown’ in at any moment and a fall would be clean and damn near enjoyable. Learning to asses risk is a skill ALL climbers use, and those who think their style of climbing is immune are destined for the emergency ward.

Four carabiners clipped in 10 feet - I'm taking big risks, guys!

Four carabiners clipped in 10 feet – I’m taking big risks, guys!

In sport climbing, you need to get to the bolt. Trad climbing you can create a ‘bolt’ wherever there’s a clean crack and gear that will fit!

2. Trad Climbing is Expensive

Walking into Nomad Ventures is a euphoric experience for most, especially drooling over the counter at the fancy widgets lining the slat-wall. A quick check of the sticker price bring a quick reality check as it would appear the triple-rack of cams seen at the crag will require taking a second mortgage off the home and a few evenings working street corners.

Lucky for us, there isn’t a need to be outfitted with so much hardware that you answer the question “what if Tim Allen went trad climbing.” Gear is great, because it exists, but look no further than what tinkering has done to road and mountain biking. Anyone outside that industry looks at the $15,000 carbon-infused road bike with krytpon brake pads and power steering and knows that it’s cool, but a bit of a bastardization of what the experience might have been in the first place.

Same thing in climbing. The bad ass does more with less. Learn what climbs near you can be down with only a handful of pieces. Start leading with whatever can safely get you up a climb – the local shop might say something like “a set of cams from 3/4″ to 2″ is enough to lead just about anything at Mt. Woodson (true).” While waiting for paychecks to roll in,  find some gear or borrow from a friend to get started. Buy two small cams and place in your house in-between the fridge and the wall. Learn about the tools, rather than treat them like a Palantir from Lord of the Rings.

The Palantir – not a camming device! THIS one you don’t touch.

3. I Don’t Know How

Great job, Greg. You’ve made trad climbing sound impossibly complicated.

With so many gidgets and gizmos’ to learn it seems impossible to know everything necessary to be safe, and harder still to decide which gear to get. Luckily for us the solution is built in the name of the style.

Be Traditional

If you never learned how to do multiplication and division and only used a calculator, you are in a similar point to a sport climber learning trad. It’s all there, the process is just hidden underneath.

Way back when, mountains were climbed by one method – starting at the bottom and going to the top. All the extra bits, the belay and bolts and quickdraws, were added later of necessity. By tackling very easy traditional routes with that same mentality, the process will make more sense. It ISN’T always safe to fall on easy terrain – just like it isn’t safe to fall scrambling up an easy rocky ridge.

How to do this? Don’t think of climbing by grade or by style. Be drawn to it, the features and the aesthetic line. Use the gear you have to work your way up – do I have enough cams? Let me see, and if I am running low I can build a quick belay or lower and get them later. Have the skills on easy, short local crags to escape, to retreat, but most importantly to place good protection that can be relied on.

Help.

Capture

I hope that wasn’t too much thrown at you sport climbers all at once. For those that have a bit of gear, I have an easy 3 step process to familiarize yourself with techniques to make your Trad Climbing goals as real as your sport climbing accomplishments.

1. Don’t ‘mock lead’ on top rope to practice - Do place gear standing around the ground

Take a large heavy boot and a few slings or a length of webbing/cord. Walk around the crag and place all manner of cams and stoppers and use body weight to safely test the gear – you can easily break an ankle slamming onto a boulder so wear a protective shoe! One top rope might allow you to place a handful of pieces, but they’ll probably be in straight – in cracks and will be difficult either way to assess for strength. Even better, borrow a crashpad. Once you are familiar with the VERY basics…

2. Don’t lead before building topropes – build toprope anchors first!

Often I meet climbers who look for trad climbs with a bolted anchor. As crazy as it might sound, some climbers are so untrustworthy in their placements that they will lead (or, in their minds, almost solo) a gear route but can’t trust themselves to equalize a few pieces. Madness! Do yourself a favor and place good quality protection on top rope anchors. This book is an invaluable resource and was my personal key to learning to build reliable anchors long before I lead up to them.

3. Don’t lead at your limit – do lead often!

Get as much practice as you can. Write down what went well and what didnt – the anchor took too long, the cordalette got tangled, gear was difficult to rack. Talk to more experienced climbers to fix these issues and try the better practice next time. Is somebody nearby who can help you as you are struggling to build a 3-piece anchor? Climbing has long been a world of Apprentices and Masters, honor this roll by asking good questions and being a student – even if your master is the internet!

Other Helpful Posts:

Find your Low-Hanging Fruit

5 Reasons you Suck at Crack Climbing

Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby – A Joshua Tree Climbing Story

Weekly Wrap-Up: 9/1

So, Fall. It’s here. Halloween candy, excessive over-eating, big hairy spiders making webs across your doorway.

Despite all the wonderful things going on this time of year, there’s also the reality that as summer ends and winter is waiting and that draining feeling some have is very visceral. It sucks that I’m starting off only my 2nd wrap-up with yet another climber passing, but that is the world we live in – people hurt and sometimes we just don’t see it. With that said…

Flyn’ Bryan McCray

This past weeek we lost a true legend in Climbing, Flyin’ Bryan McCray. You might have seen his name as advertised on his awesome Resole business or come across his energetic presence at the cliffs. I had long seen his photos in Climbing and Rock n Ice and to this day recall the name of the climb pictured above, from memory – Collard Greens and Chicken Wings, a callback to the awkward technique that Bryan employs with style. I was never fortunate enough to have met him, however there is a great memorial thread over on Supertopo for those interested in learning about this great dude.

Petzl Reddit AMA

For those unfamiliar, an AMA (Ask Me Anything) is a event where a figure of note, usually someone educated or famous, goes onto the popular message board Reddit to answer questions from the community. Usually this is little more than a marketing ploy with planted questions and softball promotion questions being lobbed, however the good people at Petzl had Rick Vance answer technical questions in the community r/climbing.  A few cool quips:

On their elaborate instruction booklets (PDF Here for Sport Climbing):

Absolutely! Petzl made the decision early on (1986) to convey the various, and often complex, use of our products visually. Yves Marchand, the man who created the Petzl logo still in use today, devised the particular style of the technical illustrations that have become a Petzl hallmark—in the beginning they were drawn by hand using a fountain pen! Drawings like this became a common approach in transmitting technical information across the industry in the decades that followed.

As these technique developed within Petzl, we moved toward making the catalog more than just an inventory of products, but rather a user manual and a skill-improvement guide. Now, we’re taking the next step and offering hands-on training directly to the end-user through the Petzl Technical Institute[1] and our Technical Partner networks.

On the ever-present debate of Belay Device Positioning:

Belaying with a carabiner clipped though your tie-in points loads the carabiner improperly, which will cause failure at a load much lower than its major axis strength. That being said, it’s very unlikely (but not impossible) that forces generated in a climbing fall would cause failure in a tri-loaded or off-axis loaded biner. This is primarily due to the fact that most belay devices slip at or below 6kN. A locked, tri-loaded carabiner usually fails around 30-50% of its major axis rating.

The more practical issues are that belay devices are designed to be clipped to belay loops, so there is an ergonomic issue in terms of proper use, and the belay carabiner is held rigid in a position where the gate can more easily be inferred with.

Swing on over and check out some great insight into the technical use of their great products HERE!

 

Peter Metcalf out, Sony and GAP exec in as Black Diamond CEO

Long-time BD CEO Peter Metcalf has moved on to focus on other projects while GAP and Sony Senior Executive Zeena Freeman settles into his chair. Peter has been the driving force behind many of the incredible innovations over at BD, and while I have complete faith in their company I can’t help but think this might be a move to “mainstream” Black Diamond, after the recent merger and clothing line release.

What does this mean for Black Diamond? I have no clue. I’m a 29 year old climber who lives gleefully ignorant of the world of Acquisitions and Mergers. That being said, Metcalf was a climber first and built the business organically through the sport, and Zeena’s appointment was “the result of a search announced last fall for new senior leadership that would augment the Company’s strategic capabilities in brand management, specifically in the areas of apparel, retail and e-commerce.” That sure doesn’t sound like “She’s a bad mamma jamma who cranks 5.12″ and it’s indicitave of BD moving away from hard goods and into soft goods. Whatever Black Diamond does, they do it well, so in the end I look forward to seeing what new things show up.

Some Idiots Ran Like 100 Miles

The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc is one of the biggest, and hardest, Ultra marathons in the world, circling the French Alps and passing through a hellish amount of elevation. It’s a pretty bad ass race with many of the best vying for the title of “greatest sufferer.” François D’Haene took home the Men’s Gold and Rory Bosio came in first for Women. The 20+ hour race saw the 2nd place finishers at almost a full hour behind the winners – how many races are THAT hard?

Videos

OUTSIDE PROFILE – KAI LIGHTNER

Kai Lightner is a unique individual, but this video blows me away for another reason all-together - Kai’s Mom Connie.

Sure, he’s a talented kid. He seems pretty awesome, actually. I don’t think you can swing a cat at a gym and not hit a really inspiring, talented, friendly kid who out climbs the big dogs. However how many of those kids have a single mom drive them 8 hours to the crag to belay? A single mom that is successful, gives her son the best life she can, AND spends every moment she can braving bugs and dirt (not everyones favorite thing) to support her bad ass kid?

Don’t get it twisted, Kai is incredible. He is incredible because of Connie. If you got a mom like that, let her know she is bad ass too!

CARLO DENALI’S BIRTHDAY CHALLENGE

http://www.epictv.com/media/podcast/carlo-traversi-swears-through-10-hours-of-skin-destroying-bouldering-%7C-birthday-challenge-ep-2/600331?header_b=1&b=1

The Birthday Challenge has been a long-time staple for climbers, being a reasonable hard thing to do (especially by moving the goalposts). Carlo Denali stated that he wanted to climb 26 problems (his age) at V5 or harder – emphasis on the OR HARDER part. Homeboy, V10+? That ain’t no challenge that’s torture! I hope to complete my challenge in Josh on a rope, but I really like the Bouldering challenge – less logistical problems about moving a belay and cleaning routes and much, much more athletic and physical.

What will your birthday challenge look like?

TWERKING AT BLACK MOUNTAIN

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/102367950″>Black Mountain Twerk Fest</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user6845410″>Isamer Bilog</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

There is no reason to post this video other than I hope to see more of this in the future. I think 12,351,501 bouldering videos set to dubstep are enough, let’s have some fun!

Good Reads

Heading to the loo? Load these puppies up first so you can hide in the bathroom from your boss AND learn about climbing!

Climbing.com – 7 Simple Footwork Drills

Climbing.com – Scary and Unbelayvable Stories

Rockandice.com – Tuesday Night Bouldering (A killer weekly blog)

Alex Johnson – Being Afraid. One of the nations best boulderers shares a Human moment and analyzes Fear and her steps to overcome. A great read!

Instagram follows

Are you on instagram? Are you already following @gregdotdavis? here’s a few more climbers who have great feeds!

@sashadigiulian – The Pikachu of climbing

@jwebxl - The Sasquatch of climbing

@mesarimSD – Tag @mesarimSD or #goclimg for a regram, these guys put out great content and have killer classes. Check them out! mesarim.com

 

 

 

Weekly Wrap-Up: 8/25

Summer is nearly over, and while we wait for heat to dissipate and days shorten to make cooler weather in the high deserts most are comfortable to loaf about on beaches and creeks, trading a helmet and rack for a stand up paddle board and oar.

While a few of us choose to soldier on, either enduring waning heat at lower elevation crags or shivering in the fading afternoon light up in the high mountains, it appears the vast majority have decided to start actually enjoying summer before it ends – a novel concept that I’ll have to look more into.

From around the internet, here are some objects of note to enjoy while sipping coffee on this fine Monday morning.

Support your local Troll!

Kelly Vaught AKA The Troll

Odds are if you’ve spent a good portion of time in Joshua Tree or Idyllwild you’ve come across the Troll. A real lifer, Kelly Vaught (AKA The Troll) has been a staple in route development at our crags for a few decades and like many of us is falling on some rough times and could use a hand. This link to Supertopo’s post can lead you to cool gear to bid on and a fun campfire discussion, but you can also email the organizer, Todd Gordon, at toddwgordon@gmail.com.

Stone Nudes Calender Funded

The climbing community doesn’t often rally together, but when they do they make it clear the things that are important. Dean Fidelman is an OG stonemaster (that’s Original Gangster for the squares out there) and his photography has been a character in its own in the history of climbing in California. Enough donations have come in that the calender will not skip 2015 and Dean can continue producing some of the best art in climbing.

Death on Matthes Crest

Matthes Crest

Veteran climber and well-liked Brad Parker passed away on Matthes Crest this past Saturday. While no one can know for certain it appeared as though he felt sick or uncomfortable, which likely could have caused a mistake in judgement. He was traveling alone on terrain where a rope would be marginal at best – often in the big mountains there are no ‘safe falls.’ There is a great post over at Supertopo where friends remember him and some from the accident recount the day. Stay safe out there folks, the mountains take no breaks.

Good Reads

Dirtbagging is Dead by Cedar Wright

What it’s like to solo 5.12D by Alex Honnold

Fun Videos

Cedar Wright reminds us all why no one likes offwidths.

To Yosemite, With Love by Mountain Hardwear – take note when companies sponsor things you like and let them know you appreciate it!

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/103732733″>To Yosemite, With Love</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/mountainhardwear”>Mountain Hardwear</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Alex Honnold gave a great interview on the Relativity of Risk. It’s a fascinating presentation and worth putting on while folding laundry or doing something slightly more engaging than staring at a computer – it’s a bit long, after all. The Ustream link here will take you to a great 15 minutes packed into an hour talk.

Last but not least, a V16 boulderer gets humbled by gentle sunlight

Five Things You Already Do That Are Easier Than Hiking Mount Whitney

Jeremy felt like there was a bit too much O2 at 14,500'

Jeremy felt like there was a bit too much O2 at 14,500′

The small rocky outcrop nestled high above Escondido was a popular place for graffiti art and homeless intercourse, but today the crags around Dixon Lake peppered with local climbers would serve as a backdrop to photographs that will accompany an article about outdoor activities in North County. The kind and doddering photographer ambled helplessly in between the gentle boulders, navigating her way through them like a toddler through a ball pen. Sure enough once I lashed her safely into position above a 3-foot drop a camera would whip from a fanny pack and she’d hammer out a few dozen professional quality pics before I could tie in and do some climbing. The lens alone cost more than my car and after I’d received my copy of the article in print I had doubts the place was even Dixon Lake. Where was the broken glass and discarded condoms?

Fact of the matter is being a professional photographer is hard, a lot harder than rock climbing – she just hadn’t done it as much.

Walk into the Lone Pine ranger station below Mount Whitney on a Friday morning and you can feel the buzz. The long walkway that leads from a parking lot of luxury SUV’s with California plates acts as a gallows to which weekend warriors stick their necks each weekend, hoping to make the summit without puking out $40 of hiking food from Trader Joes. I feel for these folks, who step occasionally into a pretty weird world that I’ve come to call my home. Hiking is hard, but seeing them pay for a hiking map on a credit card made out of rare-earth metals while speaking a foreign language to his visiting friend from Japan I couldn’t help but think these characters can do some things that I think are damn near impossible.

1. Floss

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. I’m 29 years old, and after almost 11,000 days I still forget just about every morning. The same guys who look at me in camp perplexed I forgot my floss are the ones I see bonking at 11,500 feet hiking Whitney. How did you not spend one day above altitude before coming up? Funny enough, he still summitted, floss in his pocket and nary a spec of foodstuff in between his molars. Even screwing it up he managed to hike Whitney, albeit in about as much pain as one can imagine having hiking 20 miles with an apocalyptic hangover.  Once we got down to some ibuprofen and beer the hiker seems to be all better, while I’m scrounging for dental plans on craigslist and considering Mexican supplements. Hiking is WAY easier than flossing.

2.  Not urinate in public

It happens all the time, without fail: I have to pee in the middle of a long desert road without any rest stops. If there’s a stretch of driving more than 30 minutes it’s almost a guarantee. The number of times I had to pull off into the dirt as far as my car could off-road to meekly relieve severe discomfort amidst looks of scorn are difficult to recall. Each time, shame and disappointment. Look at me, I’m almost 30 years old and I’m peeing on my tire in the desert. In my life I’d never seen someone do the same, yet I’m constantly having to pee when restrooms aren’t around and cruelly denied privacy or respite by long open fields. Everyone goes pee, why is it so weird? Why did stopping mid-race to take a leak in a cross country race in high school get me disqualified, almost expelled? I don’t have the answer, but I can tell you that it is a LOT easier to hike Mount Whitney than to live without peeing in public.

3. Eating Vegetables

At a wedding recently I met a family member who hadn’t had a vegetable in 40 years. While I felt bad for his gut flora I hurt more that he was missing out on some amazing stir fried dishes and salads that I had recently come across. It might be possible that I could have been him, had I not spent a few years wracking myself trying to come up with healthy meals to support my climbing habit. Month after month I’d boil broccoli or fry red pepper only to have it come out the consistency of play-doh, and each time I’d wrestle the depleted fibers down hoping I absorbed something of value in the food-paste. Perhaps the best thing about the outdoor community is the access to awesome recipes – hippy vegans have filled in my repertoire of dishes so now it’s possible that I can get a well-rounded diet without lacing my meals with bacon. My hippie vegan friends and I have wonderful conversations, some where they even lament that Whitney is such a hard hike and they’d love to do it. If I could trade my quads for their Quinoa I would.

4. Register a Vehicle

Every May I tip the U.S. Government an extra 30 dollars because I can’t seem to find the DMV before 30 days are up. When registering for a permit to hike Whitney, the license plate information is recorded in the event of an emergency, and the line of documented SUV’s with fresh oil and a clean filter outside seem to have passengers that are able to send a check once a year. Owning the lone unregistered vehicle in June and July is embarrassing, and what at first was a funny quirk of personality has erupted into full-blown compulsion. A flat tire while driving to renew, no stamps in the drawer, but more likely a week-long climbing trip wiped my brain slate clean and a penchant for avoiding paperwork means nothing is written down: I come back from climbs a brand new human, having to pick up the pieces like that guy from Memento. Disappointed glances from CHP personnel accompanied by warnings have done little – and I hope to break my streak in 2015. Don’t bet on it.

5. Raise a child

Everyone has a baby. There are literally hundreds of children in the world today – possibly more. I would go so far as to say there are enough children, yet more and more seem to keep popping up. Each year public schools graduate some, but more are taken in – haven’t we educated all them by now? Surprisingly, people keep having kids. I’ve heard that being a parent is literally the hardest thing you will ever do. After a trip to the supermarket, I have to confess that life must be so much more amazingly simple than I had suspected. Parents everywhere letting kids run wild and cause mayhem was relieving to me, as the hardest thing I might ever do requires about as much effort as owning a cat. Sure, there are great parents out there, but even the terrible ones seem to do all-right, living oblivious to the transgressions they teach their kids, and the kids themselves seem to do all right, some learning from the mistakes of their parents and some not. I’ve hiked Whitney, and it was pretty hard, but it wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve done.

So, next time you are considering adding to your family or flossing after a plate full of veggies, try hiking Mount Whitney instead. You’re almost there.

 

 

Crossfit Doesn’t Suck.

CDS1

It was a typical Tuesday night at the climbing gym in August, and by that I mean the small space was cramped with large men sporting fast metabolisms. The higher up the wall one climbed there was a distinctive change in climate as a thick musk began to coat pores. Dropping off from the top felt a bit more like coming up for air, but for locals stuck in Southern California there just wasn’t a lot of options on days like today.

Sitting on the bench to let my head stop spinning from the heat, I overheard a converstation at the counter about tendon injuries. The two guys were taking turns slathering their joints in tape, mumbling about “hot fingers” and warm weather being the major cause of an A2 pulley tear.

Just as I was hearing the goods on how he greased off a bad mono I heard a loud ‘thud’ followed by a horrible scream from off in the bouldering cave. A friend had blown a heel-hook over her head and landed weirdly on the edge of a pad, crushing her talus bone in the process.

Needless to say the rest of the workout was shot as the handful of us that didn’t start to puke helped her to the hospital. We drove right past a Crossfit gym that opened very close by, at about the same time as well. As we slowly ambled over painful speed bumps speed metal blared out of the opened bay doors and energetic accountants were screaming through dead lifts and Olympic lifts with spines so bent and out of position they looked like Escher’s interpretation of Fitness.

Sure, Crossfit seems to be filled with eager bunnies bright eyed and ready to learn, and true that these impressionable and fired up individuals tend to hurt themselves rushing through a very regimented sport such as power lifting. These situations are not unique to Crossfit and if anything show a fatal flaw in humanity – newbies getting themselves into trouble.

Sound familiar? As climbers, our house might be made of glass.

What is Crossfit?

Crossfitters will proudly tell you that their specialty is not specializing. In reality, it is a somewhat-structured set of exercises designed to keep your body guessing and simulate real world situations – what we in the bid’ness call Circuit Training.

Now, that’s a very simple way to describe a complex idea that’s far more scientific than my pay grade allows me to dive into. The benefits of circuit training, on almost any reasonable level, is something that every athlete should consider regardless of their sport.

Why add Circuit Training?

Even high-end technical rock climbing requires more than gnarly finger strength and polished technique. There are often ‘fitness requirements,’ athletic mantels and dynamic movement that are difficult to replicate outside of a single move on a single route. How can a climber prepare for body-contortion movement and powerful presses bunched up in a weird posture?

Strong in Every Position

Understanding posture is understanding health!

Check out my 3-part weight loss story Here

Check out my 3-part weight loss story Here, and part 2 and part 3 as well.

The number one reason why a climber might consider a program like Crossfit is to create strength in a variety of positions. Shoulder-y presses, dynamic underclings, one-legged squats on small nubs peppered on a slab, it isn’t difficult for a climber to wish they could increase strength. The best training possible would be to find rock that simulates all of these positions and movements – but for most of us stuck on a granite Batholith or sandstone basin we are limited to our potential for unique movement on rock.

I first heard the phrase “Strong in Every Position” while listening to an interview with Crossfit Coach Kelly Starrett. After a few years of on-again, off-again pain in my shoulder due to misaligned muscle groups and insufficient antagonistic muscle work, I started incorporating his ideas of proper positions and a stable shoulder into my training, but also my long hikes and lifestyle at home. The biggest change in my understanding of physiology came because of an idea 2,000 years old blasting through my iPhone headset while on a jog. Good information is better late than never.

Why Does Everyone Hate Crossfit?

Nothing is more fun than bagging on a fad. I’m a big fan of it, so much so that I’m often a parody of myself, getting choked out in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes by 10-year vets thinking I know what I’m doing and laughing all the way. The best way to live is to be happy and if there is humor to be found in something, I highly recommend acknowledging it.

The Problem – Crossfit is a Fad

in 2001 when I started climbing it was the official boom of the sport. Chris Sharma had just finished Realization, the best climbers on the planet were young American kids and gyms were sprouting up like herniated discs in Industrial Park gyms. Before this jump there was a very distinguishable path to climbing, an apprenticeship followed by many hours of experience on real rock before a transition to becoming a mentor oneself. Now, a quick Google search and a few how-to videos on youtube and anyone can be competent enough to mail themselves, and that’s the problem.

Fads Breed Nincumpoops

Nincumpoops aren’t there for you. In heart they may be, or at least until the check clears, but learning to avoid nincompoops is a great life skill. I would wager a Las Vegas local would be more keen to spot a shoddy climbing or Crossfit gym long before an impressionable kid from Iowa. The get-rich-quick mentality is happy to jump onto whatever fad or industry is booming, and whether Crossfit or Climbing or MMA there can be some real difficulty separating the bad from the good.

There is some talk about getting Rhabdo, however we again have to understand the conversation of how and why this is happening. Like a climber heading out into an alpine peak with a minimal kit of gear in their pack and only a few thousand hours of training to see them through, those who push the possibilities of human performance flirt with bodily harm. If you would like to work out so hard that you literally die, that’s on you, however I don’t have the capabilities to work that hard. I’ll quit and grab a beer long before that, regardless of a trainer screaming at me. Knowing your body and when to say “no,” again, is always YOUR responsibility.

A proper gym will teach the right form and will take time to develop a complete understanding of the physiological demands of the body. An improper gym will cause life-long damage to major components of your body that you probably will miss.

Is Crossfit Right For Me?

This is the easiest question to answer. Do you want to do it? If so, then yes!

There are a lot of large, burly men out there that would benefit from a membership to Curves and 2 Zumba classes a week. The silliness of those activities is irrelevant – they will get an overweight biker in his 60′s hiking again. Crossfit is nothing like these two estrogen-infused alternatives, but the truth still applies – if it can help, consider it.

Just like I wouldn’t climb on gear sold by Bill and Ted’s Excellent Equipment I would do some research on which gym you end up picking. The gyms looking to take your money might lure you with lower prices or multi-level-marketing type schemes relying on gullible friends joining in. Gyms focused on training athletes will have qualified instructors and can be easily looked up under Crossfit Affiliates.

Basic Crossfit Style Exercises to Add

Skip all the way to the end for Cliff Notes? Great, me too! If there were three basic exercises commonly performed and perfected by Crossfit individuals as well as many athletes the world over. All can be done with a single kettlebell, a great fitness tool that can be left in the trunk of a car and brought along to Camp 4 in Yosemite or Indian Creek to offset rainy days and oppositional muscle group training.

The Deadlift

Deadlifts are great for adding strength and power in the upper arms and back muscles as well as reinforcing proper spinal alignment under heavy load. Take several weeks moving up from about 20/30% bodyweight (~40lb for me at 160lb) to 100% bodyweight. I like to take the bar or a PVC pipe and film my technique to see if my back is in the proper position. Athletes looking for lean and useful muscle might consider using a large kettle bell or pair of kettlebells instead at much lower weight.

The Squat

More so than the other two exercises the Squat should be performed with caution and a bit of humility. It’s an incredible exercise for leg power and creating good hormones for muscle growth and recovery. Like with deadlifts, a few weeks to a few months of practice should be performed, ideally with a trainer or professional, before attempting anything near body weight. Barbell back squats are the classic “squats” people do, however for lighter and leaner athletes I recommend racking a single (or pair) of kettlebells.

The Military Press

Climbers especially have issues with misaligned muscle groups – incredible pull strength, but wimpy push strength. The good news is that there isn’t a lot of weight required to offset the hundreds of natural pull-ups our sport requires, week-in and week-out. 20lb presses at 4×20 reps should be enough for even the fittest climber, and those beginning the exercise can benefit with very low weights found commonly around a campfire or home, such as a milk jug or small rock. Don’t drop them on yer head.

 

Further reading:

Steve Maxwell

Robb Wolf

Low Hanging Fruit

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I  have this great race car. The thing is a blast to drive, handles well, but dammit I’d like some more performance out of her (she is getting a bit old, after all).
I have the best engine money can buy. It’s all imported Titanium from a top secret lab in Sweden. I spend about ten hours a day perfecting the electronics so the pistons fire to within ten thousands nanoseconds of efficiency and it’s so smooth and polished I may one day eat off of it.

 

The tires? Top of the line. Carbon-infused rubber mined from the largest asteroid in the Keiper belt. Anti-gravity hyplons with dual-adjust laser beams.

 

Exhaust system? It’s a portal through space and time where fumes are interdimensionally transported to a place of love and understanding. Super efficient.

 

I think I’m ready to hit the track. Everything seems tuned.
I just need to buy a steering wheel. I’ve been using a screwdriver jammed into the steering column.

 

 

I’ve been rock climbing long enough for people around me to assume I know what I’m doing. Often questions come my way, and whether it’s training or tactics the same ideas apply to success: Find a path to success and take it.

Recently a friend asked about a supposedly scary and run-out portion of a climb. The upper slab is devoid not only of holds, but of difficulty, and is slightly steeper than a hill perched on top of a giant steep hung of rock. This part really scared my friend, who thought the paucity of protection meant that danger is imminent. These moves, however, are so far below his maximum ability, and I reminded the poor fellow that he was climbing an improbably steep face of cracks and scary sections to lead to this walk-off last pitch.

 

“I’m not a slab climber.”

 

Well, today you are. I’m not an ice climber until I’m climbing ice.

You are only as strong as your weakest skill that you need to use. If a walk-off pitch, rated 5 number grades below your on-sigh limit, has a type of skill required that you don’t possess and there is a likelihood that the entire climb is in jeapordy because this barrier… congratulations. You now have free advice, a path of what you need to work on.

 

Just like a sports car without wheels a climber without a well-rounded skill set is not an efficient machine. I’m sure this friend works every week on his strength and technique, yet that training is actually keeping him from SUCCEEDING ON CLIMBS.

 

At the end of the day, training and preparation should be about successfully getting to the top of climbs, NOT to be strong enough to do them.

 

The goal shouldn’t be to have incredible gifts and weaknesses. A black belt in Tae Kwon Do is no good in a wrestling match and a V8 boulderer is no good in a hand crack.

Puttin' in work.

Puttin’ in work.

Find what you suck at and work at that. Odds are, you don’t want to – that’s why you suck at it now.