Monthly Archives: March 2013

proximity

a thought occurred to me as i was driving away from a local climbing area today: are certain climbing areas really good because they truly are that good, or are they only good because you live within a close proximity to them?

there are a few places that pop into my head as being truly amazing climbing areas. first on my personal list is the red river gorge, in eastern kentucky. when i lived in west lafayette, indiana, going to school at purdue university, i would skip class and drive the four hours just for a day of climbing. i’ve driven solo from denver to the red (18 hours drive time, with a two hour “power nap”), for a 10 day trip. i climbed 9 of those 10 days, and it was worth every minute and every mile. i have never regretted going there and i doubt i ever will.

another area that sticks out in my mind is yosemite. trad, sport, bouldering, big wall, “the valley” has it all! everything you could want is there, and people come from all over the world to sample the rock. lucky are the ones that also happen to live close by…or luckier still, the dying breed of the “valley rat” finding ways to squat and survive living within the park. but you plan big trips around yosemite, most people don’t just “pop in”. the few trips that i took there, i drove many hours with friends in a haze of cigarette smoke and coffee just to have a shot at climbing those monolithic granite domes.

also near and dear to my heart is rifle. i feel lucky to be so close to it, but i would gladly drive long distances to spend a good chunk of time there. in fact, every summer there is always an influx of strong dirtbag climbers from all corners of the country that live in the canyon. hell, in 2011 i was one of them. as far as sport climbing is concerned, it’s one of the best places to really test your mettle (as long as you climb under 5.15a). there is such a high concentration of difficult climbs, and such varied styles within the small and narrow canyon, that you shouldn’t get bored. everything is crazy convenient, with no approaches or hikes. you get to climb hard and be lazy at the same time. win-win situation if you ask me.

on the flip side, there are areas that are good because you live so close to them. the first one in this category that i can think of is clear creek canyon, just west of golden. i love clear creek. i have climbed more times there than probably any other area. but let’s be honest, if it wasn’t 30 minutes away from denver, it wouldn’t be a destination. not by a long shot. however, it allows you to get after-work sessions during the summers, quick training sessions on real rock, and offers hard enough routes to allow us normal climbers to push our limits. it’s a great place to have in our backyard, but world class?

now i know i’m going to take a lot of heat for this next one (DISCLAIMER: i am a wiener of a trad climber, and if given the choice, i will always choose to clip a bolt before i plug gear. i do plug said gear from time to time, more for an active rest day than to push my limits. take the following with a large grain of salt and a bit of humor), but another area that falls within the “good by proximity” category (for me) is eldorado canyon state park. i know that it is very historically significant, and don’t get me wrong, 9 times out of 10 i do have a lot of fun there. but i personally don’t think it’s as good as it was hyped up to be. the rock quality and overall size just didn’t live up to the mythical expectations i had in my own head. if it was any further away, i don’t know if i’d ever go. i’ll put it this way, if i had to drive the same distance that i drive to rifle (three hours worth), eldo wouldn’t be a thing to me. but being right outside boulder, it’s very convenient, and you can climb a lot of different terrain.

so i’m curious to know if you agree or disagree with any of my picks. or comment with your own favorites. or local haunts that wouldn’t be worth a sizable drive. we want to know where and why! and what’s the longest you have driven or would drive just to get your outdoor rock fix?

willful suspension of disbelief

willful suspension of disbelief…according to wikipedia, this can be “seen as the willingness of the audience to overlook the limitations of a medium, so that these do not interfere with the acceptance of those premises.” you might now be asking yourself, “what does this have to do with anything here in the gym” or “how does this even remotely relate to climbing?”

it might take a little bit, but i can explain. the short, vague, non-helpful explanation is that it relates to route setting.

the long explanation:

when you, our customers and members, come into the gym, you see specific features everywhere (layback crack, offwidth crack, stem chimney, pin scars, etc.) and you most definitely see routes going through and around all of these. and you probably think (sometimes) “that seems really contrived, why would i stay on these bad holds when i can reach that feature instead.”

as route setters, we of course see these same features, but we see them in a different way. we don’t necessarily see them as continuous. in other words, we block out the other parts of the feature in order to achieve the particular flow or movement for our climb. if we didn’t look at the features this way, we would be limited with what we could set and would always have to be hyper-cognizant of the proximity to said features. for example, in the front canyon at the north gym we have a really good layback crack; at the south gym right by the front desk we have a splitter crack. if the climbs we set near these always had all features on from bottom to top, it has the potential to be essentially the same climb every time. we would be doing you a disservice by allowing this to happen. we want to mix things up and keep you on your toes (no pun intended).

so it takes a willful suspension of disbelief in order to see the routes in the same way we do. using your imagination and “pretending” that only the specific taped-off portions of a feature exist, not the full thing, is necessary at times. our hope is that it yields more interesting climbs with more satisfying movement and body positions. of course, nobody is going to stop you from climbing straight up the crack. but honestly, how many times could you continuously climb it before you got a little bored 🙂

Hardest Moves: Part One

Essentially there are five climbing grips and four grip positions. Those would be crimps, jugs, slopers, pinches, and pockets for the grips and sidepull, downpull, gaston, and undercling for the grip positions. In today’s blog, Jamie and I will focus on the grip positions and provide examples of the hardest moves we have done off of said positions. When you are done reading, leave us a comment with the hardest moves you have done off these various grips!

Undercling
RM: European Human Being has a difficult move off a poor left hand undercling crimp to a minuscule right hand crimp. Success is reliant on posting hard on the left foot and accuracy hitting the right hand. For me this is the crux of the boulder and a move I can do occasionally at best.

JG: ‘tunnel vision’ (13b) at the industrial wall on eldorado mountain has a shoulder-wrecking dynamic move from okay-ish crimps and poor feet to a 1.5 pad gaston undercling (picture here). this move was fierce (much harder for us shorties), and it left me with a crazy sore shoulder (one full week out of commission) after i sent. you have to follow this crux with 12c crimping to the anchor.

Gaston
RM: The crux move of The Automator, a long-standing project of mine, involves a perfectly flat, full pad, three-finger edge that you would clip off of on a vertical 5.11. Except it is not on a vertical 5.11, it is guarding the finish of a relentlessly steep, fifteen move V13. My friend Flannery does this move on command, but I struggle to get enough push off the high right foot and am looking at a 25% success rate, if I want to be generous.

JG: see above…shoulder wrecker.

Sidepull
RM: Trent’s Mom has given me fits over the years. What I find to be the crux is a big move of an okay left hand sidepull slot to a decent right hand edge. The right foot is very high, the left foot is very low on a dismal smear, and it is hard for me to summon the giddy-up to achieve the right hand. I have done this move twice, in a row, on the first day I tried the problem. The first time was in isolation and the second time was on link, though I managed to fall a few moves later in easier terrain. Four or five days have been spent on this rig since then and I haven’t been able to do the move again. Chalk it up to a gigantic mental block, I guess. Sometimes mental difficulty trumps physical difficulty.

JG: my current project, ‘kinky reggae‘, at the new river wall in clear creek canyon has, by far, the hardest sidepull move i have encountered to date. you come off of a good resting jug (unfortunately the feet here are less than ideal and the angle is so steep, that i don’t really get a good rest…at least not yet) and cross your left hand over, full extension, to the kinda poor 1/2 pad, three finger, greasy, sidepull pocket. in this compromised position, you have to build your feet up stupid high then cross your right hand back over to a 1/3 pad, 2.5 finger, crimp pocket. you then have to unwind and catch a bad sidepull sloper with your left hand. these are some of the hardest moves i have ever done on a rope (if not the hardest). i have linked from the jug through these moves three times, and i don’t even want to hazard a guess as to how many times i have tried…

Downpull
RM: This particular grip position is so common that it is difficult to recall the hardest move I’ve done off it, but the first that comes to mind is the last move of Clear Blue Skies. In isolation I can square up easily and the dynamic lock off is not unreasonable, but on link I find myself farther to the left than I’d like, which makes it harder to shift over and drive off of the right foot. This climb pains me in the fingers.

JG: this one is definitely tough. looking back, it was perhaps on ‘anarchitect‘ (12d) in clear creek canyon. you’ve gotten through the “true” crux already, but there’s no good place to rest. all the feet face the wrong way, and you’re taxed the entire time. if memory serves, you get set up on two “not so good” slopey holds and have to make a long lunge/dyno to another “jug” sloper. i was always so pumped by the time i got to this point, that the dyno seemed impossible. somehow i got through it once (not without shrieking and try-hard screaming) and took it to the chains. despite its “modest” grade of 12d, i don’t know if i could actually repeat this one.