We Are Climbing

After months of work we are psyched to go live with our new video. Peep it here:

Shooting the video was fun and it was awesome to see so many of our customers show up to be a part of it. The folks at Mind Frame Cinema ran the show like the well-oiled movie-making machine they are, and pizza and PBR were enjoyed by all. The number of hours that went into creating a one minute clip is staggering, though hard work paid off and the final result is something we can all be proud of.

Why did we make the video? We wanted to show everyone how much we care about climbing, how much it permeates our lifestyle and way of thinking. Most of all we wanted to highlight the community that has both built our gyms and been built by our gyms, as well as other facilities across the Front Range. The Mind Frame Cinema brain trust have a long history with RJ, as do all the climbers, employees, and former employees featured within the video.

Co-owner Anna Parker puts it best:

“I wasn’t quite sure what the end result would be. But, now that it’s said and done, it really came through with a clear message. Every time I watch it, I feel humbled and proud at the same time. I would assume that some people go a lifetime not being part of a close-knit community. That being said, we came to Colorado following a dream and what we found was a group of really awesome people. And that group isn’t just limited to R&J staff and members and friends, but also everyone we’ve gotten to share a story with. The video reminds me of who we are, what we do, and the passion for a sport that we all love: climbing. I want to thank everyone again who were involved in making it.”

Well said, Anna. Well said.


There’s No Way That’s 5.11

NathanNattyGray here. I’m going into my 8th year as a routesetter at RJ, and this is the first time I’ve really sat down to discuss an issue regarding climbing grades.

While I’m not the strongest climber on the RJ setting crew (read: I’m the weakest), and I don’t devote much of my free time to climbing these days, I do feel that over my climbing career I’ve attained a solid grasp on grades.

I frequently put up grades that are way beyond my climbing ability (5.13 and V10). I am able to do this because of the knowledge I’ve acquired through routesetting, and because of the time I spend observing folks who are much stronger than I am.  This brings me to my point; when it comes to grades, start by acknowledging your ability.

When I first started climbing I was a newbie. We all were, and some of us currently are. There’s no shame in it at all, and we should never forget where we came from. In my early climbing years I forsook all other activities and did nothing but climb, all the time. I eventually graduated  newbie status and grew wiser and stronger – much stronger than I currently am. Today I climb a solid grade lower on ropes, and I boulder a few digits lower on the V-scale. The reality is that I currently spend more of my time in a pair of running shoes than I do in my Evolvs.  This affects my climbing fitness. In my current state it’s important that when offering my suggestions/opinions while forerunning new routes, I’m honest about my current situation.

My current situation: I’m clearly a better runner these days than I am a climber.

Being a better runner came at the cost of losing my climbing strength. I’ll admit that sometimes I get confused and think I’m as strong as I used to be; but I’m not. This means that when I suggest a grade based on my success or failure to climb a route or a boulder problem, I need to offer my suggestion based on my current ability - not the ability I had five years ago. Sometimes it’s a harsh reality for me to face, but I’m not the climber I used to be.

Example: This year I revisited a climb that I love and which I will also argue is the best climb for the grade on the Front Range; Ghost Dance.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/18578201]

I conquered this boulder problem in 2006.

This year I took a trip to the Millenium boulder in hopes of repeating this amazing line. I thought that like my friend Asher in the video, I would “float” to the top and do a little dance while looking down from my twenty-foot perch. I conjured up memories of my experience eight years ago. I remembered the beta, and how super cool the move out of the pocket felt. I remembered the “better” edge hidden above the first right handhold (you’re welcome), and I remembered how satisfying it felt to stand on top.

When I arrived at the boulder with my friend, I couldn’t even pull onto the start holds. Like, at all. I re-chalked and re-tried and seriously, I couldn’t get both feet off the ground. It hurt, both physically and mentally. Then I told myself, “Self, you are not even close to as strong as you used to be. You need to stop drinking beer, lose ten pounds, climb more, and revisit this boulder another day.”

The deterioration of my climbing fitness is due to the time I spend running (and probably many other things, including beer). I don’t have the time nor do I want to bore anybody with all of my reasons. The truth is that others may be  facing  the same reality, only due to different factors. Age, diet, health issues… you name it – I’m sure there are a million reasons. To stay at a high level of climbing requires a lot of work though, and if for whatever reason you stop doing, or something interferes with that hard work, the fitness goes away quickly; very quickly.

So the next time you come off a route or boulder problem (or can’t even start one) – whatever the proposed grade -take an honest assessment not only of the regular “is this my style?” grading assessments, but also of your current ability. And be honest with yourself. It’s okay if you’re not as strong as you used to be – I’m not – and I love climbing more now than ever. I came to terms with this issue recently, and if we’re honest, that route is probably still 5.11.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

How Not to Look Like A Newbie, Volume One

Perception is everything. No matter what you were told by your first grade teacher, books are always judged by their cover. Sure, that initial judgement is subject to change when more information is gathered, but a first impression is still a very powerful thing.

With that in mind, here is the first installment of an ongoing series designed to help you not look like a total dweeb at the gym or crag.

Exhibit A: the chalk bag

There is a reason all chalk bags have a belt loop, and that reason is not so you can clip it off to the side on a random gear loop. The chalk bag should be worn around the waist, secured by some sort of belt device (accessory cord, shoe string, nylon belt, etc.) and positioned at the small of your back, providing an equal opportunity for each hand to reach it. And for crying out loud, make sure the dang thing is open!


Exhibit B: the bare feet

This should be a no-brainer, for several reasons. Number one, no one else wants to see your nasty climber feet. Gross. The floors are dirty enough as is, pal, so put those things away. Number two, you don’t want your own feet co-existing with the unidentifiable communal funk that inhabits the surface of every floor. Number three, you need to stand on your toes to climb well, so why increase the risk of bashing your feet on a rock or dropping a quickdraw on your freshly pedicured phalanges? Think of shoes as stylish foot helmets that have the added benefit of protecting future significant others from the sight of your gnarly tootsies.


Exhibit C: the bling

Rings, watches, droopy necklaces and hoopy earrings…take ‘em off! The only thing a watch can do while you are climbing is break and any other fashionable accoutrements can only get stuck/pinned/caught/pinched/crushed and cause grievous bodily harm and/or disfigurement.

Exhibit D: the harness

First of all, a harness should never be worn while bouldering. Never ever. This is cardinal sin. Second of all, the harness is not where you keep all your climbing crap; that is what a pack is for. A harness should only carry the tools necessary for the task at hand. So if you are in a gym, there should be NOTHING on your harness. Not a nut tool, not a roll of tape, definitely not a chalkbag clipped to a gear loop (see Exhibit A), not a daisy chain girth hitched to your belay loop, not three prussiks and half a rack of quickdraws…

RJ Member Interview: Travis Lester

We interrupted ROCK’n & JAM’n member Travis Lester the other day while he was climbing. We wanted to get his thoughts on the subject, and also take a few unwanted photos. Travis has been a member at RJ since 2011, and it’s possible you’ll bump into him if you’re ever in the gym on a weekday afternoon. He’s a super nice guy, and he’ll most likely be happy to climb with you. Just don’t ask to take his photo.

RJ- How, and when were you introduced to climbing?

Travis- I got introduced to climbing 3 years ago by a friend who moved back to Colorado (from NY) specifically to climb.


RJ- Do you primarily climb on ropes, or spend most of your time bouldering?

Travis- I try to spend my time equally between climbing on ropes and bouldering. However, if I had to choose one over the other, I would choose bouldering because I love the simplicity of it.


RJ- On average, how many days a week do you climb?

Travis- I usually climb 3 days/week.

RJ- Do you mostly climb indoor, or outdoor?

Travis- The first couple times I climbed (bouldered) it was outside. I was TERRIBLE and it wasn’t fun. The next time we came into the gym because of bad weather, and I was hooked! I haven’t gone outside since, although I plan on going outside again, eventually.

RJ- What do you like about climbing?

Travis- I like so many things about climbing, but some of my favorites include the simplicity of it, the fact that it’s both physical and mental, and the way it makes me look and feel.


RJ- What aspect of climbing do you find the most difficult or challenging (e.g., slab climbing, overhung terrain, powerful movement, technical stuff, endurance, etc.)?

Travis- I try to climb on everything so that I don’t have any major weaknesses. Even though I’m not great at anything, I don’t find any particular movement or style to be the most difficult/challenging. The only thing I don’t like is awkward movements (like running starts).

Let us take a brief moment to point out that Travis is referring to NattyGray’s new advanced boulder problem at RJ1 which contains a jump start to a large, yellow Project feature, which may be seen here. While Travis enjoys NattyGray’s setting, he does not favor his jump starts.

RJ- How long have you been climbing at ROCK’n & JAM’n?

Travis- 3 years

RJ- What do you like about ROCK’n & JAM’n?

Travis- Again, I like so many things about RJ, but some of my favorite’s include the well rounded areas for training, the overall comfortable feel of the gym, and all the people that own (present and past), work, and climb there!

RJ- Have you met any other climbers at RJ? If so, do you climb with any of them regularly?

Travis- I’ve met so many climbers, and more importantly great friends, through RJ! I climb with a few of them on a regular basis.


RJ- What is your favorite sport or hobby outside of climbing?

Travis- Running/Reading

RJ- Have you ever tried running, while you were reading?

RJ- Most climbers get incredibly hungry after a climbing session. What is your favorite post-climbing food?

Travis- It depends. If it’s been a good session I usually head over to Chipotle, to get some quality nutrition. However, if it’s been a “rough” day, nothing makes me feel better than a Dairy Queen!

RJ- If you could be a famous/professional climber, who would you be?

Travis- Fred Nicole!

RJ- Thanks for sharing your thoughts about climbing with us Travis. Keep climbing hard, and we’ll see you in the gym this week!

Whips and Grips Results

First Name Last Name Team Total Place Falls
Adult Female
Jodie Dawson *None/Not listed 6075.00 1 0
Jeana Maynard *None/Not listed 5525.00 2 0
Katharine McKnight *None/Not listed 4975.00 3 3
Candice Hull *None/Not listed 4650.00 4 0
Junior Female
Kristiana Fox Team BRC 5900.00 1 0
Megan McCutcheon Team Pure 5225.00 2 0
Female Youth A
Maggie Boyer Team BRC 6100.00 1 0
Leah Bell-Johnson Team BRC 6100.00 2 2
Rachel Cohen Rock’n & Jam’n 5975.00 3 0
Sasha Rubenfeld Team BRC 5950.00 4 0
Casey Alee-Jumbo Pure Bouldering 5900.00 5 0
Lisa Kilmer Team BRC 5875.00 6 0
Maren Stubenvoll EarthTreks Golden 5825.00 7 0
Kate Stern Team Sik Bird 5700.00 8 0
Anna Pasnau Team BRC 5550.00 9 0
Camille Garcia Rock’n & Jam’n 5475.00 10 1
Katherine Austin Rock Lounge 5350.00 11 0
Female Youth B
Madeline D’Amato Team BRC 6100.00 1 0
Joni Stuart Team Mojo 6100.00 2 2
Gina Kelble Denver Bouldering Club 5975.00 3 0
Kate Soulliere Lakewood 5925.00 4 4
Dara Procell Team Mojo 5850.00 5 0
Abby Wilson Team BRC 5825.00 6 0
Janna Walls Team BRC 5775.00 7 0
Kamawela Leka Team BRC 5725.00 8 0
Alena Holbert Rock’n & Jam’n 5575.00 9 0
Mia Greene Rock’n & Jam’n 5475.00 10 0
Sara Denhoffer Rock’n & Jam’n 5450.00 11 0
Mackenzie Whitehead-Bust Rock’n & Jam’n 5350.00 12 4
Madeline Sturm Team Durango 5250.00 13 0
Lexie Rice Lakewood 5225.00 14 2
Sara Seagren Sport Climbing Center 5175.00 15 0
Tatum Schmidt Durango 5000.00 16 1
Zoe Hopkins Rock’n & Jam’n 4675.00 17 0
Allison Riley Rock’n & Jam’n 4675.00 18 0
Samantha Krell Rock’n & Jam’n 4650.00 19 0
alexis hull Sport Climbing Center 4575.00 20 0
Moriah Craddock *None/Not listed 4050.00 21 0
Sierra DesPlanques Rock Lounge 3950.00 22 0
Female Youth C
Brooke Raboutou Team ABC 6325.00 1 1
Stella Noble Team ABC 6175.00 2 5
Mia Manson Team ABC 5975.00 3 0
Corinne Otterness Team ABC 5900.00 4 0
Bella Weksler Team ABC 5800.00 5 0
Izabela Nowak Rock’n & Jam’n 5650.00 6 0
Tali Maximon Team BRC 5550.00 7 1
Ligaia Meyer Santa Fe Climbing Center 5500.00 8 0
Amanda MacDonald Rock’n & Jam’n 5500.00 9 0
Jasmine Mosberger Team ABC 5475.00 10 0
Sienna Kopf Team ABC 5375.00 11 1
Grace Ryan EarthTreks Golden 5250.00 12 0
Caroline Bechtel Team BRC 5225.00 13 0
Zoe Bray Team BRC 5225.00 13 0
Ali Poe Santa Fe Climbing Center 5225.00 13 0
Georgia Witchel Rock Lounge 5225.00 13 0
Soma Smith Team Durango 5200.00 17 1
Madi Cyr Rock’n & Jam’n 5150.00 18 1
Chloe Kim Rock’n & Jam’n 5050.00 19 0
Ella Perington Team BRC 4950.00 20 0
Taylor Berry Lifetime Fitness – Centennial, CO 4800.00 21 0
anna vertun Team BRC 4650.00 22 0
Margarite Ford Team BRC 4625.00 23 0
Jayden MacDonald Rock’n & Jam’n 4625.00 24 0
Cassidy Nicks Rock’n & Jam’n 4525.00 25 0
Nina Kemp Rock’n & Jam’n 4050.00 26 0
Phoebe Dolan Team ABC 3400.00 27 0
Rachel Junge Rock’n & Jam’n 2250.00 28 0
Olivia Day Team BRC 1725.00 29 0
Mya Ormsbee Team BRC 1450.00 30 0
Ariana O’Brien Team ABC 700.00 31 0
Female Youth D
Campbell Sarinopoulos Team ABC 5950.00 1 0
Kaelyn Harris Team ABC 5700.00 2 1
Ella Von Dungen Team ABC 5625.00 3 1
Katie Kelble Denver Bouldering Club 5600.00 4 0
Anna Von Dungen Team ABC 5575.00 5 0
Cadance Hurt Lifetime Fitness – Centennial, CO 5525.00 6 0
Layla Esrey Team BRC 5375.00 7 1
Sarah Smith Team ABC 5275.00 8 1
ceci davies Earth Treks 5175.00 9 0
Margaux D’Amato Team ABC 5175.00 9 1
Olivia Kosanovich Team ABC 5150.00 11 0
Guilia Luebben Rock’n & Jam’n 5075.00 12 0
Kiera Johnson Lifetime Fitness – Centennial, CO 4975.00 13 0
Ona Melvin Lifetime Fitness – Centennial, CO 4975.00 13 1
Mackenzie Bay EarthTreks Golden 4950.00 15 0
Kalia O’Brien Team Sik Bird 4900.00 16 0
Eliza Riordan Team Summit 4750.00 17 0
Eva Pacheco DBC 4550.00 18 0
Eleanor Malcolm Team ABC 4525.00 19 0
Eve Weksler Team ABC 4525.00 19 0
Emma Saunders Team ABC 4475.00 21 0
Caroline Blum Team ABC 4325.00 22 1
Roya Behbakht Rock’n & Jam’n 4250.00 23 1
anna auer Santa Fe Climbing Center 4100.00 24 0
Emma Barwich Team ABC 4000.00 25 0
Ceri Evans Earth Treks 4000.00 25 0
Lydia Dolan Team ABC 3425.00 27 1
Male Adult
Michael Hauck *None/Not listed 6575.00 1 0
Jeffrey Stroud *None/Not listed 6400.00 2 0
Alexander Raab *None/Not listed 6250.00 3 4
Dustin Scow *None/Not listed 6225.00 4 0
Dave Dangle *None/Not listed 5950.00 5 0
Brian Moore *None/Not listed 5925.00 6 0
Brent Fitzwalter *None/Not listed 5900.00 7 4
Manuel Valdez *None/Not listed 5800.00 8 0
Justin Miller *None/Not listed 5800.00 8 0
Chris Downs *None/Not listed 5450.00 10 0
Kian Behbakht *None/Not listed 5175.00 11 0
John Dine *None/Not listed 4775.00 12 0
Male Junior
Stefan Lavender Team ABC 6550.00 1 0
Jonah Weil *None/Not listed 6350.00 2 2
Remi Arata Team ABC 6250.00 3 0
Greg Ledingham Team BRC 5875.00 4 0
Silas Carter Team Pure 5750.00 5 0
Kai Meyer Durango 5525.00 6 0
Male Youth A
Ben Hanna Santa Fe Climbing Center 6675.00 1 0
Ben Lindfors Team BRC 6650.00 2 0
Shawn Raboutou Team ABC 6500.00 3 0
Jess Walker Rock’n & Jam’n 6275.00 4 0
Quinton Center Rock’n & Jam’n 6000.00 5 0
Brendan Boyd Rock’n & Jam’n 5925.00 6 0
Taren Hunter Pure Bouldering 5900.00 7 0
Ben Strine Pure Bouldering 5900.00 7 0
Tristen Mohn Santa Fe Climbing Center 5850.00 9 0
Charlie Malone Team Durango 5775.00 10 0
Malcolm Oliver Team ABC 5650.00 11 0
Parker Meer Team Sik Bird 5550.00 12 0
Rollin Poe Rock’n & Jam’n 5525.00 13 1
Quincy Conway Santa Fe Climbing Center 5500.00 14 0
Jacob Kibbee Rock’n & Jam’n 5475.00 15 0
Wesley While Rock’n & Jam’n 5475.00 15 0
Jake Granado Lifetime Fitness 5300.00 17 0
Brett Maytubby Team BRC 5025.00 18 0
Jasper Pont Team BRC 5025.00 18 0
Male Youth B
Skylar Smith Team Durango 6475.00 1 1
Will Sharp Team Texas 6175.00 2 0
Skyler Bol *None/Not listed 6050.00 3 0
Kaden weston Rock’n & Jam’n 6000.00 4 0
Ian Center Rock’n & Jam’n 5975.00 5 0
Jack Mason Team BRC 5900.00 6 0
Cole Myers Team BRC 5875.00 7 0
Cyrus Sprow Team BRC 5875.00 8 1
Mike Lowe Rock’n & Jam’n 5825.00 9 0
Zach Bain Earth Treks 5725.00 10 0
Aspen Sivey Rock’n & Jam’n 5700.00 11 0
Ray McVicker Team ABC 5475.00 12 0
Vinnie Smith Rock’n & Jam’n 5250.00 13 0
Bryce Roper Rock’n & Jam’n 4850.00 14 0
Evan Williams Rock’n & Jam’n 4175.00 15 0
Brenden Jennings Rock’n & Jam’n 3575.00 16 0
Timmy Dolan Team ABC 2550.00 17 0
Male Youth C
Joe Goodacre Team ABC 6325.00 1 0
Callum Caulson Team BRC 5575.00 2 1
Tommy Pasnau Team BRC 5450.00 3 0
Jordan Fishman Rock’n & Jam’n 5325.00 4 0
jack Esrey Team BRC 5275.00 5 0
Noah Morton Team BRC 5275.00 5 0
Jackson Wetherill Santa Fe Climbing Center 5225.00 7 2
Zach Arenberg Lifetime Fitness – Centennial, CO 5100.00 8 0
Ian Greene Team BRC 5000.00 9 0
Jonathan Malavasi Rock’n & Jam’n 4950.00 10 0
Mason Smith Rock’n & Jam’n 4350.00 11 1
bilal hannon Rock’n & Jam’n 4250.00 12 0
Marcus Smith Rock’n & Jam’n 2100.00 13 0
Devin Wong Team Sik Bird 1000.00 14 0
Male Youth D
Colin Duffy Team ABC 6175.00 1 1
Cody Stevenson Team ABC 6000.00 2 3
Tanner Bauer Team BRC 5725.00 3 0
Chris Dento Team BRC 5700.00 4 0
Benji Dantas Vail Athletic Club 5675.00 5 0
Brody Nielsen Vail Athletic Club 5675.00 6 2
Lukas Bergsten Vail Athletic Club 5475.00 7 0
Kaitek Johnston Team BRC 5400.00 8 0
Calvin Boasberg Team ABC 5350.00 9 1
rand noah Team BRC 5300.00 10 0
Tyg Guggenheim Team ABC 5200.00 11 0
lowe lukey Rock’n & Jam’n 5175.00 12 1
Shafer Helms Rock’n & Jam’n 5100.00 13 0
Samuel Kuepper Team ABC 5100.00 13 0
Solomon Fitzgerald Sport Climbing Center 5075.00 15 0
St. John Tsuno-Wayne Team BRC 5050.00 16 0
Alex Williams Team ABC 4975.00 17 0
Boone Schafer Santa Fe Climbing Center 4950.00 18 0
Sergio Delgato Rock’n & Jam’n 4775.00 19 1
Jackson Turner *None/Not listed 4550.00 20 0
Evan Kuepper Team ABC 4250.00 21 0

RJ Youth Team Interview

Varsity Team Climber: Max Donovan


Age: 14

Years Climbing: 4

Joined ROCK’n & JAM’n Varsity Team: 2011

We sat down with Max Donovan to get an idea of what climbing on RJ’s Varsity Team is like, and also to ask him a few questions about climbing in general.

RJ: You have an interesting story about how your climbing career started. Will you share a little about how you discovered climbing?

MD: I first learned about climbing from a 4th grade teacher of mine who climbed avidly, after expressing my interest, she decided that, while on a field trip to Colorado Monument National Park, she would take me to do some easy climbing. I fell in love with the sport and started as soon as I moved to Denver.

RJ: What do you like about climbing, in general?

MD: To me, climbing encompasses everything I love in a sport, an outdoor experience, a physical and mental workout, an amazing community, and most of all, the feeling of freedom.

RJ: What do you hate about climbing? What aspects of climbing are the most difficult for you?

MD: To me, the most grueling aspect of climbing is the feeling the day after a strong climb, being ridiculously sore can really put a damper on your day.

RJ: Do you primarily boulder, or climb on ropes? Which do you like more?

MD: I like to think my climbing is pretty balanced between the two, but when it comes down to it, bouldering is my passion. The short bursts of power and strategy mixed with a variety of moves makes bouldering my favorite.


RJ: Tell us a little about the Youth Team. Why did you join? What have you learned, and how has your climbing changed or improved since you joined?

MD: The youth team at RJ is an amazing thing to be a part of, it is a great opportunity to climb with friends, while at the same time learning so much about climbing. Since I joined the youth team, I have felt my level of strength on the wall absolutely soar, my technique and confidence in my climbing have also been hugely improved by my experience in the youth team.

RJ: Do you participate in any other school or extracurricular activities besides climbing? If so, how does climbing compare to these?

MD: Every year, I compete in cross-country with the team at my school. I mostly do it as cross training to improve cardio and leg strength, but it is also a great way to get outside once and a while. While they both provide a great workout, running doesn’t provide the fun and excitement that comes with climbing.

RJ: Do kids at your school ever ask you about climbing? If so, what do you tell them?

MD: Kids at my school are always very intrigued when I tell them I climb. They mostly ask about grading scales and how competitions work, a few want to know about the kind of exercise it provides, but a couple always want to come try it for themselves. I tell them about climbing in the best way I can, but always give the advice to try it for themselves to get the full effect.

RJ: Do you have any climbing goals? What are they?

MD: In climbing, I’m always striving to climb harder, and for me that means breaking down mental limits and building up technique and strength. In climbing, being mentally strong is a huge part of the battle, and that’s the one I’m trying to win.

RJ: You participated in several competitions this year with the Youth Team. What is it like, climbing in a comp?

MD: Climbing at a competition is always a completely different experience depending on where it is and what format the comp has. The consistent changes from recreational to competition climbing are a more challenging atmosphere, a more aggressive approach, and a cheering crowd.

Max Teva Mnt Games

Max (pictured right) after his 2nd place finish at the 2013 Teva Mountain Games

RJ: Do you have any climbing heroes? Who are they?

MD: I don’t have any specific climbing heroes, but there are definitely people who I have climbed with who I respect for their skill and the advice that they give me. One of these people is definitely my coach, Tim Rice.


Max and coach “Timmy-Time” Rice

RJ: Most climbers get amazingly hungry after a climbing session. We’ve heard of everything from chocolate milk to chips and salsa. What is your favorite post-climbing food?

MD: I always find a cold Snickers cools me down, re-energizes me, and is delicious. Other than that, I like to drink yellow Gatorade while I climb.

RJ: Thanks for sharing some of your thoughts about climbing with us Max; and good luck climbing with the Varsity Team this semester!

To find out more about R&J youth programs, visit http://climbthebest.cominstruction.php#KidsPrograms

managing your expectations on a climbing trip (or how to cope with the fact that you’re not going to send the one climb that you were really psyched to try to send)

success and failure while on a climbing trip…the high point and the low point. if you have ever taken an extended trip to just climb (at least a week), you have stared this demon straight in the face. how much time do you devote to one climb, when you only have a limited window to actually climb? should you sample more climbs at a lower grade and get more volume in? these are, no doubt, the burning questions in your mind right now.

obviously, there is no easy answer. there rarely is. but the easiest answer, in my mind, depends on one factor: how familiar are you with the area, i.e. its rock type and/or the style of climbing? if you’re visiting a new area, it is probably wise to step down the grade difficulty and climb for volume. this allows you to get used to the subtleties of the area and gives you a good base of “knowledge” for moving on that specific rock. but if you go back to an area that you have previously spent some time, the answer isn’t quite as easy to arrive at.

projecting something at your local crag is one thing. you can put time in on the climb intermittently, and there isn’t really much pressure (all things considered) since you can typically get to it at your leisure. for all intents and purposes you have “all the time in the world.” but several things can work against you when you decide to project something while on a trip: there is a finite amount of time; the time invested versus the payout or reward of sending may not be worth it; climbing a bunch of routes below your limit might be boring; there may be other people working the same route and you have to play nice with others, etc. thus the conundrum.

one thing working in your favor is that while on a trip, you are usually just climbing. you aren’t bogged down with the minutiae of the daily grind. you can tune out all that other stuff and focus a bit more on remembering beta, sequences, and details of one particular climb. you can get the necessary fitness and strength with few distractions.

ultimately it comes down to your level of confidence in your ability to send the route. this is not something you will know right off the bat. i would recommend getting on your chosen project route early on in your trip, ideally within the first few days. this way, you know what you’re up against in terms of style and difficulty. after you have been on it a few times, that confidence level will kick in (or not…), and in your own head you start to know if your goal is actually reasonable and attainable.

i have personally had both ends of this spectrum, oddly enough at the same place, the red river gorge. bear with me for a little longer, it’s story time!

flashback to early october 2010. i had a 10 day trip planned for the red. i had just finished a sunday shift at the north gym (9a to 6p), and right after locking the door, i hopped in my car and started driving east. i made it as far as columbia, mo, before the proverbial wheels fell off the bus and i had to stop. driving solo for that many hours after a full day is rough! after sleeping for a bit, i continued east and arrived in slade, ky, by 6p. i met up with some friends, drank whiskey, beer and ale8, then went to bed.

that next morning, feeling really rusty and stiff from the drive, we headed down to the ‘motherlode’.

the madness cave at the motherlode

my intended project was ‘bohica‘ (13b), in the madness cave, a brilliantly steep route out a 45 deg angle wall with perfect 1- to 1.5-pad deep edges the whole way. it’s absolutely amazing.

so after warming up on a few classic routes (chainsaw massacre and ale-8-one) it was time to test the waters on bohica. the first burn was a junk show! the moves felt really hard, and i didn’t have the endurance to do more than 2 bolts at a time. i had my work cut out for me.

the next day, we went back to the ‘lode. it was time for me to get my endurance up in preparation of starting to link sections on bohica. so i decided that i was going to go for a no fall/no take day, and no pitch could be easier than 5.12a. so myself and my friend ‘little’ dan proceeded to knock out pitch after pitch of 12a and 12b for an entire day. i ended up doing 10 pitches, dan got in 12, and we thankfully had a no fall/no take day. completely worn out, but psyched with a good endurance day.

the next several days were spent working bohica, with a rest day tossed in there somewhere. each day i got on the route twice, and each day i was linking more sections, and getting high points. my confidence was building.

my final climbing day of the trip, i went out with my buddy nik. he also had a project at the ‘lode, so off we went. after warming up and giving nik a catch on his route, we walked over to bohica for the ‘hail mary’ attempt. first section of the route felt easy and robotic and with seemingly no effort, i found myself at the first rest, staring at the remaining 60 feet of that perfect 45 deg angle wall above me. after lowering my heart rate, i launched into the rest of the route. each move was executed with confidence and precision. there were no wasted movements, no second guessing. before i knew it, i was at the final rest looking at the last 15 feet and the anchors. i composed myself and fired. i made it to the anchor, clipped, yelled triumphantly, then lowered back down to the ground. i drove back to the house, packed up my stuff and started the drive home. success!

contrast that with my recent trip earlier this month. the first few days were spent getting used to the rock again, as it had been 3 years since my last trip. plus, my endurance these days feels fairly poor, compared to previous times and trips. everything felt hard. things that i had sent previously felt so much more difficult! i was up against a big challenge with extremely low confidence.

so third day, i got to check out my intended project: ‘swingline‘ (13d) at a crag called ‘the dark side‘. i did the moves first try on the route, and got incredibly psyched. it broke down as a 5.13a/b to a very poor rest to a legit v8 boulder problem. while i rested at the base of the route, i started thinking about what was actually necessary to send this thing. getting to the poor rest on link would have been a healthy goal, and probably doable. but to tack on a v8 boulder problem after that seemed daunting. after much internal debate, i decided that i lacked the necessary fitness to put it away in the amount of time left and ultimately had to walk away from it. i was bummed. this line is beautiful and inspiring, and a very sought after route. but it wasn’t to be. i found another fun line there, ‘tuskan raider‘ (12d) that i was able to send 3rd try. that ended up being my only real send for the trip.


while the trip as a whole was incredibly fun due to the good company of old and new friends, i consider the climbing side of it to be a bit of a failure. this was due to poor training before hand, leading to generally bad fitness, etc. i have to make sure that i am better prepared for the next go ’round.

so there you have it…both ends of the spectrum. success and failure. elation and frustration. in the end, you just have to look at the whole situation. sometimes you decide to throw your chips in, sometimes you throw the cards away instead and wait for the next round. someone famous once said ” you gotta know when to hold ‘em, know…”. eh, never mind, you get the idea.

The Spot on the Wall

It is a little known fact and something I do not broadcast publicly, but I have minor precognitive abilities that let me read your mind; if I tune in on the correct brain wave oscillatory frequency your thoughts become clear as a crisp autumn day. So, to answer your not-yet-posed question: yes, spotting in the gym is really important and you should never be afraid to ask for a spot or provide a spot to a fellow climber when asked.

How do I spot and why is it so important, you will ask in the very-near future. Allow me to elaborate:

Spotting is to bouldering what belaying is to route climbing and as such it is critical that, as a spotter, you are attentive and prepared to execute your duties and keep your buddy from breaking their neck. What is proper technique? How do I know when to spot? Fortunately for you the RJ1 varsity youth team has the skills to pay the bills when it comes to spotting and is here to show you the ropes (mixed metaphor, I know…) as it were.

Exhibit A


On drastically overhanging terrain the focus is on the climber’s hips. On the steeps your body is more inclined to swing out when you fall, and a good spot at the hips makes it easier to redirect the falling climber than the typical shoulder spot. Notice Mike has his hands up with enough distance to allow Brenden to swing and his eyes focused on Brenden’s center of mass, not the cute girl at the drinking fountain or another climber elsewhere in the gym. Also notice that with the confidence of Mike’s good spot, Brenden is gunning for the send in proper style.

Exhibit B
On less steep terrain the focus shifts up to the climber’s armpits. Again you will notice Max’s attention is on Kaden and not anyone or anything else. He is giving Kaden enough room to sag out from the wall without dabbing but is ready to support his torso and give him enough time to disengage his heel hook. Max is not trying to catch Kaden; he is merely trying to give Kaden enough time to get his feet under him in case of an unexpected fall.
Exhibit C
Here Izabela and Amanda employ the power spotting technique. The power spot is used either to help the climber learn a move or allow a climber to skip past some moves in order to try others. Izabela is actually pushing Amanda into the wall, providing support at her waist so that Amanda can get a feel for the body positions of the crux sequence. Experienced boulderers apply the power spot often on hard projects, and it is not uncommon for climber and spotter to have a detailed system down. For instance, Amanda can say “give me five pounds,” meaning Izabela will push Amanda into the wall with roughly five pounds of force. When working a specific move with a power spot it is good to reduce the amount of weight taken on each attempt.


As with any form of climbing, how safe you are is largely up to you. It is your duty as a climber to request a spot if you feel sketched on a particular move or problem. Conversely, it is your prerogative to provide a spot when one is asked of you. As with belaying, communication between spotter(s) and climber is critical. Let your spotters know if you want a spot for a specific move or for the entire climb. Do not be intimidated to ask for a power spot; no one will judge you*. As a spotter, make sure the landing zone is clear and that others in the area are aware that your homie might be coming in hot. Like Captain Planet said: the power is yours!




* Okay, maybe some crusty old Traddie will judge you. Tell them to go climb a tower and carry on with your session.

To Wobble or Not to Wobble?

Throw a wobbler (phrase):

To get really angry. Have a tantrum. See also screaming fit, berserk, rage.

Perhaps my favorite bit of slang I’ve picked up via the climbing community is the phrase “toss a wobbler.” I can’t remember the first time I heard it used, but I do remember the first time I witnessed a climber in the midst of wobbling. I was clawing my way up one of the few sub-5.12 climbs in Rifle Mountain Park when I heard a hoarse, primitive howl reverberate through the narrow canyon. At first I thought someone had sent their project, but the string of eloquent curse words that followed seemed to indicate otherwise. “That will never be me,” I thought.

Like baseball, skateboarding, and panning for gold, climbing involves a lot of failure and a healthy portion of pain and frustration; most of the time the bear eats you.

In order to succeed on a personal limit climb one must invest oneself in said climb. You gotta psych yourself up for those gnarly crimps, yo. You must put your pain in a box, lock the box and throw away the key. One does not simply earn victory by showing up. There are no half measures. Do or do not, there is no try. You get the idea.

The point is, I used to see someone toss a wobbler and think “get a grip, man.” Climbing is fun and I couldn’t understand how anyone could get so upset doing something so enjoyable. But as the years passed and I focused on climbing as hard as I could, I found that it is not always so fun, not always so enjoyable. Sometimes you rip a flapper, sometimes you pump out at the chains, sometimes you miss the pads, and failure is never fun.

So about investing oneself in a climb… Success at the highest level of your ability takes complete commitment to the end result; you gotta *go for it.* When you’re going for it and you fail, it is natural to be frustrated and, speaking for myself, the only way to commit entirely to another attempt at the rig is to vent that frustration. Enter the wobbler.

My go to is the chalk bag toss (though I’m always careful to close the bag first…leave no trace and whatnot) usually accompanied by a quiet-but-severe expletive or two. Ten seconds or so of venting and I’m good to go. By nature I am not an angry person, and I definitely understand the necessity of respecting other people’s space and enjoyment of nature. This is just my way of letting off steam so that I can pour myself back into the task at hand.

While I find Adam Ondra’s outbursts excessive to say the least, I now understand where those outbursts come from and can appreciate how hard he tries and how much of himself he puts into climbing at the absolute highest level.

Naturally, you are entitled to your own opinion on the matter. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment and we can work it out.

Dr. Dre’s Cure for Elbow Tendonitis

Back in the days when I was a teenager (before I had status and before I had a pager), there was an entirely different approach to my climbing. As is common with the youthful sect, patience, planning, and strategy were not arrows in my quiver. I wanted to be on top of the boulder and I did not give a hoot in hell about conserving energy, utilizing prime conditions, or injury prevention; I just went for it.

That was a long time ago. Dre put it best when he said “things just ain’t the same for gangstas, times is changin’, young (gentlemen) is aging, becoming old G’s in the game and changin’ to make way for these new names and faces…” Not sure if the Doctor was referring to climbing, but it’s all the same to me. My body is older and slower to recover. Climbing hurts more than it used to. Working has taken over a larger portion of my time and rising gas prices coupled with a growing sense of financial responsibility have made tri-weekly trips to Chaos Canyon and beyond things of the past. So it goes.

I strive to maintain a high standard in my climbing, and I understand that to remain at the level I am accustomed to adjustments to my training routines, climbing schedule, and overall strategy need to be made.

Problem: When I climb too much my elbows, fingers, and skin hurt, among other body parts.

Solution: I climb less now than at any point in my career. However, when I do climb it is focused on specific goals. By decreasing the volume of climbing while increasing the intensity I am able to get stronger while limiting exposure to overuse injuries. Five hour gym sessions are no more, in their place are two hour training blocks that work a particular facet of climbing, be it power, core strength, finger strength, endurance, technique, or general fitness.

Problem: I can’t spare the time to climb outside as much as I used to.

Solution: Make it count! I used to go to my project whenever I could, regardless of conditions or freshness. Now I am more selective, only attempting projects on days when the weather will cooperate and I feel well rested. You have to give yourself the highest probability of success that you can; good temps and fresh muscles help a good deal in that area.

Problem: It takes my body longer to repair itself after a rough day of climbing than it used to.

Solution: Again, make it count! Proper stretching, a protein drink and decent meal after climbing go a long way towards not feeling like death the next morning. More importantly, and this is especially hard for me, make fewer attempts on the project and rest longer in between burns. Once you have dialed in the movement, there is no reason to try a climb if you do not feel with a high degree of certainty that you can send. If I still feel a little pumped or my skin still stings a bit, I sit back down and wait until I feel completely ready. Take the time to clean any part of your shoe that will touch stone. Is there a tick mark on the hidden topout jug? Better take a minute and put one on there. While there is something to be said about the power of sheer will and determination, in my experience this has gotten me up a boulder far less often than proper rest and preparation. Leave nothing to chance…

None of this is to say I am old or anything. Far from it. However, with every passing year I am more aware of the aging process and how it effects physical performance, and with that awareness comes an ability to adapt and progress. I eagerly anticipate the next ten years of climbing to be better than the first.

Journey vs. Destination and Whatnot

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to summit Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. I have spent somewhere near 150 days bouldering in the Park and had never more than glimpsed the famed peak from the confines of the talus fields I enjoy so much. So under the cruel tutelage of my co-workers/besties, I hauled myself up the Cables and enjoyed a hot espresso at the summit. There are worse ways to spend a Sunday.

At any rate, the highlight of the day was watching a party attempting the Casual Route up the legendary Diamond. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind has lurked the notion of ascending that clean triangle of alpine granite, and seeing its pristine face close up rekindled that desire. I have done approximately zero multipitch alpine trad routes, so I have a lot to learn before attempting any route on the Diamond, but the goal is set.

While it was a good feeling to stand on top of Longs with a great group of close friends, what was most interesting was how much I would have preferred to take a more difficult route to the summit. Or, rather, the Diamond is so much cooler in my mind, probably because it is more difficult and definitely because it looks more badass.

That thought got my mind churning over my motivation for climbing and why I have dedicated my life to it for nine years. I enjoy the social aspect of climbing, bouldering in particular, and I definitely enjoy getting out into the quiet hills and seeing marmots and stuff but, ultimately, I am motivated by difficulty and the necessity of pushing myself to grasp at success on difficult lines. Which isn’t to say I want a big number attached to a climb, though that is always a bonus. Rather, I do not feel fulfilled unless there is some amount of suffering, pain, anger, failure, blind rage, and/or frustration involved in the overall process. To me it is not about being on top of a climb, it is about getting on top of a climb (that’s what she said?). If it was always easy what would be the point?

Judging by the amount of folks on Longs in shorts and sandals and the wide array of body types visible under those shorts and sandals, it is safe to say nearly anyone is capable of hiking to the top. The route we took was not difficult, nor was it easy; frigid, soaking wet alpine 5.4 is absolutely no joke. But I didn’t have to learn anything, didn’t have to make any adjustments to my technique or approach, didn’t have to go to that primitive place in my psyche where the body takes over and the mind is only an observer. Those are the moments that keep me motivated, keep me working towards the overall goal which is…I dunno, to get to the top, or something.

Longs story short (ha), next summer I am going to try the Casual Route. Someone is going to have to teach me about building belays and placing cams and hauling haul bags and things of that sort, and I’m going to have to confront the abject terror I feel towards non-bouldering methods of climbing, but that is the point. Even if I have to rappel (fortunately I do know how to do this…) off the first pitch and never make the summit, the whole process is one that will challenge me and put me outside my comfort zone and, hopefully, progress my overall climbing ability.

Unrelated note: someone please teach me how to trad climb…

Risk Assessment, Death, and Bees

Corey ‘C-Dog’ Carver here. I hate bees. I hate them more than tailgaters, corn, and a pen with ink that does not write all combined together. Let us be clear that “bees” includes all manner of stinging, flying insects. Bees have forced me to bail off climbs and cry like a three old year whose bed underneath is occupied by The Fangman. I find routes that climb near bees to be risky business, and risk assessment is one of the main priorities for rock climbers.

I was primed for a fantastic summer: Clear Creek Canyon, Ten Sleep Canyon, Devil’s Tower, and possibly bouldering in RMNP. I was climbing well, hard, and smartly. Then I crushed my ankle. “I’ve done this climb before, I’ll just boulder up and preclip the first draw for you, bro.” Not only did I miss the draw on the first attempt, my right foot blew and after a 10’ drop to uneven rock, I had a grade 2 sprained ankle and some “crunched” bones (according to the doc). I made a poor assessment of the risk. As a consequence, I took almost four weeks off and three more to return to form.

We do a dangerous sport. Hiking through forests that may contain bees, traversing a ridgeline with a thousand foot drop to one, or both sides. Skipping clips to find that perfect jug to get a rest on. Thinking two pads will be enough for a 20’ ground fall. Or, God forbid, trusting a ridiculously small hook on an even more ridiculous edge (aid climbing). Even putting on a harness or lacing up your shoes is an exercise in whether you trust your life and health to your gear, partners, or yourself.

As a coach, I work with my team helping them realize their goals and understanding the danger inherent to the sport of rock climbing. They all understand the risk, but do not understand they can get hurt and hurt for good. It is as if only other people get hurt. This attitude is why I got hurt. Having never been seriously hurt, the danger was very distant to me and I became complacent. It is human nature to become complacent when we live, eat, and breathe climbing. Then I realized something:

Rock climbing in itself is not inherently dangerous. Human nature is.

Candyshop Reset

In case you haven’t noticed, the Candyshop and Moon Board at RJ1 have received some recent lovin’. New holds, new problems, new levels of strength. We are working on a catalog of all the problems and variations that have been done so that you can browse through them and pick out the climbs that will most help you train your weaknesses. In the meantime, here is a sample of a power-endurance circuit that I’ve run a couple times now. Disclaimer: all climbs are done on complete hold sets unless otherwise indicated.

Warmup: 100 easy moves on Adjustable Wall set to 15 degree angle.

Set One:

Blue Tape (open feet)

Blue Tape (tracking)

Blue Tape (yellow feet)

Five minute rest

Black e-Grips Fingerbuckets (tracking)

Black e-Grips Fingerbuckers (yellow feet)

Five minute rest

Blue Teknik Clippers (tracking)

Blue Teknik Clippers (yellow feet)

Five minute rest

Yellow Teknik Jugs (tracking)

Yellow Teknik Jugs (yellow feet

Ten minute rest

Set Two:

Red e-Grips Pure Edges (start on Project double hueco, tracking only)

e-Grips Pockets (with double hueco, tracking only)

Orange e-Grips Buttons (start on tan Dillo jug, yellow feet to start then tracking)

Ten minute rest

Set Three:

Blue e-Grips Buttons (tracking)

Black ETCH ‘power ladder’ (tracking)

Red e-Grips with Tufa (tracking)

Ten minute rest

Set Four:

Green ETCH (tracking)

Green e-Grips Comfy Crimps (tracking)

Tan e-Grips Dillo Jug (campus)

Ten minute rest

Set Five: Sandwiches

Think of the primary climb as the bread and the secondary climb as the meat. No resting between bread and meat!

Yellow Teknik/Blue Tape/Yellow Teknik

Five minute rest

Blue Teknik/Blue Tape/Blue Teknik

Five minute rest

Black e-Grips/Blue Tape/Black e-Grips

Notes: all climbs start on any of the three blue jugs at the bottom of the wall with two (only two!) yellow feet. Yellow feet = ETCH footholds, not the nice Teknik crimps.

Next up: Adjustable Wall circuits. Stay tuned for more training updates…

Beast Mode

As someone who resides in Colorado and lives to boulder, summer is my time of year. My favorite climbing areas in Rocky Mountain National Park (henceforth RMNP) and Mt. Evans shed their snowy winter blankets and reveal the splendid granite and gneiss boulders I adore so much.

To capitalize on the short alpine window, I need to make sure I am in the best shape possible before the season begins. This means doin’ work on the campus board, lifting weights, riding bicycles, and the dreaded core routine. All of these exercises and techniques I’ve picked up from various sources and are linked below, for your training pleasure (or suffering, depending on how you look at it).

Campus: I’ve tried various routines over the years but my favorite comes from the legendary School Room and the folks at Moon Climbing. RJ now has Moon-standard rung spacing and wall angle on our campus boards, which helps a lot. I try to campus every Monday and Thursday but if my week is too busy or I feel run down I’ll campus on Wednesday instead. On campus days I climb for twenty minutes to warm up, doing one or two harder problems but no more.

Core: there’s an app for this. Seriously, it’s free and it kicks your ass (or abs, whatever) hard. Do this three times a week, usually after lifting weights.

Conditioning: alpine climbing zones have alpine approaches, and it is important to get the legs and lungs up to speed so the hikes don’t sap too much energy. My method is simple: bike + hill + maximum effort. I came up with a loop around my neighborhood that is roughly a mile long and features a long straightaway and an intense hill. I cruise downhill to the straightaway, sprint the straightaway, cruise a gentle incline to recover then mash up the hill as hard as I can. Rinse and repeat four to six times three or four times a week. Granny gears are cheating…

What’s in a Name?

One of the little perks of routesetting is naming your route. It is a lot of work to set a route and getting to add that extra bit of personality is a subtle reward to the setter. Sometimes you set a route with a name in mind. Sometimes the name comes to you during the setting process. Some of the current inspirations for our route names:


ISIS (Panopticon; Wavering Radiant; Oceanic; Way Through Woven Branches)

Cave Singers

Nothin’ But Sunshine

Doomtree (Boltcutter; No Kings)


Pulp Fiction (Royale w/ Cheese; Big Kahuna Burger)

Futurama (Mobile Oppression Palance; Citizen Snips; Everyone Loves Hypnotoad)

Breaking Bad (Los Pollos Hermanos; Blue Sky; Heisenberg)

Indiana Jones (X Never, Ever Marks the Spot; We Are History, Dr. Jones)

Baseball (probably mostly only my routes…)

Joltin’ Joe; Mickey Mantle; The Mendoza Line; Purple Mondaze; The Enigmatic Bruce Chen

Magic, the Gathering (probably mostly only Ben’s routes…)

Black Lotus; Gravetiller Wurm; Demonic Tutor; Mind Grind; Door to Nothingness


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!

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.

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.

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…

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.

geeking out on climbing

i believe i am reaching a new level of climbing geek-dom with this post. i started thinking about the different shoes i have worn over the years. this lead to me thinking about what shoes i was wearing for certain sends and milestones and breakthroughs. i was surprised, and somewhat embarrassed, to realize that i remember a large number of these shoe-milestone combinations.

flashback to christmas 2005, and i’m on a trip to the southeast, climbing at horse pens 40. my whole goal for the ten day trip was to do a v5. i had a pair of mad rock mugens (the all white ones) that didn’t fit my feet quite right. so i went to the general store and talked to big mike and walked out with a pair of evolv defy’s. during the remainder of the trip, i managed to send ‘bum boy’ (v4) and eked out my first v5, ‘slag’.

now it’s the summer of 2007, i’m living here in colorado and have been putting in some time in boulder canyon. i sent my first 5.12a in a pair of five ten anasazi velcro’s. fall of that same year, i sent two 5.12s on the same day (in rifle, no less) in a pair of la sportiva testarosas. first 5.13a, again, the testarosas.

fall of 2009, and i’m in kentucky at the red river gorge for two weeks. probably my best two week stretch of climbing, with several 5.12b flashes, two 5.13a redpoints, a 5.12d onsight (just the highlights). the weapon of choice this time around was a pair of five ten dragons.

recently, evolv has supported me and over the last several years have helped me break into new grades (optimus prime lace up, talon, shaman).

you get the idea…a lot of brain power and space dedicated to something with no value whatsoever, but for some reason i remember these things.

i’m sure everyone has their own neurotic tendencies when it comes to climbing. feel free to post comments with your own habits and neuroses…

The Vicarious Send

Projecting a difficult route or boulder problem is a finicky beast. You can invest so much mental and physical energy, so much time. And you might not even send the damn thing. Thoughts of self doubt and failure will inevitably creep into the forefront of your mind. You suffer for it, and put everything you have into the sole objective of climbing something from bottom to top without taking or falling. And even though you might feel like you’re out there by yourself, I can assure you that you do not suffer alone.

Personally, I have been battling injuries and just haven’t felt healthy in a little while. But I still like to get out, even if it’s just to belay. My friend Hip-Hop has been working and projecting a climb in boulder canyon called ‘vasodilator’ (13a). Speaking from experience, this route is NAILS hard! It’s technical, burly, insecure and even run out. This rig has it all! He committed to working this thing, fought tooth and nail to get belayers and battled weather conditions. The hike isnt crazy hard, but it certainly isnt easy, either. And there isn’t much else up there, with the exception of a 12a and a new 13+. I could tell Hip-Hop wanted this one bad…so I decided that walking up that hillside with him to be a belay slave was in the cards for me.

All told I made the trip three times, and the first two saw progress and highpoints, and more learning and familiarizing with the route. But the clock was ticking, as this particular crag has seasonal closures for raptor nesting. So the day before the closures went into effect, we cruised up there one last time. Weather-wise, it was damn near perfect hovering in the low 50s with barely a cloud in the sky. Today had to be the day!

The typical warm-up ritual ensued, and we talked strategies. Efficency coupled with purpose and no hesitations. After the proper amount of rest and a snack, Hip-Hop was on his way. He breezed through the bottom part with ease, with no wasted motions. I shouted up reminders and encouragement, and he floated through to the final rest before the true crux. I thought he would rest there for quite a while, so I grabbed my phone intending to snap a picture or two. Looking through the camera, I realized, to my horror, that he was already on the move. Precision and accuracy brought him through the insecure and powerful crux and eventually to the chains. I have never seen someone so happy to clean their draws off of a route.

Even though I did no climbing, I was just as happy that he had sent. I invested my time, too, and to see that it helped was incredibly gratifying. To witness all the progress, and regression at times, offered a very different perspective. We all know what it’s like, personally, but to see it from an outside perspective and to be in a position to give advice was pretty cool.

So while I’m fighting to get healthy, I’ll just have to bask in the sending vicariously. And who knows, these karma points may just build up to something…

For the Love of Rocks

It occurred to me while I was standing in the check out line at Safeway that I did not fit in. The only items in my cart were a pair of neon purple over-sized dish gloves, a tube of Neosporin, several nail files of various grit, a minor collection of exfoliating boar’s hair brushes, a flat head screwdriver, and one stiff-bristled nylon toilet brush. No milk, no apples, no paper towels, no shaving cream, nothing of that sort. The cashier gave me a look, said “what are you doing with all these nail files?” without explicitly saying it.

To me these were obvious purchases: the gloves were for washing dishes, to keep my hard-earned calluses from going soft. The Neosporin was for repairing a split crease on my middle finger. The nail files were for keeping said calluses from getting so thick that they might snag a pebble and be torn off. The boar’s hair brushes and toilet scrubber were for brushing up the grips on a boulder I wanted to try that afternoon. The screwdriver was needed for bicycle repair and did not factor into the otherwise exclusively climbing-related nature of the other purchases.

I don’t even think about these type of things anymore, but for entertainment’s sake, I thought some reflection might be in order. What follows is an abbreviated catalog of the weirdness associated with a long-term climbing career.

* My street shoe size has shrunk from 10.5 to 9.

* I compulsively file the skin on my fingertips to avoid the dreaded split tip. There musn’t be any small tears or irregularities that might snag on a grip.

* Well-fitting long sleeve shirts are hard to come by. The typical climber physique of broad shoulders, long arms and a slender torso is not something often catered to by finer clothing manufacturers.

* I do not think twice about using words such as crag, crux, crimp, dyno, and beta in everyday conversation. Furthermore, there is no hesitation to pantomime crux moves in public, even if it means throwing an imaginary heel hook on the dinner table.

* Following advice from a respected colleague, I did not use soap, shampoo, or deodorant for eight months. Showers were still had, but as more of a rinse than a total cleanse. All of this was done in an effort to keep my skin free of callus-altering chemicals, and while I apologize to anyone that I spent any amount of time with at close proximity, I will say that my skin was in amazing condition for rock climbing at that time.

* I abhor getting my hands wet, which results in excessive, some might argue obsessive, dish glove use. Seriously, nothing is worse for climbing than soaking your hands in hot, soapy water. Avoid at all costs.

* There is never a problem with wearing the same pair of pants for two weeks straight. Too, I do not buy pants that won’t allow for high steps. You never know when you might have to bust out a mantle.

* Again following advice from a respected colleague, I once ordered this mysterious substance called antihydral from the internet. Invented by champion fooseballers (seriously) to keep their hands dry, this stuff, when applied correctly, keeps your tips in top condition for upward of two weeks. As a bonus, it hardens the skin too, which is ideal for climbing in areas such as Hueco Tanks or Bishop. Of course, when used incorrectly it can dry your skin so much that it splits open like an overripe tomato and, due to the dryness, doesn’t heal for a month.

* As a rule, I never purchase a pair of shoes I do not think I could climb at least V5 in.

* If I know I will be climbing outside on a particular day, I will not shave for three days beforehand. Shaving cream softens the skin on my hands, and we can’t have that. Of course this is not much of an issue for me, as I can’t grow facial hair of any sort.

* There are holds everywhere, on buildings, tables, chairs, dashboards, tupperware, fax machines, picture frames, bicycle pumps, filing cabinets, fruit (watermelon slopers, obviously), everywhere. Naturally, there are cryptic methods of utilizing these grips that must be ascertained, which is why I’m currently figuring out the best way to kneebar my computer desk.

There is more. Much more. For now, however, this will do.

Reflecting on the list above, I am struck by two things. One, I might love rock climbing so much because it completely engages the exceptionally neurotic portion of my psyche. Two, trusting a colleague’s advice only leaves you smelly and with holes in your hands.

Motivational Evolution

When I first took to the towering twenty-foot walls of the Wheat Ridge Recreational Center in the autumn of 2004 I was a doe-eyed lad of eighteen. I had been climbing once before, in 2001 or 2002, and never thought about climbing again until a freak racquetball accident turned my attention to the curious grey, grip-covered wall. Every day after school I would drive my baller ’87 Buick Century to the Rec Center and climb for the three hours that the wall had staffed belayers. At the time I was obsessed solely with achieving the summit, clawing my way to the top by any means necessary. I enjoyed working at height and feeling the air, all twenty feet of it, underfoot.

A few years later I was working at ROCK’n & JAM’n and climbing had taken over my life. No longer was I drawn to the heights provided by roped endeavors; bouldering was my bag, baby, and I was driven to do the hardest moves I possibly could. Three days a week I trained with Athletik Specifik to improve my power, contact strength, and overall fitness. College afforded an easy schedule and I was able to climb outside three to four days a week. Excursions were made to Hueco Tanks and Joe’s Valley on the regular and summers were spent in the alpine solitude of Rocky Mountain National Park. Times were good and I tasted success at grades well beyond my initial expectations.

Now I feel as though I have entered a new phase of my climbing life cycle. While I am still drawn to difficult power moves and the desire to send the gnar has not diminished much, other facets of the climbing experience have bubbled to the surface of my psyche. Mostly, intense beta and intricate sequences are now the focus. I’m learning to think with my legs as much as my arms, to pay attention to body positioning and how minute adjustments in ankle angle can affect the solidity of a heel or toe hook. In the past if a move or sequence was troublesome the solution was always pull harder, get stronger. The current solution is thinking, hypothesizing new beta to utilize strength already possessed, analyzing failure and learning from mistakes. Old habits die hard, and the new crux is remembering all this beta, remembering to think outside the box. Slowly, I improve.

Perhaps the key factor to my long term, committed relationship with climbing is the evolving nature of my desire to climb. From the purely adrenal excitement of height to the brutish power of physical performance to the complex intellectual process of problem solving, there remains always a new challenge, a new approach, a new discipline to master.

It is worth noting that these motivational mutations were not forced or decided upon. They came like a sea change, unnoticed until after the effects were felt. One must remain perceptive to these alterations and embrace them when they come.

the 1%

climbing grades. so subjective. so arbitrary. yet so important, even though no one wants to admit it. it’s one way of gauging our progress and validating ourselves as climbers. no one wants to climb strictly for the numbers, but let’s be honest, who doesn’t relish in the accomplishment of breaking into a new grade?

and there are definitely milestone grades. if you have sent 5.10, you probably remember the first one you did. same thing with 5.11. then there is the mythical grade of 5.12.

i still remember the first 5.12a i sent after coming back from my shoulder injury. it was a level of climbing that i didn’t think i would get back to. i would have been happy being able to project that grade. in fact, that was my goal back then, to be able to do the moves. but i found a climb in boulder canyon that suited my style, worked it for a little while, then one day i sent it. i couldn’t believe it! i thought that i had broken through some imaginary barrier…that i had accomplished something. i had reached a level that, in my head, many people don’t reach. which brings me to the question: how many people in the united states that call themselves “climbers” have climbed 5.12? what is the percentage?

let’s kick up the difficulty a notch. i remember when i sent my first 5.13a. i had been on “sonic youth” (a clear creek canyon classic!) three times previously and went down there again to work out some moves. even though i was carrying a forearm pump the likes of which i had never encountered before, i screamed and grunted my way through the final crux boulder problem and somehow clipped the chains. 5.13 was never on my radar, and i was just as surprised as anybody else that i actually sent one. it was unbelievable to me, and it took a while for this accomplishment to set in. but it again begs the question: how many people in the united states that call themselves “climbers” have climbed 5.13a? what is the percentage?

being here in the front range of colorado definitely skews our perspectives. everyone knows a lot of people that climb 5.12. everyone knows probably a handful of people that have climbed 5.13. everyone knows at least one person that has done 5.14. but we live in one of the american climbing meccas. there are so many crazy strong climbers here, that our percentages are off compared to the rest of the country. so when looking at all the “climbers” in the united states, at what grade does the “1%” apply to? in other words, what grade have only 1% of all u.s. climbers sent?

i’ll end with one final note…because we do live in an area with such a dense concentration of strong climbers, it is very important to not let your own personal accomplishments get overshadowed. climbing is hard. climbing 5.10 is, in the grand scheme of things, hard. so just because the person next to you is warming up on 5.11, don’t let that discourage you from being proud about your sends or trying hard. feel free to spray about it, because you know you did something.

A Message from Anna and Adrian


Like Deb and John, we shared a common dream, to own an indoor climbing gym. Our
dream began about 6 years ago. That dream was forged here in Colorado. We were
introduced to climbing in Clear Creek Canyon, Rifle, Shelf Road, and the gyms of
ROCK’n & JAM’n. We loved everything about this wonderful sport, and we loved
the culture and community we found among other climbers who shared our passion.
ROCK’n & JAM’n played a pivotal role in the development of this dream. Because of
this, these two wonderful gyms will always hold a special place in our hearts.

When Deb and John agreed to pass this torch, we viewed it as not only a fantastic
opportunity, but as an enormous responsibility. Deb and John have created something
special with ROCK’n & JAM’n. Our goal therefore is simple, to make Deb and John
proud in the years to come. We would like to begin this journey with a commitment to
honor John and Deb’s mission statement.

Our goal is to provide an innovative, high-quality facility that meets the needs of
the area’s indoor rock climbers.

Our commitment is to continuously improve our facility and services in order to
keep pace with our customers’ expectations well into the future.

Our pledge is that our actions will be characterized by fairness and integrity.

ROCK’n & JAM’n has established itself as the premier indoor climbing gyms in the
Denver Metro Area and we want to ensure that they retain this well-earned position at the
top of the industry.

We look forward to getting to know all of you who share our love for these gyms and this
sport. We, along with our two sons, Holden and Aiden, will be the new faces walking
around, so please do not hesitate to stop and say hello. If you love climbing, we are
already friends.

We thank Deb and John for this opportunity and we thank you in advance for welcoming
us into the ROCK’n & JAM’n family.


Anna and Adrian Parker

The Change Up

Tim Lincecum (baseball player) has a great change up. He throws it from the same arm slot and with the same delivery as his fastball, and he can throw it for strikes. Opposing batters have a hard time picking it up because it looks like a fastball, except it’s almost ten MPH slower and has a nasty break as if crosses the plate. Timmy uses his fastball to set up batters, then finishes them off with the change. He throws other pitches, too, but it is the way he supports his terrific fastball with a filthy change up that makes him one of the best.

What does this have to do with rock climbing? Not a lot, really, but I like the idea of the climbing change up, of using one discipline of climbing to support another.

Case in point: yesterday I bought a new harness. One of those ultra-light, ultra-thin sport climbing rigs that doesn’t seem like it could hold my body weight, let alone catch a whipper. I have not purchased a harness in some time, and the one I have only sees use routesetting and occasionally rappelling down boulders, which is to say I don’t sport climb.

For the last six years I’ve been exclusively focused on bouldering, and while I have accomplished many things that I am proud of, my motivation has waned some in the last year. I thought that maybe I was done with climbing, that the fire had died and I was merely feeling residual heat.

Then, a moment of clarity. I have been dedicated to climbing for eight years and have traveled across the country to sample the finest boulders in the land, but I haven’t done a multipitch route in Eldo. I’ve bouldered V13 but haven’t led a trad route harder than 5.5. The strategic concept and tactics of sport climbing remain elusive, a foreign language that I do not comprehend. This imbalance frustrates me to no end.

To return to the baseball metaphor: I’ve been pounding the strike zone with heaters and the batter expects more of the same. Time to throw the change up…

So I bought this new sporty harness and booked a trip to Kentucky’s Red River Gorge in the spring of 2013. I still need to acquire a rope (suggestions welcomed…) and this thing called ‘endurance,’ but I am psyched. The fire has returned. There is much for me to learn within the realm of sport climbing, which means progression, which means happy times. From there is trad climbing or big wall climbing or ice climbing or mountaineering (but definitely not aid climbing) or whatever. That is the gift of climbing: there is always a new experience, a new adventure. You just have to change it up every now and then.

Choose Your Own (Spinner) Adventure

What is a spinner?

1) Someone who would rather be inside riding a bicycle that doesn’t go anywhere.

2) Someone who ‘cuts wax‘ on the turntables.

3) A hold that has, for various reasons, worked itself loose and rotates freely on the wall. (See also: loose rock)

4) A bolt that has been cross-threaded in the t-nut and, as a result, is somewhat to extremely difficult to remove.

While I cannot speak to the first two examples (I prefer an out of doors bicycle), I have a good deal of expertise in the latter two. I can tell you that example three, the loose hold, is remedied by a simple turn of a wrench to re-tighten the bolt, and is no big deal. Example four, however, can be a nightmare…

To set the scene, it’s 8:15AM on a Friday and you are a highly paid, highly regarded routesetter. You are hanging from a rope thirty-some feet off the ground, lowering yourself with a gri-gri and stopping every few feet to remove holds from the route you are stripping with your impact driver. You reach precariously to your left to remove a green Teknik Hooded Fang, but the bolt won’t budge. You think maybe the battery for your impact is dying so you whip out your faithful hand wrench and give it a go. The bolt still won’t budge. You give it everything you’ve got and hear the dry, sickening crunch of the t-nut ripping free of its plywood shackles and you know you have a spinner.

There are now two options for how to proceed. If you choose to fix the spinner from the climber’s side of the wall, go on to Option One. If you choose to fix the spinner from behind the wall, skip ahead to Option Two.

Option One: You have chosen to remain on the safe, free, and well-lit climber’s side of the wall. You holler for someone (probably Keith…) to toss you the breaker bar and pry bar while another, less fortunate individual makes their way to the backside of the wall to assist you. When you have wedged the pry bar between the hold and the wall and your teammate behind the wall gives the signal, you crank down on the breaker bar while applying tension to the pry bar. With decent leverage and a good bit of luck, the cross-threaded bolt turns, slowly at first, until all the threads have worked their way out of the barrel of the t-nut. The hold pops free, accompanied by the cheerful shouting of your teammate behind the wall. From the safety of your rope or ladder you drop the newly removed hold and climb/lower yourself to the ground. Congratulations are in store; you’ve done it!

Option Two: You have chosen to venture back to the creepy, dusty, dark depths behind the climbing wall. You grab a headlamp, vice grips, bolt, screwdriver, and work gloves from the shelf in the setting closet. You then squeeze through several narrow passages, each brief contact with the wall setting loose clouds of settled chalk dust. When you’ve arrived in the general location of the spinner you scramble/climb/sketch your way up the back of the wall, calling for your partner to spin the hold in question so that you might see which t-nut of the thousands is the one you’re looking for. Once you’ve located the guilty party you enter some sort of anchored stance (I prefer the kneebar-the-2x4s technique myself) and apply the vice grips, parallel with the wall, to the t-nut flange. Hint: if the t-nut is sunk into the wall, use the screwdriver to chisel away enough plywood to get the vice grips on the t-nut. When the vice grips have been locked down on the t-nut flange, you screw the bolt you brought into a nearby empty t-nut. You shout “go for it” to your teammate and wipe sweat from your brow with your shirt sleeve, which only smears the copious amounts of dust and grime already on your skin deeper into your pores. When your teammate cranks down on the breaker bar, the t-nut turns until the vice grips come down on the bolt you screwed in, which locks everything in place and lets torque do its thing. The t-nut flange bends and little metal filings seep out of the barrel of the t-nut. Muffled cursing is heard from the other side of the wall until the bolt finally pops free of the t-nut. Success! You carefully scamper back the way you came, hoping that you won’t have to do that again anytime soon.

Me and Steep: My Time at the Candyshop

It is my opinion that the best way to train for hard climbing is to climb on the steepest angles you can find. Nothing boosts your power and develops your core like pulling long moves on a vicious overhang.

Where can I find such an overhang, you might ask. Well, on the second floor of RJ1 of course! Constructed during the boulder remodel of 2009, the Candyshop (so named for the wide assortment of brightly colored holds that adorn the wall) is a great training tool for building power, finger strength, core strength, and the mythical power endurance so many Rifle climbers speak of.

How do I use the Candyshop, you might ask. Well, it’s pretty easy. The wall is plastered with holds, which you are free to use at your discretion. All climbs start on one of the three blue start jugs, and each color and type of hold is its own climb (such as the yellow Teknik finger buckets or black e-Grips mini-jugs) that you can do either with open feet on the yellow jibs or tracking only. The tan e-Grips mega-jugs is the easiest at V2, followed by the aforementioned black e-Grips mini-jugs at V3. Blue Teknik finger buckets is probably V6 and the green e-Grips comfy crimps is solid at V9. Make up problems on your own or try to send a pre-set testpiece (yellow Teknik crimps is the hardest on the wall and remains undone…)! At first it might be annoying that the padding is so close to the wall, taking away the rockstar dynos and foot-flying heroics, but keeping your feet on the wall will increase your core tension and body awareness exponentially. And bring a friend! Epic games of add-on are best enjoyed in the quiet comforts of the Candyshop.

When I’m in training mode (much different than project mode and definitely not the same as project takedown mode…more on those in a later post…) I aim for climbing on the Candyshop for two hours at a time two or three times a week. Generally, I warm up downstairs on easy boulder problems for half an hour or so before heading upstairs to get serious. Once at the Candyshop I run through my warm-up circuit, which consists of eight boulder problems that increase in difficulty by about a grade each. When the warm up circuit is done and I’m primed to pull hard, I will try a project for about an hour. Usually I keep three projects lined up that I’m able to do moves on but are near my limit. After an hour of trying projects (occasionally sending them) I’m feeling gassed so I’ll spend half an hour or so making up problems that I can do in a try or two, focusing on specific moves or techniques that I know I need to practice (for me: toe hooks, heel hooks, and pinches). Next I run through my warm up circuit again, this time in reverse order, to cool down. After some stretching and a chocolate milk, I’m out the door, feeling tired but accomplished.

As always, individual results may vary…

hard or easy for the grade?

what makes a route hard or easy for its specified grade? how can one route rated 5.10d (just as an example) be so much easier or harder than another route also rated 5.10d?

unfortunately, the answer is not simple. many factors contribute to a route’s difficulty, and many of these factors can combine in odd and unique ways. let’s list some of these factors:

  1. hold size: obviously, the smaller the hold, whether for hand or foot, the harder it will be to use.
  2. hold type: jugs, crimps, slopers, pinches
  3. hold orientation: in order of easiest to use…straight down pull, side pull, undercling, gaston (reverse side pull).
  4. wall angle: this one is subjective. the angle can range from slab (less than vertical), to vertical, to overhanging, and depending on your specific physical strengths and weaknesses, any of these could be harder than the other.
  5. distance between holds: the farther apart they are, typically the harder the move.

once you start looking at combinations of these factors, things get complicated. so when evaluating the grade of a route, it is extremely important to think about and consider all of these factors, especially as they relate to what your own strengths and weaknesses are. i will use myself as an example.

i am not a very good ‘technical’ climber. when things get less vertical and the holds get small, i tend to climb quite poorly. i started climbing at the red river gorge, in southeastern kentucky. for those of you that have climbed there, ‘technical’ is not really the name of the game. techniques such as ‘grip it and rip it’ or ‘yank and yard’ are much more suitable. so when more than that is required, things get difficult for me. but i know this about myself.

so, in rifle, where the lines are steep and powerful, i have redpointed 5.13c. in shelf, however, where the lines are vertical or slabby, and the holds are thin, requiring delicate balance and movement, i have only redpointed 5.12b. quite a disparity! but i adjust my expectations accordingly. in rifle, if i don’t on-sight or flash 5.12a, i’m upset. but when in shelf, i shift my expectations, and am happy just to do 5.12a. and believe me, it doesn’t happen often! to be such a talented climber as to be good at all styles, i believe, is a bit of a rare thing, especially as the climbing gets more difficult and the grades increase.

“how does this relate to what happens at the gym,” you might ask. well first and foremost, it is important to remember that grades are very subjective. there are so many climbers of differing sizes and strengths. if the routes in the gym were to stay up for a really long time, we would eventually get a true consensus on what the grade actually is. much like long-standing routes outside, that have become ‘benchmark’ routes of their respective grades. but, we don’t have that luxury inside. you, our customers, would get bored with the routes and all the holds would be really greasy. plus, we (the routesetters) would be out of jobs!

the second thing to take away from this is that with many different setters, we have many different setting styles. sometimes there are very straight-forward climbs, and sometimes there are more technical and devious climbs. sometimes you’re making big moves on big holds, other times you might have to trust bad foot smears with small hand holds. one setter’s style might be typically hard for you, while another setter’s style might just suit you to a ‘t’. different strokes for different folks.

the third thing to take away from this is that if a route isn’t ‘straight-forward,’ perhaps it can teach you something. i think this point is extremely important. this is up for debate, but i believe that by the time you hit 5.12c, perhaps 5.12d, you have seen all the different types of moves you will encounter while climbing. as the grades get harder, you will see more difficult combinations of these moves, and the holds will most likely get smaller and/or farther apart. to me, this means that even if you have redpointed up to 5.12a or 5.12b, you can probably still learn a thing or two (or more).

with that in mind, some routes that we set might have movement that is either completely foreign to you or seems to be really difficult for your typical style of climbing. it doesn’t necessarily mean that the route is harder than the suggested grade. it could be perfectly reasonable movement for the grade, and this could be an opportunity for you to get introduced to it. these situations can prove that grading something at or above ones limit is really difficult. realize that as you get more acquainted with a certain grade (read: climb that grade A LOT), you can more accurately assess the grades around it. this, of course, takes time. and if you think about it in simple terms, who is more ‘qualified’ to comment on something graded 5.10d: someone who has climbed over 100 5.10d’s in different areas and gyms *or* someone who has climbed 5 5.10d’s at one area or gym.

so before you mark a certain grade on the customer rating sheets, think about all of the factors touched on above. doing so can help the grades in the gym be a little bit more consistent. of course, we (as setters) aren’t perfect. but we don’t miss and/or sandbag our grades ALL the time…

behind the wrenches: tools of the trade

Most jobs require some sort of specialized equipment to complete; be it heavy machinery or a pen and notepad. Just as Jedi’s have their lightsabers and Indiana Jones has his bullwhip, so do the course setters of ROCK’n & JAM’n have their own specialized (or jerry-rigged, in most cases) equipment. Here are a few of the tools that see everyday use on the walls:

The Impact Driver
This is our weapon of choice, the one tool above all others that makes our job tolerable. Between twelve and eighteen volts, the standard issue impact driver, when paired with 5/16 and 7/32 hex-head bits, places and removes holds from the wall with tremendous speed and noise. Additionally, a screwdriver bit can be fitted to aide in placing set screws and foot jibs.

The Hand Wrench
Not as clumsy or random as an impact driver; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. The trusted backup, and sometimes necessary for holds with deeply recessed bolt holes. On occasion, a setter will set analog or ‘go hardman’ (see upcoming lexicon appendix for definition) and eschew an impact for the quiet professionalism of the hand wrench.

The Breaker Bar
For those holds that don’t want to come off the wall, be they spinners or just plain stubborn. The breaker bar adds a good deal of torque to the standard hand wrench.

The Pry Bar
Used in conjunction with the breaker bar to remove spinners. As the name implies, one simply places the end of the pry bar behind the hold and pries on the other end while turning the breaker bar. This procedure helps keep the cross-threaded t-nut from spinning while being worked on.

The Vice Grips
When fixing spinners, one setter is on the front side of the wall with the breaker bar, another setter is behind the wall with the vice grips firmly locked on the flange of the offending t-nut. We employ several different styles and sizes of vice grips for different spinner scenarios.

The Thread Tap

A bit of preventative maintenance, the thread tap is used to clean out t-nuts, thus reducing the risk of cross-threading.

The Angle Grinder

Occasionally, a bolt will be so cross threaded in a t-nut that attempts to remove it with the breaker bar do nothing but fuse the bolt’s threads to the barrel of the t-nut. Enter the angle grinder. Bathed in the shower of sparks and debris kicked up by the grinder’s rotating, circular blade, a setter cuts through the barrel of the t-nut from behind the wall and removes the spinner from the wall. Eye protection is a must!

The Sawzall

Used for the same purpose as the angle grinder, the sawzall is employed when the fused t-nut can only be accessed from the front side of the wall.

The Hold Washer

To the uneducated eye, this may look like a standard industrial dishwasher. To the educated eye, it may look like a CMA L1-X standard industrial dishwasher. But to the course setter’s eye, it is the hold washer, that great metal box that transformers ugly, dirty holds into beautiful, clean holds in a matter of minutes. Just add vinegar.

Five Questions: Amanda H.


1) Are you a Tulo person or a CarGo person?

Don’t make me choose! Little Pony (CarGo) can play left field like nobody’s business, has power and speed, and is a great leader. Troy plays shortstop better than anyone currently in the MLB (yes, Jeter included), and he has grown so much since he grabbed his first cup of coffee in 2006. If I really had to choose, I suppose I’d go with Helton.

2) If you could design your own zoo, what animal habitat would visitors first see when they enter?

The Monkey House, for two reasons: A) who doesn’t love those playful primates? B) I’m a bit of a Kurt Vonnegut fan. Also, I’d have my zoo be a wildlife preserve, because it always made me sad as a kid to see all these majestic and wonderful creatures all cooped up.

3) Why did you seek out employment at a climbing gym?

I am all about doing something meaningful with my time, and I am hard pressed to think of a job that affords so many different ways to touch people’s lives. Including (but not limited to) making a child’s birthday party memorable and fun, helping new climbers discover the confidence and innate joy derived from climbing, and breaking through the mental barriers we have of our own abilities via climbing, the rewards of this position are extremely poignant.

4) What’s worse, vacuuming gratuitous chalk spills or re-coiling abandoned lead ropes?

Chalk spills. No question. Chasing those little white pebbles around with the shop vac is like an inexperienced sheep dog trying to herd sheep – try as you might, some always get away!

5) Is it just me or baked treats seem to appear whenever you are working?

Nope, it’s not just you! I L.O.V.E. to bake and have for a long time, thanks in large part to my Mom. For about 6 months now, I’ve been baking and experimenting with recipes almost every day. It allows me to simultaneously be creative and share something with people that makes them smile.

The Process

At this year’s Hueco Rock Rodeo, I saw a slide show presented by the prolifically esoteric Dave Graham. One of his primary topics was the method he follows when working a hard boulder problem. The Process, he called it. In short, it goes something like this: clean all the holds with a brush, place tick marks on critical or hard to see grips, imagine the sequence you are going to use, try very hard to flash the problem. If you don’t flash it, try to send it second try. If you do not send it second try, work out all the moves individually, do the top out, then try from the bottom.

He emphasized two points, which I found the most interesting.

1) Each time you pull on, know what sequence you are going to try and do not deviate from it. Hesitation wastes time and energy. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be perceptive to new beta, but each time you try to send you should know what you are going to do so that the only thing you have to think about is execution.

2) Learn the top-out; do not fall there. Nothing wastes energy like falling off the end of a climb. I know from years of personal experience that this is true.

My lack of patience is a detriment to my climbing. Too often, I get excited about a possible ascent and ignore things like memorizing the top-out or resting an appropriate amount of time between efforts. I really want to be on top of the boulder, and it is difficult for me to take it slow and make sure everything is in check before I go for it. This tendency of mine leads to lots of failure on non-crux moves or blown top-outs, what many refer to as punting. Punting leads to anger, and anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the dark side.

The solution to this problem is following The Process. Every time, on every boulder, follow The Process. Even in the gym, it is possible to prepare yourself mentally in the same way you would for an outdoor climb. Obviously there are no top-outs to learn, but the rest is all the same. Know where every foot hold is, know what sequence you are going to use, know what draws you are going to clip. Repetition is how we train our bodies and brains, and I know that if I follow The Process every time I climb, it will become second nature to me, and hopefully I will spend less time punting and more time sending. That would be nice.

Five Questions: Rylan M.


1) Do you own a harness?

I get asked that a lot, for some reason. Yes, I own a harness. It’s in mint condition.

2) What is the most frustrating aspect of routesetting?

Naming three months worth of routes after Futurama characters and quotations that no one picked up one. That and fixing spinners. And waking up at six in the morning to drive through DTC traffic.

3) How’s the fantasy team doing this season? What’s your team called?

It’s still early, but I remain optimistic. Maybe I should have drafted Jered Weaver over Tim Lincecum, but that’s just nitpicking at this point. Either way, the Cornwood Fancymen should rake in the points this year.

4) Why twobills?

Twobills is a nickname I picked up on a climbing trip. Basically, my entire net worth was represented by two bills in my wallet. They were not big bills…

5) Beatles or Stones?

Beatles. No contest. Exile on Main Street and Let It Bleed are phenomenal albums, but the Stones really watered down their catalogue over the years, to the point that I think they’re this weird parody of themselves. And no one will ever write a better song than Eleanor Rigby.

behind the wrenches: lexicon

This installment of BTW will focus on the lexicon of the setting world. While the climbing lifestyle has a deep pool of jargon and slang, routesetting has is its own sub-genere of unique terminology and archaic vocabulary. It would be impossible to catalog the entire lexicon of RJ routesetting in one post, but here is a brief introductory course to get you up to speed.


noun: 1) Lucas ‘LaMarcus‘ Arnold

verb: 1) to remove a cross threaded hold from the wall with great vengeance and furious anger. “Hey, Chris, can you get a hammer and lamarcus that spinner off the wall?” 2) to vanish like a ghost at the end of the day. “Man, Jamie sure lamarcused out of there yesterday. I never saw him leave!”


noun: 1) a route or boulder problem. “Check out this rig. Purple holds and orange tape. So dank.”


noun: 1) a loose hold that is stuck on the wall. Happens most frequently when a bolt is cross-threaded and the t-nut rips out of the plywood. “So, who wants to go behind the wall and help me with this spinner?” 2) the misunderstood art of routesetting. “Bro, do you spin?” “Yeah, I spin.”

be*hind the wall

noun: 1) a dark, dangerous, dusty place no one should ever have to see; like that cave in Empire Strikes Back where Luke battles Darth Vader only to discover he was battling his own internal darkness. “I went behind the wall to tighten a bolt hanger today…” “Do you want to talk about it?” “No. No, I don’t.”

dirt/dirty/the dirt

noun: 1) the best route in the gym. “That yellow 5.10 is the dirt, homie!”

verb: 1) to set a route of extremely high quality. “What it do, Corey? You setting dirt today?”

adjective: 1) when a route or move or sequence (or anything, really) is particularly engaging. “Listen to these dirty beats, bro. Skrillix is the best.”

See also: sick, the gnar.

add a foot

verb: while forerunning, an admission of defeat. “Take here, Jamie, I need to add a foot.”


verb: 1) to approach a hold or section of a route from an awkward position. “Ugh, I was all undercrunked up in that dihedral. It was the worst.” 2) to grab the bottom or underside of a hold. “Undercrunk your right hand, step through, then fire to the lip.”

fresh shapes

noun: 1) brand new holds. “Did you see that box of fresh shapes in the hold closet? I’m gonna set the dirt today, fellas!”

set*ting tu*nic

noun: 1) a stylish blazer worn to and from morning setting sessions during the colder months. “Did you see LaMarcus’s setting tunic? The one with the embroidered crest? He’s so baller!”

rai*ning de*struc*tion

verb: 1) the act of dropping many large holds or features from high on the wall. “Yo, check yourself, I’m raining destruction here.”


noun: 1) old busted jug; the opposite of fresh shapes. “I’m setting the 5.5 today, where’s the bucket of O.B.J.s?

drop my lad*der

verb: 1) to retract an extension ladder when the setter using it transitions to setting on a rope. “Hey, Keith, be a dear and drop my ladder for me, yeah? I’m roping up now.”

the pro*gram

noun: 1) two up, two over; the time tested method for setting easy routes. “Nah, I’ll be done quick. I’m using the program on this 5.7.”

go*ing an*a*log

verb: 1) to set without the use of an impact driver. “Crap, I left my impact at the south gym. Guess I’m going analog today.”


adverb: when a move is too hard for the climber. “Rylan, that all-points-off dyno is too reachy. You should add a foot.”

Injured Reserve

Over the course of my climbing career, I’ve discovered a plethora of ways to injure myself. Off the top of my head, I’ve sprained an ankle, ruptured the A2 and A3 pulleys in my middle finger, dealt with elbow tendonitis on several occasions, injured my wrist twice, developed bursitis in my heel twice, crushed my foot under a boulder, screwed a foot jib into my thumb, caught my hair in a grigri, and tweaked every finger on both hands more times than I can count. I consider myself extremely fortunate that I’ve not been seriously injured.

Currently I am dealing with the second round of bursitis in my heel, which has kept me from wearing a climbing shoe on my left foot for the last month. At the very least, the weather hasn’t been the greatest and I don’t think I’m missing too much time at the boulders, but not being able to climb to the degree I’m accustomed to is frustrating. If we were to take the optimistic view, time away from climbing means more time for other activities. Yes, there are other things besides climbing that I like to do. Weird.

74(if my optometrist is reading this, I don’t usually sit so close to the screen…)

My Madden ’11 franchise is in its sixth year now with two Super Bowl titles under its belt. I’ve been taking my dogs on longer walks and preparing my fantasy baseball team for the upcoming season. I watched the entire run of Futurama episodes and movies. Even though I can’t climb, I’ve been utilizing the campus board, rings, and fingerboard at RJ1 to maintain a baseline of fitness. Jamie (aka JG, aka nomadinrifle) and I have worked up quite the training regime so that, when the time comes, we can ‘send the proj, bro.’

The point is, I’m not climbing and the world hasn’t ended. I think it’s important to take vacations, even if the thing you are taking a vacation from would be considered by most people to be a vacation. And while it’s not the greatest being injured, I appreciate the opportunity to invest time in other things, and in the end I’m only reminded how much I enjoy climbing.

So if you can’t climb, for whatever reason, despair not. The day will come. In the mean time, do something else! I’ll take all comers in a Madden playoff…

behind the wrenches, an exclusive behind the scenes look

let me set up a scenario for you: you get out early from work or school on friday, perhaps the weather isn’t looking too great for the weekend, and a quick sesh at the gym seems like the best option. you’re super psyched because it’s only 1230 and the gym probably just opened. you pull into the parking lot and see plenty of other cars; maybe it’s already packed in there because everyone else had the same plan as you did. you walk up to the door and pull but GASP…it’s locked! you cup your hands around your eyes to get a better view, and sure enough, there are people climbing in there. you pull again, but yup, still locked. what’s going on?!!?!?!

behind those locked doors are the fearless ROCK’n & JAM’n routesetters, fully immersed in a cave and high volume setting day. these are the days that we take the extra time to set in the lead cave as well as catch up on some easier graded routes that have been overlooked over the past weeks. for example, on friday january 6, 2012, there were 5 setters, ng, jg, cc, la, and khn. between us, 9 routes were set. now i can’t personally take credit for the volume (neither can corey) as we got the cave routes (more on that later). but lucas and keith each bucked up and set 2 routes apiece, while nathan was the real champ racking up 3 routes! he counted up all the holds and found he had bolted 156 holds to the wall. 156! and a lot of the holds that these guys used had to be washed. they went up and down their ropes a lot! after a while, even in the most comfortable harness, limbs start to go numb. plus hauling heavy buckets, filled to the brim with holds, up and down the walls can get a bit tiring, to say the least.


nathan on rope and ladder stripping and re-setting the 5.5, 5.6 and 5.7 on the slab wall


nathan hauling a big feature up the slab wall


gotta make sure you choose good holds. so many options...


5.12+ in the making. just need to come up with a sequence.

then there are the ladders. they have names at rj1. our largest ladder is a 35 ft extension ladder named ‘widow maker’. i can’t say exactly how heavy this beast is, but a typical ladder of this size clocks in around 85 lbs. and this isn’t a comfortable 85 lbs. our second largest ladder (and the only other one to earn a name) is a 32 ft extension ladder named ‘bertha’. she is definitely the little sister of ‘widow maker’, but is a force to be reckoned with all the same. a typical 32 footer weighs around 70 lbs. now we’re certainly not the largest guys around, but 4 days a week we’re hauling and moving these babies around. you get good at finding balance points quickly, otherwise you’re dropping the ladder onto the mats.

so on a day like january 6, corey and i got to use the big ladders, since we were setting in the cave. i started out with ‘widow’, corey on ‘bertha’. we got them into the cave and started stripping our routes. at this point, you might ask yourself: ‘what about the really steep section of the cave? the wall doesn’t seem vertical enough to get the ladder to prop up against it.’ i was getting to that…you essentially pin the top of the ladder against the roof, and weight it enough to allow it to sink and shift into a stable position. and sometimes it decides to sink and shift a little when you’re higher up which usually induces a bit of terror and a minor panic attack in me. other setters reactions may differ. and it gets really fun when you’re hauling up a heavy hold or a large volume.


corey on 'bertha', in the roof

once on your ladder, you may realize that the section of wall you need to either strip or set on, is too far away from your ‘comfortable’ perch. so you have to squeeze your upper body through the rungs and lean through to the other side of the ladder. this to me is absolutely terrifying, but sometimes it’s what the job requires. january 6 had it’s fair share of these maneuvers. and we were able to set both of our routes without the use of a rope, which is a rare but exciting feat to accomplish. of course, it required standing near the very top of a fully extended ‘widow maker’. but it’s just another day on the job.


me through the rungs near the top of 'widow maker', close to the top of the lead cave


corey on 'widow maker'

i guess that’s it for this episode of behind the wrenches. hopefully this gives you, our faithful members and guests, a small bit of insight into what goes on during our typical setting sessions. we certainly have off days, sometimes you just don’t feel like you have good moves. it happens. and we do need to hear about it. many times, though, that’s the only feedback we hear. keep in mind that some positive feedback from time to time lets us know what kinds of movement and climbing styles you guys enjoy, and also lets us know that all of the effort we put worth week in and week out isn’t all in vain.


3 brand new slab climbs (green, white and orange @ 5.7, 5.6 and 5.5 respectively)


straight up the center, red 5.11 (corey) and white 5.12+ (jamie)

Five Quetions: Nathan G.


1) I heard a rumor that you are training to run an ironmam or ultramarathon…why would you do that?

I signed up for the Leadville Silver Rush 50, which is a 50 mile ultra marathon in Leadville. I don’t know why I did that…

2) What do you think about when you set a route?

The other day I set a 5.9 (“Ghosts of Christmas”) in the Horseshoe Canyon at RJ2. After I compiled my bucket of holds, I went to the top of the wall and began dropping the previous route, and setting the new one from the top of the wall, down. As I pulled old holds off the wall I thought, “These holds are really old and dirty, and I wish we could replace all of them with a new line of mini-jugs from Egrips.” I continued to pull them off, and put up new ones. When I was about half-way down the wall I looked at the clock and thought, “Wow, I am setting really fast today- this method of setting from the top down while on a rope is really efficient. I should set this way everyday.” At this point, I looked up and realized that I had just set 10 feet of wall with all blue holds. I now had a bucket of all red and green Egrips mini-jugs, nice. It was three days before Christmas. I spent the remainder of my setting time (on the rope) thinking about where, or even if, I would be able to run Christmas Eve morning. The final touch to my route, which was looking very “Christmasy”, was the addition of three freaky looking holds that were molded into the shape of faces. I wish I could tell you who made these holds, but remembering holds/hold companies isn’t my forte. I used these freaky faces as footholds for the start of my route. LaMarcus walked over and looked at them. I told him, “Lucas, it’s a Christmas route with lots of red and green holds. These freaky looking faces here are the ghosts of Christmas past, present… and future.” Perfect. That worked out nicely. In between all of that, I’m sure many more pointless and uninteresting things passed through my brain.

3) What kind of bear is best?


4) If you could be one character from Tombstone, who would it be and why?

I’ll have to go with Doc Holiday- mostly because he makes smoking, drinking, and dying of tuberculosis look… awesome.

5) What is the maximum airspeed of an unladen swallow?

I believe you mean; what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? I’m going to guess it’s somewhere around… 7. Whatever it is, I can beat that time on my skateboard.

gear review – evolv shaman

This past spring, Evolv released the much-anticipated Shaman, a high-performance, steep bouldering and sport-climbing shoe, designed from scratch by Chris Sharma. The basics include: three Velcro straps to secure the shoe, a fairly severe down-turned toe, leather upper in the front of the shoe, cotton around the heel, the “knuckle box” above the big toe, and the “love bump” midsole. Retail price is $145, and they can be ordered/purchased through ROCK’n & JAM’n (see counter staff for more details), from Evolv directly, or from Bent Gate Mountaineering.
First things first, these are not “beginners” shoes. These are meant for climbers looking for a very high-performance shoe. That being said, after climbing in these shoes for the past two months, I have to say that they perform brilliantly on the terrain they are geared toward. The middle Velcro strap helps keep the middle of the shoe and the heel “suctioned” to your foot, making foot placements, heel hooks, and heel scums feel extremely secure. And with the non-stretching cotton heel, there is no sliding around on the inside, either. The “knuckle box” gives your big toe extra room, and in conjunction with the “love bump”, allows your toes to curl without sacrificing comfort. In other words, you don’t have to downsize these shoes to make them perform at the highest of levels. I personally wear a size 9 street shoe and sized my Shaman’s at an 8½. I feel like they can “grab” any foothold they need to, and I’m not doubled over in pain at the thought of slipping the shoes on. The rubber is extremely sticky yet durable, and will give you the necessary confidence even on the most marginal smears. I would say, pound for pound, these shoes compete with any of the top rated shoes for steep bouldering and sport-climbing. They have become my shoe of choice for absolutely everything past vertical. So if you’re drawn to the overhung rock, from 5.9 to 5.14 or v0 to v14, give ‘em a shot; you won’t be disappointed.

(Note: as with any shoe, you should try it on beforehand, if possible. But if you have had a pair of Evolv shoes before, they should be sized the same as the Optimus Prime or Talon, or ½ a size larger than the Defy or Pontas)

Comparable shoes: La Sportiva Solution, Five Ten Team 5.10

And the Winners Are…

First, a big ‘thank you’ is in order for everyone who made it out to Winter Wonderland despite the frigid temperatures and frosty driving conditions. So, thank you. Second, here are the top three finishers (sometimes referred to as ‘winners’) from each category:


Colin Duffy (2168)

Mikey Lowe (1775)

Aliza Nishke (1754)

Women’s Recreational:

Jenna Park (2384 + Moonboard Climb-off)

Chelsea Battan (2384)

Men’s Recreational:

Emilio Espinoza (1627)

Women’s Intermediate:

Charise Denavit (3561)

Men’s Intermediate:

Walter Wood (4820)

Patrick Radecker (4660)

Daniel Hayes (4562)

Women’s Advanced:

Jacinda Maurer (5180)

Rochelle Rocha (3026)

Men’s Advanced:

Osiris Graves (6779)

Kevin Rust (6611)

Jamison Burt (6591)

Women’s Open:

Mercedes Pollmeier (5412)

Men’s Open:

Seth Lytton (8118 + 33 pullups)

Asher Shay-Nemirow (8118 + 24 pullups)

Jamie Emerson (7826)


Silvia Luebben (4485)

Gary DeGroat (4203)

Hillary Nitshke (2089)

Photos of all the sports action are posted on our Facebook page. Thanks again to everyone who came!

Behind the Wrenches Vol. I

Welcome to Behind the Wrenches, a series that aims to shed light on the routesetting lifestyle at ROCK’n & JAM’n. In this, the inaugural installment of BtW, we will look at some cold, hard facts about routesetting. Let’s begin.

There are seven full-time routesetters at RJ. You may know them as NG, JG, CP, CC, LA, KHN, and RA (even though it is obviously RM…). You may also know them as Natty Gray, Jameson, Chrispy, C-Note, LaMarcus, ‘KEITH!’ and Two Bills. Probably you just know them as Nathan, Jamie, Chris, Corey, Lucas, Keith, and Rylan.

These fine gentlemen begin their work day at 8am every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. While you may be surprised that any of them are able to leave bed before noon, let alone conquer mental and physical challenges at such hours, you should know that they are a cheery, good-natured bunch (coffee helps) of hard-working go-getters.

Between the hours of 8 and 11:30am, a setter will bring out buckets of holds from the hold closet, select holds for their new route, strip (or drop, in the parlance of our times) the old route, load dirty holds in the dishwasher, set the new route, cleanup, and forerun.

In a month, the boys will set roughly 85 routes and 100 boulder problems between the two gyms. That’s a lot. Somewhere near 4,500 vertical feet of climbing or so. No other gym in the state can match that productivity. They will also use over a mile of tape to mark the routes and problems.

The average lifespan of a route is just under two months, while boulder problems stick around for 3-4 weeks. It can be daunting to watch your creations exist for so short a time, but the lads handle the constant turnover admirably.

That does it for this episode of Behind the Wrenches. Tune in next time for an exclusive look at the tools of the routesetting trade.

Bouldering in a Winter Wonderland

The first snow of the season has come and (almost) gone. Trees across Colorado have shed their leafy burdens and bears and other hibernating species are busy stockpiling calories for their annual slumber. Winter is bearing down on us like a frosty locomotive, and the holidays are right around the corner.

And what better way to prepare for the holiday season than with a festive, cider-and-cookie-laden bouldering extravaganza? Enter the Winter Wonderland Comp:


Come climb on expertly set problems from V0 to V11, enjoy the aforementioned cookies and cider, partake in the supplementary dyno competition, and unwrap presents from Sharp End Publishing, eGrips, Trango, Camp, Hummingbird Mountaineering, Evolv and more. Also, Santa Claus. Seriously.

Stay tuned for more details…

Coming Soon to an RJ Near You

Bouldering League!

Yes, fall Bouldering League is right around the corner. Starting in October, the League will be taking over the boulder at both gyms. Sign up, hang out with friends, meet some great new people, and enjoy the delectible boulder problems prepared fresh each week by our top movement chefs.

Look for more details in the coming weeks, including times, scoring format, and info on the end-of-League party!

A Red Carpet Event

It’s official, the Colorado Premiere of The Scene is September 6th at the Boulder Theater! With special guest appearances from athletes Kilian Fichhuber, Anna Stöhr , and Cody Roth. Plus, The Sheriff himself, Mr. Jamie Emerson, will be on-hand selling new copies of his RMNP and Mt. Evans Bouldering Guidebook. This is one show you can’t miss!

Doors at 7, movie at 8. Tickets $15 at the door, or $13.50 pre sale at Rockn’ & Jamn’ 1.

Check out the trailer:

A Word from Brendan Aiken

To the Climbers of ROCK’n & JAM’n,

ROCK’n & JAM’n was my first employer and has continued to employ me in one way or another for the last thirteen years. As a kid I was a gym climber and member of the ROCK’n & JAM’n Youth School. By volunteering with the route setting crew for a Junior National Championship in Thornton I earned a position on the staff. You might recall the early days of the gym and the precise procedures and organizational discipline one had to utilize to be considered a good employee. As many can attest, young teenaged males are not necessarily inclined to be adept at such requirements and it’s a miraculous extension of generosity that I remained employed to this day.

I have had numerous other employers during my years with the gym and have not always been as involved as I am now. I am thankful that the opportunity to work for John and Deb has always been an element of my life. It is their belief in my abilities, however, that I am most thankful, and perhaps the two are one in the same. There were times in the past that it would have been easy to relieve me of my duties and I wouldn’t have protested. I was given room to grow and thus matured into the role that I have performed for the last couple of years.

Many of the aspects of the job are enjoyable, but none more than the people I was able to interact with every day. The community of climbers that frequents the two facilities is full of warm, friendly, and thoughtful people. Since I have never worked at any other gym I can’t speak on the qualities of gym climbers in general, but I would be surprised if ROCK’n & JAM’n isn’t near the top. Thanks for welcoming me into your lives, if only for an hour or two a couple nights a week.

The future of ROCK’n & JAM’n will continue to be bright. I have worked with Rylan Marshall and Nathan Gray for many years and can assure you that they are good setters and great people. They share the same vision of a better climbing environment for our customers that pushed me to work hard for your benefit. Please welcome them into their new roles and let them know when you really like something about a route or problem. Positive feedback is essential. It is far easier for route setters to repeat something that went well than to guess what you like to climb. Don’t forget that there is a partnership between the climber and the setter and you are as important to their success as hard work.

I have not had the chance to personally tell everyone what my future holds, and perhaps you are curious. My wife, Estee, was hired by the University of Western Montana to teach in their education department. It is a small school in a slightly larger town, Dillon, settled into the ranches of a western sage brush valley. The opportunities for exploration are as big as the sky, as exemplified by the journey Lewis and Clark took through the same valley years ago. While the climbing in the immediate area is limited, we’ll be only four hours away from the Tetons as well as City of Rocks. The nearest gym is two hours away in Bozeman, so I won’t be seeking a position on their setting staff. I’ll have some time to enjoy the country and raise our daughter, Kestrel, before I look for a job, if I get around to it.

I couldn’t be more excited, while saddened about moving on, for the adventure to begin! Thank you for being such a positive part of my life. I will come back to the gym every once in a while to reconnect with the greatest part of being a climber, the community.


Brendan Aiken

Changing of the Guard

After thirteen years of service, head routesetter/handyman Brendan Aiken has packed his bags (and his family) and headed off into the wild Montanan sunset. Brendan was a tremendous routesetter and his setting style was an inspiration for myself and the rest of the setters here at Rock’n and Jam’n. Furthermore, his ability to move the biggest ladder, Widowmaker, around the gym was something to behold. Needless to say, he will be missed.

Though Brendan may be gone, the gym is still in good hands. Namely, mine and Nathan’s. As of this week, Nathan Gray and myself are taking over routesetting operations. Brendan’s routes surely will be missed, but I can promise you that we will still provide the high quality routesetting you’ve come to expect. If anything, the setting will only get better, as we’ve already got some great things in store for the coming months.

As always, we love to hear from the folks that climb our routes (or ‘rigs,’ in the parlance of our time), so if you have any questions, comments, constructive criticisms, high praise or other such things, don’t be a stranger. Leave a comment on the comment board, talk to the counter staff, track down a setter (hint: they’re here in the mornings) or email me at rylan@climbthebest.com.


Fear. What is it? Why does it affect us? How can we conquer it and free ourselves from its insidious grip? I don’t know. But Arno Ilgner does, and he’s written a few books that explore the effect of fear on climbing and whatnot. He’s even teaching clinics at RJ that cover all sorts of techniques for maximizing your climbing through mental preparation. All that jazz. Meanwhile, I’ve put together a haphazard list of everything I can think of about fear and how it relates to climbing:

1) Phobos is the Greek term for fear. Phobos is also a pretty sweet boulder problem at Lincoln Lake.

2) The best climbers I know are not timid when it comes to doing a move. Commitment to success is the most important mental element of climbing well, and those who are able to really ‘go for it’ (air quote dab) without thinking about taking a big fall are the ones who succeed the most. One needs only to watch the Dosage series to get a feel for how little Dave Graham is afraid of taking a fall, as nearly every segment features him eating it in spectacular fashion. Yet his resume is one of the most impressive in rock climbing. Why? Because he’s thinking about sending, not falling. Or maybe he has microscopic spider hairs on his hands, I dunno.

3) It is pretty lame to automatically include Chris Sharma in a discussion about rock climbing, but in this case he fits. In King Lines (I’m in no way affiliated with Big Up Productions…) Chris is seen hucking his meat for holds 60+ feet over the ocean in Mallorca, smiling, laughing, enjoying the whole experience. Later, he backs off a high ball in Bishop because “it’s scary up there.” He can commit to wild deep water soloing not because he isn’t scared, but because he has more fun than fear, while on the high ball it’s the other way around. There is no reason to force yourself to climb something that isn’t fun; if you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it.

That’s what I’ve got. Arno though, he’s got much, much more. All kinds of ways of improving your climbing and making you a calculated, focused warrior of the rock. Maybe you’ve already read the fliers posted around the gyms, but in case you haven’t, here is an abbreviated list of topics Arno will be covering:

* awareness of your mind’s limiting tendencies

* effective risk-assessment

* distinguishing between no-fall and yes-fall zones

* making appropriate risk decisions

* practicing falling in small increments

* cushioned belay techniques

* developing flow and momentum

* problem solving skills and strategies

* fear reduction

There’s more, too, but that’s what the clinics and his books are for. The clinic at RJ1 is Monday August 8th from 6-10pm and will cover everything mentioned above and more. Arno’s RJ2 clinic is Wednesday August 10th from 6-9pm and will only cover how to fall and techniques to conquer your fear of falling. The RJ1 clinic is $79 for members and $89 for non-members while the RJ2 clinic is $69 for members and $79 for non-members. Unfortunately, there is a limit to the number of participants, so be sure to call either RJ location to reserve your spot as soon as you can. If you can’t make the clinic, RJ carries both The Rock Warrior’s Way and Espresso Lessons (15% off if you’re a member).

Five Quetions: Corey C.


1) What’s up with that scar on you head? I hear it was work related…

I wasn’t quite satisfied with my “mean look.” I felt as though the bald head and scowl were not enough when frightening small children so I took a bolt from the gym and dragged it down my melon. So, it, ah, just goes to show you, uh, shouldn’t, you know, ummm, believe everything you hear…….

2) What are your views on Lando Calrissian? Hero of the New Republic or nefarious traitor?

That is an interesting question and one that would need significantly more time and space to answer than this forum allows. That being said, Lando, for all his vaunted independence, still cooperated with the Empire and was thus a great asset. He is certainly a traitor to the Empire. And what was with him not knowing if Luke would survive the freezing process? You know a brotha practiced that crap on his little hogface dudes.

3) Not to mention he blew up the second Death Star pretty much by himself. As an EMT, how often do you take advantage of ambulance privileges for personal benefit?

No comment. Okay, I quadrapark, but that’s it! I swear.

4) I suppose I’m obligated to ask at least one climbing-related question, so here goes: what are your goals when you set routes?

My goal is to set a route that challenges climbers at the level they are at through technique, power, and endurance. I like to emphasize footwork while creating a fun and, hopefully, memorable route. I would love for R & J climbers to become better through climbing my routes.

5) And finally, who is your favorite Ghostbuster?

That’s like asking what my favorite beer is. There may not be the same variety, but the choice is equally as difficult. I suppose I most identify with Ray: passionate, impulsive, and loves Sta-Puft marshmallows.


Editor’s note: Yes, those are Star Wars Lego toys. No, there is nothing weird about that.

Five Questions: Brian Y.


1) What’s the top speed of your motorcycle?

The speedometer says it is 150mph but I have only gotten it to 105mph myself. I have a feeling it could reach that without too much trouble.
What do you say, Rylan, want to drag race your Nissan?

2) Ehh, I might have to pass on that. To save you the embarrassment of losing, of course. I’ve heard a rumor that you’ll only climb things you can do in sandals. Is this true?

Yes and No. Last July I got burned out on climbing and haven’t been doing much since then. These days about the only climbing I get in is at work while safety checking the auto-belay devices or a quick run at one of the new bouldering league routes.
I have been getting the urge to start climbing again but school and work seem to be taking up all my free time these days. Who knows, you may see me in the gym soon with actual climbing shoes on. Until then, Chaco or Sanuk sandals are my climbing shoe of choice.

3) Word on the street is you’re back in school. What are you studying?

I am. I recently started back pursuing a degree in Graphic Design with a concentration on Web Design. (Shameless plug) If anyone needs an intern let me know, I am looking for a position.

4) How tall are you, really?

6′ 4″ with a +3″ ape index. I don’t know what everyone complains about at the gym. I have never found a reachy route. Strange?!?!

5) Not at all. Back to the motorcycle for a minute. How badly do you want to have a semi truck that you could drive your bike into/out of at high speeds?

Whoa!! How did you know about that dream? Well, I guess it isn’t that surprising since probably every guy has had that thought at one time or another while driving down the highway.

Indeed they have. Indeed they have.


Fridays are Cave Day

It’s noon on Friday. You’re standing outside RJ2 and the doors are locked. You notice the sign on the door that says Friday 3:00PM-11:00PM, yet when you peer inside you notice the lights are on. Further examination confirms your suspicion: there are people inside. But they aren’t climbing. No, they’re all thirty feet off the deck, balanced precariously atop massive aluminum extension ladders, grappling with brightly colored plastic holds and power tools. What is this? What’s going on?


It’s Cave Day! Utilizing the extra time before the gym opens on Fridays, the routesetters do battle with the imposing lead cave, setting everything from The Jug Haul to The Sick Project for your climbing enjoyment.

Speaking from five years of experience, I can tell you that Cave Days are brutal; setting off the big ladders is terrifying, and hanging from a harness with twenty pounds of jugs strapped to it for three hours is excruciating. Forerunning the routes is exhausting, and there always happens to be a cross-threaded hold or two to contend with. But the end result is a well planned, expertly executed route that beckons to be climbed, and watching customers warm up on The Jug Haul or whip off The Project is reward enough to bring me back next Friday for another round of setting/self-abuse. That, and the solid paycheck.48

So the next time you come in on a Friday afternoon, by sure to thank those who spent their morning toiling over a 5.10 out the belly of the overhang. They deserve it.

Five Questions: Sara G.


Sara answers all the questions.

1) What’s the deal with the mustaches?

Sometimes when I sit in front of the tv I sew, and I just started sewing mustaches. Once I stated making them I thought they were funny. My goal is to make owls with mustaches.

2) You’re traveling to Haiti soon. What will you be doing there?

I am traveling to Titanyen, Haiti to help at an orphanage and help with their sewing project called 3 Cords. 3 Cords gives amputee women a trade and income by teaching them how to sew. Hopefully I’ll also be able to work a bit with the American Red Cross’ international team while I’m in Port-Au-Prince.

3) You’re vegetarian, but I heard a rumor that you eat turkey on Thanksgiving. What gives?

That is none of your business.

4) You’ve said you like to make things from scratch; what’s the one thing you’d like to make the most?

Umm… a crashpad? No… I’m not sure. I like the idea of looking at something and thinking “I could make that”. A coat… a pair of shoes… I like thinking that I don’t have to depend on someone else to fashion what might fit my style. Instead I can create it on my own.

5) Given the amount of shirtless dudes in the bouldering cave every night, how do you manage the “intense creepiness” of muscles?

I’m not gonna lie, it’s really hard. Sometimes, I can’t manage. I have to hide in the rental closet. Muscles are not meant to be flashed around. They are made to cause the locomotion of an organism or movement of internal organs (and creep me out).


Hopefully those of you with crippling mustachephobia can get past her ‘stache, because behind that blue marvel is a charming, kind soul worthy of a few minutes chit-chat time.

Five Questions: Jamie G.

Greetings, readers. Now that Amy has left the state I will be taking over this here blog. To get everyone up to speed, my name is Rylan, I’ve been routesetting at Rock’n & Jam’n for over four years and I just started working the front desk. As newly-elected blog administrator, I’ll be keeping things fresh on the internet front. For a start, here’s a brief interview with R&J’s most excellently dreadlocked routesetter and counter employee, Jamie Gatchalian. Look for interviews with more staff members in the coming weeks. Now, on with the questions.


1) How often are you mistaken for the Predator?

At least one in five interactions with new people. I avoid dimly lit rooms and hallways as much as possible to alleviate some confusion.

2) You like to claim you don’t boulder. Why is that?

First, I’m really bad at it. And I really like having to remember all the beta for a route. I feel like I have to be incredibly dialed in to send a hard route. (Ed. note: It’s true. Jamie carries around a four-page beta sheet that documents literally every move on some silly 5.13 in Clear Creek. He’ll show it to you, if you ask.)

3) 90% of our conversations at work are Seinfeld quotiations. What’s your favorite episode?

The Man Hands episode. So many good quotes. “Those meaty paws, I feel like I’m dating George ‘The Animal’ Steele.”

4) What’s your favorite climbing hold?

The Baby T-Rex. I’m partial to slopers.

5) Finally, the question we’ve all been waiting for: If you could have played on one album by any artist that was released between 1990 and 1998, what would it be?

No contest, “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s timeless and groundbreaking.


A fascinating fellow, Mr. Gatchalian is. Next time you’re in the gym, be sure to compliment Jamie on his most recent lead cave masterpiece, or maybe just say hey.

East Bound and Down

According to most people I’ve talked to, I will be plunging off the edge of the world at the end of February, which is to say I’m moving to Florida. And yes, I’m aware that the only thing to boulder there are alligators. My husband and I are moving by choice, I do not have a job waiting for me there (there’ll be a homemade cookie waiting for anyone that can put in a good word for me in the Jacksonville area), and I am truly wondering how much I will miss Colorado. I have of course made friends I will never forget and had experiences that seem incomparable. But due to the condition of my feet, my interests have changed over the years and Colorado no longer offers what I feel like I need out of life. I am hoping that Florida does. Let me expound.

I recently asked several climbers in the gym why they climb. What do you get out of this? Why do you keep coming back? I got some great answers:

I climb for the adventure.

It gives me a rush.

My body craves the movement.

I am not myself without climbing.

It makes my back look good.

I don’t want to let my climbing buddy down.

And possibly my favorite -


We are all motivated by different things – health, adrenaline, spirituality, ego, peer pressure. But there’s got to be some connection we all have that keeps us doing a sport that hurts like hell, is super boring to watch, and generally gives you more days of failure than success. I don’t know what that connection is. It is the difference between people who come in the gym for an intro lesson, climb once or twice more, then never come again versus the people who come in for their first time, say nothing, but leave with what I can only describe as an aura. It’s nothing but cliché after that – something clicked, she got bit by the climbing bug, he got a case of climbing fever, etc. All the clumsy expressions amount to one thing – another climber has been added to our mix.

So while I can’t answer what unites us all, I can answer what my motivation to climb has been. For me, it’s all about being able to overcome fear. I moved to Colorado from the south as a weak, asthmatic musician with a few profoundly awkward athletic experiences under my belt (I scored a goal for the opposing soccer team once). As if moving to Boulder and being surrounded by the most physically active people I’d ever seen wasn’t scary enough, one day I was asked to go climbing in Boulder Canyon. I took to it like paisley to a bedspread. I finally found something that not only my mind but my then puny body could conquer. I stuck with routes for years, but once I started to shun ropes for crash pads, I discovered that I could put myself in far more fearful situations through bouldering than I could on a rope. Top roping was the gateway drug that eventually led to my full blown addiction to top outs. Thuggy top outs, high ball top outs, techy slab top outs, I loved them all. I loved them because I was terrified of them, but each one I completed brought me the enormous satisfaction of using my fear to succeed instead letting it dictate my life.

39Of course, the down side is when I didn’t succeed, I fell. A lot. And the falls have taken their toll on my feet. But that craving for fear that climbing created in me is still wanting to be fed. I think it was this part of me that eventually attracted me to kiting.

I have spent the majority of my hours of kiting truly frightened. The strength of a power kite is awe inspiring and intimidating. Furthermore, seeing as how I have never snowboarded, wake boarded, or even done anything that requires going fast with your feet strapped to a plank for that matter, kiting is a sport I should have no business getting in to. And yet, here I am, relishing the fear kiting produces in me and determined to overcome it. Just like climbing did for me 17 years ago. And now it’s time to move to a place where I can focus on kiting.

40Hence the move to Florida. I plan on throwing myself at kitesurfing with the same obsessive flair that I attacked climbing with. And while I will never stop climbing, it may take a backseat for a little while. The important thing is that I will never quit searching for new challenges and never give in to my fears.

41Rylan will be taking over the blog from now on and will continue to furnish you with interesting tidbits to keep you entertained and informed. Rocknamy is signing off. Keep trying hard and stop chasing your dreams – live them instead.


Belay-bor Pains Part 2

Moving right along.

Why can’t I stand 20 feet away from the wall while belaying?

One reason is that it creates more slack in the climber/belayer system which can have dire consequences for both top roping and leading. If you are top roping at RJ1, you will be climbing on walls that are 37 feet tall with ropes that are about 80 feet long, allowing for about 6 feet of slack to be lying on the mats. If you lower your climber while standing 20 feet away from the wall, you run the risk of running the end of the rope through the belay device, thereby dropping your partner on the ground. One way to avoid this would be to tie a knot on the end of the belay side of the rope. The other way is, obviously, stand no more than a few feet away from the wall.

Belaying from a distance has undesirable effects when it comes to lead climbing as well. First of all, like our top roping scenario, it creates extra slack in the system. Imagine someone that weighs 120 lbs lead belaying their partner that weighs 150 lbs. The belayer is 20 feet away from the wall and the climber has extra slack out because he is attempting to clip the third clip. The climber pumps out and misses the clip. The belayer, being outweighed by 30 lbs, can’t arrest the fall and gets yanked into the wall while the climber splats on the ground because of the extra slack in the system.

Now, let’s reverse the situation. We have a 120 lb climber and a 150 lb belayer standing 20 feet away from the wall. We have the same scenario with the climber taking a bunch of slack out to clip the third clip but falls before he can make it. This time, the unlucky climber gets slammed crotch first onto a taut rope. I’m sure many of you know what I’m talking about. Still not a pleasant situation.

Another major problem with standing too far away from the wall on a lead belay is the wear it causes on the first biner. By standing far away from the wall, the rope bends around the biner with a more acute angle, causing serious friction between the metal and the usually dirty sheath. A nice notch will eventually be worn into the biner, usually with some nice sharp edges. Please go here to see a great post from Black Diamond on what can happen when climbing on a biner with rope wear.

The most common reason people give in our gym about why they want to stand so far away from the wall on a lead belay is that they can’t see the climber otherwise. There’s a simple solution to this. If you can’t see your climber, simply turn around and face out from the wall. See below.

37I love everything about this picture. Kathryn is facing out to see her climber, her stance shows that she’s ready for anything, she has a moderate amount of slack out and she is giving her undivided attention to her climber. Which brings us to our last question.

Why can’t I sit on the mat while I belay?

Several reasons. You can’t lock off as well. You can’t move quickly if you need to. You can not give any semblance of a dynamic lead belay while sitting down. And most importantly to me, sitting down conveys a sense of complacency. Unless you are flying the space shuttle, most people sit down to relax. Belaying is absolutely not a passive activity. Compare the picture below to the one of Kathryn. Who would you want belaying you? (Disclaimer: Katie never belays sitting down, I made her pose for the picture)

38Some further reading on the subject of sitting down while belaying can be found at rockclimbing.com (caution, there’s some foul language in this one) and rockandice.com has a post that spells out some great belaying tips in general.

There was a thread on Facebook recently in which someone was discussing the fact that he just saw another person get decked in a gym. The guy got away with just a broken ankle. One of my friends made a comment which sums this whole post nicely: “Belaying is a job and should be taken seriously. Focus.”

Climbing is obviously an inherently risky activity to engage in. Even though you can never erase all risk from climbing, we want you to know that every rule we have in this gym is designed to minimize the risk of climbing as much as we possibly can. If you ever have any questions, please come up and ask one of our staff members, it’s what we are here for.

Belay-bor Pains Part 1

I’m going to go ahead and say it – IMHO belaying sucks. Yes, I admit it is a major part of our sport that builds bonds that will last throughout the years, but it has it’s definite drawbacks. It makes your neck ache. The rope trashes your hands. It’s boring. And you can often spend an egregious amount of time belaying your buddy while he hangdogs every clip instead of sending your own project. But in spite of all this, passing the belay test is what every first time climber focuses on. It is as important to them as getting to the top of the wall. And while it is a skill that is very easy to learn, tragedy can strike if you falter, even for a microsecond. At ROCK’n & JAM’n, we do our very best to make sure that everyone belaying in our facilities does it correctly and safely. Rest assured that we have our eyes on you and will come up and correct you if we deem it necessary. Our staff has encountered almost every mistake imaginable. Brian even got to step in and rectify a hip belay debacle once (for the record, not allowed in any gym I know of). In light of this, I’ve put together a Belaying FAQs post for your enjoyment. Read on.

Why do I have to belay off the belay loop? I think two points of contact are safer.

This a topic that can make people get hot under the collar. But no matter what your stance is on this, every harness manufacturer that includes a belay loop on their harness will instruct you in the manual that comes with your purchase to belay off the belay loop, not the two points of contact. As an example, this is taken from the Arc’teryx harness instruction manual:

Attach all belay and rappel devices to the belay loop with a locking carabiner. The belay loop is engineered for extreme structural strength, (>15kN/ 3350 lbf), equal to the main harness structure, and when used correctly for belaying and rappelling provides a safer two-point load.

What this means is that when you use the belay loop instead of the two capture points on your harness, you reduce the risk of cross loading the biner. If you look at your locking biner that you use to belay, you will see a series of little drawings on one side depicting the amount of force it can withstand depending on the biner’s orientation. The one I’m looking at right now shows 23kN from end to end and 7kN from gate to side – a whopping 70% reduction.

Bottom line, it’s a good idea to check the manual and follow it for all your equipment.

Some further reading that I found on this subject can be found here and a fun discussion thread can be found here.

I see people belaying differently, which way is safer?

This one doesn’t have a definite answer. Some gyms flat out ban certain ways of belaying while others just want to make sure you are in control of the brake side at all times. We fall into the latter category – we just want to see confident and controlled belaying. This includes never taking your brake hand off the rope and also staying in a locked off position with your brake hand below the mouth of the belay device approximately 99.99% of the duration of the climb.

There are two main ways of belaying that I know of, and there are several variations on these two main themes. Below is a video of the “pinch” method of belaying. Please note how Samantha raises the brake side of the rope up to meet her left hand, pinches both ropes with her left hand over her brake hand and slides her brake hand down the rope and goes back to her lock off position.

Some people don’t approve of this method for several reasons: you have the brake hand above the mouth of the belay device for a relatively long time, it’s easy to get confused and pinch the ropes below the brake hand instead of over forcing the belayer to take their brake hand off, and most beginner belayers do not move back to their lock off position between periods of taking up slack. However, Samantha is belaying confidently and staying locked off between periods of taking up slack, thereby using this method in a safe manner. For the record, this is the way I’ve belayed for 17 years.

At both R&J gyms, we prefer to teach this method:

We don’t have a name for this, so Nate would like to call it the squat technique since most people get very confused about how to manage the ropes and their limbs at the same time, thereby inducing excessive squatting while belaying. Dede, however, makes this method look casual. It keeps the rope in a locked off position for a longer amount of time and promotes good belaying habits by teaching the belayer to stay locked off. It also seems to be easier to learn and takes less coordination to master.

Again, either of these methods are acceptable at R&J as long as you convey to us that you are in control of the situation.

That’s it for now, stay tuned for part 2.

Nate’s a Slacker

Nate works at the counter at both RJ1 & 2. And for those of you who don’t know, Nate has a really cool talent – slacklining. He comes from a background of diving, and has turned that coordination and strength towards doing amazing stunts on a taut piece of 1″webbing. Following is a description by Nate of the sport he loves as well as some sweet videos of him in action.

Slacklining: a sport of balance, strength, focus, coordination, and often utter and complete frustration. For most, myself included, slacklining starts out as a sport of failure. I relate it closely to my first golfing experience; three hours fifty-nine minutes and 149 strokes of pure agony and miserable shots, yet, sixty seconds and one amazing stroke will bring you back again. The first day of slacklining might include 10 seconds of standing on the line, hardly balanced, for an hour of work.

For those who are not aware of exactly what slacklining is, let me break it down for you. It’s fairly simple really, take a long piece of 1 inch webbing, pull it REALLY tight between two points, and walk on it from one end to the other. In its basic form, it sounds quite easy really, but add the fact that the line will sway from side-to-side and bounce up and down and you’ll realize it’s not as casual as it sounds. Us ‘slackers’ also complicate it further by splitting the sport into four styles. A trickline is a slackline that is usually set up no longer than 30 feet and pulled extremely tight. The ‘trick’ part refers to the different actions that can be performed on the line. An advanced slacker can do jumps, spins, line tricks (sitting down, laying down, drop knees, levers, etc) as well as flips. These lines are the easiest to learn the basics on. A Gibbon line is a type of trickline, but has a 2 inch width. A long line is a slackline more than 60 feet in length and is much harder to walk. The longer the line, the more sway and bounce it has. The current longest line walked on record is more than 650 feet! A highline is a slackline that doesn’t have a set amount of length, but rather height. Highlines can be anywhere from 20 feet high to more than 3000 feet. One of the most popular US highlines is at the Lost Arrow Spire in Yosemite National Park.

Most of my slackline training was done at RJ2, where they have a permanent 20 foot line set up. It took me nearly 3 months to walk across once and another three to walk one direction, turn around and walk back to the starting point. I started slacklining about four years ago, practicing for about 30 minutes at the end of my climbing session. Over the years I’ve managed to get my balance under control and am doing my best to help the sport evolve. You’ll often see me in the gym working on tricks that I never thought possible when I first started. To date, my favorite tricks are back-to-back 360’s, one-arm levers and backflips. Currently I’m working on a backflip 360 and a wallplant to 360.

People often ask me one of two questions about my slacklining: am I training for Cirque du Soleil or do I feel that slacklining has improved my climbing. To answer the first, no. Though I’m not sure I would turn down an offer to be in their show. To the second I answer possibly. Slacklining is directly related to balance and core strength, both important in climbing as well. I assume, that over time as my balance and core strength have increased, my climbing has improved. However, I did not and have not noticed a direct relation to slacklining and climbing.

Another topic that is often discussed with new slackers is, “How do you do it?”. The main part of slacklining is practice, practice, practice. As far as technique goes, try to keep your core tight. Really flex your abs as you walk, keep your body upright, and maintain a tight yet flexible tension throughout your body. The last point is one that is hard to really explain and understand. You want to keep your muscles tight so they don’t shake (especially in the legs), yet you still need to be able to walk normally and counter the effects of the moving line. The goal is to keep your center of gravity directly over the line. This means you’ll need to move your arms, legs and waist to keep balanced. If you feel your torso start to fall off to the right, for example, thrust your hips out left, and even kick your left foot out to pull the weight of your torso back over the line. This is a complicated and difficult skill to learn, but with enough practice you’ll soon be walking the line like second nature. After you get the balance down, the first thing you’ll want to learn is how to turn around once you get to the end. After that, just let your personal style and skill decide where to go to next.

And of course, if you see me in the gym I would be more than happy to help you on anything slackline related.

If you would be interested in a slacklining clinic, just let us know and we’ll put it together. Just contact us at tricia@rocknandjamn.com.

By the seat of my pants

I’ve been climbing for 17 years. In that time, I’ve done many routes and problems all over the country which I’m proud of. But when I think about what defines me as a climber, it isn’t my hardest and scariest sends but rather how many times I’ve been able to thoroughly and completely embarrass myself while climbing. And for a reason I think I can explain, these moments are all centered around the butt of my pants.

I’ll go in chronological order. About 8 years ago, I went bouldering at Emerald Lake in RMNP with my then boyfriend/now husband (let’s call him Wilbur). We had separate projects at separate boulders, so after we warmed up, I took off to another boulder with three other guys that wanted to work on the same problem. After some effort I finally sent and had started the slightly tall but very easy top out when I heard one of the guys below say “Um, you have a hole in your pants.” Now, I was aware of the fact that I had a pin prick of a hole on one cheek of the butt of my pants. Assuming that this was what they were talking about, I yelled down at them that I was aware of the hole and that I wasn’t worried about it. Afterwards, I went back to Wilbur, let him know that I had triumphed over the boulder problem, and we packed up and headed out for the long hike followed by the long drive home. Once we arrived at home, I took my pants off to take a shower and finally saw the hole the guy was talking about.

It wasn’t a hole. It was a rift in the space-time continuum. The seam adjoining the back of my waistband with the crotch of my pants was completely blown. I easily fit my head through it. And all I could think of was my cavalier response to my spotters acknowledgment of the situation and what a dummy I must have sounded like. I showed Wilbur, we laughed, and I wrote it off as a one time incidence. I was wrong about the rate of recurrence.

34The next incident happened at the Satellite boulders in Boulder. I had gone to try to finish a nasty little problem called Re-Entry Burn. I have put in over 100 attempts on this pile to date and, due to my recent foot surgery, I will most likely never send. *pause for a moment of bittersweet reflection* Anyway, once again, Wilbur wanted to work on a different problem so I ambled over to my project and found three guys working on it. I asked if I could join them and promptly got to work at getting shut down. After about an hour of enthusiastic attempts and asking them for power spots, I conceded yet another day of failure on the four move problem and headed back over to Wilbur. He took a look at the back of my pants for some reason and said, “What in the hell have you been doing??!!”

I looked at him with wide-eyed innocence. “What do you mean?”

“Your pants look like you’ve been mauled by a bear.”

He was right, this wasn’t an ordinary hole. It really did look like a vicious three clawed predator had taken a swipe at my butt. My immediate reaction was fury. I yelled over at the guys I had just been climbing with on the other side of the Flesh Fest boulder.

“Why didn’t you tell me my pants were blown out?”

A single sheepish reply, “We thought you knew.”

Uh huh. I had just spent an hour making these strangers feel keenly uncomfortable while power spotting me with my fanny in their faces. The rest of that day involved me feebly trying to climb with a jacket tied around my waist. Needless to say, there would be no sending for your courageous author that day. My thoughts on the hike out were filled with wonder as to how I managed a repeat performance of the RMNP incident. The one time occurrence was sadly turning into my shtick.

35The last episode of my butt baring escapades happened a few years ago at Area D at Mt. Evans. It was so exhausting just getting in and out of Area D that the details have become a little fuzzy to me. In a nutshell, it was discovered that yet again, I managed to rip a colossal hole in the butt of my pants. There weren’t many people there that day, so I tried to bravely forge on ahead with trying to climb at that altitude with a drafty derriere. But while working the top out of the problem I wanted to send, my friend Jackie walked around the boulder at the precise moment when I was milking a sweet high heel hook and caught a glimpse of naked cheek. All I remember was her saying something to the effect of, “Sheez, Amy, seriously?” It was so cold that I couldn’t think of sacrificing one of my jackets to my cause of modesty. Instead, I made Wilbur go behind a boulder with me and give me his underwear for the rest of the day. (Coincidentally, he climbed strong that day. Correlation?)

36I know what you’re thinking now. What on earth does this idiot do to blow out the butt of her climbing pants so frequently? After much deliberation, I believe the answer is in the fact that I am the world’s suckiest hiker. I’m so bad I could win awards at inept hiking. Any trail or boulder in a talus field approaching a decline of more than 5 degrees has me scooting on my butt like a dog with worms. I have no shame when it comes to a good rump descent on a hike out. I truly believe I was born devoid of quads, and I have sprained both ankles so many times that muppet ankles have more stability than mine. When you have these adversities working against you, you either scoot on your butt, thereby distressing the fabric of your pants, or wear a helmet and shoulder pads on every approach. And while I would rock the shoulder pads, I don’t look good in a helmet.

So there you have it. I am a boulderer that has a propensity for mooning people because I possess the leg strength of Kermit the Frog. I also have an aversion to foods that come in basic geometric shapes, but I’ll save that last nugget of info for another time.

Fashion Passion

It is the most common question I get when someone calls in to sign up for our Introductory Lesson. – “What do I wear?”. It’s a serious question that deserves a sincere answer. My well rehearsed statement goes something like this, “Wear something you can move comfortably in that can get ripped up and that has an inseam long enough to extend past the leg loops of your harness.” It’s a pretty general statement that could cover a lot of ensembles.

Virtually every other sport out there has a recognizable uniform of some type, even at the amateur level. Even bowling. Honestly, it could be the reason climbing is not an Olympic sport yet. (ok, maybe not) Our sport is a fashion free-for-all that has even sparked some controversy as of late. But my intention isn’t to be the one to come up with said uniform. I would simply like to point the fashion curious (or challenged) in at least a direction – hopefully the right one. But first, let’s take a look at the attire of the giants on whose shoulders we stand.

And here’s some recent shots of some very nice bouldering fellas at RJ1:

It is the most common question I get when someone calls in to sign up for our Introductory Lesson. – “What do I wear?”. It’s a serious question that deserves a sincere answer. My well rehearsed statement goes something like this, “Wear something you can move comfortably in that can get ripped up and that has an inseam long enough to extend past the leg loops of your harness.” It’s a pretty general statement that could cover a lot of 13.

Virtually every other sport out there has a recognizable uniform of some type, even at the amateur level. Even bowling. Honestly, it could be the reason climbing is not an Olympic sport yet. (ok, maybe not) Our sport is a fashion free-for-all that has even sparked some controversy as of late. But my intention isn’t to be the one to come up with said uniform. I would simply like to point the fashion curious (or challenged) in at least a direction – hopefully the right one. But first, let’s take a look at the attire of the giants on whose shoulders we stand.

33Athletic attire obviously improved for us climbers over the past century. Can you imagine trying to send the Naked Edge in a tweed jacket? Or even hiking anywhere in a wool maxi skirt? Sheez. Next, let’s take a small look at what you’re likely to find nowadays. Here’s a sample of the ladies attire from the 2009 Mammut Bouldering comp in Salt Lake City:
And here’s some recent shots of some very nice bouldering fellas at RJ1:
When you are looking for that special look that will help you send your latest project, you have some choices. You can scoff at the idea of climbing specific clothes and wear whatever you feel most comfortable in; you can wear generic workout clothes that can be interchanged with other activities such as yoga; or you can buy from a handful of companies that try to target the climbing communities needs. The plus side of buying from a climbing clothing company is that some of them actually understand what you need from your clothes, like the fact that women climbers have to buy shirts two sizes too big in order to accommodate their overgrown lats that normal women don’t have.

If you’re looking at purchasing actual climbing clothes, I would have to say that Verve clothing, owned by Christian Griffith, is your best bet. Ladies, Christian not only has a selection of pants that are guaranteed to flatter any shape out there but also makes the best sports bras. Ever. Do yourself a favor and pick up some Verve wear, you’ll never go back. I personally recommend the Sapho capri and the Sandrine pant. For the boys, the Belikos pants climb great, look great and last forever.


The author in Verve Sapho capri pants, looking a little too much like Waldo.


Rylan, one of RJ's route setters, climbing in Verve Belikos.

And there’s Prana. I’m not sure if there is a climber in Colorado that doesn’t own at least one piece of Prana clothing. They have a great selection and their clothes are durable enough to withstand many days if not years at the crag. But they have undergone some changes in the past few years since they were bought by Liz Claiborne in 2005. The biggest problem I have with Prana is that the sizing is crazy. I have in my closet right now a collection of Prana pants that span four different sizes that all fit good. Because of this, I do not recommend buying from them online – go to the store in Boulder or an REI and try on whatever it is you want to buy. As of late though, I have found myself tending towards their casual line and foregoing the active wear for other brands.

A couple of other companies to check out are Moon Climbing, Stonewear Designs, Arc’teryx and Mammut – all working hard to make sure you look your best while trying your hardest. Whatever your preference, we hope to see you crushing soon at the gym!

Leading – The Holy Grail of Indoor Climbing

Passing your first lead test at your home gym is a milestone that many climbers don’t forget. My first lead test was at the Boulder Rock Club with Chris Wall judging my performance. To say I was daunted is an understatement, which is why giving shy new climbers their first lead test is one of my favorite things to do. This is for anyone who is contemplating taking their lead test at one of our gyms in the near future.


1. Why do I have to lead a 5.9? We chose that grade for a couple of reasons. Leading is obviously a harder way to climb since you have to know some pretty advanced climbing techniques, like how to let go with one hand, keep your balance and fumble with a rope at the same time without falling. We feel that a climber that can flash a 5.9 should have the climbing skills needed to safely lead in our gym. Another reason is simply the layout of the leadable walls in our gym. Most of our draws are pretty steep terrain, meaning that setting anything easier than a 5.9 is difficult. At the time of writing this, we have 2 leadable 5.8′s in the gym. If you have to struggle up a 5.8, you will have slim pickens for what you can even lead in the gym.

2. Why is the lead test where it is? We chose the lead test locations for a couple of reasons too. First, we want to see that you are comfortable flashing a 5.9 on lead at the gym. To do this, we moved the test route to a wall that is lead only so that the climber won’t have as much of a chance to wire out the route. Second, once we changed our lead test rules to include taking a lead fall, we decided that we are not going to ask our customers to do anything that we ourselves wouldn’t do. That being said, you will never see me take a lead fall on a vertical wall, which is why the lead test is on a steep part of the wall.

3, What would I have to do to fail? Back clipping, z-clipping, sloppy clipping, unbalanced clipping stance, getting your foot behind the rope especially when you’re above your last clip.

Following is a good example of how to fail your lead test. Watch as Tyler back clips the first draw and z-clips the third,

Here is a perfect example of how to flawlessly pass your lead test. Kathryn not only climbs with confidence, but she chooses a smart clip line, chooses a balanced stance for each clip and clips in what I like to think of as a climber’s strike zone – not too far over your head so that you are pulling a lot of slack which could lead to a dangerous fall if you blow the clip and not too far below your hips which would also create a longer fall than you might want.

An inability to clip the draws quickly is usually the accomplice in failing the lead test. Fumbling around trying to clip will not only make you more physically tired, but it will ruin your mental focus. A great way to practice your clipping is to hop on the auto belay on a leadable wall with a lead rope tied to your harness and mock lead routes. Another way to help you pass your lead test is to take our Learn to Lead class offered monthly at both gyms. It is a two day/three hour class that goes over both leading and lead belaying. The cost is $75 ($60 for members) and preregistration is required, check our calendar for the class schedule.

Fast Track to Fitness

Every Tuesday and Thursday night at RJ1, you may hear noises coming from the third floor ranging from ground shaking crashes to an occasional “Aaaaarp!” or the treadmill on full blast. Those aren’t sounds of us torturing poor souls who forget their RJ ID cards. It’s the sounds of normal people like you getting stronger.

The workout goes like this – two sets of four exercises performed for 30 seconds for four rounds with a nice rest between sets. The exercises for one of the nights last week was:

1st Round – jump rope, lawn mowers, weight snatch and jack knife sit ups.

2nd Round – sprint on the treadmill, jump lunges with weight, turkish get ups and one arm planks.

Please enjoy the following videos of Chrispy leading Kylie, James and Kai in a few exercises.

Round 1

Round 2

As you can see, the exercises are obviously challenging. But if you have a physical limitation or you are simply not strong enough to do any given station, Chrispy will modify the station for you and help you develop your strength, coordination and stamina at your own pace.

We run two circuit training sessions twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays at RJ1 with Chrispy and two sessions once a week at RJ2 with Dan on Wednesdays. The times are at 6:30 & 7:00pm, four people maximum in each group and it’s only $5 plus entry. Get on board and get in shape so that your next New Year’s Resolution can be ‘flash 5.12′ or ‘eat more ice cream’.

The Artwork of Jesse Crock


Any visitor to RJ2 can’t help but notice the striking artwork on display. The master behind the paintbrush is Jesse Crock. If you don’t know him already, following is a little insight into him and his artwork:

I am a native Coloradoan and love the outdoors. Through climbing and biking I have passionately explored and captured the world around me with strong, bold lines and bright, vibrant colors.


I am an art teacher and find that I often connect my work with the playfulness of my students. They inspire me with the energy they bring to the classroom. As a climber and cyclist I love to bring the viewer’s eye to places that are not often painted. I attempt to abstract the subject and background so that they become interwoven together. Please visit my website at www.jessecrockart.com.


All of Jesse’s hanging paintings at RJ2 plus smaller prints of his work are for sale, just ask our counter staff for assistance. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Assisted Climbing

The main goal of any climbing gym worker is to be able to assist any and every person that has the desire to live in our vertical world. Sometimes, that can come in the form of a stronger belay. For anyone with a physical impediment that keeps them from reaching the top, we can easily set up a 2:1 pulley system to give them an extra boost. We have used this system for people with muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and paraplegia.


One end of the rope is attached to the belay bar and feeds to a pulley at the bottom of the climb. It then loops back up to a second pulley that is also attached to the belay bar.


The bottom of the system has the lower pulley that you attach to the climber (right) and a gri gri for the belayer (left).

If you know of anyone that would like to give climbing a try that could benefit from this system, give us a call and we can set this up for them. If you need someone to belay the climber for you, we can set that up as well with advance notice. Just call 303-254-4344 and ask for Amy.

New RJ1 Ladies’ Night Commander-in-Chief

Hailing from the home of the first McDonald’s, Ronald Reagan and Superman, we bring you Chrissy, our new Ladies’ Night hostess with the mostess at RJ1. Please take a moment to get acquainted with her – you may never meet anyone with more enthusiasm.

Hey everybody! So you’re probably all wondering who I am and why I’m qualified to work and teach at an awesome gym like ROCK’n & JAM’n. Do I have what it takes? Will I be able to contribute? The short answer is HECK YES! Why? There are just too many reasons to mention, so I’ll try to focus on a few.

1First, I was born and raised for almost my entire life in one of the flattest, most featureless, and most corn-filled places in the entire US– you guessed it, the Land of Lincoln (and lobotomies)– The Great State of Illinois!! The entire state has less climbing gyms than the city of Boulder and for the majority of it’s citizens the closest outdoor experience they’ll ever have is a trip to the outdoor strip mall.

2Naturally, my passion for climbing and all things related THRIVED! I’m just kidding – until I got in to college I spent all of my days running and doing practically nothing else. When the climbing gym opened at my university all of my pent up desire to get involved in outdoor things was finally unleashed upon the world. I began to spend every weekend making the 3 hour drive to one of the only climbing crags in Illinois (Jackson Falls) and learned to get comfortable with ropes, carabiners, giant whippers, and sleeping on the ground (what the heck!!?).



3When I got a job working at our climbing gym at the university, I was so enthusiastic that I was awarded the “Employee of the Season” award, so don’t worry- you’re in good hands! Soon, the trips to Jackson Falls weren’t enough to satisfy my love for rock and I began making trips to more distant crags, sleeping as little as possible on the weekends in order to make that 6 hour trip to “the Red” or that 10 hour trip to “the New” and get back on time for my environmental chemistry class at 8 am Monday morning (A-!!!).

4Everyday I logged hours in the gym just waiting for the weekends when I got to get back on rock. When I graduated I was supposed to start attending medical school in Saint Louis, but instead I broke my parents hearts, packed up my Toyota Corolla and headed for greener pastures and the wild west where I have been told there are far more people who are familiar with the term “belay”. After a month long road trip to various climbing crags with my boyfriend, a route setter at ROCK’n & JAM’n, I settled in Colorado to start my awesome new outdoorsy and athletic life (Colorado don’t let me down!), because that’s how I roll.

5Now I’m just looking forward to exposure to people who climb far harder than me and I am looking to learn as much as possible and get STUPID strong. By the way, there weren’t many chick climbers in Illinois, so on that note, I am totally psyched to start leading “Ladies’ Night” to work with other women who are passionate about climbing.


Chrissy promises big things for Ladies’ Night from bouldering to routes to training. Come and let her passion for climbing infect you while meeting other fantastic ladies to climb with as well. Starting Tuesday August 31st at RJ1 from 7:00-8:30pm.

Summer Camp Recap

boy-smilingEach summer we run 3 different types of Summer Camps for kids. The first 2 levels spend a week working on learning safe belaying techniques, knot tying, basic climbing footwork, and other climbing techniques. You would be amazed at the mileage these kids put in over 5 days. Our summer camps culminate with our indoor/outdoor camp.
little-boyThe indoor outdoor camp spends the first 2 days indoors learning about the differences between indoor and outdoor climbing. They talk about things like anchors, general trail and climbing etiquite, using a grigri, rock falls, and how to stay calm when you cannot figure out your sequence, etc. For the remainder of the week, the kids spend 5 hours outside baking in the sun but having a great time at areas such as Table Mountain and Castlewood Canyon. This year the kids bravely battled 90+ degree days with little complaint. They climbed with determination in spite of the oppressing conditions. Assuming they keep that “try hard” level up, we look forward to seeing some exciting things from these kids.

Now that our summer camps are over, we will be starting our Youth Programs back up at the end of the month. Kids Can Belay Too (8-11 year olds) will kick off on Friday August 20th and our Youth School (12-18 year olds) festivities will commence the week after on Wednesday August 25th. For more information, call 303-climb99. Class sizes are limited, so call and reserve your space today.

Question: What’s a Moon Board when it’s at home?

Answer: It’s a training wall. We’ve put one up on the 3rd floor at RJ1.

moon-boardEssentially, a Moon Board is a set of holds that you buy from Moon Climbing and arrange on a wall in a very specific pattern in order to create boulder problems that Ben Moon considers to be a standard for the grade. They have several different arrangements that can be used with the same holds so you can change your Moon Board periodically and have fresh new boulder problems to work on. Be warned, the problems are a bit sandbagged by our standards, but don’t let that discourage you. A Moon Board gives you the opportunity to train and climb on the same exact problems that some of the world’s top climbers have trained on before you.

Here’s a link for more history on Ben Moon:


And one for further explanation on the board:



Christopher Palmer Pratt – Setter and Strength Trainer

While we are sad to see the Pizem’s go, we are equally excited that Chris Pratt (affectionately referred to as Chrispy) will be running our circuit training on Tuesday and Thursday nights. You may have met him in the boulder already, but in case you haven’t, he wrote a little something about himself for you:

I was born in De Smet, SD but have lived in the suburbs of Denver since I was two. After graduating from Northglenn High School in 2007 I worked a few jobs here and there when I got introduced to climbing. I was hooked instantly after a few visits to ROCK’n & JAM’n and a mind blowing experience in Eldorado canyon. I took to climbing very quickly. I climbed at ROCK’n & JAM’n for two hours a session three to five days a week working the problems till my bones were bruised. Flapper after flapper, move after move I worked my way into more difficult problems.

red-cliffAfter a about two years of building my love for climbing, R&J’s head route setter, Brendan Aiken, asked if I had an interest in setting for them. The flexibility of the schedule couldn’t have been better for school and the opportunity to learn more about the sport was more than enough. My first position at R&J was “hold refurbishing and conditioner”. In spring of 2009 I started setting routes full time. My skill in route setting slowly developed and, over time, I believe to have become a fairly adept setter. I was recently involved in a setting clinic lectured by Chris Danielson, a well venerated setter from Boulder, CO, and he has set for comps all over for regionals and nationals. Some of my biggest structural thoughts about climbing and setting really changed with what he had to show and say.

chispy-climbR&J always offers a very welcoming atmosphere and a strong community of climbers from all different levels of experience. Watching people grow and develop from the problems and routes we set has made quite a positive impact on my life – one that I hope to see continually grow. For the last few months, Rob and Jane Pizem have been running a training and conditioning program through the gym at a very fair price ($5 for 30 minutes). They will be relocating next month due to new job opportunities and will no longer be able to run the training classes. I have been working with Rob and Jane closely and will be taking over the circuit training from now on. This style of training is a terrific way to get stronger and climb harder. I’ve personally seen myself and others gain leaps and bounds in climbing through circuit training and I’m eager to help others realize their full potential in climbing.


Come check out Chrispy’s circuit training – 6:30 & 7:00pm at RJ1 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Only $5 will get you in shape and climbing stronger. Check it out!

Ladies Night at RJ

The ladies have been crankin’ at both gyms! If you haven’t checked it out, our Ladies Night is every Wednesday from 7-8:30pm at both gyms. In this hour and a half we aim to encourage one another, develop our skills and crush as many routes and problems as we can. The only cost is entry into the gym and no experience is necessary!! An evening of fun, friendly, female fortified climbing awaits you!

Photography Display at RJ1

We’ve begun showing different work from local artists at RJ1, and our first artist is Susan Winn. Following is a short bio and description of the work we have up right now.

I began studying photography in 1999 and received my B.F.A from the
University of Colorado at Denver in 2004 and my M.A in 2008 from Adams
State College. I am currently doing freelance photography as a wedding
and portrait photographer and I am studying for the PLACE test, to teach art.

I work at Starbucks Coffee Company as a Shift Supervisor and I am the Art Coordinator for our store. I am active in the art community and earlier this year had a successful show at Flash Gallery in Lakewood called Pin-Up’s. I have received many art awards such as the Teaching Assistantship and have received an Art Grant from ASC.

This particular group of flower portraits are part of the series called “Capturing a Smaller World.” These photographs are to demonstrate the beauty of the world around us. Often we are too busy to notice the smaller things in life. If we do notice them we are unable to have time to enjoy these wonders of the world and are left we a mild feeling of their beauty.

These images we are able to look at the flower closer and see what they
really are. We are able to absorb the flowers and get a sense of what we
are missing. The feeling will never be the same at that moment we first
encounter the flowers of our life, but possible having captured these
images of them, we are able to recreate some of that beauty and feelings
we would have felt encountering the flowers for the first time. I believe
Georgia O’Keefe, who is a strong influence in this art work said it best
when she said: “Everyone has many associations with a flower-the idea of
flowers. Still-in a way-nobody sees a flower-really-it is so small-we
haven’t the time-and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”

All of Susan’s photos are for sale, just ask our counter staff if you would like to purchase one. You can also contact Susan through her website www.winnphoto.com. We hope you enjoy them!

Survey Responses

A few months ago, we posted a survey on Facebook that several of y’all were awesome enough to take the time to fill out for us. Since you took your time to give us your feedback, we thought we’d address some of the ideas and questions that we received.

Route/problem quality

Boulder problems are tweaky and uninteresting.

RJ Response: What type of moves would you like to see in the boulder?

Always seem to have a lot of good variety of difficulty. I would like to see more numbered boulder routes though.

RJ Response: I’m not exactly sure what this means, but if it is referring to how we number the holds for our Bouldering League point system, we will be starting another League in the fall. I will post it as an event on Facebook when we start it back up.

Many routes don’t feel like they have a real crux. Just sort of sustained for the grade. A fun crux can really make a route great.

RJ Response: Our setting philosophy includes setting routes that improve fitness and climbing skills to make you better prepared to climb outdoors. We set routes of sustained difficulty to enhance endurance so that when you reach a rest outdoors it is a bonus and not a practiced requirement.

I personally miss Paradise Rock Gym.

RJ Response: Lots of people do. Try climbing LA’s routes. He used to set at Paradise, it’s as close to home as we can get you.

Have only climbed boulder problems at RnJ1 – I found the difficulty on intermediate and below problems to primarily come from high feet / big moves. More incorporation of clever footwork – drop knees, flagging, etc would be greatly appreciated.

RJ Response: Great feedback, we will strive to keep setting diverse styles in the boulder.

Route turnover

It’s between entertained and bored. Especially in the 5.10-5.11 range. A few more in that range on the TR routes would be nice.

RJ Response: The top of our bell curve of route distribution is already the 5.10-5.11 range. To add more would be unfair to the rest of our customers. Visiting both gyms during the month may help a bit with this.

The boulder routes used to get a little stale after a while but looks like you’ve ramped up the change dates there.

RJ Response: We actually have increased the turnover rate in the boulder in the past year. Thanks for noticing!

Routes seem to all change at once, can they be spread out? The choose your own rating has been fun, but staff is usually right with their own ratings anyway.

RJ Response: We set routes at each gym about twice a week and boulders once every two weeks on average. We try to replace a mix of the oldest routes with a wide variety of grades. We’re glad you think our setters usually get the grade right, not everyone would concur.

General comments

Love you guys… just wish we could get the auto belays back.

RJ Response: We have put a deposit down on some Auto Belays that aren’t available to ship yet. No guarantee on when they’ll be here, but a solution to your auto belay woes are on the horizon.

Change the routes in the lead cave more frequently and add more moderates in that area.

RJ Response: We set the lead cave on the same schedule as the other walls in order to be fair to all our customers. Due to the angle of the lead cave, it is difficult to set many moderates which is why the mean grade is 5.11 on the cave.

I’m still not in love with the bouldering grading scheme – I understand that grades don’t mean much, but the scheme at, for example, the spot, is much more helpful. At the very least, adding a +/- to each category would help to differentiate the grades somewhat.

RJ: We went with this grading system because it is what the ABS uses in their competitions and we felt our bouldering community would already be familiar with it. It’s a good idea, but we’ll just stick with how we’re doing it for now.

Allowing occasional member setting of boulder problems would be nice. Setting boulder problems is a great way for climbers to think more about movement and body position, so letting people set their own problems occasionally can make them into better climbers.

RJ Response: Great idea, we’ll try to put together a route setting clinic in the fall & see if there’s any other interest in it.

One thing I would suggest is to spruce up the Men’s locker room a bit – fresh carpet or even freshen up the lockers somehow. The larger bench at #1 is nice.

RJ Response: We are always striving to improve our gym in every way we can. We will definitely look into this.

Renovate RJ1: Put the office upstairs somewhere and expand the bouldering area! Need more bouldering! It’s what RJ really lacks to make it an even better gym.

RJ Response: Awesome idea, but unfortunately not feasible. We would also have to move the lockers rooms as well and those should stay on the first floor. Expansion is a topic we constantly mull around in our heads, we’ll keep you posted with what we can come up with.

I love the new assisted pull up machine at RJ2. Thanks for adding it!

RJ Response: Thanks for noticing, glad you’re getting good use out of it!

Seems to me that the routes are becoming more awkward and reachy and that the grades are less consistent.

RJ Response: With the wide range of individuals who climb at our gyms it is impossible to address everyone’s wants and needs at the same time. Because of this, every route may not appeal to every climber. It is our sincere desire that everyone who climbs at our gyms finds a route that they enjoy at every difficulty.

I would like to see the routes take advantage more of the features of the wall

RJ Response: Use of gym features is at the discretion of the setter and we will take note of the interest in climbing routes with features and set more of these in the future.

Could you make all 5.7′s one color, all 5.8′s another color, etc. For example all 5.7′s are pink, all 5.8′s are blue, all 5.9′s are white, etc. so they are easily identifiable? I think it would make it easier to identify the routes.

RJ Response: It’s a good idea, but since we would have to use a different color for every + or – in each grade we have more route grades than we have tape colors.

More fundraising or “just for fun” competitions. They seem to get a lot of people involved

RJ Response: So glad you’ve enjoyed our comps, we will work on doing more community activities.

The music could use some improving.

RJ Response: In order to play music in a public forum, you have to pay ASCAP fees. We use Sirius Business for our music which includes ASCAP fees in our subscription price. Since we don’t pay ASCAP directly, we are not legally allowed to play ipods, CD’s or the radio. You are always more than welcome to select which channel you want to listen to as long as is doesn’t offend anyone else.

Some of the routes are up there for a long time (several months). Maybe consider changing them more often.

RJ Response: We balance the need for new routes and problems with the desire to red point those currently in gym. For routes this means a period of about 2.5 months. Boulder problems are usually left up for 4 to 6 weeks. We feel this time period best suits the demand of our diverse customer base.

A lot of the intermediate/easier routes are pretty much ‘straight up’ the wall without involving much thinking or clever route shifts.

RJ Response: We have a handful of wandering routes in each gym, but they are limited because they can be dangerous when the gym is crowded and don’t always allow was maximum efficiency of wall space. We will set more traversing and wandering routes during the summer when it is less crowded.

Thanks for all your help! And always, if you ever have a question or idea, please don’t hesitate to contact to us!