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.

Athletic 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.