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).