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…NOTHING.

proximity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hardest Moves: Part One

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

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

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

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

JG: see above…shoulder wrecker.

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

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

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

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

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.

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:

Youth:

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)

Masters:

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!

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: