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.

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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:

Bands/Music

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

Cave Singers

Nothin’ But Sunshine

Doomtree (Boltcutter; No Kings)

Movies/Television

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