Tuesday, December 30, 2008

An Afternoon in Eldorado Canyon: V10 in one session!

I hadn't been to Eldorado Canyon in years and have done very little bouldering there ever. Perhaps I am a bit too thrifty but I really don't like paying to climb outside. But since there are a number of worthy problems and a universe of routes, I decided to buy a pass anyway. Yesterday, I drove out there to check out Qigong, also known as the Schulte Arete, and 606, a Will Lemaire classic on the Gill boulder. Qigong looks interesting but the boulder was cold and clammy and I needed a few more pads than I had to clear up the landing properly. It also looks very hard. So it was off to 606. 606 is a well-known crimpy V10 that climbs the west face of the Gill boulder and has the advantage of being directly adjacent to the parking lot. I gave it a thorough looking over and thought it looked very feasible. The flash attempt was pretty futile, though with good beta it is very flashable. Anyway after some time spent working out the specifics of the holds, I was soon falling at the last hard move, or what I thought was the last hard move, a stab for a horizontal slot. I realized however, that a better option was to throw for the big sidepull on the right. I tried it that way from the start, stuck the sidepull and finished the problem, happy to complete it in one session, 5 or 6 tries.
It is interesting to compare this problem with the other V10s and V11s I have done recently. 606 is regarded as solid in the grade which is why I feel that Ted Lanzano's Red Wall Traverse, which is very similar in style is much harder. That took me 5 or 6 sessions and many tries. The visit to Eldo also reminded me why I prefer climbing outdoors as much as possible; the experience is much richer, more complex, and so much more meaningful overall. Of course the weather is always an issue but I find it is part of the challenge. Seeing the glowing orange aretes and fins of sandstone against the brilliant blue sky and hearing the distant shouts of climbers high up on the West Ridge made me want to head up there again, to be high up on a crag in the sun gazing across to the snow-covered peaks to the west. Perhaps soon.

Visit UK Climbing for Ty Landman's review of the year in bouldering. Good pictures and video.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Adam Ondra Video

A very high quality video of Adam Ondra on Open Air 5.15a

This video makes it very clear that Adam has apparently no muscles, very efficient climbing technique, and no fear. Especially remarkable is his skipping a clip at the crux, which is a V11/12 boulder problem, a clip that would be no problem as it is at a good shake, and then skipping the next one as well. Essentially he is facing a 30+ foot fall at the last "hard" move, maybe more with all the rope stretch and slack in the system. Obviously he has total faith in his ability.

After two ass-kicking sessions at the BRC and the Spot my faith is being tested. I have taken about a week off to let my right knee heal after it was bruised in a fall I took a few weeks ago. Things are better now but I feel subpar to say the least. My hopes for feasible conditions outside may come true this week but physically I feel under-prepared. However these things have a way of working themselves out quickly. So once I wean myself from the gingerbread, I should be back on track.

Monday, December 22, 2008

8c+ at 52: Stevie Haston

Go to UK Climbing for a short piece on Stevie Haston's ascent of an 8c+ in Ariege in the Pyrenees. The comments are pretty interesting as well.

I have been snowed under in the past week,literally and figuratively, as the weather has been very cold here in Boulder recently and the snow and ice is being very tenacious. I have been finishing up a long paper for my seminar, focusing on John Keats medicine, and sculpture. Lots of research on old anatomy illustrations and medical history and I am glad to be done. I have a great new V11/12 project at Flag, hidden in plain sight as usual, that is very sun-friendly so I may try to tackle it again this afternoon if the sun stays out. Fingers crossed...

UPDATE: 8a.nu. mentioned Haston's ascent but then pointed out that the Italian climber, Maurizio "Manolo" Zanolla, had climbed Bimbaluna, 9a age 48. Something about a world record, whatever that would mean. Once again the numbers seem to be what 8a.nu is focusing on, not the fact that not many 50+ year-old climbers get up 14c.

Also thanks to Tissue Tendons for posting his top-five list of blogs at 8a.nu. I would add his to the list as well.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What is Up at 8a.nu?

8a.nu has had its detractors since it was first established. There were claims of fostering overt competition, overgrading, commercialism, etc. but a recent post in the forum at the ClimbingNarc titled "What's going on at 8a?" had me thinking that there is a deeper problem. There have been a number of peculiar posts in the news section at the site that indicate something needs to change:

High ball & DWS grading: 7A!!!
First Anchors and extensions
The fourth gripping position
Maximizing/Understanding your grade
Comparing grades performances into seconds etc.
Differences in Trad & Sport ethics

Endless top ten/five lists

And so on. Many of these seem primarily to have annoyed people particularly the posts about trad climbing, which have attracted a number of angry responses. My main concern about 8a.nu is the relentless push for rankings in everything such as "All-around Climber" or "Best Female Climber." My view is that the website is trying to make itself something that doesn't yet exist and probably shouldn't, a kind of Google for climbing that everyone ultimately has to use/refer to or be left out of the conversation. They even have a suggested list of Top Ten English-speaking climbing blogs!(naturally this one was ranked 11th, though Climbing Narc did make it, congratulations) Enough already with the obsession with ranking everything! The scorecard is fine as a motivational tool but past that I really question its worth. I'm not saying boycott the site, though Tyler Landman has done so, but I hope they recognize that they are not the final or even important arbiters of anything climbing-related.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fred Beckey in the New York Times

The New York Times has a lengthy profile of Fred Beckey, still climbing at 85. A nice video piece is included as well.

Jamie Emerson has posted a video of a V12/13 called Schule des Leben in Switzerland.

Schule des Leben from Jamie Emerson on Vimeo.

and the Climbing Narc has posted a video called Heart of Stone.

Heart of Stone - HD from Andrew Kornylak on Vimeo.

Both are great to watch and both point out that Youtube is going to have to upgrade or get left behind. The Heart of Stone video can readily be watched (and should be watched) full screen.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Just Another Traverse

Saturday afternoon, I finished a project that I have been working on for number of days, Just Another Traverse on the Red Wall at Flagstaff. Ted Lanzano did this earlier in the year and rated it V9/10, a nice bit of understatement. After about 5 days and at least two dozen attempts, I would propose V11. The traverse starts with a couple of moves on thin crimps, followed by a very powerful and crimpy solid V10 section getting to the pod on the left. A strenuous shake leads to a final four-move crux which I fell from on Thursday. Basically V10 to V7 and much harder than any other V10 I have done this year, even harder than the Left Graham Arete at V11. It's a great problem that I would highly recommend.

As I write, there is 4 inches of snow on the ground so climbing outside may be done for a while. Cold weather and snow may stick around making most of the local areas unclimbable for at least a week.

Here's an interesting piece about sponsorship in the big leagues. It can't be long before climbing is seriously affected as well. The economic picture is so terrible, especially in employment and retail, I would imagine that the climbing industry is very worried at this point. A report at the Outdoor Industry Association shows growth except that, "In specialty stores, equipment, equipment accessories and footwear each lost ground compared to last October." Here's another quote from the same report: "According to trendspotter and OIA Rendezvous keynote speaker Marian Salzman, the only businesses in which she would consider investing right now are soup and camping." Mmmm...soup

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cleaning Climbing Holds--Benky's Grip Wash

Here's the most boring video ever from an action standpoint but climbing gyms everywhere should take note.

From Climbing Works gym in Sheffield UK

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Lynn Hill on Chblanke

The news has circulated very quickly about Lynn Hill, a household name in world climbing going way back, and her success on Chblanke, a thin technical V11/12 at Hueco. Jamie Emerson has counted 6 female ascents and then someone remembered Liv Sansoz so it's the 8th or something like that. Which raises some questions worth asking at this point? When is a First Female Ascent worth reporting? Is it ever worth reporting? EZ Harrison proposed a FOGA (First Old Guy/Gal Ascent) for his send of Secret Splendor in RMNP which regardless of gender is to my mind even more important. Lisa Rands doing The Mandala is pretty sick and a benchmark for V12 female ascents that I have not seen equalled, in my opinion. Lynn Hill's ascent is impressive but I feel the reporting of repeats of hard routes maybe ought to emphasize the age involved, not the gender.

Her ascent of Chblanke makes me wonder about how well people could climb if they were free to travel for extended periods, train when they want etc. The ascent is inspiring but I'm waiting for WFTMAWKA ascent for some of these routes and problems. That's " Working Full Time Middle Aged With Kid/s Ascents." By the way, she pretty much qualifies on all those categories as well.

Update: A video of Lynn Hill at the RRG.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The East Draw and The Infinite

For a change of pace I hiked up to the East Draw, just east of Eldorado Canyon. I decided to get an annual pass to the park as there are a number of fine projects there that are best tried in winter and early spring. My main aim was trying a problem called The Infinite, a V10/11 established by Paul Robinson in 2007. On the way up I also took a detour to check out a short V10 problem on the Trailside Boulder called Trailside Overhang. This problem looks good but was a bit wet at the time. Boulder just had about 6 inches of snow on Wednesday and Thursday so I was hoping the upper area would be warm and dry. I was not disappointed.

Trailside Boulder

A stiff 10-15 minute hill climb leads to the overhanging outcrop where the problem is. The views are stupendous from this place and on a cool day, the sun warms up the rock quickly making it an ideal winter spot. The Infinite starts up the jugs of a problem called Pig-Dog and then tackles the bulge on the left on bad holds. It basically is a short V5 to a V9/10 move. The way I was trying it involved a pretty poor crimp for the right to a jump for a slot and felt very unlikely yet eventually doable. If anyone has alternative beta suggestions, please let me know.

For anyone looking for a good winter project in the V10-11 range, this problem is really good and well worth the short hike. Be careful about the approach and get good directions. You have to walk through a residential area and even use a private driveway to get started on the trail so keep quiet and be respectful of locals.

Trying the crux of the Infinite

Friday, December 5, 2008

Trento Film Festival Interviews

I just came across the Trento film festival which is held every spring in northern Italy. There's a great interview with Pietro Dal Pra.

I recommend that readers wander around in the Web TV section and browse the other interviews. It's a great resource for mountain and climbing related video from the non-English speaking world.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Another Flag Project Dispatched

Last night I went up for a quick session at Flagstaff, hoping to complete a problem I called Glass Plus, which is a RH version of Don't Touch the Glass at Nook's Rock. You pull on with two terrible holds, with a poor right foot and jump for the lip. This seemingly simple problem has taken me many many attempts to figure out. Last night, as the dark was truly closing in I finally stuck the lip and moved left to finish up on the jugs of DTTG. I was very psyched. The problem could be soft V10, maybe V9 if you are taller. The grade is hard to figure since I feel I am climbing pretty well and if it was easy, I think I would have done it a lot faster. The problem has a slightly lower start which will probably be V11 and which I will be trying soon.

I then went over to Scott Rennak's house to buy some holds from his home gym. Scott is a longtime fixture in the climbing scene and I was particularly interested in whether he had any of the crimps from Crater, the climbing hold company he ran. I scooped up a few choice items and really there is a lot to choose from still. Here is the link to his craigslist ad. Some great deals are available on some first-rate grips.

By the way if you are reading this blog, leave a comment. I appreciate hearing from readers.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dawes/Dixon Interview at UKClimbing

For a great insight into a landmark route in bold climbing go to this link. Johnny Dawes and Nick Dixon discuss their experiences on Indian Face in Wales. The description of likely falling scenarios is a bit chilling (circa 7 minutes). The smaller version of the video is below.

Dawes and Dixon on the Indian Face from UKClimbing.com TV on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving Weekend

Here's a photo from last Sunday; Sophia on her first boulder problem, on some granite blocks on Flagstaff Mountain's summit that we visited last week. We had a lot of fun just walking and looking at things on a beautiful afternoon.

This weekend, I was hit by some strange virus and felt terrible Friday afternoon and night. I did some Boulder Canyon research and photography anyway. Saturday I felt better. Maybe climbing tomorrow, though probably not outside, as we received an inch or two of snow overnight.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Both Graham Aretes in One Session

I went up to the Graham Boulder this afternoon hoping to do the Left Graham Arete. The weather was dry and cool and pretty much perfect. I warmed up pretty quickly thanks to a fingerboard session at home. Ryan Silven showed up at the same time with the same problem in mind and he showed me the other beta that exists for the problem.

I hopped on the problem for a get re-acquainted session and strangely enough did it first try! After a short rest I worked the Right Graham Arete and after a few tries literally scraped up it. This is the first time I have done two double-digit problems in the same session. Here's the video of the Left Arete.

Needless to say I was very psyched and hope to get on some more local V11 and up testpieces over the winter. Training on the fingerboard has been very helpful as well as just getting out there as often as possible. Even at 44 years old, I feel I can climb a lot harder. Also I should add that the V10 Dragons, while not designed as an edging shoe, worked perfectly on the literally dime edges of the Left Graham Arete.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Boulder Canyon on Saturday

I got out for a few hours on Saturday and did some problem research on Cob Rock. The creek is surprisingly high right now and crossing was pesky but I got across and looked around. There is some really good rock up in the talus but RMNP style landings abound. Pride of place has to go to Sleepy Hollow V9, a tall pillar with great rock and holds. The Hug V11 looks very hard. Both have plenty of awkwardly placed boulders at the base. I am updating my Boulder Canyon Bouldering Blog to include these problems.

I went upstream to try the Graham Aretes which I haven't done in about 4 years. I met up with Alex Manikowski, a young boulderer who hails originally from Florida and has some done some hard stuff recently including the Hug. Using his beta, I did the Fields problem which is certainly not V5 or 6, more like 7 or 8. We checked out the Capps Problem which is nowhere near V9 in difficulty, closer to V10 or V11. After he left I worked on the R arete doing all the moves but not sticking the move to the crimp on the go, which is silly considering it's the second move on the problem. Then I worked on the L arete, getting very very close. I have wanted to do a V11 for a long while and this one seems very feasible. If possible, I want to get up to the Poudre to check out Castaway, one of the classic V11s in the state and pretty much my style. A little extra free time for Thanksgiving week may prove helpful in escaping Flagstaff for a while.

The real project is installing the wall in the cellar. I'm not exactly Mr. Handyman but I think I can figure this one out. The fingerboard is great. I did 20 pull-ups on the big rung and 2 or three front levers on the small. Pictures of the latter forthcoming.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Open Air Repeated by Adam Ondra

I mentioned below my belief that Alexander Huber is probably the best all-around climber in the history of the sport. 8a.nu reports that Adam Ondra has repeated Open Air, a route from over 10 years ago and confirmed at 9a+ (5.15a), taking 5 days to complete it. Typically 8c+ takes him a couple of tries. Om, a 1992 route, is the next on the list of Huber desperates to go. What is interesting about this is the extent to which the historical record is distorted by publicity and promotion. Alex climbed Open Air before the age of widespread video and internet information so he operated almost in a vacuum and the route was ignored despite the obvious difficulty of the moves. Sharma's efforts on Realization were extensively documented and the ascent was promoted extensively so in many people's minds that route was the first 5.15. Whether the other contenders such as Akira or Chilam-Balam are legit is still contested.

(Thanks to Climbing Magazine for this link to an interview with Ondra about the climb.

Another interview with Ondra is at Planet Mountain.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Home Improvement

Since CATS remodeled, there has not been a decent finger/hangboard in any of the local gyms for a while. So I am finally installing some finger edges in the cellar. I am also putting plans together to make a small bouldering wall so I don't have to travel in town if I don't need to. Any suggestions are welcome.

I spent some time Saturday afternoon working the V10 R to L traverse on Red Wall. All the moves are done and I think I can link it next visit. It's a good challenge. Very crimpy in the first half, then great holds and followed by a testy finish. A really worthy testpiece and a good job by Ted Lanzano.

Here's a video from Switzerland that is quite good:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Don't Touch the Glass V7/8 Video

Here's a video of a problem I did recently called Don't Touch the Glass on the East Face of Nook's Rock at Flagstaff. Will Lemaire did the FA of this short but high quality line. It's very hard to grade and conditions can make a big difference.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dragons Part 2

So after some indoor climbing, I tried the Dragons bouldering outside, bouldering at Flagstaff. Now they are fully broken in and fit the way they should. The fit is snug and precise with plenty of sensitivity under the foot. Through the heel and instep there is plenty of control but they are comfortable enough to not have to take them off the second you step off the boulder. On the smears, pebbles and tiny edges typically found at Flagstaff, they are totally solid with no problems. I doubt that there will be any problem on granite.

I would say that these are some of the best shoes I have worn in the past 5 years. I would not have chosen the earlier velcro version as I am not a fan of velcro but the lace-up version is a very different animal.

I should also put in a word for Rock and Resole and Ripstop Repairs as I have had them do work for me recently. Both are next to each other near Foothills in Boulder. Eric at R&R has probably done over 20 resoles for my wife and me in the past 10 years and we have had no problems at all. Jim at Ripstop Repair just replaced some stitching on the Asana pad that tore, doing it on the spot for cheap. Asana has promised to reimburse me, per their warranty. I still have an old Cordless pad that is being rehabbed which will be ready soon.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Metolius Super Chalk Issues

I'm putting this out there to see if anyone else has been having issues with new Metolius Super Chalk. I have been finding that it makes my fingertips slick up and makes holds feel glassy and slippery. I finally switched chalk bags today to some leftover older Metolius Super Chalk after trying the new stuff for a couple of weeks.After making the switch, fifteen minutes later I did a V10 second try that I had been working without any success earlier this year as well casually doing the first two moves of Smith Overhang V8. I will be looking for some older bags locally to compare and possibly switching brands. I'll post any responses I get from Metolius when I hear from them.

This is what the good stuff looks like:

The bad chalk has a woman on some sandstone sloper problem; good luck sticking to a sloper with what's inside the bag. Noting that it's made in China, maybe it's the melamine that's the problem

Friday, November 7, 2008


Go to Tim Kemple's Blog over at http://www.kemplemedia.com. He has a video posted that clearly shows the future of web video. Grainy Youtube videos may be a thing of the past pretty soon and that's fine by me. Now if I could afford a video camera that shot HD... but that's another topic. More on the Dragon's outside performance this weekend.

Go to the Climbing Narc for a funny discussion of the infamous Clear Creek Dyno Conspiracy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's Obama!

What more is there to say? Colorado is a blue state. Musgrave is gone. Udall is in. Not since we moved here in 1994 has this state gone Democratic. Now on to the hard stuff.

Is this the dream job?

At UKClimbing there is an interview with Duncan Bell, the director of Hot Rock, a "continuous global climbing expedition". Go to the website here and look around. If you have a bunch of time off and a fair amount of cash, this could be a pretty good option. If you don't the have money and time, the website is a great armchair traveler excursion.

I recommend taking a look at the other interviews in the series as well. While I am generally pretty happy doing what I do for a living, it is interesting to see what others have done in the world of climbing.

Alexander Huber Interview

Go to Planet Mountain for this interview with Alexander Huber. Also at the same site look at this story about Adam Ondra.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Quick Visit to Morrison

This morning, I went to talk with a landscape painter who lives in Lakewood, literally 5 minutes from Morrison. So I stopped to look at the bouldering again since I haven't been in ages. Center Route looks curiously feasible. Thanks to cinema verite artistes such as Sock Hands I can build beta skills and muscle memory from the comforts of my desk. What's the name for the version that doesn't use the RH undercling but goes straight up from the OK crimp with the LH and hits the "deck of cards" RH? Anyway one of these winter days perhaps.

Talked with Chuffer last night. He is off discovering little oases of rock in the woods of PA and seems very happy to have landed in the DC area. We certainly miss him though.

Friday, October 31, 2008

5.10 Dragons Review Part 1

Well I have more or less tamed my new Dragons after a few days of wearing them around the house and actually took them to the Boulder Rock Club last night. So here are my initial reactions. More will follow regarding outdoor use.

First, if you like the V10, you will really like the Dragon. The problem with V10s is that, as with all slippers, they lack a really solid locked down instep, which is key (along with good core strength)for staying set on small edges on steep walls. By adding a lace-up version, 5.10 has built on the foundation of the V10 and made a more solid shoe.

The fit and sizing seem much the same as the V10 except that they are more resistant to breaking in. Be persistent as a snug fit is essential for this shoe. The heel area, probably the hardest to get right is tight and close and the forefoot feels precise and sensitive but with good control. The interior of the shoes felt clean and smooth with no aggravating seams. The lacing is easy to get in and out of and won't slow down your attempts on a problem.

I tried a couple of "elite" problems at the BRC in them, flashing one and falling off the last move of the other, so the shoes were not an issue at a basic level. On small footholds, the shoes stayed put and I was able to pull in well with them on steeper terrain. Smearing was not too bad but these are definitely not slab shoes.

On the whole, especially for the serious boulderer, I would unhesitatingly recommend these shoes. I do not understand why 5.10 discontinued the V10 but the Dragon is a logical option for those who want the same high level of performance and overall design.

I am looking forward to trying them outside very soon and will post a follow-up review.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Glimmer of Light

Referring to the last posting, it was obvious that things were not going as well as they might. However in the sport of climbing, perseverance is everything, a point I constantly lose sight of. So it was back to the mountain last night. Things were a bit warmer but still cool and I got on the traverse at Nook's again. Amazingly the part that I flashed last summer proved resistant still but I sussed out a new sequence and another try got me through the first 2/3 to the hueco--only the technical and very thin finish was left. Even with a good stance at the hueco, the insecure nature of the exit makes it difficult to guarantee success. Luckily I finished. It's a hard problem to grade but V10 seems appropriate. The section to the rest is given V9 and the end is no cakewalk. Certainly one of the best traverses on the mountain.

On a related note, I climbed the traverse in a pair of Carhartt jeans I picked up a while ago. Normally I never climb in jeans since they are typically too heavy and confining. However, I am looking for new climbing wear and am having trouble locating something that isn't a. ridiculously expensive, b. designed for someone considerably more interested than I am in zippers and cargo pockets, c. not made of creepy feeling "miracle" fabric that can recharge your iPod (also see item a), and d. can be worn on the street without feeling a wee bit self conscious. I have found only a few examples over the years that match the criteria. Franklin Climbing had a great line of climbing clothing that was simple rugged and moved well. They went out of business. A while ago, Prana actually made men's pants that weren't too fruity but that has gone by the board. Gramicci takes the crotch gusset thing a bit far and the lower leg and cuffs are maybe too narrow. Most of the other makers are just too trendy/fruity for my taste. So if anyone has suggestions for solving this admittedly minor dilemma, I welcome your responses. The price threshold is Carhartt's 35 to 40 dollars a pair.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Feeling the Slump

Spectacular sends abound around the world and at home. Big congrats to Jamie on finishing off No More Greener Grass, a truly amazing V12 at Evans. Jamie's effort is a testimony to the power of perseverance. Ethan Pringle's extended effort on the second ascent of Iron Monkey shows what a significant achievement Matt Segal created with that climb. Around here, things are kind of sucking. I am working on Steve Damboise's full V10 version of the Nook's Rock traverse and am not feeling the love. This is a classic endurance problem, linking a V7 into a V8 with a good rest, then an insecure and thin V7 finish. Yesterday I was pretty much flailing despite good conditions. On Friday, much the same plus I tore a haul strap off my Asana pad (Organic fans might have a point) and then got nabbed by the photo radar van on 9th Street going to get Sophia from daycare.

I have been building the info at Mountain Project for RMNP bouldering and surprisingly have received little feedback, positive or negative. Please let me know what you think.

I received my new pair of Dragons today and am breaking them in.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Revised Intro and Description for Chaos Canyon in Mountain Project

Please go over to Mountain Project and review my introduction to Chaos Canyon and post any comments you have. I will be putting together the specifics for areas and problems over the winter.

I have created an umbrella category that I will fill in as I go along. Again comments are welcome.

Sorry to read that Chuffer has left the state and is now in DC.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dave Graham Interview at UKClimbing

A series of videos are up at UKClimbing where DG ruminates on his lecture tour about life in Maine and talks to an interviewer about his present plans. Fairly R-rated language at times. Dave may actually find a more receptive audience in the UK than here as eccentricity and quirkiness is generally looked upon more kindly there. Whatever one might say about Dave's interview style in talking the talk, he has certainly walked the walk climbing-wise. We are all still waking up to the revolution he initiated.

Congrats to Alex Puccio on her send of Trice. I have been sliding off the holds up at Flag recently as summer suddenly came back so that makes her climb even more impressive. I am typing with soft pink fingers and hoping for some balance between 40 and 80 degrees F.

Read this magazine article about blogging.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Response to Falcon

I don't want to waste another post on this topic but some comments left by an editor at Falcon on this blog require an answer. John Burbidge wrote the following:

Hi Peter,

Max forwarded to me the review you e-mailed him. I'd like to address a few of the points you made in that e-mail, and a few others I've seen floating around on the Web.

1. You criticize is the omission of significant boulders in important areas, and the fact that some areas are shown on the maps but not written up. Throughout the process of making this book, we had to go back several times to cut material that we wanted to include. It's likely some of these areas you refer to fell victim to this publishing reality. In some cases, I left an area or boulder on the map even though we cut the text because I thought it might at least be a reference that could help people locate the boulders and do their own exploring. You said you were concerned this would lead people to cross private land to get to the boulders. I would say that if land is posted private, STAY OFF. That's the law. If land is private but not posted as such, then I would suggest that the landowner post it private if he/she doesn't want people mistaking it for public land.

2. You mention that the photos of Bob bouldering are disrespectful toward local boulderers. I'm sorry if that is the case, but there is a very good reason Bob puts himself in the picture, and that is to provide some perspective on the size of the boulder. One of the things we don't like about other bouldering guides we've used is that the photos often show the boulder but no climber. This makes it hard to tell if the boulder is five feet tall or fifteen feet tall. Having a climber in the picture adds perspective. It's not realistic for Bob to bring along a group of models while doing research, or hunt up local boulderers to pose for him. You might not like this, but that's the reason for it.

3. I'm not sure if you addressed this next point anywhere, but there has been some discussion about whether the material in the book was reviewed by land managers. Our policy is to always have national park material reviewed by the park authorities. When it comes to national forest, BLM, wilderness, and other public lands, the fact is that we publish hundreds of guidebooks a year to activities on these lands, and it's just not feasible to have it all reviewed. We encourage our authors to work with land managers, and in the case of Mt Evans there is some dispute as to whether Bob did, but I do know that the letter from the rangers came to Bob long after the book went to the printer. (In fact, to clear up some misinformation I've seen floating around about exactly when the book went to the printer: This book did indeed go to the printer last spring. We have our color books printed in China, and it takes 3 or 4 months.)

The bottom line is that there are some people out there who will never like this book no matter what we do or what I say. But as I said before, if anybody wants to contribute updated information, then simply photocopy the page in the book, write your correction on it, and send it to me at the address below. If you do that, I extend my personal thanks. If you are one of the book-bashers but you don't share what you know, then I'm afraid your complaints will forever ring hollow to me.

My final comment here will be directed at anybody who might be considering buying the book. It is a beautiful guidebook. I believe that the VAST majority of the information is correct, especially when you get beyond some of the more hardcore concerns like names of problems and boulders. If you want a book that will guide you to new bouldering areas not covered in other books, and take you to some exceptional settings where you can do your own exploring--not to mention a cool book to just sit on the couch and page through while you wait for the weather to turn nice--then I think you will really like this book.

Below is my response:

Thanks for your comments John. I would stand by my review and repeat that the inaccuracies and inventions in the book present an unacceptable dilemma for readers as to what to trust. Even if I accept that the book is not a historical record, the thought that it could be eventually accepted as such is disturbing. Frankly the phrase, "when you get beyond some of the more hardcore concerns like names of problems and boulders", makes me wonder exactly what the purpose of a guidebook is, as far as Falcon is concerned.

The mention you make of private property issues is surprisingly dismissive of both the rights of the readers of the book to be directed to appropriate areas and the rights of property owners not to be disturbed.

"If land is private but not posted as such, then I would suggest that the landowner post it private if he/she doesn't want people mistaking it for public land."

I think that the authors and publishers of guidebooks should take extraordinary measures to ensure accurate information in this instance.

Regarding the photos, most newer guidebooks include quality action photos of local climbers, not the author posing in sneakers. There is no pressing need for readers to know the scale of boulders.They are typically smaller rocks. Bouldering Colorado is the only book that I have seen where this was made a priority.

I didn't address the land management issues in my review but I would trust the word of local climbers who are working on access issues such as Cameron Cross. In this case what's done is done.

To sum up, I am surprised that Falcon is unwilling to acknowledge that a simple step of sending out proofs to selected reviewers would have solved a lot of these problems. To insist further that:

"If you are one of the book-bashers but you don't share what you know, then I'm afraid your complaints will forever ring hollow to me."

is incredibly heavy-handed. Bob Horan and Falcon didn't share what they were doing before this guidebook was released. To imply that local climbers are hypocrites if they don't volunteer to fix Falcon's mistakes is baffling.

I charge a standard rate of 25 dollars an hour for editing and revision work. "Personal thanks" is great, but I have many other demands on my time and even commenting further on this issue is looking like a waste of it, given the response I received. I gave Falcon an honest, unbiased, and fact-based summary of the problems with the book and received a lecture instead. Again to any readers of this blog, I would ask you to weigh very carefully the merits and the flaws of the book before paying your 50 dollars for it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Alpinist's Demise?

In a comment to the preceding post, Dougald MacDonald alluded to the demise of the Alpinist, the high-end large-format glossy magazine that presented itself as an alternative to the mainstream. Their website confirms it:

"Jackson, Wyoming — October 16, 2008 — Alpinist LLC, which publishes the climbing magazine Alpinist, runs the website www.alpinist.com and produces The Alpinist Film Festival, announced today that the October 2008 financial crisis has forced them to suspend operations."

In a weird coincidence, this event combines aspects of both my previous posts regarding the economy and media in climbing. I had already discussed the magazine's unsustainable business model last year, so it was not surprising to hear the news but the comments of readers and subscribers says it all.

I'm sure more facts will emerge from this sad event, and I will pass along what I can find out.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Climbing and the Media

As mentioned in Dougald MacDonald's blog and also at UK Climbing, there is a media summit of sorts at the American Alpine Club in Golden. As Dougald describes it:

"I'm organizing a "summit meeting" of editors of international climbing magazines, journals, and websites. We've got 13 foreign editors, along with representatives of Alpinist, Climbing, and Rock & Ice..."

and UKClimbing:

"Climbing website and magazine editors from all across the globe will be joining Jack as well as fellow UK climbing editors Steve Goodwin (Editor, Alpine Journal) and Lindsay Griffin (Editor Mountain Info/Climb, Assoc. Ed. American Alpine Journal and BMC Mountain News Editor) to discuss climbing media issues, to improve communication and cooperation among mountain publications worldwide, and to learn more about each other's climbing and media cultures."

I think this summit is a great idea. The only issue I have with it is the way in which it exemplifies an increasingly obsolete mentality regarding the climbing media. That is, the way to discuss the topic of climbing and the media is to get together website and magazine editors who seem to assume they control how news and other aspects of climbing are disseminated. I am finding for example, that commercial considerations are outweighing larger questions these days, to the point that significant ascents are either omitted in one magazine (the other paying for an "exclusive"?) or limited to minimal coverage. Not only are magazines not useful for understanding what's actually going on but they are becoming more and more vehicles for selling products besides themselves, not just through advertising but also through content. The examples are too numerous to count.

If the organizers had thought to include bloggers, and there are many who would qualify, who look at the whole scene from a distance and not through the lens of traditional media, whether print or online, a vital perspective would be gained. While there is a prominent role for traditional media in climbing, the new content out there is simply staggering and is completely changing the landscape. It's surprising for instance that no-one is blogging about the summit itself. We are fed a tidbit or two by John Harlin regarding topics:

"Climbing news in the Internet age: What are our guidelines for publishing photos and text found on the Web (copyrights)?

What about fact-checking information, publishing photos with route lines that haven't been climbed, and reporting illegal or unwelcome ascents?

What do we think about “exclusivity” in first ascents, where media sponsors “lock up” information about an expedition until they have reported it first?"

Who is "we" and what is "our" in this instance? It's a very different world from even 5 years ago. What constitutes news and its reception is very much changed from when I started seeing things online. Anyway this is an important topic of conversation. It would have been nice to see a lot more transparency and participation.

It's the Economy...

Well the Dow went down another 700+ points yesterday and my bet is it goes below 8000 very soon, certainly by November. The U.S. is clearly in a recession and I am wondering how a sport that depends heavily on discretionary spending can continue the levels of marketing and sponsorship we have seen in the recent past. I may be over generalizing but I am convinced that the recent boom in competitions in the youth category was fueled at least in part by parents having access to easy credit. Plane tickets and hotels are not cheap. The same goes for young climbers traveling everywhere with no visible means of support. Can the industry continue sponsoring climbers when its margins, which are not large to start with, begin to erode?

Climbing has always been a sport for well-off white people and to a certain extent is recession-proof but I wonder if this time things will be different. Household incomes are on the way down and unemployment is certain to rise substantially. Retail spending is down everywhere except at Walmart and Costco. Can the climbing industry sustain itself at current levels?

Speaking of numbers, I have installed a visitor counter and noted 100+ unique visitors in less than 24 hours. Maybe these are nothing but spambots trawling for email addresses but I like to think that people are actually visiting the blog and reading. Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Quick session at Flag: How did Winter Get Here?

I dropped Sophia off at day care yesterday afternoon to put in a quick session at Flag. A bit optimistically I suppose as you can see the snow from downtown. Down at Nook's Rock, the climate was cold and damp, like New England really which was a rapid change from the usual warmth I have been trying to deal with until last week. The responsible thing would have been to turn around and go to the Spot, except I only had an hour and a half to get back. So I had to climb. It's good training for winter conditions anyway and I am resolved to stay out of the gym as much as possible.

Ran into Steve Damboise and Moe Herschoff, whom I haven't seen in a while, and bouldered with a couple of younger climbers transplanted from Arkansas. I tried Window Shopper a bit but it was a wee bit slippery and cold. I think it will happen very soon though. First V11 in ages if it goes. Not wanting to leave empty-handed, I tried to flash Don't Touch the Glass, a V8 just right. I didn't check the holds carefully enough and blew the first try on a hand-scraping throw to the lip. A few minutes later after finding a useful intermediate, I hiked it, happy with that at least and reminded how even with a 3-move problem, the obvious solution is not always the right one.

Any big news in the climbing world? None that I am aware of really. Ethan Pringle has been cleaning up trad testpieces around here very quickly. Visit his blog for the skinny. I have added Deadpoint Mag to the Site of the Week, especially for this story. Read it and ponder what it means to give everything to a sport that considers you old at 24. Now at 44 I don't worry much either way other than to consider the illusions that are fostered by both participants and commercial interests. Climbing is difficult enough to do with your eyes wide open to anything but the moves and the holds and there is little doubt that the circus has its allure as it always will, especially to the young. But are there transcendent values, even in the ephemeral experiences of a 3-move problem? If there weren't I suppose I would have chosen another path.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Andy Raether in R&I, New Wall at Spot, New World Class Testpiece in Boulder Canyon

Go to the R&I site for Andy Raether's take on redtagging. Good straightforward arguments. I think the name Girl Talk comes from here rather than a slight against Andy but it's still a lame name and frankly DG ought to let Andy keep the naming rights.

Climbed yesterday at the Spot for the first time in a while. The new area called the Dojo is good but with some major caveats. The first is it's clearly too tall. The upper headwall is just too high up to want to fall. It might be good for comps but otherwise it's dangerous, like leg-breaking dangerous. The cave area is also a problem since you can't work anything from the ground. Most of the climbing surface is 10+ feet off the deck meaning you have to climb up an easier problem to get set for a move, then fall 8 feet and try again. The advantage to CATS is the ramp directly below the wall meaning you can try a long series of steep moves without the hassles of climbing and falling a bunch. Finally the wall texture is subpar. It comes off very easily and gets in the holds leaving a gritty powder. A crimp problem I was trying already had marks from people's fingernails.

Lastly I received some sick pictures from Andy Mann of a new testpiece in Boulder Canyon. This is really big news so stay tuned.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bouldering Colorado by Bob Horan: A Review

I recently received a review copy of the Horan book from Falcon and have given it a thorough reading, focusing especially on the areas that I am relatively familiar with in the Front Range. My overall impression is that there are two "books" here, one consisting of areas that many are familiar with such as RMNP, Horsetooth, Carter, Flagstaff, etc. and one that has many areas that only Bob Horan seems to have visited or knows well. It is clear that Bob is not up to date on current names and grades and has added fictitious problems everywhere. For example there are two new problems right of Little Chubby Demon at the 420s, where there are literally no holds. The RMNP section as has been noted is a farce where many well-known problems have all been tacked onto the 50/50 boulder for no apparent reason. Only the Kine Traverse, The Kine, and Whispers appear to be accurate, though V9 for the last problem seems a bit severe. But Evans and RMNP are not the only issue and high-end problems are not the only victims of misinformation. The magnificent V13 in Eldo, Suspension of Disbelief, is called Inversion and given V12 while Scarface in the Poudre is now V8 and called "Natural Tattoo". Both are very well known problems and errors regarding their names and grades are inexcusable. There are literally too many errors and omissions in this vein throughout the book to count.

The other "book" is about areas I have never heard of before and that look quite good. The only problem is that given the issues with the other "book", I can't quite trust that he is right with these areas either. I don't want to drive several hours only to be greeted with private property signs or totally misleading directions to mis-graded boulders.

My advice is certainly to avoid buying this book at the 50 dollar price tag. It is possible but unlikely that Falcon will invest in a radical revision and reissue of the book with thorough outside review and fact-checking. That would represent a large investment on the publisher's part that they likely could not recoup with additional book sales. Thus my fear is that local climbers and visitors alike are going to be left with a proverbial white elephant that is too expensive, too unwieldy, and not trustworthy enough to count on when it matters.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Five Ten Dragon

I got a pair of 5.10 Dragons in the mail last week but after 2 days of trying to get them on, decided they are half a size too small. So back they go to 5.10 for a 7.5. But the impression I am getting of them is very favorable. Like the V10 but better. So I will update accordingly when they arrive.

Chuffer has completed the Cloudshadow section of the Flagstaff guide. Congratulations!

Off to Reno NV this week to give a paper at the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association. I hope I can squeeze some climbing in soon as the weather is forecast to get pretty bad by Saturday. I have been trying hard to stay out of gyms but that can't last forever.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chongo in the NYT

Go here for a nicely written story about Chongo Chuck.

Falcon and Horan Continued

Head on over to Falcon Guides and read some fairly awkward defenses of the unfolding saga that is Bouldering Colorado. Bob Horan is maintaining that the attitude of present-day boulderers is the problem:

Well, times have changed and as I continued this ultimate goal of a state wide guide and revisited the areas time and time again, I was often astounded by the growing numbers, and the changing attitudes of those boulderers I encountered. Most seemed very friendly, having fun in the great outdoors, but I also noticed a change, especially within the last decade of a new breed of boulderer, somewhat territorial, and upon further conversation, somewhat disrespectful to, or oblivious to, their predecessors. When recording and cross checking these areas with the present day influx of activity, I would often ask a person or persons what they now call any given boulder. The response, in the more recently popular areas, for example, I would say what do you call this nice piece of apparatus, referring to the boulder being climbed upon, and one would respond that it is called Dale's Boulder, another would say no, it's called Lynn's Block, I then would refer to an online blog, magazine, etc. and it was stated as Boulder D, in my own ancient documentation we called it Ambiguous Block, at that point I had to decipher what it should be named and finalize it for the project.

By the way, I believe in Bouldering Colorado, it is truly a work of art, and is and asset and educational tool that the climbing community should embrace.

Well if by work of art, you mean creativity, then fair enough. However a guidebook should reflect the consensus, not a personal vision at this point. I admit that I am amused by the reference to a "nice piece of apparatus". Such archaic language might explain Horan's relationship to the current scene.

Somewhat more puzzling is Max Phelps' reaction, presumably an editor at Falcon"

I am sorry to see some of the comments about this impressive new guidebook. Sorry for a couple of reasons. First, I can't help but feel a little defensive. This book, after all, represents my company, and the work of some of the best people associated with book publishing, people I am pleased to call friends. But I am also disappointed by some members of the climbing community in Colorado. Surely this book is an important contribution to the body of information about Bouldering in Colorado. How could it be otherwise? Can we improve upon it? Only if we encourage knowledgeable climbers to take it out for a test drive. At Falcon we have always invited suggestions that will improve our books, and that is certainly the case here. Any guidebook that attempts to describe 4000 problems is likely to admit mistakes, and one can expect some to be unearthed in this book. (I use the future tense because the boxes haven't even been unpacked yet.) As with any book we publish, necessary corrections will be made when we reprint. It would be hard to estimate the numbers of hours of work that have been poured into this volume. I for one would like to celebrate this impressive achievement, and I stand by this book and its author. So as a native of Colorado I feel the need to jump in here to defend this guide, Bob Horan and our opportunity to seve the climbing community. If anyone would like to talk with me in person, my direct line here at the Falcon publishing headquarters is 203.458.4551 --Max Phelps

I sense that Falcon is pretty worried here. It seems to me they weren't counting on publishing an idiosyncratic, error-riddled book and the problem of how to "encourage knowledgeable climbers to take it out for a test drive" at 50 dollars a copy is rearing its ugly head. I would certainly encourage readers to call Max Phelps and let him know what the issues are. There is little cause for celebration in this case, especially when the main problems could have been headed off by a simple peer review. If that had happened, the errors would probably have been minimal in both number and scope. The chances of errors being corrected in a reprint are slim as I doubt this will ever see a second edition. I will be calling Max Phelps and proposing he offer to send out free review copies to local climbers to "test drive".

Granted this is not on the scale of recent political and financial developments but a funny kind of parallel is going on. The lack of solid oversight and maintenance of high standards has resulted in an erosion of trust among the public. As I have said before, Falcon needs to admit their responsibility and withdraw the book and start over. That might be the most constructive thing to do at this point.

P.S. Thanks to Jamie for pointing me to the Falcon "blog"

Monday, September 29, 2008

Horsetooth Hang

On Saturday, I went up to Fort Collins and had a great time just belaying for the Horsetooth Hang. I hadn't been to Horsetooth since the early 90s and it was great just to look around and hang out with a good crew of other volunteers. I was stationed (thanks Cam) at two of the most classic Gill problems, Pinch Overhang and Left Eliminator, both major lunge problems where belaying is anything but passive. Really fun to see what these problems are like. Interestingly both have feasible lower starts that don't appear to have been done. No climbing as I have been recuperating from a cold but maybe soon.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Girl Talk, Pad Stashing, Horsetooth Hang

"Girl Talk" is a route that can be found in the Bauhaus at Rifle. It may or may not be 8c+. Without wanting to make too much of a tempest in the teapot (or maybe a container that is less refined) that is the Rifle scene, I would like to add the perspective of Andy Raether whose voice has been conspicuously missing through all this. I talked with him last night at the Spot and without going too much into the conversation which was not "for the record", suffice it to say that 1. Certain climbers had made it clear they would climb the route regardless of Andy's wishes and 2. He is sufficiently upset to write a column on the topic that will be published in the next Rock and Ice.

My personal thoughts on the matter, having adopted a number of old/abandoned projects in Clear Creek and Boulder Canyon, is that if you can't get the equipper's permission you really should back off other people's work and find your own vision. It would be upsetting, I imagine, to see Dave Graham credited as "establishing" and naming a climb that you first saw, obtained permission for, and then went up and cleaned, stabilized, and bolted. I can understand "professional" climbers who seem content avoiding having a real job but I don't understand avoiding actually creating new climbs as well. Repeats don't matter much and jumping on other people's projects is not pushing the envelope. I wish that the likes of MVM and industry sponsors would recognize this.

On a related note, I read with some dismay in Justin Roth's column in Climbing about pad-stashing, that boulderers carrying more than one pad were being confronted by suspicious pad-stashers. Although I am already on the record on this, I again applaud the rangers hauling abandoned pads away. If you can't carry your weight, don't get up in the face of people who can.

On a more positive note, I will be volunteering tomorrow at the Horsetooth Hang and am looking forward to getting a better picture of the bouldering there as it is only a few minutes away from where I work.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Chaos Canyon added to Mountain Project

I remember a few years ago proposing that Mountain Project add Chaos Canyon. I received a lot of flak for it. Now it's been added and not very well done at all. If you boulder there, go to this page and see what you think.

Here's the description for Freshly Squeezed: "Start low and top out"

Is Evans next?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Falcon's Error Sheet

Go to http://www.falcon.com/files/Updates%2009.02.08.pdf and see what you think. Help them out here.

Here's another guidebook author's take.

Here's another forum to speak your mind.

And you can check out Bob's slide show at Neptune Mountaineering on October 2

Late Evening Bouldering

I took a couple of hours to drive up and try Window Shopper again but it was a bit too warm and humid to get much progress. The edges on the lower part are really painful to hold onto and the upper slopers simply won't stay. By the time I left it was pitch dark. Lots of chalk on Butt Slammer--anyone have news?

Go to this link for the NYT's take on Hueco. It's too bad that the writer talks about how boulderers and their ilk pay no attention to the art.

(Additional commentary by me, following sockhands' comments)
The article is very unhelpful in its characterization of climbers and inaccurate as well. For example, I would hate to see it used as fodder by the land managers for further restrictions.

"Hueco Tanks park, well known to rock climbers, attracts thousands of boulderers and their ilk each year, but most concentrate on their journey over the terrain without paying much attention to the pictographs hidden in it."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Back Online

Well after a short battle with Qwest to get a DSL hookup, we are back online. I have been swamped in work between reading and writing for my class and teaching. A little time to try Window Shopper at Flagstaff, an excellent V11 on the east side of Nook's Rock. All the moves go and I am hoping that cooler weather will allow actual linkage attempts. This problem has very sharp crimps low and slopers higher meaning that warm temps equal shredded skin. Good to see Peter Jones out there on Saturday.

As an example of doing the job right with guidebooks, Fred Knapp invited me and other climbers to his house the other evening to review the new edition of Colorado Bouldering. Bob Horan's book was there as well as a telling counterexample of how not to do the job right.

In the climbing world, the news of Alex Honnold's free solo of Half Dome, while anticipated to a certain extent by Dean Potter's mostly free solo a number of years back, is certainly stunning. Speculation abounds about the next step, a solo of El Cap, but I sense a certain unease in the climbing media about encouraging this endeavor. For instance, virtually no print coverage was seen of his solo of Moonlight Buttress in Zion.

Chris Sharma's new route on Mount Clark is in the same larger-than-life category and will possibly never be repeated. A 250 foot 5.15b that is a major expedition just to get to the base is in its own league and impossible to compare with anything else.

Closer to home is the rash of V12 ascents by women, including Angie Payne, Alex Puccio, and Alex Johnson. Having tried all the problems in question I can attest to their difficulty, though I have reservations about Clear Blue Sky at V12 and felt that way well before Alex J did it. That said until I have done it, I will go with the consensus.

Lastly, a flurry of debate about 8a.nu has emerged which in my mind is interesting, especially regarding inflated grades. I think the best thing is to keep posting your problems at the grades you think are accurate and not worry about your ranking either way. Boycotting the site is an option but doesn't really change things much. As I have mentioned before, I believe that focusing on grades in terms of downgrading is ultimately detrimental to your ability to progress. I believe that whatever helps you get motivated to climb better is great, as long as, at the end of the day, you are focusing on climbing and not on other stuff.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Why Boulderers Don't Need to Stash Pads

Carrying multiple pads is possible. Stashing pads is silly. Go to Jamie's site for more mainstream media coverage on the topic.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Illumination V10

Here's another fun linkup at the Jim Hall Boulder. Start matched on a thin edge down and left from the flake on Battaglia's Bottom. Head up and right. Hard last move.

I'm going to the Flag Trash Bash tomorrow night 5-7pm. Maybe see you there!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Subterranean V10 at Flagstaff

This is a good endurance link-up at the Jim Hall Boulder. Ultra-lowball in spots but great moves. This took me a bunch of tries to finish so I am sticking with the V10 grade for now.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Art Show Opening and You Are Invited!

Drop by if you are interested!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Beginning of Semester

I won't have much time for writing since the school year is starting up. I have a show of paintings opening on the 5th of September and I will upload the images shortly. Otherwise I will have to lay low for awhile until I get caught up.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Peter Kamitses Interview--Enough with downgrading already!

Go read the interview at MVM with Peter Kamitses. Here's an excerpt:

What are your thoughts on the 9a grade in the USA?

It seems a little strange to me that in a country this big, that has produced some of the best climbers in the world, that there are only a few routes graded 9a. Why are so many people scared to throw that grade on something that could reasonably be that hard?
People are worried what others will think if someone repeats their route and then downgrades it. Some climbers love to downgrade things just to boost their own ego by saying, "what? You thought that was hard? Nah...I just did it faster than anyone else so it couldn't be that hard." I think it is a pretty common thing for grades to get a bit bunched up at certain levels like how in Rifle everyone was scared to have their routes downgraded so there are a huge number of 5.13d's that cover a range of difficulty with some of them being regarded as pretty solid 5.14a. Decades ago everything got 5.9+ because people didn't think they could be climbing 5.10. America has always been a more conservative place than countries in Europe; it was founded by a bunch of Puritans no less.... so there you go. I think its interesting how some of the best American sport climbers who are also among the best in the world, are in top shape and do new routes at the top of their ability and then grade them no harder than the hardest routes from 15 years ago. What’s up with that? Where is the progression? I think giving a climb a sandbag grade can be just as much, (or more) of an ego-based thing than over grading.

It's good to hear someone finally say what's really going on. Maybe Peter has a bit of an outsider's perspective on the issue but I think he's calling it absolutely right. My previous comments on the topic are here. Is this in part why the Front Range has seen many of its testpieces first climbed by outsiders such as Dave Graham? The grades might come down later but the innovating achievement remains long after. The confidence and self-belief needed to actually be a pioneer might also include the possibility of that climber proposing a grade that may be higher than what's already been done. Imagine that, progress!

Big congratulations to Dara Torres for 3 silver medals in Olympic swimming at age 41. This is in a way more impressive than Michael Phelps' 8 medals. We'll see if we hear much from Michael Phelps in 18 years.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Rain Rain Rain

I think I'll try CATS today, the first time in months. No end in sight for the weather.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Nook's Traverse V8 Flash

This morning I tried to flash the traverse on the north side of Nook's Rock. After a thorough study, and before things got too warm I hopped on and made it to the hueco and finished up the V0 on the right. At some point I will check out the full traverse, starting low and left and finishing further right around the corner. This is definitely one of the best problems/routes on the mountain with great movement and top quality rock. I also have to say that the center of the West Slab is possibly the best easy problem on the mountain with the perfect angle, nice holds and the only true summit that I know of on Flag. No partiers or scramblers are likely to venture there.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Colorado Bouldering Guidebook Fiasco

The Falcon book is out and apparently it's worse than I imagined. Go to B3bouldering for more specifics. I hope that every guidebook publisher can learn something from this fiasco. Both the author and the publisher should retract the book and seriously reconsider the project. I personally can't recall a more spectacular failure in the history of climbing guidebooks.

It will be interesting to see if any of the magazines decide to pick up the story. The angle as I see it is that we are increasingly in a post-guidebook era where new areas and even word-class testpieces are in a kind of fluid state of documentation that is ever evolving and changing over time. Falcon was trusting in an older model of recording climbs that depended on a single expert setting down an agreed upon body of problems. The new model is one where users of the "book" rewrite it as it is being written and a tentative consensus emerges within a self-created community. Hence the importance of online guides such as Mountain Project and the new generation of blog guides, as exemplified by Chip's Flagstaff guide. Eventually with new bandwidth capacities, video guides will be common for many routes and areas. This has already happened at Fontainebleau, where a single book could never encapsulate 15, 000 problems.

The move is more and more to "lifestyle" guides that emphasize beautiful visuals which climbers will buy not as references per se but as accessories that enhance the sense of pleasure they get from visiting an area. This is a very significant change that both Wolverine and Sharp End have moved forward on. Falcon, which I do not sense is run by climbers, is way behind the curve on this trend.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Battaglia's Bottom V7/8 Video

Another hidden gem at Flagstaff. Short, steep and good holds. Well worth a visit.

Cryptic Magician V7/8 Flagstaff Mountain

Cryptic Magician is one of the great problems on the mountain with technical and delicate movements and a little bit of exposure at the finish. I was hoping to flash it but took a few tries to get it. My beta seems more straightforward than some descriptions I have seen.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Well I have gotten off dawn patrol as even lower chaos was too hot at 7:30 and I was clearly not getting much sleep. A visit to the graham boulder left me feeling like I had the beginnings of elbow tendinitis, a sign I am not getting enough recovery time. The conditions were too warm but maybe this week things will begin to cool down a bit.

Getting closer on the first V10 crux on the Spotdala, a likely V13 crimp problem I set at the Spot. Daniel Woods and Tyler Landman had a crack at it yesterday and said it was pretty hard.

Otherwise not much to report. I heard that Heart of Darkness, a 5.13 I put up in Boulder Canyon has substantially broken leaving a likely 5.14 which is great news. Another project!

Visit my Boulder Canyon Guide and check out updates for the Graham Boulder and Castle Rock areas.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Red Wall Traverse V9

I sent the L to R Red Wall Traverse first try this morning after a few tries yesterday. Here's the video. Might be soft V9. Conditions were surprisingly good despite some warmth. I'm looking at the R to L version but I think it would be nice to have some cooler weather. However that is pretty unlikely.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Guidebook Controversy

Over at frontrangebouldering.com, a question has been raised about the appropriateness of including Area A at Mount Evans in an upcoming guidebook from Falcon Books authored by Bob Horan. At this point Horan can't be that much in touch with the current Front Range scene and his guidebooks have long been notorious for factual errors and sheer fables alike. There is a great need for an author who is up on current developments and is an active boulderer. Here's Falcon's description:

"Colorado is one of the world’s premier bouldering destinations, and Boulder resident Bob Horan has been climbing them all for 35 years. Horan has established hundreds of new routes and boulder challenges, pushing standards such as the first free ascent of the Rainbow Wall, which is Eldorado Canyon’s first 5.13, as well as Beware the Future (5.14) in the Flatirons. This original book contains nearly 4,000 individual routes covering the entire state, with some listings found nowhere else. Geared to all skill levels, the book is enhanced by roughly 900 detailed maps and full-color color photos accompanying Horan’s comments. "

Given the tone of the paragraph, Falcon seems pretty out of the loop. Nothing like those "boulder challenges" to conquer a sheer rock face or two.

Anyway, it is a terrible idea to publish Evans which has become a total zoo, especially Area A. Rock and Ice started the ball rolling with a big article a couple of years ago and relentless publicity for problems such as Ode to the Modern Man, Clear Blue Sky, and No More Greener Grass has only upped the crowds. Proximity to Denver, lower elevation, no entrance fees and a less barren environment has made Area A more and more like the Happy Boulders of Colorado. The fact that it's a wilderness area is lost on the masses of visitors. I am hoping that the aura wears off eventually and given the number of quick repeats/flashes of big number ticks, maybe this is already in motion. But until then, despite my ambivalence towards hoarding "secret" areas, Evans should not be published.

Email your comments to guides@falcon.com.

Here's the text of my email:

"Dear Falcon Books,
A serious issue has been raised regarding a planned bouldering guidebook to Colorado and that has to do with the publication of "Area A" at Mt. Evans. This is in a wilderness area and is already in jeopardy of having access restricted or eliminated. I would suggest that the author be prevented from including Mt. Evans and that Falcon Books seriously consider the impact its book will have on a very fragile access situation. I would also highly recommend that the book be vetted by currently active participants in the Front Range/Colorado climbing scene. If you need some names I would be happy to forward them. Please take this issue seriously. Two other major publishers in the region have passed on publishing Evans."

I was surprised to see in the same message board that a prominent Boulder climber has apparently installed a crash pad at Evans. This is a major dab. During my early morning forays to RMNP, I keep my eye out for any stray pads and am happy to carry them out. I look forward to letting readers of this blog know whose gear I find up there. If the owner doesn't identify him/herself on the pad, I'd be happy to add them to my quiver. I'm already hauling 3+ up and down and one more won't make much difference.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Reverse Face Out Traverse

Got up very early Saturday morning to have a go at my latest nemesis, combining King Conquer Traverse V6 into Reverse Face Out, hard V7. This problem requires keeping it together on very small holds at the end of a 30 foot overhanging wall. After some fussing with beta, I did it 3rd try this morning, maybe 4th day of attempts. Since it felt significantly harder than the Undercling Traverse, I am proposing V10, maybe on the easy side of the grade. I'm happy to be done with it, although the full loop, going down the regular Face Out and finishing left, is waiting. Maybe on a cooler day.

I also looked at an interesting potential project on First Overhang, starting out of the cave and heading right to join First Overhang. Could be V11, looking at the holds and the angle of the wall. I wonder if it might be time to terrace and flatten the landing below the boulder. The hardpacked dirt is like a skating rink now. It might be worth staking down your crashpads here to ensure their staying put upon impact.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Back to the Park (100th post to this blog!)

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hot Summer Indeed

While I am chickening out and going to the Spot--even dawn patrol is too warm now-- some crazy things are going on in the world of hard climbing.

First Paul Robinson's 2 hour repeat of the Fred Nicole V15 testpiece Amandla. Go to his blog for more. This was Nicole's ultimate route and suited Paul's style perfectly

Second Tyler Landman has been killing it in Switzerland with fast repeats of New Baseline V14, Danse de Balrog V13 2nd go, Radja V14 (both Nicole problems and likely the first of the grade in the world). He also flashed a V13. Go to Moonclimbing for more.

And another 8c+ onsight and this time it's in France at Pierrot Beach, Presles, near Grenoble. Paxto Usobiaga did Home Sweet Home, a 40 meter route that looks similar to the enduro testpieces of Spain. Details at 8a.nu.

Here's a video of a 9a route from the same cliff, Nice to Eat You, by Michael Fuselier.

Amazing stuff going on everywhere... except in the Front Range. Katherine Parr aka Flannery Shay-Nemirow repeated Bierstadt V10 at Evans with crazy beta, documented at Kelly McBride's blog. I haven't heard anything else recently really worthy of note. With Ty, Daniel, and Paul absent, the field isn't quite as strong as it was. Olson, sadly leaving for BC in a couple of weeks looked pretty strong in the Spot on Sunday, even with a knee brace.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Some interesting Items

A few things to stir the pot here a bit while the Front Range bakes under the heat:

First, I recently encountered a boulderer working on the Automator in RMNP and in between burns, dousing the crux holds in rubbing alcohol. Personally I think if you're adding anything but chalk and effort you probably should be trying something else. Anyone know what's up with this practice? Seems to me it should be strongly discouraged. This climber was not a local.

Second, I noticed that the right start hold for Gang Bang seems covered in something that refuses to be brushed off. I heard from another climber that pof or resin may have been deployed in the area. Anyone else heard this?

Climbing Media Watch Item:

A lengthy interview on Climbing's website with and short article in the print issue by Matt Segal regarding his repeat of Mike Patz's gear-only ascent of China Doll (5.14a R). I have commented elsewhere on the non-newsworthiness of this ascent and the suspect journalistic aspects regarding its media placement in the Alpinist. It is disheartening to see it resurface in the pages of Climbing. I can only speculate that creating controversy is sometimes part of being a "professional" climber but I find it irksome that Segal is quoted as saying that there are a lot of climbs in Boulder that deserve to be chopped.

"C-note: (Caroline Treadway)
If you could chop the bolts on any climb, which would it be?
Matt: A lot of climbs in Boulder deserve chopping: China Doll, Deadline. I don't think there should be bolts on either of those routes."

It is ironic that the editorial " Why we don’t need to fight" in the most recent print issue of Cimbing, commenting on the recent deaths of Alan Nelson and Steve Dieckhoff, seemed to be aimed toward leaving this kind of rhetoric behind. Why Matt is talking like this is beyond me but I would like to ask his sponsor, The North Face, "How do you feel about your athletes advocating bolt removal in a public forum?"

Ironically for someone who went to Naropa University, where he studied Buddhism and double majored in Religious Studies and Eastern Psychology, here's a quote from the extended interview:

Matt: There's a line I really like in it, (from a TV show called "Weeds) "thugs don't have to say sorry." I'm over tiptoeing around people at the moment. Like right now, I'm gonna go in the Trident and not tiptoe, I'm gonna stomp and sh**, make a point.

And there you have it... Thugs be stompin’ at the Trident. Which, if you know the place, is actually pretty funny and I hope that’s Matt’s intention. However I would prefer to see more about climbs like Tommy Caldwell's incredible one day ascent of Magic Mushroom which is like climbing 20 China Dolls in a row. Maybe even from Mike Patz who actually first freed China Doll. Not to mention the many other climbers who are doing something new and not getting the coverage they deserve. Climbing is urging me to resubscribe but if this is where the magazine is headed then my subscription may have to lapse again,

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Taurus Video

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Photos of Secret Splendour

Shannon Forsman took a few photos of me on Secret Splendour, a V12 just left of Nuthin' but Sunshine. I think Ty Landman did it first. Shannon has a show at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder titled "Flesh and Stone". It's up until August 1 so check it out soon. It's one of the very few times you're likely to see climbing photography in a regular public gallery.