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 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.