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.