Friday, January 30, 2009

Busy Week

Sunday and Monday I climbed at the Spot trying various competition problems and finding the easier ones really reasonable and well set. Tuesday was punctuated by a visit to JVonD productions for an interview for the local cable show he does with Mike Brooks. Thursday it was back to the Spot to try some more 5 spots where I walked away with two flashed 5 minus problems. My last problem was on the Dojo where, after getting pumped up high on a 4+, I looked down to see that someone had moved the mat away from under me! I had to ask them to move the mat back so I could jump safely. Needless to say I was not happy and left shortly after.

Before going to the Spot I visited Flag which was just too cold and windy for my liking but I confirmed that There Will be Blood still is feasible. I should add that I think it would be great if boulderers would try a bit harder at cleaning up the chalk that's left behind and maybe not leave big white spots all over the holds. It was a bit intense up there. Hoping for good conditions tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

There Will be Blood Video

Here is a video of me falling off the very last hard move on There Will be Blood at Flagstaff. The problem has since broken and I will check out the remains soon.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Trail Running Mount Sanitas

For quite a while I had been running in the foothills until last spring when I decided to focus on bouldering. But after Thursday night when my fingers needed a lot more recovery time, I decided to run Mount Sanitas, something I haven't done in at least six months. The weather convinced me as well since it was very cloudy to the west. I start at the trailhead at the end of Hawthorne and tackle the East Ridge trail which is consistently steep and rocky with only a few stretches in the middle where the trail is reasonably clear. Most of the time you are rockhopping though, which is a great technical exercise. I decided to go down the south ridge which was pretty crowded but manageable and then up the Dakota Ridge trail which adds another 300 feet or so of elevation gain before heading back the start. Tracing the route at puts the stats as 3.62 miles and 1427 feet of ascent and descent. Anyway it was really interesting weather with lots of mixed conditions of rain, sun, mist clouds, and haze and a great change from being huddled next to a rock on Flagstaff. Sometimes you really need to get away from the short intensity of bouldering and exercise the sheer persistence needed to run a steep hill.

On reflection I have edited my entry at for There Will be Blood from V11 to V10. Two quick repeats were done yesterday so I will find what Mike and Seth thought.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

There Will be Blood V10/11

It seems like I am always doing projects under the gun and tonight was no exception. I have been trying to link a short steep and very sharp overhang at Flag for a number of days now. Monday it got too hot though I was close. Tonight I raced around Boulder doing errands, one of which included buying a Petzl Tikka Plus headlamp. Thus I arrived at the parking lot at 4:30, about 45 minutes before sunset. Warming up for this problem is hard to do since the holds are so sharp and my fingers had barely recovered from the last session. Long story short, I didn't send until close to 6:30 totally by headlamp and sacrificed what was left of my skin on two fingers in the final attempt, hence the title of the problem. The weather is supposed to get worse tomorrow, putting an end to the nice temps we have been experiencing.

The problem goes straight up the Face Wall on the First Overhang Ridge from the obvious flake. There is still a somewhat eliminate-ish lower sitstart to do but I am very happy with the problem as it is one of the better FAs I have done on the mountain. The grade is at least V10 but I am proposing easy V11 as it feels much harder than any of the V10s I have done. The sitstart might be hard V11 or V12.

To finish I soloed the 50 foot 5.0 slab behind it and drank in the spectacular scene of the lights of Boulder below. A satisfying end to a difficult process. Now to let the skin come back.

Pictures and video of attempts to follow. The actual send was in the pitch dark.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

2009 Goals and Height Issues

Well the first naturally is survival. Given the economic picture, I feel fortunate to be working in public higher education where I am actually helping people acquire the skills they will need to better themselves. However the budget picture is bleak and Colorado colleges and universities will be doing a lot more with a lot less in the near future.

On the climbing front, I have two major areas to tackle. The first is to boulder at least at V12 by the end of the year, the second is to master my fear of off-the-deck/run-out climbing. The first seems well within sight but the second is much more psychological and harder to anticipate and control. I would really like to be able to tick a V13 but I feel I have some more work to do before that happens.

Speaking of off-the-deck, the "Dojo" cave at the Spot has been refinished and remodeled a bit at the top as well and is a huge improvement. However the new problems there need to be graded a bit more fairly. For example, I did a 4 minus that took at least 3 tries and felt more in the neighborhood of V7. The five minuses on the wall looked to be in the V10/11 range, having moves that I knew I would never be able to do, let alone link.

While indoor ratings are even more irrelevant than outdoor ones, there is the problem of knowing what you're actually up against that is the key to training. It's like trying to measure running times with an erratic stopwatch or against the world's best sprinter. You need a more objective measure or you can't tell if you actually are making progress. Since I care more about outdoor climbing, I want to be able to gauge my ability against consensus standards and not internal gym scales especially not ones that aren't a bit more internally consistent.

I also have to say, as I have before, that the formation is still a wee bit too high, a point that comes back again to training. Training is for building up your body to handle stress. However over time your body cannot handle the repeated impact of falls from 8-10 feet. There is no training that can offset the destructive power that is transmitted to your vertebrae and other joints, even in an ideal fall. No pad can fully compensate for the repeated trauma of falling regardless of landing position. Another climber there "demonstrated" to the crowd by jumping that falling from the top was fine as long as "you aren't scared." While it's better not to be scared than to be scared, the fact is that the human body is not designed to absorb those forces and it is foolhardy to purposely take a chance at long-term or irreparable damage and ensuing limited mobility and pain. Take a look at this paper for more. Note especially the table on falling. A 9 foot fall results in an impact force of 3600 pounds for an average worker with equipment!

The solution is a formation that allows climbers to climb hard on steep terrain without rising very high above it, the kinds of formations that are very common in many well-known bouldering areas. The classic example is the Automator in RMNP, a steep problem where you are never more than two feet above the ground. A shelf rises up behind you to compensate. In nature these formations are rarely ideal but in a gym they are easy to create. The roof at CATS is similar as well but is a bit too steep and monotonous in angle for ideal climbing. Anyway my point is that gyms should recognize that high walls, while cool to look at and fun to climb, especially at reasonable grades, are a potential long-term hazard for their users, especially those who don't want back or knee surgery at 35.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Jorgeson Interview at Deadpoint Mag

Probably the best of the interviews with Kevin Jorgeson that I have seen is at Deadpoint. In a great post, Jamie Emerson discusses his goals for the year at his site which has me thinking about mine. More later, right now I am just trying to get the spring semester started.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Posted on UK Climbing--Best Climbing Video in Ages

On a less humorous note and written with real insight and feeling is this account of mountain rescue in Wales.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Approach to Lower Chaos--Memories from July 2008

The Park is buried under snow right now but some readers might enjoy a quick recap of the walk up to Lower Chaos. I'll replace the audio soon.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

News Feature

For readers' convenience, I have added RSS feeds for the major news sites on the upper right, allowing easy updates on what's going on. Please let me know if I should add others.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Latest Grade Obsession: The Walk of Life

The latest downgrading issue has arisen with Dave MacLeod's ascent of Walk of Life first done by James Pearson and graded E12. Macleod's blog explains his experience on the route and reasons for rating it E9. Naturally this has created a little stir in an otherwise moribund climbing news climate with questions about Pearson's motivations for rating a route E12. Bjorn Pohl, one of the people at, really takes Pearson to task at his blog in a surprisingly direct fashion. I quote:

How is this possible? Who or What is to blame?

1. Is it simply a question of James having to get out more, repeating other people's hard routes to get a grip on the grades?

2. Has James felt too much pressure from sponsors (real or imagined), affecting his judgment?

3. Has James been consciously misleading us to get the headlines?

4. Is the E-system to blame?

This is a good example of when someone ought to back away a bit and let the dust settle instead of insinuating that another climber is a liar with not enough experience or judgment. I would respect the contributions of a climber like Pearson who has walked the walk a lot more before before I would condescendingly state "everyone is allowed to make a mistake or three."

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Traverse at Flagstaff, Sunday Training

As anyone who has followed this blog will realize, I spend a lot of time at Flagstaff Mountain. The reason for this is not merely convenience however. Given the proximity to one of the world's must competitive climbing scenes, one would expect Flag to be totally climbed out, especially since 50 years of bouldering history have unfolded there. Such is not at all the case however and I have been diligently filling in the gaps and getting some really good training in as well.

A recent project was a L to R traverse on a wall a bit north of First Overhang, where the Mateus High Step Traverse is. This traverse has some of the most continuous crimping on the mountain and its sole flaw is the good sized foot ledge at the base. However if you want to do an interesting and steep V9 line on incut edges check it out. There are literally dozens more lines, traverses, and variations in solid double digit territory on the mountain. The prejudice that many have against climbing here has allowed some very interesting and difficult problems to go untouched which is a shame. A legacy of misinformation and sandbagging has only exacerbated the problem. Thank you, Chip Philips, for selflessly sorting out truth from fiction.

A quick session at CATS this morning was cold and pretty miserable but after putting Sophia down for her nap, I worked out a bit downstairs on the weights and fingerboard. I have a 1/8" and a 1/2" thick wood strip that I use for hangs, weighted hangs, one-hand hangs, pull-ups, regular and weighted, and front levers. I am up to 20 regular pull-ups on the 1/2 and 10 on the 1/8 edges so far.

There was an item in the newest issue of Rock and Ice (but don't bother with going to the website; it's not very good) from Julian Saunders, an osteopath from Australia about weighted pull-ups which I think was rightly blasted by Sonnie Trotter at his blog. Saunders argues that weighted pull-ups are useless for climbing, that they aren't sport-specific. I can't understand this position because by that logic, sprinters, for example could only get stronger by running fast, not by explosive power workouts in the gym. If you are genetically gifted with super-strong fingers or can spend endless days on hard problems, I suppose gym training is redundant. And there is no doubt that returns can rapidly diminish and injuries result. But I agree with Sonnie on this, there is no better way to radically improve finger strength than adding some weight and trying to hang on.