Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Article in the Camera/Colorado Daily

Jenn Fields, reporter for the Boulder paper, contacted me recently about the practice of sharing information about boulder problems via blogs, Facebook, etc. I have a lot of videos posted at this blog for this purpose. She also talked with Jon Glassberg, routesetter at the Spot and prolific video maker. The story was a good look into the changing landscape of media in climbing. I definitely think guidebooks have a permanent role in the climbing world but there is no question that, regardless of climbing level, more and more climbers do a Google search to see if a video is available for their project. The widespread availability of cheap cameras and editing software has pretty much ended the idea that climbing video per se is special and a more information-based model for video is taking over. Obviously bouldering with its short video times and dynamic nature is a perfect fit.
Speaking of video, the short clip I made of Jimmy Webb on European Human Being was posted on 8a.nu and was seen well over 2000 times that day. I just happened to pull out the camera in time for what turned out to be Jimmy's last try, the one he took after he was supposed to be done. Moral of the story? Always have the cameras on hand and ready.

Also speaking of videos, I will soon post a review of Rocky Mountain Highball, kindly sent to me by Andy Mann.

Rocky Mountain Highball - Official Trailer from Yama Studio on Vimeo.

Rocky Mountain Highball - OFFICIAL Bouldering Teaser from vas entertainment on Vimeo.

Friday, June 25, 2010

European Human Being V12 RMNP: Video

European Human Being V12 RMNP from peter beal on Vimeo.

This was a great fight to the finish. With this problem Jimmy Webb has done everything V11 and up in Chaos except Freaks of the Industry which is buried. I probably don't need to add that it's a long-term project of mine. See you up there!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bouldering and Mount Everest

I have been making the drive over to Estes pretty consistently over the past two weeks, putting in some serious effort on two or three hard problems. Pondering the somewhat absurd nature of the enterprise, I ran across this forum topic at 8a.nu, "What bouldering grade would you give Everest?" This led to me to consider the relative difficulty of, say, a  V12 boulder problem in RMNP,  compared to Mount Everest and the likelihood of my doing either. This was thrown into relief by the recent ascent by Jordan Romero, a 13-year old from California, whose success and accompanying publicity recently motivated the Chinese to institute age limits for attempts from the Tibetan side. Nepal has had such restrictions for some time.

I feel pretty confident in saying that the main obstacle to my climbing Everest is a large amount of money and time and not much else. It is remarkable that a climb which tested the limits of human endeavor in the 1950s is now essentially a tourist destination. A V12 in RMNP, while commonplace enough today, still demands a kind of commitment in terms of training and dedication that the average Seven Summitter doesn't require. I think for me the sense of total reliance on my own resources to achieve the goal of this grade at my age gives a certain edge to what seems a minor enterprise at best from the outside. I cannot rely on guides, technology, oxygen, or anything else besides my mind and body. The adventure is deeply internal rather than external. Though the obstacles of altitude, oxygen and weather are present (I wonder how many trips to Chaos Canyon equals the elevation gain of an Everest ascent), the hardest one to master is time, especially using it efficiently and effectively in a short climbing season. Perhaps more importantly there is also time in terms of aging; how many more seasons will such a goal remain feasible?

My true Everest in bouldering is a solid V13, perhaps a problem like Nuthin' But Sunshine, or The Swarm. Whether I can achieve this is a true unknown but the challenge is a strangely compelling one and continues to draw me onward. I will keep you posted on how it's working out.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rocky Mountain National Park

If you live on the Front Range, or read about bouldering on the Internet, you are probably aware that the Park is in full swing. I have been up there this week and have been enjoying the experience a great deal so far. My relationship with RMNP bouldering has been uneven to say the least, primarily for two reasons. First is the time it takes to get there and back, which is about two hours from my house to Lower Chaos canyon. However I am getting the hike more and more in hand, making the approach faster and easier. Second is the climbing style. Other climbers have commented on how since the typical problem involves crimping, I should be all set. I have found that true textbook crimps, such as say, the credit card hold on Nuthin' But Sunshine, are actually very rare. What is more common is a slippery, slightly sloping edge, often a sidepull, requiring a complex and powerful combination of heelhooks, toehooks and body tension to stay on. For some reason I find the texture of the rock in the Park off-putting; like Rifle limestone, it feels polished and smooth, lacking much in the way of bite or friction.

I am serving my RMNP apprenticeship by mastering (some day) the unfortunately named Gang Bang Arete, a "V8" which forces every style of climbing I am weakest at, slopers, toehooking, heelhooking, and long dynos. This problem has taken something like at least 4 days of visits to the Park and while I think it will go next trip, I cannot be sure. The holds are totally slippery, the line is unimpressive  (and I am pretty sure that someone at some point used pof on the start) but nevertheless, I feel that this problem needs to go down first. It is a matter of getting strong and paying dues. I also feel that the V12 just around the corner, Secret Splendor, may, in the end, take just about as much effort in terms of time.The moves on Secret Splendor are definitely coming together.

Anyway it has been a beautiful couple of sessions up there so far. The trail is almost snow-free at this point. In Lower Chaos, there is a lot of snow still among the boulders. European Human Being and Bush Pilot are buried as are the Warm-Up and Potato Chip Boulders. The formations up a bit higher are mostly dug/melted out. Most of the action is in Upper Chaos these days as the boulders are less snowed in and the approach made reasonable by the extensive snowfield over the talus. I hope to get up there as well soon.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Then and Now

A very perceptive comment was left on my recent piece about Eric Hörst's new book on mental training. In it the poster wrote of the role that finger strength plays in hard climbing today, wondering if perhaps today's climbers simply have stronger fingers than those of the past:

"While I suppose that mental strength could be the reason, I see no reason that it might be anything other than finger strength and approach.

I would love to see extensive finger strength testing amongst the world's top climbers. Such a thing is nebulous and would be tricky to test, but I would guess that you would see an extremely high correlation between pure finger strength and difficulty-attained."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mount Evans

On Wednesday, I had to opportunity to actually take a full day to go out climbing. I had not been to Mount Evans in a long time and wanted to see the place again. I was accompanied by Ferdinand Schulte, a boulderer from Holland who competed in Vail in the World Cup. It was hard to tell who was better acclimated since I had not been at altitude since last year sometime in August. The walk was long as usual and the warmup on the Ladder at Area was less than inspiring, though viewing the mountain goats on the cliffs above kept the motivation up. I was mostly looking for a tune-up hike and to see if Clear Blue Skies would be feasible.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Eric Hörst's Maximum Climbing: A Review

I should begin my review of this important new book by reminding readers that Eric Hörst has been one of the relatively unsung yet valuable presences in American rock-climbing for the past three decades. I first remember encountering him in photos and articles about the New River Gorge, where he really helped push forward the American sport-climbing revolution. At the same time, he was developing an extensive knowledge about the theory and practice of training for climbing and as far as I can tell remains the most reliable source on the subject outside of Europe. I have stated elsewhere that his book Training for Climbing is the best recent single volume I have seen on understanding how the physiology of climbing functions. His website and many books are a veritable fount of suggestions and ideas for improving your climbing. Based on number and quality of publications alone he is probably the most significant author currently writing on climbing training and performance in the English-speaking world.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Spring in the Mountains

There is no question that this season is shaping up to be an intense one in the alpine bouldering areas in the Front Range. Visitors and locals alike have been braving deep snow to visit RMNP and Evans. Particularly important in this regard was Carlo Traversi's ascent of Jade, the 6th so far.