Thursday, January 28, 2010

Frankenjura Video via

I've climbed in the Frankenjura a bit and would say that if not for the weather, it might be the best sport climbing area in the world of its type: short steep powerful routes (and boulder problems) on sometimes terrible grips and it's not all two-finger pockets either. The forest setting is superb and approaches are typically next to nothing. Add the thousands of routes from 5.5 to 5.15 and you have many lifetimes worth of projects. This Vimeo video, found at, gives a good taste of the climbing and its surroundings.

Frankenjura 2009 from Waldi on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Deadpoint Magazine Item

This time I am quoting DPM with the intention of praising them, mostly anyway. In a story titled "2010 Winter OR / SCS Open Championships" the writer says the following:

"This year’s trade show saw industry wide team consolidations (read: Cuts). This movement has been largely overdue. The term “pro” has been diluted in the sport of climbing with some companies having 300 or more athletes representing them in the United States alone. This presented a logistical nightmare for team managers, allowing athletes to act without consequence.

In an obvious backlash, the industry finally moved as a cohesive group to reign in their pro ranks, choosing only the athletes that they felt demonstrated their worth in the previous season. Unfortunately for some athletes, this change meant they were left without a sponsor or were forced to find another.

In several cases, especially for the women within our sport, their desire to be paid equally to the men resulted in their dismissal from the team roster. (My emphasis--PB)Unjust as it may be, there does seem to be some level of sexist inequality within the sport of climbing, especially when it comes to sponsorship salaries."

Good for DPM for at least broaching the topic. I wish they had named names, not least because I would like to know whose gear to avoid buying in the future...I wish the author had not remained anonymous as the story would have a bit more punch/credibility with a byline.

I would be happy to explore this topic further. Any athletes who want to comment confidentially on this situation please feel free to contact me via email.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Future of Guidebooks?

This just came in from Dave Pegg at Wolverine. More as details become available.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Outdoor Retailer

The first alpine start I've had since summer meant being on the road by 4:30 to catch a 6:10 flight to Salt Lake City and then a bus into town (No M&W expense accounts to cover a taxi). No luggage or hotel meant I walked into the Salt Palace and got in line (the wrong one naturally) and in 15 seconds met Dan Howley from the Spot. Boulder is everywhere at OR. A few minutes later, in another part of the building, I had my badge (working media)and was on my way in.

My primary purpose, after cashing in on the tip from EZ that New Balance was serving Belgian waffles with strawberry topping, was to meet with editors about various writing projects. Most of the time this work gets done via email but usually actual facetime can prove well worth the expense and effort of travel. I had a great conversation with Michael Kennedy, the editor-in-chief at the revived Alpinist. Michael was a founder of Climbing way back in the day and essentially started what we know as modern climbing journalism. His knowledge and perspective are unique and it was a genuinely educational experience.

Literally five minutes after that conversation, an animated and excited Dave Pegg, the man behind Wolverine Publishing, showed me the latest in digitized guidebooks. Very cool stuff and I plan on having an interview with him about this in coming weeks. (Wolverine published the Boulder Canyon book I collaborated on.) I spent a good amount of time after that with Stewart Green at the Falcon Books booth, talking shop and looking at some of his upcoming work. He also talked about his work to help out Layton Kor who is having serious medical issues. Kor is one of the most important figures in American climbing and you can donate to the cause here.

I also talked with Alison Osius at Rock and Ice about article ideas. Although I tend to focus primarily on my work for this blog, Alison's friendly and warm personality may prove persuasive in the end. Couldn't find Andrew Bisharat though.

After that a long talk with The Mountaineers about a book proposal. Katie Rodgers spent a lot of time walking me through the process of publishing from both the author's and publisher's side. Some good stories were told along the way. I left feeling motivated and excited to get it started. More details in time.

And now it it was time to get back to the airport. A short chat with Joe Kinder, the hardest worker in the climbing blog business, as he showed me photos of new crags near Saint George that look good.

So overall impressions? If you're really into gear and want to know what's new, OR is a good place to go. If you want to run into people in the industry that you know or want to know better, it's a good place to go. But in the end it's really about selling products and that environment can be a bit wearying. For me, dropping in and getting out the same day was a good tactic. I'm not the social type and I don't care for parties or other scenes like that. So thanks to those like EZ who made me feel welcome at the Evolv booth and the other reps I talked with along the way. See you back in Boulder

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Busy Week Ahead

The next week is going to be a bit hectic as classes are going to start Tuesday and I will be making a quick dash out to the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City on Thursday. I plan on talking to a few editors about writing projects and scoping out some of the climbing-related booths in between appointments. I will bring back my impressions of the event for this blog since, if nothing else, OR has become for many an essential part of climbing culture.

Yesterday, I managed to get outside for about half an hour's climbing before it started to rain. For those in less temperate climates, this will sound pathetic, but most Front Range climbers will agree that this winter has been one of the hardest for climbing in recent memory. The snow and ice have stuck around for weeks, not days, and not just in the mountains but on the foothills and plains. That's my primary excuse for not posting much in the way of climbing activity.

Most of that really has been indoors, either at the Spot or on the home wall. The former can prove to be very frustrating at times as the setting typically emphasizes long pulls, sloping pinches, and jumpy moves. I sometimes leave having the feeling of barely dodging a bullet with shoulder injury there. Anyway, there's a lot of winter left yet. Whether I will be able to do much climbing during this time is an open question.

I should complete the review of the Dave MacLeod book, 9 out of 10 Climbers Make the Same Mistakes this week. This is a good and innovative book and worth taking some time to discuss.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fryberger Short--Paul Robinson Profile/Big Worm/Terremer

Interview with Chuck Fryberger

After viewing Chuck's film, Pure, I decided to find out a little bit more about the people and places behind it.

1. You spent a lot of time with Nalle. He's obviously a tremendously gifted athlete. Tell me a bit more about him.

The first time I crossed paths with Nalle was in South Africa. At the time I was bouldering quite well and so we started climbing together. After I saw how talented he was I asked if I could shoot some video, and PURE was born from that experience. Nalle is a very serious climber and he boulders with the kind of purpose and confidence that makes him fun to watch. Bottom line is I've spent a lot of time filming great climbers and no one looks like him on hard problems.

What about Cody?

I used to compete with Cody in the junior leagues when we were just teenagers. Then we lost touch for a little while when we went to Europe to compete in the world cup circuit. We reconnected on a trip to Baja a couple years ago and now he handles all my European business for Chuck Fryberger Films. He speaks several languages and is a very charismatic contact who is great at live events. His highball climbing is frightening because he really enjoys the process of improvisation. Cody is fairly under the radar considering how well he climbs. He recently send a .14b sport route in two tries.

2. You seem to devote a lot of time to capturing the ambiance of an area, both close up and more panoramically. How do you think about this process?

I'm quite drawn to the landscape and the culture of climbing. Pure shows quite a lot of the elements of the climbers lives that surrounds their athletic achievements, and my next film CORE will have even more attention placed on those elements. Of course the bread and butter of a good climbing film is the action, so that always takes precident. Surf films have managed to succeed quite well by focusing on the character, the place, the cinematography, and all the elements other than just the action.

3. Color plays a big role in your filming. How do you keep finding the rich colors that populate the frame in your films?

Good question. The style I developed for PURE was the process of quite a few tests and quite a few decisions I made in production and post production. I like setting out rules for myself... for example... every time I had footage of someone touching their hair - it made the final cut... every time I had footage of someone handing me a beverage I included it in the cut. Every time cody touches his hair I put that footage in the film.

I think it's important to have a recognizable style as a director and cinematographer. And since I edit my own work I can direct a scene, shoot something random, and then include as much of it as I want in the final cut. The balance there is that it's not supposed to be a film about ME, it's about the CLIMBERS.

4.Travel and its environments was a big part of Pure. Lots of planes, roads, trains, etc. Were you trying to say something about the nomadic lifestyle that many modern climbers experience?

I'm glad you noticed. It's open to interpretation why I put in so much travel footage. As Francois Nicole says in the film, traveling and climbing are important parts of what allows us to discover the world. For me personally, PURE also serves as a reminder of a very exciting part of my life... which was spent traveling and filming climbing.

5. I didn't see a lot of US climbing featured. Are the well-known locations such as Hueco, for instance, maybe played out for filming? Why is this?

I just returned from Hueco, filming Matt Wilder on a recent FA for CORE... but to answer your question... the US areas get hit pretty hard with media coverage. For PURE it just happened that the sponsors I found and the talent I was working with had a greater focus on Europe... so that's where I filmed.

6. I really liked the Swiss segments. It seems you saw something special there as well. What is it about Swiss climbing and its environment that appeals to you?

Well the people there are quite cool. The environment is very different from the vast and wide open western US. All the little valleys and the moss-covered forests make a very strange landscape for someone born and raised in Golden.

7.What is your filming setup? Be as technical as you want.

Currently I use a Red One 4K digital cinema camera, and Nikon glass with a variety of old and new filters. I have a big crane and a dolly which are mostly reserved for my advertising work but which I do occasionally bust out for climbing films.

8. How much post-production goes into a film like Pure? How did you shape the footage to get to the final product?

The editing on PURE was very fast because the style was fast and loose. I essentially just try to tell the story of the people I meet, the places I visit, and the climbing that goes on through pictures. I'm very opposed (at least in my recent work) to spoon-feeding my audience with the kind of VO that fits better on a TV program.

9. What's next for Chuck Fryberger?

I've just hired my first staff member, so the business is growing quickly. I'm looking forward to doing higher-end advertising while still remaining present in the core climbing world, and I also want to continue my fundraising efforts for the Elizabethfontaine Primary School in Rocklands.

Were there any extras that the download lacks?

The DVD version features several extras. Some outtakes, a few extra problems, and a short called 'dove es una disco' - Italian for 'where is the disco?'.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pure: A Film by Chuck Fryberger--The M&W Review

This is an amazing time to be a film-maker in climbing. New technologies allow incredible power in creating and presenting images. Lightweight high-resolution HD cameras offer clarity and precision unheard of in productions of only a few years ago. The standard achieved by shoestring operations, i.e. most climbing film-makers, is frankly inspiring as it shows that people with the right motivation and powers of observation and insight can go as far as they want to. The fan of climbing film has never had so much high quality material for viewing as now.

Pure is the most recent film by Chuck Fryberger and illustrates these qualities of observation and insight abundantly. He partnered with the awesome climbing talents of Nalle Hukkataival, Kevin Jorgeson, and Cody Roth, to name only a few to create a genuinely interesting and exciting depiction of the new wave in bouldering. A broad range of fascinating locales are visited in the course of the video including Rocklands, Northern California, Austria, and Switzerland.

The argument could be made that the Rocklands segment is worth the 15 dollar download by itself. Chuck has documented not only amazing problems but the texture and ambiance of the area. The filming of Sky and Amandla, two V14 problems, really capture something special about the intensity of their difficulty and their inherent aesthetic appeal, remarkable since they are very different in style. Nalle’s warm and unpretentious manner belies the power he can apply to these problems.

This theme is carried over into a segment featuring Kevin Jorgeson on the coast north of San Francisco. Eerily sculpted rock over bad landings adjacent to the crashing surf push this master of highball bouldering into spooky positions but Jorgeson’s low-key persona leaves us reassured that it’s all going to be OK.

Font is good, especially as Nalle crushes the Dave Graham testpiece, The Island, V15. I feel the hip-hop background track is perhaps misplaced here as it doesn’t seem to match the environment or Nalle’s style of climbing. And maybe some other problems besides the “Big Four” of Cuvier Rempart would have been a better choice as those have been extensively filmed elsewhere. With so much to choose from in the forest, a fresh set of problems would have been welcome. But still they are beautifully climbed and filmed.

Innsbruck, Austria is an incredible place for all forms of climbing and bouldering in the snow, in temperatures more appropriate to ice climbing, is the game here. Anna Stoehr dispatches a beautifully sculpted V11 next to a rushing creek, her body flowing like the water behind her. Killian Fischhuber has a very different style, bursting with energy, and the footage of the World Cup at Vail reflects this abundantly. In fact the later sequence of Nalle at Arco, achieved the impossible, making video of competition actually exciting to watch. Wrapping up the Zillertal, Cody’s ascent of Sundance (V12) is acrobatic and it's fascinating to try to decipher his sequence.

Switzerland really forms the heart of the film and a gorgeous opening shot leads via highways and road signs to gorgeous boulders in pine forests. Footage of Francois and Frederic Nicole are a real highlight. Reto Hartmann moves through the mist up a steep V13 is followed by a shot of dangling moss brushed by the wind. Here the natural environment is as much a subject for the camera as the climber moving through it. The mysterious setting is well mirrored by the music and this effective synthesis is a hallmark of much of this film, never more so than in this segment.

After a rousing comp scene at Arco, we see Nalle again on some very beautiful boulders in Magic Wood and Brione, capping what will be for most viewers, I am sure, a very satisfying viewing experience. In short this is a very good film from every standpoint. Chuck’s aesthetic sense is at times uncannily in tune with the camera, milking the maximum potential from each frame. The colors are always rich, the light is captivating,and the movement is well, pure. Highly recommended viewing.

Look for an interview with Chuck Fryberger in the next post.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Climbing Action! or lack of it

If you have been on the Front Range in the past three weeks, or even passing through, you will know what I am going to talk about. Snow. Snow that will not go away. Why? Because of cold that will not go away. This has seriously hampered even the most dedicated climbers around here from doing much of anything outside. This is not typical for Christmas break around here.

So what am I doing? Festering a bit as I try to rehab my elbow--a slow process with its ups and downs. But I'm also getting the chance to look over some great films and a new book by Dave MacLeod. I am hoping to get a look at even more video as Internet downloading becomes more and more the way to distribute it. If you are a film-maker and want me to review your work, let me know. I am especially interested in work that is innovative, aesthetically focused, and insightful regarding the environment and the inner life of climbers and climbing. The same criteria applies for other media, electronic or print, or whatever. With the magazines devoting less space than ever to reviews, blogs such as this one are becoming the best source for information about new books, periodicals, and films.

I am also working with the Alpinist on a short essay about the so-called "Golden Age" in American climbing and have some ideas for other pieces. Stay tuned

So things have been busy. Thanks to Jamie Emerson for including me on his top ten list for climbing sites for Elephant Journal. Jamie represents the straightforward and informative perspective that all media, electronic or traditional should have.

A good interview at FRB with Brent Apgar is here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Brian Solano Interview

Brian Solano is one of the most prolific and talented young film-makers in climbing today and I reviewed his most recent film, The Players, in a previous post. He replied to an email interview recently and his answers may interest both his audience and any aspiring film-makers out there. Thanks Brian and looking forward to your next movie!

1. How do you arrange production of the movie? Do you schedule meetings with climbers?

I start the process by finalizing a concept. That may be a trip to a cool area (Spray) or a general theme (The Players). From there, I get a crew of featured climbers together. Phone calls, emails, and even Facebook is a great start to see who's psyched. The climbing world is pretty small, so I have pretty good personal relationships with a lot of the climbers you see in my movies. That makes the production that much easier, cause your really just out climbing / shooting with your friends. That's the ideal situation and yields the most authentic finished product.

Then we plan trips with the climbers or arrange to join them on an already planned trip. From there, its all about capturing the experience, while focusing on the theme. In the case of The Players, that theme was what makes them a unique, stand out athlete in the game of climbing. Climbing is a personal sport and everyone's experience is driven by a different motivation. That may be onsighting, hard redpointing, single pitch trad, big walls, exploring/traveling, bouldering, etc. I tried to focus on this for each of the segments in The Players.

2. How do you scout locations? What do you look for in both area and climb?

For me personally, I prefer to shoot clean, visually appealing lines. When scouting, I'll look at the light first and figure out what the best time to shoot would be. Then I'll look at angles to decide what gear will be necessary to capture to action. Sometimes basic tripods and monopods will get the job done. Other times, we bring in cranes and rigging gear. I also keep an eye on the area from a more grand perspective. Its easy to get tunnel vision and focus on just the climbs. But I like to make sure I capture the experience of being there the best I can.

3. What equipment do you use for filming--camera, sound, lights?

The Players was shot in all HD, but with a wide variety of cameras. I collaborated with several other shooters, including Tim Kemple, Mike Call, Andy Mann, Wade David, and Chad Greedy. We used Sony XDCAM EX1, Panasonic HVX200, Sony FX1, and even some of the smaller consumer HD cameras.

For lighting, the film was mostly shot with natural light. Occasionally we'll use reflectors to bounce light in. With a little patience and planning, you can shoot with beautiful natural light.

4. What kind of story are you trying to tell with your climbing movies?

Every film is different, but I think the common theme across my whole body of work is the experience. I want to capture the experience and share that with the viewers. I haven't tried to tell stories in the traditional sense. Sometimes that experience is all about the action, other times it's all about the environment/surroundings, and it can also be about the accomplishments. That's what makes climbing so special, there's always something new around every corner!

5. Given the widespread proliferation of free climbing videos on the Internet, is there a future for marketing climbing video through the traditional channels or is it somewhere else? Where do you see climbing video headed next?

I think there is a future in the traditional channels. There will still be DVDs for a while. I see the digital downloads picking up speed, especially when technology to play the downloads on a TV becomes more widespread.

Pro producers will continue to be able to differentiate themselves from all the free videos on the internet. Higher production value and more polished finished products will continue to have value over the web shorts you'll find for free. I'm sure we'll see more professionally produced sponsored FREE videos online soon, once the industry gets behind this concept. Bottom line, it cost money to produce high quality films and there will always be a demand for quality over quantity.