Saturday, September 15, 2012

ABYSS: A Review

The summer bouldering season this year has been a strange one. A lot of heat, wildfires, road construction in RMNP and people traveling has left a kind of void, with very few significant new lines or hard repeats. Matty Hong repeated Warrior Up, Toru Nakajima of Japan did some fast repeats at Lincoln, but really nothing super exciting.

That's what make LT11's new film, ABYSS, so refreshing. It's about the (re)discovery of a huge pile of boulders near the summit of Mount Evans and the simple joys of exploring and inventing new boulders. There's a bit of a conversation, which I was part of, about the ethics of "development" both in terms of the environment and the community of climbers. This dialogue is not too intrusive and is woven in nicely with lots of excellent landscape scenes, time-lapse that is actually interesting, and of course plenty of footage of climbing.

None of the lines, except maybe Death to Traitors and of course the spectacular 5.14 arete Doubloons, look that amazing by themselves but the ensemble adds up to a compelling collection of climbs and an interesting look into the mindset and personalities of first ascensionists. Maybe what is more even interesting is that Jon and Jordan have stepped up their game considerably in this film, maybe the first that is really ready for prime time. The concept is sustained throughout the length of the film and the photography is first-rate. The editing is tight and well-paced.

The 48 minute film is available Monday September 17  for online viewing or download free of charge at LT11. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Climbing and Community on Flagstaff Mountain

I was thinking a bit about community yesterday as I was hauling rocks around Flagstaff Mountain to help with a trail building/rehab project. This was much-needed work for one of the most heavily climbed on areas of the mountain, meaning de facto one of the busiest bouldering areas in the country. It was a nice sunny Saturday, a little hot for the kind of manual labor being undertaken, but overall not too bad. But as I looked around the crew of volunteers, I noticed that, well, I didn't see too many people I knew. That is, if any of Boulder's many serious boulderers or climbers were helping out, they were being pretty stealthy about it, or maybe what is more likely, they were heading up to snag a prime day in the alpine instead of giving back in a tangible way to the climbing community. Here's a look at what they should have been doing.
Flagstaff Trail Day September 8 2012 from peter beal on Vimeo.

This got me thinking about a few things I saw last week. One is the excellent short film by Andrew Kornylak called the Tribe
The Tribe from Andrew Kornylak on Vimeo.

Made in support of the famous Triple Crown Bouldering Series on its 10th anniversary, the film celebrates climbing in the South and conveys a sense of awareness of the greater community of climbers and their environment. Upon a little reflection, I could not think of a similar film having been made about Boulder, even though it claims the title "Center of the Climbing Universe."

 Then I thought about a recent item posted by Gustavo Moser titled "the climbing industry is growing, let’s understand what that means." Moser says that while many applaud the mainstreaming of climbing, few are willing to step up and take responsibility for the resulting impacts and that this needs to change, especially at the industry level. This is something I agree with completely. But I want to argue that change also begins within each individual. We each make a choice on how to spend our time and our resources. And up to a point that's fine. But at some point we have to come together to recognize that a shared responsibility exists to physically maintain and protect the environments in which we live and climb.

 In my view, what is needed at places like Flagstaff (and many other locales) is a serious continuous long-term investment in stabilizing and rehabilitating the physical environment to reflect the reality of human impact. This kind of investment of time and material and labor is not feasible on an individual level. It takes resources and commitments that only a community can make, commitments that are ongoing and substantial. It takes hard work, lots of planning and occasionally sacrificing a prime weekend day to help out at an area you don't even climb at. I haven't climbed at Flagstaff in many months myself.

What I would love to see, as the crowds converge on the Trash Bash on Wednesday, and then just down the road for the Reel Rock Festival on Thursday and Friday, is some serious publicity at both events for the Flagstaff Trail Days work and a big uptick in climber participation in the next two sessions on the 22nd of September and the 6th of October. It's good for the environment, it's a good hard physical workout, and it's great for creating a sense of a genuine climbing community here in Boulder.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Flagstaff Mountain Trail Work

I want everyone in the Boulder area to be aware of an initiative spearheaded by Scott Rennak, in conjunction with Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, to renovate and rehabilitate the bouldering areas on Flagstaff Mountain. This is vitally needed work to restore badly eroded landings, redirect and reduce climbing trails and generally stabilize the bouldering environment so many of us use on a regular basis.

The initial phase will focus on the First Overhang/Upper Y area with a series of Saturdays, starting on the 8th (this coming Saturday) and continuing on September 22 and October 6. All the information you need is at the website

Scott has put in a lot of work into this and it would be great if the Boulder climbing community all gets behind this much-needed event and pitches in to help preserve an important local climbing resource!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Goodbye Rock and Ice (Actually Hello Again!)

I had hoped I would see the last of the business with Andrew Bisharat's rant but Rock and Ice decided to run it, solecisms and grammar issues intact, on their web page.  Well done. I will not be renewing my subscription to the magazine going forward and their news feed has been removed from my site. I can understand AB posting it on his own page but I cannot understand why a "legitimate" media outlet would put up such a hastily and poorly written rant except to bolster the "controversy" and generate page views. While there is an opportunity for a real debate on this topic, the magazine has done the climbing community a genuine disservice by endorsing the piece which is neither funny nor accurate. I know nobody at R&I will lose sleep over my actions but I feel it is the right thing to do.

UPDATE: I just received word from an editor at the magazine that Rock and Ice will be taking down the rant mentioned above. Accordingly I am retracting the above statement. I am sure this will not be the last of this story but I am happy to see a constructive step being taken!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Climbing Blogs Are Alive and Well: Some Examples

Now that the reaction has died down a little from my batting back against Andrew Bisharat's overblown and incoherent polemic against climbing blogs, it's time to switch to the positive side of the ledger. Frankly, I am revising some of the things I have thought about blogs myself in the past. This is because some interesting new voices (and some old ones) are adding new life to independent climbing writing and they should be recognized for their contributions.

In no particular order, therefore, here a few examples of writers and sites that I would encourage readers to check out for an alternative perspective. Some are pro climber blogs, some are not. Some are sponsored by maufacturers, others are completely independent. They tend to be very regularly updated and of consistently good quality. The list is biased towards sport climbing and bouldering right now. Maybe another post for some more in the alpine/big wall, etc. Please give them a visit and let them know what you think of their work. I recommend all of them.

and so on. In fact, the state of climbing blogging is better than ever. If you are bored after looking over the contributions of these writers, you may need to take up another sport!

The major news sites and magazine sites are omitted here.If I didn't mention a writer that you like please add it in the comments section!