Wide Wednesdays at Mount Woodson

25 11 2009

One of the areas in the back yard of San Diego is Mount Woodson. This area offers an interesting assortment of cracks of various sizes. Many are short enough to boulder, but others warrant a top rope. Despite taking good gear I think most of the routes are rarely led.  Since we can get out to Woodson after work, a group of guys, mainly dudes from Pullharder,  have been working on our offwidth skills. The main targets so far have been Right Long’s Crack, Mother Superior and Greg’s Crack. Stein and I thought this would be good training for Freerider but it’s turned into something more.  I’ll let the photos and the videos do the talking!

Videos were shot by various people and edited by Josh. Thanks to Roberto for the photos!

Stein gets psyched for some offwidth action!

Josh gets inverted on Right Longs Crack.

The first wide Wednesday.

Stein works his feet.

Our second trip of attempts.

Luke on his send of Right Longs Crack.




Intersection Rock BBQ 2009

23 11 2009

After spending most of last fall projecting Equinox in J-Tree Lizzy and I have not been back in a while  and have mainly climbed in other places. However when a bunch of climbers are going to party in the desert it is hard to say no.

Back in October was the 4th annual Intersection Rock BBQ. A few of my friends, Jamie, Hartley, Whitney and Jake, came down from Santa Barbara and met up with the already large San Diego crew.

Getting all dressed up for the BBQ!

Shay is king of the party with his Roller Skates.

People are still heading up as night falls on Hidden Valley

The weekend plan was to do a bit of climbing, but most importantly have a raging BBQ on top of Intersection Rock. The logistics for this is pretty impressive and I hand it to the guys at Pullharder for pulling it off yet again.  Hartley brought some amazing steak and I grilled a ton of burgers and sausages. There were haulbags full of beer and ice and costumes a plenty. The party was a success and everyone got down safely!

Jamie on his way way up Left Ski Track

In what seems to be a tradition from the year before I followed Left Ski Track so Jamie could get the onsight of his first 5.11 at Joshua Tree. This was an impressive send since he had to downclimb the first crux to retrieve an essential piece of gear. I still think Left Ski Track is pretty hard for the grade and it felt cruxy even though I’ve lead it clean and followed it before.

Luke starts up Hidden Arch.  Photo thanks to Scotty

Jamie with a casual TR flash of Hidden Arch!

Earlier in the day I worked on and sent Hidden Arch a cool mixed climb that has some tough face moves a noticeable distance above two small but bomber nuts. True to it’s name  the crack arches to the left and a fall from the crux could have you hitting a large chock stone. Konstantin, a friend who worked the route, had brought out a pad to cover this block on some of his attempts. I had a spotter to keep me off the block but still couldn’t figure out the moves my first try on lead.  After the failed onsight I lowered from my gear and walked around to set a TR.  I tried the crux moves a few times with the comfort of the top rope and then I went for the lead again even though I had never linking all of the crux moves. On my second lead attempt I committed to the cryptic moves, crimped, stemmed and pressed my way to the finish. Having not done the last 50 feet yet, I slowly worked to the anchor, making sure not to blow the send.

Whitney, our weekend photographer.

Hartley enjoying a bit of the shade by Satanic Mechanic.

The next day I was pretty spent mentally from Hidden Arch so Jamie and I decided on some sport climbing. Despite being a mainly trad area there are a few high quality vertical to overhanging sport routes in Joshua Tree. I had heard things about climbs such as Bebop Tango, Father Figure, Desert Shield and Satanic Mechanic but had never tried them. On our first morning we had warmed up on the classic Loose Lady but despite all the bolts I think of it as a sporty slab and not a true sport climb. Our plan was to warm up a bit and hopefully do Satanic and if we felt good work on to Desert Shield.

Jamie gets ready for some intense belay action…

Luke goes big on Satanic Mechanic.

I got about half way up Satanic before I was confronted with the first crux, a long reach in the photo above. I  just barely latched the hold unable to figure out another sequence. Later on Hartley found some beta using a higher right hold that made this reach more manageable. A few moves later I was at another crux and after many takes and falls couldn’t figure it out. Jamie booted up and tried his hand at the moves but was foiled as well. Up went the stick clip and Jamie made his way to the top working out a few more difficult sequences on the way. Hartley made fast work of the various cruxes using cool beta that Jamie and I hadn’t seen. A few falls later he was at the top, nice work dude! I wanted to try the line on TR and made good progress but couldn’t do the last crux before the final bolt. A combination of heat and bad skin meant that I would have to return on another trip.

Jamie makes good progress on Stem Gem

Before moving on to some more roped climbing Hartley insisted that we try Stem Gem. Hart had mastered this problem a few years before but Jamie and I had yet to send this crazy smearing test piece. Whitney had a great fish eye lens and you can see dramatic appearance it added to the photo above of the crazy shape of the starting scoop. For the first time I figured out how to get on the wall and Jamie, after a few close attempts made it to the top!

Ho Man, this route is fun!

We finally left the Real Hidden Valley and made our way to Barker Dam to catch some shade at Dissolution Rock .  Hartley lead the splitter Life’s A Bitch And Then You Marry One which was very fun for 5.7 though a bit on the short side. I lead Martial Sin which was a bit more exciting than I expected. While the moves were not too hard I thought there would be  more crack climbing than thin edging and had to commit to tricky moves well above gear. It was a good experience and I pulled it off.  We exchanged top ropes, which Jamie, In the photo above, clearly enjoyed.

Luke is psyched to be pulling down

While I was moving the rope around to set up another TR Jamie figured out a cool boulder problem on a small arete. We both sent this climb using some cool bear hug moves and way too much body tension and opposition. You can tell I was excited to grab a downward facing hold in the photo above.

I forget exactly what happened next but I think I was being pushy about getting a belay or had started up the route without a belay. Regardless Jamie taught me a lesson with a wondrous 60 feet of wedgies. Each time I would move up the route Jamie would jump and take in the rope, often hauling me up the climb. My balance was totally off and my feet were useless. We all couldn’t stop laughing as seen in the photo below…

Luke has a blast despite the extreme tension in the rope.

The weekend was a blast and eventually we had to part ways to drive to our respective homes. I’m still a bit behind on trip reports and hopefully should be publishing about Free Rider after thanksgiving break and Lizzy will be doing a post about the #jtreetweetup.

All photos taken by Whitney Freedman except where otherwise noted.



Sweet Gear Review: Black Diamond Stone Gloves

20 11 2009

Back when I was learning to lead belay (and climb multipitch routes), one of my guides told my classmates and I that we needed to go get daisy chains and belay gloves before he’d let us lead belay: a daisy chain so that you can attach yourself to an anchor (although now I typically anchor with a clove hitch on the dynamic rope and have my daisy as backup) and gloves to make you more likely to catch a long fall when the force could otherwise start ripping the skin on your palms (yes, the thought of that makes me cringe, too).

The belay gloves are especially relevant for someone like me, who has small hands and often belays someone heavier than myself and I’ve continued wearing them most of the time. I’ve found that they help me when I’m dealing with the extra friction when top-belaying with my Reverso, and they help keep my hands a little more rope-grime-free (because when my hands get all rope-grime-y, I’m even more likely to accidentally get rope grime all over my face).

So over the past ~6 years I’ve gone through 2 pairs of Metolius Climbing Gloves, which are leather 3/4 finger belay gloves (I wear an XS). I’ve been pretty happy with them, except for the fact that sometimes the internal seams can really rub on the backs of my fingers (non-ideal when the cracks you’re climbing are doing that too).

I recently received a pair of the new Black Diamond Stone Gloves, which are also leather 3/4 finger gloves (again, I wear an XS in these also). I’ve been using them for the past couple of weekends doing short multipitches and cragging and overall I’m very happy with them, although there are a couple small issues you may want to consider, depending on what you plan to use your gloves for.

Black Diamond Stone gloves in black (photo from Backcountry.com)

When I first put the gloves on, I noticed that they already felt nice. My previous gloves have always been a bit stiff at first (which makes the whole seam-rubbing-on-fingers problem worse), but these were good right away. They fit me a little tighter than my Metolius gloves, but the Metolius ones were always a tad big anyways. I have the gloves in black, but they also come in tan. The black has been nice in this cooler weather, but for warm weather uses I imagine the tan might be preferable.

The 3/4 finger length gave me good dexterity (a lot of full-finger gloves are too long for my small girly fingers), while still providing my hands with some warmth (which is another reason I like to have gloves with me). The gloves have a nice big (yet fairly low-profile) velcro strap to help with the on/off. They have worked just fine for standard belaying and rappelling and I don’t see any reason to switch back. The gloves are very well made and I think may be lighter than my previous gloves, which are both nice features.

Here’s how the gloves look on my hands. Note how the leather doesn’t really cover 3/4 of my fingers…

There were a couple of small issues:

  • The fingers are not quite as long as the fingers on my Metolius gloves. This means you have to try a little harder to keep the rope in your palm and not rubbing against your fingers – so these may not be the ideal gloves for aid climbing, where you have a lot of rope-pulling to do.
  • As you can see in the picture, there are holes in the straps. I assumed these were loops to clip in to when I want to put my gloves on my harness. So far they haven’t been as well suited to this purpose as the loops on my Metolius gloves. I also discovered some small loops on the inside of the glove that I guess you could thread a small loop of accessory cord through to make your own clip-in loops, but I still don’t know how well this would work. Basically the main annoyance is that the two gloves don’t sit in quite as low-profile a manner as I’m used to when they’re on my harness.

Overall, I’d say these are great for most cragging and multipitch uses. The gloves are well-constructed, reasonably lightweight, comfortable, and easy to get on/off. For any routes that could involve more hauling and aiding, I’d probably recommend going with something a little more heavy duty and with longer fingers.

Any thoughts about other brands or styles of belay gloves?


Full Disclosure: Black Diamond provided these gloves to DreamInVertical in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed above are my own and reflect my experience with these gloves.

For more Sweet Gear reviews from Luke and Lizzy check out our Gear Reviews page.

More Gear Reviews Coming Soon!

17 11 2009

After testing out the Acrteryx R320 I was interested in trying out the competition. Right now I am testing the Black Diamond Chaos with the Kinetic Core Construction. So far I’ve mainly been cragging but it went up the Freeblast twice back in October. After a bunch more pitches I will be doing a full review with a comparison against the R320.


The BD Chaos fully loaded on Hidden Arch in Joshua Tree

I just bought a pair of La Sportiva Speedsters so I will be contributing to Lizzy’s review so we can get a dual perspective on this new soft soled slipper. Expect this in the next two months after Lizzy and I have a chance to go bouldering on real rock.

Lizzy and I have been climbing multipitches for a while and have found that in some situations hauling the pack can be ideal for the follower. After putting holes in many of our packs we have recently switched to using the Metolius Haul Packs when we want to haul.

El Cap trip 2 - 169

A mess of gear and the yellow Metolius Shield Haul Pack

On the Original Route on Rainbow Wall I hauled a Zodiac pack, 15L, and on El Captain we used the Shield, 31 L, as a sub bag. These bags still look great after 10 and 22 pitches of hauling respectively. After a few more trips I plan on publishing a review and a few hauling tips.

Also I  think it would be nice to provided a summary of the summit/ follower packs that Lizzy and I have used. My current favorite is the Black Diamond RPM which is a bit on the large size (26L) but compacts easily and holds weight really well.

El Cap - Oct 09 054 - edit2

Walking across the Mammoth Terraces on El Captain with the Black Diamond RPM pack.

After much searching and frustration with outdoor clothing companies, Lizzy has finally found a pair of non-cotton, non-yoga-style climbing pants that fit her in addition to providing sun and bug protection. After a few months of testing for durability Lizzy will be writing a review of the Columbia Womens’ Trekster pants. Also, Lizzy has been using the new Black Diamond Stone gloves and should have a review of them out shortly.

I have a pair of the Black Diamond N-Force Ascenders and will be doing a comparison with the Petzl Ascension.  After using the BD ascenders 4 days straight on Freerider I have a good idea about what I like and what doesn’t work.

El Cap trip 2 - 030

N-Force in hand, ready for El Captain!

For other Sweet Gear reviews make sure to check out the Gear Reviews page.



Alpine Art by Renan Ozturk

11 11 2009

I wanted to take a moment to highlight some climbing inspired art. As climbers we travel to amazing places and often return home with just memories. I have tried to take photographs but they do not even start to capture the brilliance and emotion of places I go. I think Renan’s art shows a very interesting perspective of the mountain peaks he has visited. It seems working in the field can help motivate a new artistic method and bring additional character to the pieces. The raw environment of the mountains allows for a unique studio and puts you in touch with the power of nature.

Renan shows some of the wild environments where his pieces were created.

Alpine Wonderlands” exhibition in the Max Bell building at the Banff Centre

“Samsara” Trailer with Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk trying to climb Meru’s Sharkfin

You can follow Renan’s adventures via his blog or his vimeo account.



Philosophical Musings on Rock Climbing

9 11 2009

Prompted by a recent post by Jamie Emerson on Grades.  I thought it would be good to dig up a few older thoughtful posts on climbing mixed with some classic climbing quotes.

“The best climber in the world is the one who’s having the most fun.”

– Alex Lowe

Grades, Grade, Grades.

“As we unloaded packs at the parking lot, two young ladies approached us to ask if we were THE Yosemite climbers… They asked if it were true that Yosemite climbers chafe their hands on the granite to enable them to friction up vertical walls. We assured them that the preposterous myth was true.”

-Chuck Pratt – 1965

What is Trad?

‘I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.’

– Bene Gesserit “Litany Against Fear” from Dune by Frank Herbert

Hesitation and Commitment.

“Some of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible.”

– Doug Lawson

Training, Progress, Belief



Sweet Gear Review: La Sportiva TC Pro

6 11 2009

Tommy Caldwell is an inspiration, a bad ass and one of the most talented all around climbers in the world.  When I heard Sportiva was coming out with the TC Pro I wanted in. I’ve been a Miura junkie for a while but was curious about what the TC Pro had to offer. I dream of doing many long free routes and thought these shoes might offer an all day solution.

So far I’ve worn the TC Pros for more than twenty days which has racked up over 100 pitches of climbing. This ranges from the first day wearing the shoes at the gym, a pair of multi-pitch first ascents in the Tuttle Creek / Lone Pine Peak region  to climbing El Capitan. I’ve climbed from 5.6 slab to 5.12 face and all grades and styles in between. I’ve been climbing mainly on granite but the type of granite ranges from the the alpine rock of Mount Langley and Mount Conness, to Tahquitz, Joshua Tree  and Yosemite.


Standing on nothing in Pine Creek Canyon

These shoes are marked as all around performers and I would have to agree. The first weekend climbing the TC Pro’s went to Pine Creek near Bishop for a bunch of fun sport climbs. I had taken them on a short crack climbing trip to San Diego’s Mt. Woodson but nothing serious. On their first lead climb, I was unfamiliar with such a stiff sole and didn’t know how to use them. Over the day, I found they could stand on very small edges which resulted in an onsight of Stone Cold Fusion, seen above. This was one of my hardest onsights of the last few months and the new shoes clearly did not hold me back.

Many of the sport routes on the Mustache Wall follow flaring cracks, un-protectable by trad gear, with sections of face climbing. In these flares the TC Pro’s worked really well since they are stiff horizontally and allowed me to get secure foot jams with zero foot pain.

One of the things that I also learned this first weekend was that the TC Pros do not break-in easily and after a pitch of climbing I was ready to take them off. On the other hand, the laces allow for a ton of adjustability so I could fit them a bit loosely on easier pitches for less pain. I was able to wear them for two consecutive pitches on the excellent three pitch MegaPlex, but was happy to take them off at the top.


Doing an FA on Mount Langley

After Pine Creek I knew that I wanted to take the TC Pro’s crack climbing and the following weekend I got in thirteen full pitches of alpine climbing. On the first day on Mt. Langley I was able to wear the wear the shoes for a five pitch FA, only having to unlaced  them at the pitch three belay.  I was really happy with the lining of the shoes on this climb since my feet stayed quite warm in the TC Pro on the shady North facing route.  Also, the cracks were a bit sharp and the TC Pro’s did a great job of protecting my ankles.

The next day turned out to be an even longer adventure on the Keystone wall where we added a new finish variation to one of the existing lines. Climbing another new five pitches, I found a downside to the high top as small twigs, loose rock  and various other pieces of nature got wedged in my shoe. To be fair, the rock quality wasn’t ideal and I did climb through a few trees so this might be expected in a high top shoe. This day my feet were really starting to break into the shoes, though I still had pain in my little toes and occasionally my right big toe fell asleep.


Trusting the smears on Spook Book at the Needles

The last three months these shoes  stayed on my feet for almost all my climbing adventures. They worked great in the granite cracks of the Needles and performed on the tricky footwork in Yosemite. As a final test I wore the TC Pro on our onsight attempt of the Freeblast. The shoes worked well standing on the small feet and jamming in many cracks. Our next day we went back for the redpoint and I swapped in my Miuras that I usually wear on multipitch routes.  While the Miuras provied me with added sensitivitiy, mainly due to the thinner sole, I missed the stiffness of the TC Pro. I felt less secure on small edges due to the softer platform of the Miuras. I think this test really drove home the advantage of the stiff shoe.

TC Pro Review - 040

TC Pro’s after climbing El Capitan

I held off publishing this review for a week so I could squeeze in one more test, El Capitan.  This past weekend I made my first multi day attempt on Freerider and brought along the TC Pro’s. The shoes are nicely broken in now, and while I still took them off at some belays, I was not in a rush to do so. These were the only climbing shoes I wore for our three and half days on the route. The shoes continue to perform wonderfully and they helped me have confidence to stand on numerous tiny foot holds including a redpoint of the 5.11+ slab just above Heart ledges that had seemed impossible on a previous attempt. After many pitches of climbing the shoes are in pretty good shape except for the rands on the side of the shoe. As you can see in the photo above both rands a third of the way up the inside of the shoe  have worn through quite a bit. This duribility issue  is the only real  gripe I have with these shoes.  Everyone’s feet are different so your milage may vary.  I have been using these shoes on a multitude of cracks and the wear may be caused by the way I jam my feet or an issue specific to my pair of shoes.

Overall I highly recommend these shoes. They perform amazingly well on granite and are a dream for single and multi-pitch crack climbing.


As I have stated, this shoe is fairly stiff and the rubber is a bit thick in the front. However, contrary to expectations, I think this shoe smears very well. The feel of small divots in the rock may be diminished by thick sole but the TC Pro really sticks to the rock. I was very impressed on Spook Book where I was constantly trusting my feet to featureless granite.  Proving its all around status, yet again, these shoes were instrumental on my first Yosemite 5.12 which featured powerful underclings with minimal feet. The TC Pro stuck to the wall and allowed for powerful opposition as I climbed the sweeping arch of Underclingon.


Committed to a layback on Atlantis at the Needles, CA.


An afternoon climbing at one of the San Diego local areas made me really understand how the TC Pro’s worked with edges.  So far I had not trusted them on thinner edges since I didn’t have a good feeling of the rock through the thick and  stiff sole. Lets split edges into three categories: a large edge, a small edge and a micro edge. With a large edge you have so much rubber on the feature that you don’t expect to feel it. Here the TC’s work great and stiffness is a plus. On a small edge I am used to being able to feel the edge and how my shoe is sitting on it.  Since the TC Pro’s are so stiff I struggle when I can’t feel where my foot is on an edge. On a micro edge you don’t expect to feel the edge and the stiffness is a plus. Thus the TC Pro excels for micro-edging and I have been impressed with how well it sticks to micro footholds. The micro-edge theory was further confirmed on Stairway to Heaven at Tahquitz where I had to apply all of my weight to some very small holds which great success.  On the opposite edge of the spectrum, I struggled to stand on a small edge on The Flakes since it felt smaller than it really was, due to the lack of sensitivity. Perhaps these are just my own mental distinctions but this is the best way I can explain my experience with the TC Pro.


A bit of tricky footwork on Pratt’s Crack.

Crack and Offwidth Protection

The semi high top of the TC Pro’s does a great job of protecting your ankles. Prior to climbing Mt. Conness and Pratt’s Crack I had spent a day of offwidthing using the lower-topped Tradmaster. My ankles turned out quite beat up and I was very happy to have the high top protection when climbing the offwidth on the Harding Route. I also found the lengthwise stiffness on the TC Pro works really well for offwidths and squeeze chimneys. I felt very secure doing heel toe jams in 6″ – 10″ cracks and doing tricky foot stacking on Pratt’s Crack. These shoes really work well in cracks of all sizes!


  • Stiff sole edge well on very small holds.
  • Horizontal stiffness and toe padding make this shoe a crack climbing all-star.
  • Lining is soft and warm (good for alpine routes).
  • High top provides excellent ankle protection.


  • Long break in time.
  • The side rand has durability issues.
  • Thick sole reduces sensitivity.
  • Expensive.


I wear the TC Pro in a size 39.  I wear size 38.5 Miuras and Testarossas (tight)  and size 38 Katanas (tight) & Cobras.

In 5.10 shoes I wear 7.5 Mocasysms (comfy).



Full Disclosure: La Sportiva provided these shoes to DreamInVertical in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed above are my own and reflect my experience with these shoes.  Feel free to leave comments regarding your opinion of the TC Pro.

For more Sweet Gear reviews from Luke and Lizzy check out our Gear Reviews page.