VOTE!!

4 11 2008

Today is a big day for our country. I think this Starbucks ad its too true so do your part and go vote! 

This is also our 100th post!! It’s been over a year now and it has be great experience. I think the best thing about blogging is the network of climbers that you can connect with. 

Along that vein checkout this funny post by the ClimbingNarc on the election

Following the Favorites page we have a new Ticklist page. Lizzy and I hit slighly different topics with our lists. Both outline climbs that drive us to get better and climb harder.

Enjoy,

Luke

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Being a Better Belayer

18 07 2008

So for many this may be old news, but a recent story has made me concerned about people misusing auto-locking belay devices like the Petzl GriGri or the Edelrid Eddy. A couple months ago, Splitter Choss and the Climbing Narc fostered some discussion about the “proper” way to use a GriGri. If you’ve not seen this video, created by Petzl, and you belay with a GriGri, I suggest you watch it:

The video shows 2 ways of lead belaying with the GriGri without taking your break hand off the rope. It also shows a 3rd method, which I think the majority of people I observe at sport crags generally use, where the break hand is taken off the rope to let out slack when the leader needs to make a clip. I think this was the way I was taught to lead belay with a GriGri and I have passed plenty of lead belay tests without being reprimanded, so my impression is that this is a generally accepted method of using the device.

The problem is that it isn’t really an acceptable way to use the device. It fosters bad habits – I’ve seen plenty of belayers not returning their break hand to the rope, even when not letting out slack. It encourages the idea that it’s ok not to hold on to the break rope, which is a bad habit to pick up if you also belay with a traditional (non-auto-locking) belay device or in the unlikely (but still possible) situation that the leader falls and the auto-locking belay device does not engage.

The reason I bring this up is that I recently heard of a bad climbing accident that occurred due to similar misuse of an Edelrid Eddy, which is an auto-locking belay device similar to the GriGri (it must be “pinched” so that the cam will not engage and slack can be let out). A climber was leading a sport route in Maple Canyon when he took a fall. The belayer did not have his break hand on the rope at the time. The Eddy did not catch on the relatively new 9.2mm rope and the belayer did not manually arrest the fall. The climber therefore took a 50-foot fall to the ground and suffered serious injuries, although luckily a full recovery is expected.

The moral of the story is clear: although auto-locking belay devices are great and make the life of a belayer much easier, they cannot be trusted absolutely to catch any fall. They do not grant the belayer the freedom to let go of the break rope.

When I encountered the discussion on the Climbing Narc’s post, I was initially unsure that I even could change my method of belaying (I used to use the “bad” method, #3). I have quite small hands and I like to wear belay gloves, so I was unsure that the rope could still feed easily through my break hand while I was simultaneously pinching the belay device. However, Luke and I have both adopted method #2, which in fact works quite well, even with small hands and belay gloves. It requires a little more rope management so the rope will feed easily, but I think the increased safety is well worth this extra effort. I would never want to drop a leader because I was being a lazy belayer. I also think it’s important, since I use a Reverso (just got the new one!!!) just as often as a GriGri, to foster good belay habits (i.e. not taking the break hand off the rope) rather than bad ones.

So to make a long story short, I wrote this post and brought up the video again because I think the biggest problem with auto-locking belay devices like the GriGri or the Eddy is a lack of knowledge. People just don’t know that these devices are not a substitute for belay skills and safety. So now you know. Please think about the friends that you’re belaying and make sure you’re being a safe belayer.

Best,

Lizzy





ABS Nationals Recap

25 02 2008

February has been a crazy month and our three day trip to Boulder was no exception. Lizzy and I flew out of San Diego Friday morning so that we could compete in the Citizens comp at CATS that night. With only carry on baggage and an on time flight we were able to make our bus to Boulder from the Denver airport. One transfer lead us to within a mile of The Spot and CATS, what an amazing transit system! We grabbed lunch and walked with all our stuff to CATS. Snow on the ground was a drastic change and we exchanged flip flops and t-shirts for shoes and a down jacket.

CATS is small and was uncrowded since we arrived there with plenty of time to spare. The climbing section of this gymnastic facility has a lot of very cool angles in a very small amount of space. The walls were freshly painted but the gloss paint provided horrible friction. As well the finish holds were all odd configurations of 2 X 4’s and were not to friendly. The shortcomings in the facility were made up for by the friendliness of the staff and the quality of the problems. The various angles provided a variety of styles and the climbs were set very well. Lizzy and I had fun and her family arrived a bit after we started climbing since they had a later flight.

After tiring ourselves out we got dropped off at the Spot for our judging meeting. Lizzy and I volunteered to judge the qualifiers and the finals for the Youth section of the comp. It gave us something to do and I was happy to be involved in such a high caliber climbing event. We got to see some of the routes set on Friday night and had a lot of exposure to some of the up and coming climbing talent. For our judging duty we got an early start Saturday morning and were at the gym for almost 12 hours including our time watching the open finals. Our judging jobs were easy since the majority of the kids flashed our problems and we got to go to finals for free. Another benefit was getting to watch some of our friends and Lizzy’s sister climb up close.

The open finals were quite packed and it was great to see all the strong climbers. Video can be found at MomentumVM.com shot by Andy Mann and others. Susánica Tam, an LA local who we saw at regionals, also made a great slideshow of the event. Paul Robinson beat out Chris Sharma and the show was spectacular. The routes were more of a challenge this year for the climbers and the 4th final problem remained unsent during the comp. This is much different than last year’s nationals in Maryland. A report can be found at routesetter.com about how the field was much stronger than expected. During open finals four guys and seven girls flashed all of the problems. As well when they set a super finals problem 3 of the 4 guys flashed that as well causing the tie to be broken by the qualifiers. Paul Robinson, this year’s winner, only flashed one of the three problems he completed.

Sunday was the Youth finals and Lizzy and I got moved up a problem in the lineup so that we had more falls and more excitement. Lizzy even had one of her climbers top-out early over an out of bounds line causing the head judge to step in and confirm the ruling. I had the younger kids again, Youth D, and my problem was a bit easy for the field. It saw a majority of flashes with another three or so sends 2nd try. Three or less kids were unable to send the problem.

Boulder was a ton of fun and it was good to meet new people, including the Climbing Narc, and see some old friends. The Spot was very cool and helped expand my mind in terms of what people want in a climbing gym. It was quite small and had only 2 free standing boulders but it featured tall walls with interesting angles. I ended up winning Men’s Advanced at the Citizen’s comp which means I will have to do open next year. I hope to visit boulder again and get on some of the real rock in the area!

Cheers,

Luke





ABS Nationals and Red Rocks!

14 02 2008

ABS nationals is this weekend and we are flying out to boulder to compete and to help judge the Youth event. Lizzy’s sister is competing and so is Dan Beall, one of my friends from San Diego. We will also be seeing the ClimbingNarc and his team out from Wisconsin. Lizzy and I will be competing at the late Friday session at CATS for the citizen’s comp. It looks to be a small comp but it should be fun regardless and Lizzy is excited since Bobbi Bensman is going to be in our session.

Saturday we will be up early to help out with the Youth qualifiers which will be a new experience. It is just the experience I want since I would like to learn how to run comps and what makes good comps. Saturday night will be Open finals where we will see a crazy showdown of the top men and women from the US! There is extra pressure this year due to the upcoming Bouldeing World Cup in Vail, CO. It is pretty crazy that both Chris Sharma and Lisa Rands are coming back to compete. It will be great to see how the new generation does against these two super stars.

Sunday we will be judging Youth finals and then heading back to San Diego that night. Lizzy will be sticking around since she has the day off even though I have to work. After only two and half days of working we will be off on another trip to Red Rocks. Rebecca, one of my friends from college, will be flying out for an exciting four day multi-pitch extravaganza.

I did a bit of prep for this trip by going to Red Rocks last weekend. Lizzy was playing Frisbee in Vegas so one of her friends, Sean, and I took to the rocks with a vengeance. The gorgeous weather at Red Rocks allowed us to climb all day Friday and Saturday. Friday was moderate climbing with nothing over 5.9+ so we were able to do~ 1800 feet of climbing. We simuled Johnny Vegas to get to the upper tier of solar slab. From here we started with Sundog which was a fun 5 pitches with a funky 5.9+ bolted bulging groove. After rapping the route and resting our feet we decided to try to keep to our goals and climb Sunflower. This climb was a good bit harder and had a great finger crack and a run out crux friction pitch. After many repels, the last 4 in the dark, we got safely back to the ground.

The next day, with sore feet, we decided on the long hike to the Eagle wall. We set our eyes on Eagle’s Dance and were prepared for a bit harder climbing. Taking a more direct approach allowed us to cut 45 mins of the previous time I went to the Eagle wall. With perfect weather it was amazing that we had the wall practically to our selves the whole day. Our only visitor was a Peregrine Falcon that would occasionally dive past us. The climbing on this route was very sustained with only two of the nine pitches below 5.10. With a bunch of linking we were able to cut the route down to five pitches of mainly bolted climbing. The crux came after a short bolt ladder in the form of difficult stemming. The first section, supposedly only 10b was quite tricky and it took me a good while to believe that I should start climbing and leave the belay. After getting to good jams in the crack there was a rest on a slab and another crux section. This part was even more fierce and had amazing palming and laybacking in a slabby groove. I got buzzed by the falcon while I was placing gear and nearly popped off.

This was the last pitch and a relief for Sean who had been suffering from 20+ pitches of climbing in fairly new shoes. You could see the grimaces of pain each time he moved up on this footwork intensive route. We decided to take Sunday off to enjoy the sun and watch our girlfriends play ultimate. It was a great trip and I am really excited to go back!

A few weeks ago I got a tip from SpliterChoss about a 2 for 1 special and picked up a few guidebooks for paces I want to visit. In addition to the good price and they also had a drawing from those that bought books for a new rope. Magically I won!!! So I will be getting a new Sterling rope in addition too two cool guidebooks. I had been looking at Sterling ropes recently and was interested in seeing how they climb.

This has been a great month of climbing and it seems to only be getting better as we approach March and our week long Indian Creek Trip!!

Ciao!

– Luke





Hard Boulder Problems in California

11 02 2008

Inspired by a discussion on ClimbingNarc I decided to try to start a list of all problems in California V12 or harder. This list is not complete so if you have any info on more problems or about FA’s let me know. This is similar to a list of hard climbs in Colorado and an older list of problems in New England. BetaBase also keeps an online list of all the problems in Yosemite.

 

Grade Name First Ascent Area
V15? Rasta Man Vibration Sit TBD Buttermilks
V14 The Manadala SDS Tony Lamiche Buttermilks
V14 The Mandala Direct SDS
Paul Robinson Buttermilks
V14 Goldfish Trombone Sam Edwards Happies
       
V13/14 The Swarm Matt Birch Beehive Boulders
V13/14 Iron Resolution Chris Sharma Joshua Tree
V13/14 Somewhere in Time Matt Birch Tramway
       
V13 The Beautiful and the Dammed Kevin Jorgenson Bardini Boulders
V13 Black Mamba Dan Mills Tramway
V13 Dominated Chris Sharma Yosemite
V13 Spectre Dave Graham Pollen Grains
V13 True North Sean McColl Buttermilks
V13 The Oracle Sean McColl Buttermilks
V13 Direction Shawn Diamond Buttermilks
V13 The Buttermilker SDS Chris Sharma Buttermilks
V13 Bang On Ben Moon Black Mountain
       
V12 Sharma’s Traverse Chris Sharma Happies
V12 Kill On Sight Sean McColl Happies
V12 Bubba Lobotomy Dan Mills Happies
V12 The Buttermilker Chris Sharma Buttermilks
V12 Xavier’s Roof Tony Lamiche Buttermilks
V12 Rastaman Vibration Jared Roth Buttermilks
V12 Evilution Jason Kehl Buttermilks
V12? Haroun and the Sea of Stories Matt Wilder Buttermilks
V12 A Maze of Death Dave Graham Buttermilks
V12 Baburre Fred Nicole Buttermilks
V12 The Mystery Shawn Diamond Buttermilks
V12
Form Destroyer Dave Graham Beehive Boulders
V12 A Scanner Darkly Dave Graham Get Carter
V12 Michael Caine SDS
  Get Carter
V12 The Mandala Chris Sharma Buttermilks
V12 The Mandala Direct Jeff Sillcox Buttermilks
V12 Yabo Roof Tommy Caldwell Yosemite
V12 Dominator Jerry Moffatt
Yosemite
V12 Chimera Paul Barraza
Yosemite
V12 Scissors for Lefty
Randy Puro
Yosemite
V12 Stick It, Static
Randy Puro Yosemite
V12 Park Life
Tim Clifford
Yosemite
V12 Shadow Warrior Matt Wilder Yosemite
V12 The Creeping Wingate   Mt Baldy
V12 Devil’s Dance Dan Mills Tramway
V12 Regeneration Dave Struthers  Black Mountain
V12 Roasted and Raw
  Joshua Tree

Enjoy,

Luke





Vacation is over, back to work!

7 01 2008

Lizzy and I are now back at school and work respectively. We had a good time learning and exploring Arizona. Cochise Stronghold was quite the experience and has made me really think about traditional climbing ethics. In many ways it was a wake up call to how climbing used to be. It was a lot of fun and I will be posting a long trip report at some point this week.

Now that vacation is over it is time to get back in a routine and start training for the spring. I hope to keep better track of my climbing so I can figure out what works and what is a waste of time. One of my New Years’ resolutions was to start a training log. I think this will help me and give me a nice think to look back upon in the years to come.

On the horizon for next weekend is the ABS regional for the Southwest. Even though I was never serious enough to compete at the regional’s out east I became familiar with a good number of the comp climbers. It will be interesting to see all of the people that show up. The comp will be held at Vertical Heaven on January 12th. I don’t expect to do well since this winter has been quite light on training and comp climbing but I hope to take some photos and cheer on my friends. For sure it will be a good time and I have heard great things about the host gym.

Over the last year Lynn Hill has been writing quite a lot of blogs for findyourdetour.com. Sadly her stay is over and she will now only be blogging for Patagonia. I really enjoyed all of her writing and the various subjects and I hope she keeps it up over at Cleanest Line. Writing is a powerful tool and it has been a great motivator to be able to read thoughts from such a talented climber, thanks to Lynn!

In other news US climbers have been tearing it up. As reported by Climbing Narc and many others Paul Robinson flashed Nagual, V13 and did the 2nd Ascent of Terremer V15. Additionally Dave Graham has been on a sending spree at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch (HCR). He repeated many hard climbs including Sharma’s King Lion V12/13 and has established four climbs V12 or harder.





Climbing Shoes

10 12 2007

So the recent news is that the V10’s are going to be discontinued by Five Ten. This super aggressive slipper is going to be replaced by the brand New Jet7. As far as I know RockCreek has exclusive distribution of the Jet7 until 2008 and they have a limited stock. I heard that Paul Robinson climbed in the Jet7 during the Triple Crown. Despite crushing at this comp he has created a petition to bring back the V10.

I think that people should not be worried about the V10 yet. It was almost 3 years from the first initial news of the cobra being replaced until La Sportiva stopped selling it. The same was true of the old Five Ten dragons. The new dragons are being worn by lots of super strong climbers proving that change can be a good thing. While a replacement slipper may not be in the works for this year perhaps Five Ten is going to bring a new slipper to market in late 2008. Hopefully I can do some research and find out. Edit: See the comments for more discussion on the V10.

The Climbing Narc had a post a while ago about shoes and how many shoes people have. I know most people only have a few pairs of shoes but I own or have worn out about 25 pairs of shoes or so. This has been a product of many years of climbing and a desire to experiment with different models of shoes. A large reason for the number of pairs of shoes is that I can usually get a new pair cheaper than I could get an old pair resoled. I think there is something amazing about a shoe right after it breaks in.

Over the last 5 years I have climbed between two and five days a week for the majority of the year. I would climb more in the summer and at least half of those days were in the gym. I like to savor my climbing shoes and I don’t usually mix between outdoor shoes and indoors shoes. Once a shoe became worn down it would get delegated to indoor duty. Thus I end up doing most of my climbing on plastic in blown out pairs of shoes

For the majority of my climbing I like a sensitive flat shoe that is tight to put on but becomes useable with a bit of warmth and sweat. I am currently on my 6th pair of cobras which were my favorite shoe for the longest time. They jam well, are easy to take off and are very sensitive. As well they smear really well; the biggest problem is they don’t make them any more and they don’t resole well. Because of this I rarely use my remaining pair of cobras. After these shoes stopped being produced I “discovered” the Muira after much prodding by my girlfriend. I now have 4 pairs of these shoes and use them for almost everything. They have an amazing heel cup and are a great all around shoe.

The one thing that both the Muria’s and the Cobra’s lack is a down-turned toe. This can be essential to small edging and steep boulder problems. I have one pair of Testarossa’s that I use exclusively for this type of climb. They are really tight and I only wear them when I am trying to send a project or I need to pull extra hard with my toes. The aggressive curve of the rand on the Testarossa’s is amazing and it gives a lot of power that the Muria’s lack. I really think that different shoes make a significant difference on certain climbs. It may just be the mindset that my feet can stick to anything, but I usually send harder wearing the Testarossa’s.

Each person will have a different preference for climbing shoes and the fit of your foot should be the biggest consideration. It is also important to make sure that the shoe is designed for what you plan on using it for. If you plan on steep heelhooking it might not be the best thing to buy a slipper. You don’t want your toes curled too much for crack climbing and velcro shoes can be problematic with jamming in hand cracks and larger. If you get a shoe that is too tight or down-turned it can be very difficult to smear.

This year I hope to get a pair of the Es Pontas and the new Anasazi 2.0. I wish that more US climbing shops would stock the Scarpa climbing shoes since they look very cool. I don’t know how they size their shoes and with the addition of Mad Rock and Evolv it is almost impossible to know what size climbing shoes you should buy.

That’s all for now,

Luke