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Climbing - June 2018

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7 KEY STEPS TO SUREFIRE SENDING
THE CLASSIC
PLUS
WHY
DOWNRATING
SUCKS
AMERICA’S
BEST BOULDER
PROBLEMS
HOW HATING
ON COMPS
HOLDS BACK
THE SPORT
WHEN SPORT
CLIMBING
GOT STEEP
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SCARPA Athlete: Madaleine Sorkin | South Platte, CO | Photo: Henna Taylor
CONTENTS
ed note
basecamp
onsight
talk of the crag
the place
unsent
that one time
peaches preaches
players
skills
faces
essentials
cragsters
CHRIS BEH ON HIS
FLATIRONS, COLORADO,
INSTA - CLASSIC
WHIPPED CREAM
( 5.13A ) , THE SLAB.
5
6
10
14
22
24
26
28
30
33
38
76
80
PHOTO BY ROB KEPLEY
FEATURES
44
56
68
FROZEN IN TIME
THE CLASSIC 25
IT BEGINS AT IMPOSSIBLE
A look at the new-school sport climbs of
the Flatirons, Colorado.
Presenting America’s best boulder
problems.
American Fork Canyon, Utah, and the birth
of America’s steep revolution.
Issue 361. Climbing (USPS No. 0919-220, ISSN No. 0045-7159) is published six times a year with combined issues in Aug/Sep and Dec/Jan for six issues (March, May, July, August/September, November, December/January) by Cruz Bay Publishing, an Active Interest Media company.
The known office of publication is at 5720 Flatiron Parkway, Boulder, CO 80301. Periodicals postage paid at Boulder, CO, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: Climbing, PO Box 420235, Palm Coast, FL 32142-0235. Canada Post publications
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PO Box 420235, Palm Coast, FL 32124-0235. Postmaster: Please send all UAA to CFS. List Rental: Contact Kerry Fischette at American List Counsel, 609-580-2875, kerry.fischette@alc.com.
COVER: Chris Schulte grapples with his legendary compression highball Airwolf (V7), Indian Creek, Utah. Photo: Andrew Burr
CLIMBING.COM
3
LEADING SINCE 1970
EDITORIAL
Editor
MATT SAMET
Art Director
CLAIRE ECKSTROM
Associate Editor
JAMES LUCAS
Digital Editor
KEVIN CORRIGAN
Editor at Large
JULIE ELLISON
Senior Contributing Photographer
NONENDEMIC SALES
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ACROLIUS@AIMMEDIA.COM
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ANDREW BURR
Contributing Editors
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Interns
BAILEY BATCHELOR, JEFF CHAPMAN
BUSINESS
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MOST OF THE ACTIVITIES DEPICTED HEREIN
CARRY A SIGNIFICANT RISK OF PERSONAL
INJURY OR DEATH. Rock climbing, ice climbing,
mountaineering, backcountry skiing, and all other
outdoor activities are inherently dangerous. The
owners, staff, and management of CLIMBING do
not recommend that anyone participate in these
activities unless they are experts, seek qualified
professional instruction and/or guidance, are
knowledgeable about the risks involved, and are
willing to personally assume all responsibility
associated with those risks.
©2018. The contents of this magazine may
not be reproduced in whole or in part without
consent of the copyright owner. The views
herein are those of the writers and do not
necessarily reflect the views of CLIMBING’s
ownership, staff, or management.
MANAGED BY:
A C T I V E I N T E R E S T M E D I A’ S O U T D O O R G R O U P
Managing Director SHARON HOUGHTON
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BARBARA VAN SICKLE
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OUT WITH
THE OLD?
ED NOTE
MEGAN WALSH ON THE
CLASSIC JUG ROMP
LICENSE TO THRILL
( 5.11C ) , MEMBRANE,
AMERICAN FORK, UTAH.
I
n 1990, I belayed Boone Speed
on the FA of I’ll Take Black, a
5.12c on the Malvado Wall at
the Hell area in American Fork
(AF), Utah. Speed was a founding
B Y M AT T S A M E T
father at AF and later became the
first American to establish 5.14b.
We were in the early years of sport climbing, when clipping bolts was still
fresh and exciting, like opening the biggest box under the Christmas tree.
Some of my first road trips, to areas like Smith Rock and AF, brought me
face-to-face with the pioneers of that pivotal era. At AF, I watched as the
rockstars—people like Speed, whom I’d only seen before in magazines—
flung themselves at the steeps. A revolution was happening, and I feel
lucky to have witnessed it.
Of course, much has changed since then, and the growth of sport
climbing is but one thread in the ever-expanding tapestry of our sport.
Life is change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse—
and most of it out of our hands thanks to the random workings of the
universe. Climbing is no diferent; magazines must always be reinventing
themselves, evolving to reflect the times. Thus for our July 2018 issue,
we’re excited to announce a couple of big changes: an increase in paper
quality and a front-to-back redesign.
CLIMBING AND
THE INEVITABILITY
OF CHANGE
In an era when print has to compete with the clamor of digital media, we
wanted to give the magazine a weightier, more archival feel—something
to read, keep, collect, and revisit. This begins with the improved paper,
which will let us better showcase our amazing photography, storytelling,
and art. We’ve also rethought our departments to make them shorter,
newsier, and more easily approached, from the Place (p.22) to Skills
(p.33) to Talk of the Crag (p.14). Meanwhile, we’re reintroducing Players
(p.30), about key personalities in the sport or industry; and Quick Clips
(p.37), reader-submitted crag hacks. We’re also proud to roll out Faces
(p.38), a long-form Q&A in which you’ll meet the top guns to learn their
stories, processes, and methods (we launch with Barbara Zangerl). Plus,
we’ve changed up the overall look, fonts, and color palette. We hope you
like the new feel—holler at us at letters@climbing.com.
Finally, this issue presents historical features on two of the oldest
sport-climbing areas in America: the aforementioned American Fork
(p.68) and the Flatirons, Colorado (p.44). The Flatirons, in particular,
are close to my heart—I first climbed here in summer 1989, just after
a bolting ban descended that would, for the next 14 years, keep the
area frozen in time. Since 2003, we have been fortunate to be able to
establish Flatirons routes again on a permit system—it is change, but on
a more considered, cautious scale, one that lets us momentarily imagine
we might control life’s chaos.
PHOTO BY JOHN EVANS
CONTRIBUTORS
PETER BEAL
MEGAN WALSH
JARED VAGY
Peter Beal (“The Classic 25,” detailing
America’s top boulder problems, p.56) first
bouldered on the Maine coast years ago.
From Peak District gritstone to Front Range
sandstone, he’s enjoyed the sport and
published extensively on it, including a 2011
how-to with The Mountaineers Books.
After a few years in the travel industry,
Megan Walsh (“It Starts at Impossible,”
a history of American Fork Canyon,
Utah, p.68) shifted her focus to her true
passion: the outdoors. She now works for
The Dyrt, a camping-app startup. As a
rule, she prefers whiskey to box wine.
Dr. Jared Vagy (“Prep Wrists and Fingers
to Send,” p.34), a doctor of physical
therapy and an experienced climber, has
devoted his career to climbing-related
injury prevention, orthopedics, and
movement science. He authored the
Amazon bestseller Climb Injury-Free.
CLIMBING.COM
5
BASECAMP
Rock Art
INBOX
FEELING THE PAIN
I was excited to read about Hazel Findlay’s experience with persistent shoulder pain in No. 360.
As a longtime climber and a physician assistant
in Michigan with a history of persistent pain, my
professional passion is teaching people about
pain and helping them reduce their own suffering.
As many as one in three people suffer from persistent pain, and there is so much groundbreaking
research about how to help. Unfortunately, the US
medical-industrial complex is badly mismanaging
pain. The only way I see to effect change is to educate people on a grassroots level.
LIZ PEPPIN, PA - C, VIA EMAIL
WOMEN CRUSHING
I’ve been climbing for about 10 years and fighting male dominance the
whole time. Robert Branch (Unsolicited Beta, No. 360) just gave me
the single greatest motivation to f*cking crush it. Women may be the
statistical minority, but that doesn’t warrant exclusion. Thanks, Climbing, for not giving way to this crap.
SASHA BACCA, VIA EMAIL
ELITISM?
I am trying to decide if I should renew. I have been a subscriber since
the 1970s, but I am seeing a disheartening trend. I just got my latest issue and it is basically worthless. Most of the mag is about 5.14-and-up
climbs, which I will never do. Most of the geographic areas are places
like China, where I will never go. Your mag is falling into the same trap
I have seen other mags and even climbing gyms fall into. You are catering to the elite 1 percent. I would like the article distribution to match
the reader demographic. If 90 percent of your subscribers climb 5.9,
then the mag should reflect that.
DAVID ALEXANDER, VIA EMAIL
Correction: In No. 360, we reported that the JetBoil Flash was a 4,500
BTU/h stove with a 2.5-minute boiling time. It actually has a 9,000 BTU/h
burner and a 100-second boiling time.
/climbingmagazine
6
JULY 2018
@climbingmagazine
“Creating art has always been my passion, and it was
just a matter of time before climbing made its way into
my work,” says the 33-year-old Russia native and now
Bay Area resident Eric Digilov, who started climbing six
years ago when his then girlfriend (now wife) took him
to a Los Angeles rock gym. He soon climbed outdoors
at Stoney Point, Horse Flats, and Red Rock, falling in
love with the culture. An IT worker by trade, Digilov uses
climbing photos to inspire his artwork. “I try to capture
that moment when you’re climbing and you’re at peace
with the world,” said Digilov. “Still looking for the best way
to represent my love for climbing culture in my art, but I
think I’m on the right track.”
FOLLOW @DIGILOV3 AND CHECK OUT HIS ILLUSTRATIONS AT
EDIGSART.TUMBLR.COM/
@climbingmag
letters@climbing.com
RE - GRAM
Deep-Water Soloing
Matthias Gabbalier on Blasphemy, Hawaii
5-0 Wall. Matthias climbed this 5.11 39
times during his time on Cat Ba, Vietnam.
LUCA DE GIORGI
Colm Shannon making the first ascent
of The Jelly Situation (5.13a/b or S1/2) at
Ailladie on the west coast of Ireland. JOSH WILLETT
Katrina Wan-Zaid hanging from the last
move of a 5.9 at the Becket Quarry in
Western Massachusetts.
BRIAN LEWIS
The funniest part of soloing off Mallorca’s
Punta des Jonc was the tourists staring in
puzzlement as we walked off the cliff edge.
KATE KELLEGHAN
This Tenerife blowhole is only climbable on
calm days—otherwise, you can get swallowed
if you don’t get through it quickly enough.
The water beneath Jakub was choppy
and the rocks were sharp, but he held on
with a smile.
THOMAS RUFFIE
Danny Latulippe escaping the spider
crabs below by climbing a 50-foot 5.11b
on Hawaii’s big island.
ZAC IMHOOF
CATHERINE LEVESQUE
The beginning of this 5.10 requires tech
movement on crimp rails that elevates
your heartbeat at the thought of pitching. Bulgaria’s Black Sea is not a calm sea. Often,
we climb in weather that is dangerous,
and getting out can be a nightmare.
SAVOEUN HEANG
VLADIMIR PEKOV
CLIMBING.COM
7
BASECAMP
THE BIG QUESTION
TAKE THE FIRST ASCENTIONIST’S GRADE
ON YOUR 8A.NU SCORECARD, BUT CALL IT
“SOFTER THAN CHARMIN” EVERYWHERE ELSE
80.5%
6.3%
You’ve just
made the
second ascent
of a difficult
climb. Do
you:*
5%
2.6%
DOWNRATE A FULL NUMBER
AND CALL IT “ATHLETIC FOR
THE GRADE”
UPGRADE TO FILL OUT THE
TOP OF THE PYRAMID ON YOUR
8A.NU SCORECARD
6.6% Other (E.g., “Upgrade it and submit a picture of myself on the route to Climbing”)
*Based on 379 responses
“Everyone has their own
reasons for the grade
they take. For me, wanting
to lead by example for
women, I would rather
grade as honestly as
possible! This is also why
I don’t chase climbs with
big numbers that just suit
my style. I actually seek out
the ‘reachy’ and tall-people
climbs even if they have a
lower grade.”
—ALEX PUCCIO
8
JULY 2018
“I compare to other routes
of the same proposed
grade and a grade easier/
harder in the same area.
The most important
piece is to try to keep
grades within a given area
consistent. I also consider
my personal state of fitness
and how much time and
effort the route required.”
— JONATHAN SIEGRIST
“The most common
motivation behind
downrating is protection of
the downrater’s self-image.
Avoid the ridicule of having
one’s climb downrated.
Downrate first and be safe.
This type of game causes
its most dedicated players
to fool even themselves.” —THE LATE JIM BRIDWELL
(“THE INNOCENT, THE
IGNORANT, AND THE
INSECURE,” ASCENT, 1973)
STORIES FROM THE DIRT
This highlight reel of life and
adventure from the legendary
Stonemaster John Long offers
unshackled tales too good to
be fiction, including yarns of
BASE-jumping, bull riding, and
remote cave exploration. With
his lively, humorous prose,
there’s a reason Largo has
been called the Mark Twain
of adventure literature. $19,
FALCON.COM
YVON CHOUINARD :
GOING HIS WAY
“Climbing and surfing are the
perfect examples of the art of
the useless,” Yvon Chouinard
says in this engaging, personal
biography by friend Bill
Stratton. But the founder of
Patagonia has been anything
but useless. Stratton lays out
Chouinard’s life, including tales
of surfing massive waves in
Cali and scaling mountains in
Patagonia together. Chouinard,
clearly, has pushed in climbing
and business with the mantra
“You better learn how to get
what you like before you learn
to like what you get.” $26,
HOMESTEADPUBLISHING.
NET
CLIMB INJURY -FREE
Dr. Jared Vagy’s Climb InjuryFree is a deep, thorough,
necessary guide. Combining
text, photos, and illos, it
highlights science- and
anatomy-backed methods
for climbing safely and
strengthening the body
against common injuries.
Vagy outlines eight chapters,
starting with proper warm-ups
and moving through rehab,
including dirtbag-friendly
subs for the props. $29, THE
CLIMBINGDOCTOR.COM
FROM LEFT: JOEL ZERR; COURTESY; DEAN FIDELMAN
FULFILL YOUR MORAL OBLIGATION AND
RATE THE CLIMB AS ACCURATELY
AS POSSIBLE
Mini Reviews
PHOTO BY TK
ONSIGHT
10
J ULY 2018
PHOTO BY TK
Skyland, near Crested Butte,
Colorado, is bouldering heaven:
a tumble of giant volcanic
blocks so fused they look
like granite. Joint Rock is the
showcase boulder, sitting at
the edge of an aspen grove
with a high, striking, radically
overhanging north face.
Beelining up the right-center
of the face is Shuhari, put up
by Will Anglin in October 2015
after eight years of on-and-off
effort. Wicked compression
leads to heel- and toe-hooking
jessery on opposing pinches
then big punches to flat holds
before the climb moves right to
join the arête of Filth Pig (V6).
Here, Sebastian Infantes moves
into the business. “Sebastian,
with a valiant try, could not
take down the crux,” writes the
photographer Coleman Becker.
“But he gets closer after
each attempt.” For more of
America’s best bouldering, turn
to “The Classic 25” on page 56.
COLEMAN BECKER
CLIMBING.COM
11
ONSIGHT
On March 5, Joe Kinder
established a rare American 5.15
with his 70-foot Life of Villains
in the Hurricave in Hurricane,
Utah. The climb, says Kinder, is
“physical and continuous, with
poor footholds and a horrid
boulder problem at the end.”
Kinder, who has established
over 100 routes, including four
5.14d’s in Rifle and around St.
George, bolted the line in 2012.
He believes LoV is significantly
harder than anything he’s done,
joining the US’s short list of
5.15s that includes Jumbo Love
(5.15b), Jaws II (5.15a), and Flex
Luthor (5.15a). “The USA can
yield amazing hard climbs, but
it either takes hiking, seeing
the line that’s barely there, or
sending a project that’s been
bolted,” says Kinder. “There are
many routes just waiting for
that special someone, and that
special someone in the USA is
pretty limited.”
JOE SEGRETI
12
J ULY 2018
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TALK OF THE CRAG
ADAM ONDRA GIVING
IT HIS ALL TO FLASH
SUPERCRACKINETTE
( 5.15A ) , FRANCE.
W
ith an onsight or a flash,
one slip of the foot or
botched sequence and
it’s over. You have to
climb with confidence. And if it’s
a flash, with beta from another
B Y M AT T S A M E T
climber, then you need to make
sure the sequencing suits your
body. It’s a precision performance at any level, from 5.10 to 5.15. On
February 10, the Czech Adam Ondra, 25, became the first climber to
flash 5.15, firing the 9a+/5.15a Supercrackinette at Saint-Léger, France.
The 65-foot route is a flurry of power-endurance “micro” management, a 28-move sprint followed by eight easier moves. The route
was equipped by the French climber Quentin Chastagnier, and freed
in October 2016 by Alex Megos. Ondra belayed Chastagnier twice to
watch the moves, quizzing Chastagnier about each grip, then cast of
ADAM ONDRA
AND THE ROAD TO
THE FIRST- EVER
5.15A FLASH
14
JULY 2018
on its incut crimps and tiny pockets.
Ondra has been trying to flash 5.15a for years. The first in his sites
was Biographie/Realization (5.15a) at Céüse, France, a route he held
in reserve for some time. In a 2012 interview with planetmountain
.com, Ondra said he was finally spurred to try it while chucking a lap
on the 5.15a Papichulo in Oliana, Spain, in 2012, a route he’d sent previously: “It was the end of the day and I didn’t remember much of the
beta; nonetheless I did it with a couple of falls and I felt as if, had I
known the perfect beta, it would have been possible to flash. It was
then that I decided to try and flash Biographie.” On June 8, 2012, before
onlookers, after soaking up beta by watching videos, Ondra tried Biographie. He fired the 5.14c bottom half only to fall at the infamous upper
crux, a stab to a thin pocket. “But I was far from being close,” Ondra
said. “I was way too pumped to stick the move.”
That October, Ondra flashed Southern Smoke Direct, then given
5.15a, at the Red River Gorge, Kentucky, though he downgraded it to
PHOTO BY BERNARDO GIMENEZ
Flash Dance
You Had Me at Monday.
The outdoor industry is seeking professional
women with a passion for the outdoors.
That’s where you come in.
CamberOutdoors.org/jobs
TALK OF THE CRAG
5.14d. Then, in 2014, he tried Selección Anal (5.15a)
in Santa Linya, Spain, but pumped out. “Flashing
9a+ [5.15a] is important for me because it’s a logical
step in progression in climbing,” Ondra said in an
EpicTV interview. After these two climbs, he “pretty
much ran out of convenient routes” of the grade to
flash, despite nabbing three 5.14d onsights (see sidebar for the world’s top onsights).
In 2017, Ondra FA’ed the world’s first 5.15d, Silence, in Norway. To prep, he trained six days a week,
up to five hours a day, cultivating a super-fitness
that helped on Supercrackinette. But, adds Ondra,
“I think Silence helped me most of all mentally.
Sending 9c helped me build the confidence that a
9a+ flash would be possible.” (To up your flash game,
Ondra advises climbing as many routes as possible
in diferent areas and practicing visualization, even
on gym routes. “Visualization should help you to feel
that you have it wired,” he says.)
But really, it began when Ondra was a kid who’d
spend hours coaching himself in the gym. As Ondra
told Climbing, “When I was eight, I thought climbing was the best thing ever. That’s when I decided
that’s what I wanted to be [a climber], and ever since
then I’ve done everything I can possibly do to follow
that dream.”
On Supercrackinette, as he approached the last
difficult move—a big move from a two-finger crimp
to another crimp—en route to realizing a lifetime
goal, Ondra felt nervous. “The final, last hard move
was heartbreaking, but in the end, I had a tiny margin and did not let go,” he says.
The Big 5 Onsights
MARCH 2013: Alex
Megos, Estado Critico
(5.14d), Spain
JULY 2013: Adam Ondra,
Cabane au Canada
(5.14d), Switzerland
MAY 2014: Ondra, Il
Domani (5.14d), Basque
JULY 2014: Ondra, TCT
(5.14d), Gravere, Italy
MAY 2017: Megos, TCT
(5.14d), Gravere, Italy
Climbing Out of a Hurricane
16
JULY 2018
ner. Through their company, Moca Climbing + Coaching, Vidal and
Taraborrelli have spent two years guiding clients around the island’s
half-dozen sport crags, jungle canyons, and caves. While most Red
Cross crews performed bulk distributions, the “mountain-climber
teams” hit the back roads.
“Our motto was always to go to the very, very end,” says Vidal. Often
that meant clearing roads with chainsaws and rigging Tyrolean traverses across otherwise impassable rivers. They distributed food and water,
water-purification systems, solar panels and lanterns, and small generators on an island where almost a third of the 3.4 million residents still
POST- MARIA, LOCAL
CLIMBER USAMA HAMID
NUMAN WORKS TO FREE
A SUPPLY TRUCK IN THE
ADJUNTAS REGION.
PHOTO BY NICOLE VIDAL
I
n October 2017, Leandro Taraborrelli gave the most important belay of his life. The Red
Cross Team leader was standing
on
a
washed-out bridge over Puerto
B Y M AT T M I N I C H
Rico’s Arecibo River, using a rope to
belay 20 doctors and pharmacists
up a rickety ladder. In the riverbed below, a team of fellow climbers
guided the volunteers, who’d come to help Puerto Rico rebuild after the
devastation wrought in September 2017 by Hurricane Maria. A pipe
had ruptured upstream, contaminating the river with sewage.
Their goal was Río Abajo, a neighborhood in Puerto Rico’s mountainous
Utuado region. Sixty miles from San
Juan, the community had been isolated for weeks after the category 4 hurricane, going so long without aid that its
residents had come to call it El Campamento del los Olvidados: “The Camp of
the Forgotten.”
In the months since Maria, Taraborrelli and other Puerto Rican climbers
have worked full-time to bring aid to
the remote corners of the island—to
places like Rio Abajo.
“We’ve been in those areas climbing
and canyoneering,” says Nicole Vidal,
another team leader, who worked
alongside Taraborrelli and local boulderer Carlos Salinas and who is also
Taraborrelli's wife and business part-
HOW CLIMBERS
ARE BRINGING
BACK PUERTO RICO
PASSI ON TO PRO F E SSI ON
WO M E N I N T H E O U T D O O R I N D U S T RY
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PERK OF
WORKING FOR BURTON?
There are so many! I love getting outside and
snowboarding. If we get two feet of snow, the
office shuts down. I’ve gotten to travel the world
for my job and I’ve learned so much about other
cultures. Burton is big enough that we have a
global impact, but also small enough that if you
have a big idea and if you’re passionate enough
and build a solid case, we can do it.
That perfectly aligns with my personality.
WHAT’S YOUR ONE PIECE OF
ADVICE FOR WOMEN SEEKING A
CAREER IN THE OUTDOOR INDUSTRY?
Find a company that mirrors your values,
then get your foot in the door. I came in as a
financial analyst, making less money than I
was coaching hockey, and that’s OK. I worked
and put my head down and built trust. A lot
of young people are taught to “follow their
passion,” and that’s bad advice. When you start
out, you’re not going to feel like you’ve found
your passion because part of that is being a
contributor. You must work at it. If you work
hard and you’re a critical thinker and build
solutions, you’re going to work your way up
in the company, and that’s how you find
your passion.
Ali Kenney
VP OF GLOBAL STR ATEGY AND INSIGHTS,
BURTON SNOWBOARDS
Ali Kenney jokes that she has “a lot of commas” in her job. She watches trends in the global
market, engages consumers on climate change issues, crafts Burton’s sustainability goals, audits
manufacturers for sustainability, human rights, and fair labor practices, and more. Kenney is
widely respected in the outdoor industry for the environmental strides Burton has made under her
leadership. We caught up with her to find out how she got where she is. BY KASSONDRA CLOOS
WHAT’S YOUR FIRST OR MOST
FAVORITE OUTDOOR MEMORY?
When I was a young kid, I was always outside
playing games and sports. I grew up in the
middle of nowhere on a dead-end, dirt road in
Vermont. We spent every day outside. I had a
foundation of wanting to be outside and a love
for fresh air. Now, my wife and I bike commute
every day, and we got into backpacking four
years ago. Every vacation, we go backpacking.
That’s how we refresh. We don’t use watches or
phones. We go by sunrise and sunset.
WHAT DROVE YOU TO SEEK A
CAREER IN THE OUTDOOR INDUSTRY?
When I’m snowboarding or doing something
else physical, there’s no other thought in my
mind. I’m focused on the moment and the
terrain. Working for a company where that’s
what we do, the connection to nature is one of
the biggest drivers for me. I don’t want to work
for a company where we make widgets. Even
on the most stressful days, it’s OK because then
we can all go snowboarding together. I bring my
whole self to work.
WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR
LEGACY TO BE?
I want to have given back more to the world
than I’ve taken from it. With all the food and
resources and all the other stuff I consume, I
want to have somehow made the world better
in a higher level of magnitude. To have an
overall positive impact.
FLASH ROUND
What’s your super power? My can-do attitude.
I believe anything is possible.
Outdoor adventure of choice for daily
release? Biking to work, in any season.
What’s in your thermos? Water, kombucha,
or dirty chai
If you had an intro song, what would it be?
“Scarlet Begonias,” by Grateful Dead
Your number one outdoor hack? Bring
blocks of Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar
while backpacking.
To find your next job, visit us at:
jobs.camberoutdoors.org
You can also read Ali’s extended
interview here.
TALK OF THE CRAG
lack power and tens of thousands lack running water.
Before the storm, Vidal and Taraborrelli were among about a dozen
guides working on Puerto Rico. Faced with a sharp dip in tourism, many
guides have hung up their climbing shoes to find work elsewhere.
“For our adventure tours, our canyon tours, our caving tours,” says
Rossano Boscarino, co-owner of outfitter and guide service Aventuras
PR and godfather of Puerto Rico’s climbing scene, “we just don’t have
the people. Tourism has been hurt really bad.”
In partnership with his wife, Edda Jimenez, the late Colorado legend
Craig Luebben, and local hardman Jorge Rodriguez, Boscarino developed the majority of Puerto Rico’s sport routes. He did so despite conflicts with landowners, jungle vegetation, government bureaucrats, and
Africanized bees, the latter of which once stung Rodriguez more than
500 times as he cleared vegetation from a Bayamón clif, nearly killing
him. Over a hundred climbers reside on the island, where they enjoy the
drippy limestone on gymnastic single-pitch routes or multi-pitch romps
like Lizard the Wizard (5.11c) near the mountains around Cayey.
But many Puerto Rican climbers are on unsure footing. Ten years into
a recession and faced with $123 billion of debt, Puerto Rico declared
a form of bankruptcy last March. That deal came with strict austerity
measures, which were forecast even before the storm to send the island’s
economy into a full-blown depression. Faced with a slow recovery and
robbed of a profitable tourist season, many locals have exhausted their
savings.
“I know three or four climbers who left because they don’t have jobs
anymore,” says Rodriguez, who lost his own income when the senior
partner of his financial-services business left after the storm. Rodriguez
is considering a move to the mainland, but for now he’s still a fixture at
Nuevo Bayamón, a collection of about 100 short sport routes just outside San Juan.
“For me, it’s like a therapy,” he says. “When I go climbing, I just focus
on climbing and forget about everything else.”
For the most part, Puerto Rico’s tourist amenities are open. Major
roads are clear, and hotels and restaurants operate as before the storm.
The climbing community, armed with arborist gear, has reopened crag
access and approved the safety of the bolts post-storm. The routes themselves are cleaner than ever, power-washed by the storm, with excess
foliage removed. Local climbers have already repopulated the clifs, and
have even established a few new routes in Ciales and Cayey.
“The climbing is ready to go,” says Boscarino. “We just need the people.”
“But they aren’t real climbers…”
I
n the US where the dirtbag culture is still espoused as an ideal,
comp climbing’s perceived glitz and
glamor can seem like anathema.
Comments like “No comp climber will
ever send the Dawn Wall,” as I heard in
B Y E D D I E F OW K E
Boulder, Colorado—just prior to comp
climber Adam Ondra’s fast repeat of
the VI 5.14d in November 2016—perpetuate the myth that comps,
with their live streams, big crowds, and strange, gymnastic moves up
giant blobs, have nothing to do with “real climbing.”
Nonetheless, comp climbing has been around in a formal context
since 1947, when the USSR, to celebrate its 30th anniversary, held an
event on clifs in the Kavkaz region. (It was a speed event based on the
combined time it took a climber to climb up and down a 30-meter
clif [roped], and then complete a 30-meter traverse in both directions.) In the mid-1980s, difficulty competitions began appearing in
Europe, the first being Sportroccia in 1985, on the limestone of Bardonecchia, Italy. 1991 saw the birth of the UIAA World Cup circuit.
Over the last couple of decades, comp climbing has grown. With the
gym boom and attendant youth teams, our sport reaches a broader
audience than ever, with climbers being exposed to it at younger ages
and with climbing making its first appearance as an Olympic event
in Tokyo in 2020. To dismiss competition climbing is to dismiss how
much it’s advanced our sport.
Take Ondra’s FA of the 5.15d Silence in 2017, Angy Eiter’s repeat of
the 5.15b La Planta de Shiva that same year, and in 2016 Nalle Hukkataival’s FA of the V17 Burden of Dreams. All of these climbers com-
ERASING THE
STIGMA OF
COMPETITION
CLIMBING
18
JULY 2018
peted: Ondra is the defending Lead World Champion, was Boulder
World Champion in 2014, and has 14 World Cup wins. Eiter was fourtime Lead World Champion and has 25 World Cup victories. And Hukkataival was on the Boulder circuit from 2004 to 2011.
Many recent advancements made by top climbers can be traced
back to their working with coaches to a degree previously unheard
of—and even those not working with coaches are benefitting from developments in sport science. Watching Silence, the documentary about
Ondra’s tick of his 5.15d, we see just how closely he collaborated with
Austrian team physiotherapist Klaus Isele, who helped Ondra not only
maintain fitness and recover, but also deconstruct the climb’s futuristic
sequencing. Each advancement we are seeing today comes from climbers who are either in the comp system or have been there previously,
building their training foundation.
And every elite competitor is a climbing addict—to be a top competitor means you have to eat, sleep, and breathe climbing. Indeed, on
the comp circuit, you’ll find a twenty-first century version of dirtbagging, with climbers sharing hotel rooms, campgrounds, and apartment floors and working long hours during the of-season to scrimp
together funds. After the Vail Bouldering World Cup in 2016, climbers from Russia, Israel, Slovenia, Italy, Korea, and Canada converged
on a grotty hotel in Estes Park so they could climb together in Rocky
Mountain National Park. That trip saw the first repeat of Hypnotized
Minds (V16) by Rustam Gelmanov of Russia, a repeat of Jade (V14) by
Jongwon Chon of South Korea, and many other hard sends.
It’s time to say goodbye to any stigma around comp climbing and
instead welcome it as the incubator of our sport’s top talent. (For a
longer essay on the subject, visit climbing.com/compsandrock.)
ALIEN REVOLUTION
The Mother of Modern Cams
FIXEhardware
Made In
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ATHLETE
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PROVEN
ANNA PFAFF &
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RAID WITH A CAMEL
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PHOTOGRAPHY
THE PL ACE
B Y B R O O K E JAC K S O N
Access Fund (AF) has been
lobbying for access since
1991. Starting this issue,
we’ve teamed up with them
to present key victories and threats. Visit
acessfund.org for more.
22
JULY 2018
W
IG IN
S
Kicking Access!
Private landowners,
county officials, states,
and nonprofits are
seeing the economic
and health benefits
of climbing and are
actively seeking to open
their properties to the
public. Examples include
The Rock Domain
in RRG, Mad River
Gorge in Ohio, and Old
Wauhatchie Boulders in
Chattanooga. Studies
have shown the benefits
to local economies.
AF and Climbing
Resource Group of
PHOTOS BY BROOKE JACKSON ( 2 )
HOW CLIMBERS
HELPED SAVE THE
MADRONE WALL
FROM QUARRYING
B
PORTLAND’S
“ROCKBELLION”
L
ess than 20 miles southeast of Portland hides a treasure trove of rock amongst swaying madrone
trees: the 1,000-foot-long, 80-foot-tall Madrone Wall, with 100-plus sport, trad, and mixed lines
from 5.7 to 5.12 on 660,000-year-old igneous basalt. The Clackamas River bubbles below, while
farmland and forest stretch to the horizon. It’s a perfect spot for a day trip or after-work cragging.
However, the Madrone Wall was also closed for the past 20 years under the threat of development, including quarrying, a serious blow to a city full of avid climbers who have minimal high-quality rock nearby.
Says Keith Dallenbach, a Portland native who reconsulting firm ECONorthwest, discovered that
turned to the area in 1997, “Climbing at Madrone
a hard-rock quarry was not economically feasible
Wall for the first time on a weekday after work [in
due to the site’s small size (<44 acres), of which
1997] confirmed why I moved back home.”
only half was suitable for quarrying. The county
In 1937, Clackamas County purchased the 44
accepted this study and dropped their plans, but
acres of farmland surrounding the Madrone Wall
began to consider selling the property either for
for $2,000 from Anna S. Robertson and opened
a private quarry, housing, or logging—despite the
access to the public. Climbing started in the 1970s,
MWPC’s ongoing objections. Finally, in 2006–‘07,
with mixed and crack routes. The late 1980s and
the county acquiesced and the site was evaluated
early ‘90s saw the most classic lines established,
as a park.
with Wayne Wallace and Robert McGown’s stout
The county created a checklist of nearly three doz5.11d sport route Where the Wild Things Roam and
en prerequisites for reopening the Madrone Wall,
Wallace’s Shining Wall—both done in 1989—and
including installation of parking, access roads, and
Tim Olson and McGown’s 1990 Red Sun Rising,
public restrooms. Finding the funding for these
a 5.10b trad line. Local climbers informally mainimprovements, which cost over $100,000, was a
tained the area, and all was going well until autumn
challenge. The Mazamas, Access Fund, American
1997 when the county closed the wall. The county
Alpine Club, REI, and Patagonia added to Clackawished to pursue a permit for a hard-rock quarry,
mas County Parks’ funds, with the Access Fund and
which would involve blowing up the clif to make
Mazamas helping with call-to-action emails that
crushed aggregate.
brought in over 500 pro-climbing, pro-public-park
Shortly thereafter, Dallenbach and other locals
communications. Additionally, two private donors
formed the Madrone Wall Preservation Commitand Clackamas County Tourism and Cultural Afairs
tee (MWPC). Over the next 20 years, Dallenbach,
established large capital-matching grants. Other locurrent MWPC President Kellie Rice, and past
cal businesses and organizations as well as Oregon
MWPC President Ian Caldwell fought the counpoliticians like U.S. senators Ron Wyden and Jef
ty’s decision. The team handed out flyers around
Merkley, and U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer,
Portland and nearby Damascus to alert citizens of
provided support.
the quarry plans, fundraised for research studies,
The MWPC then partnered with the Oregon
and filed a Freedom of Information Act for pubArmy National Guard for a vital piece of the delic documents about the county commissioners’
velopment. Each summer as a training exercise,
plans. Further, when a commissioner appraised
the guard assists with pro bono public projects for
the property at $10 million, the MWPC raised
two weeks. In August 2016, with capital funding
funds to bring in an outside appraiser, who valued
established, the Guard created the quarter-mile
the property at a few hundred thousand. Next,
aggregate access road and parking for 20 vehicles.
the MWPC partnered with Clackamas County to
“Working with the Oregon Army National Guard
fund a joint study of the quarry’s economic valwas one of the most enjoyable aspects in two deue. Bob Whelan, an economic geologist from the
1
2
1. Nathan Ball on
Firing Line (5.11a),
Shining Wall, at
the newly saved
Madrone Crag
outside Portland,
Oregon.
D FL A
GS
Vermont (CRAG-VT)
partnered to buy Bolton
Dome, a schist area
featuring high-quality
crack and sport climbs.
The crag is slated to
open this fall (cragvt.org/
boltondomeproject/ ).
RE
2. Home to one of
America’s largest
urban forest reserves, Portland
has a history of
natural conservation. Here, Theresa Silverya jogs
along the iconic
Wildwood Trail.
The Trump Administration released troubling new policies for
BLM lands, home to ~12
percent of US climbing.
The policies fast-track
energy development
and make environmental
reviews and stakeholder input optional. The
most immediate threat
cades of advocacy,” says Dallenbach.
“They were so gung ho.” That November, the MWPC, the Mazamas, Trailkeepers of Oregon, Portland Mountain
Rescue, and 120 volunteers spent 6 days
and 750 hours to build 500 yards of new
trails and install 270 rock steps.
On October 21, 2017, Madrone Wall
Park opened its gates. Dallenbach and
his family were among the first to hike
the newly established trails. With public
access granted once again, climbers can
now appreciate a short approach to quality rock and classic lines while hanging
in the shade of swaying madrone trees.
Meanwhile, the climbing community remains invested in the area. The Portland
local Micah Klesick received funding
from the American Safe Climbing Association and replaced nearly 300 bolts,
anchors, and rap rings. Klesick also developed Madrone & Carver Clifs, an
updated guidebook on the Rakkup app.
Additional local climbers like Nate Ball
and Alex Sklar continue to work on rebolting, while the MWPC will soon become the Friends of Madrone Wall Park,
which will work for park advocacy and
stewardship.
Dallenbach says this success story was
thanks to “not one person, but many.”
With metro areas expanding worldwide,
it’s more important than ever to preserve
local crags and green spaces like Madrone. As the MWPC promoted on its site,
“In the last 20 years, the Metro region
(of Portland) has lost an average of over
2300 acres of open space each year … It
was imperative that this site be protected
from rapid future development and preserved for future generations.”
is to Bears Ears (Indian
Creek, Harts Draw, Valley
of the Gods, Texas/Arch
Canyon), much of which
is no longer protected
by the National Monument status (pending
AF’s lawsuit).
Budget cuts may loom
for the federal funding
program the Land and
Water Conservation
Fund (LWCF). LWCF has
been used to protect
many areas—e.g., Sam’s
Throne and Index.
CLIMBING.COM
23
UNSENT
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Wow. Just watched Adam Ondra’s Silence vid.
Maybe Ondra didn’t scream on the route, but
Mother Nature sure did—that line clearly takes
gear and yet Ondra placed bolts. That’s bullshit. I, CrustyTradDad 58, am chopping those
bolts and here’s why:
YOU DON’T BOLT CRACKS
Back in my day—the 1980s, out at Apricot Dome (it’s not in any guidebooks,
but I can Xerox a topo for you)—we had an
unwritten rule: You bolt a crack, we slash your
tires. You do it again, maybe we lug a sack of
potatoes to the crag and play “Hit the Target”
while you’re on the sharp end. The point is: You
knew there’d be consequences. Today, you get
to livestream the video premier of your crimes
while the world applauds. What the hell happened to climbing?
Ondra keeps calling Silence a “sport route,”
and yet he describes the crux as a V15 crack.
INTERESTING. I see a clear No. 1 cam placement
in the same slot where Ondra jams his foot after
inverting, which is followed by two feet of bomber .5 placements. But instead, the crux has as
many bolts as me and old Rowdy McRipperpants
(RIP) used on Low-Angle Direct—three—and that
puppy’s 2,000 feet. Ondra better keep an eye on
his tires, is all I’m saying.
1
C R U S T Y T RA D DA D 5 8
( A K A K E V I N CO R R I G A N )
2/ 23/ 18
AT 2 : 0 8 A . M . P S T
IT’S OVERBOLTED
Look, I get it. Some rock can’t even be
protected with Ballnuts or taped-on
skyhooks; bolts are the only option. But I count
at least 12 bolts in 150 feet in the Silence video.
If Ondra can climb the V15 crux, he should’ve
had no problem running out the first 80 feet of
5.13d. Would Ondra like a Starbucks at the nohands rest as well? Why not just domesticate
the fucker like Half Dome: put in handrails and
charge tourists $5 a pop? Ondra’s bolting lowers
the route to his level, which, mentally, is the level
of my two-year-old kid with my fifth wife. Forget
if it’s a boy or not cause the hair’s all long, but
I think we named it Rainbow. Anyway … as the
homemade bumper sticker on my ‘78 VW bus
says, “Keep Flatanger Bold.”
2
BIO
The “Mayor of Apricot
Dome.” I never leave
the ground without a
double rack up to No. 6,
and I always run it out.
Lead 5.6, follow 5.8. Sport
climbing is neither, gym
climbing is neither, and
bouldering also sucks.
24
JULY 2018
ONDRA AIDED THE ROUTE
Ondra had to rest in a kneebar for
“five to six minutes” in order to
complete the route. He wore sticky-rubber
kneepads—an artificial climbing aid—in order
to do this. Hey, buddy, if your knees hurt, how
about I lend you my Carrharts, or perhaps
you’d prefer etriers next time? 5.15d? More like
5.13d A0.
3
IT WASN'T CLIMBED GROUND- UP
I don’t know when climbers decided
that the laws of gravity don’t apply,
but that sure as shit has never been the way
out at Apricot. You think Layton Kor inspected
The Owl (5.7+) in Boulder Canyon before his
FA? LOLZ. “Climbing” means starting from the
bottom and then going to the top. But Ondra
started that no-star turd pile by figuring out the
middle then working his way down. What’s next,
a scissorlift up to the middle of El Cap so he
can “work” the Great Roof? Perhaps he should
pay someone to climb for him, since he doesn’t
seem interested in doing it himself.
4
SILENCE IS CONTRIVED
I watched Ondra’s little film and the
whole time I was thinking, “This is
dumb and that route is bullshit, but it must
have a pretty boss view from up top since he’s
putting so many years into it.” No, sir! Silence
doesn’t even top out. It stops at an arbitrary
spot in the middle of the ceiling. Did Ondra
get lost? Did his bolt gun run out of batteries?
Where is he trying to go? It’s like driving halfway
to the 7-Eleven and then turning around before
you can even smell the taquitos.
Next time I can get up the scratch to hop a
plane up to Norge, I’m chopping those bolts
then doing that route right. I’ll skol a few
Scandinavian King Cobras and belt out some
Steely Dan to get in the zone, then throw on
my shoulder sling and climb until I run out of
mountain. Then I’ll howl at the midnight sun,
rap down, and celebrate restoring Silence to its
rightful state: an X-rated trad route nobody will
ever repeat.
5
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PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK
Silence: A Tragedy
RETURN TO FORUM
GOLFED!
THAT ONE TIME
I
n 1994, I bought the only new car I’ve ever purchased, a gray VW Golf, using a bit of inheritance money
my grandfather had left me. Day one, some spiteful asshole snapped the antenna of in an Albuquerque, New Mexico, parking lot. Being a skinflint climber, I didn’t pony up the $70 to replace it. And so
emerged a pattern of cheapness and neglect that defined how I treated the car.
I drove the Golf across the West, along the backwater dirt roads of New Mexico and the Colorado alpine,
A CLIMBER CAR’S
where its low-slung chassis slammed into potholes, ground up slabs, and scraped over rocks. At 5’6”, I
SHORT, BRUTAL,
could sleep diagonally in the hatchback, which I did during Rifle summers until the “Golf Cart’s” interior
TRAUMATIC LIFE
took on a gamey odor. I pushed the Golf way past its limits, treating the poor, little city car like a combinaB Y M AT T S A M E T
tion RV/ofroad vehicle.
I L LU S T R AT I O N B Y
There were foibles; there were shenanigans. Once, in August 1995, in the sweltering salt flats near Ibex,
DAV I D C A M P O
Utah, crossing the country with an Italian girlfriend, Chiara, who’d fallen asleep in the passenger seat after
an all-night drive, I made the impromptu decision to go “mudding”
on a dry lakebed beside the highway. The car bogged down after 20
this time backing onto then high-centering on a lone, cofee-tafeet in a puddle, sloshing to a stop. Chiara woke up, stared out at all
ble-sized rock at the edge of the vast lakebed. Fortunately, another
that great, white nothingness, and said, “You eeedeeeyot.” In 1999, at
climber soon came along. “Boy, you pad people sure are stupid,” he
Hueco Pete’s at Hueco Tanks, Texas, during a DIY tire rotation in the
said, hooking a cable from his Jeep to the Golf. “This wasn’t even the
parking lot, I “forgot” to put cinderblocks under the front axle on the
first time I’ve had to pull one of you out of here .…”
driver side as I moved the wheels around. When I removed the rear
Flash-forward to 2006. By then the Golf had so many dings, rust
wheel on that same side, the car promptly levered into the dirt. As my
spots, crumpled panels, and windshield cracks that cops tailed me
friend Jonathan stood by and laughed uproariously, I used an ice axe
whenever I was within 500 miles of an elementary school. After
to excavate a trench for the jack—problem solved!
hundreds of stanky bivvies and 160K punishing climber miles, my
You’d think I’d have learned to take better care of the Golf, but I
Golf had become a hoopty. I sold it as-is to a mechanic in Glenwood
never did. And so, in 2001 back at Ibex while pebble-wrestling at the
Springs, Colorado, who needed a cheap family car. The price? $300—
Red Monster boulder with my friend Josh, I got the Golf stuck again,
or roughly the cost of four brand-new antennas.
26
JULY 2018
RISE UP WITH
USA CLIMBING
Become a 2017–18 SEASON MEMBER
at usaclimbing.org and compete with the best
Membership types: Competitor <> Coach <> Routesetter <> Collegiate <> Adaptive
usaclimbing.org
NOTHING TASTES
LIKE SENDING FEELS
PEACHES PREACHES
CONFESSIONS OF A
WEIGHT- OBSESSED
CLIMBER
B Y JA M E S LU C A S
JAMES LUCAS is a writer
and climber based out of
the fitness-focused city of
Boulder, Colorado. Some
pro climbers consider him
to be a pretty good “lifestyle” climber.
28
JULY 2018
I
n summer 2006, after a long day of climbing at the high-elevation Tioga Clif near Yosemite, I’d worked
up a massive appetite. On the hike out, I stufed cheese pufs by the handful into my mouth as my partner, El Capitan free-climbing veteran Rob Miller, poured a few macadamia nuts into his hand, looked at
them, and then returned three to the bag.
“How many macadamias do you eat?” I asked Rob, bits of cheese puf hanging from my lips.
“Well, I eat 10,” the buf climber said. “But since you’re a little”—his cheeks ballooned—“you’d want 7.”
I grew up on the East Coast as one of six kids. Our parents fed us economy-style, favoring quantity over
quality. At dinner, I crammed fish sticks into my gob, competing with five other hungry mouths. In middle
school, my mom told me I had “broad shoulders” and took me shopping in the Husky department at JCPenney. Throughout high school, I played football and cross-country skied. I began climbing in 1998 in Vermont,
becoming more athletic though still bulky.
I’d been trying for years, I took a similar approach.
As I progressed through the grades, from leading
When I finally sent, in 2017, I could lock of harder
my first 5.6 trad pitch on Manure Pile to free climband felt lighter, making the placements easier.
ing El Cap in a day, I grew skinnier. The correlation
So how skinny do I—or any of us—really need to
was obvious: In our constant-fight-against-gravibe to crush? Where do you draw the line between
ty sport, the better your strength-to-weight ratio,
strategic dieting and an unhealthy eating disorder?
the harder you climb. In winter 2003 while I sold
“Well, one particular answer from our data comes
overpriced alpine jackets at a Santa Cruz outdoor
in the form of ‘lighter does not equal better grades,’”
store and saved money for my next climbing trip, I
says climbing trainer Tom Randall, who has tested
ate NutterButter cookies by the package, apathetic
hundreds of climbers through his Lattice Training
to the hydrogenated fat. My climbing took a noseprogram. “But being in approximately 20 BMI is
dive. Then I traveled to Indian Creek and got lean.
best for healthy, long-term climbers.” Body-mass
My friends and I survived of eggs we’d scavenged
index measures your height-to-weight ratio. While
from behind a Moab grocery store. When one of our
many climbers favor calculating body-fat percentcrew got food poisoning, we just shrugged and kept
age, calculating BMI is easier given the difficuleating the eggs. Later that summer in Squamish, I
ties of measuring body fat accurately. In The Rock
spent two months camping in a cave, eating peanut
Climber’s Training Manual, the Anderson brothers
butter and jelly sandwiches. Once a week, I spent a
recommend that climbers be generally fit, with 10
loonie on deli-meat ends. Poverty had shrunken my
percent body fat for men and 20 percent for women.
stomach, but it also made me climb harder.
At 5’7” and 158 pounds, the upper end of a healthy
ver the years as my career as a freelance writBMI, I’d need to drop 28 pounds, or roughly 18 perer took of, my income expanded and so did
cent of my body weight, to get close to a 20 BMI.
my waistline. After so much time on a survivI like broccoli and chicken as much as the next
al diet, perhaps my metabolism had slowed.
guy, but weeks on end of such fare seems unmainAlso, I could finally aford good food. Around me,
tainable. Perhaps I could close the gap by campusother climbers were more weight conscious. A scale
ing, hangboarding, and pounding iron.
sat on the campground table for morning weigh-ins
trength training is cumulative over your
at Rifle; in Squamish, a sweet-toothed friend ablifetime,” write the Anderson brothers.
stained from sugar for a month; and after one friend
“Weight loss is not.” They explain that the
contracted giardia, she crushed a long-time boul10 pounds you lose post-breakup won’t
dering project she couldn’t repeat after she regained
afect your performance a decade later; however,
weight. After a bout of food poisoning in Rifle in
those six months of angsty deadhanging might.
2013, I floated through the crux of my project, Hang
There are countless articles about how to increase
‘Em High (5.12c). I bought a scale and kept it in my
finger strength, how to break boards on your abs,
van for morning weigh-ins. When I moved to Bouland how to do fingertip pushups. But sustained
der in 2016 to work at Climbing, the scale came into
weight loss can be more challenging than the latest
my cubicle.
Eva Lopez contrasting deadhangs program because
Climbers have even been known to fast, as unstrength building comes through changing your
healthy as this can be. In Jerry Mofatt’s autobiogexercise program, while long-term weight loss reraphy, Revelations, he confesses that prior to his
quires changing your life.
FA of Yosemite’s notorious V12 the Dominator, he
“Long-term weight loss (or weight maintenance)
barely ate for days, passing the time hiking the Yodoesn’t come about through short-term fixes; it’s
semite Falls Trail. He attributes his send to his lightthe culmination of building long-term, healthy
er weight. On Cosmic Debris, a 5.13b finger crack
O
“S
dietary habits,” writes Brian Rigby in “Losing
Weight II: Food & Diet Attitudes” at climbingnutri
tion.com. Losing weight requires a thousand micro
decisions that combine over time to make a macro
diference. For me, carrots and celery would need
to replace potato chips, while seven macadamias
would replace cheese pufs. And I’d need to change
my emotional-eating habits. Instead of downing
a calorie-filled beer and pounding nachos when I
couldn’t deal with work deadlines, I’d need to guzzle LaCroix and rage-eat almond slivers. Go too far,
however, and I risked succumbing to orthorexia,
an obsession with maintaining a perfect diet rather
than an ideal weight. Think no sugar, no gluten, no
fun … but lots of sending!
Eating disorders are the third rail in performance
climbing—nobody wants to talk about them, but to
climb 5.13 and beyond, it helps to be lean and light.
For most climbers, acknowledging they have an eating disorder means putting on weight, which in turn
translates to a worse strength-to-weight ratio and
thus less sending. It’s a fine balance to maintain an
ideal climbing weight and still stay healthy.
“It’s a lot easier to lose five pounds than it is to get
five pounds stronger,” says the pro climber Jonathan
Siegrist. In 2015 in Spain, while he worked La Rambla
(5.15a), Siegrist methodically prepared his food, staying light for his project. But extended calorie restriction can—among myriad issues—cause reduced brain
volume, according to a May 2010 study in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. “Starving is bad for
your brain,” says Siegrist. “I’ve noticed it change people’s behavior.” Siegrist believes that it’s better to focus
on other facets of performance climbing, like cleaning
the holds on the MoonBoard. (“Brush the holds; they
don’t come down that often,” he says.) When he’s not
in send mode, Siegrist gains a few pounds, drinking
a nightly beer and maintaining a healthy weight. “I’d
much rather resist developing an eating disorder than
send half a letter grade harder,” he.
As the pro climber Emily Harrington puts it, “The
harsh reality is that [climbing is] a gravity-based
sport, and if you want to climb hard it helps to be a
few pounds lighter.” In 2005, Harrington trained in
Europe, honing down to 100 pounds. The weight loss
turbo-charged her performance, and she placed second in the lead world championships. In 2007, when
I met her at Jailhouse, she sent Burning Down the
House (5.14b). However, Harrington struggled with
the demands of constantly being that thin, and eventually gained 20 pounds. When she did, her climbing
sufered. Then she learned to train properly and better use her strength, going on, at her current healthy
weight, to send Golden Gate (VI 5.13b) on El Capitan
in 2015 and Fish Eye (5.14b) at Oliana in 2017.
Like all the best things in life, climbing revolves
around struggle—the give-and-take between what
we want to achieve and what we’re willing to do
to get there. Sacrifice too much and you risk your
health. But ignore the role of nutrition in climbing and you might not realize your goals. If I want
to improve in climbing, one area is my weight—but
it’s just one area. I can also improve finger strength,
flexibility, and power. Each morning, I stare at the
scale in my cubicle. Our relationship has had its ups
and downs, but lately we’ve been on good terms, as
I’ve learned how to balance my weight, climbing, and
a happy life. Someday soon, I hope, we’ll no longer
need each other.
EATING DISORDERS ARE
THE THIRD RAIL IN
PEFORMANCE CLIMBING—
NOBODY WANTS TO TALK
ABOUT THEM, BUT TO CLIMB
5.13 AND BEYOND, IT HELPS
TO BE LEAN AND LIGHT.
THE AUTHOR
WEIGHS HIS
OPTIONS AT JOE’S
VALLEY, UTAH.
CLIMBING.COM
29
PL AYERS
30
JULY 2018
G
raduate early from DePaul University with a degree in bio-science, coach a youth climbing team 20 hours a week, drive 14
hours round-trip to the Red River Gorge each weekend to
send 5.14c—most people would be crushed. But not Michaela
Kiersch, 23, of Chicago, who in January 2018 made the first female
ascent of the fiendishly thin Necessary Evil (5.14c) in the Virgin RivB Y JA M E S LU C A S
er Gorge, Arizona.
Kiersch grew up in Bridgeport, a working-class community in Chicago, surrounded by her nuclear family in a two-flat house: her mother, Joanne, who over 15 years transitioned from receptionist to CFO at a nonprofit; her father, Bil, a former Chicago elementary-school science
teacher and now credit manager; and her twin sister, Kristina. Meanwhile, her grandmother, Dorothy, a
trucking-company secretary who’d been a single mom in the 1960s, lived on the ground-floor unit.
Kiersch was drawn to the vertical from an early age, recalling, “I was the type of kid who climbed up
anything I could get my hands on”—whether it was trees, playground equipment, or buildings. (Kristina,
meanwhile, pursued her own passion for horses.) In 2002, her parents found an outlet for Kiersch at the
Climb On gym in Homewood, in the Chicago suburbs. At 9, Kiersch entered her first competition and
placed second, just behind the only other girl who entered. At 10, she moved to Hidden Peak Climbing
Gym to work with Dave Hudson’s youth team, climbing with other strong Chicago kids like Isabelle Faus
and Michael O’Rourke. At 12, she began coaching other youth climbers in recreational classes and slow-
THE REMARKABLE
ENERGY AND DRIVE
OF MICHAELA
KIERSCH
PHOTO BY JAMES LUCAS
TURBO
CHARGED
MICHAELA
KIERSCH FLASHING
DIOPHANOUS SEA ( V11 ) ,
HUECO TANKS, TX.
ly transitioned this into a paid position. She stayed with
coaching until she graduated from college, reinforcing
the skills she’d learned by teaching others.
In 2010, when Kiersch was 15, her mother died from
lung cancer. Though Kiersch competed in the world
championships only two weeks later, her climbing
slumped. She soon found support in the tight-knit Chicago climbing community—workers and “real people
with real jobs,” who ofered her rides to the gym, lent her
chalk, and provided a stable environment after school. As
time passed and Kiersch processed her grief, she resumed
climbing with vigor.
As a comp climber, Kiersch has entered 30 national
championships, making the US team in all three disciplines (lead, bouldering, and speed) and placing fourth
at bouldering nationals in 2016 and 2017 as well as third
at the USAC Sport Open National Championship in 2012
and 2016. Her outdoor achievements speak well of her
ability to translate plastic to rock, from her first 5.13 in
2009—Hell in American Fork, Utah—to 2017, when
she sent three 5.14c’s at the Red: Fifty Words for Pump,
Southern Smoke, and 24 Karats. She’s also pursued hard
bouldering. In December 2017 at Hueco Tanks, Texas,
she sent Crown of Aragorn (V13) and flashed Diaphanous Sea (V11). In February 2018 in Bishop, California,
she met her friend Nina Williams and dispatched Maze of
Death (V12) in five tries and completed the long Haroun
and the Sea of Stories (V11). With so many big ticks already and her superhuman energy and drive, Kiersch, it
seems, is just warming up.
5 Things You
Didn’t Know About
Michaela Kiersch
She loves Chicagostyle hot dogs with
Vienna beef and
poppy-seed buns.
She knows all the
choreography to the
2008 Wing Chun
martial-arts
film Ip Man.
One of the best
days of her life was
sitting with her
grandma, eating
pancakes and
watching Shark Tank.
After watching
Sister Act 1 and 2 with
her mom as a kid, she
knows all the words to
“Oh Maria,” which she’ll
proudly belt out if the
volume is high enough
to drown out her voice.
Her fellow climbers
at Hidden Peak call
her “Big Mic” due to
her ability to climb tall
despite having never
surpassed the 5’1”
height she reached
at 13.
Q+A
HOW HAS IT BEEN
HAVING MORE
FREEDOM AFTER YOU
GRADUATED FROM
COLLEGE?
Initially, it was difficult. I
was agitated and stressed
over things I didn’t need
to stress over because
I didn’t know what to do
with all the extra time and
energy. Now I’ve refocused
it into training and climbing
outside. I’ve been writing
training plans and goals,
and doing double sessions
a lot of the time.
HAS IT PAID OFF?
Since I’ve graduated, I’ve
ticked three life goals: a
hard first ascent at the
RRG (Goldilocks [5.14b]
at the Gold Coast), V13
(Crown of Aragorn in the
East Spur at Hueco), and
Necessary Evil [5.14c]—so
that’s awesome.
YOU PLAN ON
RETURNING TO
SCHOOL TO OBTAIN
A DOCTORATE IN
OCCUPATIONAL
THERAPY. WHAT
ATTRACTED YOU TO
THE PROFESSION?
My mom and grandma
worked with occupational
therapists. Occupational
therapy is helping people
with fundamental tasks
like cooking if they’ve lost
function in some part
of their body. It’s a lot of
one-on-one time. I want
to be able to help people
improve their lives—to
impact their lives in a
positive way. And I love
working with people.
more
SAFETY
more
comfort
prevent
k
belayer’s nec
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SKILLS
LEVEL 1
STEVE BECHTEL
CAN YOU WALK TO
THE CLIFF?
NO
7
1
TRAIN YOUR
CARDIO SYSTEM
START
REDPOINTING
YES
YES
2
NO
CAN YOU HOLD
ALL HOLDS ON
YOUR PROJECT?
YES
GET ON THE
HANGBOARD
NO
CAN YOU GIVE IT
SEVERAL TRIES
PER DAY?
3
NO
WORK ON LIMIT
BOULDERING
NO
CAN YOU MOVE
BETWEEN THEM?
4
6
TRAIN YOUR
CAPACITY
YES
WORK ON
ROUTE-SPECIFIC
INTERVALS
NO
CAN YOU CLIMB
THE SECTIONS
BETWEEN RESTS?
YES
ARE YOU AFRAID?
5
YES
HTFU
E
veryone wants to send, but figuring out precisely how—amidst the many training approaches out there—is challenging. However, what you should focus on is maximizing
efort—in the appropriate way, relative to where you’re at on your project. I developed
the above flow chart, with suggestions, to show you an easily customizable path to redpointing your hardest.
TRAIN YOUR CARDIOVAS1 CULAR
SYSTEM
Most climbers have plenty of cardio capacity. However, if approaches wear you out,
you might need basic conditioning—walking with a pack, hiking, or doing easy multipitch climbs. Aim for 30-plus minutes per
day, every day.
ON THE HANGBOARD
2 IfGET
you can’t hang the holds, get on a
hangboard. Debating protocols is like arguing
over which vegetable is better: Any vegetable
is a good start. Figure out which holds challenge you, and train those. More work per session is not better; instead, do more sessions.
WORK ON LIMIT
3 BOULDERING
If you can hang the holds but can’t do the
moves, then limit bouldering is the key. Work
supermaximal problems, trying two to three
over a series of sessions. While sending is OK,
focus on performing harder moves. Think of
yourself as a musician trying to learn a difficult piece. If you can play it well during the
first practice, you’re not really expanding your
capabilities.
4
WORK ON ROUTESPECIFIC INTERVALS
Now that you can do the moves, the next step
is linkage. Set up circuits that mimic the an-
gle, style, and difficulty of your project. As you
progress, keep the difficulty relatively equal to
the various sections on the proj, and whittle
away at the rest periods between them. Picture your outdoor project: First you hang on
every bolt, then you link sections, and then
you send. You’re slowly decreasing resting periods. Do the same with intervals.
THE FUCK UP
5 (HARDEN
HTFU)
If you’re freaking out about being above your
gear, stop. Letting fear run roughshod over
you limits your options. We’re all afraid—it’s
just whether we let it ruin us or not. You have
a choice. Once you care more about sending
than comfort, you’re set.
TRAIN YOUR CAPACITY
6 Many
climbers are incapable of trying
a project-level route more than once or twice
a day. This is unacceptable. You have limited
years to climb, so maximize your time. If you
lack capacity for several hard goes per day,
back of for a month or two and focus on sending more sub-limit routes per session. Sure,
5.11c doesn’t thrill like 5.12a, but if you’re going to own a grade, you need a base.
A typical capacity day addresses mileage
near threshold. These are routes on which
you try medium-hard (slightly above onsight level). Give three to five good redpoint
efforts per day. Climbing just below your
pump or anaerobic threshold will slowly increase the number of good goes per day on
your project.
START REDPOINTING
7 No
more excuses—it’s time get on the
proj and give it your all.
S T E V E B EC HT E L is the founder of
the training website ClimbStrong
.com, cofounder of the Performance Climbing Coach seminar
series, and founder of Lander’s
Elemental Performance + Fitness.
CLIMBING.COM
33
SKILLS
LEVEL 2
Prep Wrists and Fingers to Send
DR. JARED VAGY, DPT
WRIST MOBILITY
INSTRUCTIONS
A. Begin with your elbows
bent and wrists flexed.
B. Extend your elbows and
wrists down simultaneously.
WHAT IT DOES
In the starting position, the
tendons at the wrist lengthen, while the tendons at the
elbow shorten; in the finishing position, the reverse
occurs. This dynamic movement allows the tendons to
B
glide safely and therapeutically, prepping the muscles
and tendons to shorten and
lengthen across the elbow
and wrist with minimal strain.
(This is opposed to static
stretching, in which the muscles and tendons lengthen
across both the elbow and
wrist.) Start by performing
the tendon glides at your
side, and then, if you wish, at
varying angles or in a similar
sequence to your project.
M
ost climbers know better than just to jump on their project cold. A thorough warm-up increases blood flow, muscle
flexibility, and body control. (E.g., a 2016 study of handball
players by Andersson et al. showed that a comprehensive
warm-up program can decrease injury rates by up to 28 percent.) In
climbing, a complete warm-up includes four components, best performed in succession: Increase blood flow, improve mobility, target
stability, and begin climbing.
INSTRUCTIONS
Loop a resistance band
around both hands, with your
elbows at your sides bent
to 90 degrees. Keeping one
wrist stable, perform small
clockwise and counterclock-
wise rotations with your
opposite wrist.
WHAT IT DOES
Strengthens wrist extensor
muscles to stabilize the wrist,
taking stress off flexors.
IMPROVE MOBILITY
Dynamic stretching—smoothly moving through a full range of motion,
spending equal time in each phase—helps improve mobility prior to
climbing. Perform the wrist and finger exercises on these pages for 6
minutes, alternating in 30-second blocks between the two stretches in
each section above.
INCREASE BLOOD FLOW
Mobility Versus Stability
Perform 5–10 minutes of aerobic exercise ( jumping jacks, a run,
exercise bike, the approach hike, etc.) to elevate your deep-muscle
temperature, which makes muscles more adaptable and less likely
to strain or tear. A simple guideline is once you start sweating, your
body is warmed up. If you want to be scientific, warm up with a
target heart rate of 50 percent of your max—subtract your age from
220 and divide by two.
Mobility is the ability to move within a range of motion,
while stability is the ability to control that movement.
Climbers need both. A 2000 study by Doran et al.
identified that over 40 percent of climbing injuries occur
in the wrist and fingers. Thus, a proper warm-up will
target mobility and stability in both areas.
34
JULY 2018
PHOTOS BY STEPHEN GROSS AND ARI KIRSCH
A
WRIST STABILITY
FINGER MOBILITY
FINGER STABILITY
A
B
C
D
INSTRUCTIONS
Perform the following hand
positions in a rhythmic sequence.
A. Straight Fingers: Straighten your hand.
B. Hook Fist: Crimp your
fingers down, keeping your
knuckles aligned with your
wrist.
C. Full Fist: Roll your fingers
downward.
D. Flat Fist: Press your fingers
into your palm.
DR. JARED VAGY (the
climbingdoctor.com) is a
doctor of physical therapy,
a professor at USC, and the
author of Climb Injury-Free.
He also teaches our new
AIM Adventure U course
Strength Training for
Injury Prevention (climb
ing.com/injuryprevention).
WHAT IT DOES
Increases flexibility of the
finger muscles and tendons
through a complete range of
motion—the more dexterous,
flexible, and prepared your
fingers are, the more easily
you can grasp tiny holds.
If you want, progress the
exercise into more complex
movement patterns, like
sequencing your project.
This will help build muscle
memory while you warm up.
INSTRUCTIONS
Place a rubber band
around your fingertips
while maintaining a straight
wrist. Spread your fingers
without bending your wrist.
Hold, then let your fingers
collapse. You can perform
isometric holds at various
angles to mimic different
grips. Your hold times during
the 30 seconds will vary
based on your preferred
style—they should be roughSTYLE
ly the same duration you grip
holds on rock (see chart).
WHAT IT DOES
This exercise activates the
extensor muscles in the fingers. These muscles support
the finger flexors, which are
overused during climbing.
The increased activation and
support from the extensors
can help prevent flexor overuse injuries by more evenly
distributing the load.
ISOMETRIC HOLD TIME REPS
TOTAL TIME
Bouldering
5 seconds
6
30 seconds
Sport
6 seconds
5
30 seconds
Trad
Up to 10 seconds
3
30 seconds
TARGET STABILITY
BEGIN CLIMBING
The forearm and fingers contain two types of major muscle groups: Flexors on the palm side, and
extensors on the back. Climbing overdevelops the
flexors, which can lead to overuse injuries and
weakness of the extensors, which help to stabilize
the wrist and fingers. Given this imbalance, it’s
important that we activate the extensors prior to
climbing. To activate a muscle, you need to maintain a sustained pressure against light resistance.
This encourages a brain-body connection to “wake
up” the targeted muscle. (Note: You can also customize time spent on either Mobility or Stability.
E.g., if you have stif muscles and limited flexibility,
do 4 minutes of mobility stretches and 2 minutes of
stability exercises—or vice versa if you have loose
joints and excessive flexibility.)
After you complete the first three steps of your
warm-up, begin climbing gradually, with “high
volume/low intensity,” and progress into “low volume/high intensity”—this lets the muscles, tendons, and nervous system adapt to the progressive
demands of climbing harder. I recommend starting with two to three (high volume) easier climbs
three numbers below your consistent upper grade
(low intensity). For example, if you climb 5.11,
warm-up on 5.8s; if you boulder V5, warm-up
on V2s. This is also a great time to focus on technique. Hone your footwork, limit the tendency
to overgrip, and focus on fluid body movement.
Slowly begin to decrease the volume to one to
two climbs of slightly higher intensity until you’re
ready to hop on your project.
CLIMBING.COM
35
SKILLS
LEVEL 3
Three DIY Bouldering Workouts
BY JULIE ELLISON
W
hether you’re a bolt-clipper, gearplugger, or pebble-wrestler, bouldering is one of the best ways to get
good. It builds power, refines technique, and improves your ability to decipher
tricky sequences. The following three bouldering-specific drills distill bouldering’s most
beneficial aspects into focused workouts.
If you’re a roped climber, add one into your
routine once a week, rotating through each; if
you’re a boulderer, do all three once per week
during a power-building phase.
LIMIT BOULDERING
In bouldering, after you’ve reached a baseline strength, you won’t see improvements
unless you try things at or above your personal
threshold. With limit bouldering, you create
your own mini-sequences (versus pre-set problems, which tend to have greater variance in
Solo Bouldering Tips
To keep psych high while
bouldering by yourself in the
gym:
Set up a reward system—e.g., for
every 30 minutes you’re pushing at
the gym, that’s one Netflix episode
you get to watch that night.
Wear headphones and keep
your favorite tunes cranked while
climbing.
Watch Ondra/Puccio/Megos/
Ashima videos during your 2- to 3minute rests. They didn’t skimp on
training.
If it starts to feel tempting to cut
your session short, picture your
project and how it feels to fall off
the crux … again.
Bring a book or magazine to read
during rest breaks.
move difficulty), letting you train hard, technical movement while also focusing on power.
To begin, warm up on easy terrain for 15
minutes, priming your shoulders, making
large and small shoulder circles (both directions) or working with a band when you step
of the wall to rest.
Now invent a bouldering sequence. It
should be three to seven difficult moves. The
goal is to do repeated powerful (quick, dynamic) movements that force you to deadpoint to
poor holds. If you complete it on the first try,
it’s too easy. If you fall of the first move, consider that one attempt. Rest two to three minutes before trying again, focusing on form,
power, and precision. Aim for five attempts
total per sequence, and move on to the next if
you complete the sequence in fewer than five
tries. (This drill is great for a home wall, where
you move the holds infrequently and can keep
a few sequences as benchmarks.)
REPS: 4–5 SEQUENCES, MAX 5 ATTEMPTS
PER SEQUENCE; REST 5 MINUTES
BETWEEN SEQUENCES
DURATION: 30–60 MINUTES
LOCKOFFS
Lockofs—static moves in which you pull
down until one arm is bent, then hold that
engaged position to grasp the next hold with
your other arm—are essential in bouldering:
The better your lockof strength, the farther
you can reach, which is especially important
for shorter climbers.
Once you’ve warmed up, find a boulder
problem you can do consistently—usually
a few grades below your max level. As you
climb, lock of every move, holding the reaching hand just below the next hold for three
seconds. This will force you to focus on maintaining a near-perfect body position to execute efficiently. If you didn’t have to try hard,
downclimb in the same fashion, pausing the
hand that’s reaching down to the next hold.
REPS: 5 PROBLEMS TOTAL, RESTING 2–3
MINUTES BETWEEN EACH
DURATION: 30 MINUTES
4X4s
Sometimes it’s not a route’s moves that are
difficult, but linking them. That’s where power-endurance—or the ability to do multiple
hard moves in a row—comes in. 4x4s are a
great power-endurance tool.
To start, warm up on easy terrain for 15
minutes. To complete a 4x4, pick four boulder problems three grades below your limit
(50–80 percent of your max). Climb the first
problem four times, dropping of between
goes and repeating it immediately or downclimbing an easy route back to the start. Rest
two minutes, then climb the next problem the
same way until you’ve done all four problems
four times each.
REPS: THREE SETS TOTAL, RESTING 5
MINUTES BETWEEN SETS
DURATION: 2 HOURS
This is an excerpt from Climbing’s new book,
C L I M B T O F I T N E S S : T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O
C U S T O M I Z I N G A P OW E R F U L WO R K O U T O N T H E
WA L L (Falcon, April 2018), which features dozens of
workouts geared toward beginners and experienced
climbers alike, and includes supplementary training
(campus, hangboard, etc.), cross-training, and fullbody workouts.
Visit climbing.com/climbtofitness for more.
36
JULY 2018
QUICK CLIPS
QUICK FIXES FOR COMMON
CLIMBER PROBLEMS
CO M P I L E D B Y M AT T S A M E T
When I need a quick “clip-meup” but don’t want to drag up a
full-sized rig, I’ll MacGyver it:
duct-tape an electrolyte-tab
bottle to a Kong Panic, insert
a selfie stick in the bottle,
clip up with the Panic,
then retract the selfie
stick. (Here, the USB cable
is the “rope.”)
25th
th anniversary celebration!
celebration
Julyy 11-15th
11-15th Lander WY
—JOSH WHARTON
I use bowling-shoe covers to keep my rockshoe soles clean at the gym. They let me
move quickly onto a climb so no one has to
wait for me to lace up. Bonus: Wear them
into the bathroom! —KENNETH SMITH
ON A LONG TRAD LEAD, TO SORT MULTIPLE
PIECES OF THE SAME SIZE, CLIP ANY ADDITIONAL
PIECES ONTO THE BINER OF THE FIRST PIECE:
I.E., CLIP THAT ORANGE TCU TO YOUR GEAR LOOP,
THEN, USING RACKING BINERS OF THEIR OWN,
CLIP THE OTHER ORANGE TCUs DIRECTLY ONTO
THE FIRST TCU’s BINER. —KEVIN CORRIGAN
To organize my slings on a trad lead, I’ll sling double-length
runners over one shoulder first, attaching the two ends with
a carabiner, then throw single-length slings over the other
shoulder. When I need a single sling, I simply pull off the top
sling; for a double, I unclip the carabiner from one side and
pull the sling off my shoulder. For easy ID, buy singles in one
color and doubles in another. — MICHAEL PARKER
You know the old, blown-out ropes that gyms keep in rotation despite
them being impossible to push into a tube-style device? My 12-year-old
daughter figured out a simple solution: Clip your device to your harness
sans rope, then feed the rope end manually into the tube, around the
biner, and back out the tube. Genius! —JAMIE CAMPBELL
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»REGISTRATION BAG NOT GUARUNTEED With Tickets purchased after June 1
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CLIMBING.COM
37
FACES
THE CLIMBING Q&A
The Austrian Barbara “Babsi” Zangerl has ticked V13, 5.14c
sport, 5.14 trad, the Alpine Trilogy of 5.14-, multi-pitch,
high-altitude free climbs, and some of the hardest free
routes on El Capitan. At only 30 years old, Zangerl is one of
the best, most versatile climbers in the world.
BY JULIE ELLISON / ILLUSTRATION BY DONGYUN LEE
CLIMBING.COM
39
FACES
W
40
JULY 2018
few months of, return to bouldering, experience another setback, and
need more time of. Eventually, she realized she needed to stop bouldering altogether. She started roped climbing as therapy, entranced by
the plethora of high-quality sport areas near her home.
After two years, she was able to boulder again, but the pursuit now
paled compared to taller objectives. In 2011 at Vorarlberg, she sent Reifeprüfung (8b+/5.14a), then a month later took down Erntezeit, her first
8c/5.14b. The next year, she ventured to Spain and the Red River Gorge.
Shortly after that, she had her first multi-pitch experience on Acacia,
a nine-pitch 5.13a on Switzerland’s Rätikon, a massive limestone face
known for its runouts. This alpine sport climbing presented a new style:
slabby, intricate, technical movement. “I had to work on every single
pitch even if it was 7a [5.11d]. I invested a lot of time,” she says. “For
me, it was just cool to climb the crux pitches, the top pitches, and then
connect everything from the ground up. It was like big-wall bouldering.”
CLIMBING: So you were getting into these big objectives—what did
you do next?
BARBARA ZANGERL: I was in Sardinia in 2009, and we went into
the Gola di Gorropu gorge on a rest day. I saw this 11-pitch route—
super-overhanging and a completely diferent style than Rätikon. I
thought, “Wow, someday I really want to try this route.” Two years later, I came back to try Hotel Supramonte (5.13d) with no expectations.
My partner [the Austrian Marco Köb] and I did it in one week, which
was a big surprise. At that time, I didn’t know about the ethics of alpine sport climbing. I thought I had to take every quickdraw down
for each try for the redpoint. That was a hard challenge! Then Nina
[Caprez] told me, “Oh, Babsi! You are so stupid! You can just leave the
quickdraws.”
CLIMBING: When did you transition to trad climbing?
ZANGERL: My first trad route was Super Crill (5.13b) in Ticino, Switzerland, in 2012. The nine-pitch route is a combination of face and
crack climbing with bolts, but you have to use [removable] protection
on the crux. It’s double splitter cracks with no footholds, and I tried to
layback the whole thing without jamming. It felt more like 8b than 8a,
but I had no idea how to climb a proper finger crack. I tried to put my
PHOTO BY FRANÇOIS LEBEAU
hile Barbara Zangerl is a household
name in the European climbing
scene, unless you pay close attention to international climbing news,
you’ve likely not heard of this Austrian allaround badass. A decade ago, she burst onto
the bouldering scene with a tick of Pura Vida
(V12/13) in Switzerland’s Magic Wood, the
hardest bouldering ascent by a woman at the
time. She’s since parlayed that into an amazing list of cutting-edge ascents. Babsi is one
of only four climbers to have completed the
Alpine Trilogy: redpoint ascents of the 5.14a
Alps “sport” routes Des Kaisers neue Kleider,
Silbergeier, and End of Silence. These runout,
technical, multi-pitch climbs are known
1
for their thin, nails-hard cruxes on stormthrashed limestone walls at altitude. In 2017,
she and the pro climber Jacopo Larcher (who’s also her boyfriend) established the 5.14b R trad climb Gondo Crack in Switzerland after leading it on bolts, and the pair has ticked three of El Capitan’s toughest
free routes in three consecutive years: El Niño (VI 5.13c A0) in 2015,
Zodiac (VI 5.13d) in 2016, and the long-awaited second free ascent
of Magic Mushroom (VI 5.14a) in 2017. Zangerl lives in the mountain
town of Bludenz, Austria, in the Vorarlberg region, making her living
as a pro climber and part-time radiology assistant in a local hospital.
The early days of Zangerl’s climbing life unfolded, like so many others of her generation, at the local gym: When she was 14, her older
brother, Udo, took her and her 16-year-old sister, Claudia, to the gym
in the village of Flirsch am Arlberg, 10 minutes from their hometown
of Strengen. Babsi was addicted immediately, heading to the gym three
times a week, improving quickly. Meanwhile, she and Claudia developed a playful sense of competition to figure out beta and push each
other to improve. Soon, fellow Austrian Bernd Zangerl (no relation) began to show Babsi and Claudia around Austria’s bouldering areas, and
then Italy and Switzerland. Being away from home and visiting these
cool places excited the teenage girls. Their parents had been taking the
five Zangerl children hiking and skiing in the mountains from an early
age, so it was natural to connect with outdoor climbing.
As she improved, Babsi dabbled in the competition bouldering scene
in Innsbruck, entering a handful of national comps, but pulling plastic never captivated her like rock. After only four years, she had sent
V11/12; two years later, in 2008, she ticked Pura Vida. At that time,
Magic Wood was still relatively quiet, with untapped potential in the
boulder-filled forest. Babsi, Bernd, and Thomas Steinbrugger had
found the moss-covered block that houses Pura Vida, and she spotted
and supported Bernd on his first ascent. Fascinated by the small pocket
at the end of the problem, she found the moves beautiful but seemingly
above her level. Two years later, she did a few moves on Pura Vida to
warm up for another problem, and the crimpy style hooked her. She
spent 15 to 20 days projecting it before the send.
However, years of bouldering and falling of highballs had caused
the L5-S1 disc in Babsi’s lower back to herniate. A few months afterward, she could no longer boulder without pain. The injury was slow
to develop, and the recovery process was even slower. She would take a
“I LIKE TO TRY ROUTES
GROUND-UP. THEN I
HAVE MY ATTENTION
ON WHAT’S IN FRONT
OF ME.”
2
1. Barbara Zangerl
on the 5.14a twenty-second pitch
of Magic Mushroom ( VI 5.14a), El
Capitan, Yosemite,
California.
3
CLIMBING: How do you deal with fear—in particular of
falling—on these difficult big-wall free climbs?
ZANGERL: When I switched from bouldering to sport
climbing, I always worried about falling. But over time, I
experienced a lot of diferent climbs and got more used to
the exposure and less scared with how many days I spent
out in the mountains. But it’s still a challenge when I try a
new wall or a new route. On the first days, I normally feel
pretty scared, but with taking the falls it usually gets better. That works pretty well for me, but the most important
thing is to trust your partner. I have to be sure my partner
can give a soft catch; otherwise, I won’t fall.
CLIMBING: On these long, difficult routes, how do you
stay focused on the moves right in front of you?
ZANGERL: At the beginning, I never think about it. I always think every route I try is too hard for me, so everything feels like a surprise when I can do the single pitches. This [mentality] helps a lot; I never put pressure on
myself. It’s more like I want to see how it feels and how
far I can get. I like to try routes ground-up and not check
out higher pitches. Then I have all my attention on what’s
right in front of me.
Like on Magic Mushroom, on pitch 27 there were two
meters where I couldn’t do the moves. [Zangerl and Larcher made the second free ascent of the 5.14a on Yosemite’s
El Capitan in December 2017.] I’m sure if I had rapped
down to check it out first, then I wouldn’t have sent. When
you reach this point ground-up, when you have done everything before, you have so much more motivation. When
you rap down first, you might try the hard section for a
few days, then think you can’t do it—and maybe you don’t
even try.
2. Hanging but happy ona Unendliche
Geschichte (5.14a),
Rätikon, Switzerland.
3. Taking the ride on
Bella Vista (5.14b),
Cima Ovest, Dolomites, Italy, with
Jacopo Larcher on
belay.
FROM TOP : ROBERT BÖSCH; THOMAS SENF
was hard to feel comfortable while climbing. When you
fall, you have to jumar up to get back to the wall. I was
super scared. I had to turn around a few times, but when I
would get on the ground, I would ask myself, “Why didn’t
you try it?”
hands and feet in, but it didn’t work, so I used the small
footholds next to the crack. A few years ago, I got back on
the route and climbed it diferently. It felt much easier,
and I really had to laugh that I’d climbed it in such a complicated way in 2012.
CLIMBING: How did you transition into mountain routes?
ZANGERL: Wanting more alpine, I went to the Dolomites [in Italy], which is not great climbing. The rock is
really bad, and much of the routes are protected with old
pitons. I tried Bella Vista, a 10-pitch route on the north
face of Cima Ovest. It’s the scariest route I have ever tried,
with this big roof, but the line and the tower are so impressive—with such dramatic exposure up there that it
CLIMBING: What were your first experiences with Yosemite?
ZANGERL: I had read all these Yosemite books when I
was a boulderer. It was motivating to see the big walls,
and 2010 was my first time there, with Hansjörg Auer.
Our first climb was Generator Crack [a 5.10 single-pitch
ofwidth]. It took me three hours, and I couldn’t do half
the route. The dream of climbing El Cap was far away, but
we went there and tried Secret Passage [a 5.13+]. Hans
was a really experienced soloist and alpinist, but there was
a problem when he used a non-locking carabiner while
hauling. It opened and he fell six meters onto his backup
protection, which was also not solid. It was our second day
on the wall, and our El Cap experience was over.
Then we climbed on Washington Column, the Rostrum,
CLIMBING.COM
41
FACES
CLIMBING: In 2015, you and Jacopo freed El Niño, in
2016 Zodiac, and in 2017 Magic Mushroom. What keeps
you coming back to El Cap?
ZANGERL: Looking down to the Valley is the
best—when you wake up in the morning and
2
you see the shadow down there. It looks super-cold and frozen, but you’re up in the sun
when it first arrives on the wall.
CLIMBING: On Magic Mushroom, you spent
almost 30 days on the wall, battling stomach
illness, cold weather, and hard climbing. You
finally reached the last hard move on the route
[just before the anchor on pitch 27, the last
5.14a pitch], but kept falling.
ZANGERL: I was super happy to be there and
thought, “OK, now we are here. Now it’s finished.” But then I worked this pitch for four
days. I could do the moves, but I couldn’t
connect the crack sequence. This was the
problem. I never had so much pressure as on
Magic Mushroom, because this crux is only 40
meters from the top. I tried and tried to find
a new solution. In the end, I figured out that
I had to press my head against the rock be-
42
JULY 2018
CLIMBING: You do a lot of your big ascents with Jacopo,
who is also your boyfriend. What’s it like in these intense
situations together?
ZANGERL: We had met and talked a few times in the
past, but his German was really bad [Larcher is Italian]
so I didn’t know him well. The first time we really met and
climbed together was at the Melloblocco competition in Italy. We really talked there, and then started to climb together.
One of our first dates was on the south face of the Marmolada in the Dolomites. We wanted to climb an easy
route, but with 30 pitches, it ended up being the first test
of our relationship. We got lost because the runouts are really big, so on one of the last pitches we were in the wrong
place. It got dark and we couldn’t reach the top, and with
these alpine routes it’s not a good idea to rap because the
anchors are bad, with rusty pitons. But it was too cold to
1
1. Zangerl (front) at
age 6 on top of the
Ochsenkopf (3,360
feet), Bavaria,
Germany, with her
mother, Evi; sister
Claudia; and a
family friend.
2. Silbergeier
(5.14a), Rätikon,
Switzerland, here
on the crux, fifth
pitch of this route
in the Alpine
Trilogy.
LEFT: BARBARA ZANGERL COLLECTION; BELOW: HANNES MAIR
CLIMBING: Were you nervous returning to the Valley in
2015?
ZANGERL: By then I had learned to crack climb at Indian Creek, and I had plenty of alpine multi-pitch experience, having climbed the Alpine Trilogy, Delicatessen
(5.13d, 5 pitches) in Corsica, and Bella Vista (5.14b, 10
pitches) in the Dolomites. [Jacopo and I] also did single
hard pitches in the beginning. For us, planning the organization was hard. Food, how many days up on the wall,
hauling, etc.—it was completely new.
We struggled a lot with hauling; it was a nightmare. It
would take us 20 minutes to climb a single pitch but two
hours to haul it. For El Niño in 2015, the first five pitches
are the hardest so we would work those, then rap down.
We did that for a few days before climbing the whole route
ground-up. We planned on being on the wall for five days
but we were up there for eight, and we ran out of food. It
was really hard to sleep because we were so hungry. We
almost failed at the end because one pitch was really wet. I
tried it 20 times before I succeeded.
low my elbow so I could bring my left foot higher. I found
that solution, rested the next day, and then started the next
morning at 4 a.m. I warmed up on the pitch, and then sent
it first go.
PHOTO BY TK
and all these diferent shorter routes. We couldn’t do a single one, but we tried. On Washington Column’s Quantum
Mechanics (5.13a, 15 pitches), Hans didn’t want to bring
the big Camalots for weight. He ended up taking a big fall
on a hard ofwidth sequence, about 25 meters, the biggest
fall I have ever belayed. He broke his wrist. It took us until
midnight to get down, then we drove to the hospital and
the whole trip was finished.
10 Things You
Didn’t Know
About
Barbara Zangerl
WHAT IS YOUR
TRAINING
REGIMEN?
In winter, I train five days a
week, doing a combination
of bouldering, Beastmaker
hangboard workouts,
system-board circuits,
and general fitness. I focus
on power for 10 weeks
and then do two weeks
of endurance and sportclimbing training at the end
of the two months. Then I
climb outside the rest of
the year.
7
ONE THING YOU
CAN’T LIVE
WITHOUT ON A WALL?
Airwaves Cool Cassis gum.
1
FAVORITE MUSIC?
Lumineers, Cake,
Florence and the Machine.
PHOTOS : COURTESY OF TESCO ( AIRWAVES GUM ) , DEPOSIT ( XRAY ) , BEASTMAKER ( HANGBOARD )
2
OR DOGS?
3 CATS
I have had a cat,
never a dog—but I’m a dog
person.
SUPERSTITIONS?
I always tie my knot
on the left side of my belay
loop.
4
FAVE FOOD?
Thai food and sushi. I
love fish, but we don’t have
good fish in Austria—never
eat fish in Austria.
5
AND APE
6 HEIGHT
INDEX?
1 m, 62 cm ( just under
5’4”), -2 cm (-.78”)
IF YOU DIDN’T
CLIMB, WHAT
WOULD YOU DO WITH
YOUR FREE TIME?
I’ve always wanted to try
surfing and diving.
8
NON - CLIMBING
OBSESSION?
I’ll lie on my couch at night
watching TV and movies.
City of God and American
Beauty are two of my
favorite films.
9
ANY THING ELSE?
I also work as a
radiographer, reading
X-rays and MRIs in a
hospital. The schedule is
really flexible: two night
shifts during the week and
then a 24-hour shift on the
weekend, and that’s it for
the month.
10
sleep, so we rapped all night. The whole climb and descent took 25
hours, and at the end it was hard to have a conversation. I didn’t understand him anymore—he was too tired to speak German, and I don’t
speak Italian. Still, somehow we stayed calm and didn’t fight—that’s
why we kept on doing things like this. That was five years ago, and since
that experience was the worst, it’s just gotten better. Plus, he speaks
German now.
CLIMBING: How would you describe the American versus Austrian
climbing scenes?
ZANGERL: In Austria in the winter, the climbing gym is full of people, but in the summer, nobody goes to the gym. Everyone who is a
climber climbs outside on real rock. In the US, it seems like many
people go to the gym for fitness. In Austria, it’s more related to climbing. For the most part, climbers are the same all over the world—simple and open people—but Austrian culture in general is more closed.
It can be hard to find friends. Americans are open; everybody talks
to everybody, even when you don’t know each other. You don’t have
this in Austria. When you don’t know somebody, it’s hard to get in a
conversation.
CLIMBING: Which climbers inspire you?
ZANGERL: Lynn Hill, who freed the Nose in 1993. It was graded 8a
[5.13b], and now it’s graded 8b+ [5.14a]—most times routes get easier,
but that one got harder. That is really impressive. Freeing the Nose has
always been a big dream of mine, and that was the goal last year, but
when we went in October there was no chance. It was too crowded,
with 20 parties. It’s not fun to try a route like that. I’m also inspired by
Sílvia Vidal. I don’t want to do things like she does, but it’s crazy the expeditions she does alone, these first ascents. Also Beat Kammerlander,
who has established a lot of cool routes in Rätikon.
CLIMBING: Did Beat’s ground-up, trad ethics inspire you for your
greenpoint (no-bolts ascent) of Gondo Crack? And do you and he ever
climb together?
ZANGERL: I often meet Beat in his local crag of Voralpsee—it’s fun
to climb with such a legend! I am impressed with how he opened his
routes in the Rätikon, always ground-up with long runouts, and bolts
only when they are needed. This seems the logical way, I think. For the
climbers who repeat those routes, it ofers a greater adventure because
you have to climb hard sequences to reach the next bolt. There is no
other way—no aid style or grabbing quickdraws.
I try to respect the ethics of the first ascensionists, and I think ethics
are important in climbing. I love to go to the UK for trad climbing; they
have their own strong ethic, which you have to respect. Nobody would
bolt a route there if it’s possible to climb it with trad gear, so that ofers
a great mental game and a more intense experience. In Ossola where
Gondo is located, people bolted all those cracks, but you can climb most
of them without using the bolts. If this area was in Britain or the US,
there wouldn’t be a single bolt, but since it’s in the middle of Europe,
the trad climber’s eye might water at the sight of beautiful cracks with
shiny bolts.
For Gondo Crack, it made more sense to us to climb it with trad gear.
It’s a logical line that doesn’t need bolts. Doing it this way requires
more efort, but it also provides far stronger emotions.
CLIMBING.COM
43
FROZ
Z EN
IN TIME
MAIDEN
VOYAGE (5.12C),
THE MAIDEN
PHOTO BY ROB KEPLEY
Climber: Ian Cavanaugh
First ascent: Matt Wilder; 2012
A look at the new-school sport
climbs of the Flatirons, Colorado
By Matt Samet
This double-overhanging arête
departs from the legendary
Crow’s Nest, a tiny perch below
the Maiden’s beastly summit
overhang that has 100-plus feet of
exposure plunging to either side.
The climb begins on the “5.9”
pitch of the West Overhang, then
moves right across an improbable
traverse before punching up the
arête on forearm-blasting laybacks
and slopers. I’ve only been on
this route twice—once on a flash
attempt (nearly pissed my pants),
and then on redpoint. Both burns,
I felt like I was going to throw up
from the exposure. Moreover, you
can only get back to the Crow’s
Nest through logistical ninjutsu—
fitting, as the first ascentionist,
Matt Wilder, is a frequent
competitor on American Ninja
Warrior. A direct start has yet to
be redpointed. If V14 bouldering
ten million feet above the ground
is your thing, then have a go!
CLIMBING.COM
45
FROZEN
IN TIME
I
46
JULY 2018
THUNDER
MUSCLE (5.14A),
SEAL ROCK
Climber: Isabelle Faus
First ascent: Matt Samet,
Ted Lanzano; 2013
In 1989, Chris Beh, Chip
Ruckgaber, and Colin Lantz
installed anchors atop this route
with every intention of returning
to bolt it, but then the hardware
ban was imposed days later. The
trio certainly had an eye for a
line—Thunder Muscle feels like a
limestone tufa route from Spain
or Kalymnos transposed onto
Flatirons sandstone. While the
moves are bouldery and fierce,
the route has two good rests:
one at the “heart” at one-third
height, and the other a no-hands
before the upper 5.12c funkfest.
In 2016, Daniel Woods flashed
the line, giving it French 8b on his
Facebook page—ooh-la-la, eez
nice to be zo strong!
PHOTO BY JAMES LUCAS
n 2011, the Boulder,
Colorado–based climber
Matt Segal swam his way
up crimps and sloping
huecos on a black streak on Seal
Rock’s south face, 15 feet above a
nest of cams in the fused Fountain
sandstone. His target, just above,
was a pre-placed Big Bro tipped
diagonally between a jug and a
small lip. A fall before the tube
chock would launch him toward a
giant boulder in the gully below.
Segal had no bolts to protect him
on the climb, Primate, as it had
been established—headpoint-style,
without bolts—in 2000, squarely
amidst a bolting moratorium.
Though Primate has since been
bolted to be a “sensible-enough”
mixed lead, for years it and the
other climbs on this wall sat idle,
victims of the moratorium and their
own lack of natural protection.
FROZEN
IN TIME
THE YELLOW
DOOR (5.13A/B),
SEAL ROCK
Climbers: Phil Gruber and Lynn Hill
First ascent: Phil Gruber; 2017
The north face of Seal Rock is
special—perched high on the
southern flanks of Bear Canyon,
it’s the last piece of Flatirons rock
to catch the setting sun. From
town, the 300-foot wall lights up
with yellow, black, and red hues,
fading as the sun drops behind the
Rockies. For a long time, there were
only two routes here: the three-pitch
Archaeopteryx (5.11d X), known for
its long runouts, lichen, and shaky
pro, and its neighbor, Sea of Joy
(5.13a), an all-bolt counterpoint
with a tech-nine third pitch. In
2017, the Boulder hardman Phil
Gruber equipped and freed a line
that follows the right-leaning tilt
of the wall: his brilliant, two-pitch
The Yellow Door (5.12b, 5.13a/b).
On the sustained second pitch,
you cross Sea of Joy (you can link
into its crux at 5.13b) and finish on
Archaeopteryx. Or you can do the
first two pitches of Sea of Joy, then
halfway up the third pitch cut right
onto The Yellow Door for a threepitch 5.12, Sea Bird. Confused?
Guess you’ll just have to hike up
there and see for yourself!
48
JULY 2018
PHOTO BY CAROLINE TREADWAY
PHOTO BY TK
FROZEN
IN TIME
A
CHOOSE LIFE
(5.13+), SEAL
ROCK
PHOTO BY JAMES LUCAS
Climber: Chris Taylor
First ascent: Matt Samet, Ted
Lanzano; 2012
The mega-popular Choose Life
was sussed out on toprope for its
lead potential during the ban but
then abandoned as being total
death as a gear lead—hence the
name. Opening the south face
of Seal Rock, one of Boulder’s
premier walls, to bolting involved
seven years of negotiations with
OSMP, but the wait was worth
it. The wall now has eight sport
climbs from 5.11b to 5.14b. Best
of all, OSMP and the FCC teamed
up to build an amazing trail up
the final, steep approach grade.
Choose Life follows water-fused
stone up a wide black streak on
ribs, flanges, mini-pockets, and
pebbles, with an airy crux passing
the next-to-last bolt. “Choose life.
Choose a job. Choose a career.
Choose a family. Choose a fucking,
big television. Choose washing
machines, cars, compact disc
players, and electrical tin can
openers …. ” Irvine Welsh wrote in
Trainspotting. Or you could choose
to hang on for dear life, avoiding
the infamous crux whipper.
s of press time, Primate is one of 54 new routes to go up since 2003
on these massive formations, which tilt out of the ponderosacloaked ridges and canyons of the Boulder Mountains. That year,
the local climber organization the Flatirons Climbing Council
(FCC) came to an agreement with Open Space and Mountain
Parks (OSMP) and the City of Boulder to lift a ban on all bolting,
including updating old hardware, originally imposed in 1989. It
all began with a pilot area—specific formations on Dinosaur Mountain, one of the densest
clusters of climbable rock—and later expanded to include formations across the sevenmile breadth of the range. Today, dozens of formations are approved for new-routing on
a permit process overseen by the FCC’s Fixed Hardware Review Committee (FHRC). The
FHRC meets three times a year and can approve three new routes per cycle.
During the hiatus, climbing activity essentially “froze” in the Flatirons, making them
a living museum that escaped some of the worst excesses of the 1990s, when gluing,
chipping, and grid-bolting were often part of the sport-climbing experimentation process.
Sport climbing had come into existence in America in the mid-1980s. It was a turbulent
time marked by clashes over ethics, in which former friends got into fistfights in parking
lots over the legitimacy, or lack thereof, of rap bolting. The Flatirons remained a relative
backwater compared to mega-destinations like Smith Rock and the New River Gorge, and
so had only a few flare-ups of controversy. The long approaches (a grueling mile-plus)
and geographic separation of the formations kept a concentration of climbs from emerging
except in a few key areas, like Dinosaur Mountain, Bear Canyon, and Fern Canyon.
As a result, the Flatirons were more of a locals’ area, though in climber-centric Boulder
that still meant constant activity. In keeping with the 1980s vert-slab sport ethos, the
early Flatirons sport routes were thin and blank. Take the six-bolt Cornucopia (5.13a)
on the Box high on Dinosaur Mountain. This very first Flatirons sport climb, put up in
1986 by Dale Goddard, is a bright-orange scooped face that has no holds bigger than a
half-pad crimp, with a flurry of sloping, unhelpful pebbles. It would probably be easier
to redpoint in a pair of board-stiff Megas—the cutting-edge rock shoe of the 1980s—than
any of today’s softer, more downturned offerings.
As the 1980s wore on, dozens of sport climbs went in and the cliffs hummed with
activity. Then, in 1989, Boulder Mountain Parks (BMP), OSMP’s precursor, shut the
party down. It was not any one thing; mountain biking had been the first to go a few
years earlier when complaints about the new-fangled trail bikes breezing by and alarming
hikers reached the city council. And then, it was climbing’s turn. While the Flatirons
have a rich climbing history reaching back to the late 1800s, most of that activity had
been quiet, tweedy, and traditional—well-behaved people discreetly clambering up the
moderate east faces, with the odd 1970s or 1980s crack climb thrown in. (The Flatirons
are largely crackless, and so steep, hard trad climbs are rare.)
But now, suddenly, the whirring of power drills echoed off the canyon walls, while
the new-school climbers wore bright, obnoxious Lycra and screamed obscenities when
they fell. Some birders, hikers, and conservationists hated it. In 1989, BMP imposed its
bolting moratorium and even threatened to remove trailside climbs like Colin Lantz’s
Superfresh (5.12d) and The Mentor (5.12b), both in Fern Canyon. Though nothing came of
the threats, climbers formed the Colorado Climbers Coalition to fight the changing rules
here and in Eldorado Canyon, just to the south, which was experiencing similar growing
pains. All this was happening right as climbers finally began to develop an eye for the
steep lines—the money pitches. It was a paradigm shift led by the likes of Dan Michael,
with his 1987 5.13b Slave to the Rhythm, a wildly overhanging pebble-and-crimp line on
the back of the East Ironing Board, and Lantz, who just before the ban finished off the
80-foot Honemaster Lambada (5.14a) next to Slave as well as his unrepeated arête The
Violator (5.13c) in Fern Canyon.
In other words, just as climbers clued into the interesting, wavy, hueco’ed overhanging
south, north, and west facets of the Flatirons, sport climbing was shut down. A case in
CLIMBING.COM
51
FROZEN
IN TIME
HASTA LA
HUECO (5.13B;
THREE PITCHES),
THE MAIDEN
PHOTO BY CRAIG HOFFMAN
Climbers: Steve Annecone and
Mark Roth
First ascent: Bret Ruckman,
Steve Annecone (P1 and P2:
2013; P3: 2016)
From the west, the Maiden
resembles a cobra head rearing
to strike; from the north, a broad,
rampy face; from the east, a
sinuous sidewalk in the sky; and
from the south, a broad, scooped
amphitheater, bulging and wild
and peppered with huecos and
incipient cracks. In the middle of
the south face, a brilliant panel
of flat, whitewashed rock leads
to a wavy brown headwall. Hasta
la Hueco climbs this. A pitch of
scruffy 5.9+ trad leads to the
comfy Stone Oven Belay. The
second pitch (5.12d) begins with
jug huecos; while the pockets
all look good from below, they
become ever more slopey and
distant as you climb. After much
sussing, Bret Ruckman and Steve
Annecone freed the third pitch
at 5.13b in 2016. Three bolts of
crux lead to sustained 5.12, then
some 5.10/5.11 as the angle
eases. That same year, Phil Gruber
and Lynn Hill linked the second
pitch into the third for a 160-foot
mega-excursion. With an hour-plus
approach, the Maiden sees more
wild turkeys than climbers, part of
the quiet appeal of this remote,
untrammeled zone.
CLIMBING.COM
53
FROZEN
IN TIME
Matt Samet is the editor of Climbing. For more with Flatirons sport-climbing pioneers Colin Lantz,
Bob Horan, Paul Glover, and Dan Michael, visit climbing.com/flatirons.
54
JULY 2018
THULSA DOOM
(5.12C/D),
OVERHANG ROCK,
BEAR CANYON
Climber: Matt Reeser
First ascent: Chandler Van
Schaack, Shaun Reed; 2016
The name Overhang Rock will at
first be puzzling to anyone who
climbs on its west face, a broad
vertical panel that looks like an
oversized drive-in-movie screen.
Here, the style is crimpy, techy,
and old-school—the “overhang”
is instead on the east face. City
planner Chandler Van Schaack
has been a driving force at
Overhang Rock, adding three
mega lines—Thulsa Doom, Honey
Badger (5.13a), and Ouroboros
(5.12d)—all rope-stretchers filling
in the blanks around the wall’s
OG long sport climb, Snake
Watching (5.13a), put up in 1989
by Jim Surette. Thulsa Doom
climbs the airy left arête, with a
roof crux down low followed by
consistent action. Like all the
routes on this wall, the holds are
tiny but positive—you just have to
keep your shit together for a long,
long, long, long time.
PHOTO BY ROB KEPLEY
point would be Thunder Muscle, a 13-bolt 5.14a up Spanish-style sandstone flutings and
tufas on the overhanging south face of Seal Rock. Lantz, Chip Ruckgraber, and Chris
Beh installed anchors atop the route in 1989, but then the ban descended days later
before they could return. The route sat idle until 2013, when Ted Lanzano and I bolted
it, replacing the rusting 24-year-old anchor with half-inch stainless-steel hardware and
equipping the rest of the line.
Next to Thunder Muscle is Primate (5.13b), one of a handful of headpoint-style lines
put up during the no-bolt era. While it’s now a mixed line with six bolts supplemented
by cam placements, it was originally led on gear at 5.13 X in 2001. (To test the key
Big Bro placement during the first ascent, I threw a haulbag full of rocks onto it—and
it held.) Similarly, Thunder Muscle’s neighbor is the much-sought-after Choose Life
(5.13d), originally toproped in 2002 but never led. The hardest Flatirons headpoint is
Matt Wilder’s 2009 Cheating Reality, a 5.14- R up the tilted west overhang of the Devil’s
Thumb, a sinister spire an hour-plus uphill in remote Shadow Canyon. With a dynamic
V7 final crux five feet above marginal gear, and with your next reliable pro seven feet
below that, Cheating Reality has seen only two repeats, by Joe Mills and Brad Gobright.
The 14-year moratorium was just long enough for many of the OG sport routes, equipped
with the usual 1980s hodgepodge of disreputable hardware-store bolts, homemade
hangers, and sketchy Euro ring bolts, to fall into disrepair, though there were no failures.
Until the FCC, formed in 1997 by a crew of dedicated Front Range climbers, struck its
2003 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)—an agreement about how climbing would
be carried out in the mountain parks—with OSMP, the sport routes faded from favor.
Climbers would go up there occasionally, but the bolts became less trustworthy, the
climbs less chalky, the coating of pine needles and lichen on the holds ever thicker.
The first new climb to go in under the MOU was Chris Archer and crew’s excellent Hell
Freezes Over, an airy two-pitch 5.12a on the Red Devil on Dinosaur Mountain. The name
referenced a comment a BMP employee made about the timeframe for allowing bolting
again in the Boulder Mountains—i.e., never. More routes followed, with a surge in activity
around 2007 when Beh helped rekindle interest in the Slab, a broad parallelogram of
rock guarding the mouth to Fern Canyon. As activity has ramped up, the three slots for
each FHRC cycle are usually full. The new climbs range from 5.10 jug romps, like those
on the shady west face of Der Zerkle; to thin 5.12 pebble and face climbs, like that on
the north side of the Matron; to gymnastic 5.13/5.14 tufa, hueco, and pocket hauls, like
those on the southwest arête of the Maiden and the south face of Seal Rock, currently
home to the Flatirons’ hardest, the 35-meter Jonathan Siegrist route I Am the Walrus
(5.14b). Meanwhile, a huge percentage of the 1980s sport climbs have been resurrected
with half-inch stainless hardware and bomber chain anchors, and they’re popular anew.
People climb here again, and it’s been great to see. As OSMP ranger Rick Hatfield, the
liaison to climbers, puts it, “Climbing is one of our biggest success stories.” Moreover, with
the renewal of the MOU every five years, the pilot area has expanded to include a good
chunk of formations of interest, with potential for dozens more climbs in the “new-school”
vein. Everything is now above board and legit, and the handful of active Flatirons first
ascentionists have happily complied with the rules. In a way, the permitting process has
been a boon, keeping development to a modest pace that has helped the Flatirons avoid
some of the overbolting and overcrowding issues manifesting in nearby Boulder Canyon.
Yes, it can be a slow and sometimes labyrinthine process to put up a route in the
Flatirons, but as the high quality of these new lines attests, it’s been worth the wait. A lot
can happen in 14 years. Then again, things can also stay the same. The resource is what
we make of it, and sometimes a slow, considered pace of development can save us from
our own worst instincts.
PHOTO BY TK
ES
ER
The Classic
PR
OB
S
25
M
PR
’ S B E ST B O U
E R I CA
LD
LE
E
NT
M
GA
IN
BY PET ER BEAL
H
umans have been exploring boulders in America for hundreds
of years, going back to the Native Americans who lived in and
around many of today’s bouldering areas. In the 1950s and
‘60s, John Gill began taking gymnastics to the rocks, seeking
challenges on small cliffs and boulders from Illinois to the Tetons to
the Black Hills to Colorado. But he was largely alone until well into the
1970s and ‘80s, when bouldering started to become seen as a pursuit
in its own right. Given the size and geological diversity of the US, we
may very well have the most—and most varied—bouldering in the
world. We also have an extraordinary legacy of classic problems from
V0 to V16, with seemingly endless potential left. To list the 25 best
problems in America is a challenge.
7S[LEXHI½RIWEGPEWWMG#8LIFIWXTVSFPIQWEVIWMRKYPEVPMRIWMR
beautiful settings. The features connect with original and compelling
QSZIQIRX8LIVSGOJIIPWWSPMHERHWIGYVI%RH½REPP]XLIFSYPHIV
comes with a history. Besides Gill and his foundational problems, there
are other, more local personalities like Bob Murray and Jim Holloway
renowned for their strength and tenacity. Holloway singlehandedly established V12 in Colorado before V9 was even a thing and was rumored
to have been able to hold a front lever for half a minute while holding a
conversation; the reclusive Murray was famed for his barefoot wizardry,
eventually pulling a tendon in his big toe, an injury probably unrepeated
in climbing. John Long and John Bachar blurred the lines between bouldering and soloing, leaving a legacy of serious “problems” that are more
PMOIHMJ½GYPXJVIIWSPSIWEWXSV]GYPQMREXMRKMR(ERMIP;SSHW´W
testpiece The Process at the Buttermilks, basically an unroped 5.15. Each
era was marked by the establishment of lines that tested nerves and
strength—and a fair number of these problems made our list.
We set out to represent America’s various geographic regions as well
as a wide spread of grades, to create dialogue and psyche. Whether
you’re pebble-wrestling on a forested hillside, in a stark high-desert can]SRSVMREREPTMRIXEPYW½IPHERH[LIXLIV]SY´VIXMGOMRK:WGLMWXGVEGOW
in New England, V11 roofs in Hueco, V8 sandstone sloperfests down
South, or V3 granite highballs in Colorado, American bouldering delivers.
56
JULY 2018
PHOTO BY ANTHONY LAMPOMARDO
TH
E C L A S SIC 25
NICCOLÒ CERIA
CLIMBS ON THE
CLASSIC PATINA
CRIMPS OF THE MANDALA (V12), BISHOP,
C ALIFORNIA.
CA L
IFORNIA
CALIFORNIA
Inhabited by Native Americans long before the Gold
Rush brought European settlers, the Sierra Nevada and
other California areas have been an integral part of
American climbing history. California granite, at its
best, is bone-white or ash-gray, minimally featured,
tall, and impressive.
THE MANDALA (V12),
BUTTERMILKS, BISHOP,
CALIFORNIA
THRILLER (V10),
YOSEMITE NATIONAL
PARK
When Chris Sharma crimped
up the overhanging patina-edge
prow of The Mandala in early
2000, he kick-started modern
American bouldering. According to Wills Young’s excellent
2010 Bishop Bouldering guide,
the late John Bachar, in the
late 1970s, told Ron Kauk that
“perhaps, long into the future,
John Gill’s great-grandson might
climb the line.” A tick demands
a clear understanding of the
start holds: a jump or stacked
pads to begin on a right-hand
incut and a left hand undercling/
sidepull. You can also tack on
EHMVIGXWXEVXERH½RMWLXSEHH
two V-grades.
Seated in the venerable Camp
4, this problem features a
desperate match, a hard move to
the “snowcone,” and sustained
crimping to the top. Shaded by
an enormous oak tree, this 1984
Ron Kauk testpiece (climbed
sans pads) is still sought after
to this day. Next door is the
1991 classic The Force (originally
V11 but today done with a V9
start), a problem that helped
push American standards but
EPWSVI¾IGXIHGSRXVSZIVW]EW
glue-reinforced key holds at the
GVY\[IVITVMIHSJJEJXIVXLI½VWX
ascent.
Nearby classics: Saigon (V6),
High Plains Drifter (V7)
Nearby classics: Midnight
Lightning (V8), Yabo Roof
(V12), Dominator (V12)
SLASHFACE (V3), JOSHUA
TREE NATIONAL PARK,
CALIFORNIA
SOUTHWEST AR Ê TE (V0)
OF GRANDMA PEABODY,
BUTTERMILKS, BISHOP
CALIFORNIA
Joshua Tree has long been a
GIRXIVSJHMJ½GYPXVSTIPIWW
climbing, especially since the
heady days of the 1970s when
the Stonemasters made it
a winter hang. Stonemaster
John Bachar crimped his way
up the gorgeous 25-foot
face of Slashface, connecting
thin diagonal breaks and a
compelling but moderate
½RMWLMRKQERXIPLMKLEFSZIXLI
Seussian desert landscape.
Bishop bouldering dates back
at least to the Paiute people
who called the Owens River
Valley home and left rock art in
the Volcanic Tablelands. Though
serious bouldering at the ‘Milks
didn’t begin until the mid-1970s,
the 50-foot Southwest Arête of
Grandma Peabody had already
been climbed—it’s too obvious to
ignore. It’s best considered a 5.9
solo, with the crux 15 feet up and
a dicey slab transition higher.
Nearby classics: Stem Gem
(V4), Pinched Loaf (V6), All
Washed Up (V6)
Nearby classics: Pope's Prow
(V5), Green Wall Center (V6),
Evilution (V11)
58
JULY 2018
TH
E C L A S SIC 25
MATUS SOBOLIC WANDERS UP
THE HORIZONTALS
OF JOSHUA TREE’S
SLASHFACE (V3).
CA L
IFORNIA
THE CASCADES
Washington’s Cascades provide everything from
glaciated alpine treks to multi-pitch traditional crack
climbing. In the past decade, amazing bouldering
has emerged as well, especially in the vicinity of
Stevens Pass, with Index and Goldbar to the west and
Leavenworth to the east.
TH
E C L A S SIC 25
BRETT OWENS
SLAB-DYNOS ON INDEX, WASHINGTON’S
THE ENGINEER (V9).
THE
CASCADE
S
PHOTOLEFT:
FROM
BY TK
ANTHONY LAMPOMARDO; TRUC ALLEN
SLEEPING LADY (V2),
ICICLE CANYON,
LEAVENWORTH
THE ENGINEER (V9),
INDEX, WASHINGTON
Just outside the Bavarianthemed tourist town of
Leavenworth runs Icicle Creek,
whose headwaters are at
pristine Josephine Lake, near
the Cascades’ crest. The river’s
cold waters surge through the
REVVS[FSYPHIV½PPIH-GMGPI
Canyon, including under Sleeping
Lady, a steep jug haul over raging
rapids where sending is your
best, if not only, option.
With the unpleasant distinction
of being on the wet side of
Stevens Pass, Index receives 93
inches of rain per year. Due to
all the precipitation, some of
the US’ best granite is cloaked
in foliage, but in the woods
FIPS[XLI8S[R;EPPW]SY´PP½RH
The Engineer, a bold, steep slab
with minimal features. Classic
in appearance and committing,
MXI\IQTPM½IWXLIRI[[EZISJ
Washington bouldering.
Nearby classics: Feel the
Pinch (V4), Pimp Squeak (V7)
Nearby classics: The
Architect (V11)
CLIMBING.COM
59
NEW PAIR OF GLASSES
(V7), SHAWANGUNKS,
NEW YORK
Dollar Problem (V5), The
Gill Egg (V4)
The Gunks was at the forefront
of high-end free-climbing until
the early 1980s, and attracted
strong climbers like Gill and the
local Rich Goldstone. Right on
the Carriage Road, the 30-foot
New Pair of Glasses stand-starts
with high holds. The low crux
leads to a high but manageable
exit on the Gunks’ famous
horizontals. FAist Ivan Greene
bestowed the name to point out
how a new vision was all that
was needed to see the area’s
abundant bouldering potential.
POUND CRACK (V1),
RUMNEY, NEW
HAMPSHIRE
Nearby classics: The Million
TH
Rumney is known for its punchy,
bouldery routes, among the most
famous being The Fly (5.14d or
V14). Below all the desperates
EXXLIXLIQEMRGPMJJ]SY´PP½RH
amazing moderates, especially
Pound Crack, an 18-foot splitter
with a jug in the middle—perfect
recreation on an autumn day.
Nearby classics: Blackjack
Crack (V2), Umbrella
Traverse (V2), Satan on a
Halfshell (V10)
E C L A S SIC 25
SHANE
MESSNER TAKES
ON CONFIDENT
MAN (V11) IN THE
PAWTUCKAWAY
FOREST, NEW
HAMPSHIRE.
TH
E N O RT H E A S T
THE NORTHEAST
CONFIDENT MAN (V11),
PAWTUCKAWAY, NEW
HAMPSHIRE
The center of New England
bouldering, the granite blocks in
the New Hampshire forest have
allowed top climbers like Dave
Graham to cut their teeth on
savage crimps. At Pawtuckaway,
Tim Kemple claimed one of
60
JULY 2018
the best double-digit lines in
the Northeast, an overhanging
series of moves with a
committing exit. It’s a must-do
at the grade—assuming the
W[EVQWSJFPEGO¾MIWHSR´X
GEVV]]SYE[E]½VWX
Nearby classics: Overlooked
(V4), Ride the Lightning (V6),
Dopeman (V8)
FROM LEFT: JOEL ZERR; ANDREW KORNYLAK
There are countless boulders hidden in the trees of
New England. Granite forms the majority of the
rock here, though the Gunks features quartzite and
Rumney hosts a peculiar schist. The climate can be
tricky, so catch the cool crisp temps of fall, avoid the
deluge in spring, and check the forecast in winter,
when it can be either crispy or heinous.
SOUTHERN SANDSTONE
(V5), Sherman Photo Roof (V7),
Golden Harvest (V10)
Southern sandstone would be bouldering nirvana if it wasn’t for the frictiondestroying summer heat. The rest of the year, however, it’s pure bliss. The woods
in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Southern Illinois, and Tennessee contain endless
cliffbands and boulders of tight-grained sandstone, featured with baby-butt
slopers, jug horns, huecos, pockets, and classic micro-crimps. Some of the proudest,
most singular lines in the world can be found here, problems that make you go, “I
want to climb that,” even if your pay grade doesn’t match the V-grade.
THE ORB (V8),
ROCKTOWN, GEORGIA
Perhaps the most famous
Southern problem, this oft-
photographed traverse moves
along a UFO-shaped boulder on
bulbous slopers. More remote
than HP40 or Stone Fort,
Rocktown has the classic features
XLEXHI½RI7SYXLIVRWERHWXSRI
all on a pristine, forested plateau.
Nearby classics: Golden Shower
THE SHIELD (V12), STONE
FORT, TENNESSEE
LISA RANDS STARES
DOWN THE SLOPING
BLOBS ON THE ORB
(V8) ROCKTOWN,
GEORGIA.
UT
HER
T
N SA N D S
The 20-foot, smooth, steep
arête of Mortal Kombat is a
rare American bouldering
feature—one that climbs
as good as it looks. Tall and
spooky, with a bad landing
that merits a slew of pads, this
problem requires moving with
conviction to the scoop at
the top. The privately owned
Horse Pens 40, situated on
a mountaintop in northeast
Alabama, might be one of the
best moderate zones in the US.
Nearby classics: Millipede
(V6), Moon Arête (V6)
E C L A S SIC 25
TH
SO
MORTAL KOMBAT
(V4), HORSE PENS 40,
ALABAMA
ON
E
On a golf course above
Chattanooga, Tennessee, there’s
a lightning-bolt seam that strikes
though immaculate sandstone:
The Shield. First climbed by the
French boulderer Tony Lamiche in
2006, the problem starts on a pair
of jugs under a bulge and then
climbs a smooth, overhanging wall
of seams to top out 18 feet above
the loamy soil.
Nearby classics: The Wave (V6),
Celestial Mechanics (V7)
FIN DIESEL (V4),
HURRICANE, ARKANSAS
As Cole Fennel hilariously notes
in his awesome new guidebook
Arkansas Bouldering, the striking,
semi-highball arête/blade of Fin
Diesel at the Hurricane Boulders
is “better than the entire Fast
and Furious collection combined.”
Things can be a little moist and
shady here, but the bullet gray
stone is reminiscent of the best
of Fontainebleau and well worth
a visit, especially with the new,
improved approach beta.
Nearby Classics: Lost and
Found (V2), Totem Pole (V6),
Buzz Saw (V7)
CLIMBING.COM
61
HUECO
TANKS,
TEXAS
Perhaps no other area in
the world has as many
problems per square yard
as Hueco Tanks State
Park outside El Paso,
Texas. While accessing
these three jumbled
mountains of porphyritic
syenite might seem
daunting—with
mandatory reservations
and tours (for two of
the mountains), and
a limited number of
visitors per day—if you
can get through the red
tape, this is bouldering
heaven.
TH
E C L A S SIC 25
SEE SPOT RUN (V6)
Nearby classics: Nobody Here
Gets Out Alive (V2), Hundred
Proof Roof (V3), Baby Face (V7)
62
JULY 2018
CORRINE B ARIL
TAKES A STROLL
ON THE QUINTESSENTIAL HUECO JUG
HAUL, THE MELON
PATCH (V0), NORTH
MOUNTAIN.
HU
THE MELON PATCH (V0)
.com/wanker101).
This vertical wall with deep,
juggy huecos below the looming
Indecent Exposure Buttress
takes you way off the deck to
EGVIEO]½RMWLEXJIIX8LMW
photogenic problem may whet
your appetite for the Wanker
101, a compilation of 101 “easy”
problems around Hueco Tanks’
North Mountain that will thrash
you by day’s end (see climbing
Nearby classics: Epilady (V1),
Shaved Pits (V2), T-Bone
7LYJ¾I(V4)
DIAPHANOUS SEA
(V11)
This climb exemplifies the
iron-rock-crimping style so
prevalent at Hueco. A sitstart on a low flake leads to
a lunge to a good flake, and
EC
EX
O TA
NKS, T
AS
then the exit on an ironrock face. If you’ve been
putting your time in on the
MoonBoard, Diaphanous Sea
could go down quickly. It’s
one of a number of doubledigit classics put up in Hueco
by the bouldering legend Fred
Nicole.
Nearby classics: Sign of the
Cross (V3), Choir Boys (V7),
Power of Silence (V10)
PHOTO BY KEITH ALLEN PETERS
“A desperate start to a
mortifying topout,” writes
John Sherman in the Hueco
Tanks Climbing and Bouldering
Guide. This highball experience
(20-plus feet) follows ironrock crimps up the Big Show
Boulder’s chocolate stone to
a long punch to the lip—or a
long drop to the pads. Sherman
climbed it in the late 1980s sans
pads, writing of his experience,
“I descend with the best case
of adrenaline shakes I’ve ever
had. The [spotters] haven’t
budged—they’re in shock”
(“Texas Tall Tales,” Climbing No.
116, Oct/Nov 1989).
TH
E C L A S SIC 25
MEAGAN
MARTIN READIES
HERSELF FOR THE
LIP ENCOUNTER ON
GERM-FREE ADOLESCENCE (V5), ELDORADO C ANYON
STATE PARK.
CO
LOR
A DO ROCK
IE
S
COLORADO ROCKIES
Nearby classics: Autobot
(V5), Potato Chip (V7),
Whispers of Wisdom (V10)
The Rockies offer jagged peaks, alpine walls, and massive boulders—plus endless
bouldering in the foothills and the highest concentration of problems above V12 in the
US. High-altitude bouldering in Rocky Mountain National Park started in earnest in
the late 1990s with Jim Belcer, Dean Potter, and Tommy Caldwell, but in the early 2000s
Dave Graham radically changed the game with his powerful, über-technical lines.
PHOTO BY CAROLINE TREADWAY
GERM-FREE
ADOLESCENCE (V5),
ELDORADO CANYON
STATE PARK
%RSXSVMSYWWERHFEK½VWX
climbed by the equally
notorious boulderer/bouldering
historian (read Stone Crusade!)
John Sherman in the mid-1980s,
this behemoth overhang reels
SYXENYK¾EOIXSEXIVVMJ]MRK
crimp-mantel lip encounter
at 15 feet. Many climbers
bring half a dozen pads, even
strapping one to the pine tree
nearby to pinball off. Or, you
could forego the pads like on
XLI½VWXEWGIRX2ESQM+Y]
threw down the gauntlet by
doing this in 2003 in a billowing
LSSTWOMVXJSVXLIGPEWWMG½PQ
Front Range Freaks.
Nearby classics: Milton (V4),
Resonated (V7), Never Say
Never (V9)
TOMMY’S AR Ê TE (V7),
ROCKY MOUNTAIN
NATIONAL PARK
Located at nearly 10,000 feet at
Lake Haiyaha, this pit sit-start
problem follows engaging and
sustained movement on gneiss
to a committing crux at 15
feet. American climbing legend
Tommy Caldwell, going off a
report from his dad about huge
boulders around Lake Haiyaha,
picked this plum in 1999, helping
kick off the boom in RMNP
bouldering. It will leave you
breathless—literally—if not
for the altitude then for its
scary talus landing, 45-minute
and 885-foot-elevation-gain
approach, or situation next to
the postcard-perfect blue-green
waters of the lake.
JAWS (V3),
INDEPENDENCE PASS
“We, Bachar and I, used to climb
this baby unroped,” wrote John
Long on Mountain Project of this
aptly named great-white-sharklooking blade of tight-grained
granite. This old-school classic on
Independence Pass above Aspen
tackles a 20-foot arête, with a
distinctive roof in the middle
and a crimp crux surmounting
it. Sandwiched between Highway
82 and the Roaring Fork River
in a forest at 9,000 feet, it’s an
easy crawl back to the car if you
fall and break your leg, as the
editor of this magazine did in
2004 when he slipped from dewcovered holds and landed on tree
roots at the base.
Nearby classics: The
Ineditable (V6), The Vampire
(V7)
CLIMBING.COM
63
TH
E C L A S SIC 25
DAN BRAYACK
WITH HIS FEET
TO THE FLAMES ON
WILLS AFIRE (V6), LEFT
FORK, JOE’S VALLEY,
UTAH.
U TA
H D E S E RT
(V2), They Call Him Jordan
(V8), Beyond Life (V10/12)
HUNTSMAN GRAFFITI
(V5), MOE’S VALLEY
Moe’s Valley, near St. George in
southern Utah, has become a
bouldering pitstop. When snow
covers areas farther north, Moe’s
provides warm, sunny sandstone.
Tackling a line of crimps next
XSMXWREQIWEOIKVEJ½XMSRXLI
Sentinel Boulder, this problem
features enjoyable moves above
E¾EXPERHMRK-X´WXLITIVJIGX
gateway drug to Moe’s Valley.
Nearby classics: Shot Hole
(V6), Israil (V6), Gription (V9)
UTAH DESERT
AIRWOLF (V7),
INDIAN CREEK
The most famous of the newwave problems coming out
of Indian Creek ascends a
wolf-shaped tower below the
Sparks Wall. This Chris Schulte
compression line tops out at 25
feet, and most people will want to
bring a rope and harness to rap
instead of dropping back to the
pads. Schulte describes it as “One
of the proudest things I’ve ever
seen.” Alternating heel hooks and
64
JULY 2018
slaps take you off the deck—keep
the compression and the head
steady, lest the Airwolf pounce.
Nearby classics: The Split
Boulder (V6) at Indian Creek,
Chaos (V8) at the Big Bend
Boulders
WILLS AFIRE (V6),
JOE’S VALLEY
In 1998, Wills Young got lost
looking for Steven Jeffery in
Joe’s Valley’s Left Fork, but he
found a classic instead. ;MPPW%½VI
follows a 30-degree overhang
on seams, edges, and pockets,
GYPQMREXMRKMRE½RKIVPSGOSV
gaston move to a high-enoughto-be-memorable lip encounter.
Excited, Young told his thencoworkers at Climbing about
½RHMRKSRISJXLIGSYRXV]´WFIWX
problems. But the staff was too
busy skiing to report his ascent.
Jeffery loved Wills’s enthusiasm
and started calling the problem
;MPPW%½VI The name stuck.
Nearby classics: The Angler
PHOTOLEFT:
FROM
BY TK
DAN BRAYACK; NATHANIEL DAVISON
From the remote, windswept boulders of Ibex, to the expansive talus fields of Joe’s
Valley, to the smooth, urban granite of Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah offers
bouldering in a variety of landscapes, with many of the hardest lines established
by longtime heroes like Ben Moon, Boone Speed, and Steven Jeffery. Utah
bouldering is an ever-changing mix of styles, rock types, and environments.
DESERT SOUTHWEST
With its vast, open landscape of flat desert, cactuscovered hills, and hot temps, the Desert Southwest
can feel forbidding. But amidst this arid region there
are pockets of excellent stone—limestone, sandstone,
quartzite, and volcanic rock—many in forested,
higher-elevation locations like Flagstaff, the Ortega
Mountains, and Roy. First explored in depth by
Southwest bouldering legend Bob Murray, this region
is home to any number of strong darkhorse locals like
Timy Fairfield and Matt Gentile.
BOTTLE ROCKET (V12),
THE RENEGADE ROOF,
FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA
Located in the Woody Mountain
Road sector near Flagstaff, the
Kaibab limestone here is featured
with honeycomb pockets and
wide pinches through a 25-foot
HIEHLSVM^SRXEPTERIP8LI½VWX
ascentionist, Matt Gentile, has
called Bottle Rocket the best
problem in Arizona. Body tension
and precise footwork are a
must—along with 10 crashpads.
Nearby classics: Escape from
the Blobs (V3), Legends Never
Die (V6), Choss Origins (V8),
Kudos (V8)
TOO GOOD TO BE
AMERICAN (V3), ORTEGA
MOUNTAINS, NEW
MEXICO
This perfectly cut 90-degree
corner in the Nosos area of
New Mexico’s remote Ortega
Mountains can be climbed as a
slab or dihedral, with or without
the arête. First ascentionist
Tom Ellis named the bloc thusly
because the white quartzite
seemed more akin to the bullet
stone of Brione, Switzerland, than
any rock in the US.
Nearby classics: Two Stroke
(V3), Super Moto (V4), Ripple
Wall (V9)
TH
E C L A S SIC 25
MATT GENTILE
RIDES A BOTTLE
ROCKET (V12) NEAR
FLAGSTAFF—WHAT
HE C ALLS THE “BEST
BOULDER PROBLEM
IN ARIZONA.”
DE
SER
T S O U T HW E
ST
TH
E C L A S SIC 25
RO
CK
E
C A N Y O N, N
VA
RED ROCK CANYON, NEVADA
In the past few decades, Red Rock Canyon, once known mainly for its sport
climbing and multi-pitch trad, has become one of the most popular bouldering
venues in the country. In the deep sandstone canyons, the huge walls have shed
gigantic boulders, creating a playground of epic proportions in the gullies and
washes below. Sculpted from unfathomably deep beds of Aztec sandstone, the
boulders have an infinite variety of shapes, features, and colors, varnished to
perfection by the desert elements and of bright, technicolor hues that must
be seen to be believed. Enticing lines from V0 to V15 exist, luring climbers of
every level to test themselves in the Nevada desert.
66
JULY 2018
FEAR OF A BLACK HAT (V9)
Dominating Calico Basin’s
famous Kraft Boulders, the
Cube features four facets of
classic climbing—even the
V1 downclimb gets four stars.
Fear of a Black Hat tackles
the arête on the south face,
starting on a big hueco and
requiring the ability to stay
calm on the balancey topout.
John Bachar was one of the
original suitors until a broken
hold dropped him on his back,
scaring off later attempts. Red
PHOTO BY ANDREW KORNYLAK
RE
D
DA
COOPER ROBERTS
CLIMBS FOR THE
CROWD ON FEAR OF
A BLACK HAT (V9) AT
THE KRAFT BOULDERS NEAR LAS
VEGAS, NEVADA.
READY FOR SOME
PEBBLE-WRESTLING?
Rock guidebook author Jared
1G1MPPIRWGSSTIHXLI½VWX
ascent, retaining the name
bestowed by Colorado local
Brian Kimball, who’d cleaned
the line for safer attempts.
Nearby classics: The Pearl
(V5), Monkey Bar Direct (V8),
Clockwork Orange (V12)
NATASHA’S HIGHBALL (V2)
Most climbers make the
30-minute hike into Red Rock’s
Black Velvet Canyon for the long
trad routes, but pebble wrestlers
will stop at the canyon mouth
to sample a cluster of a dozen
classic lines. With a few hard
crimp moves, a pull off a mono,
and then glorious, albeit high jugs
XS½RMWL)XLER4VMRKPI´WNatasha’s
Highball is not only photogenic
but a standard Red Rock tick.
Nearby classics: Wet Dream
(V12), Atlas Shrugged (V12)
Colorado-based boulderer
and art-history professor
Peter Beal is the author
of Bouldering: Movement,
Tactics, and Problem Solving.
Learn how to boulder with our fourpart online Intro to
Bouldering class, with
tips on key equipment,
bouldering and spotting safety, and technique from pro
boulderer Nina Williams (climbing.com/introtoboulder
ing, $45).
Take your
bouldering
to the next
level with pro boulderer Nina Williams in our 8-part
course Boulder Harder, featuring techniques, training,
best practices, and tips to make you a problem-crushing
machine (climbing.com/boulderharder, $149).
CLIMBING.COM
67
LIZZY ELLISON TAKES
A BEELINE ( 5.12B ) , THE
BILLBOARD, AMERICAN
FORK CANYON, UTAH.
American Fork Canyon, Utah, and the
birth of America’s steep revolution
By Megan Walsh / Photos by John Evans
It Starts at Impossible
In winter 1988, Bill Boyle, Boone Speed, and Jeff
Pedersen hiked 40 minutes up the steep northern
slopes of American Fork Canyon, just south of Salt
Lake City, through a foot of snow. Their goal was a
south-facing limestone wall—a new training ground
they were developing—that today hosts 20 classic
lines from 5.11 to 5.14a. (It would later be known
as the Billboard.) Up at the cliff, Pedersen gathered
downed trees for firewood, made a small campfire,
and boiled water for hot chocolate. While white
flakes fell in the canyon, the men huddled in a
small cave in the left-hand side of the cliff. Just big
enough to fit the men, their gear, and a fire, the
hollow provided shelter while they scurried out to
the rock to try a new project.
W
hile smoke wafted out of the cave, the three dedicated climbers established Gorillas in the Snow (5.12b), redpointing what would become
a classic, iconic, pumpy line at one of the first limestone sport areas in
the US. Overlooked by developers for years due to the sheer volume of
choss and “demolition work” (read: rock scaling) it would take to develop, American
Fork (AF) had stayed almost entirely of climbers’ radar.
Deep in the Wasatch Range 33 miles south of Salt Lake City, the American Fork
River carves out its namesake canyon. On the south side of the 20-mile canyon, Mt.
Timpanogos (11,752 feet) peeks over the ridgeline. In the 1860s, the United States
Army sent troops into the canyons of Utah Valley in hopes of finding gold, silver, and
lead, with the simultaneous goal of diminishing Mormon influence. While neither
efort panned out, modern-day climbers have had better luck.
In AF, beginning with the first sport climb (Black Magic, 5.12d) in 1987, climbers
have established nearly 500 routes from 5.3 to 5.14c on the 350-million-year-old
Mississippian limestone. The climbs, with few exceptions, are just minutes from
the gravel pullouts that line the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, State Route 92, which
heads through the Uinta National Forest, past the trailhead for Mt. Timpanogos,
and out Provo Canyon. The seven-mile, clif-filled section of forest service land that
begins just a quarter-mile beyond the Timpanogos Cave National Monument visitor
70
JULY 2018
center provided a blank canvas in the late 1980s and
early ‘90s. It was here, to a large extent, that America’s steep-rock revolution and concurrent embrace of
chossy stone began.
Until then, almost universally, the style for sportclimbing worldwide had been clean faces that were
technical, vertical, and crimpy, a template set by the
smooth gray limestone walls of France’s Verdon Gorge.
In the 1980s, climbing hard meant crimping down. Alan
Watts, the visionary who brought European techniques
to his home crag, Smith Rock, was working on To Bolt
or Not to Be (5.14a), a 140-foot vertical face at the Dihedrals, eventually freed in 1986 by the Frenchman JB
Tribout. In America, radically overhanging sport climbs
were an anomaly—you could almost count them on
one hand, from Todd Skinner’s 1987 When Legends Die
(5.13b) in Hueco Tanks, to late-‘80s areas like the Enchanted Tower near Datil, New Mexico, to the occasional steep route at Smith Rock like Rude Boys (5.13b/c).
Overhanging climbing, especially on broken rock, was
barely a thing. It was all about the slab.
Take Pederson and Speed’s earliest first-ascent eforts,
in 1986 in Rock Canyon near Provo: “We were just bending our fingers back on small edges. We were literally inventing these contrived routes, usually on toprope, in between natural lines,” says Pedersen. “We wanted to climb
new stuf, and we wanted it to be hard. But it didn’t exist.”
The prevailing wisdom then in Utah was that you
couldn’t establish harder lines due to the choss factor on
the state’s rock. In American Fork, a shallow inland sea
during the Mississippian geologic era, roughly 340 million years ago, had created the porous limestone, leaving rock that crumbled at the touch. Beyond the consideration of rock quality, few climbers had ever bolted
radically overhanging routes like the potential lines on
AF’s many tilted walls, scoops, and caves—there was no
protocol for installing the hardware. “You have to walk
up to a clif that’s really shitty,” says Pedersen, “with no
instructions, no owner’s manual, and just stand there,
little you, with your little drill.” Bolting new lines in
TOP LEFT: CHRISTINE BAILEY SPEED
Left to right: American Fork pioneers Boone Speed, Bill Boyle, and Jeff Pedersen.
DALTON BUNKER GETS
INVERTED ON CANNIBALS DIRECT ( 5.14A ) ,
HELL CAVE.
It Starts at Impossible
American Fork seemed unreasonable, a Herculean task.
Enter Bill Boyle. Born in Kentucky, Boyle started
climbing in the Wasatch in the late 1970s while taking
classes at Utah State University. A decade later, he joined
the City of Rocks, Idaho, bolting crew, putting up early
classics there like The Drilling Fields (5.11a) and Tunnel
Vision (5.12). From 1986 to 1988, Boyle honed his boltcraft, which he then brought to Rock Canyon, where he
took Speed and Pedersen under his wing. “The energy
between the three of us was really good,” says Boyle. The
trio shared a passion for development. While Pedersen
focused on steep, athletic lines, Boyle aimed to ferret out
every possibility at a wall. For Speed, the focus was aesthetic lines that pushed him to his athletic limit.
This unique combination of energy and vision catapulted the men into undertaking those key first steps on
the forbidding rock of American Fork. “There are stepping stones and mental and geographical barriers that
need to be broken down in order to make incremental steps,” says Speed. In 1987, Steve Gibb, a local high
school student, along with a few friends, skipped class
and discovered the gently overhanging black streak that
would become Black Magic (5.12d). After trying the
climb on toprope, they encouraged Speed, Pedersen,
and Boyle to bolt it. At the time, the trio lacked a power
drill, and looked to Chris Laycock, a local who’d developed Cambrian Grey (5.10c) and Playground (5.5) in
Rock Canyon, for his drill and expertise. To this day,
finding Black Magic perhaps requires more efort than
merely bolting it did, what with the river crossing, choss
scrambling, and steep, nasty approach trail.
RITA YOUNG SHIN COPS
A SHAKE ON LICENSE
TO THRILL ( 5.11C ) , THE
MEMBRANE.
“Black Magic is a no-brainer,” says Pedersen. The 50-foot pocket route is a clean,
obvious line on climbable rock. “We would never have gone immediately to the
Membrane,” says Pedersen, talking about the now über-popular riverside area that
has more broken-looking rock, “because it looked horrible to us initially.” With the
help of Laycock, the trio bolted Black Magic, then moved a few hundred feet west
to Unknown Pleasures, a mostly shaded, north-facing wall, and then across the road
near the Timpanogos Cave National Monument to the dead-vertical dihedral routes
of the Red Corners, “because that was kind of the next step in smooth-looking limestone,” says Pedersen.
Instead of waiting out the winter to continue bolting, the three traveled five hours
south to Red Rock, Nevada, and established new routes. While bolting at the Wall
of Confusion, they unearthed Fear and Loathing (5.12a), an “absolute world-class,
six-star route,” says Speed. At the time, nothing as steep had been attempted at Red
Rock. “You had to engineer it,” says Speed. “There were no directions or Google
searching or YouTube—no ‘How to Grid-Bolt.’” So they bolted anchors, sussed the
route on TR, and rap-bolted, down-drilling as they went. The 30-degree-overhanging Fear and Loathing redefined what was possible for establishing overhanging
routes. If they could bolt this, what else could they unlock?
T
he trio returned to American Fork Canyon in spring 1988 and continued
drilling sunny crags like Red Corners, where they bolted the beautiful corner
Book of Condolences (5.12b), the roof of Xcess (5.12b), and the difficult dihedral and arête of X (5.13a). Speed, who worked as a graphic designer at the
Bronze Foundry in Lehi, less than 10 miles from the canyon, and Boyle, who worked
alongside people with disabilities at the Developmental Center, at the mouth of the
canyon, started meeting during lunch breaks to bolt. These 30-minute breaks quickly
turned into three-hour office hiatuses, and the quiet walls of American Fork transformed into an afternoon construction zone as Speed and Boyle cleaned and drilled.
“There’s never been anyone like Bill,” says Pedersen. At any new clif, Boyle would
grab the classics. “If Bill got to [the crag] first, there wouldn’t just be a couple of anchors; there would be a lot, like seven or eight,” says Pedersen. As long as a line looked
THE POWERFUL
POCKETS OF THE
BLUE MASK ( 5.13C ) ,
THE BILLBOARD, AS
DEMOED BY BUNKER.
like it could go after minor demolition, he’d reach for the drill. It was thanks to this unwavering determination that some of the canyon’s longest, pumpiest, and most classic
lines came to be, like If I Only Had a Brain (5.12b) at the Bingo Baby Wall and Division (5.11d) at the Division Wall. Beyond going on to establish over a hundred routes
in AF, Boyle traipsed up and down the talus slopes and gullies in search of untouched
limestone. His searching proved fruitful, and in an ode to Boyle’s tireless searching, the
canyon’s premiere crag, the Billboard, was named after him. Where others saw shitty
rock, Boyle saw possibility.
While Boyle focused primarily on volume, Speed and Pedersen vied for lines that
tested their physical finesse. “Boone and Jef were bolting the hardest thing they could
find,” says Boyle. For Pedersen that meant lines like The Blue Mask (5.13c; FA: 1989),
which climbs out the bowels of the main cave at the Billboard and involves a lunge
crux and a mantel finish. For Speed it looked more like The Shining (5.13c; FA: 1989),
pumpy climbing out the same cave to a mono-pull boulder problem.
The pioneering trio progressed through the Membrane, Cannabis, and Division
walls before being drawn, in 1988, into the fire-blackened walls of the Hell Cave. Prior
to its development, the locals knew this grotto as “Dance Hall Cave”—a popular place
for high school kids to come on weekends, start a bonfire, and dance without parental supervision. When you enter from the west, the temperature quickly drops a few
degrees, and when belaying a partner on the classic Burning (5.13b), you need only to
look out, and not up, for the roof is merely a few degrees above your line of sight. With
little natural light, it’s easy to lose track of time.
Eventually, there would be ten 30- to 75-foot routes in the cave proper (part of the
40 total climbs in the overall Hell area), and nothing
easier than 5.13a. (The hardest route, I Scream, is a 50foot 5.14c Speed established in 1997.) But first, it needed to be bolted and cleaned. Armed with extension ladders and power drills, the climbers ventured onto the
wildly steep stone. “It wasn’t like you go from the slabs
of Little Cottonwood straight to the Hell Cave,” says
Speed. However, their success with Fear and Loathing
in Red Rock gave them the confidence they needed.
They propped their ladders against the rock, switched
on their drills, and started bolting.
Preparing the broken rock of the Hell Cave required
determination and methods some found questionable.
Pedersen explains that their philosophy was simple:
Use these practices or forgo AF’s potential altogether.
So, the crew would use crowbars and hammers to scale
away the outer layer of choss and reach better rock
beneath. If a hold, deemed essential, broke of during
cleaning, the bolter might choose to “reinstall” it with
Sika glue. If another essential hold looked like it might
break, the bolter might choose to reinforce it. While
hardliners judged this as cheating, the routesmiths
wanted to make the most of what was available. Had
it not been for these experimental methods, certain
climbs at the Division Wall, Membrane, and Hell Cave
would not exist.
“It’s not taboo,” Pedersen says. “It was all fun, all part
of a learning experience.”
In March 1988, Boyle put up and sent the first route
in the Hell Cave, Wasatch Reality (5.12a), a wide crack
along the back of the cave. Pedersen then bolted the
king line of Burning (5.13b), a left-to-right traverse
on big, blocky, widely spaced holds, later sent by Todd
Skinner. And Speed set his sights on Wizards (5.13b), a
series of pods out the right side of the cave. “I gravitated toward Wizards,” says Speed, “because it looks like
the coolest route in there.” Later, a more direct boulder
problem into the knuckle-busting pods would yield the
cave’s first 5.14a (later downrated to 5.13d), Cannibals.
W
hen the International Sport Climbing Competition made its 1988 American debut
at Snowbird Resort in Little Cottonwood
Canyon, “Every climber in the magazines
came to American Fork,” Speed says. “Until then, we
didn’t think we had steep limestone in America.” Top
climbers like Didier Raboutou and JB Tribout visited the
canyon, along with Scott Frye and Dale Goddard.
When the World Cup returned to Utah the next year,
American Fork had grown exponentially, with over 100
new routes. A second wave of local climbers, including
Mike Call and Merrill Bitter, FA’ed routes like Perfect
Drug (5.13c; Call) at Cannabis Wall and Blue Typhoon
(5.13a/b; Bitter) at the Hideaway, both quintessential,
hard AF climbs. By that time, Boone, Boyle, and Pedersen had developed the Red Corners, the Membrane,
CLIMBING.COM
73
NATASHA HODGES ON
THE ATYPICALLY VERTICAL REACHING FOR
RAZORS ( 5.11D ) , JUST
OUTSIDE HELL CAVE.
It Starts at Impossible
American Fork Logistics
SEASON: April–
GETTING THERE:
November. While
temperatures can
skyrocket in the valley,
AF generally stays in
the 80s or cooler. You
can also chase shade
from one side of the
canyon to the other.
From I-15, take exit
284 and head east
on Timpanogos
Highway. This will take
you straight into the
canyon. Continue
past Timpanogos
Cave National
Monument to your
desired pullout.
CAMPING: Little
Mill Campground is
closest to the crags,
with Division Wall
located directly
above campsite No.
64. Arrive Friday night
to ensure a site. You
can also find free
primitive camping in
the upper half of the
canyon.
CLASSICS: Caress
of Steel (5.10a),
License to Thrill
(5.11c), Division (5.11d),
Unknown Pleasures
(5.12a/b), If I Only
Had a Brain (5.12b),
The Abyss (5.12c/d),
Malvado (5.13a),
Burning (5.13b), The
Blue Mask (5.13c), The
Shining (5.13c)
GUIDEBOOK: There
remains only one
guidebook: Climber’s
Guide to American
Fork Canyon/Rock
Canyon, by Bret and
Stuart Ruckman
(Falcon Press, 1994).
It contains good
information, but
some routes—the
newer ones—you’ll
only be able to
find on Mountain
Project. The book
is available at IME
in Salt Lake City or
Mountainworks in
Provo.
Cannabis, and the Billboard. “We had a very inclusive vibe, it was a peaceful place,”
says Speed, “There wasn’t fighting. We were all on the same page, just trying to advance the sport.”
Climbers continued to visit, and wondered about the similarly steep or “chossy-looking” rock in their own backyards. After a trip to AF in 1990, Southern climber Porter
Jarrard took the process home to Kentucky, and bolted 30 new sport routes, many of
them radically overhanging, at the Red River Gorge. In 1991, the first main wave of
sport climbs cropped up in Rifle Mountain Park, Colorado, an ice-climbing area whose
rock had been previously dismissed as “too chossy.” (Though Rifle local Mark Tarrant
installed anchors for and toproped the canyon’s premier vertical line, The Eighth Day,
a 160-foot blue streak, in 1985.) And Scott Frye came to AF and progressed to his own
steep oferings at Rifle and in the Bay Area. “[The steep revolution] started at American Fork, and then all of a sudden, the cat was out of the bag and all these other places
got developed,” says Speed. “It opened everyone’s eyes to possibility.”
From 1989–1994, climbers flocked to AF to test their power and endurance on the
overhanging limestone of Hell Cave and the Billboard, like Scott Franklin, who FA’ed
the über-bouldery Hell route Dead Souls (5.14a) in 1989. Speed graced the January
1991 cover of Climbing Magazine, climbing Fryeing (5.13c) in the Hell Cave, a huge
loop of slack in his hand (above, right). The development of AF and the concurrent
World Cup events helped put Utah on the map. When athletes and professionals
found the immense recreational opportunities along the Wasatch Front, companies
like Black Diamond, Petzl, and Liberty Mountain set up shop, giving local climbers a
way to make a living and drawing new climbers to the area.
After three years of intensive, focused bolting, and a few sporadic years thereafter,
American Fork’s potential seemed to be tapped. While Speed thinks there’s always
something to ferret out, Pedersen believes the lowest-hanging fruit has been picked—it
is, after all, a limited geographic area. Nonetheless, climbers continue to find gems—
like Serenity Wall and Eavesdown Docks near Little Mill Campground, hosting an array
of routes from 5.8 to 5.11c—but it’s nothing like the energy of AF at its height.
Boone Speed on Fryeing (5.13c), Climbing No. 123,
December 1990/January 1991.
Pedersen, Speed, and Boyle eventually went on, separately, to develop other areas, like the Virgin River
Gorge, Maple Canyon, and Santaquin Canyon. “Probably the most natural evolution of the sport,” says Speed,
“is to seek out new areas and develop them thoughtfully
and share them with the world. That’s the pinnacle of
the sport, right?” Each continued to leave his mark, with
Speed becoming the first American to establish 5.14b
with his 1994 ascent of Super Tweek at Logan Canyon’s
China Wall, Pedersen opening a series of Momentum
climbing gyms in Utah and Texas (with Washington on
the horizon), and Boyle still developing crags to this day.
Today, more folks head up the multi-use canyon to relax at Tibble Fork Reservoir or catch the sunrise at Mt.
Timpanogos than to climb. The last golden light of the
sun over the Wasatch snakes its way through the coniferous forest, and during peak runof the mountain-fed
river drowns out all sound. Yes, American Fork is not
as popular as it once was with climbers, but the routes
Speed, Pedersen, Boyle, and others left behind speak
across the decades. When Boyle was asked if climbers
today can experience that same pure energy of crag development, his reply was, “It’s gotta exist. I still do it.”
Freelance writer Megan Walsh
works for The Dyrt, a campingapp start-up.
CLIMBING.COM
75
ESSENTIALS
“A
fter 10 hours of rope-soloing the Kingfisher in the
Fisher Towers, Utah, the Sticky Stones felt plenty comfortable and supportive,” said our tester of
Garmont’s new lightweight (2 pounds for US size
9) approach shoes. “I spent a half hour on the summit and
didn’t even think to pop the shoes of.” Built on the foothugging erGo last that, rock-shoe-like, mimics the human
foot, the Sticky Stones were designed for carrying light loads
and bouldery, scrambly approach terrain. They feature the
Double Damper impact system (EVA midsole to soften forefoot impact and an internal EVA layer to dampen heel strik-
76
JULY 2018
aggressive last and bilateral tension rands. I noticed relliable performance on heel hooks, heel-toes,
and toe scumming, despite a bit of bagginess on the gridded
friction strips over the toebox that in the end didn’t afect
performance; perhaps having more material there to deform
while scumming was the intention. The Engineered Knit
tongue, microfiber uppers, molded rubber, and printed rubber—all black—make them form-fitting, light, and aesthetic.
The one Achilles heel is that they’re so soft that for edging
and facier terrain as encountered, they may roll. Still, for extreme steeps, the Shadows are a total beast. MATT SAMET
ing), a PU footbed, Gore-Tex lining, 1.5mm suede and mesh
uppers, and a deeply treaded Vibram Megagrip sole.
Our tester used them approaching and climbing at local
Front Range crags as well as in the Fishers, and gave top
marks in the comfort and support categories—“Seriously,
the most comfortable approach shoes I’ve worn,” he said. He
remarked that the treads are deep for an approach shoe,
but noted a decline in performance only on low-angle and
smeary terrain as a result. The Sticky Stones, he said, were
overall stif, making them best suited for edging, wide cracks,
hiking, and aiding. He noted that the gap between the tread
at the arch was the exact width of his etrier rungs—great
for long days aiding, with the webbing sometimes actually getting lodged and needing to be unstuck. The shoes did
great on icy, slushy terrain, and kept his feet warm and dry
in shallow snow thanks to the waterproof lining.
“These have sincerely become my go-to approach/hiking
shoe when I’m not wearing my stretchy sendin’ jeans!”
our tester said. His only dings were
that the supplied laces seemed
overly long, and that after a
month’s use, he’s noticed
some thread popping on
one shoe and a bit of rand
peelage from the toebox top
on the other. MATT SAMET
GARMONT
STICKY STONE GTX
$190, GARMONTNORTHAMERICA.COM
BLACK
DIAMOND
SHADOW
$180, BLACKDIAMOND.COM
A
s per BD’s literature, the new Shadow is designed
for rock so steep it casts shadows. Take this at
face value: These light (16 ounces for size
10), super-soft, super-grabby, downturned
bad boys are a specialist’s shoe that excels at the
way-beyond-vertical.
I sized the Shadow the same as my street
shoe, and noted a tight, sock-like fit that has
loosened a quarter size—i.e., not much. The
shoes run small compared to BD’s other offerings, so be prepared to take them of between problems during break-in. Double pull
tabs and a supple, mid-cut heel let you slip in and
out relatively easily, and the single Velcro closure over the
tongue gives good control and range.
The big news was the Shadow’s amazing sensitivity: With
a 4.3mm printed outsole and a barely there midsole, you feel
every hold, from the sparest ripple to a pea-sized pebble to
a micro-spike jib—it’s so notable, you need to recalibrate
your footwork. The shoes are super-grippy, most notably on
smears and smear-edges (smedges). They just glom on.
My first impression, and one that’s remained while testing in the gym, on the overhanging gneiss of Clear Creek,
and on the sandstone conglomerate of Castlewood Canyon,
is that the Shadows are fun—they have a light, sporty, precise feel with mad power and big-toe precision thanks to the
TRIPLE
AUGHT DESIGN BASTION HOODIE
$400, TRIPLEAUGHTDESIGN.COM
Rack-o-mended
T
here are lots of cozy, warm performance hoodies on the market—this much we know—
which makes it hard to stand out. The Bastion Hoodie does so on the merits of style
alone. It’s a high-end, fashionable hoodie—with a two-tone pattern, slim, bomber-jacket-like fit, and gobs of zipper pockets—that also happens to be way functional for cold
weather and the alpine. In other words, it’s a core, light (26.5 ounces) piece of outdoor gear
you can also wear around town and not look like just another wayward climber.
The jacket is a nylon shell insulated with Polartec Power Fill, a hollow-fiber polyester that
gives the Bastion a soft, down-like feel while also trapping mad heat. You get reinforced hood,
shoulder, biceps, and forearms panels, and a DWR coating to keep out precip. I wore the Bastion around Steamboat Springs, Colorado (elevation 6,700 feet) in snowy January, when highs
barely busted out of the teens, and found myself sweating during a vigorous walk on a cold,
sunny day. I also took it around the Front Range for winter cragging, when the Chinook winds
blast of the Divide, mountain-wave clouds block the sun, and you battle to stay warm between
pitches. In all cases, the jacket was aces at trapping body heat and blocking wind—zip the chest
high, cinch the hood with the easy-pull drawstrings, cinch the two hem toggles, and you’re enveloped in warmth. Snow and spindrift, meanwhile, slid right of.
There are some cool bells and whistles—two deep, zippered hand pockets, matching zippered bicep pockets, a wallet-sized interior chest pocket, and in back a hunter’s pocket for
carrying sundries and/or to stuf the jacket into when carrying it (it compresses to the size of
an airline pillow). But let’s get back to style: The Bastion, with its slim cut and simple hues,
looks good, and whether you’re wearing the Canopy or Gunship version, you’re going to look
more Blue Steel than Vagabond. Bonus: Made in the USA. M AT T S A M E T
THAT’S IT FRUIT BARS AND
TRUFFLES These tasty bars are only
fruit, with combos like apple + cherries. The truffles are mega crag-fare,
with the same fruit blends covered in
dark chocolate. $9 (5 bars) or $14 (6
truffle pouches), thatsitfruit.com
CRUSH BRUSH This soft-bristled
brush is designed for plastic, especially
slopers and volumes. It handily removed
caked-on chalk—we created a white
cloud—making sloper problems wayyy
more sendable. $20, crushbrush.net
RED CHILI FUSION VCR “They’re
really good for smearing,” said our
tester of these double-Velcro-closure
shoes. The Fusion’s ability to conform to small rugosities comes from
the sticky Vibram XS Grip and wide toe
box. A semi-flat last and mild asymmetry make these ideal for long days. $150, redchiliclimbing.com
NECTAR POLARIZED TR90 // ZIG
The Zig is a great, simple, light, affordable pair of shades, with polarized,
impact-resistant 1.1mm polycarbonate
lenses and 100 percent UV protection.
$45, nectarsunglasses.com
BELAY OPTICS If you’ve ever had
to choose between being able to see
with sunglasses/prescription glasses
or saving your neck, here is your hack:
Belay Optics belay glasses. These adjustable clip-on specs are sturdy, with
effective clear, prismatic imaging. $75,
belayoptics.com
BOBO’S STUFF’D BARS Stuff’d
bars are one of the tastiest bar-shaped
foods ever. We loved the soft-baked
consistency, and recommend Peanut-Butter Chocolate Chip, because
chocolate. $3.50, eatbobos.com
YETI CAMINO CARRYALL 35 This
burly waterproof carrier lets you haul
food or drinks to the crag, or load up
muddy shoes or rain-soaked clothing on the way home. Its wide mouth
and EVA molded base let it double as a
topple-proof ropebag. $150, yeti.com
CLIMBING.COM
77
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growth hormone patches
SUCCESS
DOESN’T JUST HAPPEN
Train hard.
Develop
leadership
skills.
Set major
goals.
Inspire your
partners.
Succeed
repeatedly.
TO ADVERTISE IN
MARKETPLACE
& ADVENTURES
CONTACT
Elizabeth Pecknold
epecknold@aimmedia.com
American
Alpine Institute
Excellence is our goal.
Technical & leadership training are our means.
Programs in 6 states & 16 countries
From the basics to masters’ level
ALL PROGRAMS = 100% CARBON NEUTRAL
CRAGSTERS
The Pebble Wrestler
TEXT AND ILLUSTRATION BY ADAM NAWROT
aving distilled climbing into a purely
kinesthetic practice, the Pebble Wrestler insists that he has a unique, poetic
relationship with the stone, one quickly belied by his bluetooth speakers, constant
lamenting that all sends are “invalid salad”
without “uncut footy,” and an endless compulsion to compare ape indexes with his bros.
He’ll obsess for years on two 6 mm crimps
and pass more time staring at fingertip
skin, fretting over conditions, and brushing
$30/ounce chalk of the holds than actually
climbing. Unable to aford ropes and bored
by belaying, Pebble Wrestlers tend to be of
the younger variety. Although unfazed by
sleeping on crashpads and sit-start groveling
in the dirt, his patience for explaining to hikers why he’s carrying a “mattress” has drawn
thin, so don’t even ask. His head might explode inside his beanie.
H
Crashpad
inside
crashpad
Stick brush
Another
crashpad
Crashpad
Beanie
Dreams of:
Low humidity
and 40-degree
temps
Lifetime chalk
sponsorship
Not having to
choose between
fitting friends or
pads in the car
WiFi at the proj
No shirt
Downturned shoes
Stomping Grounds:
Hueco Tanks,
Texas
Chattanooga,
Tennessee
Joe’s Valley, Utah
Horse Pens 40,
Alabama
Bishop,
California
RMNP, Colorado
Baggy
pants
Lingo:
Crashpad
V-Scale
Boar’s hair
toothbrush
Assis
Dab
Power-spot
Chalk bucket
80
JULY 2018
Highball
Ape index
Conditions
“Career-ending”
flapper
“Mom, gimme
a ride to the
boulders!”
Chalk bucket
Skate
shoes
THE RIGHT GEAR
GETS YOU HOME.
Shop Sterling climbing ropes, like the Nano IX,™
at your local climb shop or SterlingRope.com/climb
© 2018 Sterling Rope Company, Inc.
SterlingRope.com/FreedomToFocus
Kevin Jorgeson | Valhalla (5.12+) | East Animas, Durango, CO | Photo: Randy Gaetano
PURE
FOCUS
TAKES
YOU TO
GREAT
HEIGHTS.
SHADOW
The dream shoe for steep, aggressive
climbing, the Shadow is a downturned
Velcro shoe built for pulling HARD.
Featuring our extra-sticky molded
rubber with added friction strips for
better toe-hooking, and a durable
microfiber upper combined with our
Engineered Knit Technology tongue, the
Shadow is ready to send your project.
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