View of the Menses Wall from the Mural Wall – see all the climbers?
70 degree weather, in February. Gotta love Colorado Winters! We still get at least a few days of bluebird skies, even in the harshest of months. And when you take a trip a couple hours south, the weather turns even better!
Shelf is known as a Winter crag, and while it’s also good in the shoulder seasons of Spring and Fall, it comes into its own in the dead of Winter.
The weather was perfect – warm in the sun with a cooling breeze. Partly cloudy, and angled light rather than the full-on solar of the Menses Prow.
That day we nearly went to Menses, but seeing the crag gangbanged with every route taken up we hung a right at the Mural Wall sign at the split in the trail.
And to paraphrase: it made all the difference.
We had a section of the wall all to ourselves, with a 5.9- warmup (Protect the King), and a series of various flavors of 5.10’s further right. There’s actually a series of seven 5.10s all in a row to the right of Protect the King. To the left of Protect the King are harder climbs of 5.10d to 5.12s.
From the Mural Wall, one has a good view of the Menses Wall, and with the acoustics of the canyon – you can hear everyone pretty clearly too (this is sometimes a bad thing).
View of the Menses Prow across the way from the Mural Wall
We decided to warmup on Protect the King first.
Randy on Protect the King
Mural Wall – Protect the King 5.9
I found Protect the King slightly weird actually. It had varied surfaces to practice anything from crack to face climbing, <BETA> but the large crack to the right of the bolts at the top I found to be a total fakeout. Better to get on the face to the left immediately, rather than utilize the sidepull of the offwidth to the right.</BETA> I think we have a natural desire to stay close to the obvious crack, versus the scrimpy crimpy face, but the holds are good on the face, (and less awkward).
From there, we just kept moving right to Killer Queen (5.10a). varied climbing again, starting with a right sidepull, crimps and pockets and edges to the top.
Then we skipped the 5.12 and 5.7 to move right to Soldier without Faith (5.10b). This, I thought, was one of the coolest climbs. It meanders left to a faceclimb with varied pockets and edges and exposure. Then at the top the chains are around the corner to the left, and when things start to get desperate in the crimp department,<BETA> there’s a huge jug to throw for. I missed seeing it, and threw for something around the corner. I had half a finger pad on sharp edges and went, ‘Nope, that wasn’t the jug!’ before flailing off!
After a rest I could see the horizontal line marking the juggiest of jugs.</BETA> My second go I grabbed the handle and made it to the chains.
Recon Jones – gettin’ at it!
We finally finished things off with Los Pepes, a 5.10a which is mostly easy, interesting terrain with huge jugs…that gradually get smaller and smaller. Once you get to the slotted roof the holds are small – but all there. A slight roof and the chains.
Randy, AKA the biggest man in climbing, on the start of Los Pepes, 5.10a
Mural Wall – Recon Jones makes his way up Los Pepes, 5.10a sport
So, after leaving home at 7am, at the crag by 9:30am, 3 climbers swapping leads on one 5.9 and three 5.10s on bullet hard limestone and bluebird skies – Randy had something to get back to at 1:30pm. A short hike back and home by 5pm.
I’ve been a member of ET since it opened a couple of years ago. As their website states: “The 29,000 sq ft purpose-built facility opened in 2013 and boasts over 28,500 sq ft of climbing on walls up to 45 ft high.”
The EarthTreks Golden facility, in my humble opinion, is world class. Two levels, high walls, great route setting for both Bouldering and lead/Top Rope – it’s my first recommendation for a good rock gym in the Denver area. The people who work there are also great – all climbers, all seem genuinely friendly and knowledgable.
ET allows 6 free guest passes a year with their membership that can be used for any guest once per month. Movement only allows their guest passes to be used with people who have never been to Movement before.
Lead rope availability is much higher at ET than at Movement. I’ve never personally had to wait for a lead rope at ET, but have had to multiple times at Movement.
Less crowded at ET. I’ve seen boulderers waiting 4 deep at Movement, and the ropes area is typically a zoo during the prime after work hours of 5:30-7:30.
ET has programmable locks for their lockers, with no lockers marked as “reservable.” Beyond the occasional malfunctioning locker I find this more agreeable than having “reservable” lockers that you have to pay for. I also like the convenience of never having to bring my own lock. Reservable lockers also leave one less for the rest of us.
ET has a kids area on the 2nd floor, whereas Movement does not (as far as I know).
Discount for shoes, clothing, equipment, etc, for members at ET.
There’s a good amount of parking at ET, with overflow parking in the strip mall below the Gym, as well as at the Panoramic Orthopedic Center just above/next to the gym (after 5pm, and weekends). While the main parking lot can get filled up, there are options nearby. Compare this to Movement during peak hours, where you might find yourself walking a few blocks from some shady side streets when the main parking is filled.
What people like about Movement:
Close to Downtown. I have partners that live in Downtown, so Movement is the natural choice.
Long, overhanging lead wall. Steep is good for lead training – gets you strong with the sustained overhang.
Reservable lockers. Some people prefer to have their own lockers using their own locks, and are willing to pay for this convenience.
Some people say that both the staff and the climbers at ET, are much nicer than at Movement. I have met nice climbers at both, but I do think that the staff at ET seem nicer and genuinely enjoy working there. This translates to better customer service at ET in my experience.
The crowding at Movement may also create an “opportunistic” attitude of jumping onto routes without consulting those nearby who may have been lacing up for a go. I find this attitude and action less often at EarthTreks, as there’s usually a route open, even during rush hour.
I think the route setting is different at both, which makes sense given the different route setters, but I have found both to be professional and enjoyable. I do find that Movement Denver grading is harder than at ET, meaning a 5.10a at Movement is in general a tad harder than an equivalent 10a at ET. It could also be because when I climb at Movement I tend to stick mostly to the overhanging lead wall – which is both long as well as overhung the entire length. But, I’ve noticed this tendency to harder grading on the regular top rope area as well.
Boulder route setting is comparable between the two, it just tends to get crowded at Movement during prime hours.
Well, that sums up my feelings between the two gyms. Both are worldclass facilities, and you can get a great rock climbing session at both, yet in comparison I’m just glad that I live closer to EarthTreks. I like the benefits of ET in comparison to Movement, but don’t get me wrong: Movement is great too! ET is just a little bit better in my opinion, so if you are deciding between the two, all else being equal (distance, price, etc) I would tend towards ET.
It’s nice that we have such a great choice of gyms in the Denver area!
PrAna Ecliptic Climbing Pants are my new favorite climbing pants, and are just about the perfect pair of pants that can be used for rock climbing.
I say “just about” because no single climbing pants can have that honor since you might select a different type for different weather, or for a certain temperature, or if we are being honest – a type of “look”.
For example, I reviewed the Bulletprufe brand of jeans as the “Best Climbing Jeans” – and they are the best – if we are talking about climbing jeans! But, for a lightweight, breathable light cotton/polyester blend climbing pants in an array of jewel colors – this is just about perfect!
The weather in December at the EPC was really nice, sunny with some humidity, making for warm days with cooling breezes. My and my climbing partners could decide whether to get a tan on the sunny side of the canyon walls, or go to the opposite dark sides for a cool shadow and grippier rock. The Ecliptic pants worked for both.
Since the fabric is thinner than say the Bulletprufe Jeans, it’s more of a fair weather pant, perfect for the shoulder seasons of warm Spring and Summer days in Colorado, yet light enough to consider for the Summer when you just don’t want to wear shorts.
I am a 32″ waist with a 30″ inseam, and I ordered the small size, which fit me perfectly. I’ve read that a person with a 32″ inseam the small came up short – just the opposite of what I typically encounter in pants. It’s actually hard for me to find pants in my shorter inseam, so it’s nice to find a pair “off-the-rack” that I can order directly online and know right off the bat that it will fit.
Wearing the Prana Ecliptic on the 8 pitch Solar Flare climb at Las Estrellas Wall
I didn’t baby these pants at all, and used knee rubbing action required to power through the 5.10d section. Later on, these pants still looked good enough at an impromptu dinner party later that evening at El Chalet.
PrAna Ecliptic Pant still looked good enough for a dinner party at El Chalet (with El Chalet host Ariel)
The pants do not have belt loops, but use a drawstring to tighten up. The small size for me required just a tad of tightening to reinforce the elastic waist band. Belt loops would interfere with a climbing harness anyway.
The pants also have a stash pocket, a loose yet not balloony fit. “Articulated knee darts” – not so sure what those are, but I assume for either reinforcement or stretch, are a feature.
PrAna Ecliptic Pant knee darts
The PrAna Ecliptic Pants come in 4 appealing colors: Coal (gray), Deep Jade (green), Safari (yellow), and Black (noir – heh).
I picked the “Safari” – I liked the canary yellow color, and knew it would go well with my yellow Grivel Salamander helmet.
About the only thing I would request is some sort of loop near the pocket – but I know that this is a particular request. I tether my cell phone to a belt loop so that it won’t inadvertently fall out of my pocket when I climb. Without a belt loop I figured out I could tether it to the drawstrings, but since they are cinched up with a simple shoelace knot, I just didn’t feel as secured as with a fully connected belt loop.
But that’s a pale complaint that may be particular to my cellphone picture taking usage – but could I really be alone in this want/need? Whenever a fellow climber sees my tethered cell phone they all invariably go – ‘Where did you get that? I need one of those!’ A simple pocket loop for attaching either keys, or an errant cell phone with tether seems like a useful upgrade for climbers or hikers so as not to lose their precious cell phone/camera/keys – what have you.
After a solid week of climbing in El Potrero Chico (EPC), I can now say with confidence that the Osprey Mutant 28 pack is now my new favorite crag pack!
My old favorite crag pack was the Mammut Neon Gear 45L, and I still have it as a larger backup. I do like that I am able to fit a 70 meter rope, harness, draws, hydration bladder, snacks and other random bits all inside the larger pack. It’s comfortable backplate and straps makes it a solid winner for a pack that swallows everything for a day of cragging.
But in my search for lighter-faster-stronger I find myself reaching increasingly for the Osprey Pack 28. I received this pack as part of the Steph Davis Crack Climbing Clinic, but I haven’t really put it through it’s paces – till my EPC trip.
Osprey Mutant 28 – logo
The pack has thoughtful details, such as a useful top compartment for things you need to reach easily, or easily stuff things into:
Quick to open top pocket – great for headlamps, sandwiches, need to have items.
My pet peeve is a bad zipper that gets stuck repeatedly, or break down. Osprey nails this with solid zipper action:
From what I understand, this pack was built mainly for ice climbing, with ice tool attachment straps, but those straps can also serve a dual purpose such as strapping a windbreaker to the side, or hanging ‘biners or other extra gear on the sides.
What I really like is the straps for hanging the rope off the top of the pack:
The Osprey Mutant’s smaller profile (28 liters vs the Mammut’s 45 liters) makes it lighter, but also requires placing the rope on the outside of the pack. I kind of like this configuration – it leaves the rope available to quickly setup, and then leaves sufficient room inside the pack for the rest of your equipment, such as your harness, draws, belay device, climbing shoes, and jacket – with room to spare.
This size also makes it a reasonable multipitch pack – about as large as I personally would go for multiple pitches, but with compression straps it can have a slimmer profile. There’s even a stretchy gear mesh above the top compartment that can be used for your helmet!
I don’t think you’d have any regrets in purchasing the Osprey Mutant 28 pack as a day crag pack, and it’s size makes it also useful for taking with you up a multipitch as well.
“8 pitches with 3 people? No problem!” Rafael said, a climber Katie and I met who was also staying at a casita at El Chalet. We were contemplating doing Super Nova, a multipitch of mostly easy 5.6-5.9 climbing, except with one hard start.
“You can do the 1st pitch!” Rafael smiled broadly at me. He was a friendly Brazilian, who’s name is pronounced as ‘HAWF-ah-el’.
The Whole Enchilada: A Climbers Guide to Potrero Chico, Mexico
“Yeah, alright,” I responded. What’s the worst that could happen? I get worked over and have to yard on draws – French Free all the way!
Leading Super Nova
The 1st pitch of Super Nova
Yes, I tried to do it all free, without grabbing gear, but well…I couldn’t. I was at my limit – with all the grunting and emoting that I required, and it was either turn around, or keep yarding. I think at one point I found myself sideways. On the third grab of a draw, Raphael sang up to me, “Great styyyyle!” I had to laugh at that one. It took nearly all I had to make it to the anchors.
I set up the top belay, and caterpillared up Katie and Rafael. I then led the much easier 2nd pitch (5.8), before handing the next 2 leads to Rafael. We continued to hopscotch each other 2 pitches at a time.
Hangdoggin’ Super Nova (Photo: Katie Grimes)
Apparently, the late Magic Ed, the iconic EPC bolter-educator-organizer was a fan of long moderate routes, and is listed as the getting the FA on Super Nova, along with Bob Almond.
With Ariel, owner of El Chalet (Photo: Katie Grimes)
For some reason, I thought that the 5.10b and 5.10a were both easier than the 5.8 and 5.9 to their left.
I was puzzled at the ratings, but what else is new? It’s so hard to get accurate ratings since so much depends on variables such as body length, limb length, finger strength and flexibility. The rock at Moto Wall is some of the best in the EPC.
Hacking my way through the Jungle Wall (Photo: Katie Grimes)
We followed that on the second day with a go at the Jungle Wall, warming up just to the right of a couple doing the 11 pitch Space Boyz, called CDC&J(5.8). We followed it with a mystery 3 pitch route just to the left of the 15 pitch Yankee Clipper I found challenging, maybe 5.10ish.
I think this is the first time I had to be careful of cactus while climbing a wall.
Then, Christmas Eve. La Posada, one of the main climber lodging options in EPC, had a $12 USD Christmas dinner that had so many good dishes – turkey, salad, cactus, potatoes – and other stuff I didn’t know the names of.
Raffle time at the La Posada Xmas Eve dinner
This guy across from me kept telling anyone who would listen, “Hey, have you tried Pitch Black? It is soooo good! So good!” I could see how some people could tire of the constant climber talk.
This other girl at the table was saying, “If I hear ONE more person spouting about how they just did Inglourious Bastards I SWEAR to GAWD I’m going to lose my mind! So what if you did 5.12, it’s Not that hard!THOUSANDS of people have done 5.12! Talk to me when you’ve done 5.13!”
This was a good respite for 2 days of climbing, getting used to the new rock and in preparation for the 8 pitch Super Nova we planned for the following day. A 45 minute cab ride we arranged at La Posada and we found ourselves descending a spiral walkway down to the arched catacombs of the hot spring.
8 Pitches? No problem!
The mystery 3 pitch we had done a couple days ago at the Jungle Wall was little prep for the 8 pitch. I think after days of just doing 4-5 single and double pitches, an 8 pitch is something a little different. It’s a bigger day on a bigger wall, and anything of that length and above is appealing to the masses of climbers looking to sample some of the longer moderate multipitch climbs in El Potrero. On our outing we had one team climb past us, with 2 other groups that followed.
Super Nova, venga venga!
It’s the dramatic line at the end of the Las Estrellas (The Stars) canyon. Our intention was to try our hand at Estrillita, a 12 pitch 10d, but since there was a party in front of us (at 7:30am) we made a go of Super Nova.
Partway up Super Nova
Katie on Super Nova
I liked that Raphael’s Brazilian pronunciation of the letter “R” sounded like an “H”. Especially before he tossed the rope for rappel, it sounded like he was yelling “Hooooope!”
For the remainder of the trip I would yell “Hoooope!” prior to tossing the rappel rope.
Because of the popularity of the route, we had 2 other parties behind us backed up because we were rapping with 3 rather than the usual 2 party climbers of a typical multipitch team. A young party of 2 just above us tried to rap past us on a single line.
I couldn’t quite figure out his setup. Like, how was he descending on a single line? The only thing I could think of is that they secured the line on one end with his partner at the top – but how did they intend to retrieve it? How was the person on top to descend? The only other way I could think of it is that the other person would have another rope to connect the 2 ropes. (I’ve since learned about single rope rappels, and the ability to retrieve the rope with a cord) In any case their 70 meter rope was not long enough. The rapeller went in direct with his PAS at a bolt below our rappel station. We offered our rope for him to descend, but he declined. But when we got to the next belay station I heard one of them yell above us the dreaded “Rocks!”
Potrero Select: Selected Climbs at El Potero Chico Mexico
The 3 of us hugged the wall, but not before I glanced up and saw a shower of rocks come down. Some looked about the size of a fist and smaller, any one of which could break a skull, fracture a shoulder. We lowered our heads and waited for the impact that never came.
Apparently, the 2nd guy above the stuck rappeler swung into the ledge for the belay station, and inadvertently kicked rocks lying there.
Katie in the upper reaches of Super Nova
Later, at La Posada, we described the rockfall, and one of the climbers said, “Oh, was that you? We heard the rocks come down. That was scary!”
That person wasn’t even in the same canyon. The acoustics of the canyons make even ordinary conversations audible from far away. And the yelling of commands reverberates off the numerous walls.
View from El Chalet of the Moto Wall
The EPC can get rainy and overcast in December, but we enjoyed mostly sunny days the majority of the days.
Another view from the top of El Chalet
Frankly, just the length (and the hard first pitch) of Super Nova tired us out for the rest of our trip, We followed with an easier training day on One Dead Teardrop at the Wonder Wall, and doing Libertad, an interesting 5.7 that ends with an exposed arete to teach Katie the finer aspects of multipitch on this cool 2 pitch spire.
Our last day we just did a few pitches at Canon de Los Lobos. Rafael met with us after we did The Blacksmith. He looked up and said, “This type of rock is my least favorite. See how broken up it is?” I followed his gaze at the large jumbled blocks stacked on other blocks. I did feel that it was a tad chossy, but looking at it through his eyes I felt it might be a less desirable area to climb. Looking down, you could see large fallen blocks, some as big as a VW, lying on the path up.
We ended the day with the Anvil, a climb with a nice crux that I overcame with a short series of sidepulls.
We called it a day. The next day we had to catch our taxi at 1:30, and so we had an afternoon of organizing, with a final evening at La Posada to talk with our new climber friends.
A couple of our days we took the hike in to Hidalgo, to sample the best tamales I’ve ever had. I asked a street vendor where I could find tamales
Painted wall at Cafe El Buho
Top floor balcony at El Chalet
Top floor Casita at El Chalet
¿Dónde puedo encontrar tamales
This is what I heard:
Blah blah blah take a left then blah blahh blahdedly blah then a right blahhblahhblahhh
Well, that got us there.
El Buho, and the Game Where No One Wins
We then hung out at El Buho with the other climbers. These 2 guys were talking about how one of them was trying to convince his partner to have a go at Timewave Zero, one of the resident hard man climbs. A 23 pitch 2,300′ route ranging from 5.7 to 5.12a.
“Just tell him, ‘Don’t worry brah, ’cause where we’re going we’re not going to land on land'”
The other responded cryptically:
“This is a game where no one wins.”
They stared at each other straight-faced, then both broke up laughing.
A game where no one wins. That could be about climbing.
A horse, of course
Quick Guide: 8 Day Moderate Climbing trip in the EPC
Day One, arrive in El Potrero and settle in at El Chalet
As I get older, I find myself paying more attention to what I eat, and more importantly: how I feel afterwards. Climbing well, and being productive, is all about how much energy you have. When I was a younger guy, energy to do the things I wanted to do came naturally. As I get older I find myself calculating the consequence of that pile of rice, the carbs in that sandwich I’m considering, the aftermath of that beer (or 2 or 3…).
A couple years ago I heard of a new fad product called Bulletproof Coffee. I’ve read a little bit about it, where you take a premium coffee without mycotoxins, and combine it with MCT oil from Coconut oil and unsalted grass fed butter. It was supposed to give you extra energy, a sense of fullness, and overall just great for performance.
And now there have been upgrades to the original products, with something called XCT Oil, which is a better form of the original MCT oil, and Brain Octane Oil instead of using the butter. You can get into the marketing science of the whole thing, but I was just trying to figure out a way to test this without shelling out $32 for a bottle of oil. I mean, I’m paying $3 for premium gasoline for my car already! At gas prices, this XCT oil is $128/gal!
‘You get what you pay for…blah blah blah.’
Okay, I get it. If something works and you think it’s worth it the market will determine what it is worth. The origin of this coffee came from when “David Asprey developed his Bulletproof Coffee recipe after traveling to Tibet and tasting yak-butter tea drinks.” “Butter tea is a popular drink in Tibet, where its high calorific content provides energy to those performing manual labor in a harsh environment.”
~ Source: wikipedia
Uhuh. Sounds like a great drink prior for climbing!
I’ve avoided coffee since it seems to affect my emotions by increasing my anxiety – not great for climbing sketchy routes! It also seems to lower my anger threshold, I find that I get mad at stupid things I wouldn’t if I was drinking, say, tea. Also, it seemed that sometimes coffee had the effect of making me tired, not energized – first with a spike and then a massive drop of energy.
And while I switched to tea I missed the taste and smell of coffee.
Sooo, I decided to just do an experiment, by just trying a version of the original idea: coffee with a tablespoon of grass fed unsalted butter, and a tablespoon of coconut oil. Then, see how I felt afterwards.
Let the experiment begin!
8-12 ounces of coffee (I like Cafe Bustelo, 36 ounce can for $16.98)
I guess the real el cheapo version is just coffee, at 25 cents per cup. But, I wasn’t willing to compromise on the Extra virgin organic coconut oil – it’s what I would use personally, and the grass fed butter seemed like an analog to the Yak butter from the Tibetan steppes.
Well, what if you go premium with all Bulletproof brand products? Let’s do the math:
So, $2.36, or $.61 more, or 34% more for the premium version.
Hmm…not all that much more than my so-called el cheapo version, actually. Makes me interested in trying the “real” version, with the “Brain Octane Oil” or the “XCT Oil” (either can be used instead of the Coconut Oil – more info here), and the mycotoxin free premium “BulletProof coffee”.
I mean, if my so-called el cheapo version felt pretty good, for an additional .61 cents, I wonder what the expensive premium version feels like? Sure, the el cheapo cheapo (just coffee) version is just a quarter, but it just doesn’t seem to work well for me. And we’re talking performance here!
For just 61 cents more maybe I too could climb harder faster stronger!
The last couple years in Colorado I’ve been able to climb every month of the year – including the coldest months of January and February. Colorado, for those not from here, actually has a fairly mild winter in comparison to our more northern neighbors, such as Minnesota and Illinois.
I remember walking down the street on a frigid Chicago February, and I thought I was freezing until I turned the corner on Wacker drive, and felt the bitter cold wind coming off the Chicago River. I saw people bundled up in what looked like the Chicago version of space suits, never seeing such thick coats on the ski areas of Colorado!
In Colorado, sunny days of 45-55 (and above!) can be quite common, giving us a needed break with several Indian Summers. And with the sun reflecting off the rocks it can feel 10-15 degrees warmer!
Now, 45 degrees Fahrenheit may seem cold, and it can be, once you factor in wind chill and when you are in shade, but when I see 45 degrees and sunny on the forecast – I start looking to where to climb!
A little further are the Northern New Mexico climbs. I haven’t been to the Santa Fe and Taos area climbs, but I’ve heard they are pretty good.
I have climbed near Los Alamos, in the Jemez Valley and El Rito for conglomerate rock. Those are little higher in elevation, so may not be as suitable for Winter climbing.
But a fine Summer destination is the Overlook, a Southern facing cliff that overlooks the Rio Grande river. Gets good sun all year, which makes it particularly good for the Winter.
Rock Climbing New Mexico
I’ve been eyeing Las Cruces, NM. 10 hour drive from Denver, near the Texas, Mexico border. Everything from multi-pitch trad, bolted sport and bouldering here. Haven’t been – looking for beta if you have some!
Rap cliffs, not gifts! (Other Critters, December 10, 2016)
This December, I will be traveling to Old Mexico – El Potrero Chico in the North Central area of Mexico. Hundreds of limestone bolted sport routes with easy approaches and friendly locals with good Mexican food. How can that be beat?
The Whole Enchilada
Asia climbing is on my radar, but will have to wait a bit for funds, but the Vietnam and Thailand climbing are things I want to explore – and soon!
Ha Long Bay Climbing
Thailand – A climbing Guide
Let me know in the comments below where your favorite Winter climbing is located!
When I was first getting started in rock climbing, I was lucky enough to have a few good mentors. I also took what technique classes I could from different rock gyms in and around Denver. Both were helpful.
But, when learning from fellow climbers, much of it can be considered ‘Bro-learning’, which most of the time is what works well, and is the standard. Later I’ve found that some of the bro-tips and way of doing things were more specific to that particular climber, but sometimes was even an out-dated method, or even downright wrong.
Another thing is that when you go out climbing with someone, they may not be suited to teach – perhaps they have difficulty explaining how to do something, or just saying, “Just go up!” I’ve encountered that more times than I can remember, sometimes said jokingly, sometimes with frustration.
Your partner may also just want to climb. Teaching climbing can be a drag, and I’ve heard more than one person avoid newbies, limited to leading easy pitches, and supervising the newbies safety called ‘babysitting.’
I get it.
After learning how to climb with partners, classes and YouTube, one of the best ways I’ve found is through a good video training course. And the climbing techniques DVD I like the best is:
The Masterclass comes in two parts, with the main sport techniques taught in Part 1, and more advanced concepts taught in Part 2.
The reason I like this set is that Neil very lucidly explains the route problem and the technique that solves it, and then demonstrates both the right and wrong way of doing overcoming the problem.
The other thing I like about this series is that explains certain techniques in a way that I’ve never encountered before – even in one-on-one training. You can tell he’s thought through the concepts, as well as the best way to explain the how’s and why’s of doing the technique a certain way.
For example, I really didn’t understand the reason for using a front-flag – seemed more trouble than what it was worth. But the way he discusses balance, moving the leg in opposition to the hand and how it extended the body length – was where the lightbulb went off!
With a live class, you can only ask classes in the moment – as it occurs to you. But you don’t have anything on hand to review the lessons learned. With a DVD you can just pop it in and watch it again – to remind and reinforce the situations where one would use a particular technique.
Part 2 gets into more advanced concepts such as deadpointing, roofs and trad techniques. Also a very good DVD climbing techniques series to have on hand.
I pop both of these DVDs in to watch, or reinforce a particular technique. I find that I can get sloppy after climbing on my own, overcoming routes with strength rather than technique. But technique can make the impossible possible. More routes can be climbed at strength because climbing with good technique is climbing efficiently.
Style, as Neil says, is important in climbing, as it helps a person climb more easily, and with grace. In Part 2, for example, he shows an example of himself climbing a roof which to untrained eyes may look correct – hey he made it to the top, right?
Compare his sloppy technique with another climber, Gabby, who demonstrates how to climb a roof in an energy efficient manner that harbors your energy by using straight arms, squatting at rest, heel hooks and making the turn of the roof without an unnecessary dyno.
I recommend adding both DVDs to your climbing videos collection. They are both worth the price you pay in explaining and demonstrating rock climbing tips and techniques in an easy to understand manner. Highly recommended!
You’ll notice that in this list of 5 books there are no books on technique, gear or conditioning. These are books about the climber’s life that I have found to be personally affecting, even transformative. It was like I discovered that I was not the only one to have felt that climbing was my life.
1. Pete’s Wicked Book, Tales of Climbing Madness
Pete’s Wicked Book
This is the funniest book on climbing I’ve ever read! Pete Takeda is now the Senior Contributing Editor for Rock & Ice, a very respectable position for a person who has led such a wild early climbing life that is contained in this book, from taking drugs and climbing in Idaho, to Yosemite, Everest and beyond!
I just thought it was a rollicking good read, and I could compare some of my early dumb decisions with Pete’s and realize that mine were (mostly) minor in comparison!
Out of print, but you can still find used copies in good condition.
2. Tilting at Mountains
Tilting at Mountains
Although Edurne is more of an alpinist than a rock climber, I still count this among the transformative climbing books I have read. The love and obsession with mountaineering is similar to rock climbing.
Edurne is famous for being the first woman to have climbed to the summit of the world’s 14 peaks over 8,000 meters. The book displays a somewhat tortured soul looking for the cleansing absolution in pursuit of high altitude climbing. This is all in the midst of her experiences with depression and grief.
Really great read from one of the best climbers in the world! I enjoyed reading about her life in Yosemite and the Camp 4 scene, her love affairs, being the first to free the Nose, and of course the other major defining event – surviving her fall from the top of a pitch.
4. High Infatuation
Steph’s book reminded me in some ways of the Edurne Pasaban book – her relationships both to the mountains and rock climbing, as well as with the men in her life. Also her single-minded pursuit of certain peaks – nearly to the detriment of her partners!
There’s a thin line in making dangerous decisions – to stay and conquer, or leave to live to climb another day, that is not always so clear when you become obsessed with the objective. On some of her Patagonian climbs for example, there were many weather-related failures, and when the opening came for a clear shot at the summit you could tell it was difficult for her to turn back, sometimes over the objections of her partners! Made for a really good read.
5. Trad Climber’s Bible
The Trad Climber’s Bible
You might think this is a how-to book on how to climb trad, and by the title I could see how you thought that. But if you are looking for more of a manual then you should probably look elsewhere. It’s written more in the form of anecdotes and stories that illustrate the history and the experience of trad climbing, with boxes that go over tips that the narrative illustrates.
It’s full of memoirs and the experiences of the climbers. It’s not heavy on the skills department, but more on the inspiring stories and photos department.
So many good books on climbing, but if I had to point someone to transformative books, the list would include these 5 books. I find books like these more life changing than skills teaching, and that’s what these books all have in common.
Reading about how they navigated their lives while continually taking up the reins of climbing is inspirational in a way a user guide on the technical aspects of climbing will never be.
just in time for Christmahanakwanzika, is the GripandClip gift giving guide for the climber in your life! The items displayed here (except for the Panda Chalk Bag) are items I use when I rope up, and can attest to how great they are!
1. Bulletprufe Denim
Bulletprufe denim, $97.95 Amazon
When I want to wear something Jeans-like for climbing, but need some stretch, I reach for one of my trusty pairs of Bulletprufe denim. Did I happen to mention they are also constructed from ballistic nylon? Perfect for the scratchy crag!
After trying on both the “Slim” and “Adventure” fit, I prefer the Adventure fit for climbing. For how tough they are, they are amazingly soft. And every crag coffee stain comes off in the wash. They have a great hassle free return policy, and free shipping!
2. Funny Climbing T-Shirt
$27-32.95 Depending on Design. Addicted to Crack T-Shirt
Funny climbing t-shirts make for a great gift!
Shop the GripandClip Spreadshirt T-Shirt store, with t-shirts with sayings like “Free Belay Jobs!”, “Crack Addict”, and “My other Car is a Rope!” among other quips to declare your love of climbing! And if you’d like something a bit different, Spreadshirt even let’s you change the text!
3. Panda Bear Chalk Bag
Panda Chalk Bag, $12.99, Amazon
Everyone else has a boring ol’ REI-Arcteryx-Mammut fill-in-the-blank generic chalk bag. Why not show some individuality and style with a Panda chalk bag?
4. The Rock Warrior’s Way (Book)
The Rock Warrior’s Way, $17.99 Amazon
I have to say, during a period of time where I was wrestling with some inner lead climbing demons, this book helped me sort some of those out. I recommend this book to anyone who rock climbs to set their head back on straight!
The sheath, not just the core, is dry-treated to keep both moisture, as well as dirt and grime, from destroying your rope.
And, after missing the halfway markings on partner’s ropes one too many times, one can see the benefit of having a nice visual change that a bicolor rope gives.
6. Metolius Ropemaster Rope Bag
Metolius Rope Bag, with integrated tarp, $140.25 Amazon
This is the bag I use. I’ve tried my partner’s bag, as well as experimented with tarps and the one integrated with backpacks, but I like to have a separate bag just for my rope. It has an integrated tarp, as well as straps for tightening the bag down into a size that can fit in your crag pag, or hang off the top straps of your pack. It also has a comfortable shoulder strap for carrying on it’s own.
7. Armaid Arm Roller
Armaid, $110 Amazon
This device totally cured my recurring elbow pain. A lot of the issue was the tightness of my forearm muscles pulling on the tendons of my elbows. With a short session with the Armaid rollers I stopped having the debilitating pain, and could climb the next day on a climbing trip in Rifle.