Oh god, pants

Yesterday as I was packing up my clothes, I had to make some tough decisions. What to store (very little) what to bring with me on the trip (even less) and what to toss (almost everything). This doesn’t really bother me that much: my wardrobe hasn’t changed much since college and frankly is in serious need of some winnowing down. I found a t-shirt I’ve had since 5th grade–apparently I liked my shirts to be more like moo-moos in my youth, because the thing fits me perfectly now.

Paring things down like this felt really good, and I was on a roll for a while, but then I came across my kryptonite. Climbing pants. I normally hate shopping for clothing, but for some crazy fucking reason the part of my brain responsible for mindless consumerism has become convinced that the one thing really holding back my climbing is my choice of trousers. And so yesterday I sat on my bed and tried on four different pairs of pants purchased/acquired specifically for climbing: a pair of canvas Levis I found on the ground at the Smith bivy, a $90 pair of Verve Xenos, a Kuhl jean of some kind, and a pair of nylon Prana pants worth about as much as the Verves. Of these, the random desert Levi’s are by far the best, but Levi’s has sadly stopped making them. The only other pair of pants to make the cut is the Verves, a snazzy spandex number that feels like wearing nothing at all.

It stings to give away a $100 pair of pants I just bought in the spring, even though I don’t really use them, but it definitely throws into stark relief some of the incredibly stupid uses I put money to. Makes me feel a little better about being on the brink of blowing through a big chunk of my savings on this trip–at least I know the memories will be worth it, unlike all this other shit I’ve bought!

While I was running errands today, I stopped by the Prana store to try on a pair of lime-green Mojo shorts. Dear god, what is wrong with me? Somehow I managed to avoid buying them.

*****

For my Smith buddies: Ben Moon put up some photos he snapped of Alex Honnold while he was hanging around our neck of the woods. There are some great shots–can anyone name all the routes? I can’t quite figure out all of them.

Louder than 11 are continuing their ridiculous run of videos over the past few weeks with a film showcasing climbing in the Northeast with Paul Robinson and Tiffany Hensley. There’s also a trailer for the new Dave Graham movie making the rounds. Looks pretty rad! I don’t have much context for Climbing Is Our Medicine, but if you’re jonesing for some straight up climbing porn that’s light on context but has good shots of movement on rock, it should hit the spot.

That’s all for now. There are a whole bunch of really interesting blog posts that have gone up this week, but I haven’t really had time to dig into and process them yet.

Cedar’s Right

It’s been a little while, so let’s start this off strong. If you’re like me, and have a hard time remember which crazy strong boulderer is named Daniel Woods and which one is named Dave Graham, this instructional video should be helpful.

Want more? Check out this video of Woods on the problems that won him first place. Despite his stellar performance lately, Woods says in the latest issue of Rock and Ice that he’s getting psyched on rope climbing and is a bit bored of bouldering. Not one for half-measures, he’s set his sights on the recent 14d/15a Siegrist route La Reve (video) and Sharma’s 15b Jumbo Love.

I was recently linked, somewhat randomly, to an old video of Cedar Wright’s. Listening to him talk about his love of travel got me thinking a little bit. For whatever reason, I’ve never been all that interested in traveling for its own sake. Call me a homebody. But I love traveling for climbing. I like that climbing has become an avenue for me to explore new places — it’s both a reason to go someplace new and a comfortingly familiar activity while I’m there.

I wonder if sometimes we miss the point, though. If all your travels focus entirely on climbing, then how much adventure are you really having? Sure, you’re doing something risky and on the edge, but in a way it’s a familiar risk–one you’ve carefully honed an ability to cope with. Same shit, different place. I definitely believe it’s important to seek out change and new experiences, and one of the great benefits of travel is that you’re forced to do precisely that.

I remember when climbing was still a very new thing for me watching The Sharp End and wondering why in the fuck Cedar would spend a day jumping around on those towers in the Czech Republic with a bunch of drunk not-Russians. Having been at it a while, though, I can definitely understand his desire to immerse himself in the local culture. There’s a routine to travel, especially if there’s a local community of climbers for you to connect with, and getting too set in that routine can insulate you from some of the things that make your surroundings so unique and wonderful.

Having done very little traveling for climbing so far, I still feel like I’m experiencing something very novel every time I arrive at a new crag. I think it’s important to keep in mind why we do all this stuff though–for the adventure!

unVideo Friday

Happy March, everyone! I decided earlier this week to do a video friday post as a regular feature because 1) loads of you seem to really appreciate the videos I put up and 2) it’s fantastically easy. However, in light of the fact that I just posted a few videos yesterday, and the realization this morning that the illustrious ClimbingNarc does exactly this same thing, I’m going to post some other tidbits today instead.

First, though, I want to add a little commentary to the above videos the Narc posted: the ABS Nationals highlights (also available: the full footage). On twitter, Jon Glassberg asked for input on these videos, and I’m relaying that request here: what did everyone think? Personally, I thought the footage and angles were great. They obviously put a lot of thought into their preparation for the comp and got some excellent shots of the climbers. Sadly, this made it all the more frustrating when the highlight videos were chopped up like mad–I don’t know if there was a single problem that was shown in its entirety.

Maybe this is reflecting my bias as someone who doesn’t do a lot of bouldering, but when I watch climbing I like to see how the entire problem flows, not just individual moves. It’s hard for me to appreciate what’s happening when I see a hard move, then a jump cut, then another hard move from a totally different position. However, I know that these are highlight videos and there’s a need to balance clarity against brevity. What’s the best solution? Perhaps show a full cut of each problem from a climber using the beta that wound up being most commonplace, followed by the more interesting parts of the various climbers’ attempts? I’d be curious to hear thoughts, and you can direct them to @jonglassberg as well.

Brendan Leonard over at Semi Rad has an inspiring post up today on his battle with alcoholism and the positive impact climbing has had on that fight. Definitely worth reading!

Daniel Woods has put up a potential new V15 boulder in Rocky Mountain National Park, but don’t know how to make that interesting without posting a video, and there’s no video available anyway, and even if there were I couldn’t post it today. unVideo Friday sucks.

Chris Kalous’ excellent podcast has a new episode up. This is Part 1 of an interview with Hayden Kennedy, which contains an extremely in-depth history of Cerro Torre, the recent controversy, and thoughts on said goatrope. It’s really interesting so far, but I haven’t had enough time to really focus on it yet. Lovely thing about podcasts though–I’ll give it a listen on the way out to Smith this weekend and come back with some Deep Thoughts for later. Check it out! Kalous has been making a go of this podcast thing for a while, and he’s always funny and deserves more attention, in my opinion.

In other, non-video related news this week… uh, Steph Davis bought a new car? John Dunne ate a bagel? Damn, this is hard. Seems like all the cool stuff happening this week was conveyed via video. Fucking ClimbingNarc, stealing my ideas years before I have them. Also, even though I said I wasn’t going to post videos, way more than half this post is videos or discussion of videos.

Ah, the hell with it. At least it’s Friday.

Blue Square

The days are getting longer here in Portland, and I was actually blessed with some twilight on my ride home from work tonight. The mountain even came out! Super pretty view coming up Barbur in between the traffic zipping by me at a zillion miles an hour, honking at me for going so damn slow. I’ve suffered through an entire lousy winter here only to leave just as the weather is getting good! I will miss it here.

Anyway, here’s a whole bunch of assorted shit.

*****

Black Diamond has released a new interactive catalog, hearkening back to the days of Chouinard Equipment when catalogs featured more than just glossy ad copy. For Chouinard Equipment, that meant fascinating essays on climbing ethics and more; for the modern age we’ve lost the philosophy but gained some youtube videos and whole bunch of beautiful, ultra-high rez images. Seems fair.

It’s actually a really cool catalog, all things considered. Bit ironic that Black Diamond, a company well-known and somewhat despised in the climbing community for moving its manufacturing facilities to China, is trying to recall the days of climbing past when gear was made by guys at a forge using metal salvaged from junkyards.

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Since people really love watching videos of hard climbing (or at least that dork Matt does), here’s an oldie but a goody: the New River Gorge’s Proper Soul (5.14a) done on gear. Reminds me a lot of the Black Bean video from Ceuse that was floating around a while ago, although sadly it lacks the giant whipper easter egg at the end. Very cool, and very impressive.

On the off chance you haven’t seen it by now, Park Life is a mini movie about bouldering in the Valley. That seems a little bit like going to a strip club for the food, but I have to give them credit: this is one of very few bouldering movies I’ve seen that actually manages to hold my attention, and it’s free. The producers, Louder than 11, even describe their business model in some detail if you’re into that sort of thing.

Finally, since I know most of us aren’t getting out of the city lately, here’s a beautiful video showcasing all the stars we’re missing here in our glorious paradise of lighted streets, delicious food, and hot showers.

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Finally, I came across a history of the Spring-Loaded Camming Device the other day that is pretty interesting, as much for its diction as its content. A choice gem, referring to a weird combination cam/big bro apparently made from a socket wrench set:

This disquieting object has fallen into oblivion.

Amen to that. I’ll stick with my Chinese-made C4s, thanks.

Petzl Meteor III+

After the wall of text I dedicated to my new harness, I’ll try to keep this review a little more succinct. Also tagging along for the ride this past weekend was a brand spanking new Petzl Meteor III+ helmet I’d snagged from US Outdoor. While USO has it at $10 less than the MSRP, it’s still pricey for a helmet at $100. However, on my last few weekends out I’ve found myself packing my helmet in (“Yeah, it takes up a lot of space, but I should be wearing it. Bring it.”) and then never ever wearing it (“I can’t bear to cover up my beautiful Ken-doll hair.”). Since I was going to be lending my old helmet to my partner for the weekend anyway, I figured this was a good opportunity to upgrade.

Despite my vanity, I actually like the Meteor more for its features than its looks. It’s very easy to adjust the chinstrap on the fly, making it easy to add or remove hats throughout the day. This is a blessing; a few of the other helmets I’ve used make this simple process into an ordeal that takes entire minutes. Minutes! The system for tightening the band around your head isn’t the usual spin dial, but instead has two ratchets. This makes it slightly harder to adjust the band while you’re wearing the helmet, but not by much. If you’re OCD like me you’ll have to overcome a nagging fear that the ratchets might not be perfectly symmetric on the back of your head after you’ve blindly adjusted it, but the helmet will be comfortable regardless.

A helmet so light, it weighs less than your hair!

What really stands out about the Meteor though is its weight. I realize this will sound cliche, but I literally forgot I was wearing this thing for large portions of the day. I ate lunch wearing it and didn’t realize until I was halfway through my sandwich. Since my hope was to pick up a helmet that I would use more often, this is a huge plus.

The Meteor, like most climbing helmets I’ve seen, is a foam helmet covered with a crown of hard plastic. The plastic is thinner than in most models, and the helmet probably is less durable as a result–as with all foam helmets, once the foam gets a dent in it, it’s retired, so thicker plastic around the foam matters in that respect. The Camp helmet and Petzl Elios both feel a bit more substantial and bomber than the Meteor III+. Personally, I’m more concerned with the rigidity of the helmet plastic when I’m considering rockfall. In the event of an inverted lead fall, the foam is doing all the work protecting your noggin anyway, and the Meteor actually has foam protecting the side of your head unlike the other helmets I’ve worn. I will probably continue to use a harder, heavier helmet on multipitch or in areas where something falling onto my head is a worry, but for day-to-day cragging the Meteor is my new go-to.

The Meteor is a step up in looks from my Camp Armour, but I still think it’s kind of ugly compared to flaunting my winsome blond locks. However, at least now when I do need to use a helmet, I might still get Facebook-worthy pictures. And that’s the real reason I climb.

Misty Mountain Bolt Harness

I recently found myself in the market for a new harness, as the Black Diamond Gumbyface AL I’d been climbing in for the past few years wasn’t really cutting it anymore. It was a little too big for me, the leg loop buckles had an alarming habit of loosening themselves over the course of the day, and in my clumsiness I managed to constantly snag the surprisingly flimsy gear loops on things, each new tear bringing me one step closer to a realization of my ultimate nightmare: watching all my gear free falling several thousand feet into oblivion when my left front gear loop finally gives out on El Cap. Big wall climbers rack everything on a single harness gear loop, right? Nevermind that I’ve never climbed a big wall. It’s the principle of the thing.

My Momentum's gear loops, already coming apart.

Despite all that though, harnesses are basically indestructible, and although I might be annoyed by the old faithful BD Momentum, none of those minor quibbles really impact my safety or comfort when climbing. The imperative reason I needed to replace the harness is that I saw an opportunity to shave 6 oz of weight while wearing a piece of gear made in the US by a company with some cachet. For a punter like me, it’s crucial to both save weight and boost my street cred whenever possible, since my climbing definitely isn’t going to impress anybody.

Enter the Misty Mountain Bolt. Misty Mountain, like Cold Cold World, is a small shop with a reputation for making minimalist, bomber gear that works great and has no extra frills. From their workshop in North Carolina, the folks at Misty make a variety of harnesses and crashpads to order, and will happily make any customizations you need. Although they’re known mostly for their Cadillac harness, a trad-daddy harness with six gear loops and a reputation for being incredibly comfy, I decided to grab the Bolt harness since that suits my needs better. Weighing in at 12.8 oz with a more standard four gear loops and fixed leg loops, the Bolt looked ideal for my diet of mostly sport climbing: lightweight, no frills, and hopefully as comfortable as Misty’s reputation suggested. Continue reading

Online climbing forums #1

“Guys I’ve been climbing for 98 hours and I bought this Grigri on eBay for eight bucks but it turned out to be a rusty bear trap. What’s the best width rope to use when belaying with antique hunting gear? Also how did you break through to V4s?! Thanks a ton”

“Well I’ve been climbing for 12 days and I found that what really helped me send my first v9 was learning to focus on using my feet on the holds that are on the wall but also using my hands on the other holds that are higher than the holds my feet are on. Also gyms always provide Grigris so I don’t understand why you would have to buy one?”

“Well that guy didn’t really answer your question so I’ll do my best but first I wanted to point out that in the picture of the bear trap you provided I can see a locking carabiner in the background that appears to be unlocked. I just wanted to give you a brief lecture on how unsafe/stupid you are and remind you that for safety’s sake locking carabiners should be attached to your rope permanently using loctite.

As far as which rope to use it doesn’t matter because gyms will always supply your rope. Happy climbing!”