observations on gear, adventure, and the world

Trad/crack climbing

Where my head is pointing.

Over the last four years I’ve had lots of hobbies. Lots of dabbling. I started a company, learned how to build websites, started recording a podcast, a couple blogs, and countless other projects. Then a year and a half ago I started climbing again, then I quit my job, and got into a PhD program and suddenly all I was doing was studying and climbing (working as well still). I realized that just wasn’t bored anymore. Also, I realized that I’d been bored for several years, and that was where all the projects were coming from.

Now math and climbing have my full attention. I’ll be posting at tenlitre.com about the math side of things, but I’ve got a bit to say over here about climbing and other adventures.

THIS has my attention, and trad is the only way it could ever be.

THIS has my attention, and trad is the only way it could ever be.

Now on to the pun in the title. Headpointing. A version of redpointing where the protection for the route (useually a rather short route) is minimal, so the leader reherses the route on toprope until she is ready to send. The saying that “good climbing is the best protection” expands to “good climbing is most of your protection.”

I think this is a great way to find safe, adventurous climbing.

I live in the Wasatch where there is a strong anti/limited bolting ethic. Maybe it’s like this everywhere but folks are always on Mountain project complaining that there are bolts too close to trad lines and that it ruins the experiance.

Now, I’m totally in support of differing ethics for differing places (I grew up in Minnesota climbing at Taylor’s Falls (no bolts), Devil’s Lake (no bolts), Palisade Head (no bolts, no chalk), the WAZ (no climbing), and Barn Bluff (bolts), and I don’t think you should put a bolt ladder next to a crack that takes gear, however in a place like Big Cottonwood Canyon where discontinuous systems of cracks mean you could place offset brass every six inches and rip them all with a fall I’m inspired not to be a purist.

I’m thinking of this because of a couple of routes “Alien”  a 5.10a first climbed by Drew Bedford, Pokey Amory, Jamie Cameron, and Conrad Anker, and “Dirty Rotten Horror” 5.10d. Both are difficult but possible to protect, and both have bolts nearby, and MP comments on both have plenty of bolt bravado.

In both cases the bolts don’t get in my way at all. On Dirty Rotton Horror, which I’ve dialed on top rope, I never even see the nearby bolts and am psyched to try the arete they protect as it’s one of the few other lines at the cliff that looks fun to climb. On Alien I clip the bolts on  lead, and if I’m of the mind I’ll start headpointing to lead up to a trad lead on the route. In the first case the bolts have no impact on the route, in the second case the bolts improve the experiance making it much safer and simpler to work the route.

Here’s the post that got me thinking about this:

New E8 at Kilnsey for Nik Jennings

Exodus (E8 6c) – the failures from nik jennings on Vimeo.

So get out there and clip what you wanna clip and bolt what’s fit to bolt.


RSS mess

I’ve not been able to keep up with the really amazing stuff that’s been coming through my RSS feeds lately. So I’m gonna dump it here and now.

First, David Lama is going to blow up alpine climbing. Big time. Here’s a taste of things to come. freeing the compressor route was just the beginning.

So they used ice tools on their ascent and Will Gadd knows a thing or two about holding and swinging them tools. Here’s a post with a very clear title: How to hold an ice tool.

Kelly Cordes, rumored to climb ice, approves of David Lama (he said so on Facebook so it must be true) and Maurice Sendak.

The best thing I’ve ever read on climbing injuries, because it quotes all the other best things I’ve read on climbing injuries. Get well soon Dave MacLeod!

Boots don’t fit? Lace’em gooder!

Five things. A Cold Thistle guest post.

Soloing is cool if you’re good at it.



Literally. I am sick.

Though, let’s be honest, this is pretty sick too:

A couple new pieces of gear that I’m stoked about for the winter season just showed up (I bought them so the DOJ can relax).

The Ama Dablam from Marmot, and the ROM jacket also from Marmot.

Part of the reason I’m psyched about both of these pieces is that the Marmot site has little videos from guides who have been using these jackets, and their descriptions of what the jacket does fit what I want them to do perfectly. It’s a lot more interesting to hear/see someone use gear in the field and how it works in real application than to read about what the jacket was designed to do.

Here’s the clip for the Ama Dablam:

I haven’t put the Ama Dablam to any real tests yet, other than the around-town-in-a-snow storm test. It seems to do quite well but the DWR is definitely just R not at all waterproof so the coat really needs a hardshell if there’s going to be any precipitation anywhere near freezing.

I’ve got the Patagonia Nano Puff as a supplement, from looking at the Baffin Jacket he has on it looks like the Arc’tyrx Atom LT would be a good option for layering as well.

Now, when I’m moving I make a lot of heat… and sweat so I’ve been hunting for a very light windproof piece to use for backcountry skiing and other higher output activities.

I’ve been pretty impressed with the ROM so far. I’ve gone on a run in a snowstorm and several very chilly bike commutes and it’s performed quite well. I’m looking forward to pairing this with the Patagonia Alipine guide pants for this winter’s Backcountry adventures.

What to do and what to bring.

Between getting in some great climbing, and working on getting into grad school I’ve had a lot of gear show up at ampersand HQ that I haven’t been able to write about.

But I’ve come across some great stuff in my RSS miasma that I thought I’d share.

An entertaining and very useful post from Blake Herrington: General Dirtbaggery: Saving time, wasting time and explaining climbing on the Internet. Great common sense answers to common questions, for example:

Q: Is climbing safe?

A: No. But you can make it safer by worrying about the things that actually cause the most accidents, such as falling while unroped on exposed, “easy” terrain, rappel-rigging mistakes and communication errors.
Great! Simple and focused on what matters.
Since it’s nuking in the Wasatch right now here are some Backcountry Ski Pack lists:
From Ski Theory, What’s in My Pack and Why. Alex packs a lot of stuff, but he knows why he’s carrying it. Give it a read,
From Get Stronger Go Longer, Grand Teton Speed Project: Weight Matters. Brian brings less, but has reasons for that too. Also some ideas to consider.
Then, maybe somewhere in between (I know these aren’t apples to apples) from Camp’s Go Light Go Fast Blog: ELK MOUNTAIN GRAND TRAVERSE – TEAM CRESTED BUTTE GEAR RECOMMENDATIONS.
I like Brian’s thinking to help me not bring anything superfluous, I’ll be glad I didn’t skimp too much because of reading Alex’s post when things go sideways, and I really like to TCB post because it’s for a longer adventure but with Brian’s mentality.

Throwing the Goat

Data Mike and I went after an objective that we’ve been prepping for pretty hard.

Sunday morning we rolled out at 6:30 AM and headed for albion basin, hiked through the basin to Devil’s Castle and hit the Horns of Satan.

Harness: BD
Shoes: 5.10 Copperheads
Approach Shoes: Merrill Trail Glove
Socks: Lin Manufacturing
A loose pair of Wrangler Kakis
Nano puff
New Bamel Back bladder in the original pack
Marmot Wicking shirt
Gearloop topo
14 BD Hotwire draws
1 set of nuts
half rack of draws
Gear Loop topo.
Giro ski helmet (removed the liner and wore a baseball cap under it, turned out to be perfect).
A few gels and some GU chomps

I’d take a little more sole on my shoe for next time, I’m waiting for my lone peak altras to come in the mail!

The climb is amazing, but it’s loose. REALLY Loose. There are pitches where you feel like you’re climbing a Jenga game and if you weight the wrong hold you’ll knock down the whole of Devil’s castle. But the good pitches and the whole experience are so good it’s easy to forget that.

climbing stoke

So a week or two ago a took a quick work trip to Moab (yeah no one believes me that it was a work trip). Between meetings RR and I got in some time on the Big Bend Boulders. This was exciting because I was there back in October when I was just getting back into climbing and now I got to get back on the same problems again. Felt strong and had a real blast on some beautiful face climbing on just-tall-enough boulders.

Only photo from the trip. Tent by the Colorado.

Then last week The Girl was in Provo for her sister’s birthday so I met up with “Little A” my sister and the latest zoob she’s wrapped around her finger. Turns out this kid’s a really strong climber and a RIOT. I did a few burns on three 12a routes and while bouldering hasn’t done too many favors to my endurance, I was happy to find that the moves weren’t out of the question. I’m confidant that with a couple sessions to figure out the beta I could send all three. Very exciting.

So I was inspired to start working on some V4/5’s at the Front, along with two minor steps up in my training for the rock.

I’ve been good about getting in about two sessions at the gym per week but I want to step it up a bit.

BD athlete James Kassay bouldering in Hueco Tanks, Texas from Black Diamond Equipment on Vimeo.

3 1 hour boulder sessions, with time on the system board, in the cave and on at least one V4/5 project per week and cave time cave time.

2 Hangboard sessions (same days as above)

3 Morning Yoga sessions

3 Core/Pushup/Pullup Sessions

I’ll have to work that out a little better so it makes more sense.

I’m also going to try to get in one trail run per week as a break from the bike.

Further on the topic of training for climbing Dave MacLeod has a great post on his latest project and how he’s gone about training for it.

Q: Who’s Dave MacLeod?

A: Press Play –>

5.10 Copperhead

Just picked up a pair of these, so I’m still in the break-in phase but here’s what I can tell you so far.

They are essentially a moccosym with thicker rubber and leather, and laces on the inside of the shoe (they’re a little hard to see because they are recessed). This lets you hammer your feet a little longer in the cracks, but sacrifices some sensitivity on thin face holds. You shouldn’t have much of a problem if you’re climbing up to 5.11.

They are unlined leather shoes and the goal is to have a solid all day/crack shoe so I went down a half size from my cycling shoes (44.5). Out of the box they aren’t ready for cracks, but after a session bouldering at the gym they are already starting to relax.