observations on gear, adventure, and the world


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.


Sending Hard

Always psyched to see Adam Ondra climbing hard:

This winter is the winter of working hard at the climbing gym. I may never get another winter where I can climb this much.

I’m trying to keep it simple. I focus on getting a good warm up – flashing easy problems and doing progressively harder repeats until I really start to feel strong and fluid. Then I’ll work on sending problems that I can get in 1-3 tries, as well as repeating really hard problems, and trying starts of all the problems that may be at all realistic. When I find a problem that is just a bit over my head but seems realistic, I’ll give it three good goes often starting further into the problem if I’ve already done the lower moves. After three good tries I move on to another problem, but the next session I’ll come back and pickup where I left off.

The goal is to balance a well rounded workout with getting a lot of climbing done and really focusing on developing good patterns of movement. Also I make sure that I spend some time on the steep problems building strength and power.

I’m sure I could find an insanely hard problem and work on it all alone for a long time and break into some really hard grades, but I’m really motivated to be strong climbing on routes this spring and summer so I’m really interested in being able to move confidently on tough terrain.


Belay Jackets and Warming Up

Even though those topics sound related they aren’t really.

Dane from Cold Thistle has put together a rather exhaustive post on the belay jacket for alpine climbing.

He argues that synthetics are the way to go, and I’ll agree for the use case he’s talking about. But for a winter trip to the desert I’m going to say that down is better. Your pack is already pretty full right? And maybe you’re a bit warm on the walk to the wall, but then you want all the warmth you can get while you’re chilling between burns.

Since we’re already talking about climbing and staying warm, it makes sense to talk about climbing and getting warm.

The power company climbing blog, one of the better training resources out there has a great piece on warming up to send your project (route). This makes me curious about warm ups for bouldering. Sometimes, specifically when I’ve worked a problem to the point that I just need to come back fresh and send it, I’ve been surprised that after about three problems of increasing difficulty I’m ready to send. This may only work for me because I ride my bike about 20 minutes to get to the gym and do lots of hand and arm warm-up exercises between burns.

Break on through.

I was working out at the Front Climbing Club last night, and I realized it’s time. Time to break through.

I’ve been working hard all spring, summer, and fall to get better at redpointing, trad, and all of the skills and mentalities that are essential to climbing outside. Now it’s cold. Too cold to spend a ton of time climbing outside (I do want to get out on some LCC granite before the next storm though). It’s time to bring the focus back to the gym and become a solid 5.12 climber.



And here’s something inspiring – The video is called Punks in the Gym, but as impressive as that route is I’m really inspired by China Doll. The speaks to my obsession with cracks.

I agree about the well rounded climber! I think it’s more fun if you can climb more stuff.

I’m applying for PhD programs and taking the GMAT over the next five weeks, but I’m going to put together a training program so that by the spring I’m ready for a trip to the Creek, Big in Japan, Goodrow’s Wall, and everything else I can find! I’d like to raise my on site level to hard 10 from easy 10. WE’ll see.

First Female V14

The gender gap is shrinking!

“I climb when I feel inspired and that happens to be a lot of the time.”

Climb Like Chris Sharma: Rest Day from Rock & Ice on Vimeo.

How to Climb HARD: Training for the rest of us – Part 3: GO TIME!

Climbing is Key:

Climbing is a skill sport so while pushing through the moderate grades it’s essential to focus on using climbing to train. When you’re pushing in to the 13/15/15 range every little bit counts and so strength training becomes important, but for us it’s important to just get on the rock and move.

GO TIME – is for crushing so get your head ready to really push during these workouts.

From the list of “What You Need” the following can all come from simply getting on the rock:

  1. Strength
    • Power
    • Power Endurance
    • Endurance
    • Finger Strength
      • Technique
      • Milage
      • MOTIVATION – it’s why you’re up there!

Now, lets think about GO TIME! this is the time you have out on the rock or at the gym – it’s supposed to be fun, even social. So all this should do is be in your mind as you chat and play, let these steps give some structure to the party. Crags with high concentrations of varied problems/routes are VERY, VERY, good for training. It makes finding partners simple, and allows everyone to meet their own needs while still having a lot of fun together. Having someone warm up on your project is AWESOME you can learn a lot from watching someone who has a route wired! Gyms are great for training, though not always for motivation.

So here’s a suggested GO TIME! work out, with a little supplement that I use to fill in the gaps. I’m envisioning a work out at a boulder gym so the routes average 8-12 moves up to the finish hold, a good shake there, then a down climb. If you’re doing routes you can adjust the numbers down by a factor of 2 or 1.75 – or what ever feels right.

Here’s the short version:
Get Warm:
10 min aerobic warm up (walk, bike, jog)
Some arm/hand exercises mixed with some easy climbing.
Get Going:
5 hardish onsights, 5 harder repeats (past projects) Focus on perfection, mix in checking out a move or two of potential mini-projects
Get after it:
2-4 mini projects (3 tries each)
Cool Down:
I hit the finger hand and fist cracks, and if I’m feeling like I’ve got a go or two of unfinished business, I’ll head back to the mini project for a bit.
Hangboard/pullup routine: If I need to complete the burn – most often if my workouts get cut short, or if the day at the crag wasn’t quite hard enough. Details below.

Get Warm:
Pedal 10 minutes to the gym.
Arm swingy, hand massagey, funny business mixed in with 2-5 easy problems, maybe a traverse. Focus on getting your hands and arms supple and ready to work. The Moon climbing blog has some wonderful advice on how to do this right, but find out what works for you and look for ways to perfect it. I’ve got asthema and so warming up my lungs is especially essential to for me.

Get Going:
Repeats of past projects 5-10 work on really climbing these well. YOur goal is for as many previously hard moves as possible to feel easy. Memorize and perfect sequences, shake out at the top then do a nice controlled down climb. It’s ok to get a bit gassed here, but don’t go too deep. Don’t rest too much between each problem, but as the pump increases and fatigue starts to accumulate sit down and read or chat.

This is a good time in the work out to make some modifications to focus on on your weaknesses. While I was working on Black Monday – a rather steep 11a – I spent a lot of time doing very steep problems with moderate difficulty. I needed to develop the core strength, and technique specific to steep terrain. I’d do some laps trying to learn to rest and recover on steep terrain, and add traverses to easier problems.

This section really focuses on mileage and technique, but you can think of it as the second half of your warm up. Once you feel like you’re catching the sending wave and you are really ready to go it’s time to Get After It!

Get After It:
Here it’s time for an idea I’m calling mini-projecting. The Power Company blog does a great job of laying it out. Find cool routes that push you, on varied terrain. Give them 3 tries. Your goal is to send them in three tries, so focus on pushing the envelope in a measured way. Note ones you thought were “realistic-just-not-today” routes, and note: first, what can you improve to help you send, and, if you think you just need to figure out the sequence then do some visualization and come back next session. If it feels impossible, move on. If everything goes in 1-2 tries you need to look at harder stuff, if nothing goes – look easier. YOu get the picture. You’ll be getting pumped and tired in this section so rest up between bouts. Depending on time and energy do 2-4 attempts/sends. Don’t get sucked into 50-try projects until later… well sometimes it’s fun so do it if you feel it, but make that the exception rather than the rule.

Also look for problems that prepare you for your goals. Again Black Monday – I was coming off at the end of the roof so I spent time at my limit on steep problems in the gym. Now that I’m working on Big in Japan I’m focusing on more vertical problems with small holds and awkward moves.

Cool Down: I like to throw on my crack shoes and do some work in the “Crack Shack” and then if I feel it come back for one last go on something. Then pedal home.

The Supplement:

If you don’t feel like you’ve gotten in everything you need to at the gym, or crag. I’ve got a little set I like to do until I feel like it’s time to stop.

Hangboard 5X15sec hangs with 30 sec rest.
5 Pullups, 5 hanging leg raises
20 pushups with one leg raised (to get some back/core action) switch legs at 10

repeat ad nauseam. For a real workout link sets without rest between exercises, or take some rest to make it more pleasant. We’ll talk more about push-ups and core work in later sections, but here I’d like to take a moment to pay respect to the hang board.

First, be wise. You can get hurt. Use an open grip, engage your shoulders and elbows, but don’t to full pull-ups. Be a wimp… but get stronger. Quit early and come back stronger. I’m a huge advocate for the hangboard, used sparingly and gently. You’ll feel dumb if you hurt yourself on it, so don’t push this part of the work out EVER.

Two things are going on here though. The first is workload. When you’re climbing at mostly moderates,  you never create the level of work for your forearms that the handboard creates. This should underscore the caution needed, but also, if you can get one 15 second hang in per week on a bad pinch or open hand a slopey crimp, your arms will be more than ready for a lot of the harder holds you’ll be coming across. Also, there is a little bit of pain involved in pulling hard on the small-but-positive holds. If you’ve done even a little hang board work you’ll be less freaked out when you get on some just-steeper-than-vertical crimp-fest. When I got on Big in Japan and dug into the crimps I felt some real confidence from knowing that I can hang repeatedly for 15 seconds from this sort of hold… and I wasn’t surprised by the pain.

Manage your efforts:
Especially when you’re adding in the supplemental workouts you need to learn the difference between good pain and bad pain. Tendon pain is never good pain. Stop before you’re so wrecked! You should be fully recovered and psyched to come back in a day or two. We’ll talk about this more in the timing section, but quit while you’re ahead. We want our bodies to adapt to climbing regularly, so again QUIT WHILE YOU’RE AHEAD.

Again – go hard, go deep, feel the burn, and quit while you’re ahead.