A Jumbo Passion Project

By | Bolt Clipping, Climbing, Film, Food for thought | 3 Comments

The climber, facing away from the wall, gingerly peers over his toes to watch his sky-blue T-shirt flutter to the ground. He takes a deep breath, then turns in place on the 4-inch ledge on which he’s been standing. Now facing the wall, he unclips from the anchor and begins a precarious rightward traverse. 15 delicate feet later, he clips the rope into a quickdraw more in line with the rest of the bolts. He draws another deep breath, and pulls into the start of a 110-foot long roof. So begins my absolute favorite segment of climbing footage. It doesn’t evoke the adrenalized, finger-tingling, animalistic urge to grab something overhead and freakin’ pull down like most videos of hard climbers climbing hard. It’s more like a good surf film, in which a fragile human is calm and poised amidst the violence and chaos of forces we can’t comprehend. It’s simultaneously serene and exciting, and I can’t look away. He’s nearly horizontal, but his face is completely relaxed. He doesn’t seem to be climbing so much as gliding between ripples in gravity’s field, now relaxing and taking a breath as the next hold makes its way to his hand. He is a virtuoso and the rock is his sheet music. We don’t listen to the notes, we feel the movement swell. The camera follows the climber, uninterrupted, for about 30 minutes. I’ve watched it countless times, and on every occasion I feel transported by the rapture of a perfected performance. It features a…

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Do We Even Climb, Bro?

By | Adventure, Climbing, Trip Journal | No Comments

I could’ve sworn this was going to be a climbing blog… Way back when, it was all we wanted to do. Now it feels like, when we write, it’s about bullshit, injuries, or not climbing in world-class destinations. We still live on the road (mostly) and we still climb, it’s just different now. I’d say we’re transitioning into a more mature relationship with climbing. For one, the injury thing is a big thing. I don’t mind a fun run up an easy route, but I have trouble staying motivated if I’m not feeling continuous improvements in strength or technique. To paraphrase Wolfgang Gullich, the trouble with getting strong is that it’s easy. Getting strong and staying healthy is, as they say in Spain, the dura dura. What this means is, our shoulders are niggling, so I’m taking it back to the basics and doing a round of the Workout From Hell. Vikki’s doing PT, and she wrote a great series of blog posts for Touchstone’s blog detailing her shoulder-journey, soon to be published. We feel much better, although it sucks to think that we’ll always be “injured.” For two, the month of March was total madness. Las Vegas > Bay > Eugene > Portland > Bay > Santa Barbara > Las Vegas > Salt Lake City > Ketchum, ID > Bay > Santa Barbara. All by car (thanks, mom, for letting us borrow the Prius, saving tons of monies! Incidentally, I can’t wait to drive the F-250 right up to the Keystone…

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Joe’s Valley Bouldering Festival 2016 Recap

By | Bouldering, Climbing, Stuff We're Psyched On, Trip Journal | No Comments

WOW, we got so lucky with weather! Throughout the Fest, I was like a broken record. Memories of last year’s frigid fest were all too vivid. As a festival organizer, there are two hypotheticals that you are terrified of: no one shows up, or the weather is too bad to do any of the events you spent the last year coordinating. And, even though Fall is prime Joe’s Valley season, the desert is still unpredictable. Just the week before the Fest this year, there was a huge rain storm that caused moderate flooding. I imagined what kind of festival that would be… Well, I guess that’s not too far from last year’s fest… HA! Yea, the decision to move the fest to October was an easy one. The weather this year did not disappoint. It was sunny and dry during the day, and crisp and clear at night. Perfect outdoor festival temps. The first festival was so late in the year because the idea didn’t emerge until a few weeks beforehand. We didn’t want to stall the support and momentum we had locally, so we went forward with the festival despite having very little time to plan. It was a test run, and this year looked much more traditionally festival-like, but with a Emery County twist. 😉 Local Flavor So what’s the point of the Joe’s Valley Bouldering Festival? We want to introduce climbers to the towns that surround their beloved Joe’s Valley, and the people that make up Emery County. At the moment, the vast majority of climbers don’t go beyond the Food Ranch…

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Reel Rock 11 Review, Plus a Conversation with Sender’s Nick Rosen

By | Climbing | No Comments

It’s been a looong time since Top Rope Tough Guys premiered at Reel Rock, back in 2010. A lot of folks said climbing cinema would never get better than that. I certainly didn’t think it could, but I try to keep an open mind, and it was in that spirit that I joined my brother and some friends for the Seattle stop of the Reel Rock 11 Film Tour. Okay, to fully disclose, Reel Rock gave me a few free passes and asked if I might write a review. As a bonus, I got a hold of Nick Rosen on the phone and asked some questions about the films I’d just seen. Nick, for those unaware, is a partner and filmmaker at Sender Films. We have worked and played together in the past, and we make it a point to stop by Sender’s office whenever we’re in Boulder to catch up, and to raid their stash of Clif bars. I chatted with him on the phone about how this year’s films came to be. I took notes but didn’t record the conversation, so the following is mostly paraphrased. ===================== RVP: How did you guys select the 5 films in this year’s program? Nick Rosen: Every year, we sit down and powwow early on about storylines and film ideas. And the REEL ROCK lineup evolves throughout the year. Above all, we want to create a program that’s going to entertain and get people psyched. That’s a really high bar! It can’t…

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10 Lessons from 10 Days on the Road with the Rock Project

By | Climbing, Conscious Climber Project | No Comments

We’re working on some big things this year and I would like to get on the phone with you guys and see if we could partner up for some content projects. We got this email in January from Tyler Willcutt. Tyler and I hung out a year ago at Laurel Falls in TN. At the time, he was a humble route developer and 5.14 climber, passionate about rebolting but who had never been outside of the US, or even to California. Suddenly, he was working for Black Diamond, tasked with planning the ROCK Project 2016 tour. He wanted us along to document two weekends of clinics and stewardship, with a week of roadtripping in between. He didn’t have to work hard to sell us on the trip…not only would we be embedded with a bunch of badass athletes, but we’d be working on spreading the good word about the ROCK Project movement, an initiative with goals we share. Very cool. And so it was that the members of The RV Project met up with Daila Ojeda, Joe Kinder, Chris Schulte, Kate Rutherford, Hazel Findlay, Sam Elias, Colette McInerney, and the aforementioned Tyler in Las Vegas, drove minivans to Bishop, and then on to Sender One and Malibu Creek State Park in the LA area. The intro to this post ought to serve as a full disclosure about our relationship with Black Diamond Equipment, Inc. (you may know them as The Company Formerly Known As Chouinard, or as NASDAQ: BDE). They paid us…

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Getting to the Climb: How to Keep it Sustainable

By | Climbing, Conscious Climber Project, Ethics, Trip Journal | No Comments

There’s so much rock in our neighborhood in Northern New Mexico that it can be hard for us to focus our attention on the areas that have already been developed. Often Spenser and I choose to run around exploring a new area, rather than going back and “working on” an established zone. Even though we might want to just run around and hunt for new boulders, we do realize that more people will come. Maybe 5, maybe 10…maybe more. And those people are going to want to get around this beautiful boulder field. As we found out from Ty Tyler’s visit,  it’s illegal to construct unapproved trails on National Forest Service land, but if we can prevent climbers from getting lost and bushwacking, we can limit the impacts and erosion that trigger access threats. So, what do we do? When we visit an area, we establish use patterns, which will eventually become the “social trails” that future visitors will end up following naturally. In Nosos (AKA La Madera), we decided to use cairns (stacks of rocks) to flag these routes or paths and keep other climbers on the “right” ones. We also blocked entries to old paths that we want to prevent people from using, and made preferred routes easier to navigate. These paths are indicated in the newly released New Mexico Bouldering Guidebook, but marking the paths clearly is especially important for climbers without a book. We tried to make sure that the “correct” path was also the path of least resistance, so that people would instinctively tend to…

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Ethan Pringle and La Reina Mora – The Full Story

By | Bolt Clipping, Film, Trip Journal | 3 Comments

“I’m so over it.” I told James Lucas at our small dinning room table in our dimly lit communal area on the night before my last day in Cataluña.  “Like, no part of me wants to go try it. I just want to go climbing and have fun tomorrow for a change.” I could feel my pulse in my hands, almost imperceptibly. My fingers throbbed with blood trying to repair the tissue around the gobies I’d repeatedly torn open in the pockets at the red-point crux of my project. The blood circulated harder still from the inflammatory Spanish foods I’d consumed that day (the peppered sausage, the salty bocadillo) and from the inflammatory thoughts and emotions that had plagued my being. I was midway through the nightly process of applying Neosporin and Band-Aids to the wounds. Wax paper scraps from the bandages, and an assortment of other random items lay scattered across the table. For the last month I’d been doing battle with La Reina Mora (meaning “The Moor Queen”), a stunning 40-meter long 5.14+ test-piece in the famous El Pati sector of the Spanish mega-crag Siurana. It had become glaringly obvious to me and everyone watching that what was holding me back was no sort of physical limitation – it was in my head. Ten days earlier I had a breakthrough attempt on which I stuck the red-point crux from the ground, but pumped off above the last bolt of the route, one moderately difficult move away from success. My…

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My Own Little Odyssey

By | Bouldering, Climbing, Conscious Climber Project | No Comments

Either skip to the bottom or click here for the video. Cover image courtesy of Owen Summerscales. On top of Nosos sits the Manhattan Project boulder, home to a few moderate classics, one project likely in the V13-14 range, and a one-move wonder. It was this single move that Eric Bissell and I spent most of an afternoon trying, back in spring 2014. It was a more innocent time: ISIS had yet to dominate our nightmares, you hadn’t heard of Donald-Trump-the-politician, and this one move had yet to be completed. Natural Perfection I was ecstatic to find something like this. Even Eric Bissell, a Yosemite levitator who doesn’t much care for dynos, lost sleep on account of this boulder problem. Yosemite maestro Keenan Takahashi trained specifically for this move, and in Spring of 2015 drove his Honda Odyssey all the way from California to Nosos in a straight shot, and after a handful of attempts was able to set it free. While everyone had been attempting to grab the slot right-handed, Keenan launched with his left and caught the jug. He waltzed up the V0 glory moves to the summit of the boulder and named the problem The Odyssey, after the minivan. This move embodies everything I love about the Ortega quartzite. Two parallel seams run about 4 feet apart, slanting upward to the right ever so slightly. The bottom seam is hardly even a fissure, except for one 8” wide portion where the bottom lip protrudes, creating a 1/2…

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From Visitors to Guests

By | Climbing, Conscious Climber Project, Trip Journal | 2 Comments

“Throughout the fall season, we will be releasing a series of videos, photos, and blog posts that will present some of the common issues that bouldering areas have, and how developers and early visitors can ensure the sustainability of these playgrounds.” – The RV Project And so, as 2015 draws to a close, we look back on our previous promise and note, with chagrin, that we have not kept it. The quote attributed to Lew A Wallace proved prescient, for indeed, our season in New Mexico did not go according to any plan whatsoever. It started with a bang, quite literally. We then spent a while trying to figure out a place to put our trailer where it would be safe from bandits but accessible in inclement weather. Previous experience had told us it would not be a difficult task. Now we know what to expect from that type of planning. We expected to hit the ground running. Instead, we arrived largely ignorant of any of the peculiarities that give this place its enchanted, and sometimes haunted, feel. Instead of a daily routine of developing boulder problems, filming, and editing/writing/publishing, we realized we needed to step back and understand what this place is really about. Ty Tyler from the Access Fund came by for a visit, and we were able to learn a great deal about how to think about developing a new area. Yet this locale is much more than just an un-trampled hillside in danger of trampling. It’s a…

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