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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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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A Visit From The Access Fund’s Ty Tyler

By | Conscious Climber Project, Ethics, Trip Journal | 5 Comments

Ty Tyler. Now there’s a name. Technically, it’s a nickname, but whatever you want to call him, Ty is the National Stewardship Director for the Access Fund. It’s his job to ensure long-term sustainability and stewardship of our climbing areas throughout the US. He travels more than we do. Ty worked a trip to La Madera into his schedule, and schooled us a bit about how to think about developing. Potential The first big question to answer is, “what’s the potential for this place to really blow up? How many people are going to be coming here?” We identified a few key attributes to look at that can help answer this question. Access- Is it close to the road? Is the road a good one? How long is the hike in? Number of climbs, particularly moderates- Is there enough to keep people interested? Will the concentration of climbs attract a broad spectrum of climbers? Is it only high end climbing? Camping- This one’s pretty self-evident. Climbers are often campers. Is it easy? Quality of climbing- Also self-evident. Distance- Is it close to large populations of climbers? Of course, there is no set formula to apply, but looking at examples of existing areas is always a nice model. Chaos Canyon, for example, is a million-mile hike into the stratosphere. But, it has good rock and tons of climbing, and it’s closer to the Front Range population centers than any other summer climbing destination, not to mention the scenery. Joe’s Valley isn’t…

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Introducing the Conscious Climber Project

By | Bouldering, Climbing, Conscious Climber Project, Stuff We're Psyched On | 4 Comments

“Every calculation based on previous experience fails in New Mexico” – Lew A. Wallace, Governer of the New Mexican Territory (1878-1881) Exotic Locales, No Passport Required The days continue to march inexorably forward, like the thousands of Barbie dolls marching into an oven that are on display annually at Burning Man. Time might fly when you’re having fun, but it flies even faster if you simply let it slide. “Not much” or “nothing” is never the correct answer to “what’s going on?” Pausing often to reflect on things is the simplest way I’ve found to stretch out my time. Like a rubber band with an intricate drawing, I can only enjoy the rich tapestry of events, and feelings, and relationships that make up my life if I pull the ends apart and dive into the details. I’m suggesting that being aware and conscious is the secret to prolonging life. New Mexico is nicknamed The Land of Enchantment, and climbers may be familiar with a particular tower that fell under the spell. But aside from the remote and mysterious Enchanted Tower, and the fact that one must pass through during the annual Hueco migration, New Mexico is almost entirely off the itinerant climbers’ collective radar. Put simply, New Mexico is not on “the circuit.” That’s about to change. Roy and Not Roy Folks, if you’ve been down with The Proj for a long time, you may recall a post from Spring 2014 excitedly showing pictures from Roy and La Madera. In fact, if you…

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Real Shit in New Mexico

By | Bouldering, Climbing, Conscious Climber Project, Trip Journal | 5 Comments

A brief note, here, to warn you that this post gets mildly graphic. There are no gruesome photos, but I do talk about some serious stuff. Read on, but be prepared. I nearly died the other day. We’re in New Mexico, and it’s a few days into our fall season here. A cornucopia of nascent bouldering attracted us here, while anticipation caused our plans to grow in scope until they eventually snowballed into what we’re calling The Conscious Climber Project. Much, much more on that in the next post. It was at one of these nascent boulderfields, called Posos, that we intended to spend the weekend getting a tour from William. William is an energetic and wide-ranging explorer of boulders, having more or less discovered most of the modern, high-end boulders in northern New Mexico. A seemingly interminable drive up a dirt road, first smooth and later rocky, led us onto an undulating mesa decorated by a stunning patchwork of pine forest, grassy meadow, and rocky outcrops. Posos hovers around 9000 feet above sea level, making it a reasonable bouldering destination for summer. Our trailer made it to the primitive campground, but slowly. And barely. In the morning, we were treated to a pair of quartzite formations straddling our campground. Both contained must-do boulder problems on some of the coolest rock I could ever imagine. William, along with Kendo, gave a quick introduction to the area. After lunch, the three of us jumped into William’s truck to go hunt for…

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