Why You Should Learn to Lead Climb

As with any sport, climbing follows a natural progression.

First you learn to boulder. Then you try out top-roping. Eventually you muster up the courage to try lead climbing. And once the fear from lead climbing subsides, you test your luck on gear. Generally. I know people who have done this in reverse, or skipped an element all together. It’s all in the eyes of the climber.

For about four years I was content letting someone (usually my boyfriend or another really strong male friend), lead the climb and set up the top rope for me. Then I’d willfully flail around on the thing for however long, maybe make it to the chains, maybe not, be lowered, maybe get grouchy for being such a terrible climber, rinse, repeat.

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Let me say, there is nothing wrong with top-roping. In fact, top-roping is an essential and useful aspect in learning how to climb. The falls are more protected, you can hone in on your technique, and it requires little know-how. Top-roping plays a vital role in climbing.

This is sticky, so bear with me.

Before I learned how to lead climb I was always dependent on someone else. I needed someone with a higher skillset than my own to hang draws and set-up the rope for me. Climbing wasn’t my own. I couldn’t call up just anyone to go climbing, I had to call someone who would be willing to take me out and do the work for me.

The more I went out and lacked the skills to set-up my own climb, the less empowered I felt.

In fact, I started to feel everything but empowered.

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I understand teamwork and collaboration. I value the power of we. And climbing is far from a solo endeavor. You need a partner. You need a catch. You need a spotter.

Like every good partnership, however, it can easily become exhausting when one partner is doing all the work. I noticed this in my relationship with my husband (who was my boyfriend at the time of these revelations). I wanted to be this strong, independent woman, but I was unable to own my climbing. And it was so easy to use him as a sort of crutch. I started thinking, if he hadn’t come into my life, would I be climbing at all?

I needed climbing to be a thing for me. I needed it to be something I did because I could. At that point, I couldn’t just go out and climb because I lacked the skills.

So, I learned to lead climb.

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And yeah, lead climbing is terrifying. While it gets less terrifying over time (and then ups the terrifying levels when you least expect it), learning to lead climb is scary and uncomfortable and if you’re anything like me, can be downright paralyzing at times.

When you’re first starting out, it’s type II fun, for sure.

But once you start hitting that flow on lead, and you realize that every fall won’t be your last, you tap into a part of yourself that believes you can.

For the first time in my climbing career, I’ve been able to go out and project 5.12 with some incredible, crusher, badass ladies. I’ve introduced women to the sport. I’ve been able to setup top-ropes for beginner climbers on routes they wouldn’t have been able to try otherwise.

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I love this circle.

So to all of you out there, who want to try lead climbing, but are maybe scared (or, like I was, downright terrified), I encourage you to try it. Take a class. I know the gyms in Salt Lake offer lead climbing classes on a regular basis. There are also dozens, maybe hundreds of people in climbing communities who are more than willing to mentor and encourage new climbers.

So get out there, and get scared.

 



 

**All pictures courtesy of my dashing, and incredibly talented husband, Coby Walsh. You can follow him on Instagram @icoby24

 

Weekly Round-Up #9

The Down to Earth expedition is doing something the world needs a lot more of: using passion to influence change. Michaela Precourt is a visionary, she hopes for the children of the future, and wants to “instill hope back into education.” This hope lead her to found this expedition where she and a team of athletes are creating real-life curriculum through studying the effects of climate change in the arctic, recording it, and sending the videos back to schools. Their mission and its effects are authentic, “Down to Earth is filming a series of human-powered expeditions dedicated to education, effects of climate change, and how to live sustainably.” Here’s part 1 of their film series:

In response to last week’s blurb about women choosing not to have children, here’s another thoughtful and funny article defending procreation. Katie Arnold highlights the positive in raising children, and how bringing children into an adventurous life can be difficult at first, but pay off later. She also doles out a few tips, “Once a month, enlist the kids to help purge the toy bins and donate to those in need. Your minimalist obsession equals their real-life lesson in sharing and compassion.”

Sarah Castle and Alison Wright didn’t just want to hike the John Muir Trail, they wanted to give back while they did it. Over cups of coffee and topo maps, The Cairn Project was born. The non-profit exists to get teenage girls, of all backgrounds, outside. In one year, the duo have raised over $30,000 to be distributed to partner organizations through small grants.

Should wilderness be free? I’ve thought about and researched this topic quite a bit in the past few weeks. In Utah, there’s long been debate about a toll in both Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. Essentially, the amount of users far outweighs the resources, and taxpayer dollars don’t bridge the gap anymore. Heather,from Just a Colorado Gal, shows that Colorado is experiencing similar issues: too many users in too little space. Are we entering a new era where we have to pay in more places that we play?

 

Basics and Importance of LNT

Who’s favorite thing about hiking is finding trash on the trails?

It’s such a far cry from the truth, and yet a common issue throughout our trail networks. With the uptick of users in the front and backcountry, there needs to be an uptick in education. In Utah, the proximity to the foothills and the Wasatch front make access easy for virtually everybody in the valley. Oftentimes I see groups of people enjoying our trails who are either unaware or uneducated about the ethics of backcountry and front country use.

So, let’s start here: what is LNT?

LNT stands for Leave No Trace, a non-profit created in 1994 to educate users about their impact on the environment. At the time, their main focus was on backcountry users, to educate them on the best practices they’d discovered through scientific research. Since then, LNT has created a front country program to address the issues facing day-use facilities.

Before I dive into the main principles of Leave No Trace, I want to highlight why it’s important.

Our wilderness areas are precious, beautiful ecosystems. For as long as mankind has inhabited the earth, we’ve enjoyed the simple pleasure of venturing out to a stand of pine trees and feeling utterly at peace. As our population continues to grow, our wild areas continue to shrink as we break ground for apartment complexes, housing developments, and strip malls. Thankfully, private and public organizations, along with federal employees, are continually fighting land access and purchase battles to preserve these places.

With all the time and money that goes into protecting these primitive areas, it’s our duty, as users, to maintain and respect the land. Realistically, the more people who are venturing into alpine environments, the more people we need to proactively make minimal impacts on the environment. That’s where Leave No Trace comes in.

These seven principles aren’t rocket science, or even that hard to follow. The more closely we follow them now, the longer we’ll have to enjoy our mountain environments.

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1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

This is as simple as checking the weather, obtaining a map of the area, and letting someone know where you’re going. It follows the line of thinking, “prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.” Most of the time you won’t need your rain jacket, but the time you do, you don’t want to have forgotten it.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

I know that pitching a tent in the middle of a field of wildflowers sounds picturesque, but if everyone did that, we’d have no wildflower fields left to enjoy. If you’re going backpacking, chances are someone has been on that trail before you and has set up camp in a similar location you’re looking for. The emphasis is on finding already established campsites instead of creating your own. Think flat, dirt or rock surfaces at least 200ft away from any body of water.

3. Proper Waster Disposal

If your bladder is bursting, ensure you are at least 200ft away from any body of water so as not to contaminate it. If it’s your bowels, dig a 6″-8″ hole, hunker down, and fill it in with dirt when you’re done. If using toilet paper make sure to pack it out instead of burning it. Bring an extra ziplock bag for this purpose!

4. Leave What You Find

This is the hardest principle for me because I love wildflowers. I wish I could come home with a bundle after every hike. But the more I take the fewer there are for others to enjoy. The same goes for rocks, branches, and animal remnants (antlers, bones, etc.).

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

If possible, use already existing fire rings. If there aren’t any near your campsite, keep your ring small, and try to use dead and down twigs to stoke your fire. Make sure the coals are out before you go to bed, and when leaving the site, it’s recommended you scatter the cooled ashes. The motto with campfires is, “if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.”

6. Respect Wildlife

It’s their habitat, we’re the visitors. Bears, Moose, Deer, Mountain Goats, Bobcats, Squirrels, all of them, we are visitors in their territory. Respect their distance. Here’s a funny video that I think is neat and relevant:

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

A lot of people head to the mountains if they’re seeking solace. Solace, however, can be quite hard to find when someone is blaring their boombox a half-mile down trail, or if someone’s over-friendly border collie won’t stop sniffing your junk while the owner thinks it’s hilarious. Think about disconnecting and not disturbing other users, it’s pretty simple. Take your boombox to the lake, and we’ll all probably be a little happier for it.

 



 

If we think of the wilderness like a co-op, where we’re all part owners and members of this incredible collective, it’s a little easier to enact these principles. You wouldn’t visit someone’s house and trash it, and the same goes for wilderness. Let’s all become more sustainable users.

Any tips and tricks for LNT practices? Leave them in the comments below!

 

7 Foods to Grill that Aren’t Meat

Tis the season for outdoor barbecues, sunset beers, and camping! As a vegetarian (or someone trying to cut down on their red meat consumption), it’s easy to feel left out when the grill master is yells out “Order up!” for all the hot dogs, burgers, and bacon he’s just grilled to perfection.

Have no fear! There is food for you yet my dear herbivores!

Aside from the traditional veggie burger or tofu dog (which really have come quite a long way), there are heaps of other items you can grill that aren’t meat. And if you grill with enough flare, you might even steal some jealous stares from your burger-loving friends.

1. BBQ Seitan

Need I say more? This recipe from The Spruce is a classic take on the hearty staple of seitan. It requires minimal prep, just cut and marinate the pieces, throw them on a soaked bamboo skewer, and grill ’em up!

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2. Grilled Onions

It goes without saying that you can grill any kind of vegetable, but this grilled onion recipe hits the nail on the head. Perfectly charred sweet onions are the brilliant side you’ve been searching for to accompany your BBQ seitan.

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chefsteps.com

3. Sweet Potato Skewers

I swear, put anything on a stick and I’ll be excited to eat it. Equal parts sweet potato and onion, these skewers, once drizzled with some tahini sauce (or sauce of your choosing), are the bees knees and super easy. Feel free to add/subtract whatever veggies your heart desires.

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4. Mexican Street Corn

Oh my yum. I first tried Mexican street corn when I was climbing down in El Potrero Chico, and while this isn’t quite the real deal, it comes dang close. Although the idea of putting mayo on your corn sounds a little out of place, trust me, it works.

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5. Peaches

It’s like a mini peach cobbler! Halve the peaches, take the pit out, spread on a little sauce, and let grill for a few minutes. While this recipe doesn’t call for it, I recommend placing a dollop of ice cream in the middle and spreading some pie crumbles on top. YUM.

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6. Din Tai Fung Tofu

While the black vinegar in this recipe may be hard to come by, I would be amiss to leave out grilled tofu in my vegetarian grill edition! Packed with flavor, and so easy even your cooking-inept friends can do it.

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fried dandelions.com

7. Balsamic Garlic Grilled Mushrooms

Mushrooms might be my favorite vegetable, and marinating them in balsamic and garlic definitely seals the deal. These mushrooms are so easy. 30 minutes marinating and a few minutes on the grill make this recipe an instant winner.

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closetcooking.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are your go-to grilling recipes?

Weekly Round-Up #8

Self-control, how does one attain such a thing? If you’re like millions of other Americans, gaining, re-gaining, or denying self-control is an all-encompassing task. Thankfully, self-control is like a muscle, like a magic muscle, actually, that gives back what you put into it. Nathan DeWall knows this well. After losing his mother, he turns to running as a coping mechanism, and in doing so learns that the self-control he needed to train and run for a 100-mile race was also applicable at home and the office.

Did you know that 25% of college-educated women are forgoing procreation? It blew my mind too. This article attempts to deconstruct the age-old idea that women who choose a life without children are “shallow, selfish, and self-absorbed.” Turns out, women nowadays are thinking critically about the decision, and realizing that maybe rearing children while also commandeering a full-time job is not what their dreams are made of.

The times they are a-changin’. Women and minorities are stepping into roles they’ve previously left unoccupied in numbers we haven’t seen before. In conservation, it’s no different, “Today, an unprecedented number of women are pursuing degrees in conservation science, leaving men as the minority in the classroom.” On top of that, minorities, and women of color, are making their mark on the conservation world. Read more about their stories here.

Gina Lucrezi is a trail blazer. Literally. In 2016, she created the online community Trail Sisters, which promotes and empowers women in trail running. After moving to Colorado Springs, and meeting Nancy Hobbs, Lucrezi continued to realize the importance of community in such a solitary sport. Through trail running, she began learning more about the discrepancies between male and female athletes and decided to take a stand against it. This article, “Every Woman Should Have a Trail Sister,” encourages women to find another women to run with, and if that isn’t possible, to at least find the online forum for the sense of community and solidarity it offers.

Trail Run Tempo

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Trail running can be hard.

In Utah, where 99.9% of all trails head directly UP, and switchbacks are scarce, getting into trail running can be, well, exhausting. If you’re hard-pressed to find a moderate trail to begin on, is it even worth “running” at all if you spend the majority of the time speed-hiking?

When I talk to people about venturing into the world of dirt and scraped knees, the most common, and almost immediate, response is this:

I don’t think I can run the whole thing.

My dear, sweet friends, I have good news for you!

The majority of trail runners walk the uphills.

You read that right! When I first started trail running I had no idea that even the elitest of the elites will hike the uphills and run the downhills (granted their uphills are literal mountains, but still).

So when we’re talking about how fast or slow you should be trail running, the best answer I can find is to do what feels right for YOU and YOUR BODY. It’s easy to get so caught up in what we think we should or shouldn’t be doing, that we make it impossible for ourselves to even start. That’s a nasty trap to get caught in.

In Salt Lake, there are some great, moderate trails for beginners. The Pipeline Trail in Millcreek Canyon, and the Bonneville Shoreline Trail near the Avenues and the University, are both great options. And as you move on from there, give yourself grace, and a high-five for getting out in the first place.

The outdoors can be intimidating, I know from experience. It’s even more intimidating when you live in a place that professional athletes use as their training ground. However, I suggest we use that as motivation to get out and get after it.

Who knows? After a few years of training you could be running laps around the Wasatch.

 

Weekly Round-Up #7

In this week’s news:

Agnes Vianzon worked with the California Conservation Corps for over a decade where she learned the basics of trail work, backcountry ethics, and the importance of LNT. These experiences lead her to create the Eastern Sierra Conservation Core, a non-profit dedicated to “building a stronger and more inclusive community,” who aims to “provide opportunities to experience and better understand wilderness and natural resources by providing a transformational backcountry experience.” This summer they have multiple all-female trail crews, and Women in the Wilderness backcountry experiences. You can listen to the podcast on the She-Explores site.

Feel like you’re using your phone too much? You probably are. In this tech-ridden era, it’s hard to find the fine (and quickly disappearing) line between our phones and our independence. It seems the two are so intertwined to be nearly inseparable. Brad Stulberg thinks it’s high-time we start monitoring and limiting our techno-use. Here are some tips on how to do that.

She Moves Mountains gives me chills. These two women, Lizzy Van Patten and Carey DeVictoria-Michel, are concretely pursuing a dream that’s been in the works for a while: teaching women to climb. Last year, the duo partnered with a local climbing company in Smith Rock to provide all-women climbing clinics. With the help of a recent crowd-funding event, they’re now able to kick off their own guiding company. In Lizzy’s words: “I began guiding in hopes of showing people, especially women, how powerful they are.”

Legendary mountaineer, Katie Bono, set the women’s speed record on Denali on June 14th. She had a round-trip time of 21 hours, 6 minutes, and reportedly “crawled into basecamp on Alaska’s Mount Denali, frostbitten and exhausted.” Hell yeah, Katie!