Weekly Round-Up #11

I love a good, relevant climbing article, and the guys over at TensionClimbing, nailed it. With a keyboard and blank screen, they set out to write “The Rules” of climbing with the intention of making us all better climbers. My favorite, by far, is #6, mostly because I need to constantly be reminded of it (even if it really is a high-gravity day…)

RULE #6: Stop complaining. You’re too short. You’re too tall. Your hands aren’t big enough for that pinch. Your fingers are too big for that crimp. Stop it. Take a look around. We all have our own unique proportions that come with different advantages and disadvantages. We can all see that you can’t span the move that the 6ft tall guy doesn’t even have to think about. We can all see that you can only fit 3 fingers on the hold that the 10 year old girl can shake out on. We get it. Now figure it out…or quit. Quitting is always an option, but it is the process of “figuring it out” that is valuable, whether you send or not.

Why climb the Grand Teton once when you can climb it twice? In one day? And then, why climb it twice, when you can climb it three times? IN ONE DAY! Ryan Burke thinks “it’s an insult to the people who came before me to not take it a little farther.” Which is why he’s also going to pursue a South-to-North speed traverse of the Wind River Mountains. Personally, I’m thankful people like him are pushing the sport so people like me don’t have to.

In my short lifetime we’ve gone from breastfeeding being taboo, to women taking pictures breastfeeding atop Mount Yotei in Hokkaido, Japan. What a time to be alive. In this incisive and perspective-widening article, Leah Story speaks about being a new mom and breastfeeding in the backcountry. “Being a breastfeeding mom in the mountains isn’t a superhuman feat,” she explains, and being in the backcountry is about preparation. Breastfeeding is merely an extension of that.

Tinder, Bumble, and now Strava? The app meant for tracking vert, mileage, and activity is quickly turning into an arena for matchmaking, competition, and friendship. With Strava, you can post where you ran, how it felt, and pictures for accompaniment. You can also see what others post, like their posts, and so on. Zoë Rom at Trail Runner Magazine set out to define Strava etiquette for this new virtual world we live in.

 

 

Weekly Round-Up #10

They say nature heals. For 24-year-old Alexis Alzadeh, nature saves. After being sent from Atlanta to Utah for detox and rehab, Alexis discovered parts of herself she never knew existed––like the desire to ski, summit mountains, and climb rocks. Moving to Utah and completing her recovery program included “setting fire to the old parts of [her] that no longer worked.” This poignant and powerful essay shows, candidly, how nature saved Alexis’ life.

Many backpackers consider themselves ultralight, but Clint “Lint” Bunting takes it to the next level. He drinks straight out of streams, uses sticks to pitch his tarp, and chews his vegetables before boiling them to cut down on dish use. Although his style may not resonate with everyone, it’s interesting to put a new spin on “fast and light.”

When I first started climbing, the idea of falling on bolts terrified me. Six years and hundreds of falls later, my bolt-angst has decreased, until, that is, I see some gnarly, rusty, decades old spinner on an exposed bolt. We can all make a clear distinction when it’s that obvious, but what about all the bolts that look like they might hold? Here’s a quick and dirty guide to knowing when to trust a bolt and when to back it up.

In America, we are obsessed with productivity. We need something to show for our day, and ultimately something to show for our lives. Oftentimes, the third question asked during an introduction is “What do you do for work?” We structure our cultural norms around it. So what about those of us who like to climb rocks? Who live on the fringe? Who forgo 401k’s, affordable health insurance, and steady paychecks? Climbing doesn’t pay the bills, and initially only offers something to the climber, not the world. But maybe that’s enough. These moments of introspection and reflection throughout our international crags may be what our generation needs. Check out this thought-provoking essay on Mojagear about being a “Conquistador of the Useless.”

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.

DSC06673

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.

DSC06571

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.

DSC06307

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.

DSC06609

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

 

Review: Scarpa Boostic

My first pair of climbing shoes were Scarpa’s, and after my La Sportiva Solutions took their last route, I decided to go back to my climbing roots.

When I tried on the Boostic’s, Scarpa’s “premier weapon for everything past the vertical,”  they reminded me of the La Sportiva Miura’s I had a few years back. The fit is similar, maybe a bit wider, with about the same downturn in the toe, giving it the aggressive feel for steeper routes.

DSC04658

And true to Scarpa’s claims, the Boostic’s are a powerhouse. I’ve climbed nearly every type of route in them. Sandstone, granite, limestone, multi-pitch, traditional, sport, and bouldering. Disclaimers: I would not recommend these shoes on sandstone, multi-pitch, or trad! At the time I didn’t have another pair of shoes that would fit the bill.

The Boostic is a stiff shoe. I’ve been climbing in these since last November and they still have barely any give. This is my main issue with the shoe. After climbing in the Solutions and getting used to a softer rubber, using a stiff shoe feels uncomfortable and unstable to me.

Honestly, I’ve been waiting for these to blow out so I can go back to the Solutions or the Miura’s. This is also because for me and my feet, La Sportiva’s provide the best fit.

With that being said, I do enjoy wearing these shoes indoors. They are true to size, and when I’m climbing in the gym, I can usually keep them on for multiple routes before I need to give my feet a breather. Because they’re not as downturned as other aggressive shoes like the Instinct, or 5.10’s Hiangle, it’s much easier to smear in these shoes. However, I wouldn’t trust them too much. I tested them out on granite and it didn’t go very well.

DSC04004

If you’re looking for a stiffer shoe with a good edge, the Boostic is a great shoe. I’d definitely recommend these shoes to someone who’s looking for their first aggressive shoe. It’s the perfect amount of downturn to feel like you’re one with the rock.

Retail for $180, but you can find them on sale for around $110.

A Beginner’s Guide to Indoor Climbing

Disclaimer: I am not a professional climber or a professional instructor. However, I taught introductory rock climbing classes for a year and a half and have six years of climbing experience.

 

Have you ever been on a hike and glanced up to find someone scaling the cliffs surrounding you? If you’re anything like me seven years ago, you probably thought, “Those people are crazy!” And you’re not too far off. Climber’s are a breed I have come to know and love through their eccentricities, boldness, and passion.

If you’re crazy too, your next thought might have been, “I kind of want to try that…”

You’re not alone! I would guess that the majority of people who started climbing had that exact thought before they dove head in to the sport. In the word’s of Alice in Wonderland, “We’re all mad here.”

So how do you go from dirt to granite? Fortunately climbing access has been made infinitely easier in the last few years with the rise and expansion of climbing gyms across America and the world. Rock and Ice has an indoor climbing gym directory. You just plug in your state and go from there.

Once you find the gym closest to you, I suggest you wrangle in one of your closest, or most curious friends, and ask them to tag along. While climbing is unique and wonderful in that you can boulder on your own, I’m under the school of thought that everything is better with friends.

Before you set out to the world of indoor plastic, take a quick look on Groupon to see if the gym you’re interested in is peddling offers on climbing sessions or classes. The gym in Spokane where I began climbing, Wild Walls, regularly offered discounted multi-day passes through Groupon.

IMG_3978

Okay. So you’ve got your friend, you’ve looked for some sweet deals, and you’re in the car feeling stoked. Once you rock up to the front desk, the staff will ask you to sign a waiver, and if you need to rent gear.

There are three types of climbing you can do in a gym: bouldering, top-roping, or lead climbing. Most people progress through each discipline in that order.

Bouldering is the best route for beginners. In the gym, you only need a pair of shoes to start. It’s a great introduction to the muscle groups, style, and overall feel of working your way up foreign plastic holds. And with most boulder walls topping out around 15 feet, it’s easy to bail if the height makes you dizzy.

Top-roping and lead climbing require more technical skills like how to belay. If a climbing gym has ropes and walls that are 30+ feet high, they probably offer belay classes. Typically these classes last anywhere from 1-2 hours and you learn the basics of rope management. If you decide climbing is something you’d like to stick with, I definitely recommend learning how to belay and testing your endurance on longer routes.

Lead-climbing requires more in-depth knowledge and skills, and requires more detail than this intro post offers.

Once you’ve signed the waiver, and rented the shoes, the next logical step is to climb!

Here are a few techniques that helped me when I learned to climb, and helped a lot of my students when they were learning.

IMG_5262

Focus on your toes

Remember that Spongebob episode where he stuck his big toe out of his shoe to depress the gas pedal? I like to think about that. One of the most common ways to begin climbing is to place the middle of your foot on the foot hold. I highly, highly, highly, recommend NOT doing this. Think about how we walk. Think about how we climb ladders. We walk with our toes forward, not the middle of our feet! Climbing is no different. Try to get as much surface area near the front of your shoes on the hold as possible.

Use your legs

Would you rather do 100 squats or 100 pull-ups? Down the road of climbing and training, there is a time and place for using only your arms, but now’s not the time! Our legs are our powerhouses and carry our entire body weight every day. Our arms? Not so much. Try to do a handstand push-up and you’ll see. Think about how you can use your legs to your advantage. Sometimes moving your foot an inch higher is the difference in being able to grab the next hold, or peeling off the route.

Don’t get crazy

Oftentimes in the gym I see people working on these really hard problems and routes and they make it look so easy. So easy in fact, that it tricks me into believing that I too can climb that hard. I jump on, all eager and full of belief, only to get shut down on the third move. It’s good to push yourself in climbing, otherwise your progression and strength will move at a snails pace (which is okay too, if that’s what you’re after). But going from a V0 climber to a V6 climber won’t happen overnight. It takes time and dedication, but trust me. It more than pays off.

Climbing can be rewarding, fun, and a great way to be part of a like-minded community. If you’ve been on the fence, or itching to try, I say go for it. All you have to lose is space in your closet where your future gear will have to go.

A beginner's guide to

 

Questions? Let me know in the comments below!

El Potrero Chico: A Sport Climber’s Paradise

For years, Potrero has been at the top of my list. It’s home to the second longest sport route in North America, Time Wave Zero, and the notorious El Sendero Luminoso that Alex Honnold free soloed in January of 2014. It’s the sport climber’s Yosemite, with more multi-pitch sport routes than a climb-cation could ever have time for.

IMG_7235

Thankfully, if you want to make the most of your climbing time at EPC, it’s easy and doable to climb in the morning and in the evening at different crags. We were there in April, which is not the best time to go, so we were continuously battling the heat of the day. That meant 6am alarms, mid-afternoon naps, and evening climbing sessions. With the pool at La Posada’s Campground, I couldn’t complain about downtime and lounging in the hammock above the pool. It. Was. Glorious.

IMG_7336

Getting to and from EPC is fairly easy. My husband and I flew to San Antonio, and hailed a greyhound from there to Monterrey. Since the ride went through the night, and there weren’t a lot of people on board, we were able to sleep pretty well. Once at the station in Monterrey there were taxis outside, and with a little bit of google translate help, we were soon on our way. Friends of ours flew into Monterrey International Airport, and the drivers there immediately knew where to take them. The ride is about 500 pesos, or $26.

I can’t speak about the other campgrounds, but there are quite a few you can stay at. We chose La Posada because everywhere else was pretty slow due to the off season. The staff were friendly and hard workers, and the pool was amazing. We were there two weekends and it picked up with quite a few locals coming to camp. We found the ideal camping spot for our two tents and three hammocks. Their website is a bit confusing about pricing, we ended up paying 130 pesos/night ($7) which included everything from showers to pool use.

While my eyes were set on climbing Time Wave Zero, I quickly realized it was out of reach for me right now. My husband and I spent a day climbing Space Boyz (5.10d) on the Jungle wall. This eleven-pitch, 1100-foot climb, demanded every ounce of courage and strength I could muster. It didn’t help that my shoes were half a size too small, either. I grunted my way up, and wasn’t able to carry my own weight. Coby ended up leading most of the pitches, and being the best sport about it. The top-out was the most I’ve felt accomplished in a long time.

IMG_7271

A few days later we went up a six pitch 5.10b, Dope Ninja, which included the coolest 5.6 traverse I’ve ever led in my life! I’d highly recommend this route to anyone headed down to Potrero. It’s also a great introduction to the type of climbing in the area.

IMG_7329

In terms of food, the market, La Mexicana, is a 45-minute walk from the campgrounds. The food (and alcohol) is super cheap. We bought a bottle of tequila for five dollars. We also bought 17 avocados for about six dollars. Each time we went down to the market we were either picked up by a passerby without trying, or stuck out our thumbs far enough to hitch a ride. The locals are incredibly friendly, often honking their horns and waving as they drove by. There is a restaurant at La Posada with a variety of Mexican food and dollar beer and tequila shots.

You can also check out (I highly recommend it) the Tuesday market. Someone described it as a “WalMart on wheels,” because there are so many things for sale. From milky fruity drinks, to usb chargers, to shoes, to produce, you can find nearly anything you’re looking for here. We had the opportunity to meet Raul Reyes who had us come behind his tables and take copious amounts of photos holding deep frier spoons, tostadas, and spices. Raul sold some of the best hot sauce I’ve ever tasted.

There’s definitely enough in Potrero to keep you occupied for a lifetime; in our two weeks we barely touched the surface. It left us wanting badly enough that we’re already planning a return trip for next year.

Weekly Round-Up #5

It appears I have quite a problem posting consistent midweek round-ups, so we’re gonna shoot for the vague “Weekly Round-Up” and see if my consistency can be, well, consistent.

I’ve come across so much good content in the last few weeks! We live in an incredible time where information is accessed so quickly and easily.

Millennial Tastes are Driving Marketers Crazy, but it’s Doing the Food Industry Good, an article published by Upworthy, highlights how millennials are driving positive change in general consumption, and in particular, the food industry. There’s been a lot of negative press about millennials in the past year. We’ve been misunderstood, and also ignored. This article is proof of both. But it’s also proof that corporations are starting to take notice, and it’s good for everybody.

I love anything that highlights women taking a stand throughout history. I love it even more when it involves the natural world. The NCPA published this article documenting six national parks that wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for the women that championed them.

“In the past 18 months, over 50 bills attacking federal management of our public lands have been introduced to Congress,” begins this interesting and helpful article about five simple ways we can protect our public lands from Climbing Magazine. It’s a hard time to be a human and lover of the natural world, but we can’t remain overwhelmed. It’s time to take a stand for what’s most important. From volunteering, to signing up for newsletters, this short and comprehensive how-to can make you feel a little less overwhelmed and a little more proactive.

And a funny goat video.

Enjoy your weekend, friends!