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|Red vs. New
When the Red River Gorge and New River Gorge rivalry threatened to boil over, there was only one place to settle it: on the basketball court. – Huge spotlights suddenly lit up the small community basketball court in Lansing, West Virginia, near the rim of the New River Gorge. Lights, really? Who rigged those? Surrounding me was the rowdiest scene I had observed in several decades as a local at this worldclass climbing area, famous for bold first ascents and equally hazardous social activities. No craziness I could recall—from nine years of the New River Rendezvous, the Gauley River whitewater festival, even the notorious Pimp ‘n’ Ho parties of the 1990s—could rival this moment.
Three and a half years, 760 routes: inside the labor of love behind Mt. Rushmore’s new guidebook - “Was it worth it?” Like a broken record, the question keeps spinning in my head. On the surrounding spires, steely gray, crystalline granite sparkles in the crisp fall air, but the chunk of rock between my legs doesn’t seem so magical. I’m straddling the tip of an obscure spire called Lost Yeti, with only a rusty relic of protection far below, and there’s no anchor. I have no choice but to mumble “I’m off,” put the second on belay—luckily the terrain is only 5.7—and then start figuring out how to get off this thing.
Huecos Over Easy
Pocket climbs from east to west – Nine Gallon Buckets (5.10c), Smith Rock, Oregon: Choose your finish with three sets of anchors on this long sport pitch at the Morning Glory Wall. The first anchor finishes at 5.9, the second at 5.10c, and the third after more 5.9 climbing—you can just lower off from the top with a 60-meter rope. “The best part of the route is the upper third, which has a water streak with holds ranging from two- to four-finger pockets to large huecos you can sit in,” says Smith local Ian Caldwell.
Pulling pockets in the Land of Enchantment – A pocket is an absence, a hole in the rock created by gas bubbles, decomposing choss, or a missing cobble. But it’s an absence that climbers love, and New Mexico, a state known as much for its violent volcanic geology as for its spicy green chili, is the pocket capital of the Southwest. Whether you’re pimping monodoigts on the tan tuff of Cochiti Mesa, grabbing anti-cobbles on the red conglomerate of El Rito, going monkey-bars on incuts at the Enchanted Tower, or tweaking basalt divots at White Rock, you’ll find pure pocket pleasure in central New Mexico.
The Master’s Favorite Rock Climbs
8 routes from the legendary climber’s huge new book – Fred Beckey’s hundreds (thousands?) of first ascents span western North America, from Alaska to Mexico. Although he is best known for his mountain routes, Beckey has always loved rock climbing, and at 89 he’s still cragging. We cherry-picked eight spectacular rock climbs from his new coffee-table book and share his words on each here.
Your First Big Wall
It all started for me back in high school, when I saw a photo of the most awe-inspiring piece of rock I’d ever laid eyes on—the Nameless Tower. I’ve spent years of my life dreaming about that Karakoram spire, and though I still haven’t climbed it, Nameless inspired me to head to Yosemite, more than 20 years ago, to climb my first big wall.
Learning to love 5.10 in the Gunks – When my wife was offered work as a dancer and choreographer in New York City, I balked. I grew up in Boise, Idaho, and most of my life has been spent rock climbing in the West, enjoying wide-open spaces and amazing geological landscapes from Canada to Mexico, and everywhere in between—what could the City That Never Sleeps offer to me? But this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Molly—she’s aspired to live and dance in NYC her entire life—so I yielded to her dreams, and we began our journey east.
I met the late Craig Luebben (1960–2009) the day I climbed Lucille, the world’s first 5.13 squeeze chimney, in Vedauwoo, Wyoming. I was up at 6 a.m., hoping to confront the iconic route before anyone was awake. Instead, I ran into Craig, who had earlier onsighted the climb’s second ascent. He was guiding a group nearby, and asked me what I was planning to climb. My partner immediately announced my intentions, and Craig said: “Class, today history will be made.”
11 climbing festivals to hit this year – Planning a climbing trip this year? Here’s a thought: Change up your normal climb-every-day schedule to incorporate one of the U.S.’s major rock climbing festivals, where you can meet loads of new climbers, test out a new area, and even involve yourself in some late-night, dance-party, sumo-wrestling action. From California to North Carolina, here are some of the biggest rock events.
10 Things You Didn’t Know about Bouldering Grades
Homo sapiens did not stand upright and then go straight to bouldering V16. The V-grades and French Fontainebleau grades that are today’s gold standards took time to disseminate, with other scales proposed along the way. In fact, it was John Gill’s B-system, advanced over a half-century ago as Gill devoted himself almost exclusively to bouldering, that set the stage for today’s popular, open-ended V-system.
Get horizontal on these accessible roof climbs - Grunting, groveling, hucking, jamming—all terms typically associated with roof climbs. But more appealing adjectives also fit certain big roofs: airy, exposed, creative, fun, and—surprisingly—moderate. You can find enjoyable, Gunks-like roof climbs all around the country, attainable for the average climber. Here, seven roof routes no harder than 5.10+. Chalk up, sack up, and get ready to charge.
Long overlooked by ice climbers, New York’s Catskills are finally coming into their own. – “A good place to die.” Rich Gottlieb’s words echo in my head. Gottlieb is the owner of the Rock and Snow climbing shop in New Paltz, gateway to the Gunks. The shop is a local institution—and so is Gottlieb. He was talking about Kaaterskill Falls. At 260 feet, it’s one of the tallest waterfalls in the state, and when frozen, one of its iconic ice climbs.
The Sandstone Alps
High adventure in Utah’s San Rafael Reef - Two ramps led up into an expanse of sandstone, giving no clue which, if either, was our route. My partners, Kennan Harvey and Tim Gott, were belaying far below. Between us, the rope ran through one cam in a sandy flake. It was our first day of climbing at the Eastern Reef, in Utah’s San Rafael Swell, and the route was called Way of the Increpids. We weren’t sure what that name meant, nor if the route had ever been repeated.
2012 Golden Piton Awards
On frozen Karakoram peaks, fierce alpine faces, and crags around the world, climbers killed it last year. Here, Climbing presents the 10th annual Golden Piton Awards for top performances in six disciplines: mountaineering, big wall, traditional climbing, crack climbing, sport climbing, and breakaway success. Thank you, athletes, for your inspiration!
A Question of Balance
Six essential yoga poses for climbers – My physical therapist, a triathlete, recently told me that climbing puts more intense stress on my body than any other sport does. “Your lats are overdeveloped, your shoulders pull forward, your neck is strained, your hamstrings are tight,” she told me. “Just stop climbing.” Of course, I won’t stop climbing. So what to do? Start stretching consistently. And the smartest way to stretch? Yoga.
Most climbing accidents happen suddenly, progress quickly, and they’re soon over. A stone falls, a piece pulls, a leg is broken. A rescue begins. Very few climbs result in true survival situations, in which the misery and uncertainty are prolonged for days or even weeks. Because of their rarity and inherent drama, many such incidents become legendary tales. Others remain private experiences, known only to family and friends.
Survival tips from climbing rangers – Nobody expects to be loaded onto a litter and evacuated off his first big wall. Or stuck in a snow cave, out of food and fuel, hypothermic, and praying that a storm will quit and someone will find him. Yet it happens, every year, and not just to newbies. Climbers make mistakes, or get unlucky, and rescue rangers drop from the sky and save our asses.
More Than Able
Craig DeMartino’s heartbeat bounded and then stumbled beneath ranger and climber Erik Gabriel’s fingers. DeMartino was losing blood. Broken ribs had ripped a hole in his right lung. With each breath, a deep gurgle choked from his torso. His neck was broken. The lower spinal column was worse; the fall’s impact had traveled up through his legs and pulverized the lower vertebrae. The feeling in his legs was gone. The shock wave had ripped the climbing shoes from his feet and peeled back the skin of his soles. Flecks of granite clung to open flesh. The pain was unmitigated; DeMartino’s heartbeat was too faint to risk morphine.
Stand atop these spindly spires – In November 2010, I did my first desert tower in Utah: Ancient Art in the Fisher Towers. After holding my breath across the narrow sidewalk three pitches up and winding my way up the final sandstone corkscrew, I stood atop that bizarre summit at dusk, barely able to make out the Rectory across the valley. This was a defining and exhilarating moment in my climbing career: I, like many first-time tower climbers, wanted more.
10 Things You Didn’t Know about Avalanches
Avalanches have killed some of climbing’s most luminous stars. In 1979, Willi Unsoeld—who summitted Everest in 1963 as part of the first American expedition—died in an avalanche while leading a winter ascent of Mt. Rainier. In September 1999, a massive avalanche triggered by a serac fall killed Alex Lowe and David Bridges on the flanks of Shishapangma. More recently, an avalanche on Mt. Edgar in China in 2009 killed young alpinists Jonny Copp and Micah Dash along with cameraman Wade Johnson.
|Where it All Began
These six crags shaped American rock climbing and are still amazing destinations today. – When Climbing began publishing in 1970, the majority of climbers aspired to do big walls and Himalayan mountains. Short rock climbs were regarded mostly as practice for bigger things. But, over the next few decades, as this magazine reported, issue after issue, American climbing changed profoundly. Free climbing, bouldering, and eventually sport climbing shook the sport’s tweedy foundations and revealed a new emphasis on athleticism, an explosion of route development, and the recognition that rock climbing should be mostly about having fun.
50 Ways to Flail
Here are some all-too-common climbing mistakes that could kill, hurt, beat, or delay you—or at least ruin your image. And, of course, how to prevent them. - I’ve been climbing for more than 15 years, and the mistakes I’ve made cover the gamut. My knot came partly untied while I was climbing at Joshua Tree; I’ve threaded my belay device backward; partway up El Capitan, my partner once completely unclipped me from a belay. Worst, I dropped a dear friend while lowering him off a sport climb in Rifle with a too-short rope. If you’re lucky, like I’ve been, your mistakes result in close calls that help keep you vigilant. If you’re not, the results can be tragic.
Winning and Losing in the Revelations
The first ascent of Mt. Mausolus – Biting cold numbs my face, but between deep breaths I hardly notice. The last stretch of rope feeds through my belay device as Scotty crests the final snow pyramid of Mt. Mausolus. Beyond him, a fiery sun sinks behind the erratic spine of the Revelations. The air is deathly still. The western sky burns in a spectrum of oranges and pinks. “We did it, Seth,” I whisper. “We did it.”
Ten of New England’s finest 5.10s – “The history goes deep with some of the cliffs in these parts,” says Bob Parrott, a low-key Maine resident who is one of New England’s most prolific climbers. “Other stuff is just raw and wild.” That’s a fair summary of New England climbing: rich in tradition, ripe for exploration. There’s room for first ascents here, but with New England’s diverse rock, even day trips to long-established cliffs can offer a taste of the unexpected.
An octet of wild 5.8 routes – All-day climbs don’t have to be epic, monstrously difficult routes that leave you panting with exhaustion and thirsting for safety. Many adventurous rock climbs have relatively moderate ratings and good protection. (But don’t be too complacent—some of these routes don’t let you off easy!) Here, we’ve collected some of our favorite long 5.8 climbs—each doable in a day from the car—based on personal experience, suggestions from guidebook authors, and general popularity.
Legends: Tommy Caldwell
My first road trip was probably to Yosemite at around age 4—my sister, my mom, my dad, and myself. We did that trip every summer until around the time I was nine. That was kind of my dad’s stomping ground. He always had Yosemite in his heart, and that’s probably where my love for Yosemite came from, because I have all these fond memories of being there as a kid. At first it was just floating down the river in a raft, or sitting in the meadow watching my dad climb. Then around the time I was 6, I can remember pretty vividly doing the Lost Arrow tyrolean.
Legends: George Lowe
I was so unaware of the scope of climbing when I started. I just took it up without knowing much about these crazy people in California who were going out—but at least it got me out of the city. So, I didn’t really have these models directly early on. I mean it’s been 50 years, and my memory isn’t as good as it should be, but I don’t remember anyone explicitly. There was so little communication about climbing—very little within the States. There were some books, like Rebuffat’s book, that sort of inspired me.
Legends: Lynn Hill
[Chuck] was the one who kind of passed on the climbing culture to me, because he read books and was a subscriber to Climbing magazine, and so he would pass me the magazines. So I’d read articles, and I remember Doug Robinson’s article in the Chouinard catalog, whatever it was called, The Art of something—and I just remember that being kind of a defining ethic, you know “leave no trace.” I don’t know why people don’t use this term now, but “climbing by fair means.” Summarized like that it makes sense really quickly to people. Otherwise, it’s a long explanation. Fair means to me meant that we were climbing as if we didn’t have a rope, and if you fell, that was a blemish in style.
Legends: Angie Payne
I climbed a desert tower, Ancient Arts. I got close to the top, and it has this sidewalk that you have to cross and you have to end up on this weird formation. I got across the sidewalk part, and it started raining and storming. I had never been in that kind of situation. And it was surprising to me that so many people go through that, and they really enjoy that, I think. And I was just really terrified. It was a completely different world of climbing that I hadn’t really experienced before. And I felt like a complete wimp.
Consider yourself lucky if you live in one of these towns – Thinking of pulling up roots and heading to a town that’s blessed with a vast amount of rock? Want to be able to make a little cash once you get there, and maybe even buy a pad (for living, not bouldering)? We’re here to help. We created an equation that balances quantity of rock, climate, and economic statistics to find the ideal climbing towns for settling down: This formula crunches the data for seven variables to compute each town’s awesomeness quotient.
Old classics and new finds in Colorado’s South Platte - Déjà vu—or, what do they call it the third time? Once again, the forecast is 40 and sunny—perfect. It’s January, and all my friends are skiing, save for one. Craig has given up a third powder day to help me slay this goliath of a crack, a 300-foot, four-pitch, offwidth squeeze that leaves my inner thighs so sore I can’t walk right for a week after an attempt. Even so, I can’t leave it alone.
Sporting Life: Let the Right One in
How to rid your house of dirtbags – We’ve all been there: on the road broke, relying on other climbers to provide a safe haven (read: couch) for a night or two… or 57. I did most of my dirtbagging in my teens and 20s, when I lived on $150 a month, most of which went toward gas money for the next crag. My cut-rate tent leaked, I slept in a double layer of threadbare, $30 Coleman sleeping bags, subsisted on Ramen noodles and lemon-crème cookies, and my Therm-a- Rest deflated about 10 minutes after I lay on it (but I was too penurious to buy a patch kit). I could only afford to shower once a week.
The mysterious towers of the Ennedi – The fin of rock above me, Aloba Arch, was 300 feet wide, 50 feet thick, and stretched all the way across a sandstone canyon, 700 feet above our heads. Alex Honnold and I were discussing a possible route to its untouched summit when I noticed four young men emerge from the rocks in the back of the canyon. Clad in sandals, with scarves partly covering their faces, they wore large knives in their belts and were holding the hilts as they purposefully strode towards us.
Kings of the Cascades
Step by step up the volcanoes of the Pacific Northwest – All mountains have their majesty, but the home of the mountain kings in the Lower 48 is surely the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest. Beginning in northern California with Mt. Shasta and Lassen Peak, and extending north to Mt. Garibaldi in British Columbia, this chain of (mostly) extinct volcanoes makes up some of the most distinctive mountain topography anywhere. These snowy-headed monarchs, crowned with lenticular halos and caped with glacier and rainforest, stand tall above the lowlands, promising wonder and adventure to mountaineers.
Better than Lucky
Colin Haley’s remarkable ascent - I first took notice of Colin Haley in 2003, when a Hot Flashes blurb mentioned that he and two others had done the first traverse of the Southern Picket Range, a tortuous, demanding, and little-known subrange of the Washington Cascades. I figured this 19-year-old rookie just got lucky. But a year later, he and Mark Bunker completed the second ascent of the Waddington Traverse in British Columbia, and in 2005 he made the first winter ascents of several significant Cascades routes.
City to Summit
A summit route is the purest concept in climbing. Your grandmother may not understand the beta of your new project, or how we got from 5.10 to 5.15b, or even how you get the rope up there, but she can understand climbing to the highest point on a mountain. Fortunately, you don’t have to venture far from many American cities to find superb summit routes. Here are 10 worthy peaks, covering the spectrum of climbing: sport, trad, alpine, desert, winter, and summer. And best of all: the trailheads are all within an after-work drive of a major city.
When the shoot hits the fan – When I hang out with other pro climbing photographers, we don’t talk about things like f/stops, shutter speeds, or the newest and lightest camera body. Catching up over drinks by an open fi re at Indian Creek or at some lame industry party at the Salt Lake trade show, we talk shit. Sometimes literally. This is not a story about how professional climbing photographers capture the ultimate climbing moment. These are our tales of comedy and peril—and shit.
First Come, First Served
Four first ascents and the rockers who made them happen – A first ascent is like a good pot of stew. Sometimes you start from scratch; other times you begin with leftovers. The occasion may have been long-planned or spur-of-the-moment. You think you know what you’re trying to cook up, but it seldom comes out the way you expect. Ultimately, the flavor is part art, part chance, totally unique.
5.9: The Crossroads
5.9 is the grade where things get crazy. It was once the top end of free-climbing difficulty, the ultimate on a decimal scale where “five-ten” was illogical and unnecessary. The best climbers in America in the 1950s imagined nothing harder as they pimped up dime edges and ran out dark and desperate chimneys that only the very best and boldest could follow.
A new way of thinking in the old South – If you’ve spent any time in the South, you’ve heard the same old story: Colorado has Rifle and its public beta classes, California has the Valley and its speed junkies, and the Deep South has its secret Edens of virgin sandstone—a quarter of which may be real rock, with the rest being overhanging rumors. The region is full of sandstone evangelicals who testify to the beauty and quality of their secret crags, but quickly revert to whisperings and winks when it comes time for full disclosure.
Inside the Swiss-watch world of alpinist Ueli Steck – In 2007, after several attempts, Ueli Steck finally broke the speed record on the original route up the Eiger north face, climbing solo and belaying himself only for three short sections. No one was really surprised. It is Steck’s backyard mountain (he lives only 30 minutes away), and he had been progressively inching closer to the record, soloing the face for the first time in 2004, in 10 hours, and cutting that time nearly in half by 2006.
Go Green: What To Do With Your Old Gear
I still remember my first rope. It was pink and enormous. When it was time to move on, I kept it around—first as an extra top rope, then as a haul line. But in a few years’ time, I didn’t have just one retired rope coiled in the corner, I had half a dozen. Here’s the deal: You can—and should—make only a limited number of rope rugs. So instead of stockpiling a mountain of worse-for-wear climbing junk in your crowded garage, consider these tips for reusing and recycling your decrepit gear.
10 Things You Didn’t Know about Dynos
Call them what you will—“sloppy,” “desperate,” “intimidating,” “amazing”—but dynamic moves are essential to our repertoire. The first climber to dyno? Who knows, but John Gill certainly got the ball rolling with his powerful, dynamic style in the late 1950s. Chris Sharma’s July 2007 first ascent Three Degrees of Separation (5.14d), at Céüse, France, shows that jumping for holds still thrives: The crux lunge, a full body length, took Sharma three days to stick, and the climb remains unrepeated.
The Love Letter
Six weeks in the Sierra high country - The trail disappeared beneath snow. Shielding my eyes with an arm, I squinted through the whiteout to pick a path toward the invisible pass. The Sierra’s white granite blurred with the sky. I looked down at my feet sunk six inches deep in the previous night’s snow. Somewhere beyond us, Matterhorn Peak’s granite flanks were gathering more snow. We were nearing the first of two 10,000-foot passes we needed to cross to get out.
Sleep Easy: America’s Best Climber Campgrounds
When it comes to camping, many climbers prefer a no-frills, quasi-wilderness experience, while others like their creature comforts. Whether you see sleeping under the stars as the best part of a climbing trip or a necessary evil, we’ve got you covered. We sifted through guidebooks, called park rangers, and solicited climbers to identify 10 (in no particular order) of the U.S.’s best drive-up climber campsites.
The Hot List
What if a golf course added a new hole every month, or your favorite ski resort cut four new trails each winter? It just doesn’t happen. But for climbers, new routes—even entire new crags—keep popping up. What other sport enjoys so much novelty, such freshness? And these aren’t just crappy, desperate-for-anything-new climbs. Imagination, boldness, and good, old-fashioned hard work keep the good routes coming. The Hot List is Climbing’s inaugural survey of the best of the best.
On the sharp end and otherwise at the Midwest’s most storied climbing area – “If you can lead at Devil’s Lake, you can lead anywhere.” I’ve heard this mantra many times at Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin. A frazzled leader repeats it under his breath. Two beginning climbers look up at a 5.10 finger crack, and one says it to the other. When you are on lead at the Lake, the ground never seems that far away.
Sporting Life: Sole Fusion
Five top tips for the footwork-challenged – I’ll just say it: The only way to improve at climbing is to hone your footwork. All the campusing, manual reading, dieting, periodization, system boarding, hangboarding, stretching, mental gymnastics, colonics, cross-training, yoga, animal sacrifice, visualization, endurance laps, juggling of flaming clubs, tea-leaf readings, Santeria, and so on will come to naught if you have crap footwork.
10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Grand Teton
Men first stood on top of the Grand Teton more than a century ago, and climbing the 13,770-foot peak remains a rite of passage for American mountaineers. It’s difficult to get an accurate count of the number of climbers who attempt the Grand each year, but the number is likely in the thousands. The two guide services that have a concession in the park, Exum Mountain Guides and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides, took about 1,200 people to their respective high camps for the Grand in 2010.
2010 Golden Piton Awards
Hardest, highest, fastest, best—it’s human nature to submit our “ests” to the test. Is it an ego thing? A crude exercise in nationalism? A magazine scam for commercial interests? You could play it that way. But how boring. And futile. In the end, we appraise others’ achievements and compare them to our own weekend-warrior world for one reason: to be inspired.
The Wanker 101
A 1,500-foot day – The blood pulsing in your fingertips matches the beat of your racing heart. Your toes scream after climbing for eight hours nonstop, and as you pull onto the final summit, your arms have entered a state not unlike tetanus. Or rigor mortis. A feeling of pride and elation washes over your lactic-acid-tripped-out soul. Congratulations. You have just completed Hueco Tanks’ Wanker 101.
You could define an old-school climber as one who remembers a time “before Sharma.” From his boy-wonder teenage days to his meditative 20s, Chris Sharma has captured our imaginations, inspiring us not only with his routes— Necessary Evil, The Mandala, Realization, Witness the Fitness, Dreamcatcher, Es Pontas, Jumbo Love—but also with his humility.
10 Things You Didn’t Know about Camming Devices
In the three decades since spring-loaded camming devices were invented, they’ve radically transformed the notion of what climbs can be led safely. Here’s a little lore about modern climbing’s most revolutionary piece of protection. The essential brilliance of spring-loaded camming devices (SLCDs) is their lobes’ shape, which is described mathematically as a logarithmic spiral. The same curving lines are found naturally in seashells, pine cones, flower heads, and even in the basic form of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
Bolting for Tomorrow
Re-creating climbing and self in East Africa – Some dreams die hard. Take Ethiopian rock, for example: It shimmers with the promise of high quality. Ribbons of ruddy sandstone arc high and cleave into precise cracks, and convex buttresses offer singular summits. But I’ll be the first person to tell you that, despite its appearance, Ethiopian stone is mostly rubbish—and I’ll be the last to listen.
Steep Ice! Skills Special
Seven experts show you how to lead with confidence – I’ve been climbing ice for more than 30 years, and I still get chills before starting up a column of steep ice. Sure, modern ice tools and crampons, warm gloves, and easy-to-place screws have made ice climbing much easier than it used to be. These days, a new ice climber can follow short sections of near-vertical ice on her first day out.
Diamonds in the Dust
Two weeks in the sultanate of Oman – A crowd is forming below me—men in long white robes and billowing pants lean against their cars and bicycles. Someone lays on a horn, waving a hand out a car window. Arabic pop music blares from another vehicle. “Be careful up there!” calls an Indian man pulling on a cigarette, his singsong tone expressing no real concern.
Seven can-do classics courtesy of Layton Kor – Climbing is one of the few disciplines in which you can literally walk (well, climb) in the footsteps of the masters. If you brought your own paintbrush into Spain’s Reina Sofía Museum and started tracing Picasso’s “Guernica,” you’d be arrested. But as climbers, we can pull on the same holds John Bachar used on the Bachar- Yerian or do Sharma’s heroic full-body dyno on Es Pontas—theoretically, anyway.
10 Things You Didn’t Know about Sport Climbing’s Early Days
You know those shiny gadgets, techy techniques, and bizzled training facilities we use to hone our sport climbing? Well, guess what: they weren’t invented in a vacuum. A few eureka moments, plus years of refinement, led to the tricks, tools, and techniques we take for granted when we’re out bolt-wrasslin’ today.
Sporting Life: The Power of the Anti-Psych
Without yin, there can be no yank – In my early twenties, I kicked around Rifle, Colorado, in my beige Toyota Tercel “turd wagon,” bolting unseemly choss and then overpowering it with Jersey Shore biceps and remedial footwork. I was a sour, angry young man, prone—like many of the era’s Rifle rats—to eardrum-shattering wobblers and unfettered slander. One day at the Arsenal, a visiting Austrian asked my age. “Twenty-one,” I told him. “Hah!” he said. “I thought you were 29.” Crap.
Trouble With Me
A Day at Gogarth - Hunched conspiratorially around the old oak table, Tim Neill, Phil Dowthwaite, and I whispered over the Gogarth guidebook. Phil pulled the cork from a third bottle of wine. Squeezed into the dark corner of the kitchen, I felt small. Tim and Phil towered above me, and a spiral staircase covered with hanging ivy towered over us all. Shelves full of climbing guidebooks and climbing magazines lined the room. The stove roared. John Redhead, the previous owner of this place, the Old Schoolhouse, would have rejoiced in our bacchanal.
|Reader Epics 2010
Mountaineering Winner: TALKEETNA. “It’s fine, don’t worry about me. You guys have done enough. It is just a couple of blisters.” I stared at the tips of Walter’s black fingers. They looked like lollipops from a science-fiction movie. “Frostbite, not blisters, Walter. You froze them.” My work partner, another guide, attempted to reason with him. “You need to get it checked out. There’s a clinic here in Talkeetna.” Walter was stubborn, though. After seeing heavy combat in two wars, he might have had enough demons inside that the cold of Denali felt insignificant.
Wing and a Prayer
The Curious Case of Maurice Wilson and his Doomed Quest for Mt. Everest - In 1933, two decades before Mt. Everest was first climbed (by a huge British-led expedition), Maurice Wilson, a 34-year-old Englishman, declared to the world that he would climb the peak—alone. Moreover, he would travel to its base by a solo flight from England. Before his death on Everest’s icy slopes in the summer of 1934, Wilson had become one of the most controversial figures in mountaineering history.
Angels of Mont Blanc
Inside the world’s busiest alpine-rescue service – Francis Claudon, of the Peloton de Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne (PGHM) in Chamonix, France, was on second call that July evening. With one team already out on a rescue, he was kitted up and ready for the next mission, boots on and rucksack packed. When the alert came, he was relaxing in the Dropzone lounge next to the helipad with his rescue partner. The room was spacious but sparsely decorated, with a TV, two sofas, and a coffee machine.
10 Things You Didn’t Know about YOSAR
Yosemite Search and Rescue is one of the most well-oiled SAR machines in the world. Along with world-class technical rescues—many existing helicopter rescue techniques were developed in Yosemite—YOSAR boasts top-notch swift-water rescue capability and even has a canine search team. Here, a few more things you may not know about Yosemite’s elite rescue squad.
My misguided effort to shortcut the learning curve – I’m back on the sharp end. Kind of. After six months of healing, following two back surgeries and complications, it might be more accurate to say I am on the dull, blunted end. It’s not a place I have spent much time in my climbing career—not because I am so good at climbing, but because, back in the day, I was determined to forego the clumsy stages of vertical apprenticeship and shoot straight for a skewed version of grace.
After two decades of tower-bagging, a desert rat faces an existential question on an unclimbed pinnacle: Is it still rock climbing if the stuff you’re climbing can’t be called rock? “Andy Donson had started it, showing me a photo of a mysterious rock formation lit by a fiery sunset.The lower half was familiar terrain, healthy pink stuff with vertical furrows that probably contained cracks. Entrada shale, fickle, soft—standard desert choss. The upper half? It looked sick, anemic, a bleached joke. Was it even rock? How did it stay in place? It wore a fuzzy coat of dribbled… well, dribbled what?”
Stoney Point: Portrait of an American Crag
In late 2005, when I was a senior at the University of Southern California, new to rock climbing and greener than Gumby, those words would have meant nothing to me. Royal Robbins? Bob Kamps? Who are those guys? If you told me that Robbins climbed the first 5.9 in the country, or that Kamps put up some of the first 5.11s, I might have retorted, “5.11? Big deal. everyone climbs that grade.” Chouinard? He was that surfer guy who started Patagonia in my hometown of Ventura—was he a climber?
10 Things You Didn’t Know about the Third Flatiron
One of the most iconic crags in the country, the Third Flatiron rises majestically just to the west of Boulder, Colorado. When it’s not closed by winter weather or to protect nesting falcons, the eight-pitch Standard East Face (5.4) is among the busiest multi-pitch routes in the world. In addition to its popularity, the Third is rich in history and has seen some madcap antics.
The soulless headlines jumped from the cover of Us Weekly, their Hollywood glamour only driving home the fact that I was having a bad day. I was at Oakland’s Great Western Power climbing gym on a rainy Sunday, leafing through old magazines while I rested between flail attempts on my project: pink-and-green tape. So far that day, my then-boyfriend had spanked me yet again at Texas Hold ’Em, Happy Donuts on San Pablo was out of my favorite rainbow-sprinkle cake doughnuts, and the proj wasn’t giving an inch. I was whipped.
Wind, Sand, and Scars
When the mushroom cloud dissipated over Japan that fateful day in 1945, Moab was still a sleepy cattle town, doing a small side business in uranium. Soon, however, the fallout from the atomic bomb would forever change the desert canyons in the town’s backyard. A post-war arms race broke out between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, sped along by a new government agency called the Atomic Energy Commission. The uranium boom was on. Moab’s population swelled to 4,600.
The Project: The Full, Uncut Interview from Climbing 289 and Dawn Wall Topo
Inside the four-year effort to create the world’s most difficult rock climb - On October 2, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson will rendezvous in Yosemite Valley to begin their final—they hope—multi-week session of joint effort on the first free climb up El Capitan’s biggest, blankest sector: the Dawn Wall. In a 2.5-hour interview at Caldwell’s home in Estes Park, Colorado, we asked Tommy and Kevin about their training, how they stay motivated, their tactics for the route, and how they’ll define success on the climb.
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Knots
Knots: they attach us to ropes, connect slings to trees, substitute for dropped gear, secure tents, create belay anchors. Like the Force, knots surround us, protect us, and bind our galaxy together. Even a sport climber whose shoes close with Velcro knows a few knots. But here are a few things you might not know.
Sporting Life: Plastic Purgatory
The Four Most Appalling Experiences of My Life in Gyms – Believe it or not, not all rock gyms are created equal. I first pulled on plastic in 1987 at the Vertical Club in Seattle. Along with the Colorado Athletic Training School (CATS), in Boulder, Colorado, and the Portland Rock Gym, the Vertical Club was one of the country’s first commercial indoor walls. Even then, in the dark ages, this gym had a good thing going: sculpted bouldering walls with permanent problems, arm-blasting traverses on cobbles, and jam cracks—a solid dose of varied terrain.
Deep South Water Scrambling
I pay my bill at the trendy North Shore Grille and walk out into the muggy night. My shirt is instantly soaked, and I can feel beads of sweat forming on my sloper-blistered fingertips. The oppressive summer heat has made climbing all but impossible in Chattanooga, and it’s making me a little loco. Not as loco as some of my friends, though. There on the sidewalk, hands behind his back, chin out, is my climber friend Lee Means, taunting a big, heavily muscled man. “C’mon, hit me,” says Lee with a boozy Southern drawl.
2010 Shoe Review
So you think your favorite rock shoes are the crème de la crème? Think again. New for this year are 19 models (plus two time-tested Mammut shoes) that will make you reconsider – and perhaps redefine – the perfect rock shoe. We asked 11 companies to send us two of their latest (Acopa sent one) shoes for us to put to the test. Our 17 testers used and abused said kicks for the last few months on plastic, boulders, sport routes, and trad lines across the country in order to give you the bottom line.
The One Thing
Becoming a world-class athlete takes more than simply being genetically gifted or having a rabid passion. It takes sophisticated introspection into how one relates to one’s sport. Rock climbing is no exception, and each top climber dives deep into his or her psyche. We started with a simple, performance-oriented question asked to some of the country’s finest rock climbers. The result was 10 surprisingly unique and genuine answers.
Under Angel Wings
I was born of white pines and crisp air—it’s just taken me a while to figure that out. As a little boy, I spent many a sunny Southern California day indoors in front of Nintendo and Lego sets. I ate Hostess donuts by the pack, and when I once ventured onto a hiking trail, I got kicked by a horse. Why go out? My dad tried his hardest to get me into the mountains and would lure me with lore from the world beyond our pretty-in-pink Palos Verdes house.
Joe and I were halfway through an extended road trip, summer 2001, and we had just arrived in the Sawtooth Mountains of central Idaho. Our intention was to live out of my van for two months, as we had the two previous summers, climbing everything we could get our hands on. It was not to be.
Story and photos by Kennan Harvey – My climbing youth was full of typically competitive mind games, raw enthusiasm, and very select objectives. I “hung” around Smith Rocks during Alan Watts’ heyday. I ventured into the Lake Clark National Park with Fred Beckey. I learned about Patagonia from a carpenter buddy, then went down and climbed the North Pillar of Fitz Roy. I was sculpted by great mentors… as well as by one insidious phantom.
10 Things… You Didn’t Know About Granite
Granite. Climbers love it, even as it tears their flesh, steals their gear, and makes them feel oh-so-small. You know how granite feels under your hands and feet, how it smells, and the way it turns to gold in the last light of day, but here are a few things you probably didn’t know.
|40 Years of American Rock
1970, picture it: a cherry-red Mustang guns it up the back roads out of a podunk Hudson Valley college town, burning rubber past farmhouses and orchards and around tree-lined hairpins toward a notch in ridge-top cliffs. The driver is sporting James Dean sunglasses, passenger’s blonde ponytail flying free, and the radio’s cranking out Diana Ross’s current number-one hit, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Yeah, baby.
Buoux: Revisiting France’s Crag of the 1980s
Once upon a time in Europe — and perhaps this is still true today — the most gifted climbers battled for one crown: to climb a route that no other could repeat. In that age of dreaming, beginning in the early 1980s, the rules that had defined the sport were cast happily and carelessly to the wind. No longer was a climber required to lower after each failed attempt, or to only install fixed protection from the ground up.
SUMMER 2006: Heidi Wirtz scanned the south face of the Ogre’s Thumb, searching for unclimbed lines up the 3,000-foot granite wall above. She stood awestruck on Pakistan’s Biafo Glacier, surrounded by the wild peaks of the Karakoram, imagining each pitch …till a scream shattered the stillness. It was Lizzy Scully, her close friend and climbing partner.
Green Mountain Manifesto
Sports have rules. But climbing — with its roots in rebellion and anarchy — has ethics, an agreed-upon code outlining which aids are allowed. It’s the first ascentionist’s right to set the bar, one later generations strive to surpass. Regression is frowned upon. Ethics are intractably tied to risk. We all manage climbing’s inherent risks differently. Most commonly, by how we climb: from the free solo, to a well-bolted clip-up, to the helicopter lift to the summit, and everything in between.
Once Upon a Climb
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (OK, Alberta, Canada), a young man stumbled upon an unclimbed wall in a mountain forest. Dotted by 12 silver bolts, it looked like a fine bit of rock scaling, and so with great curiosity, the lad scrambled around and rappelled down.
Visiting the wilderness for recreation is a relatively new development — till recent history, wilderness represented food, resources, and territory, not leisure. The impenetrable, uninhabitable high peaks, with their thunderstorms, blizzards, avalanches, and rockfall, have always imposed limits on life and put fear (awe) in our bellies. This fear is the first step toward spirituality: mountains became home to the gods, the divine and the unanswerable.
The Other Thailand
Deep within the sultry bamboo forests of the Mae On Valley, northern Thailand, looms an outcrop of golden-hued, blackstreaked limestone. Beneath it in the cool shade, you’ll likely find a man — Loong Nan, 53 — hammering away at bamboo huts, painting trail signs, or sweeping paths. This industrious Thai is the busdriving, trail-building, hut-constructing “guardian” of Crazy Horse Buttress. His tireless work ethic has prompted some to joke, “If everyone were like Loong Nan, communism could’ve worked.”
Los Sueños Grandes
El Chonta, Mexico’s Dreamy Stalactite Wrestling – An English teacher once taught me to start stories with something attention-grabbing, so here it goes: deep in the mountains of central Mexico, you’ll find a limestone cave so immense, it requires seven severely overhanging pitches to ascend. Got your attention? Then let’s begin. Mexico exists in extremes. Kidnappings, drug lords, corruption, and violence are all too common in Mexico City and the border towns, while along the coasts you’ll find huge, white-washed buildings with thumping night clubs and dolphin shows.
2009 Golden Piton Awards
2009 has been a year of hardship and strife. It would be foolish to ignore the fact that the “recession” (OK, full-blown depression) continues. Or that America seems split down the middle on Big Issues like health care, climate change, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At Climbing, 2009 has spelled diminished resources and staff (only 1.5 editors, an intern, and an art director on the creative side), though more stress. Our story is the same as everywhere.
Open Bivy – METAMORPHOSIS
By Conrad Anker – Losing it in the Kichatnas: a transformative experience – Alaska, 1991: a ptarmigan spoke to me from 90 feet up Middle Triple Peak (8,835 feet), in the Kichatna Range. Seth Shaw and I had just ticked the second ascent of the venerable East Buttress (VI 5.9 A3; 3,300 feet) in grotesque conditions. As we made the last of 20-some raps to the glacier, the Fates dished out more adventure …
The First Rule of Index…You Don’t Talk About Index – From Climbing Magazine No. 279 – October 2009 – If you measure a crag’s merits by rock quality and the influential climbers who there perfected their technique, there can be no doubt Index holds a very special place in the pantheon of granite climbing areas. Index is an unsung land of classics, claimed from the moss through grit and determination. Here, not-to-be-missed lines — sport, trad, aid, and more. Note: don’t be surprised to find a few bolts on classic trad lines. Click here to see more photos from Ben Gilkison of climbing at Index.
By Andrea Sutherland from Climbing No. 280 / Photos by Claudia Lopez, Federica Valabrega and Kyle Queener – THREE WOUNDED IRAQ WAR VETERANS RECOUNT THEIR NEAR-DEATH STORIES AND TRIUMPHANT CLIMBS BACK HOME – Since the start of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, in 2001 and 2003, respectively, nearly 2 million troops have deployed. More than 5,000 have been killed in action, with roughly 40,000 injured.
Taos: a basalt, granite, and conglomerate paradise in northern New Mexico – They say you can tell a lot about a climber by his dog. And if Jay Foley’s German shepherd, Lupita, is any indication, he’s put up a lot of routes.We’re near Taos, northern New Mexico, on a hot May afternoon – 85 F, blistering for 7,000 feet elevation on a plateau lapping against the Sangre de Cristos (Rockies).
Icefall Brook Ticklist
From Climbing Magazine No. 279 – October 2009 – On their 10-day trip to Icefall Brook, a team of international femmes fatale – Caroline George, Audrey Gariepy, Jen Olson, and Ines Papert – put up 10 new ice and mixed lines.
The Ultimate Guide to Digital Photography in the Mountains
Text and photos by Alexandre Buisse – In my (very biased) opinion, mountains are the most beautiful environment on the planet, and certainly a very important source of great photography. But besides their intrinsic beauty, those big stacks of rock have another attribute that makes them of special interest to imagemakers: they are inaccessible. Or rather, very difficult to access, requiring special knowledge, equipment, and physical abilities. Which means that the perspective from mountains is likely to be very unique, only having ever been seen by a very select few.
Respect Your Alders
By Emily Stifler and photos by Mikey Schaefer – Dome hunting in wild Alaska – July 2007: Kate Rutherford peered out the window of the Cessna 185 as it flew toward Dillingham, in southwest Alaska. For the next month, Rutherford would be working as a fly-fishing guide in Bristol Bay’s remote headwaters. Outside the window, the ragged 5,000-foot peaks of the Wood River Range cut the western skyline, eventually ebbing into gentle tundra, spruce forests, and glacially carved lakes.
A LOCAL’S-EYE VIEW OF SWITZERLAND’S MAGICAL BLOCS – “It’s a nice achievement to do this bouldering portfolio about my country, in the style of climbing I like the most,” says the Swiss boulderer/photographer Fred Moix, who spent the last six years shooting his native stones. “It was like a personal mission, a kind of legacy I wanted to give.”
Inner and outer worlds collide in an Arizona granite hideaway – By Fitz Cahall and photos by James Q Martin – Well lubricated with Pinot Gris, “Pig” careened around the campfire like a gyroscope. “Cochise Stronghold is a promised land,” he said, nodding preacherly. Shadows capered on the rock behind him, here in Joshua Tree’s overcrowded Hidden Valley Campground.
Get Shorty – The 5 best miniature sport routes in America
By Matt Samet – “These days, sport routes are getting longer,” says the sport-climbing progenitor Boone Speed. Speed would know: he recently photographed Chris Sharma on his 250-foot mega-pitch Jumbo Love, a 5.15 in California that’s emerged as North America’s longest, most difficult stretch of bolted rock. As Speed says, ultra-marathon endurance, especially on steep terrain, has become all the rage: there’s Jumbo Love; the new 300-foot Ichiban, a 5.14 in Austria’s Zillertal; the 170-foot 5.15a La Novena Enmienda (a 65-foot 5.14c linked into a 105-foot enduro-pig 5.14b), at Santa Linya, Spain.
Almost Free: Mark Hudon Shares Memories of a Bid to Free El Capitan’s Salathe Wall, in 1979
Nine years before Skinner and Piana freed the Salathé Wall, two of the era’s top free climbers, Mark Hudon and Max Jones, put in a solid bid that freed all but 300 feet of the route. On P18 — the Double Cracks — freed at 5.13b by Skinner and fearsome enough to be mostly avoided to this day, Jones, lowering after each fall to a no-hands stance, linked all but the final four moves.
|The Guidebook Odyssey – Unearthing the epic task of writing a guidebook
Never a fan of guidebooks, I’ve long had a “just pick a route that looks good and climb“ mentality. “It’s supposed to be an adventure!“ I’d tell myself. This attitude carried me haphazardly (yet miraculously without incident) through many climbing trips. Until one fateful day at Colorado‘s Eldorado Canyon.
Sand Blasted – Travel Travails and Epic Limestone in the Taghia Gorge, Morocco
Climbers, mainly French and Spanish, have come here since the 1970s, adding circa 115 routes from 5.6 to 5.13b on walls ranging from one pitch to 12. With the exception of some of the earliest routes, most lines are bolted (the rock doesn’t offer much natural protection). The bulk of the climbing starts at 5.11, with only about 40 single-pitch climbs.
2008 Golden Piton Awards
2008 was the year of the winner: Britney Spears won back her sanity; Michael Phelps took eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics; and — oh, yeah — Barack Obama won his bid for the Oval Office. On the climbing front, the bar, pushed almost immortally high in the aught decade, was notched higher yet.
Eight Confessions of a Climbing Mom
While we worked with the author Susan E.B. Schwartz on her feature on what it’s like to be a climbing mom, we learned that her research was so thorough (and elucidating) that it would have been remiss not to share her other conclusions with readers. The following info is distilled from more than 75 survey responses and 12-plus hours of phone interviews.
The Style that Counts
Andy Parkin and a Creative Life in the Mountains – “It was the final bit, in this massively exposed position,” he remembers. The ice looked funky — thin, brittle, dicey — and British ex-pat Andy Parkin paused to read the moves. Parkin, as has proven his habit over the years, was opening a route onsight and solo, on the north wall of the Grandes Jorasses, above Chamonix, France. All-in and fully committed, nearly 2200 feet off the Leschaux Glacier, he went for it.
Maine Liners – Sea-cliff hunting (and gumby sailing) along Downeast Maine
By Mark Synnott / Photos By Jared Ogden – Fog thickened by the minute, and the weather radio called for an evening squall. Scanning the chart, I saw Birch Harbor, a narrow bay the GPS placed right in front of us. It was mid-June 2008, and we were one day into a weeklong sea-cliff-climbing and sailing trip along the coast of Downeast Maine.
SPINDRIFT MEMORIES – 30 DAYS ON BAFFIN ISLAND’S WALKER CITADEL
By Mike Libecki – It was 10 years ago that I endured that night on the Walker Citadel, a granite tower stabbing 4,200 feet from Sam Ford Fjord, Baffin Island. Now as I type on my laptop, I sit next to a campfire in the Wasatch with my 5-year-old daughter, Lilliana. We’re on an adventure just as intriguing, but tonight we don’t suffer. At least, not in the way Russ Mitrovich, Josh Helling, and I did those 32 continuous days on the wall.
AMERICAN MEATBALLS – Two Yanks Taste Humble Pie on the Superb Granite of Sweden
By Mike Brumbaugh / Photos by Jonas Paulsson – Sweden: this serene Scandinavian country conjures visions of sweeping granite, splitter cracks, and rounded blocs. Er, I mean, bikini teams, hockey, lingonberry jam . . . and more bikini teams. In short, all things not climbing. And so it is with major trepidation that, in April 2007, I board a plane to Stockholm for a climbing trip.
Boone Sheridan Speed – Photographer, Product Designer, Area Developer, Entrepreneur, Smack Talker; Portland, Oregon
Raised in the Mormon town of Lindon, Utah, Boone Sheridan Speed, 42, never quite fit in. Speed’s was a dual world, with artistic parents (his father, Grant Speed, is a renowned Western bronze sculptor) who were also devout Mormons. Click here for a Chuck Fryberger video of Speed at his family foundry.
The Big D – How Rifle Mountain Park Became the “Land of 5.13d”
Something terrible dwells in the East. Eyes sharper than flints, a back rippling with veins and muscle, its arms long and sinewy, knees covered in a thick, black carapace, this horror is, as we speak, hurtling through the icy maw of the mountains. The beast has rolled the stoutest cord of 60 meters into a black bag, the line coiled like an angry cobra.
A Might Ticklist: Nico Favresse’s Top Sends
Estado Critico (5.14d); Siurana, Spain; Que Trabaja Rita (5.14c); El Chorro, Spain; more than 24 5.14b-and-harder redpoints, five 5.13d onsights, 100-plus 5.13b or harder onsights; Leaning Tower West Face (5.13b A0); Yosemite, California; onsighted 35 of 36 pitches; Red Pillar (VI 5.12b); Fitzroy Range, Patagonia, Argentina; Riders on the Storm (VII 5.12d A3); Torre Central del Paine, Patagonia, Chile …
Fantasyland – A deranged trip up Cerro Torre
By Kelly Cordes – In 2007, Kelly Cordes and Colin Haley linked two monster routes to climb Cerro Torre base-to-summit in 32 hours. And you know what? It’s all good, brah. … Alex Lowe once said that there are two kinds of climbers: those who climb because their heart sings when they’re in the mountains, and all the rest. I’d like to fancy myself the former, though sometimes I wonder.
Crack Addiction – Fissures of the West, from seams to bomb-bays
Story and photos by Andrew Burr – In North America, crack climbing means selfsufficiency: gauging size, assessing your rack, and slamming in gear as needed. It also means favoring technique over power, or rather, learning to harness your inner brute to cup and jam, ring-lock and foot torque, armbar, chimney, and chickenwing — because go-for-broke laybacking and praying for face holds often aren’t “technique” enough.
Stone Monkeys – Visions of the modern-age Stonemasters
By Cedar Wright – Photos by Dean Fidelman – The Stone Monkeys are a slightly more inclusive, modern-day equivalent of the “Stonemasters,” the amorphous band of Valley hardmen who pushed the limits of climbing in the 1970s and ‘80s. However, to be a Stone Monkey, you don’t have to climb hard or be famous (though quite a few Monkeys fit this bill).
The Black Dog – Five first-person riffs on the dark side of the climber mind
By Matt Samet, Kenneth Long, Fitz Cahall, Majka Burhardt, and Chad Shepard – We’ve gathered five essays linked by a common thread: dark manifestations of the climber mind because many climbers face these issues, but cowed by the cacophony of the dirtbag-chic, free-wheelin’ climbing community, silence themselves.
Steve McClure – The Full Interview
By Abbey Smith – Even facing dreary English conditions, no set training schedule, seepy local crags, all-day routesetting sessions to make ends meet, raising a 20-month-old daughter, DIY house-dismantling projects, coaching, and writing, "Strong" Steve McClure still sets world standards.
By Chris Kalous – Photos by Dan Gambino – Rain, Rain, and More Rain in Valle Cochamó: The Yosemite of South America – Dan looked like a wet, grumpy turnip. Katie had the Brown-Frown in full dazzle. I was one nipple hair away from throwing a huge wobbler at anybody who dared make eye contact. And Matt? Well, Matt was stoked no matter what.
THUNDERDOME – Dog of Thunder
Story and photos by Charles Edelstein – Measuring up to the first ascent of Dog of Thunder Grade 30+ A0 (5.13 A0) Blouberg North Wall, Limpopo Province. South Africa has a stormy history filled with metaphorical lightning strikes: apartheid, revolution, poverty-afflicted townships.
Line of Control – Bouldering, Big-Walling, and International Conflict in Indian Kashmir
By Micah Dash – Photos by Jonny Copp – “Hey, Jonny, look over yonder,” I said, pointing at distant figures across the Lang Lang Meadow, our little slice of heaven in Indian Kashmir. We — Jonny Copp and I — came here in July 2007 to try a 3,500-foot unclimbed granite wall on an unclimbed peak.
I Boulderer – Yosemite Bouldering
Granite. Black-and-white-speckled, fine-grained, compact, solid stone. Confident, angular boulders sculpted by time and held firmly in place by gravity. Tall, blunt arêtes, mockingly blank. An obtuse, crackless corner. Overhanging faces carved with blocky edges.
|Dumby Dave – The Dark Art of Rhapsody
At E11 7a, Rhapsody requires 5.14c climbing with 70-foot fall potential — Dave MacLeod succeeded only after two years and numerous ankle-smashing rippers. He has free-soloed 5.13d and repeated E-desperates throughout the British Isles. He also has climbed 5.14c sport in Spain and established V13.
Blank Check – A trip up the Eigernordwand
Story and photos by Jonny Copp – We roll into Grindelwald with exactly three days to spare, trundling our duffles onto the open-air platform, jumping out, and looking up. There it is: the 6,000-foot North Face of the Eiger.
The King Of Kings
In professional climbing, where talent burns hot and fast, a decade is a long time. Ankles snap. Shoulders pop from sockets. Fingers calcify. And those rare talents that don’t succumb to nagging injuries often falter beneath the mental pressure.
The Full Johnny Dawes Interview
Fiercely intelligent, iconoclastic, dancing to the eternal vibrations of the rock that the rest of us just pull past -Johnny Dawes, 43, the irrepressible English climber who brought solid E8 (Gaia, an E8 6c at Black Rocks) and the world’s first E9 (Indian Face, E9 6c, 150 feet of technical, 5.12c death at Clogwyn D’ur Arddu) to the world during his manic blitzkrieg in 1986.
Jacinda (JC) Hunter: The Full Interview
Dwindling daylight obscures the mini-crimps on Barbwire Beard, a V11 traverse established by Adam Osterhoff in 2003 that snakes out of a dark cave in Upper Chaos Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). It’s a hot, humid, breezeless Saturday – three days climbing out of four for Jacinda (JC) Hunter.
The Color of Life
The accomplished wall specialist Silvia Vidal, 36, of Barcelona, Spain, recently stuck her neck out (solo) on a new Shipton line: Life is Lilac, completed over 21 days this July (10 through 30) and clocking in at 2,900 feet, 5.10 A4+.
“We only get one shot on this dustball…”
On July 13, the climbing world lost a great one: Michael Reardon, 42, the accomplished free soloist from Oak Park, California. Reardon met with a freak accident at the headland of Dohilla, on the island of Valentia off the southwest coast of Ireland.
Klettergarden – Alpine Moderate Madness in RMNP
What comes to mind when I mention Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)? Probably the Diamond of Longs Peak, that 1,000-foot granite plaque capping an ominous east-facing cirque. Or maybe Hallet Peak and the clusters of V-hard boulderers sessioning the talus at its base.
The Complete Jim Holloway Interview
In 1975, Jim Holloway, 6′ 4″ and with cable for tendons, shoed up beneath Cloud Shadow Wall, above Boulder, Colorado. His project lay on the convex east end of the sandstone face. Holloway fished his right hand into a fingertip undercling, crimped the left on a layaway, and pulled on.
The Emperor of Mount Robson
Jim Logan, a youthful 60, runs an architecture firm in Boulder, but often plays hookie to climb in Eldorado and at the Boulder Rock Club. He ranks the Emperor Face as one of his three great climbs, along with the 1960s FFAs of the Diamond on Longs Peak and the punishing offwidth Crack of Fear (5.10) at Lumpy Ridge.
Black Hole – Northern Arizona Bouldering
We had five days to tour Flagstaff. We slept on dusty floors and drank way too much coffee. Nelson got food poisoning. The dog shat on the passenger seat (twice). We bought truckstop T-shirts with animals on them. We broke down and abandoned the Spray on the way back through New Mexico. We took photos. We had fun …
The Life of Warren “Batso” Harding
Perhaps you’ve never heard of Warren Harding and his extraordinary exploits, both on and off the rock, but be assured that in the Sierra his name is hammered in the granite pantheon of climbing immortals.
The Complete Pat Ament Interview
When Climbing asked the legendary Colorado climber Pat Ament to help us with a Perspective piece, he gave us such deep, thoughtful, well-reasoned answers that we decided to post this interview with him in its entirety. Ament (patament.com) also provided us with these shots of him, past and present.
The Snows of Genyen
Two of America’s hardiest alpinists, Charlie Fowler and Christine Boskoff, went missing in the eastern Himalaya last December during a mission to climb untamed peaks. As the days ticked by, friends began to worry: These were not the kind of climbers just to disappear.
Annot sits at 5,000 feet — spring and fall are best, with winter sometimes amazing, sometimes too snowy. You can climb mid-summer by sticking to the highest areas and the pocket (not sloper) problems.
Welcome to the Rocklands, the internationally famous, world-class bouldering destination that most Americans have heard of, but few have visited. This could very well be the world’s best — and biggest — bouldering area. It is but a miniscule chunk of the greater Cederberg mountain range,
Earth, Wind, and Rubble
Zion has always been a land of tight spots. The main canyon constricts until it becomes a deep wound in the earth. Hand cracks have a way of widening into 5.9+ squeezes, which have a way of opening into 5.10 chimneys.
It was becoming a habit. Hoping to tick some routes before facing my abusive boss, I set out for a little before-work scramble in God’s own playground, the Flatirons. The rising sun slanted through the pines as I approached the East Bench of the Third Flatiron.
2006 – Loss of a Legend
On October 23, the climbing world lost a legend — Todd Skinner, originally of Pinedale, Wyoming, 47 at the time of his death and a leading big-wall free climber. Skinner died in an unrestrained 500-foot fall from the Leaning Tower in Yosemite National Park.
Adventure Climbing in Corsica
Corsica is the Brigadoon of the climbing world: Most have heard of it, few know where it is, and nobody, apparently, has climbed there. Flipping through old magazines, I saw an article by Arnaud Petit: “Corsica: a mountain in the sea” [Climbing No. 152]. I had nurtured a mild obsession with the island ever since.
|Fear is Ruling Here
November 2005: I huddled in the darkness of my tent high on the Southwest Ridge of Ama Dablam (22,494 feet), a fairy-tale peak just south of Mount Everest. With temperatures dropping, I was grateful that Kami Chirring, a world-class climbing sherpa I’d met lower on the mountain, had agreed to join me.
Resurrection of the Dammed
The forgotten and flooded Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is poised in the spotlight of a century-old environmental battle, while a small group of climbers continue to push lines above the water. Sean Jones was working another project in the Fjord, which as usual for Sean meant juggling. His little family in El Portal, the center of his life.
THE SEARCH – Adventure Boudering in Bolivia
We lash packs to our backs and crashpads to our shoulders. I’ve been in La Paz, Bolivia, and on the nearby volcanoes for three weeks, and now, with the arrival of three friends from France, the French Team has become four: Ziza, Tony, Steph, and me, the Dod. No more ice axe and crampons — now it’s boulders, not summits, that I seek. Where we will find them in this vast, deserted country, I am not sure.
Moroccan Gold – Climbing in Africa’s gateway
Morocco is located in the northwest corner of Africa, nineteen kilometers across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain. Trade and immigrants from all over Africa flow northward through Morocco into Europe, reminiscent of the porous-border relationship that Mexico has with the United States. The names of many Moroccan cities are both exotic and familiar: Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangier, Fes, and Timbuktu. Foreign artists have been attracted to Morocco for generations. Some, including Henri Matisse, were drawn by the stark landscape and indigenous art forms. Others, like William S. Burroughs, found muses of a different sort in its lawless international port cities.
A flash of lightning illuminates towering fangs of rock as thunder pierces the darkening sky. The afternoon grows cold; thunderheads pool; and, suddenly, big midsummer drops splash from the heavens. This is Utah’s Wasatch Front Range, arguably the country’s wildest “suburban” mountain chain, boasting some of the States’ best alpine moderates. As far back as the 1940s, the likes of Harold Goodro and Fred Beckey played on Wasatch stone.
By Luke Laeser – Photos by Tim Kemple – The prickly brown stone crests over me like a tidal wave about to crash. It’s 1995, my first full-fledged trip to Hueco Tanks, and I’m not sure what’s more intimidating — topping out above my thin homemade pad consisting of a sleeping pad wrapped in carpet and duct tape, or the testosterone filtering through this cluster of boulders.
After The Gold Rush – high country cragging in western Colorado
I crank the wheel hard as another sheer drop fills my windshield. My back wheels skate out, spraying grave as I overcorrect. My knuckles are white and my eyes are fixated on the guard rail. Instinctually, I hit the gas on my aging Subaru, gaining some speed but also control. As my heart rate slowly regulates, my gaze wanders from the road toward the majestic San Juan Mountains near Telluride — and again I nearly miss a turn, 1000 feet above the valley floor. I’ve driven this pass countless times, yet the exposure and panoramic views always get me. It’s only early autumn, but already the peaks are dusted in snow and the aspen trees are turning gold.
The Russian Way
Alexander Ruchkin groggily poked his head out of the sleeping bag and switched on his headlamp. Tiny crystals of ice and fog glittered in the confined space he shared with Dmitry Pavlenko. The icy portaledge fly flapped in Ruchkin’s face, making it hard to ignore the giant patch where a falling rock had recently ripped through the fabric. It was 3 a.m. on May 24, 2004, and at 7400 meters on the two-mile-high north face of Jannu in Nepal, it was pushing minus forty centigrade.
2005 Golden Piton Awards
This year Climbing is rolling the invitation out to you — our loyal readers — to select the 2005 “Climber of the year” Golden Piton award. Look for the winners in issue #247 on newsstands 3/21/06.
I looked directly left toward the belay. The rope made a long, sad droop before it hit a piece of protection. “I think you’re at the first R part,” said, Kennan. Off to the right, I could see what looked like a crack, but it was another seven or eight feet out. The rock in between appeared blank. The holds under my hands and feet were classic Sandia granite, rounded and gritty, and I sensed that I had limited time before nerves and gravity got to me.
Going Greek on the Island of Kalymnos
The street is dark and quiet except for the laughter of a group of climbers stumbling back from a bar and the far-off whine of a scooter. I hear the surf on the gravel beach of the Greek island of Kalymnos, a small, rocky outcropping in the Dodecanese near the coast of Turkey, and my thoughts are of steep moves on climbs whose names end in “-os.”
Omiros, Kerveros, Eros — the routes are tipped-back concoctions of pockets and tufas and stalactites, and my forearms remember them as a butt remembers a spanking.
Big Limestone in the Canadian Rockies
Imagine this: Sharp rock ripping flesh. War cries echoing off the walls. Blunt tools glancing off bone. Not a game — not like climbing. Howling warriors from two proud tribes racing at each other across the same shallow river that now swirls around my legs. I look down at my numb feet and try to imagine red clouds billowing in the water and between my toes. I quickly jump out of the river, not sure if the shivers running up my legs are from the cold or from ghosts in the water.
NJC – The Catwalk
Los Angeles is a town rich in traffic jams, smog, crime, and reality TV programs. The myths prevail: Yes, there are more BMWs than people; Yes, a child’s first word is usually either “Botox” or “implant;” Yes, everyone’s writing a screen play; No, we didn’t dam Hetch Hetchy (that was San Francisco). Living in Hell-A certainly imposes its challenges, but it has its moments too.
Just 100 miles east of town, tucked in the San Bernardino Mountains’ rain shadow, exists a desert oasis of sorts where jagged, textured, volcanic rock abounds.
The Dihedral Wall
“I don’t know if I have this in me anymore.” For the length of my professional climbing career, I shunned these words. I have always taken the theory that I cannot back down even an inch or I will never reach my true potential. But here I was, 1800 feet up El Cap, feeling like I might finally be at the end of my rope. My arms were seizing every time I lifted them above my head. Blood was seeping from holes in my fingers, knees, elbows, shins, and forehead. I had been abusing my body on this climb for over two months and I was tired. Deeply tired, in both body and mind.
Band of Brothers
Four climbers stepped off the Alaska Railroad at Curry, about twenty miles north of Talkeetna, on April 17, 1954. Shouldering huge packs, the foursome crossed the frozen Susitna River, snowshoed up a tall hill, and paused to admire the view from the top. Fifty miles away, Denali sat nearly 20,000 feet above them, shimmering over frozen riverbeds and snow-covered tundra. The unclimbed, five-mile-long rampart of the South Buttress angled toward the summit. In 1954, Denali had been climbed fewer than ten times, and its south and east flanks remained completely virgin.
Crag of the Future
No matter if it’s for a hot date, for a meeting, for your girlfriend’s period, or, in my case, in the season — “late” is never good. Laboring halfway up a barren Colorado hillside in convulsive 100-degree July heat, I beg for mercy — and for shade. I follow closely behind Tommy Caldwell, his wife Beth, and Adam Stack, and imagine this hike in the cool temps of winter. There will be no mercy, however, not on this hike nor on the crag that awaits.
L’autre Côté de Fred Rouhling
Cheat! Liar! Over the years, many climbers have become objects of derision because the claims they made did not pass muster. Once the negative publicity gets rolling, it seems there’s no stopping it. In the sport-climbing world, perhaps no man has received as much bad press as Fred Rouhling, a Frenchman who made the news in the mid-1990s. In 1995, his infamy hit international proportions when he claimed the 9b grade for one of his routes, Rouhling’s other hard routes were almost as controversial.
Wind Madness — Cerro Torre’s Epic Hall of Fame
Immense planetary forces pushed up the Andes, tearing and rending the earth’s crust. The tectonic plates crushed together, buckling and crumpling, the South American landmass crashing over the floor of the Pacific. Molten lava boiled into the fissures from deep under the surface, erupting in a 7000-mile-long string of volcanoes. But in a few places at the southern end of the continent — in Patagonia — the magma didn’t quite reach the surface. Underground, surrounded by beds of less resistant rock, it cooled into hard, perfect granite.
The Beautiful People
Jason Kehl’s face is freshly shaven save for two triangular tufts of twisted hair, teased to grow outward from the middle of his jawbone, forming a Tut-like “beard of divinity.” Every twenty minutes, Timmy O’Neil tells Jason that he missed a spot while shaving. Passersby laugh at O’Neil’s banter and Kehl’s soft-spoken retorts. I’m in the ring with heavyweight rock stars at the second-annual Petzl Roc Trip at an after-hours party.
“I’ve known of people who’ve been driving the Arizona Strip at night,” an elderly Navajo man confides in a hushed tremolo. “Suddenly, they see an animal with terrible, beady eyes running alongside their car — a Skinwalker! Sometimes it’ll follow alongside for miles, just staring; other times it lunges.” I stare at my new acquaintance, not sure what to say. Behind us, massive walls of terra cotta sandstone capped with black lava crouch beneath an azure sky.
|Black Mountain Boulders
My first trip to Black Mountain was in the summer before my junior year in high school, 1994. We piled into my best friend’s brown ‘79 Ford Courier — its hood freshly pimped out with a custom flame paint job applied only days earlier with masking tape and a few cans of Rustoleum — and made the hour-long drive from Lake Elsinore, blasting the Butt Trumpets and NOFX and infused with a zeal that most people grow out of. We blew past Idyllwild, home of the legendary crags of Suicide and Tahquitz, and bounced up the long dirt road to Black Mountain.
In the footsteps of Fanny: Women in the Karakoram
The high altitude sun was blazing when I first saw the 14,000-foot basecamp my partners and I would inhabit for the next five weeks. Three- to four-thousand-foot spires – Uli Biaho, Hainabrakk, the Cat’s Ears, and Shipton Spire – pierced the sky. These granite towers channeled the Trango Glacier downvalley and into the raging gray waters of the Braldu River.
I trudged over talus toward camp, arriving at a scene that was likely no different from one Karakoram explorers saw 100 years ago, when pioneering female mountaineer Fanny Bullock Workman first visited.
Giving Birth to Reason
Urine flows down my thighs, soaking my synthetic underwear and sleeping bag. My mind slowly sinks into the quicksand of delirium. I can do nothing to stop it. There is no other explanation: She must be from hell. Relentless snow threatens to bury my sanctuary shell. Her serpent-like voice rises above the howling wind. “What is your mother’s name?” she asks, her obsidian eyes turning blood red.
She has appeared next to me in my stagnant shelter 2000 feet up a wall in East Greenland. I never knew her, let alone talked to her. She was just a girl I saw over the years, from elementary school to high school. I’d never thought of her, then or since.
Traversing the Bridger Jacks
It’s ten o’clock on an early September morning and I’m at home in Durango, minding my own business. The phone rings. It’s Noah Bigwood. Noah lives in Moab, Utah, where he operates the guide service Moab Desert Adventures. He is the most proficient desert climber I know (though he studiously avoids offwidth cracks), so this call could mean trouble.
“I have an idea, and I need a partner,” says Noah. “I want to climb ten desert towers in a day.
The Way of the Weekend Warrior
Japan offers endless opportunities for foreigners, or gaijin, to make unwitting fools of themselves. Although tourists usually get sufficient slack in the manners department, Topher, for one, seems determined to get it right. Clad in a yukata, a long bathrobe-like floppy-sleeved garment worn as aprés-hot-springs apparel, my photographer is trying hard not to do any unintentional dragnet fishing in his dinner soup with said sleeves while under the mounting influence of hot sake. The drinks seem to be reactivating some of my language neurons that haven’t been fired since I moved from Japan sixteen years ago.
2004 Golden Pitons
We seek out visionary mountaineering efforts, improbable boulder problems, sport routes that “just say no” to the easy temptations. In short, we reward ascents that stand for something, in all mediums.
2004 Golden Piton Awards – Speed Climbing
At Climbing, we have received so many reports on the countless new El Cap speed records — Flash! 15:59 on Son of Fart, 18:24 on New Yawn— that to be honest, we’re over it.
2004 Golden Piton Awards – Service
When Sean Patrick was told she had four to six weeks to live due to ovarian cancer, her climbing friends distracted her by helping plan a little climbing-based project called HERA — Health, Empowerment, Research, and Advocacy.
2004 Golden Piton Awards – Bouldering
What do you look for in the “boulder problem of the year”? Nothing could be more dubious than mere ratings: The top grades are adrift on a sea of genetics and sponsorship contracts.
2004 Golden Piton Awards – Big-Wall Free Climbing
European big-rock highlights this year included Josune Bereziartu and Rikardo Otegi’s first free ascent of the totally obscure Yeah Man, a 300-meter route in the Gastlosen Range of Switzerland; Pietro dal Pra’s FFA of Via del Cathedral (8a+/5.13c), on the El-Cap-scale Marmolada in the Dolomites — a route with no bolts (but free climbed using some very long, pre-placed slings on fixed pins on the crux pitch).
2004 Golden Piton Awards – Sport Climbing
Our golden piton goes to Beth Rodden for her october first ascent of the Optimist at Smith Rock.
2004 Golden Piton Awards – Traditional Cragging
For traditional cragging — short, gear-protected rock climbing —2004 was a good year. Cracks were popular. Jeff Beaulieu of Quebec finally found the dry conditions he needed to send his backyard obsession, the beautiful overhanging crack of La Zébrée (after watching video footage, our panel of specialist sub-men guesses 5.13b/c for the grade), though he didn’t place the gear on lead.
2004 Golden Piton Awards – Solo
House climbed in pure alpine style on a nearly 7000-meter peak that had been climbed only once before, in 1984, by a Japanese team that placed thousands of feet of fixed rope and 450 bolts or pins.
2004 Golden Piton Awards – Alpine Rock
Looking down between his legs at 7000 feet of vertical relief, Josh Wharton could hardly believe the predicament into which he’d climbed himself. His last protection was an equalized birdbeak and knifeblade 30 feet below.
2004 Golden Piton Awards – Alpine Ice
Our award for best full-conditions alpine climb of 2004 goes to Ben Gilmore and Kevin Mahoney for Arctic Rage on the east face of the Mooses Tooth in the Ruth Gorge.
2003 Golden Piton Awards – Lifetime Achievement
While a list of revered, veteran North American climbers is long, the roll of those who’ve reached true iconic status is short. Near the top of that brief list is Fred Beckey.
2003 Golden Piton Awards – Service
Metcalf, and the OIA membership that supported him, changed the face of negotiations involving primitive recreation on public lands, showing that leaving wild lands wild is green in more ways than one.
2003 Golden Piton Awards – All Around
The essence of an all-arounder is the ability to cover ground, quickly, efficiently, and with aplomb, regardless of difficulty. Often this can mean rock, mixed, alpine, altitude, but we think the most impressive all-arounder of 2003 was a rock specialist, Yuji Hirayama.
2003 Golden Piton Awards – Bouldering
The Golden Piton for bouldering in 2003 goes to Jason Kehl, for his unroped, crash-padded, highball ascent of Dave Graham’s two-bolt Rumney 5.14d (or V13?), The Fly.
2003 Golden Piton Awards – Traditional rock
Our vote for best effort of the year goes to Dean Potter and Steph Davis, for Epitaph, a 450-foot route on the Tombstone, near Moab, Utah.
|2003 Golden Piton Awards – High-Altitude Mountaineering
Balancing style, stature, and purity of line, our vote for high-altitude climb of the season goes to the alpine-style ascent of the north buttress of Nuptse (7861 meters) by the Benegas twins Willie and Damien.
2003 Golden Piton Awards – Competition Climbing
Unbelievable is the word most people use to describe Sandrine Levet’s dual victories in both the bouldering and route events at December’s World Cup. The unprecedented feat is akin to a runner winning both the 100-meter sprint and the mile.
2003 Golden Piton Awards – Sport Mixed
Ines Papert of Germany set a new standard for women’s mixed climbing in 2003 when she repeated Mission Impossible (M11), near Courmayeur, Italy, a route that just two years earlier was thought to be the hardest in the world.
2003 Golden Piton Awards – Sport Climbing
The one 5.15a from 2003 that meets all criteria is the extension to La Rambla (8c+, 5.14c) at Siurana, Spain. It has loomed over aspirants at Siurana, one of Europe’s mega-crags, since Alex Huber climbed it in 1994.
2003 Golden Piton Awards – Big Wall Free Climbing
Despite exploration, runouts, and the wide spectrum of big, high-standard free climbing, the climb of the year was surely completed right here in the States, on El Capitan; Zodiac, the wall’s most famous and emblematic nail-up, went free at 5.13d.
Golden Piton Alpine Climbing
The Rockies, Alaska, the Caucasus, Patagonia — alpinists continue to comb the globe finding new lines to suffer for.
2003 Golden Pitons
Each January the editors at Climbing begin scouring the records, recollections, and rumors for the most impressive ascents of the past year.