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Dave Pickford avoiding the Deep Six on the sea cliffs of Dorset, U.K.
Nicknamed “Enduroman” in the 70’s, for hanging over an hour on one of the most strenuous overhangs in the Gunks, John Bragg has made a career of some of the most classic first ascents. From Kansas City, Gravity’s Rainbow and “Enduroman,” to routes in Yosemite, Utah, Boulder, New England, Alaska, Argentina, Peru, France and China. So when it comes to the shirt on his back, he prefers to go the time honored route, too. The DriClime Windshirt from Marmot. For over a decade, John’s relied on the DriClime’s bi-component knit technology to continuously wick moisture away from his body, for rapid evaporation under the most demanding conditions. So whether he’s rock climbing in the Patagonian Andes, or ice climbing “The Fang” in New Hampshire, he always stays dry. And with amazing wind resistance, water-repellency, and SlimFit for layering, he knows he’ll stay warm, too. In the odd chance he finds himself hanging around in the cold longer than he expected. It's no wonder people who work outdoors for a living are the inspiration for the clothing that works for them. The DriClime Windshirt. Count on it.™
Having put up some of the most time honored, first ascents in the Gunks, it’s no surprise John Bragg prefers to go the classic route.
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TEAM : ATHLETE : Tommy
Photo: Jimmy Chin
Photo: Nick Sagar
Photo: Wills Young
BIO: America’s best all-around rock climber. Tommy excels at both sport and trad. His accomplishments include a one-day, no-falls, free ascent of El Cap's “Salathe Wall” (VI 5.13b) and “Flex Luthor” (5.15?). SHOE: Anasazi Lace-up
TEAM : ATHLETE:
BIO: The world's strongest female boulderer. Lisa has won World Cup's and has sent hard problems such as "Chablanke" (V12) and "Sarah" (V12). SHOE: Zlipper ™
ATHLETE : Dean
BIO : America's premier solo climber, Dean has defined boldness with incredible ascents in Patagonia and the Yosemite Valley. He raised the bar again with his link-up of El Cap and Half Dome, free in a day. SHOE: Moccasym ®
When Five Ten came out with the Anasazi Lace Up, the shoes were way ahead of their time . In terms of edging and smearing they far surpassed any shoe on the market. Their superior performance, in combination with the stickiest rubber and a perfect fit made them the ultimate shoe for almost any climb. They stretch just enough to conform to my foot but not so much that they feel sloppy. They are precision machines and give me confidence when standing on the tiniest of f ootholds. It’s great to know that everyday when I’m wearing my Lace Ups, I’m climbing with the perfect shoe.
When bouldering, there are some things that are more impor tant than being in shape . For example, for every boulder problem, there is a right color of nail polish -- it's not AL WAYS green. For every boulder problem there is a right color spor ts top, because rocks come in many different colors too. But the most important thing is having the right pair of shoes! The Sapphires are the most comfortable shoes made for women. And I like the color. But when I look back over the last few years, I realize I've worn Zlippers on ever hard problem I've done. Shoes are way more important than nail polish.
-Tommy Caldwell -Lisa Rands
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With the ghosts of our native land, I tread on sacred ground wearing the Moccasym.
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TEAM : ATHLETE : Dave
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TEAM : ATHLETE:
BIO : Dave has done more hard boulder problems and more 5.14’s than anyone in the world. He has sent “Action Directe” (5.14d) and “Dreamtime” (V15). SHOE: V10 ™
The V10 is the only climbing shoe to create a new dimension of thought in the world of difficulty-climbing. The ability to use feet the same way as hands, pulling your entire body in unison, offers the greatest chance to achieve progression and evolution of the sport at the highest level.
The V10 has opened a door to a ne w style in which to ascend rock, provoking in climbers’ minds an entirely new vision of what is possib le.
BIO: The world's best free climber. Chris has risen to the top level of bouldering, sport climbing and competition. His achievements include "The Mandala" and "Realization." SHOE: Anasazi Velcro
Climbers Walk Into a
Dear Anasazi Velcro (my little tan, easy to get on, super sticky, rock eating, synthetic leather, hybrid slipper), I want you to know how much I care about you. When facing difficult problems, you have brought me so much confidence. I’ll never forget those amazing experiences we shared in Ceuse . I’ll always regret those times I made you stay at home . Although they were few, I was wrong. Please forgive me. I will never ever doubt you again. Yours truly,
-Dave Graham -Chris Sharma
p.007-8 TOC.126 4/29/03 9:11 AM Page 7
10 Exposed 50 Breaking the Rules Unroped feats from around the world.
Sometimes, following your dreams can land you in a world of trouble. A solo gone wrong on Yosemite’s Steck-Salathé. By Dean S. Potter
56 The Perfect Gift
Birthdays are a time for taking stock. One woman decided to go climbing on every one. Alone, thanks. By Steph Davis
58 Running Away
Caught on the wrong end of a bad relationship, a climber seeks reprieve in the Alps. Fiction by Mark Twight
62 The Soaking
Soloing isn’t always a lonely, quiet pursuit. At the sea cliffs of Dorset, England, it becomes a festival of sorts. Our intrepid reporter takes the bait, but there’s just one problem — he can’t swim. By Niall Grimes
68 The Hard Way
The original north-face routes on Italy’s great Tre Cima represented the cutting edge of big-wall climbing. But last year, Alexander Huber pushed into a new realm. By Jeff Achey Photos by Heinz Zak
53 Dan Osman going for broke on Gun Club, by Jay Smith. 54 John Bachar unplugged, by Pete Takeda. 66 Tim Pochay's bold venture up Mount Temple's north face, by Barry Blanchard. 67 Earl Wiggins' futuristic Black Canyon solo, by Jeff Achey.
Dean Potter atop Yosemite’s Manure Pile Buttress with Sentinel Rock beyond. Photo by Eric Perlman. On the cover: Dave Pickford climbing Davy Jones’s Locker (5.10+) at the sea cliffs of Dorset, England. Photo by Simon Carter.
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NO. 1 2 6 , J U L Y 2 0 0 3
Glorifying danger. Mixed messages from the free-soloing underground.
Uncensored opinions and outcries.
Women rock Hueco Tanks; Sue Nott makes history in the Alps; alpinists missing on Devils Thumb; more.
Tim Kemple. Only 22 years old, this Granite State native has amassed a formidable collection of free solos and headpoints.
Book of the Month
Reviewed: Clinton McKinzie’s Trial By Ice and Fire.
Watch that edge — safe toproping skills. By John Bicknell
Belay devices. A comprehensive round-up of the latest auto-locking and auto-blocking models. By Dave Pegg
High-tech innovations and softgoods.
Legends of the mind. Soloing at Tahquitz, the author finds himself at odds with the teachings of his hero. By John Long
Ask the Experts
Lisa Rands: The dreaded flapper — skin care and Rx for boulderers.
Might is right. Rock and Ice’s three-tiered plan for sport-climbing success. By Dave Pegg
Peak granite — Rocky Mountain National Park. Expert beta and topos to Colorado’s high-country classics, from 5.4 to 5.10. By John Bicknell
Rock gyms, retailers and more.
What went wrong? Solving the mysteries of Göran Kropp’s tragic leader fall at Frenchman Coulee, Washington. By Mike Gauthier, edited by Jed Williamson
BOTTOM TO TOP: SIMON CARTER, JEREMY COLLINS, MATT STARK
From the Editors
p.010-13 Exposed.126 4/28/03 2:26 PM Page 10
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Steph Davis traveling light on Owl Rock (5.8), Arches National Park, Utah. Davisâ€™ feature about free-soloing desert sandstone and Yosemite granite starts on page 54. Photo by Tyler Stableford
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Flying high Taped up
Brad Jackson serving Climb and Punishment (5.9), Vedauwoo, Wyoming. Photo by Corey Rich
Lucy Creamer tackles the gritstone showpiece Flying Buttress Direct (5.9) at Stanage Edge, England. Photo by Simon Carter
p.010-13 Exposed.126 4/28/03 2:31 PM Page 14
Kim Csizmazia soloing the Whimper Wall (WI 4) above the Icefields Parkway, Alberta, Canada. Photo by Simon Carter
p.010-13 Exposed.126 4/28/03 2:32 PM Page 15
p.016 Editorial.126 4/30/03 11:13 AM Page 16
The Dark Art
Soloing — a grand achievement or a big mistake?
s we were busy putting together this issue — devoted to modern soloing — a lifelong climber named Jim emailed me. He was concerned about our focus on this wildly risky aspect of the sport. “The climbing community is full of aware people,” Jim wrote. “They deserve something more on this complex subject than just another glorification.” Jim listed numerous free-soloists who were now dead, and others who had narrowly survived soloing accidents. When he got to Derek Hersey’s name (the congenial Hersey died in 1993 while free-soloing the Steck-Salathé on Yosemite’s Sentinel Rock), Jim noted that some consider the details of his death to be unclear. “Hell no, they’re not,” Jim contended. “He fell 1,000 feet because he was climbing unroped!” Jim strongly opposed the notion of soloing as heroism. I, too, had been struggling with the idea of producing an issue devoted to this fringe aspect of our sport. By publishing feature articles and full-page photos of soloing, would we appear to be endorsing this activity? We at Rock and Ice strove to cover all aspects of climbing’s dark art. We asked our writers to cover the hard truths of soloing — to expose the drive of climbers’ egos and personal angst, to reveal the harrowing close calls that are often swept aside, as well as to delve into the minds of those who find fleeting comfort and fulfillment from the intense concentration that soloing demands. One climber, who had soloed Eldorado Canyon’s Diving Board (5.10+), Outer Space (5.10) and Northwest Corner (5.10+), declined to be interviewed for an article in this issue because he didn’t want his family and coworkers to learn about his exploits. “To be frank, some of those were a little over my head,” he said. “Soloing sucked me in — it kept pulling me closer to doing it at my limit, which of course is very dangerous. I don’t want to glorify those climbs.”
I have tried soloing a few times, on ice and rock, and in the mountains. I personally didn’t discover any sense of heightened freedom, but rather, days later, a creeping sense of guilt. Yet I’m fascinated by the stories, the chance to understand the thinking of those who feel alive by risking a sure and certain death. For some, soloing has provided the most rewarding days of their lives. Whether or not you approve of soloing, it’s a facet of climbing that has existed since the first days of scrambling, and remains alive today. The stories the climber-writers produced for this issue of Rock and Ice represent some of the best contemporary literature of our sport.
By publishing feature articles and full-page photos of soloing, would we appear to be endorsing this activity?
16 | www.rockandice.com
We at Rock and Ice are also doing our part to promote safe climbing. Beginning in this issue, the Wilderness Medicine Institute (wmi.nols.edu) will be reviewing Rock and Ice’s first-aid and health articles, providing upto-date information on backcountry medicine. In addition, we’re proud to launch Rock and Ice’s sponsorship of the American Safe Climbing Association. The hard-working climbers of the ASCA have already replaced over 4,000 old bolts and belay anchors at 30 areas across the country. We’ll be helping the ASCA to achieve its goal of replacing 1,000 bolts this year alone. For information on what you can do, see the ASCA’s website at safeclimbing.com. Rock and Ice is also working with the National Park Service to replace dilapidated anchors on Canyonlands’ sandstone towers. Among other routes, the staff is re-equipping the famous Primrose Dihedrals on Moses this year. It’s a small way of helping, and besides, it’s fun.
Tyler Stableford Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
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The fall colors burn as John Wasson climbs one of the west’s most perfect cracks - Liberty Bell, North Cascades - Brooke Sandahl
p.018-22 Letters.126 4/29/03 1:55 PM Page 18
LETTERS Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt “The Chains of Climbing” (No. 125) seemed incomplete to me. It contained Henry [Barber], who climbed 350 days a year, which I’ve surpassed; a guy who climbed 98,000 feet, which I believe I’ve surpassed; and people who climb all the time, which I am working on, and yet I didn’t even answer yes to seven out of the 10 sidebar questions. I may not be “addicted” to climbing even with all I am doing. I guess climbing for me has just become part of my everyday life. Last year I had a major tooth infection after having several teeth extracted and I went climbing every day, even though I missed three weeks of work. It was so bad, one day I had to have the guys I went climbing with drive me home. I climbed a 5.7 slab, one route only, and I was done. I threw up on the way home. Any “normal” person would have been home and some would have been in the hospital. Not me, I had to go climbing that day to not end my streak, which began June 3, 2002 and is still going strong. Another time during the streak I sprained my ankle so bad it swelled up big as a softball. There I was the very next day on my indoor wall, climbing. Then there were times where my fingers would swell up from overuse and I still kept on climbing. My back is so sore on some days, I can hardly even straighten it. My right hip was once sore for five months. At times I would get sore and stiff calf muscles, which would make my back stiff and this would cause a headache. This would not stop me from climbing, but after climbing I would lie down and go right to sleep. On two occasions this kept me out of work. There were two days about a month and a half ago where I got out of bed at 1 p.m. and I still went climbing. Of course when I got home I went back to bed and missed work on Monday.
I don’t climb for vertical feet or for big numbers, I climb to go every day literally without stopping. I set out to go one week and it just kept going. Climbing for me may or may not be a drug, but that actually is irrelevant. Contrary to what the article said, climbing is far from a drug for those who really know it. It is the anti-drug. It may produce natural chemicals, but natural chemicals produced by the human body are not drugs. They are there for a reason, to let you live in the moment.
Last year I had a major tooth infection after having several teeth extracted and I went climbing every day, even though I missed three weeks of work.
To Garrick Mercer: Drop it I am sick of people like Garrick Mercer (“Stop Crye’s Crying,” Letters No. 125) who were nowhere to be found during the talks with the people in power at Hueco Tanks. You have no idea what’s going on. Access is a right that should be respected by all involved. We pay taxes. I don’t agree with the rules at all. People like you should do a little research into what happened and you will find out that Steve [Crye] was there. All we want is access to Hueco. I do have a hard time getting in the park sometimes and it totally sucks. I have lived in El Paso all my life and been going to Hueco for almost as long, and now I live in Hueco. The park is not better than it used to be. People like you are just f—ked up because
18 | www.rockandice.com
you accept things (tours, etc.) the way they are. It’s nothing like it used to be. We (real El Paso climbers) wanted changes for the preservation of Hueco, but we got stabbed in the back, hard, by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. You shouldn’t be spraying about something [if] you have no f—in’ clue!! So shut up!
James Robertson, president, El Paso Climbers Club El Paso, Texas
Drop it again To Mr. Mercer: Your letter sounds like whining; and, by the way, you missed the point entirely. Crye is not just talking about Hueco, he is talking about freedom and rights, the right to free speech, the right to keep and bear
Rolly Perry via email
arms, the right to climb. I, too, am totally disgruntled with the “Hueco plan.” If we continually let government, i.e. the “rich ones,” push us around we will end up with no rights at all. I think you should step back and see the whole picture. The TPWD has destroyed Hueco for me in the respect that I am no longer free to climb many wonderful climbs without a babysitter.
Dave Mill El Paso, Texas
I love you, man Jesus, John (Planet Largo, No. 124). I’ve forever been a true admirer and follower of your writing. Your amazing feats of will and daring mixed with healthy doses of down-right bullheadedness
p.018-22 Letters.126 4/29/03 1:55 PM Page 20
This climbing bug is in the sphincter and won’t let go despite determined efforts to extricate the little sucker. and blind luck keep me feeding the meter on this mag. You’re truly gifted as a climber, writer and human being. Like you, I’ve been around a while. This climbing bug is in the sphincter and won’t let go despite determined efforts to extricate the little sucker. So, like you, I’ve seen partners come and go. Too many have departed for the long haul. So how come your last piece in Rock & Ice blindsided me? Kicked me down low, where it hurts. I cried. Tears flowed freely and unexpectedly for Robert and Caroline, Sean, Stefan, Steve, Kevin, Paul and Bob. All personal, close friends and climbing partners at one time. So many climbers I know have their own private list courtesy of climbing’s Grim Reaper. The hushed up reality of climbing. The (dirty?) little secret we refuse to acknowledge as we glorify (pointless?) human endeavor in the vertical realm. The bond of the rope, like the bond of battle. There just ain’t nothing like it.
Steve Angelini North Conway, New Hampshire
Largo is a giant
Largo is right on target (nothing new there, though) I read with relish his “Slaying Giants” (Planet Largo, No. 125), and relived many of the rescues I’ve been on over the last 15 years. Like Largo, I’d had no formal training, just a willingness to do the right thing: get in, acquire the target and get out. Climbers confront many fears head-on — hell, that’s part of why we’re there — and there is no way to do that faster than by participating in a rescue. Immediate first aid can mean the difference between hauling out someone who may make it or hauling them out in a bag.
E.A. Vaughn Dublin, Ohio
20 | www.rockandice.com
Gender politics Today I went rock climbing at Cave Rock, on the shores of Lake Tahoe. The same Cave Rock that is located on National Forest Service land,
public land. However, today it was brought to my attention that this might be one of the last times I’m allowed to climb there. Why? Because I’m a woman, and my very presence in the cave is disturbing to a group of people, the Washoe Indians, who see my climbing there as a desecration of a sacred, religious place where women weren’t traditionally permitted. Of course, the Forest Service couldn’t merely put up a sign that says, “No Girls Allowed,” because this is America and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination this blatant and outrageous. So instead, the Forest Service proposes, in order to appease the religious beliefs of the Washoe Indians, to close Cave Rock to all climbers. But wait, since when did the Forest Service have jurisdiction to determine what public areas should be closed to aid in the practice of a specific religion? Isn’t this the land of the free? To me climbing is a religion, and if I’m on public land I should be allowed to wear a cross, say a prayer or climb a rock. But once again, the Forest Service realizes this. They know they can’t close Cave Rock to climbing because of religious beliefs, so instead they hide behind the guise that this closure is to preserve a historical site. This being the same historical site that apparently and miraculously was undisturbed by the blasting that was necessary to create the nearby highway tunnels. This being the same historical site where there is absolutely no historical indication that the Washoe Tribe previously prohibited the presence of others (men) in the area. So, as I sat overlooking Lake Tahoe, or rather as I sat desecrating a sacred place, I couldn’t help but wonder why it is that in times when the world seems to be getting smaller, and the need to share and come together as a unified country becomes greater, the Forest Service can’t support a compromise that would allow all of us to practice our religion at Cave Rock. Then I remembered why — because I am a woman. I urge the Forest Service to take these thoughts to heart and stop the discrimination and inappropriate closure of public lands to rock climbers.
Melanie Rives via email
TO REACH US
Send your letters to: email@example.com. Letters may be edited for clarity.
Carolyn Parker pulling down at Sunset. Photo: Gabe Rogel
p.018-22 Letters.126 4/29/03 1:56 PM Page 21
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Owned and Operated by Climbers EDITORIAL Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Duane Raleigh | firstname.lastname@example.org Editor Tyler Stableford | email@example.com Senior Editor Alison Osius | firstname.lastname@example.org Senior Associate Editor Mark Eller | email@example.com Senior Contributing Editors Geoff Childs, Jeff Jackson, John Long, Doug Robinson, Pete Takeda, Jon Waterman Contributing Editors Barry Blanchard, Andy Dappen, Niall Grimes, Tim Neville American Alpine Club Accidents Editor Jed Williamson AMGA Safety Review Board Mark Houston, Mike Powers WMI Medical Review Board Buck Tilton ADVERTISING SALES Advertising Director Katrin Laird | firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising Manager Randall Lavelle | email@example.com Classified Sales Representative Lisen Gustafson | firstname.lastname@example.org Business Manager Mark Kittay, CPA | email@example.com CREATIVE Art Director Tracy Martin | firstname.lastname@example.org Production Manager Quent Williams | email@example.com Photo Editor David Clifford | firstname.lastname@example.org Production Coordinator Bonnie Hofto | email@example.com Senior Illustrator Jeremy Collins CIRCULATION Circulation Director Paula Stepp | firstname.lastname@example.org Subscriptions Manager Lindsay Brown | email@example.com Retail Sales Manager Ramona Roof | firstname.lastname@example.org Circulation Assistant Johann Arberger | email@example.com
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Rock & Ice (USPS 0001-762, ISSN 0885-5722) is published 9 times a year (January , March, April, June, July, September , October , December , plus an annual special edition in February) by Big Stone Publishing, 1101 Village Rd., Ste. UL-4D, Carbondale, CO 81623. Periodicals postage paid at Carbondale, CO, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: send address changes to Rock & Ice, 1101 V illage Rd., Ste. UL-4D, Carbondale, CO 816231563. Subscription rates are $29.95 per year , $47.50 for two years. Canada and Mexico, add $10 per year for surface postage; all other countries add $12.50 per year for surface postage (US funds only). Canada Post CPM #1368672.
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p.024-33 Breaking News.126 4/29/03 10:50 AM Page 24
Women Rock Hueco
Rands and Murphy tick Fred Nicole’s Sarah (V12), more female firepower on display
arch and April saw more women in Hueco Tanks pulling double-digit problems than any previous season. Lisa Rands, Claire Murphy, Darlene Pidgeon and Ana Burgos convened at the Texas bouldering Mecca; all scored ticks in the V10 to V12 range. Rands traveled to Hueco with her boyfriend, Wills Young, in late February. “At first, the fricking weather was too hot,” says Young. “Lisa kept falling from the top of Woman With a Hueco in Her Head (V10, but seldom repeated) and we seriously contemplated leaving.” Despite feeling down, Rands and Young stuck out the hot spell and were rewarded with a week of cool weather at the end of March. Rands made the most of the conditions by sending two V12 problems in the space of a weekend. Chablanke features explosive moves from tiny holds, while Sarah, also on North Mountain, begins under a low roof and finishes with precarious moves on a slab. Rands also made short work of Swiss Crisp Mix (V10), Dirty Martini (V9) and Dragonfly sit-start (V9) during the good weather, and wrapped things up by completing Woman With a Hueco in Her Head, the ultra-thin problem on the Mushroom Boulder that had tormented her earlier. 24 | www.rockandice.com
Murphy, a British citizen whose U.S. green card identifies her as a “professional climber,” sent Sarah a few days before Rands. “I was having trouble with the first move until I took a ‘power spot’ from a friend. With the right beta I was able to pull the roof on my first go,” says Murphy. In April, Murphy also snagged the first female ascent of Full Service, a steep power-endurance problem that is considered the standard for V10 at Hueco. Murphy and Rands are currently the only women in North America to have climbed V12, though some, including Young, have questioned whether Nicole’s grading of Sarah will hold. “Wills climbed it very fast and thought it was V11,” says Murphy, adding “But other strong guys have struggled on it — I guess time will tell what the right grade is.” Darlene Pidgeon, of British Columbia, and Ana Burgos, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, each attained multiple double-digit sends this spring as well. Pidgeon, who became the first Canadian woman to tick V10 when she did Zero Zero at Squamish last year, climbed the 20-foot roof on Martini Left (V10) as well as Swiss Crisp Mix (V10) and Dirty Martini (V9/10). Burgos succeeded on Martini Left, Dirty Martini and a slew of V9s.
Lisa Rands flashed a stack of Hueco V8s this spring, including this variation to 100-Proof Roof, and sent numerous harder problems.
GO WHERE FEW HAVE GONE BEFORE.
jeep.com/mag Jeep is a registered trademark of DaimlerChrysler Corporation.
p.024-33 Breaking News.126 4/29/03 10:51 AM Page 26
Steph Davis pulls a 5.13 hat trick at Indian Creek
Steph Davis bagging a Pink Flamingo (5.13b), Indian Creek, Utah.
teph Davis spent the winter in Moab, Utah, working on her already impressive crackclimbing game. She wrapped up the season in April with a hat trick of three 5.13 Indian Creek routes. Though some have complained that climbing at the Creek lacks variety (usually after getting bouted on its unrelenting splitters), the triumvirate of routes Davis sent belies the notion that all desert cracks are the same. First up was Pink Flamingo, a 5.13b fingercrack on the Supercrack Buttress that became something of a crusade for Davis. “When I was getting close to redpointing it, a climber from Salt Lake City decided to move the anchors. I definitely took it personally when I saw that a new crux had been added,” she says. Discouraged, Davis abandoned the project, but decided to return with a take-no-prisoners attitude. “It felt really good to clip those chains,” said Davis. Next up was the late Jose Pereya’s Optimator (5.13a) on the Optimator Wall. Davis cleared grit from the seldom-climbed splitter on aid, snagging the redpoint on her first burn the next day. A few weeks later, Davis powered through the tips-only underclings on Death of a Cowboy (5.13b, Scarface buttress). Unable to do the moves on a toprope — partially because of rope-drag — Davis pulled the line and charged through Cowboy on her first redpoint attempt.
Eyes and Ears
You can bet on seeing Emily Harrington , 16, in the finals of any adult national bouldering competitions. The soft-spoken 11th grader from Boulder just took a strong second at the Petzl Roc Comp in Timonium, Maryland, on April 12, and is currently ranked first on the Professional Climbers’ Association tour. She was third at both the American Bouldering Series championships in Berkeley in March, and last year’s Phoenix Bouldering Contest. Here, she claims a coveted V elvet Elvis for her win at the Ro ck Rodeo, Hueco Tanks, Texas, on March 8. On the rock, her hardest redpoints are Dolce Vita (5.13c) at Ceüse, France, and Fluff Boy (5.13c) at Rifle, Colorado.
into the whole social scene there. That is, everybody except me and my few closest friends. So I guess I am pretty different.... Nobody really pays much attention, though, which is kind of nice. I have my school life and my climbing life, and they’re totally separate.
What gives you confidence? When I don’t have any expectations of myself and I just try to have fun. If I look at something for what it is (a route, a piece of rock that will always be there) and I don’t put all these expectations and worries around it, things seem so much simpler and easier to deal with. 26 | www.rockandice.com
Last climbing book read? I’m reading Lynn Hill’s book, Climbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World. What are you listening and training to? Legend: Greatest Hits of Bob Marley and the Wailers. Does your dedication to a sport set you apart from your peers at school?Everybody is really
Kumbhakarna Main (Jannu) 7710 m
Phole Sobithongje Main 6645 m
Kumbhakarna East (Jannu) 7468 m
Khabur 6294 m Khabur La 6000 m
Phole Sobithongje East 6660 m
Tested by extreme alpinist Stephan Siegrist in Nepal: Ropes, harnesses, clothing, shoes and backpacks of top Swiss quality . US distribution by Climb High 1- 802 985 5056, www .mammut.ch
p.024-33 Breaking News.126 4/29/03 10:52 AM Page 28
Sue Nott, shown here on the Croz Spur, became the first American woman up the Eiger Nordwand in winter.
Stepping Up Sue Nott completes the Eiger and Grand Jorasses in Winter
he Alps were locked in storms during the first half of last winter, but visiting American alpinist Sue Nott didn’t let the bad weather interfere with training for the upcoming Himalayan season. According to John Varco, Nott’s climbing partner, “Sue developed a rather manic training regimen of skinning up the Valle Blanche every night — by compass during storms — so we could sleep in a little hut and climb in what she calls ‘full conditions.’” Nott’s and Varco’s dedication was rewarded when they nabbed a number of Alps classics, including the North Spur of Les Droites and the Croz Spur on the Grande Jorasses (13,800 feet), during brief weather windows. In February, con-
ditions turned more stable, allowing the team to try a bigger objective — the Eiger North Face. The duo had failed on the route the previous winter because of deteriorating weather. This time, however, they pushed through tricky snowcovered traverses and steep rock corners. “The January snowfall really kept traffic down, so we had to chop all our own bivies, and experienced some tricky traverses and routefinding,” says Nott. Nott is the first American woman to climb either the Croz Spur or the Eiger North Face in winter, but to her, both accomplishments were merely preparation for this summer’s goal — a new route on the monstrous north face of Kalanka (22,400 feet) in the Himalaya.
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James Gallo and Gillian Collins survey the debris after an avalanche demolished a 71-year-old rescue hut below Longs Peak, Colorado. The rock-walled cabin, at 11,650 feet just below Chasm Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, was a shelter and staging point for many historic ascents. The slide probably occurred March 22 or 23, and originated in the gully between Mount Meeker and Longs Peak, running for a mile. Says Glenn Porzak, area climber, “That hut was considered a safe haven. You always thought you were safe there.”
p.024-33 Breaking News.126 4/30/03 11:12 AM Page 30
John ”Johnkim” McKim Millar at Squamish (Left); Guy Edwards in the Selkirks.
Climbers Missing on Devils Thumb
four-day search ended April 22 for the Vancouver-area climbers Guy Edwards, 30, and John Millar, 24, missing from an attempt on the Devils Thumb (9,077 feet) in southeast Alaska. Six helicopter searches had produced no signs of them. Alaska State Troopers stated in a release, “Weather and avalanche conditions hampered the search efforts,” and added that investigators presumed the men had been avalanched in the first 24 hours of their climb. The Canadians’ trip began when Millar, Edwards, Kai Hirvonen, Lena Rowat and her father, Peter Rowat, traveled to Saint Petersburg, some 50 miles from the mountain, and chartered a boat to reach Thomas Bay and the Baird Glacier. The party skied 20 miles in together, with Lena and Peter planning to climb the East Ridge of the Thumb, and Edwards, Hirvonen and Millar to attempt the first ascent of its Northwest Face. The latter three established basecamp on April 12. From camp they witnessed three serac falls on or near their intended line, and Hirvonen withdrew from the ascent. Edwards and Millar started up the face on April 13 with food and fuel for 30 | www.rockandice.com
five days. On April 17, following several days of bad weather and with no response to his radio calls, Hirvonen skied out to seek help, and he participated in the helicopter search. Edwards and Millar were highly accomplished alpinists, as well as hard technical rock and ice climbers. Last fall they put up a new route on the steep 4,600-foot west face of Swachand Peak (22,050 feet), Garwhal Himalaya, India. From February to July 2001, the two and Vance Culbert completed a 1,250-mile ski traverse that took them the length of the Coast Range, from Vancouver to Skagway, Alaska. The two put up hard mixed routes in the Lillooet area, and new rock climbs elsewhere. In 1999, Edwards snagged a prize in the Bugaboos by freeing the lower South Face Route (5.12a) on Snowpatch Spire. Millar is known as a Squamish activist, and for the first ascent of the 1,800-foot Carag-Dur near Vancouver. The website for Gripped, a Canadian climbing magazine, posted a notice praising Millar and Edwards as “two of Canada’s best known and loved alpinists. ... Their loss will be keenly felt by all who knew them or were aware of their contribution to Canadian climbing.”
(LEFT) JEREMY FRIMER COLLECTION, (RIGHT) DAVID JONES
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t the end of March, 12-year-old David Lama of Austria redpointed Hale-Bopp, a 5.14a in Massone, Italy. Lama, the youngest climber ever to break into 5.14, reports that a winter growth spurt was crucial to his success.
Access Alert Idaho’s Castle Rocks Opens to Climbing After years of waiting, climbers are welcome again at Castle Rocks. A dramatic granite area located near the City of Rocks in southern Idaho, the newly appointed Castle Rocks State Park opened on Memorial Day weekend. The 400-foot pinnacles of Castle Rocks attracted climbers in the 1970s and most of the 1980s, until a private landowner blocked the access road. In 1999, the landowner placed Castle Rocks Ranch on the market. Concerned that the property might be commercially developed, the Access Fund joined with other conservation groups to establish Castle Rocks Ranch. The Castle Rocks Ranch Acqui-
sition Act of 2000 authorized the National Park Service to purchase the 1,240-acre ranch, with funding provided by the Conservation Fund and the Access Fund. The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR) now oversees the park. Castle Rocks State Park has a 75person capacity at any given time, with a 25-car limit in the parking lot. Camping is available at the City of Rocks, just a few miles away. For more information, call IDPR in Almo at 208-824-5519. [Editor’s note: See the next issue of Rock and Ice for exclusive photos and topos to the new area.] — Jason Keith, Access Fund
WORD! “I always soloed on-sight, because it was safer.” — Henry Barber, who third-classed routes such as Yosemite’s Steck Salathé (5.9) and Midterm (5.10), explaining that being new to a route meant he had no preconceived notion of success.
“I would much rather land on any other body part than my feet.” — Carl Tobin of Fairbanks, Alaska, veteran of elaborate knee and heel injuries.
“I enjoyed watching the [international] bouldering comp on Sunday, but ... wouldn’t it have been possible to construct a wall that didn’t wobble when people were climbing on it? “ — posted on www.planetfear.com forum. “Wobbly boards are ace. If you get the bounce right you can make the move easier.”— Gaz Parry, in reply. “I’m curious to see if I can still get myself up there.” — Dick Bass, 73, who is trying for another Everest world record, with 20-year-old Jess Roskelley; Jim Wickwire, 62; and John Roskelley, 54. If “Generations on Everest” prevails, Bass will reclaim his 1985 record as the oldest person to climb Everest, and Jess will become the youngest American to do so. From Rockclimbing.com. “At this point it’s crazy for me to imagine life without granite, or any rock for that matter. That’s why it feels so sacred. The sacredness of other things like air and water has become much clearer.” — Ron Kauk, Spirit of the Rock www.rockandice.com | 31
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In the Granite State, the new kid on the block is firmly putting old-school climbing back on the map
forces you to get mentally involved in the route, and that’s what I wanted.
What does your father say about your soloing habit? It’s kind of like the army: don’t ask, don’t tell. He knows my decisions are calculated ones, not reckless.
“It’s hard for me to talk about soloing — I get a lot of flack from my friends and family.”
How did you learn to climb? From my dad. My first real climb was at age 11. We climbed the Whitney-Gilman Ridge on Cannon [New Hampshire]; a week later we were in Colorado and did the Northcutt-Carter on Hallett Peak.
What goes through your mind before you solo?
I think about what I’m going to feel like on the route. I get the most nervous beforehand. Finally, it’s just like, I want to get this over with and do it. If I think about it too long, I’m letting it beat me, because I know I can do it.
What is your favorite book? I just finished reading Tom Wolfe’s The Pumphouse Gang. It’s a story about his travels across the country and what he’s learned from the eclectic people he’s hung out with. I feel like I’m at the same point in my life, graduating from college. He has an optimistic, playful outlook on life, and I want to have that.
What do you regret most? When did soloing enter the picture? My dad would say my first few leads were probably solos. After those, he wouldn’t let me lead until I learned to place gear better.
Nothing — I really feel like the crappiest things that have happened to me have made me a better person.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? You made the first ascent of the X-rated Bamboozled on Two thousand feet of 5.10 hand and finger crack, granite, on a fall day. Cathedral Ledge, yet you placed the route’s two bolts on rappel. Some would argue with your style, saying that if you’re Future climbing projects? going to bolt a route at all, you might as well make it safe. I gotta get my time down to an hour car-to-car on Moby Grape [a 1,200My dad is totally of that opinion: if you put up a route, you should make it safe for everyone. But I think, if you want to climb 5.13 sport routes, there are hundreds to choose from at Rumney. [Bamboozled]
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foot 5.8 on Cannon Cliff with a long approach]. I soloed it in an hour and three minutes last fall, but those three minutes are the kicker. — Tyler Stableford
lthough he’s only 22 years old, Tim Kemple has firmly established himself as New England’s boldest climber. Among dozens of new routes to his credit, standouts include Thicker than Water (5.13b R/X) on Maine’s Great Head sea cliff; Absolute (5.13a X) at Crow Hill, Massachusetts; and Bamboozled (5.13a with 5.12a X runouts) at Cathedral Ledge in his native New Hampshire. “I respect immeasurably what Tim has accomplished,” says North Conway icon Henry Barber. “He climbs Stage Fright [a 5.12d X at Cathedral Ledge] like it’s a trade route.” Kemple is equally aggressive unroped, having soloed routes as hard as 5.13d at Rumney, New Hampshire, and on-sight soloed up to 5.12b at crags around the country. Above, he is pictured on Matinee (5.10+) at the Gunks, New York.
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Trial By Ice and Fire, by Clinton McKinzie
hen Clinton McKinzie’s novel The Edge of Justice, about a climber-cop, appeared last year, the Washington Post called it a “fast-paced and promising debut.” With 2003 bringing both a sequel, Trial by Ice and Fire, and a prequel, Point of Law, about Sergeant Antonio Burns, and a fourth book in the works, I figured I’d better read at least one. The latest book out, Trial by Ice and Fire ($22), makes enticing rest-day fare. Granted, it suffers from romanticized characters, particularly Antonio’s longhaired, wild-eyed, pantherlike brother, and a chestnut, the girlfriend who wants to domesticate our hero. “I want safety,” she says. “Security. ... No hanging off cliffs for a thrill. I do not want someone who’s addicted to living life on the very edge.” Yet the writing whips along, the author knows his criminal law, and mainly it’s sheer fun to recognize the mountain town of Jackson, Wyoming, the site of the action. Here, Burns is assigned to protect a woman terrorized by a stalker. He also gets in some time in the Tetons. At one point, after a scare on the North Face of the Grand, he hunkers down to “let the adrenaline crawl back into the little nodes in the small of my back.” The book contains too much about “extreme” sports junkies and death grabbing at your ankles, and an astonishing preponderance of soloing. Now, I do see the irony of citing this complaint in, er, the soloing issue. But what’s funnier is that, within two weeks of reading one book, I’d finished the other two. — Alison Osius
A u t h o r ’s N o t e s Clinton McKinzie, 33, a climber and former deputy district attorney in Denver, lives in the suburbs with his wife, son and dog. From 1992 until 1998, he resided in Laramie, Wyoming. What did you do for work in Wyoming? I worked in a bookstore in the day, as a bouncer in a bar at night. [It was] the Parlour Bar, upstairs from the Buckhorn. A little guy like me [5'11", 175 pounds] could sneak up behind the bigger guys, grab ‘em from behind, and chuck ‘em downstairs. It was called the Buckhorn Roll. Is the Parlour Bar the inspiration for the bar in this book? I think the bar I had in mind is the Log Cabin in Jackson. I get so carried away in my head, writing, I don’ t worry too much about real places and scenes — except I try to with the climbing, because then it’s an excuse to go up and research. Who is Antonio Burns based on? A cousin of mine from South America and a couple of friends of mine from Laramie — just bits and pieces from different people. He’s also kind of based on my dog, because my dog has some terrific personality traits, total loyalty and courage. He’s smart and sensitive but also a tough dog, a bad ass. Antonio lives out of his truck. Have you done that? Oh, yeah. I was a real dirtbag. I miss it ... This is what’s fun for me, writing from Antonio’s point of view. He’s getting to do all the stuff I used to do, and more. He’s a much better climber than I am. —A.O.
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p.034 guides tip.126
Watch That Edge Safe toproping skills BY JOHN BICKNELL
34 | www.rockandice.com
e all know that leadjust be sure to tie into the end climbing can be danof the line as usual so you don’t gerous. But when inadvertently rappel off it. you’re toproping and walking Scramble to the edge, being around on a nice flat cliff top, careful not to kick any rocks it’s easy to forget the hazards and loose, and tie two figure-8s-onscramble around unroped. I have a-bight side by side in the anchor known two guides and one recrerope just over the edge. Attach ationalist who slipped over the a locking carabiner to each bight edge this way — only one lived. so they are reversed and opposed, Toproping should not be risky. then clip the middle of your With the right gear, you can climbing rope through the binstay clipped in the entire time ers and lock them. Yell “Rope!” you’re near the edge. Here is a and drop the climbing rope. Be quick method of building equalsure that your anchor point ized cliff-top anchors that will extends over the edge, so your keep you from taking the plunge. toprope in motion doesn’t rub WHAT YOU NEED A long or cut on it. (up to 80 feet) single length Now, move back from the of 9mm to 10mm static cord or edge to where you intend to conwebbing for building an equalstruct your second anchor point. ized two-point anchor; two Once it’s built, pull up the anchor locking carabiners for the rope just enough to equalize it The clove hitch. toprope anchor point; and a with the first anchor point (the separate 30- to 40-foot length of cord to keep yourself safe near the weight of the hanging toprope should clue you in to when it’s equalized), edge. Plus gear for constructing the anchors, if needed. and secure it to the anchor point with an easily adjusted clove hitch and BUILD SIDE-TO-SIDE ANCHORS Let’s assume you plan to use two locking biner. Be sure to cinch tight the clove hitch so it doesn’t slip. solid anchor points for your toprope. Start by creating the first anchor Once you’re done building the anchor, leave your safety leash attached — say, with a solid tree — by tying into it with one end of your static to the first anchor — it may be helpful when you take down the cord secured with a bowline or figure-8-follow-through. Now, toprope or make adjustments. And be sure you’re safely away before you even approach the edge, attach yourself to the from the edge before unclipping from it. anchor with a separate safety line (a short length of webbing or rope) tied just long enough that you can reach the John Bicknell is an AMGA-certified rock guide and co-direcedge. Even better, attach yourself to the safety line with a Gritor of the Colorado Mountain School in Estes Park, Colgri so you can self-belay yourself to the edge and back — orado. Contact: 303-589-6571, email@example.com.
p. 036-41 Gear.126 4/29/03 9:15 AM Page 36
Belay Devices 6 auto-lock and auto-block models go toe-to-toe BY DAVE PEGG
his issue of Rock and Ice may be dedicated to the dark art of solo climbing but I generally find climbing with a rope plenty exciting. If, like me, you’re going to bother tying in, you should do everything you can to make sure your rope system works, including selecting a smooth and secure belay device. There are dozens of models available, but they all fit into one of three categories. Regular (or passive) belay devices simply put a bend in the rope that creates enough friction to help a belayer stop a fall. They’re popular because of their light weight, simplicity and versatility. See page 38 for a buyer’s guide to these devices. The “auto-locking” and “auto-blocking” devices in this review incorporate an active function that clamps down on a loaded rope. They’re not foolproof, but these devices add an extra measure of security to a risky sport. The terms “auto-locking” and “auto-blocking” refer to different mechanisms: Auto-lock devices lock automatically (in theory) under the force of any type of fall, lead or toprope. They are popular for sport climbing since falls are common, and because they take the strain out of holding a climber who’s hanging on the rope to work a route. Auto-lock models also work well for prolonged aid-climbing sessions, providing a backup against belayer fatigue as the leader works his or her way through a multi-hour pitch. Auto-block devices clip directly to the belay anchors, instead of your harness, to belay one or two climbers (on separate ropes) from above. The security of the auto-blocking action allows the leader to belay and simultaneously re-rack gear or prepare for the next pitch. When used to belay a lead climber, or on a “slingshot” toprope system, auto-block devices can be configured like regular belay plates — i.e. they don’t hold falls automatically.
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One situation that may become highly unpleasant with an auto-blocking device is if the second falls and needs to be lowered to a ledge. It’s very difficult to release the auto-blocking mechanism while the rope is weighted. If you envision having to lower the second, it’s better to use these devices like a standard belay plate. Here are some of the key questions we asked ourselves when assessing the devices: LOCKING SECURITY How reliable is the device’s locking action? What are the chances — and consequences — of loading the device incorrectly? Some of the auto-lock devices reviewed here are not billed as such by their manufacturers and may not lock automatically in every situation. SIMPLICITY Is loading the rope(s) into the device quick and easy to learn, or does it require a complex process? Devices that were easy to mis-load, with dangerous consequences, received low marks here. LEAD BELAYING How quickly can you feed rope through the device without it locking up? Does fast rope delivery require a special technique and/or temporary removal of your brake hand? These considerations are particularly important for quickly feeding slack to a sport-climbing leader who’s making a dynamic move or difficult clip. VERSATILITY How much does the device weigh? Does it work well with a wide range of rope diameters? Is it compatible with double ropes? Can it be used to rappel? The more things a device did well, the better it scored. Note: All devices were evaluated for rock performance only. Alpine/ice and frozen-rope conditions can dramatically affect any device’s performance.
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p. 036-41 Gear.126 4/29/03 9:16 AM Page 38
Petzl Grigri $70
Sirius TRE $58
Weight: 8 ounces
The Grigri is the benchmark for auto-lock devices. It has been around for over 10 years, long enough Works with: one rope Simplicity: B+ to earn the trust of climbers around the world. Rare occurrences of Grigri failure are attributable Lead belaying: B+ to user error — the belayer either threads the device backward or grips it in a way that prevents the Lowering: B cam from engaging. As long as you double-check that the Grigri is rigged correctly before you Final score: leave the ground, and feed an appropriate-size rope through it properly, it is a reliable performer. If price isn’t an issue, the Grigri remains the best choice for sport climbing. That said, it isn’t suitable for every application, and it’s far from foolproof. Even though the casing is marked with hand and climber symbols, an inexperienced or distracted user can thread the Grigri backward. Threaded backward, the Grigri affords minimal braking power. Also, effective rope management requires practice and dexterity — the only way to feed rope through the Grigri quickly is to hold the cam closed with your brake hand and simultaneously pull rope through the device with your opposite hand, a technique not recommended by Petzl. Fortunately, the auto-lock is so effective that the faux pas of momentarily releasing your brake hand from the rope to do this isn’t a major safety concern. For rappelling, the Grigri offers a relatively smooth descent, but only on a single rope strand. Finally, the Grigri only works well with 10mm to 11mm ropes. Petzl America: 801-926-1500, petzl.com. Weight: 6 ounces
This German-made device has several advantages over the Grigri. It’s slightly lighter. It’s a bit cheaper. Works with: two ropes Moreover, it works well with single and double ropes ranging from 7.5mm to 11mm. Best of all, you Simplicity: CLead belaying: A can feed rope through the TRE quickly and smoothly — without releasing your brake hand to Lowering: A squeeze or cradle the device. Sirius doesn’t pitch the TRE as “auto-locking,” since it takes quite a Final score: bit of force with the brake hand to activate the device’s piston-operated locking mechanism. Nevertheless, if you accidently take your brake hand off the rope, the TRE will likely automatically lock itself. It also stays locked under the weight of a dangling climber. Pull back on the TRE’s handle and you can easily control your partner’s rate of descent, or use the device to make a smooth single- or double-rope rappel. Like a Grigri, the TRE can be mistakenly threaded backward (or even worse, upside down) with potentially unpleasant results. Another concern is that there is a way the rope can unclip from the TRE entirely. This requires an extremely unlikely combination of events — a firm upward push on the handle and a twist that jams the TRE against the edge of the screwgate carabiner at the precise moment the spring-loaded piston moves between the engaged and disengaged positions. PMI, the U.S. distributor of the TRE, replies that the device is CE rated for safety and 8,400 devices have been sold in Europe since November 2001 without any reported incidents of this kind. PMI: 800-282-7673, pmirope.com.
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p.036-41 Gear.126 5/6/03 2:29 PM Page 39
Weight: 6 ounces
The Hewbolt is an auto-lock device without any moving parts. The lack of Works with: two ropes* springs or cams provides an extra level of safety. What’s more, because the HewSimplicity: C bolt relies on simple, visible mechanics I trusted it implicitly. We caught many Lead belaying: B Lowering: B falls on the device and were impressed by its solid lock. The Hewbolt would have Final score: earned higher marks, however, if it had been easier to use. To feed a rope through * Single and double models available the device you have to unscrew a bolt and move a sliding pin. This simple procedure takes a few seconds and is more time-consuming than setting up other belay devices. My main gripe, though, is the lack of a handle, which would provide extra leverage and more control when lowering a climber or rappelling. To lower a climber, you need to hold the body of the Hewbolt with one hand and twist it into a vertical orientation. This technique works, but the operation is crude, and when making long rappels in this fashion you’ll want gloves to protect your hand because the device gets hot. It is possible to pay out rope through the Hewbolt at sport-climbing speed, although this requires temporarily removing your brake hand to hold the device vertically. Always double check the Hewbolt is set up correctly (there’s an illustration on the casing) as, like all auto-lock devices, threading it backward is a concern. The Hewbolt works well on single ropes from 10mm to 11mm. It also comes in a two-rope version ($78), but since it only locks automatically on ropes down to about 10mm it won’t work on half- and twin-rope systems. Hewbolt: 720-494-9200, hewbolt.com.
Wild Country SRC $35
Weight: 3 ounces
Simple, lightweight and inexpensive, the SRC would be a winner if it weren’t for a few Works with: one rope Simplicity: B bugs. Although it offers more stopping power than regular belay plates, the SRC’s autoLead belaying: C locking action did not inspire my confidence. It did lock the rope during falls, but not Lowering: B with the same force or security as other auto-lockers. Using it with a 10mm cord, I Final score: found the rope crept slowly through the device under the weight of a hanging climber. Effective rope delivery takes more practice with the SRC than with other devices. Every tester who used it complained that the device locked abruptly when they tried to quickly pay out slack. The solution for speedy rope delivery is to lift and pull the device with your brake hand while reeling out line with your opposite hand, but I wasn’t comfortable temporarily removing my brake hand to do this. On rappels, the SRC provided a smooth descent. Wild Country/Excalibur: 801-942-8471, wildcountry.co.uk.
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GEAR AUTO-BLOCKING DEVICES
Petzl Reverso $22
Weight: 3 ounces
The Reverso is basically a tube-style device bisected by a metal plate. Clip the plate Works with: two ropes directly to the belay anchor via a locking carabiner, insert a second locking carabiner Simplicity: B Lead belaying: Ain the bight of rope that passes through the device, and you have a secure mechanism Lowering: C* for belaying one or two followers. In a fall, the rope sucks the blocking carabiner into Final score: the body of the device, effectively stopping the rope. Pulling rope through the device *Lowering in auto-block mode is difficult in auto-block mode is nearly effortless, and the camming action is aggressive enough that I felt confident belaying while re-racking or eating a snack. Like Trango’s B-52, the Reverso can be used like a traditional tube device for belaying a leader. In this mode the Reverso provides a very soft catch — meaning you have to hold on tight to stop a big fall. The rope runs over a large-diameter, polished edge, making it easy to feed line in or out during belaying, but providing relatively light stopping power. On long rappels, I found I had to hold the brake side of the rope against my hip to provide enough friction for a comfortable descent. Because of its smooth action, this is a good device for use with beefy ropes, but I’d be cautious about using it with single ropes under 10mm in diameter, or doubles under 8.5mm, and I’d back up my rappels with a ratcheting knot (i.e. a prussik) for extra security. Petzl America: 801-926-1500, petzl.com.
Trango B-52 $24
Weight: 2 ounces
The B-52 looks like an exotically shaped belay plate, but there’s more to this device Works with: two ropes than futuristic geometry. The protruding, curved lip allows it to cam tightly — very Simplicity: B Lead belaying: B+ tightly — against the rope when it’s suspended from the belay anchors in auto-blockLowering: C* ing mode. Like the Reverso, a second locking carabiner clipped through a bight of rope Final score: provides the resistance that activates the B-52’s camming action (unlike the Reverso, *Lowering in auto-block mode is difficult you need an extra locker for each rope, so if you are belaying two seconds at the same time you’ll need a total of three screwgate carabiners). The rope tends to bind in this device, especially if the second is moving quickly, but a quick tug on the blocking carabiner corrects the problem. The B-52 is extremely effective for stopping falls, making it as reliable as the Reverso for belaying from above. As with Petzl’s Reverso, however, lowering a second is a complex process. Belaying a leader with the B-52 is straightforward. Although it tends to bind more than the Reverso, this can be partially remedied by clipping the bight to two carabiners on your belay loop instead of one (providing a bigger radius for the rope to run across, smoothing the feed). On rappels, the B-52 provides a smooth, easily controlled descent. I liked this device better than Petzl’s Reverso for use with skinny ropes — in fact, the B-52’s rope-handling improved when I mated it with a 9.5mm single rope, rather than the 10.5mm model I usually use. Trango: 800-860-3653, trango.com.
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Tube/Plate Devices* Model/ Manufacturer
Suggested Rope Diameter Range
Omega SBG II Trango Jaws Camp Stick DMM The Bug Hugh Banner The Sheriff Metolius BRD Black Diamond ATC-XP Cassin Piu Wild Country Variable Controller Advanced Base Camp Arc CMI Microbelay Plate
Belay plate with spring
Rigid or flexible stem
Oval belay plate
* These standard belay devices were not tested. They are shown here as a buyerâ€™s guide.
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p. 042-43 What's New.126 5/7/03 4:30 PM Page 44
W H AT ’ S N E W Petzl MYO 3 headlamp In early April, I attempted an evening trail marathon in the mountains above Santa Barbara, California. Despite a moonless night, the three LED lights on Petzl’s MYO 3 ($44, 5 ounces, not including four AA batteries) headlamp proved bright enough for running dirt roads — they’re easily powerful enough for most glacier traverses — and a beveled mounting made adjusting the angle of the beam a cinch. I switched to the xenon-halogen bulb, a brighter light source with higher energy demands (four hours burn time), to search for a vital trail junction. Then I changed back to the efficient LED mode (12 hours peak output/120 hours total burn time) once I’d located the right path. The xenon-halogen bulb eventually dimmed, but the LEDs still had plenty of juice at the finish line. The MYO line of headlamps also includes a unit with five LEDs (MYO 5, $74) and others that allow you to carry the battery pack off the headband. Petzl America: 801-926-1500, Petzl.com. — Mark Eller
Yates Big Wall Rope What do you look for in a rope? If you’re a wall climber, abrasion resistance and durability probably top your list — in short, you want a rope that can withstand the abuse that jugging, hauling and whack-and-dangle climbing inflicts. Fear not, the Big Wall Rope ($189 for 65-meter length, $219 with dry treatment) can take the abuse. The sheath is about 20 percent thicker than that on a normal 11mm rope, providing extra security from sharp edges and minor rockfall. Other “heavyduty” ropes also feature thick sheaths, but some are as stiff as piano wires. I found that the Big Wall handled almost as smoothly as a regular rope. Yates attributes its suppleness to a unique “40-carrier braid construction,” meaning the sheath is woven from 40 strands of thicker-than-normal yarn, rather than the 48 strands used on standard ropes.
The Big Wall Rope comes in a 65-meter length, which means you can trim the ends a few times and still have a rope of usable length; it has a low static elongation (6.3 percent — great for jugging) and a sheath that resists slippage. A low impact force (8.8 kN) means you won’t get jolted too severely when you fall, and the UIAA 16-fall rating is the highest available. Since a rope’s sheath is less dense than its core, the Big Wall cord is also relatively light for an 11mm rope, just 77 grams per meter. For those looking for a thinner free-climbing cord, Yates makes a 10.3mm Speed Wall Rope ($180 for a 65-meter length) with a similar thicksheath construction. Yates Gear: 530-222-4606, yatesgear.com. — Dave Pegg
Holds of the Month:
Cheap Holds Tech Set #2 and Bucket Set #3 I took a long, hard swallow when I unwrapped Tech Set No. 2 ($25 for five holds). The dual-textured pockets and funky blobs seemed burly enough for a World Cup super-final problem. Fortunately, when I mounted them on a 10-degree overhang — the kindest wall in my garage — the Tech Set wasn’t as savage as I had feared. On a vertical wall they would be ideal for setting in the V1 to V3 range, or V3-and-up problems on a slightly overhanging wall. If you can use them on anything steeper than 15 degrees, please send your tick list to email@example.com. For going “steep and deep,” Cheap Holds’ Bucket Set No. 3 delivers five edges ($25) that are perfect for day-in, day-out training. They aren’t the most creative shapes I’ve seen, but the rounded edges are comfortable and just slopey enough to deliver a killer pump. Cheap Holds: 989-779-1792, cheapholds.com. — M.E.
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Tried and True:
FiveTen Anasazi Lace-Up
In the race to look new and hip on the retail-store shelves, most shoe manufacturers revamp their offerings ever y few years. Inevitably, some truly standout shoes are discontinued to make room for the latest models. I still remember the day , several years ago, that I tried to replace a pair of Boreal Vectors, only to learn that they had been axed from the line. Instead, I tried the FiveTen Anasazi Lace-Ups ($143). Since that day, they have become my favorite all-around shoe. What makes the Anasazis remarkable is their versatility. Created as a specialty shoe for limestone sport routes some 10 years ago, the lace-ups quickly became the best-selling rock shoe in Europe — but bombed on U.S. shelves. After a few years, though, climbers began trying them on the sandstone cracks of Indian Creek and Y osemite’s polished granite, and found that the Anasazis weren’t limited to overhanging limestone. In fact, they excelled at signature American locations like the Gunks, Smith Rock and Yosemite. The Anasazis fit narrow to medium feet, and the synthetic Cowdura uppers stretch only slightly, just enough to mold around the foot. The moderately stiff midsole is just supportive enough for edging routes, and when you climb in the shoes for a few days, they become supple enough to slip into thin cracks (I’ve used them on numerous desert routes). Closer to home, I lace them up for the slippery limestone at nearby Rifle, Colorado, where the C4 Stealth rubber grabs surprisingly well. The only problem I’ve encountered with Anasazis is the heel. The slingshot rand has torn in the rear on some of the pairs I’ve worn. Fortunately, FiveTen’s warranty service is prompt, and I’ve received a new pair in the mail for every damaged model returned. FiveTen: 909-798-4222, fiveten.com. — Tyler Stableford
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Trango Nutz and Brassies While Trango’s Nutz and Brassies ($5.95 per nut, for all sizes) are not exactly new, they are attractively priced, and their profile differs a bit from other popular nut designs; enough so that they feel like a new take. Nutz are shaped like my Aunt Ethel: short and stout. This shape allows Nutz to fit in pockets and holes that longer, more gradually tapered wedges don’t. On the minus side, the compact design loses a bit of stability, due to decreased contact with the rock. Nutz are aluminum and come in eight sizes, ranging from .3 to 1 inch in width. They’re aggressively curved to create a stable tripod in even-sided cracks; channels on the two primary faces help resist sideways shifting. Brassies (eight sizes, from .2 to .6 inches) have a squatter design than Nutz, especially in the four largest sizes. They make a good second set of small wires, since they often fit pin scars, odd-sized holes and irregular cracks better than traditionally shaped chocks. Nutz and Brassies both feature color-coded protectors over the cable swage. The wedges tended to slide up and down on the cable, which annoyed me when I tried to clean them from placements. (A dab of Barge Cement should help prevent the wedge from sliding.) Trango does not submit chocks for CE ratings, but does perform in-house strength tests; see the website for complete specs. Trango: 800-860-3653, trango.com. —M.E.
CragWear On summer road trips, the time between washings — of both your person and your laundry — often gets stretched beyond reasonable limits. Savvy road warriors should check out Columbia’s Vector Zip Top, a versatile synthetic shirt with an effective anti-microbial coating. I recently wore one for a week’s worth of trail runs, multi-pitch climbs and bouldering sessions, and it emerged smelling almost as sweet as on the day I unwrapped it. I didn’t find that the “softspun micro-filament” material breathed much better (or worse) than other polyester fabrics I’ve tried, but flat seams and a soft pique finish made this one of the most comfortable mid-weight pieces I’ve worn. At just $35, this good-looking shirt is a solid bargain. Kavu’s Big Eddy pants ($72) are another smart choice for life on the open road. The cotton, nylon and lycra blend is durable and stretchy enough to climb in all day. At night, you can wipe off the chalk and hit the town without looking like a derelict. I’m not a big fan of built-in belts, but at least the Big Eddy’s is darkly colored and not too bulky. The voluminous, front and rear mesh-lined pockets are a nice touch. Columbia: 800-468-7455, columbia.com; Kavu: 800-419-5288; kavu.com. — M.E.
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Legends of the Mind Calling Buhl on the famous mountaineer’s truisms BY JOHN LONG
erman Buhl nearly killed me, which is a curious thing since the great Austrian mountaineer died 20 years before I nearly met my maker soloing at Tahquitz Rock in southern California. But it was Buhl’s fault, nonetheless. It was also to his credit that I learned a pivotal lesson in the process. Like typical upstart climbers, Richard Harrison, my climbing partner back then, and I were obsessed with the sport. When we weren’t climbing we were reading about it. Our favorite tome was Buhl’s classic, The Lonely Challenge. We perused that book so often that cover fell off during our senior year in high school. Make that my senior year. Richard quit Upland High because it cut into his rock time. Anyway, we committed numerous Buhl proverbs to memory and recited them. Whenever one of us got strung out on a sketchy lead we’d lip our favorite line, “Every man must make his own choices, and every man must climb his own mountain.” This Buhlism had a magical capacity to steady us. Never mind that Buhl was a mountaineer and we were strictly rock climbers, that our eyes were set on El Capitan, and not the Eiger or Broad Peak. This had no bearing on our idolization of the mountaineer. It was all about Buhl’s attitude, his commitment
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to the “Lonely Challenge” as the one and only passion worth pursuing — at all costs. Buhl’s proverbs spelled out an approach to life, and they equipped our early climbs with a sureness of purpose, a significance and a dizzy sense of romance, gifts we would carry in our hearts for decades. Gifts that nearly got me killed soloing a moderate route at Tahquitz Rock long before I knew what I was doing. Freshman year at college, my roommate had a trashed old red Triumph, a wheezing British rust bucket with four bald tires, a cranky trany and a dozen oil leaks. So long as I returned the Triumph with more gas than when I started — which I never did — I could borrow it whenever I wanted — which I always did. By stacking my courses at the beginning and end of each week, I had Wednesdays free, and I’d always spend them with Richard, reciting maxims from The Lonely Challenge and bouldering ourselves to smithereens up at Mount Baldy or out at Roubidoux. Richard couldn’t make our scheduled rendezvous at the boulders, so on this particular Tuesday night, while post-holing through Beowulf, a fantastic plan burst into my head: At dawn the following morning, I would borrow the Triumph, putt two and a half hours up to Tahquitz
— barring breakdowns — and solo one of the 800-foot climbs on the balding southwest face. I pitched Beowulf aside, packed two PB&J sandwiches and a quart of water in my daypack and tossed and turned all night anticipating the coming day’s heroics. I set off at 5:30 a.m. and gunned the old Triumph out past Beaumont and the turnoff for Idyllwild. Steaming and farting up the zig-zagging road to Tahquitz, I kept picturing Buhl during his many ascents in the Alps, where he’d trudge in alone, solo a world-class climb in nothing flat — encountering various life-anddeath jams that he’d master perfunctorily — then trudge out 30 miles through waist-deep snowdrifts, back to a log fire, a loaf of bread and a block of cheese in his Bavarian chalet. I imagined myself high on the white ramparts of Tahquitz, moving with a sureness of purpose remarkable in the annals of mountaineering. The Tahquitz parking area was empty — not unusual for a weekday, and a vivid reminder of the solitary nature of my adventure. Thirty minutes and seemingly 1,500 switchbacks later, I kicked back on Lunch Rock, Tahquitz rearing directly above, shrouded in gloomy shade. The normal sounds so evident on weekends — the ringing of hammers and pitons and ban-
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PLANET LARGO tering between partners — were conspicuously nerves were fried. That’s when I noticed dark absent. All was dead quiet save for the purr of clouds had swarmed up the valley when I wasn’t wind passing through the pines. I glanced up at looking and presently were swirling up and the wall and swallowed hard. A Lonely Chalaround the rock. I instinctively pictured Buhl lenge indeed. The PB&J sandwich stuck in my high on the snow-swept flank of Broad Peak, his throat, and I gave up after a few bites. I repeated eyes fixed with resolve. a few Buhlisms to muster resolve, laced up my “Through wind and through snow, few men red, sweat-hardened canvas PAs, cinched up hear the call to push on,” said Herman. my chalkbag and hiked 50 feet up to the rock. “I hear that,” I replied. Despite cragging at Tahquitz for nearly two I can’t recall much about the next few hunyears, I’d climbed but a handful of the classic dred feet, only that I kept traversing around, routes, the old stand-bys in the 5.4 to 5.7 range from one flake system to another, and that every and a number of harder testpieces. I wasn’t time I’d find a ledge or shelf, I’d wander back about to solo one of those grim lines, with their and forth trying to find a crack I could plug into oily granite holds and complex route-finding. and stay anchored to the wall. The cliffside Instead, I strove to knock off something in the remained low-angled, and most of the routes low range and well within my ability. To keep the here were 5.7 or easier, though folks had strung game sporting, I figured I’d just spontaneously together blank bits between features to produce pick a line without checking the guidebook. a few 5.10s, climbs I definitely sought to avoid. Now, gazing up at a maze of criss-crossing flakes Route-finding was now my principal concern. and cracks and glassy face interludes, I felt a An arching corner 20 feet up and right looked momentarily flinch in my conviction. promising, and appeared to angle into a big I picked an overlap/chimney Buhl might have held true to his easy gully and a hundred or so words till the end, but I longed for started chimneyfeet above. But I my dorm room, a bottle of beer ing. With every didn’t much care upward move my for the bald face and one of those curvy freshman anxiety pushed looming just girls who didn’t know the difference into excitement. above — no between a rascal and a prince. I was on-line, more than 55 thrilled by the feeling of self command. degrees, granted, but clearly as smooth as Like most Tahquitz crack systems, the chimMichelangelo’s Dying Slave. ney ended after 50 feet, forcing me out right and “Adventure is not for every man,” Herman onto a grainy face. I wandered over the slab and chimed in. “And that’s the charm of it.” Try moved up to a short handcrack that ran 100 feet, as I did, I couldn’t spot the charm on that finally petering out below a big ledge. As I climbed holdless slab. I found a cozy rhythm, moving steadily up the 60“Occupational hazards,” I said to myself and degree wall; but the climbing, around 5.3, felt stepped onto the slab, a piece of rock any ropedtoo easy to support the heroics I’d painted in my up beginner could waltz without pause. But head, so I moved over and began stemming up moving onto that windowpane, 400 feet off the a steep corner, simple enough to stay calm, and deck, with no rope, and shod in the iron-hard just stiff enough (perhaps 5.6) to feel legendary. rubber soles of the 1970s, had me gritting my Life was a glorious sunrise. teeth and holding my breath. I encountered a bushy tree at the top of the corThis was a one-move-a-minute affair, and I ner — a trifling obstacle if you had a rope and partbecame so focused on the nuances of every senner. But without either I didn’t dare handwalk up sation under my feet and hands that it had probthe dangling vines and limbs clogging the corably been sprinkling for several minutes before ner, fearing they’d snap. No choice but to burrow I noticed the rock bore a thin film of water. into a regular hedgerow, teeming with piss ants, That meant that the only dry holds were the finally groveling onto a small shelf where I started ones under my feet, a concept that froze me cuffing myself to clear off the insects. One dauntsolid. My mind went blank until my hero piped less ant crowded into my ear and began traipsin: “Dangers easily managed are not true daning about the actual drum until I feared madness. gers,” he said. “True dangers are those that I violently shook my head and thumbed my ear, most men foreswear.” but the ant kept marching. Here again was another of those vicious BuhDesperate, I tried a couple delicate probes lisms that Richard and I had literally worn out with a twig, and finally evicted the ant, but my — Buhl’s answer to all those meek souls who
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questioned why he would risk everything for the Lonely Challenge. But now his words sounded like a cruel jest, and I believed in my heart that the Austrian had duped me into a lethal jam where I would learn, all too late, the folly of his asinine proverbs. It struck me that the same realization had likely come to Herman as he plunged to his death after stepping off that fateful Himalayan cornice, and I imagined the grizzled Austrian, up there in the clouds, laughing at me. My boots were starting to ooze down the slab. It wouldn’t be long now. I swore at Buhl for swindling me into a knottypine box and kept at him until I’d worked myself into a rage. Buhl might have held true to his words till the end, but I longed for my dorm room, a bottle of beer and one of those curvy freshman girls who didn’t know the difference between a rascal and a prince. I longed to read Beowulf, cover to cover. Jesus, I wanted off that slab. With new resolve I straightened, paddled a half dozen moves up the soaking slab and found myself on a middling shelf beneath the chimney. I slunk back into the depths, wondering what just happened. Malice toward Herman had gotten my boots moving, but something else had happened, some internal shift. For a moment I wondered who I was. I had a hunch that if I simply pressed on, things might clear up a bit. I started ratcheting up the chimney. In 50 feet the chimney pinched and arched over, leaving me to exit on handlebar-sized holds. Six hundred feet off the deck now and the drizzle had scarcely eased. But rather than rage against the difficulties, I found myself choosing them, and the world transformed under my boots. I reefed over the chickenheads, steep but simple, and scrambled to the top via a final grainy slab. Most all the way up that cliffside I’d experienced two climbs and two lives — the one I believed I wanted, and the one I actually lived. By embracing actuality, “through wind and through storm,” as Buhl would put it, I began quietly appreciating, rather than boycotting, the only life I could call my own. An hour later I push-started the old Triumph and rolled down to the road for home. The old rust bucket overheated just outside Fontana, and I burned my hand when the radiator geysered over. Just then another truism from another icon, the British mountaineer Don Whillans, popped into my head. “Aye,” he said. “It’s a good life provided you don’t weaken.” And what happens if you weaken? I asked as I watched an angry red welt swell up from my hand. “They bury you.” ◆
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reaking the s u e l R
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A solo gone awry on Yosemite’s Steck-Salathé By Dean S. Potter
took my first and only “lights out” ground fall when I was five and my
family lived in Israel. After an unsuccessful attempt to scale the stone side of our house, I awoke to Bedouin women chanting and dancing around me, throwing salt on the blood of my impact zone. At an early age I learned the most fundamental rule of free-soloing: never fall. As I grew up, I had trouble relating to the structured world around me. Modern society seemed artificial. I broke free when I found climbing. My parents forbade me to climb, fearing for my safety, but I was irresistibly drawn to the cliff near our house in southern New Hampshire. Joe English Cliff was also a military tracking station and off-limits to civilians. With my pal John, I liked to jump the fence and hide out in the boulders near the cliff’s edge. We found refuge from patrolling army guys on the low bushy ledges of the granite outcrop. It was from one of those hideouts that John noticed a rusted ring-angle piton partway up the 250-foot wall. Curiosity led us into our first real free-solo. We climbed barefoot, ignorant of the techniques, gear and rules of modern climbing. When things got hard, we offered a hand or a shoulder stand through reachy sections. Though intimidated, we kept it together. Most important, we topped out alive. Later I found out that this route was one of the first rock climbs in the Northeast. A two-pitch 5.6, it was pioneered in the early 1930s. From then on, climbing was always there for me. I finally felt a sense of place and history, and began to meet people I could relate to and respect. My real world opened before me. Halfway through my second year of college, I knew that climbing was it. I dropped out and headed to Mecca: Yosemite. My first two seasons in the Big Valley were humbling. Astroman was one of my dreams. But I bailed off the Enduro Corner on my first attempt after pumping out midway up. I also aspired to climb the Regular Route on Half Dome in a day. I got up it, but barely survived hypothermia getting down. These flailing efforts made me struggle harder than ever through the Valley’s learning curves. Slowly I grasped the importance of humility, technique and perseverance. I pulled out of my rut. In New Hampshire, I had climbed many Henry Barber routes and heard tales of his bold ascents elsewhere. I was most awed by his groundbreaking 1973 on-sight solo of the Steck-Salathé on Sentinel Rock. One of Yosemite’s most striking formations, the Sentinel sits directly across the river from Camp 4. Even today, the Steck-Salathé is notorious for its stout 5.9 and 5.10 offwidths and chimneys — the type of climbing that doesn’t get any easier with the passage of time. Barber free-soloed the whole route, including the 50-foot rappel section midway up, and he climbed it fast, in under two and a half hours. It was the cuttingedge solo of the era.
Potter soloing Yosemite’s Nutcracker with Sentinel Rock behind.
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arrived in the Valley for my third season during the autumn of 1995. Four years on the road, climbing full-time, had started to harden me a little. Free-soloing the Steck-Salathé, on-sight, was my biggest goal. Everywhere in the Valley, I felt the pull. The Sentinel was calling to me, urging me. Its voice was starting to drive me mad. My friend Timmy O’Neill had recently climbed the Steck on a rope with a partner, and now he aspired to free-solo it, too. Strength in numbers felt right, and we decided to go for it together. Weeks passed before we both felt so driven that we were ready to stake our lives on it. Wanting something badly enough to die for it is hard to grasp. But that’s what was going on in my mind. Late in the morning, Tim and I hooked up in the Yosemite Lodge cafeteria. We amped ourselves on free coffee until we had to move. I followed him across the meadow, over Swinging Bridge, trying not to look up at the 2,000-foot wall. My friend and hero Derek Hersey had died trying to solo this route in 1993; no one knew where he had fallen. I forced myself back into the present. Even the low-angle approach up the slab ramps seemed frightening, though. I had lost my confidence. I pressed on because my throbbing ego wouldn’t let me turn back. When we got to the base I was reeling with nausea, sweats and diarrhea. Timmy shoed up and shimmied up the first offwidth. Without taking time to think, I climbed right under his feet, rationalizing that if he slipped he wouldn’t pick up speed. My anxious thoughts prohibited me from focusing entirely on the climbing at hand. At every offwidth I followed Tim’s choice of which side to face into the crack, only to realize that, because of our size difference, I often needed to spin around to climb it securely. I had to down-climb many times and reorient myself. Four hundred feet up, we struggled through the flaring 5.9 Wilson Overhang. At this point there was no turning back. Midway up the wall, on top of the Flying Buttress, we down-climbed the short rappel pitch. I stared up at Sentinel’s infamous feature, the bodycrushing chimney system called The Narrows. Henry Barber had called the moves here terrifying. I questioned whether I would be able to squeeze through, but many valley locals had assured me that I’d make it. I started to panic as we neared the bombay chimney roof. Just below The Narrows, we paused on a foot-wide ledge for 10 minutes or so, trying to cool out. Then Timmy went for it. Wedging his body right-side in, he shimmied up three or four feet and suddenly started shaking. Minutes dragged by, and he still hadn’t moved more than a few feet above my perch. He thrashed back and forth, trying desperately to gain a few more inches. His legs kicked, search-
ing blindly for footholds; then they went limp and dangled in the gaping maw in front of me. Timmy let out a moan and his body began convulsing uncontrollably. Automatically, I bridged the chimney below him, feet on one side and hands on the other, just as he screeched, “I’m coming out! Falling!” and cut loose. Without thinking about the precarious position I was in, I caught his sliding legs and pushed up on his feet until he was through the slot. My heart raced as I moved back to the ledge; I gasped to regain control. Timmy kept yelling, “I’m okay! I’m all right!” I couldn’t think about anything except for how dicey this situation was. I still had to make it through The Narrows myself. Long minutes passed before I moved. I was so nervous I thoughtlessly plunged into the roof chimney facing the same direction as Tim. ... I should have known better. With quick, sporadic breaths, I wrestled for each upward inch. Timmy called out, “Grab my foot! Grab my foot!” But I was too proud and stupid. On my first solo climbs, I had been a natural climber, thinking nothing of helping my friend and being helped in return. Now I was clinging to self-imposed “rules” that didn’t apply to life and death. Finally, I managed to bridge myself in the mouth of the Narrows, my body parallel to the ground 1,200 feet straight below. I was unable to move up, though. Timmy squirmed down closer to me and wedged himself in the slot like a human hex. I followed his orders, and latched onto his little feet. Claustrophobic, nearly hyperventilating, I pulled myself from the brink of falling. We tunneled up to safety. Only 400 feet to go. We were through the mental barrier. I could see a tree on the rim above, and knew we would make it. We started cracking jokes, and soon reached the top. I stood on the sandy, beach-like summit, staring into the sun. Many feelings fell away — the need to prove myself had been overcome by something even stronger: the will to live. At first I was embarrassed to tell anybody about our sort-of solo. For years, I never mentioned the details, just saying, “... it was kind of spicy up there.” I felt like I had broken a personal code, because somehow along the road I had become an unnatural climber — I had created rules that governed my climbing style and ego, rather than doing what I felt free to do. I had lost the clarity of the young, wild creature I had been when I climbed by my own instincts. More years and solos had to go by before I could fully embrace the knowledge that climbing is about freedom. Today, whenever the subject of the SteckSalathé comes up, I smile and laugh and tell the tale.
Sentinel Rock, with the Steck-Salathé shown. 52 | www.rockandice.com
Dean Potter, 31, is spending his 11th season in Yosemite this summer.
Timmy called out, “Grab my foot! Grab my foot!” But I was too proud and stupid.
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Joining the Club
Dan Osman’s all-or-nothing voyage at the New River Gorge By Jay Smith
n 1991 Dan Osman and I went out East to guide the Seals, and warmed up a few days early in New River Gorge. Cruising the base of Beauty Mountain, seeking out our next route, we stumbled across the Gun Club (5.12c), a gently overhanging face up exquisitely colorful rock smattered with small features. Dan instantly recognized the route from having seen a photo of Scott Franklin sending it. Without hesitation, Dan flaked out a rope and racked draws, and was about to clip the second bolt before I had him on belay. He hiked to the crux, at the fourth bolt or so, hesitated a moment, then fired to the top in his near-effortless fashion. If I ever saw so much as his foot slip, I knew I was doomed even following him on a route. He had flawless It was too hot in the sun to be leading — much less soloing — technique with an uncanny sense of balance, superb foot- waited for a cloud to block the sun and started up. work and a cool head. I sweated, struggled and He proceeded to fall off twice, then succeeded fell, and with encouragement from above some- twice, and soloed back to the ground. Tomorhow followed his brilliant lead. row he would dispense with the loop and Later that afternoon, while leading a route farsolo the route. ther down the wall with others, I looked back The next day after a late start (we were all toward the Gun Club. Dan was back on the now on “Dano time”), Steve Cater and I headed route, this time alone, with a couple of draws back to Beauty Mountain with Dan. I was to and a short piece of rope tied in a loop. He shoot stills and Steve video. Dan was going to had soloed to the third bolt, clipped it with solo Gun Club whether we were present or not. the loop and was moving up to work the crux. We decided to record the moment or talk him The series of very difficult moves above involved out of it, if possible. The day was hot and a long reach off a ver y thin edge reinfor ced humid, and with the late start the climb would with glue, about 50 feet above some gigantic be in full sun. blocks that were tipped on edge. T o fall on We arrived at the top of the cliff and set up our these from any height was not an option. There camera positions while Dan rehearsed the crux was no safe landing. again with the loop of rope. Again he fell twice, For Dan, it only added to the excitement. then repeated the crux three times and soloed
back to the ground, declaring himself ready. We tried to talk him out of it. He said he was going. We readied our cameras. He started up the route, then stopped 20 feet up, saying it was too hot. We told him not to do it. “But you guys are all set up! You came all the way out here!” “Dan! Don’t do it because of us! You can do this some other time!” I yelled. “Wait a minute. Here comes a cloud.” He stayed there for a minute and as soon as its shadow crossed him, he was off. His climbing was as solid and relaxed as if he was an inch off the ground. He floated up the holds in per fect rhythm. Taking his time, never stopping but to chalk. Where minutes before he’d fallen, he now floated the crux. Above, the moves were con5.12. Osman tinuous 5.11 and still quite pumpy. To him, it was in the bag; he now posed on some of the larger holds. Through my lens I watched one of the world’ s best climbers dance up the face. Before finishing, he asked if we got any shots. “Just get the hell up here,” I shouted back. “I need a f—king drink. And by the way , good job, man.” Dan Osman died in 1998 in a roped-jumping accident. He was full of energy and unbelievably kind. Though he could piss me off by being late (“Dano time” again), sometimes weeks late, I had nothing but the greatest respect for him. He was incredibly talented and could do anything he put his mind to: any sport, playing the guitar, fine carpentry. He was a loving father and remains the most graceful climber I’ve ever seen. We miss you, Dan. ◆
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John Bachar Unplugged
The grand master of soloing comes clean on his rise to glory, his ego and his sketchiest solo ever
climbing legend of international influence. The best rock climber of his era. Promulgator of staunch ethics, whose legacy still echoes with admiration and acrimony. John Bachar, 46, is all these and more. Bachar’s unroped free climbing feats etched the collective consciousness of the climbing world. His solo efforts were more than adrenaline-fueled escapism or angst-driven spasms — in his own words, they were “something that was beyond reprieve or doubt — the ultimate statement.” Bachar’s 1976 free solo of Yosemite’s New Dimensions (5.11a) and 1979 cordless sprint up the Nabisco W all via Butterballs (5.11c) rocked the climbing world. In 1980, Bachar upped the ante beyond anything imaginable by on-sight soloing Y osemite’s Moratorium (5.11b). Bachar continued to solo through the developing sport-climbing era of the late 1980s and early 1990s, making ropeless ascents of bolted routes like The Gift (creaky sandstone 5.12c) in Red Rocks and Father Figure (5.13a) in Joshua Tree. Today, he’s soloing “only” 5.10s and 5.11s.
What role did your ego play in soloing? I always knew it was there, but, you know, after a while you can’ t do it for that reason. If you f—k up, you go from hero to zero. You can get built up by the talk and get a big head. Outwardly you’re okay, but inside you are blowing it and you know it, and you’re going to get hurt. Honesty — that’s where Peter Croft is really strong. He is very good with himself.
“You can get built up by the talk and get a big head. You are blowing it and you know it, and you’re going to get hurt.”
What marked the beginning of your soloing? I started in Joshua T ree, I was like 17 or something. We never looked at it as soloing, it was just, “Let’s smoke some doobage and climb Mike’s Books (5.6) in the moonlight.” Back then, no one really soloed anything hard.
54 | www.rockandice.com
One day Largo [John Long] said, “Ho, Bachar man, let’s go do Double Cross [5.7+].” My car was parked in the other direction, so I turned to the car to get the rope. Largo said, “Where are you going? You’ve toproped that thing a hundred times and how many times have you fallen?” I answered, “None.” Largo said, “Well, then, lets go!” Tell us about your big Valley solos. After New Dimensions [5.11a], I’d feel this burning on my neck — people were all like “pssst, pssst,” talking about me behind my back. They probably figured I’d lost it. The next step was Butterballs [5.11c]. I remember the day it entered my mind as a solo. I hung around Camp 4 in a hammock all day. I knew I was going to do it. I lay there and thought to myself, “This could be it. I’m really putting myself on the f—kin’ line this time.” I knew it would shut people up, and at the same time it was like an artistic statement. I’d never taken that big of a step into the unknown.
Tell us about your close calls. I don’t remember anything where you’d ever see me get out of control like shakin’ or getting pumped. The closest I’ve come to losing it was the on-sight solo of the Moratorium [5.11b]. It was kinda sketchy cause you really had to trust your foot with this weird pressure on this tiny dimple, kinda like a zit. On Solitary Confinement [on-sight first ascent in Tuolumne, 5.9], I thought I was going to eat it because there was this high step to a crystal that had a crack in it. I was like “Oh, f—k, I can’t go down.” I had to stand on it. If the crystal broke, I would have bit the dust. What if your kid grows up and wants to solo? Whew, that’s a tough one. But I guess I’d tell him: “If you get afraid, don’t go any farther — come down and be smart. You can fool everyone else, but you can’t fool yourself.” ◆
By Pete Takeda
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A quest for understanding became a custom. Or that was the idea.
n my early 20s, I started a ritual of freesoloing on my birthday. Nothing hard, mind you. And never in a hurry. The point is simply to spend the day alone with myself, stripped to the quiet beauty of flowing gently up a rock. In these moments, I feel the touch of stone under my fingers and feet, the slight brushes of forearms and knees, my heart loud in my ears. My mind sharpens, my senses wash clear. Past, present and future begin to fit together in a way that could eventually make sense, and I catch a glimpse of my direction. The ancient Greeks asked the oracle for answers; Native Americans fasted in the desert; I go climbing. It all started on my 23rd birthday, when November 4 approached and I was still in Yosemite. I’d never been up to Half Dome, but I’d always heard about Snake Dike, the classic 5.7. It would be perfect. I woke before dawn in Camp 4, excited. The steep four miles to the first landmark, Nevada Falls, felt like nothing with only rock shoes, a chalkbag and a chocolate muffin in my pack. Unfortunately I had no idea where the route was. With falling spirits, I kept walking farther and higher until I found myself below the cable route, the hiker’s way to the summit. The top of Half Dome looked like a huge Japanese garden, artfully scattered with white granite cairns. But I felt dejected as I ate my muffin and gazed out toward Tuolumne. What a start to the year. I was so bad at route-finding that I couldn’t even find the route. Did this mean I would be a hopeless bumbly for the entire year I was 23? I napped in the sun until mid-afternoon and started back down.
for putting myself here. I actually prayed as I forced myself to smear up, finally reaching giant holds. I’d gotten lucky. The rest of the route was so spectacular that I couldn’t stay angry at myself. I climbed what looked exactly like a monstrous serpent skeleton fossilized into the side of Half Dome. The vertebrae tapered away just as the dome curved off to the summit. With heavy legs, I trudged up the seemingly endless granite slabs to the summit and hurried down the cables once again as darkness fell. With no headlamp, I was slow on the trail down. I reached the valley floor exhausted and hungry, and having missed my birthday dinner. A little deflated, I crawled into the tent with a growling stomach, realizing I hadn’t seen a single friend all day. Still, I felt triumphant. A much better start to the year! As I grew more committed to my birthday tradition, it perversely became harder to maintain. Often I’d give in to the temptation of spending the day with friends, and compromise on at least climbing to a summit. But it wasn’t a visit to the oracle, and I always felt disappointed when I yielded. Wasn’t personal drive my greatest strength? By my 28th birthday, I had learned how to say no. I politely turned down offers to climb with friends, and headed to Arches National Park in Moab. I felt confused about life, as usual. All sorts of owls had been appearing to me for months, constantly swooping at me, or flying close, while friends told me they’d had dreams about owls and me. I was starting to wonder if I was missing some blatantly obvious sign from
The ancient Greeks asked the oracle for answers; Native Americans fasted in the desert; I go climbing. A few miles below, two climbers popped onto the main trail. They had just retreated from Snake Dike, thinking it was too late in the day to finish. They pointed to the base — only half an hour away. Instantly forgetting the 12 miles I’d just covered, I thanked them fervently, and raced up through the woods. Panting, I changed into rock shoes and charged up the slabby pitches. In a few minutes I was 200 feet up the round side of Half Dome, at what had to be the 5.7 crux. There were no handholds above, just the pressure of shoe rubber under my weary feet. Despite the easy grade, if a foot slipped I’d have no chance to catch myself. My calves burned as I hesitated, starting to feel about as tired as if I’d just run up and down Half Dome. This was dead wrong. I was breaking my cardinal rule of free-soloing, never to feel sketchy. But I’d climbed too far into the crux to retreat. Helplessly, I felt my mind weaken; images rushed in of my body falling. I struggled to regain control, desolately thinking that I deserved this
By Steph Davis
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the spirit world. At first I had scoffed at the idea, but these owls were getting hard to ignore. Library research hadn’t helped so far. I finally decided to devote this birthday to soloing a sandstone tower called Owl Rock. Maybe the desert would give some answers. Owl Rock is an easy little tower, but like all desert rock, magical. Reverently, I laid hands on the soft stone and felt a surge of connection. My breath turned rhythmic, and I smiled as my body grooved fluidly around undulating bulges. The sculpted holds were like potter’s clay, as malleable and alive as my own limbs. I sat crosslegged on the rounded summit and looked out at the La Sal Mountains. I still didn’t know why I kept seeing so many owls. But I began to accept that many things aren’t logical or meant to be known with five senses. Slowly, my mind began to open. On my 29th birthday, I headed out to climb Castleton Tower. Unexpectedly, an old college friend caught me in Moab. He ignored my firm explanations about needing to climb alone, and decided that he would “keep me from soloing” Castleton Tower by inviting himself along. He had never climbed a tower before. As he scrambled onto the flat summit, I watched the sheer joy on his face and remembered the ecstasy of standing on my first desert spire. All my years of selfishly pursuing climbing suddenly seemed to have led toward this moment, bringing a good friend to a place he would never forget. I realized what powerful lessons I could learn by surrendering to the flow of events. For the first time, it hit me that extreme personal drive might not be inherently good. My 30th birthday found me in Yosemite again, and married. The locals’ favorite solo route is Royal Arches, a 1,200-foot 5.7 that wanders to the top of Washington Column. Only four months into marriage, I was startled to discover that my birthday climb was now our birthday climb. Though my husband loves group “soloing,” I have always rejected it as oxymoronic. This year I felt the familiar urge to climb alone, but understood that things had changed. We were a team now, and needed to bring our separate paths together. Noble thoughts, but as we started up the Royal Arches, I felt distracted by Dean’s presence. I wanted to savor the warm expanse of granite and let my mind wander freely. Instead I was climbing faster than my leisurely solo pace, and often thoughtlessly chasing Dean through unfamiliar sections that were harder than the normal path. This was feeling more like a speed climb than a trip to the oracle.
”I laid hands on the soft stone and felt a surge of connection. ... The sculpted holds were like potter’s clay, as malleable and alive as my own limbs.” I started to get annoyed at the thought that this birthday could herald a year of climbing carelessly and following Dean around. “Dean, can you just get way ahead,” I said, “because I can’t help automatically keeping your pace, and I don’t like it.” He refused. Stubbornly, I sat down on a ledge and stewed. Just as stubbornly, Dean sat on a nearby ledge and waited. I stared across the valley at Half Dome, buzzing with angry thoughts, until my eye began tracing the shadowed lines of the routes on its sheer northeast face. I thought of the times we had climbed the Regular Route together, and the simple days of living among the boulders at its base.
I looked to my left, toward Astroman and the South Face of Washington Column, remembering those climbs and all the other places in the world we’d shared. Yosemite Valley snaked up through Tenaya Canyon and on toward the massive granite sweep of Cloud’s Rest. I felt small, and kind of foolish, as my anger dissipated into the clear air. I looked over at Dean, and started to climb. He waited for me to pass, then followed. Across the Valley, Half Dome watched us go on together. Between travels, Steph Davis can be found in Moab or Yosemite.
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y to your ize that I must replresolve what al re e m e ad m s is time to near m over today and thet of the blue and I think it’s finally . I was nearly run se hn ou ri d to receive it of all, I’m glad you’re done with Joss wet, cobbled pavement. My Discletter. I was surpbe tween us. First n skidded acro g here from the mountains, I’m remains undone ose to the Etoile. A big Renault seda s either. Comin sidewalk. A It happened cl gine and I hadn’t checked the ligshhtrieking tires drove me back to theme aside as the en g man drowned theempty streets without looking. ThAe merican tourists before shoulderin used to crossing red something derogatory about ks of bad weatherdn’t ee w e re Th t. en Frenchman mutte ti od place. I di me more impa light changed. , the stop-go pace of the city maden I was fit, and had my head in a go Already on edge nditions had shut me down whe imes violence, and then regret. didn’t give me co et you and bad climbing impatience comes anger, and somye as angry because a letter, and to evenw I o. ag s ar h e it take it well. W ttern we set off that spring, fiv promised to call. You promised to see your red car It’s the same pa I couldn’t wait any longer. You ep on the stairs ord circles in our st ht lig ur yo or d e an what I wanted lieved it. So I waited for the phon tched minutes into hours. I stalke tually return. I be burned me a soundtrack that stre ng to get drunk. me, that he was in the street. You ng in anticipation, and then drinki between us. I assumed it would beyou still deserved it apartment, drinki ved us both but that you’d choose him. I gave you everything as if onship, and the jetYou said you lo n you came home you came from g to what was left of our relati un just a fling, but wdheme with absence and neglect. I clt most of all I despised myself. d hitched to the de an bu ar and you rew d you. I hated you,that. I bought a cheap ticket to Paris ve lo I t. ec sp re lfsam of my se ’t leave a note, but you know again. but ambition So I ran. I didn et in Lavancher and started climbi18ng00s. Every night I packed my gearant thunder. I al st Alps. I rented a chawful — the wettest since the lateund of sluicing downspouts and diay days of my life to That June was as bare feet hit the floor to the so u. It rained hard and I gave aw in. I killed time yo pe, no desire, no pa fled each morningenty and why I hadn’t stood up to el ho no : ng hi yt an thought of you pl n those ugly afternoons I didn’t fe g, difficult routesebi n ze do a d be sidewalk cafés. O im ones too. Som artic weeks I cl and it killed me. er eventually came. Over those catht as a kid, but I did a couple of neinwg on a thin edge Summer weath ere classics, climbs I’d read abou er running down a slab. Surviv alone decided at I by myself. Many twI did and moved as smoothly as wone thing that mattered — myself. e times I was wha fingertip forced my belief in th of steel or a fadingch situation. the outcome of ea
LORENZ A. FISCHER
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finest heart of things, reserved for the ry ve the o int y rne jou the a is ly) ng cki Soloi ny of them up there and (lu mountains ma d ha I ys. da st be ir the on the climbers I didn’t. My relationship withe in return. nc mountains let me off even when era tol ing only ect exp rd ha d an od go on ld he ong the was simple: I th no one. I was even alone am I spoke no French so I spoke wiep at the Argentiere hut each night during hundred people who eat andonslethe balcony listening to the same music over high season. I slept outside with the Discman you gave me, and people and over. I always climbed than for the climbs I did. I used the cold mounremembered me more for it laying a new foundation on strength and selftain walls to remake myself, d my self-esteem so I did it every moment I knowledge. Climbing salvagegle calorie down in the valley better spent in could and never wasted a sin the mountains. and what they meant to me. I s mb cli the t ou ab ite wr to f l thing of I taught mysel my life to the public. Not the rea d sol d an s ok bo few a perience, and ed ex nn pe nce differs from rememberedrket took to the rie pe ex l ua act se cau be , rse cou incidents further. But the ma writing bends those precious art each route, each near miss, and every stories, vicariously picking ap , written experience displaces reality over struggle for first ascent. Sadly e up to what I learned through liv r ve ne ld cou s mb cli life l time and rea hearsay that I’d done. that made me who I am. No.wI did I s ng thi the m fro ay aw d Slowly, I drifte about climbers d trying to write a screenplayclarity up there, I’m coasting on royalties, anen I climb I find a reassuring never solo anymore, but wh ich I used to devour the mountains. During the and the same ease with wh t climbing I think about you, without the descalm I enjoy after a day spen ile I was ashamed to have been such a sucker peration I once felt. For a whthat doormat was and where he went. and often asked myself who done any of this. I’d have remained a barWithout you I wouldn’t have drunk he serves each day. tender, or maybe become the all this, but you wrote that your mid-life I may be a fool for telling you as an American in Europe is odd. For a questions need answers. Living
Mark Twight has soloed in the Himalaya, Pamirs, and Canadian Rockies, but it is his hard solo ascents in the French Alps of which he is most proud. Twight is the author of the award-winning Extreme Alpinism — Climbing Light, Fast and High and Kiss or Kill — Confessions of a Serial Climber.
Soloing is a journey into the very heart of things, reserved for the finest climbers on their best days.
while I thought I Paris. You were stloillved a French woman, and tried to “l’Americaine who heavy on my heart and she jokingmake it with her in and hours spent rit fucked you up.” I pretended to enjoly referred to you as ion-industry friend ualizing tiny cups of coffee. I tried y the long lunches too attached to thes but in the end the cultural gulf w being nice to her fashI need to figure ou mountains. Or maybe too attachedas too wide, and I am t to the memory of yo Whichever, I knowwhich it is. u. th at I did myself right ou by soloing so muc t of th time to come homeh. I don’t fit in, over here, or maybee normal social fabric journey I don’t wan where at least I share some com anywhere. I think it’s mon culture, but it I remember you spt to make alone. ’s a en Larry, or were thos t some time over here when yo over here, travel a e films mostly shot in Italy? Would u were working with to know each othe bit, and see some of the places I’v you like to come back together. r again, maybe iron out our questi e seen? We could get ons, and eventually In September the fly to ur is ts return home, and th harvest, farmers bu e le reminding me how rn the fields and the smoke hangaves change. After the shortening days ri new life may rise from ash. Nights in the valley, pe with the sense s of winter to come.are crisp, and the I think you’d like it . Always, Sean
Val Montant, a member of the French Acrobatic Para-Gliding Team and Julbo "Ride The Planets" team in free-fly over the Swakopmund drop zone in the Namibian desert during the "Namib Gravity Trip", May 2002.
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Soloing isn’t always a lonely, quiet pursuit. At the sea cliffs of Dorset, England, it becomes a festival of sorts. Our intrepid reporter takes the bait, but there’s just one problem — he can’t swim. By Niall Grimes
Patch Hammond prepares for a cold awakening after slipping off Mark of the Beast (5.12d). The annual sea-cliff soloing festival in Dorset, England draws hundreds of daredevils and spectators.
orty feet above a pounding sea, Martin Atkinson gropes the awkward holds on Mark of the Beast. At 5.12d, it’s one of the harder routes at Dorset, a popular sea-cliff climbing spot on England’s southern coast, and Martin is trying it without a rope. From a marginal pinch, he strains upward, touching one, two, three different chalked-up holds. Unable to find anything good, he retreats to an awkwardlooking rest. From the rocky beach below, an onlooker shouts a bit of unwanted advice: “Don’t worry, Martin, they’re all shite!” Perched on a ledge about 20 feet to the side, and nearly eye level with Martin’s position, Leo Houlding, one of Britain’s top climbers, murmurs a drawn-out “Oooh! You’re looking pumped there, man.” Martin’s legs are shaking. Leo takes another gulp of grog from an insulated beaker. A few moments pass. Suddenly Houlding jumps to his feet and begins to roar: “Chicken wings! Chicken wings! You’re f—ked!” Martin, now in a state of desperation, makes an apocalyptic lunge for a distant hold. As his body bursts from the rock,
Leo lets out a manic scream of delight. Yaaahaaa! Moments later, Martin emerges from the sea, laughing and shaking his head in disappointment. Someone hauls him onto a sunny platform, where the onlookers playfully slap Martin’s back. The next suitor on Mark of the Beast is already pulling through the opening moves.
arrived at the Dorset Deep Water Soloing festival on a sun-bleached Saturday morning last August. A soft sea breeze drifted through the parking lot as climbers filled their packs with wetsuits, towels, sun block and party items. Hastily packing my plastic bucket and shovel, I followed them over a grassy highland toward the brink of the English Channel. England’s southern coast is lined with bone-white limestone cliffs. At 50 feet high, Conner’s Cove is on the short side, but the stone is better than that on some of the surrounding cliffs. More importantly, the water below it is deep enough for jumping into. There are also spacious ledges, capable of holding over a hundred spectators, at the foot and crest of the cliff. WWW.ROCKANDICE.COM | 63
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“I’ve had a few bad falls. Worst was the time my legs opened on the way down and I received a pretty nasty enema.” When I arrived at the top of the wall, someone with a pink ghetto blaster had already begun djing the party. People sat on rocks, sipping beer. Everyone looked surprisingly pretty for Brits. Boys and girls from the southern counties of England, with their blue skies and high standard of living, lazed in the sun. A contingent of climbers from the Northern Counties — my home — contrasted sharply with the beautiful southerners. A number of thuggishlooking Sheffielders, plus a handful of pallid climbers from Leeds and the Lakes District, stood together in a huddle. Not one wore swim trunks; their trousers cuffs hung raggedly over their shoes. A few had fashioned broad-brimmed hats from McDonald’s food wrappers to protect their ashen skin. I looked over the edge at the climbing below. Two figures were floating in the deep sea, their lazy arms and legs doing just enough to keep above the water. Climbers were making their ways up routes directly beneath me, laughing and talking to each other, dressed lightly in Bermuda shorts. I had to shake my head. Early in my climbing career, on Peak District gritstone, I was taught that soloing is about asserting your manhood. It’s about showing the route who’s boss. It’s about not being able to find a partner. But this festival was none of that. This activity seemed to be about having a laugh. About soloing for the fun of it. How dare they?
Jude Spaken braves the exposure on Troubled Waters (5.9). 64 | www.rockandice.com
he Dorset soloing event attracted many of the best climbers in the country: Ben Bransby, Steve McClure, Lucy Creamer, Neil Gresham, Nic Sellars, Leo Houlding and many more besides. If a freak tidal wave were to hit the south coast, British climbing would be set back 20 years. Traveling with me was the bold gritstone master Johnny Dawes, no stranger to sea-cliff solos. When I asked about the origins of “deep-water soloing,” as we Brits call it, Johnny proclaimed that he was the original pioneer. “It was 1986,” he stated proudly, going on to tell about an ascent he attempted on Gogarth’s sea cliffs in North Wales. “I was trying a new route on Wen Slab, solo. At about 50 feet, I had to go dynamically from a leftfacing layback, to a right-facing layback, three feet to the left, but as I was leaving one flake, it snapped off. I’d forgotten that I was so far up, and on the way down, I saw the sea wasn’t actually very deep.” Dawes paused for a breath and continued. “I was flying down toward two rocks, but luckily as I neared the water, a wave came along and deepened the
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The author, in his flotation suit, finds that soloing doesn’t have to be a lonely activity. Right: Bruises from a salt-water spanking.
water enough to slow me down. Although I still had to stem off both of the rocks with my arms to take the speed out of the fall.” Any activity, of course, will have its activists who push the boundaries. In as much as highball bouldering can, for some, have less to do with bouldering and more to do with balls, so too does some deep-water soloing tend towards soloing, and away from the deep water. Mike Robertson is one of the chief boundary pushers in this area, taking harder and harder climbing to ever greater heights. He was, of course, at the festival. “I’ve had a few bad falls, I suppose,” he says. “Got whiplash twice, quite badly, but worse was the time my legs opened on the way down and I received a pretty nasty enema.” My eyes watered as he told me how much water he estimated he ... swallowed. “I had to wear a diaper to work for some days,” he admitted. I found this especially disturbing considering that Robertson exploits his honed, tanned physique to work as a strip-dancer. “The good deep-water soloists are the ones who can relax,” he added. “If you can’t relax, if you’re gripped, you’re not going to climb very well. And really, if you’re frightened of falling off, then what’s the point of doing it? You may as well just go and solo over rock.” Robertson asked me if had I enjoyed the soloing. “No,” I confessed, “I haven’t even had a go.”
knew I would have to try it, having come all this way. But I can’t swim. I genuinely can’t even float. I have always explained this as a congenital denseness, but whatever the reason, I am absolutely terrified of water, even shallow water. I was in no hurry to take a plummet into the sea. To me, this deep-water soloing business was even more dangerous than normal soloing. When soloing above land, you have the bottom 10 feet or so to come to terms with the situation, where a fall might result in a
not only excellent bruise control, but also floatation. I sat down and sketched some plans for a bubble-wrap suit. On paper, it looked like a go. So, when I could avoid it no longer, I went behind a rock atop the cliff and changed into my suit. I stepped out and was immediately the brunt of jokes from the tanned soloists. I had to walk around for a while to get used to it, taking strange looks from everyone I crossed. The party atmosphere had induced a frivolity among the crowd and, in their “fun,” they began squeezing my bubbles. With every innocent “pop” my flotation chances fizzled away. I couldn’t help but worry about my untested suit — I looked upon it less as a life preserver than a death prolonger. At best, it raised my chances of rescue from, say, 1 in 20 to 1 in 17. The scenario I couldn’t erase was this: an ungainly high-speed tumble into the cold water; I disappear far under the surface, and a few moments later, a mess of bubble-wrap, duct tape and underpants float ominously to the surface amid a final gasp of frothy bubbles. But the festival’s music and sunshine didn’t allow for quitting thoughts. I scrambled down to the base of the cliff onto a ledge just above tide level. The platform was busy with people waiting for their chances at routes, and periodically someone would set off traversing leftward on
As far as I could see, for the non-swimmer, a fall from anywhere above the one-inch mark would be rewarded by certain death. few bruises, but you’ll be okay. As far as I could see, for the non-swimmer, a fall from anywhere above the one-inch mark would be rewarded by certain death. In the days leading up to the festival, I had been working myself into a frenzy about drowning. I had suspected that I would want to climb, but worried that the terror might overwhelm me. I came up with a solution the night before I left home, while, as it happens, unwrapping a new mailorder bride I had ordered from the web. As I removed the bubble wrap, it occurred to me that the bobbled see-through material would have
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easy ground to reach the bottom of a climb. The nervousness and excitement in the gathering was palpable; I noticed that some climbers’ turns would come and go, and they still wouldn’t leave the ledge. Others, the more brash, the wet and the impatient, would traverse past these people, calling easily to friends at the top. It was there that I met Fiona, visiting from London for the day. She explained she had been down once already to try a 5.10 and had backed off it. “I’m pissed off with it now,” she seethed in mock anger. Fiona set sail on her climb, climbed, squeezing hard, progressing slowly. Her creeping movements and probing revealed her fear. I called encouragement; more came down from above. “Come on, Fiona, what’s to be frightened of?” People roared in support as she inched higher. She paused for a moment below a bulge high up. Then
a surge had her over, and a cheer followed. Safe on the top slab, she screamed in delight. No choice then. I set off, and like Fiona, gripped the mighty holds with mighty force. At 15 feet above the water, I found myself breathing in short urgent gasps, the way a man does when his middle parts are going into a cold river. I coaxed myself farther up the face, tugged between a ter-
curiosity. At the overhang, holds turned small and the climbing delicate. My anxiety reached an all-time high, and I was almost hyperventilating. Then I realized that the tightness of the duct tape was cramping my chest. I was trussed up like a boulderer’s middle finger. My situation wasn’t helped by the two onlookers 10 feet away whispering, “Come on, Grimer, fall!” Balls to that. Cold fingers curled around sharp holds, and I tugged myself over onto the slab. The rush I felt when I stood, shaking, on big footholds was unlike any I had experienced. Then I saw Fiona and she gave me a wink. I had survived. It had been ... fun?
My situation wasn’t helped by the two onlookers
10 feet away whispering, “Come on, Grimer, fall!” rible fear of plunging into the sea, and at the same time, a desperate curiosity to experience it. I had spent the day watching the climbers gaily hurling themselves off cruxes, others diving from the top with smiles on their faces, and wondered what that sensation must be like. But my survival instinct is greater than my
The merry prankster Niall Grimes is a Contributing Editor to this magazine. He lives in Sheffield, England.
Cracking the Riddle
Alone on the North Face of Mount Temple
t was a midsummer day in 1989 as Tim Pochay walked down-valley from a stint of mountain guiding in Y oho National Park, Alberta. W ith each step “Poach,” 30, a talented all-around climber, thought of the 5,000-foot North Face of Mount Temple, and of the Indian philosophy that he had been reading and trying to wrap his head around. What exactly did Jidhu Krishnamurti mean by constant love and goodwill? The North Face of Mount Temple is a brooding dark amphitheater , as if a frost-plated black moon had cloven in two. Driving from the trailhead in Yoho, Poach passed the face and the Greenwood/Locke, a slender rib of rock rising Mount Temple (11,626 feet) with right of the seracs that threaten the left side of the wall. The standard-breaking route had been opened by Brian Greenwood and Charlie Locke in 1966. Back home in Banff, Poach grabbed gear and bought some food, then drove back to the mountain’s Paradise Valley trailhead, and hiked into Lake Annette. He stood in the shadow of the North Face. The bulk of T emple was overwhelming: independent, steep, complex. Poach felt small. The place, with its emerald lake held by timber and shrub on one side and glacially bulldozed quartzite and bedrock on the other , seemed imbued with power. He tried to take that power in as he went about organizing his bivy in the lee of a boulder. A vibration of thunder shuddered him awake in the night, and he strained his senses trying to figure out where the storm was and where it was going. By 4:50 a.m. he’d concluded that it had moved off to the east. He hiked to the face, strapped on crampons, and kicked up into the start of the route, the Dolphin Couloir, reasoning that he could retreat if the weather turned. He carried one liter of water, a dozen bars, a small rack and a 9mm rope in his pack. At 2,000 feet up the face he fully committed to the route by forcing
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his way up a wet and overhanging crack. Icy water seeped over his hands, and all tactile sensation fled his fingers. He focused on his footwork to keep from falling. Pulling onto a ledge of rubble, he scampered left to warm himself in motion and to gain the rib of the Greenwood/Locke. Poach changed into rock shoes, stuffing his boots and ice gear in his pack, wandered up onto the weathered limestone, and soon found himself relishing his engagement and the simplicity and pleasure of the free act of rock climbing. The limestone was sound, with long corners capped by roofs, vertical face climbing on small incuts, and good ledges. the Greenwood/Locke marked. The black amphitheater of the face fell away to his left, its scale colossal, almost beyond human acceptance. Five hundred feet passed. At a broad ledge Poach stopped, sat on his pack, and looked out on the sweep of the North Face. Water wept down sheer rock for thousands of feet, and wedding-cake-layered seracs leaned over the void, their calvings exploding into billowing clouds of crystals that thundered down the Dolphin Couloir to sift into the haze footing the face. “What a wild, wild place!” shouted a voice in his head. Above him the climbing was harder. Poach flaked out his 9mm rope and shouldered his rack and then didn’t use any of it (on-sighting up to 5.10). The final 30 feet of the route were wet with slime; he set a bomber hex, tied into it with 30 feet of slack, and went over the top. T o his delight the hex lifted up and out of the crack when he tugged on the rope. He was off the wall now, and euphoria infused him. His senses came alive as never before or since. “It was the most profound day of climbing, and looking inward, of my life,” he later said. “A beautiful day.” As he descended, the running water sounded full and rich, he smelled the first flowers before seeing them, and his vision had never been so acute. Even Krishnamurti made sense. ◆
By Barry Blanchard
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Heart of Blackness Earl Wiggins’ futuristic solo of the Black Canyon’s Scenic Cruise
MIKE GARDNER/STEWART GREEN STOCK SHOTS
By Jeff Achey
t’s no coincidence that Colorado’s Black Canyon has little history of freesoloing. Routes are long and committing. Steep face climbing abounds and the folded, layered gneiss is widely variable. Almost every route has significant bands of crumbling rock, and holds break even on Caught in the act: Wiggins 400 feet up the the sound-looking sections. In May 1979, Ed Webster climbed his now-famous Scenic Cruise (5.10+) a variation to the 1,600-foot Cruise route pioneered by Earl Wiggins and Jim Dunn three years earlier. In 1979, the Cruise was one of the most intimidating adventure free climbs in the country, far from the trade route it is today, and the Scenic Cruise was every bit as stiff. Wiggins had introduced Webster to the Black Canyon, and Webster raved to his mentor about his new route. “Ya gotta go do it, Earl!” he said, ranting on about the route’s “perfect hand and finger cracks.” A few months later, Wiggins made one of the first repeats of the Scenic Cruise, free-solo. On the weekend of his attempt, Wiggins drove from Colorado Springs with Mike Gardner, who had come along to photograph the feat. Another friend, let’s call him Joe, who knew nothing of the solo and just wanted to hike in the canyon, begged on to the trip also. Wiggins knew that the vibe might not be right, so nothing was said about the plan during the drive. The morning of the ascent, Earl laced up his resoled RR boots in the cliff-top parking lot and scrambled down toward the base of North Chasm View Wall. Joe wandered down a different side gully toward the river on a magical, chemical journey that culminated, apparently , in
the reincarnation of a coyote carcass. After 300 feet of easy climbing, W iggins surmounted a roof and a 5.10 fist crack that put a stop to any thoughts of downclimbing. I bet Wiggins muttered a silent oath to Webster as he passed a hard, insecure fingertip crack secScenic Cruise. tion at 600 feet. Above that, steep, relatively solid cracks and a leftward traverse led back to theCruise. Above lay the crux. Today, the crux is a relatively clean, gently overhanging 5.10+ dihedral, but well into the 1980s this pitch required pulling on creaky, loose flakes. Footholds crumbled unnervingly under bodyweight. W iggins blazed through it, arriving at the lower-angled upper pitches. Six hundred feet of 5.8 and 5.9 climbing remained, light work after the previous sections. He topped out an hour and a half after leaving the ground. That afternoon, Wiggins reunited with his friends at the car . Joe recounted his magical journey. In fact, the telling consumed the entire drive back to Colorado Springs. The topic of W iggins’ climb never came up. Weeks later, Wiggins invited his friends to see some Black Canyon slides. At the end of the show, Wiggins said, “Oh, and here’s a few more.” Without a further word, he flipped through Gardner’s telephoto shots of the solo. Everyone in the audience was shocked speechless, but none so completely as Joe, who had been there for the most audacious unroped climb yet seen in America, and never knew. ◆
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Two thousand feet, 5.12, no rope. Alex Huber raises rock’s standards, and eyebrows, again. By Jeff Achey Photos by Heinz Zak
mong the Alps’ great north faces, one stands out as the exclusive realm of the pure rock technician: the north face of the Cima Grande di Lavaredo, northeast of Cortina, Italy. This huge, overhanging wall was once the ultimate challenge in “piton climbing,” or direct aid. Even today, most parties make liberal use of slings and tension, but last August, Alexander Huber of Bavaria climbed the face without either — or a rope. For many, the northern escarpment of the Tre Cime defines the Dolomites. Vertical to overhanging walls of stratified limestone rise from the talus to culminate in block-topped summits, shrouded in swirling mists. Ancient pitons, bent downward, project from hairline cracks. In the 1930s, the original north-face routes in the Tre Cime — Emilio Comici’s on the Grande and Ricardo Cassin’s on the Ovest — represented the cutting edge of big-wall climbing. In 1958, when a German team led by Lothar Brandler and Dieter Hasse established a direttissima on the Grande, it spanned the steepest 1,500 feet of rock ever climbed. The distinctive yellow-white color of the lower face attests to the angle: rainwater falls free from the wall on the first 1,000 feet of the route.
High-standard free climbing has a long tradition in the Dolomites, and Hasse and Brandler climbed up to 5.9 on their route, given 18 pitches (plus 300 feet of scrambling) on modern topos. Various new passages went free on early repeats. In the early 1980s the prolific British climber Pete Livesey dispensed with all but a few points of aid, climbing the route at 5.11+ A0, and in 1987, Kurt Albert — the Frankenjura climber who originated the redpoint concept — climbed the Hasse-Brandler all free at 5.12a. Last year Alex Huber pushed free climbing in the Tre Cime into a new realm when he soloed the route. Huber, like most classically trained Eastern Alps climbers, climbs frequently in the Dolomites — he first visited at age 15. He had free-soloed big routes in the Wilder Kaiser near his home, climbing on-sight, but the Hasse-Brandler was in a different class of difficulty and commitment. Huber treated his Cima Grande solo like the big El Cap free-climbing projects for which he’s most famous, rehearsing and preparing meticulously. In the weeks before the solo he climbed the route five times, thoroughly working key sections and determining and mark-
Huber yucking it up for the camera, midway up an 18-pitch 5.12.
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Huber approaching the decision point, a vertical section of thin 5.11 face climbing that he couldn’t reverse.
The sheer, 1,500-foot north face of the Dolomites’ Cima Grande di Lavaredo, with the Hasse-Brandler (5.12a) marked.
SOME WHO HAVE SEEN PHOTOS OF HUBER WEARING A HELMET ON HIS FREE SOLO HAVE CHUCKLED AT THE PRECAUTION, BUT HUBER CONSIDERS IT PART OF HIS THOROUGH APPROACH.
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Past the lower crux, Huber continues on 5.10 terrain toward the upper dihedral. ing crucial holds he could white to water-streaked gray. trust. Though the route is Huber rested for half an hour well traveled and, in Huber’s before the final technical words, “fairly clean,” the rock obstacle, a powerful 5.10+ of the Tre Cime is extremely pitch, then entered the sumblocky and fractured, and mit chimneys. He reached sometimes “even the chalked the summit of the Cima holds can break.” Grande four hours after leavWhile working the variing the ground. ous pitches Huber also Some who have seen phoreplaced most of the route’s tos of Huber wearing a helmet original 15 bolts, earning the on his free solo have chuckire of a few climbers by leavled at the precaution, but ing six fixed ropes in place Huber considers it part of his during the effort. thorough approach. PointThe Hasse-Brandler begins ing to his preparation and with about 10 pitches of vertical face technical skill (he has free soloed up to OR UBER THE POINT OF NO climbing up to 5.10+ or 5.11. For Huber, 8b/5.13d at his home crags), he says FEET OFF THE that for someone of modest ability to RETURN WAS ONLY the point of no return was only 200 feet off the ground, with a section he deemed GROUND WITH A SECTION HE DEEMED climb the Hasse-Brandler with a rope “too delicate” to reverse. Dealing with but without a helmet — as is common this challenge presented the first of the — is more dangerous than his feat. TOO DELICATE TO REVERSE three mental cruxes. The upper reaches of the route, though “At this point,” says Huber, “you must see constituted the second mental crux of the solo. never exceeding 5.9, are exposed to the frequent what the fear causes. If it causes an ... anxiety, “You must hold on triple hard,” says Huber. Dolomites stonefall. then you must go down. But if the fear leads After the wet corner comes the route’s techAnother issue raised by the photos is the legitinto a deep concentration, you continue.” nical crux: very pumpy laybacking and stemimacy of a “free solo” done with the safety line At 500 feet, a ledge system offers respite and ming, with reaches and roof pulls up the top of a photographer nearby. “That would no longer allows a traverse left to a huge, leaning dihesection of the dihedral. For an unroped climber be free solo,” says Huber. In fact, Heinz Zak’s dral studded with small roofs. This steepest moving naturally, the belay stances on the diheshots were taken 10 days after the ascent. Dursection of the route, continuously overhanging dral provide only marginal rests, giving a faning the actual solo, Huber was alone on the face. for 300 feet, is generally climbed in three tastically sustained stretch of climbing. pitches, 5.11+, 5.11+/.12-, and 5.12- if done The dihedral pitches lead to a break in angle, Jeff Achey (paintedwall.com) lives in Glenwood all free. The middle pitch, which is always wet, where the color of the face goes from yellowSprings, Colorado.
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— LISA RANDS
The Dreaded Flapper
Skin care and Rx for boulderers
Dear Lisa, How do you prevent shredded fingers and flappers when bouldering? — Geoff Van Ryn
calluses. When bouldering, if you notice skin on your fingers starting to roll up (the start of a flapper), gently file the skin off immediately. This may seem counterintuitive, but otherwise, the section is likely to tear and take several good layers of lower skin with it. eeping your skin intact is an inexact science, Geoff, and one sharp STOP EARLY Pink, weeping skin takes several days to recover, so try hold can ruin your day. There are, however, several things you can to stop bouldering before your fingers get mauled. Alternatively, wrap do to stack the odds in your favor. Here’s what I recommend: the tender areas with athletic tape to extend your session. However, it’s KEEP YOUR HANDS DRY Climbers nearly impossible to tape a fingertip whose fingers sweat a lot are more because the tape slips off easily — prone to flappers than those with dry you’re better off stopping. Flappers are the nightmare of any climber. The torn, bloody skin can take over a week T.L.C. I apply Arnica gel to my finfingers. If your hands sweat, avoid to recover, and is painful to climb on. Here’s what to do to speed the healing process: CLEAN IT Rinse the wound with clean water to remove any dirt. If the skin flap is still gers after climbing to reduce the swelling climbing in the sun whenever possiattached, push it back into place; even though it will die, it will help protect the underlyand bruising. If my skin is dry or cracked, ble, and rub isopropyl alcohol on your ing skin. I also rub vitamin-E hands at the beginning of a bouldering WRAP IT WITH TAPE Apply antibacterial ointment, and wrap the wound with athReviewed by oil into my fingers session to remove excess oils. (Those letic tape if you intend to climb on it. At night, apply more ointment but remove the rather than moiswith dry skin should avoid using alco- tape so the wound can breathe — it will heal faster. SUPERGLUE IT Superglue has been used for over 20 years in Canada and many other turizing lotion, which hol as it can crack your fingers.) countries to bond skin lacerations with great effectiveness, and a prescription variaFILE THE SKIN Smooth skin is less tends to make my tion called Dermabond has recently been approved for use in the United States. Apply prone to snagging and tearing, so I a small dab on the edges of the flapper to seal it in place. Don't let the glue contact the skin excessively soft use a diamond-chip file to sand my tender, pink area in a deep flapper, as it will slow the breathing and healing process and prone to tearing.
How to fix a flapper
(plus, there's a lack of medical agreement on whether superglue is safe for deep wounds). Superglue can also be used to seal dry, split fingertips and cracked calluses. 72 | www.rockandice.com
JOIN THE ACCESS FUND FOR THE 4TH ANNUAL ADOPT-A-CRAG DAY ON SEPTEMBER 6, 2003. TO FIND AN EVENT NEAR YOU, OR TO ADOPT YOUR FAVORITE CRAG, VISIT WWW.ACCESSFUND.ORG OR CALL
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Lynn Hill hanging tough on the roof of Monkey Puzzle (5.13) at the Grampians, Australia.
Might Is Right Rock and Ice’s three-tiered plan for sport-climbing success BY DAVE PEGG
or me, sport climbing is like Neapolitan ice cream: It has all the best parts of vertical movement. Crux sections are like gymnastic boulder problems. Sustained routes can be as engaging as traditional climbs. Redpoint projects are often epic undertakings, requiring persistence and a strategic approach over multiple days, the low-altitude version of a big wall or Himalayan peak. Sport climbing is convenient and doesn’t put you in mortal danger, and I appreciate those things too. But the thing I like most is that it chal-
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lenges me on so many different levels — physical strength, strategy, mental acuity and technique. If you want to improve your sport climbing, there is a wide range of skills to practice, and that, I hope, makes this special section valuable to all climbers. In fact, becoming a stronger sport climber will also boost your trad abilities. In the following pages you’ll find advice from top sport climbers including Vadim Vinokur, Randy Leavitt and François Legrand, on subjects as diverse as building power, overcoming performance anxiety and finding efficient body positions.
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PERFORMANCE Maximizing your power and endurance with Vadim Vinokur Vadim Vinokur has shown that a steady diet of indoor climbing can prepare you for the highest levels of outdoor performance. Despite living in rock-starved New York City, he recently made the third ascent of Living Astro (5.14c) and flashed Full Scrutiny (5.14a) at Rumney, New Hampshire. On trips abroad he has redpointed Biographie (5.14c) and Chronique de la Haine Ordinaire (5.14b) at Ceüse, France. Vinokur credits his success to rock-gym training. “I do 75 percent of my climbing on plastic,” he says. One of the things that Vinokur likes about training in a rock gym is that it’s efficient. You can pack a lot of climbing into a short session, giving yourself time for other activities. While climbing hard routes and winning competitions (he’s a five-time U.S. champion), Vinokur also earned a master’s degree in criminal justice. “Training is something that busy people have time for,” he insists. Below, Vinokur describes a rock-gym training program that will boost your sport-climbing performance — and takes less than eight hours of training a week.
that you devote half your training time to power and half to endurance. It’s best to train power when your body is relatively fresh. For example, you might train power on day one and endurance on day two, then take two days off before repeating the cycle. Alternatively, you can devote the first half of a training session to power and the second half to endurance. KEEP YOUR WORKOUTS INTENSE AND EFFICIENT Spend most of your training time on
“You have to push yourself and feel discomfort in order to improve.”
COMMIT TO A MONTH OF REGULAR TRAINING For training to work you must make a com-
mitment, says Vinokur. He recommends three or four two-hour training sessions a week. Don’t expect immediate results; initially your performance may even drop as your body adapts to the stress of regular training. Be patient. “It may be a month before you see a benefit,” he says, adding, “but eventually the work will pay off.” SET A SHORT-TERM GOAL Realistic shortterm goals provide more motivation than ambitious long-term plans. Says Vinokur, “If you climb 5.10, don’t say, ‘My goal is to climb 5.13 at the end of the year.’ Your goal should be to climb a 5.11a at the end of the month.” TRAIN POWER AND ENDURANCE Don’t pigeonhole yourself, says Vinokur. “People say, ‘I’m a route climber — I just need endurance,’ or ‘I’m a boulderer — I just need power.’ To be a good sport climber, you need both.” He suggests 76 | www.rockandice.com
routes you can do rather than ones you can’t. The goal is to get stronger and fitter, rather than to send a hard route during the session. Vinokur’s approach is known as “circuit training,” allowing you to minimize rests and fit a large volume of climbing into a short session. If you follow Vinokur’s circuittraining workouts (described below), your training session should not last more than a couple of hours. CIRCUIT TRAINING FOR ENDURANCE If
you feel good while warming up, you might make a couple of attempts on a hard route at the start of the main part of your workout — but don’t get suckered into resting up so you can send the thing or spending the whole of the session working it. Spend most of your time running laps (i.e. climbing up and lowering down) on routes with 30 to 60 moves (i.e. handholds) or equally long boulder problems that are a few grades below your maximum ability, taking three- to five-minute rests between efforts. For example, if your hardest route is 5.11a, you might start by running laps on easy 5.10s, then reduce the difficulty to 5.9 and 5.8 as you fatigue. The goal is to make each climb taxing — but to succeed. Ideally, you won’t reach the point of failure until the very last route of the session. You can gauge the intensity of an endurance workout by counting the total number of moves. Aim for 300 moves when starting your training regimen and gradually build up to 500 or 600 moves per session. Another method of training endurance is based on time. Stay on the wall, climbing up and down routes or traversing a bouldering cave, for 10 minutes. Now take a five-minute rest and repeat, adjusting the difficulty so you can com-
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Vadim’s secret: Find a motivated training partner
You’ll train harder in the company of a motivated training partner. A good partner provides positive energy and is excited to train hard. “It doesn’ t really matter if you climb 5.11 and he climbs 5.8,” says V inokur. “The most important thing is that you share the goal of improving.”
plete the exercise. Aim for 50 minutes of climbing time initially and gradually build up to 80 or 100 minutes per session. CIRCUIT TRAINING FOR POWER Again, you might start the main part of your workout with a few attempts on a few problems at the limit of your ability — but don’t burn yourself out on projects for the entire session. Spend most of your time succeeding on problems that are easier than your maximum ability. For example, if your hardest problem is V4, try doing a V3 three times with a twominute rest between efforts. Now rest for five minutes and move on to the next problem, lowering the difficulty to V2 and V1 as you get tired. Aim to make between 10 and 20 successful ascents in a session. KEEP PUSHING YOURSELF “If you’re in the comfort zone, you’re not pushing yourself,” says Vinokur. “You have to push yourself and feel discomfort in order to improve.” In other words, make your workouts more difficult as you progress. You can do this by adding more moves to your circuits, staying on the wall longer, or adding harder routes to your regimen.
Bodywork with François Legrand
Technique, not just strength, wins the day It’s a well-known adage that the best climber isn’t the strongest climber — there are numerous 5.14 climbers who can’t do a one-arm pullup. Instead, it’s often the one with the best technique who carries the day. François Legrand, of France, exemplifies that maxim. This five-time overall World Cup champion is strong enough to crank 5.14d and double-digit boulder problems and is fitter than a marathoner. But the thing that sets him apart from peers is his almost preternaturally flawless climbing technique. Legrand has focused on outdoor climbing recently, making the first ascent of Robi in the Sky (5.14d) at Les Goudes, France, and Bachelor Party (5.14c/d) at Mount Potossi, Nevada. He’s also made numerous hard on-sights, including Present Tense (5.13d) at Rifle, Colorado — an ascent I was lucky enough to watch. Suitably humbled (I’d been falling off Present Tense for weeks), I asked Legrand for advice on moving more efficiently and improving my technique.
STUDY THE ROUTE BEFORE YOU LEA VE THE GROUND Previewing routes from the
ground is a skill. You won’t be able to figure out everything, says Legrand, but “at least spend some time looking so you know where the lines goes.” Don’t get distracted by minutiae; start with the big picture. Are there traverses? Does the route deviate from the line of bolts at any point? Often you can see things from the ground that will be hidden when you’re climbing. For instance, there might be a good rest on the opposite side of an arete, or a big jug on the lip of a roof that will be invisible when you’re below it. EXPAND YOUR MOVEMENTS AND TECHNIQUES Efficient movement requires good tech-
nique. When you climb well, especially on steep rock, you’re constantly changing positions, moving from one side to another, facing this way and that. You also use specialized maneuvers like drop-knees, backsteps, kneebars, etc. There isn’t room to describe these maneuvers here; if you need a primer, pick up a book on sportclimbing technique. Some of the best titles are How To Climb 5.12, by Eric Hörst, Performance Rock Climbing, by Dale Goddard and Sport Climbing, by John Long. That said, you won’t become a technical wizard by reading a book. You can only do that by practice. The best way to learn new techniques, says Legrand, is to boulder with other climbers, preferably ones who are better than you, and mimic their moves. “Watch how they do the problems that you’re trying,” he says. “Then try their method. Even if it doesn’t seem to fit your style of climbing, you will learn new positions.” HANG FROM STRAIGHT ARMS The straightarm position loads your skeletal system and is much more efficient than a bent-arm, musclefatiguing position. You’ll be surprised how frequently you can save energy by incorporating this technique. Think “straight arms” when you’re resting, clipping, chalking, thinking about the next move, locating handholds and footholds, even moving your feet. With practice, hanging from straight arms will become second nature. Try to make it your “default” position — the one you automatically adopt unless you’re forced to bend your arms. CLIMB WITH RHYTHM; ACCELERATE INTO CRUXES Legrand talks about having good “rhythm.”
No, that doesn’t mean climbing with an MP3 player strapped to your harness. For Legrand, www.rockandice.com | 77
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PERFORMANCE Sending bigger numbers
Randy Leavitt is one of America’s most prolific climbers. Over the last two decades he has redpointed over 200 sport routes rated 5.13 or harder, many of them first ascents. His new routes include Tusk (5.14a/b) at Clark Mountain, Nevada; Planet Earth (5.14a) and Horse Latitudes (5.14a) at Virgin River Gorge, Arizona; and Dihedron (5.14b) at Joshua Tree, California. To be as prolific as he’s been, Leavitt has had to develop specific strategies for sending hard routes. Below, he shares what he’s learned in 20 years of “project” climbing. PICKING A PROJECT The most important part of sport climbing is to be inspired by your prospective route. “Pick the proudest line you can think of that you aren’t quite good enough to do yet,” says Leavitt. Choosing a route that fuels your dreams is the only way to enjoy the process.
“If you want to succeed, you have to be strong mentally.” climbing with rhythm means being able to move at different speeds and adjusting your speed to the terrain. He defines three basic rhythms. •On easy to moderate terrain: “Try to be as fluid as possible,” says Legrand. “Not too fast and not too slow — and no stress.” In other words, you shouldn’t feel rushed; just climb with sufficient pace for the moves to flow. •On small, technical holds and dicey moves: “Try to be cautious and very precise and focused on each hand and foot move,” he says. “This is another rhythm: slow.” •On steep, powerful, strenuous terrain: “You need to go fast and accelerate into cruxes.” The third rhythm — climbing swiftly when you hit a physical crux — is undoubtedly the most difficult to master. When we’re pumped or uncertain about our ability to do a move, we tend to hit the brakes. “Climbing faster is very mental,” acknowledges Legrand. “It’s a matter of motivation. When you’re tired you may feel like you want to give up. But if you want to succeed you have to be strong mentally, you have to push yourself to go faster, and double
the amount of motivation at that moment.” As well as requiring will power, climbing swiftly takes practice. Legrand trains for speed on a 100foot 5.13c that he has wired, trying to climb it in only two minutes. For us mortals, that’s not realistic, but we can create our own speed-training circuit on any moderately difficult route. Learn to relax your grip on the holds and focus on constantly moving upward. Aim to shave a few seconds off the clock each time you try it. MAKE THE MOST OF RESTS Some rests, like ledges, are obvious. Others require lateral thinking. “If there is a dihedral, you can often stem,” says Legrand. You should also examine big features like flakes, blocks and huecos for possible hand jams, kneebars or heel hooks. Finding a rest is half the battle; now you need to use it. Hang from straight arms, relaxing the chain of muscles in your shoulders and back. Focus on your breathing, taking deep, calm breaths to relax your mind and replenish your muscles. Use some of the resting time to preview the route ahead and update the information you gleaned from the ground.
AIM ONE TO FOUR LETTER GRADES ABOVE YOUR ON-SIGHT LIMIT Experienced sport
climbers commonly redpoint routes that are up to four letter grades above their on-sight ability. For example, if your on-sight limit is 5.11b, your redpoint limit will be around 5.12b. If you’re new to project climbing, start with less demanding projects that are only one or two letter grades harder. PUSH YOURSELF AT YOUR HOME AREAS If, like Leavitt, you live in San Diego, you might have to drive for six hours to find sport climbs that inspire you. Ideally, though, your projects should be close to home. That way you’ll have lots of time to work on them, and won’t feel pressured by deadlines, like the end of a road trip. STICK WITH IT The first time you try a route that’s harder than anything you’ve done before, it is going to feel desperate. Nevertheless, if you climb on it persistently, you’ll be amazed at how quickly it comes together. Don’t sell yourself short and give up before you’ve even started. “If you don’t think you stand a chance, work on your project for three days — and then tell me what you think,” says Leavitt. SET A TOPROPE Toproping is often the most efficient way to reconnoiter a hard project. Don’t beat yourself up taking multiple lead falls. Get someone to lead the route first, or stick-clip your way to the anchors.
François’ secret: Breathing lessons Focus on your breathing and adapt it to the intensity of the route “When some people climb, they don’t breathe normally,” says Legrand. Holding your breath when you don’t need to, or breathing in a shallow, erratic way, will pump you faster than climbing with a beer gut. Legrand recommends monitoring your breathing from the moment you leave the ground. The goal is to breathe “normally but quite deeply” in most 78 | www.rockandice.com
climbing situations. When you reach pumpy sections, breathe faster and more deeply. And if the route is hard from the get-go, Legrand will “push” his breathing before he leaves the ground. Thinking about breathing can also reduce nerves. Says Legrand, “If you focus on calm, even breathing, you won’t be focused on stress or the things you’re scared about.”
Redpoint strategies from Randy Leavitt
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Randy’s secret: Control your nerves
The stress of redpointing can be substantial — especially if you’ve driven a long way to try your project. T o overcome nerves, Leavitt recommends the following: •Recite the moves in your head as you make them. For example: “Drop-knee. Right-hand cross-through. Take the pocket.” This focuses your mind on the climbing and suppresses negative self-talk and internal second guessing. •Make a resolution to climb until you fall. Never give up or say “take!” •Don’t think about success or failure. Simply try to put on a “good show” for your belayer. •Remember to breathe deeply and evenly.
On an extremely steep route (more than 30degrees-overhanging), it’s better to lead it — if you fall trying to toprope something this steep, you’ll swing out into space. However, you can still “toprope” sections by stick-clipping the bolt above your head. DEVELOP MEMORY SKILLS Working a hard route is like learning to play a piece of music: You need to know what comes next. People who are new to project climbing often find it difficult to remember all the moves on a long route. To enhance your memory skills, Leavitt suggests the following: •Repeat intricate or hard-to-remember sequences several times so they become engrained in your memory. •After you lower to the ground, while the route is still fresh in your mind, try to visualize all the moves and commit them to memory. Repeat this exercise, visualizing the moves, in the evening. •You might even draw a “beta map” of the route that shows all the holds and describes the body positions. BRAINSTORM EFFICIENT SEQUENCES It’s much easier to figure out a good sequence than it is to get stronger or fitter! Pay particular attention to “redpoint cruxes.” A redpoint crux isn’t necessarily the section with the hardest moves. For example, the moves between the last bolt and the anchors might feel easy when you practice them in isolation, but this finishing section could become a point of repeated failure when you reach it pumped having climbed from the ground. Sometimes you need to modify your climbing style to account for fatigue. “When you’re fresh, a long lock-off may feel easy,” explains Leavitt, “but when you are pumped, some subtle sidepulls and knee-drops might work better and be higher-percentage moves. “Think efficiency,” he continues. “When you redpoint a hard route, the clock is always ticking.” FIGURE OUT THE CLIPS Clipping the bolts can be as hard as doing the moves. Practice the clips as rigorously as you practice the climbing, figuring out efficient body positions
and trying tricks like kneebars. Incorporate the beta into your route maps and visualization sessions. Since pulling up rope requires energy, Leavitt recommends climbing until the bolt is at waist level to make strenuous or difficult clips. BREAK THE ROUTE INTO SECTIONS “It’s easiest to eat an elephant one bite at a time,” Leavitt says. When you break a route into multiple sections you can sustain your motivation by setting achievable intermediate goals. For example: ‘This try, I’m going to climb from the fourth bolt to the top.’ When you’ve climbed the route in sections, work on linking the sections together. GET COMFORTABLE FALLING If you’re afraid to fall, your fear will inhibit your performance. You might want to take a few deliberate falls from the crux (unless there is some obvious danger to that fall — in which case the route is probably not a good project for you). When you’re comfortable falling you’ll be free to focus 100 percent on the climbing. TRAIN FOR THE MOVES Leavitt recalls a weekend when he got snowed out of a potential sixhour drive from his home in San Diego to the Virgin River Gorge, where he was working on the first ascent of Planet Earth (5.14a). Instead, he built a replica of the crux of Planet Earth on his home gym and did it 10 times in a row. “This turned out to be better training for the route,” says Leavitt, who sent Planet Earth on his next day at the crag. Don’t get hung up on trying to simulate a route or its crux exactly. Training on similar terrain will normally suffice. For example, if the crux of your project is a long crank from a two-finger pocket, you might train for it by doing boulder problems with two-finger moves in the gym with your feet in similar positions. Alternatively, if you’re pumping out on your project, train on gym routes of similar style, length and intensity. At the least, these training regimens will make you a heck of a lot stronger than when you began. More likely, you'll send a route that's harder than you ever thought possible. Enjoy your new power. ◆
The most important thing is to be inspired by your prospective route.
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Peak Challenges Rocky Mountain National Park’s top alpine rock adventures TOPOS
AND ROUTE BETA BY JOHN
DAN GAMBINO, COLORADO MOUNTAIN SCHOOL
n 1979 my climbing partner Bill and I drove a VW microbus from Oklahoma City to Rocky Mountain National Park. Coming from the Bible Belt, where you can descend the tallest peak on a skateboard, we didn’t know what to expect from “the Park’s” high mountains. We did know, after much study of the quintessential Colorado book Climb!, that the North Face of Hallett Peak was legendary, scaled by heroes like Bob Culp, Ray Northcutt and Harvey T. Carter himself. To a couple of flatlanders, an ascent of Hallett’s gloomy north wall ranked up there with the Eiger Nordwand. But, while we were keen to say we had climbed it, we weren’t so keen to actually set foot on the face. The climb started favorably enough. Bill led up a blocky, hold-strewn pitch to a belay on a pillar. I followed, then led out right on jugs, nervously humming — in falsetto — “Emotional Rescue,” the title cut off the Rolling Stones’ latest album. Twenty feet from the belay I sang a different tune. Bill and I had intended to tick the Second Buttress Direct, a modest line of mostly 5.8 with a few
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moves of 5.10, but the startling absence of chalk and fixed gear, and the lack of protection of any sort, made me wonder if we had gotten off route. I pressed on, thinking that as long as the holds kept coming I was certain to intersect the climb proper. Yet the rope played out and still no sign of previous passage appeared. Bill followed, and we continued swinging leads up steepening rock, slotting in a piece or two per pitch, hoping things didn’t suddenly blank out. Luckily for us, Hallett is a veritable jungle gym of holds: You can climb practically anywhere and at a reasonable grade. The downside is that the face is notoriously runout and route-finding is confusing at best — at least one new route has been established by a lost party. We never did get back on route, but by 2 o’clock that afternoon we were on the summit, thrilled to at last be able to say we had knocked off a legend. Today, nearly 25 years later, I still can’t figure out which route we really climbed. — Duane Raleigh
Nan Darkis grabbing world class granite on the Petit Grepon Cathedral Spires, Colorado.
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pearhead, with a massive 800-foot east face, culminates a long ridge running north from Chiefs Head. The east face, and its most characteristic feature, the Sickle, is visible from miles away. The rock is high-quality granite, with abundant flake and crack systems and excellent friction. Approach. From the Glacier Gorge parking lot, take the trail to Black Lake, and a primitive path from there to Spearhead. The approach is 6 miles long with 2,500 feet of elevation gain. Expect 3 to 5 hours of hiking time. Rack. For the North Ridge bring one 60-meter rope, one set nuts, one set cams from to 3 inches, shoulder-length and double shoulder-length slings and cordelettes. For Sykes Sickle and The Barb, bring two sets of nuts and cams. A 4-inch cam is useful Sykes Sickle. A tag line facilitates retreat in storms. Time on route. The North Ridge should take 3 hours from base to summit; The Barb and Sykes Sickle should take over 6 hours. Bivy/camping. With the ongoing road construction and the long approach, these will be difficult routes to do safely in a day for the next few years. Bivy sites are available below Spearhead; the nearest campsite is Glacier Gorge.
Sykes Sickle (III 5.9+)
North Ridge (III 5.6-5.9)
A directissima up the center of the northeast face of Spearhead. Straightforward cracks, corners and flakes lead to the prominent Sickle feature. The crux Sickle pitch begins with chimney moves and stems, then offers an immense jug to pull the roof. This is an exposed and varied pitch way off the deck. Place gear so your rope tracks away from the sharp edge of the chimney — this is especially important to protect the second. Above the crux chimney, pass the old bolt anchor in favor of a block-filled pod that is 40 feet higher. From here, go hard right on a 5.7 slab toward a well-camouflaged bolt. Clip the bolt, then bust a move straight up to the notch on the North Ridge. This pitch is easier, but less protected than the crux, and it always seems to start raining right about here.
The North Ridge is a moderate and straightforward alpine route with stunning exposure and excellent granite. An alternate start to the left of the normal first pitch can boost the grade to 5.8. Also, look for the obvious finger crack just below and left of the final pitch for an excellent 5.9 variation. Finding the start of this route can be the most challenging part of the day (see topo.) Tip: Look for a chimney that cuts through an apex bulge. Gear is tricky on this pitch.
The Barb (III 5.10c) The Barb starts to the right of Sykes and ends on the last three pitches of the North Ridge. This route climbs a zigzag crack system on the right side of the Barb, an immense flake that dominates the northeast face. All but three pitches on this route are 5.6 or under; those three pitches are thin 5.9 crack climbing with a 5.10 tips crack at the crux (small wires and a double set of microcams help). Because the crux is short, this is sometimes referred to as an “easy” High Peaks 5.10, although the grade on the crux pitches is solid. Descent. Start from a bench below the true summit. Take a zigzag route down loose ledges until you are just above the northwest face. A faint climbers trail (white and sandy) leads south toward the northwest face of Chiefs Head. Follow a steep third-class gully down and right (when you face out) until it dumps you on the talus cone below Spearhead’s northwest face. From here, circle the base to your packs. It is best to go as far back toward Chiefs Head as you can. If you turn down too soon, you will get cliffed out by Spearhead’s northwest face
A. Sykes Sickle (III 5.9+) B. The Barb (III 5.10c) C. North Ridge (III 5.6-5.9) www.rockandice.com | 83
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ne of the great peaks of RMNP, Notchtop receives surprisingly little traffic. The approach is relatively short, the great east and southwest faces receive abundant sun, and there are a number of fine routes, from 5.4 to 5.11+. The crowds are lessened by tricky routefinding, occasional sparse protection, and an involved descent. The rock has abundant positive holds that turn even steep climbing into jug hauls, but can also lure you off route. Approach. Take the Fern Lake Trail from the Bear Lake parking lot. When the main trail turns north toward Fern Lake, look for a spur trail heading west directly toward Notchtop. Skirt Lake Helene to the north, and follow an increasingly faint trail onto a plateau. From a small tarn below the west gully, you can scope the routes and the descent. Time and distance to the tarn: 3.25 miles; 1,500 feet of elevation gain; 2 to 3 hours hiking time. Rack. If you will rappel the routes bring two 50-meter-ropes (60-meter ropes will give more flexibility while climbing). One rope will suffice for the standard descent, but see the note under “Season” in Essentials on page 87. For the Spiral Route, bring a full set of nuts and cams to 3 inches, plus 10 over-the-shoulder slings. Most climbers on the South Ridge and Optimismus will want to add micro-nuts and microcams, plus extras in the 1- and 2-inch range. Also add 15 quickdraws and full-length runners, and a couple of double-length slings and cordelettes. In early season on the Spiral Route, an ice axe is useful in the East Meadow and the steeper sections of the west gully. When these two sections are snowed up, Optimismus and South Ridge are probably not in good condition yet. Time on route. An average team can climb the Spiral Route in 4 to 6 hours. The Spiral Route to the South Ridge or Optimismus to the Spiral Route can take six or more hours. The Optimismus/South Ridge link-up can take 8 hours or more. Bivy/camping. These routes can be been done in a day. Despite the road construction, a fast team could leave the Bear Lake parking at 5:30 a.m., be climbing by 8 a.m. and finish before the afternoon storms move in. While the road is closed, many parties will want to camp or bivy. The Sourdough campsite below Joe Mills Mountain is the nearest campsite; there are also designated bivy sites directly beneath Notchtop’s east face.
A. Spiral Route (5.4-5.7) B. South Ridge (5.8-5.10) C. Optimismus (5.9) See detail on opposite page
Spiral Route (5.4-5.7) This great mountaineering route circumnavigates Notchtop to the satellite summit of Notch Spire. Most of the climbing is easy but aesthetic, enjoyable face and crack climbing. The fifth-class sections of the route protect well. Begin in the west gully, several hundred feet above a small tarn, where a large rock step blocks direct progress. A ledge system leads up and right (you can rack up here and stash a pack; all descents return to this point). Follow the ledges to a huge stance midway up the south buttress, on the far left side of the east face. Climb the south buttress for two pitches (easy fifth class, numerous route options) to the highest and largest of a series of ledges. The South Ridge starts here. The Spiral Route follows the ledge system across the east face to the East Meadow and gains the Notch by linking ramps on the North Face of Notchtop Spire (5.2 to 5.4 but hard to piece together). Alternately, from a good ledge atop the lower-angled East Meadow, Mornin’ (5.7) climbs a right-facing dihedral, works left beneath a small roof, and then follows easier terrain directly to the Notch. The latter variation is recommended and is the line shown on the topo. From the Notch, traverse down along a ramp onto the West Face of the Spire and follow the easiest line to the summit. Because the route weaves across different faces of the spire, topos are often confusing; rely on your own eye for the easiest line.
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South Ridge (5.8-5.10) Crack climbing, face climbing, routefinding, intricate yet adequate pro — this great route requires a full repertoire of climbing skills. Begin by climbing the Spiral Route to the ledge system leading to the East Meadow. From here, the route has numerous options, and on both sides of the ridge. You will encounter your most important route-finding decision after three pitches (see topo) where you can slab climb right and slightly down (5.6 R) to access an awkward corner (5.8) that leads to a groove, and eventually to the summit. This is the easiest, but least classic option. A burlier alternative is to climb straight up from the ledge. Directly above the belay is a tiny crack leading through a bulge. This is 5.10d with RP’s for pro and ledge fall potential. Fine climbing, but serious. A third option is to climb left from the belay. Step onto the west side of the ridge and follow a 5.6 chimney to the same belay as in the second option, a beautiful exposed stance on the prow of the ridge. From either of the last two options, great 5.9 climbing leads to the summit of Notch Spire.
Optimismus (5.9) This route parallels the obvious black streaks in the center of the east face, directly below the East Meadow. (Snow melt from the East Meadow often soaks Optimismus in early season.) The four pitches of this route mix fine crack climbing with strenuous chimneying. Atop the route, you can either head into the East Meadow and finish with the Spiral Route, or traverse down the ramp to the beginning of the South Ridge. The combination of Optimismus and South Ridge makes a IV, 5.9 with over 1,200 feet of technical climbing and is highly recommended. Descent. The standard descent is to downclimb the Spiral Route to the Notch. From here, follow ramps and ledges west (a few cairns) beneath the true summit of Notchtop, approximately 300 yards to the top of the west gully. This traverse is never more than fourth class, but is frequently icy in early season and always serious. Follow the west gully down, mostly second class, with a few third-class rock steps. Rappel Descent. Instant Clarification (5.9+ R-) down the southwest face. Each of the three pitches of Instant Clarification is equipped for rappels. The trick here is accessing the first, two- bolt anchor below the summit. Either downclimb from the notch (fourth class and usually wet), and, after about 50 feet, look for a ledge with bolts to your right, or rappel from slung blocks just below the summit of Notch Spire to the same ledge (be careful of loose rock when pulling your ropes.) Some loose rock potential exists on all of these rappels. After three or four rappels (depending on option chosen) you’ll reach a large terrace. From here you can easily join the west gully, cutting the descent in half.
Detail of Upper NotchTop
A. Spiral Route (5.4-5.7) B. Mornin’ (5.7) C. South Ridge (5.8) CC. 5.10.d variation
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owering above Sky Pond, along a ridge running northeast from Taylor Peak, a half-dozen free-standing spires dot the sky. The Petit Grepon is by far the most famous, and its South Face is one of the great climbs in North America. But many other fine routes exist, with potential for more. The Petit Grepon and the Saber are similarly featured — the lower third of each formation is low-angle and easy, their upper sections steepen. The Petit Grepon culminates in a blade-like summit not much bigger than a kitchen counter, but almost one thousand feet above the talus. The Saber, despite its name, has a blunter, blockier summit. Holds on both towers are plentiful; protection comes and goes. The Petit’s South Face is both the easiest and the best protected of these climbs, yet even on it, there are a couple of places you really should not fall. Approach. From the Glacier Gorge parking, take the Glacier Gorge trail 1.9 miles and then branch west onto the Loch Vale trail. Beyond the Loch, where the Andrews Glacier trail breaks off to the right, rack up and stash excess gear if you plan to descend the Gash. Climb to a hanging valley and follow a fainter trail past Glass Lake to Sky Pond. From the east end of Sky Pond, head through the talus directly toward your chosen spire. Time and distance to the base: 4.5 miles; 2,200 feet elevation gain; 3 to 4 hours. Rack. Two 60-meter ropes. For all of these routes, bring a set of small nuts, a set of regular nuts, cams to 3 inches. Shoulderlength runners are more versatile than quickdraws, double-length slings and cordelettes are also helpful. You might take a little less gear for the Petit South Face, a little more for the harder routes. There will be snow on the approach in June; I’ve worn boots but never needed an axe. Time on route. An average team completes these routes in 6 to 8 hours. Bivy/camping. With the ongoing road construction, the length of these routes and the approach, these routes are now difficult to do safely in a day. Bivy sites are available at Sky Pond; the nearest campsite is Andrews Creek.
Petit Grepon A. Southwest Corner (5.9) B. South Face (5.8) Saber C. Southwest Corner (5.10a) D. Kor Route (5.8+)
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THE SABER ROUTES
PETITE GREPON ROUTES
The Kor Route (III 5.8+)
South Face (III 5.8)
This fine route climbs the south and east faces of the Saber for 1,200 feet over 11 steep, long pitches. The first third of the climb goes quickly: Climb (talus with some 5.6 near the top) to a prominent ledge 400 feet above the talus, starting from either side of the south face. The first pitch from this ledge is the crux, climbing the big, left-facing dihedral through a roof to a good ledge. From here, traverse onto the east face, and locate another leftfacing dihedral, which you follow for two long pitches. From the top of the dihedral, aim straight for the false summit and climb the steep face with great holds and marginal pro for some 300 feet until you reach it. From the false summit, rappel into notch behind it and scramble the ridge (5.4/5.5) to the true summit.
Probably the most climbed technical route in the High Peaks. While the climbing on the lower half of the route is not memorable, the upper half more than compensates with incredible exposure and aesthetic movement on solid rock. Like The Kor Route on the Saber, it begins in the middle of the lowangle south face, and finishes on the east face of the formation. Climb to the famous “Pizza Pan” belay, two pitches below the summit and directly on the arête. The next pitch, at 5.7, is not the technical crux, but probably the most serious pitch. Protection is adequate but must be pieced together, a fall could easily break an ankle, and the easiest line is not obvious.
The Southwest Corner (III 5.10a) The climbing on this route is sustained 5.9; the exposure is immense. Begin at the same prominent ledge as for The Kor Route, just a little to the left in a smaller, left-facing corner. Climb this (5.10a) to a ledge. From here, link crack systems and face climbing for two long pitches, aiming for a beautiful, overhanging left-facing dihedral at the edge of the south face. Traverse into this feature and climb it to the arête, and follow this to the false summit. Reach the true summit as detailed earlier. Descent. From the true summit, downclimb (fourth class) west and then north to the “Gash,” the hanging valley that culminates in the east col between the Saber and Sharkstooth. If you did not leave gear at the base of either route, hike out via the Andrews Glacier Trail. If you did leave gear, you can: a) Traverse to the notch east of the Foil (the next large spire to the east) and make two 160-foot rappels southeast to the talus above Sky Pond. b) Continue traversing behind two more spires to reach a large col and descend the talus to the south. A 50-foot rappel midway down is necessary. A final alternative is the rappel descent. Six, 150-foot rappels directly from the false summit of the Saber down the east face returns you to the base. At least one new bolt has appeared on this descent in recent years, but, in general, the anchors are just adequate.
The Southwest Corner (III 5.9) This route has climbing equal to that on the South Face, but is significantly harder, a little more serious and nowhere near as crowded. Perhaps because of that, there are a few more loose rocks, which have caused injuries. Still, the upper pitches directly on the southwest corner combine great climbing with sweeping exposure. You can join the South Face either at the Pizza Pan belay or a hundred feet higher, where overhangs force you to move right and merge with the South Face. Descent. All descents from the Petit begin with a 150-foot rappel from good bolts at the east end of the summit block. Since the summit block is approximately 6 by 30 feet, these anchors are not hard to find. Three short, single rope rappels work as well. After this rappel, you can: a) Scramble to the right (north) along a ledge and climb the leftmost of two chimneys (5.3), back up to the east col at the top of the Gash. If you have no gear at the base, hike out the Gash; if you did leave gear, scramble behind the Saber and use either of the descent gullies mentioned above for the Saber to return to the base of the Petit. b) Rappel option. From the summit, make 3 rappels down the east face (see topo). A fourth rappel brings you to the southeast corner of the Second Terrace. Walk 60 feet down and toward the center of the south face and locate a large flake buried on the ledge that used to be a rappel anchor. The new anchor is two bolts below the flake and a little below the ledge. Two more rappels bring you directly to the base of the route. All of these rappels should be from new, two-bolt anchors. These can be hard to find and numerous other anchors (good and bad) exist, so keep looking. Most of the rappels require two ropes; the next to last requires two, 60-meter ropes. If you start to rappel in the gully next to the Saber, you are off-route and almost guaranteed an epic.
Rocky Mountain National Park Essentials Where. Rocky Mountain National Park is about an hour northwest of Denver, just outside the small resort town of Estes Park. Season. June through September. Depending on the year, the cracks can still be wet in early June, and July and August are the heart of the summer thunderstorm cycle. In September the days are short and the north-facing routes can be cold. Lightning is always a concern in the high peaks. Even in mid-summer, a storm can be life-threatening cold if you are unprepared. Essential gear. Specific racks are listed for each peak or route. Besides that gear, be sure to include warm layers of synthetic clothing and good rain gear. Carrying two ropes on all routes can speed retreat. (Tip: A single lead rope and a second 7mm tag line offer a lightweight alternative to double ropes.) While RMNP features some of the best alpine rock in the world, loose rock is still plentiful — wear a helmet. Camping, bivies, permits. No permits are required for climbing in RMNP. For the 2003 and 2004 summer climbing seasons, construction on the Bear Lake road will close the road to private vehicles above the Sprague Lake parking area. RMNP will run a shuttle service from Sprague Lake to Glacier Gorge and Bear Lake from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., with shuttles departing every 30 minutes. This affects all routes on Notchtop,
Hallett Peak, the Petit Grepon, the Saber and Spearhead. For campsites and bivies, backcountry permits are required. These are available from the RMNP backcountry office, 970-586-1242. All RMNP campsites have tent sites and some form of toilet facility. Bivy sites are open — no tents allowed. Rock caves in the talus can be used for shelter. Permits must be picked up in person, during business hours. Specific campsite and bivy information is listed by peak. Recommended skill level. A solid 5.9 leader will do fine on all of the routes except The Barb, where he/she will need to pull on a few pieces of gear to get past the 5.10 moves. All routes demand good routefinding and traditional protection skills and a willingness to accept the occasional runout. Good fitness and mountain sense are also a must. Speed is safety. To help you climb faster, drop down at least one grade from what you comfortably lead at the crags. Guide services. The Colorado Mountain School has the sole concession to guide technical climbing in RMNP. Prices are approved by RMNP, based on a survey of other guide services. (CMS: 970-586-5758, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.cmschool.com) Emergency contact. RMNP coordinates all rescues in the park (970-586-1399, or 911 after business hours). www.rockandice.com | 87
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he thousand-foot north face of Hallett is one of the most prominent (and famous) walls in RMNP. Even from a distance, you can see the three obvious buttresses that divide the wall. The most famous route, the Northcutt-Carter on the Third Buttress, was partially destroyed by a huge rockfall in 1999 and is still dangerous. Even before the Northcutt was damaged, the two routes selected here were thought by many to be better, more aesthetic climbs. Both are on the Second Buttress, which receives the most sun and has prominent features to help with route-finding — always the climber’s nemesis on Hallett. Approach. Take the Emerald Lake Trail from the Bear Lake parking lot. At the lake’s east end, head left and up, aiming for a shelf and an obscure trail that trends west through the moraine. Depending on the exact path you choose, you might encounter 30-degree snowfields in early season. Time and distance to the base: 2 miles; 1,500-feet of elevation gain; two hours. Rack. One 60-meter rope lead rope. You do not need two ropes for the usual descents, but in bad weather two ropes are useful for rappelling the routes. Bring a set of micro nuts, a set of regular nuts and cams from l.25- to 3-inches. If you like to put in copious pro, double up on all of the small sizes. Since these routes weave around, carry at least 6 over-the-shoulder runners, 2 double-length runners, 10 quickdraws, and a cordelette for each climber. In early season, bring an ice axe and boots for the typically snowed-up approach. Time on route. An average team completes these routes in 4 to 6 hours, unless routefinding debacles arise. On the other hand, routefinding debacles are common on Hallett, though less so on the Second Buttress. Consider this carefully before deciding to sleep in. Bivy/camping. None available near Hallett. A 5:30 a.m. start from the Bear Lake parking lot is strongly advised.
Better Than Love (5.8-5.9)
An unmistakable triangular buttress forms the left side of the Second Buttress. The 1957 Love Route followed the loose dihedral on the right side of the buttress for three pitches (5.4) to the top of the triangle. The Better Than Love variation climbs the buttress directly, at 5.6, 5.8 and 5.7, offering a good mix of crack and face climbing on mostly solid rock, with good protection and fairly straightforward route-finding. Above the Triangular Buttress, the two routes merge and the climbing remains excellent. The Englishman’s arching dihedral is to your right, but aim for prominent roofs directly overhead. A pitch below the roofs, you must choose between tackling the roofs themselves (5.9 and often wet; fixed pins) or traversing right, linking small cracks at a surprisingly moderate grade (5.8).
This route offers tremendous climbing on excellent rock, with reasonable protection (if you stay on route). The exposure and views on the prominent prow on the upper half of the route rival anything in RMNP. Locate a ledge with a fixed pin above a pink band of rock, some 75 feet west of Love and just west of the next large, right-facing corner. Be on guard for three distinct cruxes. On the third pitch traverse, move right on a ramp below a roof band (fixed pins, but exciting, particularly when wet) and then climb over a roof on jugs (more pins, 5.8). From the large ledge near the white band, work up and right, linking cracks, staying just left of the prow for two pitches (5.7 but serious, particularly if off-route). The last two pitches follow a steep right-facing corner (still 5.8). When you are blocked by a roof, traverse right (bolt), pull the roof and then angle back toward the corner.
A. B. C. D.
Love (5.9) Better than Love (5.8-5.9) Culp-Bossier (5.8) Jackson-Johnson (5.9)
Descent. Descend scree and talus down a gully at the west end of the third Buttress. Whenever difficulties arise, trend left, most significantly at a notch about halfway down. This descent is long but easy. Alternate descent: Staying near the edge of the North Face, hike to the east edge of the first buttress and locate a bolted rappel anchor. Two single-rope rappels (bad pull if you try to rappel in one shot with two ropes) lead to a gully. Beware of loose rock on the second rappel. From the gully, follow cairns north to a steep ramp that cuts west across the lower half of the First Buttress. The rappel option is faster than the standard descent, but also significantly more exposed and technical, particularly in early season. John Bicknell is co-director of the Colorado Mountain School in Estes Park and an AMGA-certified rock guide. Dan Gambino has guided for CMS since 1998 and has climbed in RMNP for over a decade.
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ACONCAGUA SPECIALISTS FOR 25 YEARS! Aconcagua Expeditions via our new and pristine Guanacos V alley Route. Polish Glacier and Traverse approaches via the Guanacos V alley. Highest success rate, experience and quality in the field. First Class Expeditions to: Patagonia, Bolivia, Ecuador , Peru, Chile, Antar ctica, Alaska and the Alps. A VENTURAS P ATAGONICAS Internationally Certified Guides (IFMGA/UIAGM) 888-203-9354. firstname.lastname@example.org; www.patagonicas.com
ROCK GYMS RHINOCEROS MOUNT AIN GUIDES, Jim Shimberg. Guiding since 1986 in NH and worldwide. rhinomtn@ worldpath.net 603-726-3030 or Rock Barn 603-536-2717. www.rhinocerosmountainguides.com ABOVE OURAY ICE & DEVILS TOWER ROCK GUIDES * Certified * Instruction & Guiding * Moab-Canyonlands Utah, Black Hills Needles, Unaweep, Colorado National Monument; 888-345-9061; 157 HWY 24, Devils Tower, WY 82714; 450 Main, POB 1073, Ouray , CO 81427; Info@TowerGuides.com; www.TowerGuides.com MOONEY MOUNTAIN GUIDES Climb in New Hampshire and W orldwide IFMGA certified / aspirantguides; 603-744-5853; www.mooneymountainguides.com YOSEMITE MOUNT AINEERING SCHOOL and guide service is the official concessionaire for climbing and guiding in Y osemite National Park since 1969. Offering all levels of instruction and guided climbing, from “Go Climb a Rock” beginner classes to scaling El Cap and other big walls. Come climb where legends were made! For a brochure or more information call 209-372-8344 or visit www .YosemitePark.com. Attention Climbers! Call for great deals on Canvas Tent lodging in Yosemite. 559-252-4848 ALASKA ALPINE ADVENTURES. - Custom, Personalized & Gourmet guided adventures in "REAL" Alaska. Mountaineering, ice climbing, backcountr y skiing and backpacking expeditions in the Alaska and Aleutian Ranges. First ascents, descents and more! www .AlaskaAlpineAdventures.com or toll-free 877-525-2577 CLIMB AT
TAHQUITZ AND SUICIDE ROCKS
ARIZONA Flagstaff. VERTICAL RELIEF CLIMBING CENTER. Awesome indoor walls, guiding and instruction, gear shop, S.W. guidebooks, showers. 928-556-9909; T oll Free: 877- 265-5984; www.verticalrelief.com Tempe. PHOENIX ROCK GYM. 1353 E. University , Tempe, AZ 85281; 480-921-8322
CALIFORNIA Anaheim Hills. ROCK CITY CLIMBING CENTER. 714-777-4884; www.rockcityclimbing.com Berkeley. BERKELEY IRONWORKS. 14K sq. ft. climbing. Full fitness center and programs. Retail shop. A T ouchstone gym. 800 Potter St. (off Ashby exit Hwy. 80), Berkeley , CA 94710; 510.981.9900; www.berkeleyironworks.com Concord. TOUCHSTONE (Concord). 10K sq. ft. climbing. Full fitness center and programs. Retail shop. 1220 Diamond W ay #140 (off W illow Pass Rd. exit Hwy . 680), Concord, CA 94520; 925.602.1000; www.touchstoneclimbing.com Davis. ROCKNASIUM. Great Routes. Good People. 720 Olive Dr ., Suite Z, Davis, CA 95616; 530-757-2902; www.rocknasium.com Freemont. CITY BEACH ROCK CLUB. 16,000 square feet of climbable terrain. 4020 T echnology Place, Freemont, CA 94538; 510-651-2500 Ext.101; www.citybeach.com Hollywood. RED ROX CLIMBING. 7416 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, CA; 323-651-1225; 10,000 boulder problems
IDYLLWILD ▼ 4-DAY BEGINNING ROCKCRAFT ▼ 4-DAY LEADER’S COURSE ▼ GUIDED CLIMBS, PRIVATE INSTRUCTION
CLIMBING SCHOOL • BOB GAINES, DIRECTOR • Since 1983
PORTABLE WALLS SCHOOLOFOUTDOORLEARNING.COM St. Louis & Mid-Missouri area rentals. 1-888-4-A-Belay
Accredited Member of the AMGA
Mountain Trip Join us in the mountains of Alaska. Climb Denali via three routes. Mountaineering Seminars and Skiing Adventures in the Alaska Range.
P.O. Box 111809 Anchorage, AK 99511 907-345-6499 E-mail: email@example.com
Los Angeles. LOS ANGELES ROCK GYM. In the South Bay, 40 foot leads, top ropes, and bouldering. 100+ routes. Just minutes south of LAX. 4926 W est Rosecrans Ave. 310-973-3388 Marin County . CLASS 5. 6K sq. ft. climbing. Fitness center. Retail shop. A T ouchstone gym. 25B Dodie St., San Rafael, CA 94901; 415.485.6931; www.class5.com Monterey Peninsula. SANCTUARY ROCK GYM. 1855A East Ave., Sand City, CA 93955; 831-899-2595; www.rockgym.com Orange County . SOLIDROCK GYM. (Lake Forest) 10,000 sq. ft. climbable terrain. T op roping, bouldering, lead climbing. 26784 V ista T errace; 949-588-6200; www.solidrockgym.com
Pasadena. Jungle Gym Rock Climbing, Pasadena, CA 626-446-5014 www .junglegymclimbing.com 4500 sq.ft. of Southern California’ s best and newest bouldering. Portable Climbing wall for rent. Poway. SOLIDROCK GYM. (North County Inland). 12,000 square feet. 30 foot sculpted, seamless walls. Toproping, bouldering, lead climbing. Thousands of the latest/greatest hand/foot holds. Hundreds of clearly marked routes to choose from, (beginner - expert). Top of the line fitness, cardio/cir cuit/freeweights. Locker rooms with showers. Air conditioned! 13026 Stowe Drive, Poway , CA 92064; 619-299-1124; www.solidrockgym.com Sacramento. GRANITE ARCH CLIMBING CENTER. Now the biggest! 23,500 square feet of hand sculpted climbing sur face. Enormous, new , outside boulder park. Fully stocked retailer . 11335-G Folsom Blvd., Rancho Cordova, CA 95742; 916-852-ROCK; www.granitearch.com Sacramento. SACRAMENTO PIPEWORKS. 10K sq. ft. climbing. Full fitness center and programs. Retail shop. A T ouchstone gym. 116 N. 16th St. (16th & A), Sacramento, CA 95814; 916-341-0100; www.sacramentopipeworks.com San Diego. SOLIDROCK GYM. (Downtown) 12,000 square feet. 30 foot sculpted, seamless walls. Toproping, bouldering, lead climbing. Thousands of the latest/greatest hand/foot holds. Hundreds of clearly marked routes to choose from, (beginnerexpert). Mirrored free weight/campus board/system wall area. Air conditioned! Minutes from the Airport and Convention Centers. 2074 Hancock St., San Diego, CA 92110; 619-299-1124; www.solidrockgym.com San Diego . VERTICAL HOLD SPORT CLIMBING CENTER, INC. The largest in Southern California. Over 20,000 square feet of superbly textured climbing surface. Colossal 40 foot lead cave, 200+ toprope/lead routes and 2 awesome bouldering areas. 9580 Distribution A ve., San Diego, CA 92121; 858-586-7572; www.verticalhold.com San Francisco. MISSION CLIFFS. 14K sq. ft. climbing. Retail shop. Touchstone’s first gym. 2295 Harrison St. @ 19th St., San Francisco, CA 94110; 415-550-0515; www.mission-cliffs.com San Jose. TOUCHSTONE (San Jose). 3K sq. ft. climbing. Bouldering and Y oga. Retail shop. 210 S. 1st Street #70 (Downtown), San Jose, CA 95113; 408.920.6000; www.touchstoneclimbing.com San Marcos. SOLIDROCK GYM (San Marcos) State of the art, 30 foot sculpted walls. 35+ topropes, bouldering, lead climbing. Thousands of the latest/greatest hand/foot holds. Hundreds of clearly marked routes to choose from, (beginner-expert) 992 Rancheros Drive, San Mar cos, CA 92069; 619-299-1124; www.solidrockgym.com San Mateo . PLANET GRANITE. 20,000 square feet, 50 foot high, cracks! Extensive weights & fitness, yoga, pro-shop. 100 El Camino Real, Belmont, CA 94002; 650-591-3030; www.planetgranite.com Santa Clara. PLANET GRANITE. 14,000 square feet of sculpted climbing, weights and fitness; pro-shop. 2901 Mead A ve., Santa Clara, CA 95051; 408-727-2777; www .planetgranite.com. Coming in 2003 — our SECOND San Jose site.
FOR DETAILS GO TO WWW.MOUNTAINTRIP.COM www.rockandice.com | 91
ROCK GYMS Santa Cruz. PACIFIC EDGE. Indoor climbing at its finest! 50 feet tall, Huge Lead Cave, Extensive Bouldering, Pro-Shop. 104 Bronson St., Santa Cruz, CA 95062; (831)-454-9254; www.pacificedgeclimbinggym.com Upland. HANGAR. 18 INDOOR CLIMBING GYM.256 Stowell St., Ste. A, Upland, CA 91786; 909-931-599; www.climbhangar18.com Victorville. THE BULLET HOLE TRAINING CENTER. The high desert's only indoor climbing gym! 15315 Cholame Road Unit D Victorville, CA 92392; 760-245-3307
COLORADO Aspen. Aspen Recreation Department. Red Brick Climbing W all. 110 East Hallam, Suite 135; 970-920-5140 Boulder. THE SPOT . BOULDER'S NEWEST CLIMBING GYM. 10,000+ sq/ft building, freestanding boulders with topouts as tall as 16-feet, 25-foot tall roped wall, amazing Hueco, Fontainebleau, and Y osemite textures and forms, highest tech flooring available, and air filtration/conditioning. Guide ser vice, cafe, full programming, yoga room, weights...and on. 3240 Prairie A ve, Boulder , CO 80301; 303-379-8806. www.thespotgym.com Colorado Springs. SPORT CLIMBING CENTER. Colorado’s ultimate indoor climbing destination. Spacious. Over 13,000 square feet. Guiding available. 4650 Northpark Dr., 80918; 719-260-1050; www.SportClimbCS.com Denver. PARADISE ROCK GYM. The best!! 6260 N. W ashington St., Unit 5, Denver , CO 80216; 303-286-8168. www.paradiserock.com
is huge! Edge WALLS DESIGNED BY Leading
Colorado’s premier rock climbing gym located in North Denver. 303-climb-99
Fort Collins. INNER STRENGTH ROCK GYM. Indoor (5800 square feet) & outdoor instruction. 3713 South Mason, Fort Collins, CO; 970-282-8118; www.innerstrengthrock.com Fort Collins. THE GYM OF THE ROCKIES. Over 5500 sq. ft. of awesome terrain. Located in a multi-sports fitness center . 1800 Heath Pkwy . www.thegymoftherockies.com; 970-221-5000
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CONNECTICUT Mystic. OLLIE'S ROCK GYM. (860) 572-ROCK www.olliesrockgym.com. A place where life is good and getting Gooder! Manchester. STONE AGE ROCK GYM. 860-645-0015 www.stoneagerockgym.com Wallingford. PRIME CLIMB. Connecticut's FIRST and BEST climbing gym. (203) 265-7880; www.primeclimb.com
Evanston. EVANSTON A THLETIC CLUB. Two Entre Prises walls up to 46' high with all the goods: slab, crack, roof, sustained overhang and the Kaisers Lair bouldering cave. Expert instruction beginner to lead. Located on the El line. 847-866-6190; www.eaconline.com/climb.html Homewood. CLIMB ON. 18120 Har wood A ve, Homewood, IL 60430; 708-798-9994; www.Climbon.net Rochester. THE SILO, INC. “Dare to Climb.” Toproping 65ft. 110 ft. Indoor/Outdoor . 130 South John St., Rochester , IL 62563; 217-498-9922; www.daretoclimb.com
Miami. X-TREME ROCK CLIMBING. Florida’s premier climbing facility. 12,000+ square feet of state-of-theart fully textured ar ches, aretes, slabs & overhangs. 13972 SW 139 Court, 33186; 305-233-6623. www.x-tremerock.com
Rockford. G.A.R. INDOOR CLIMBING CENTER. 9,000 square feet of custom sculpted climbing terrain, bouldering, leading, instruction, rental. High ropes challenge course. New Bouldering W all! 6630 Spring Brook Road, 61114; 815-654-6447.
Orlando. AIGUILLE ROCK CLIMBING CENTER. Orlando's indoor climbing gym. 36 feet vertical, 7,500 square feet of climbing and bouldering, proshop and guide ser vice. 999 Charles St., Longwood, FL 32750; 407-332-1430; www.ClimbOrlando.com
Bloomington. HOOSIER HEIGHTS. 8,500 square feet of climbable terrain. Outdoor Trips. New Bloomington site August 2003 with 10,000+ square feet. www.hoosierheights.com; 812-824-6414
GEORGIA Atlanta. WALL CRA WLER ROCK CLUB. Atlanta's neighborhood climbing gym. Where the climbers hang out! www.wallcrawlerrock.com. 404-371-8997 Atlanta. ATLANTA ROCKS! INTOWN/PERIMETER GYMS. The largest gyms in the Southeast, offer challenging climbing on 12,000/6,000 square feet of seamless, textured climbing surface, featuring multi-tiered, wildly overhanging ledges on terrain so realistic, it seems like real rock. Lead routes up to 85 linear feet 50/40 topropes, bouldering features, aerobic and weight training equipment, computerized rotating climbing wall, locker rooms and showers. Group rates, daily instruction, equipment sales and rentals. INTOWN! location 1019A Collier Road, Atlanta; 404- 351-3009; PERIMETER! location 4411A Bankers Cir cle, Doraville; 770-242-7625; www.atlantarocks.com
ROCK’n & JAM’n
9499 N. Washington St., Thornton, Colorado 80229 *
Summit County/Silverthorne. RED MOUNT AIN ROCK GYM. 970-468-1248
Bloomington. UPPER LIMITS. Quality climbing at its best. Illinois’ s only CGA accredited facility offering 20,000 square feet, routes up to 110 feet tall, wave wall, bi-level cave and 65 foot silos. Just off I-55 and I-74. 309-829-TALL (8255); www.upperlimits.com Chicago. LINCOLN PARK ATHLETIC CLUB. The ultimate urban crag! Outdoor climbing on a Spectacular 70' EP masterpiece: sustained overhangs, roof, cracks, aretes, dihedrals and more. Plus, synthetic ice climbing 65' routes. Indoor climbing on a programmable rotating wall. Expert instruction beginner to lead. Located at The El Line. 1019 W . Diversey at Sheffeld; 773-529-2022; www.eaconline.com/climb.html Chicago. VERTICAL ENDEA VORS. 18,000ft2 of climbing on 40 ft. walls. 19 auto belays. Programs and outdoor guiding for all ages. 630-836-0122 www.verticalendeavors.com Crystal Lake . NORTH W ALL. Top roping, leading, 250+ continuous feet of bouldering, 50 foot ar ch, multi-level bouldering cave and pro-shop. 824 S. Main; 815-356-6855; www.climbnorthwall.com
Evansville. VERTICAL EXCAPE. www.verticalexcape.com
Indianapolis. CLIMBTIMEINDY. 8750 Corporataion Dr. Indianapolis, IN 46250 317-596-3330; www.climbtimeindy.com
MARYLAND Columbia & Timonium. EARTH TREKS CLIMBING CENTERS. Largest Climbing Gyms on the East Coast with the best bouldering in the area. T wo facilities within 25 minutes of Baltimore and W ashington, DC; 800-CLIMB-UP, www.earthtreksclimbing.com Rockville. SPORTROCK 1. www.sportrock.com
NEW ENGLAND’S FIRST ROCK GYM established 1989 • CGA Accredited
BEGINNER TO EXPERT — ALL AGES Leading and Bouldering FULLY STOCKED RETAIL SHOP Group and Individual Instruction Slabs, arêtes, cracks, roofs, overhangs and the bouldering bat cave. The Boston Rock Gym 78G Olympia Avenue Woburn, MA 01801 FOR THE BEST INDOOR CLIMBING FUN IN NEW ENGLAND CALL 781-935-PEAK (7325) www.bostonrockgym.com
MICHIGAN Ann Arbor/Pontiac. PLANET ROCK CLIMBING GYM & TRAINING CENTER. Nationally recognized Junior Climbing T eam, Adventure Race certification & setup, Commer cial Rigging and Consulting, Corporate T eam Building, and portable climbing walls. Ann Arbor 734-827-2680; Pontiac 248-334-3904 www.planet-rock.com Grand Rapids. HIGHER GROUND ROCK CLIMBING CENTRE, L TD. 851 Bond NW , Grand Rapids, MI 49503; 616-774-3100
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ROCK GYMS CLIMB KALAMAZOO - 10,500 sq/ft, toprope/lead, outdoor guided trips, complete retail store, seven days/week. (269) 385-9891 136 S. Kalamazoo Mall; www.climbkalamazoo.com
NORTH CAROLINA Charlotte. INNER PEAKS CLIMBING CENTER. 9535 Monroe Rd., Ste. 170, Charlotte, NC 28270; 704-844-6677; www.innerpeaks.com
Rochester. PRAIRIE W ALLS CLIMBING GYM. www.prairiewalls.com St.Paul/Duluth. VERTICAL ENDEAVORS. The Twin Cities' facility (651-776-1430) offers 10,000ft 2 of climbing while Duluth (218-279-9980) offers 12,000ft2 on walls up to 42' tall. Auto Belays. Programs and outdoor guiding for all ages. www.verticalendeavors.com
MISSOURI Columbia. BOULDERINGGARDEN.COM (573) 474-4997 Springfield. PETRA ROCK GYM. 916 N. Cedarbrook, Springfield, MO; 417-866-3308; www.petrarockgym.com St. Louis. SCHOOLOFOUTDOORLEARNING.COM, "Climbing Wall", Scout Climbing Merit Badge & birthday parties at Concord Lanes & Arizona Mini Golf. (888) 4-A-Belay. St. Louis. UPPER LIMITS. Missouri’s premier climbing gym. 10,000 square feet of custom sculpted terrain. Air conditioned! Conveniently located off I64/40 behind Union Station. Free parking. 326 South 21st St.; 314-241-ROCK (7625); www.upperlimits.com
NEW JERSEY East Hanover . DIAMOND ROCK. 3,000 square feet, seamless texture, 37 foot peak; 973-560-0413. www.diamondrock.net Edison. WALL STREET ROCK GYM. 5,000 square feet. 216 T ingley Ln. 908-412-1255; www.WallStRockGym.com Fairfield. NEW JERSEY ROCK GYM. 373D Rt. 46W , Fairfield, NJ. Over 12,000 square feet with air conditioning. Eldorado W alls with giant lead roof, largest freestanding boulder in the countr y and pro-shop; 973-439-9860; www.njrockgym.com
NEW MEXICO Albuquerque. FOCUS FITNESS. Training. Climbing. Spinning. Yoga. New Mexico's premier fitness and bouldering facility. 505-821-5431; www.focusfitness.com Albuquerque. STONE AGE CLIMBING GYM. NM's Biggest and Best, Multi-level Bouldering Cave, Leading, Guiding, Complete Climbing Shop. 505-341-2016, www.climbstoneage.com
Columbus. V E R T I C A L A D V E N T U R E S R O C K G Y M . Central Ohio's only climbing gym. 6295 Busch Blvd., Columbus, OH 43229; 614-888-8393; www.verticaladventuresohio.com Euclid. CLEVELAND ROCK GYM, INC. 21200 St. Clair , Euclid, OH 44117; 216-692-3300; www.clevelandrockgym.com
OKLAHOMA Oklahoma City . OKC ROCKS CLIMBING GYM. Tallest Artificial Climb in America - 145 ft. A wesome lead routes, TR's and Bouldering. 405-319-1400; www.okcrocks.com
OREGON Portland. PORTLAND ROCK GYM. 2034 SE 6th Ave., Portland, OR 97214; 503-232-8310; www.portlandrockgym.com
PENNSYLVANIA Oaks. PHILADELPHIA ROCK GYM. 422 Business Center, PO Box 511, Oaks, P A 19456; 610-666-ROPE; www.philarockgym.com Philadelphia. GO VERTICAL. Philadelphia's only climbing gym. Open 7 days a week at 10am ever y day. Call 215-928-1800; www.govertical.com Pittsburgh. THE CLIMBING WALL at the factor y. 7,000 square feet. 7501 Penn A ve., 15208; 412-247-7334; www.theclimbingwall.com Wind Gap. NORTH SUMMIT CLIMBING GYM. Large, all extremes, professional walls and routes. Easy access from Eastern PA, NY and NJ. 610-863-4444
RHODE ISLAND Lincoln. RHODE ISLAND ROCK GYM. Huge new facility! 401-727-1704; www.rhodeislandrockgym.com
TENNESSEE Chattanooga. THE TENNESSEE BOULDERING AUTHORITY. Indoor climbing, instruction, guiding a nd fraternizing. 423-822-6800 www.tbagym.com Cleveland. FIVE POINTS W ALL AT EXTREME OUTDOORS. 185 Inman St.; 423-728-4810; www.wildernessthing.com
Buffalo/Niagara Falls. NIAGARA CLIMBING CENTER. 716-695-1248; www.niagaraclimbingcenter.com
Carrollton. EXPOSURE ROCK CLIMBING. Over 9,000 square feet of climbing, excellent bouldering and gear shop. Portable climbing wall available. www.exposurerockclimbing.com
New Paltz. THE INNER W Eckerd’s Plaza, New Paltz, NY www.the innerwall.com
Alexandria. SPORTROCK 2. www.sportrock.com
ALL. Main St., ; 845-255-7625.
New Y ork. MANHATTAN PLAZA HEAL TH CLUB CLIMBING WALL. Huge 5,000 square foot expansion featuring Cracks, Caves, Chimneys, Slabs and 40 foot lead roof with crack. Classes, groups, parties, and corporate team clinics ongoing. 482 W est 43rd St. 212-563-7001 Rochester. ROCKVENTURES. Largest in North Americaover 18,000 square feet of climbing! 585-442-5462; www.rockventures.net
Sterling. SPORTROCK 3. www.sportrock.com
Virginia Beach. VIRGINIA BEACH ROCK GYM. 6,000 square feet, 33 foot textured wall with roofs, aretes, slabs, cracks and bulges. T oprope & lead, boulder, weights, pro-shop. Open ever yday. 5049 Southern Blvd., VA Beach, VA 23462; 757-499-8347; www.virginiabeachrockgym.com
WASHINGTON Monroe. CLIMB ON! -Fun and friendly bouldering + top rope. Indoor and outdoor instruction from experienced Mountain Guides. 360-805-5848; www.climbonrocks.com Seattle. STONE GARDENS. Biggest, best and friendliest in the Northwest! Best bouldering of any gym. T extured 30 ft. walls, 40 ft. outdoor wall and 65 ft. lead roof. 2839 NW Market St., Seattle; 206-781-9828; www.stonegardens.com Seattle/Redmond/Bremerton. VERTICAL WORLD . America's first indoor climbing gym. Fun routes, friendly ser vice and professional instruction since 1987. Three gyms for the price of one! Seattle 206-283-4497; Redmond 425-881-8826; Bremerton 360-373-6676; www.verticalworld.com Spokane. WILD W ALLS CLIMBING GYM & GEAR STORE. 40 foot walls, toprope, lead bouldering 202 W est 2nd A ve, Spokane, W A 99201; 509-455-9596; www.wildwalls.com
WISCONSIN Appleton. VERTICAL STRONGHOLD. Indoor/outdoor climbing center and gear shop. 8,000+ feet of climbing fun. Longest uninterrupted bouldering. 920-731-2720;firstname.lastname@example.org, www.climbwithus.com Brookfield/Pewaukee. ADVENTURE ROCK. Wisconsin's largest indoor climbing facility, over 9,500 square feet of textured sur faces, ceiling heights of 35 feet. Full pro - shop, portable rock wall rental and outdoor guiding. 21250 W . Capital Dr . Pewaukee, WI 53072; 262-790-6800; www.adventurerock.com
WYOMING Casper. THE PEAK. 408 N. Beverly, Casper, WY 82609; 307-472-4084
CANADA Newmarket, Ontario. ROCK & CHALK CLIMBING. Climate controlled. Open 7 days. 905-895-ROCK; www.rockandchalk.com Toronto, Ontario. JOE ROCKHEAD’S CLIMBING GYM. The World’s Greatest Climbing Gym. 29 Fraser Ave., T oronto, Ontario M6K 1Y7; 416-538-7670; www.joerockheads.com Toronto, Ontario. THE ROCK OASIS. 15,000 square feet. 60 foot high climbs & lots of bouldering. 27 Bathurst Street, T oronto, M5V 2P1; 416-703-3434; www.rockoasis.com
COSTA RICA San Jose, MUNDO A VENTURA, Climbing Gym & Adventure. Paseo Colon, Between 36th & 38th St. 03 Ave.; Ph: 506-221-6934; email:info@ maventura.com; www.maventura.com; San Jose, Costa Rica
Let People know about your gym... contact:
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R E TA I L E R S O N L I N E R E TA I L E R S www.acmeclimbing.com firstname.lastname@example.org 800-959-3785 509-325-9855 1314 South Grand Blvd. #2-292 Spokane,WA 99202
www.campmor.com email@example.com 800-CAMPMOR 800-(226-7667) Catalog- PO Box 700 Saddle River, NJ 07458
CLIMB MAX www.climbmax.net firstname.lastname@example.org 503-797-1991 2105 S.E. Division Portland, OR 97202
gearEXPRESS.com Starved Rock Outfitters email@example.com 888-580-5510 815-667-7170 F 815-667-9970 201 Donaldson St. Utica, IL 61373
MARMOT MOUNTAIN WORKS www.marmotmountain.com firstname.lastname@example.org 800-MARMOT-9 (627-6689) 3049 Adeline St. Berkeley CA 94703
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MOUNTAIN SPORTS www.mountainsportsboulder.com firstname.lastname@example.org 800-558-6770 303-442-8355 F 303-443-0670 2835 Pearl Street, Ste. B Boulder, CO 80301
MOUNTAIN TOOLS www.mtntools.com email@example.com
MS O UTDOOR www.msoutdoor.com firstname.lastname@example.org 888-414-8760 PO Box 5775 Somerset, NJ 08875
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www.rockcreek.com email@example.com 888-707-6708 100 Tremont St. Chattanooga,TN 37405
SHORELINE MOUNTAIN PRODUCTS www.shorelinemtn.com firstname.lastname@example.org 800-381-2733 415-455-1000 F 415-455-1363 21 Golden Gate Dr., Unit C San Rafael, CA 94901
SIERRA TRADING POST www.SierraTradingPost.com info@SierraTradingPost.com 800-713-4534 F 800-378-8946 5025 Campstool Road Cheyenne,WY 82007
www.summithut.com email@example.com 800-499-8696 F 520-795-7350 5045 E. Speedway Tucson, AZ 85712
800-5.10-2-5.14 831-620-0911 F 831-620-0977 PO Box 222295 Carmel, CA 93922
SUNRISE MOUNTAIN SPORTS
800 Potter St. Berkeley, CA 94710 510-981-9900
2455 Railroad Ave. Livermore, CA 94550 925-447-8330 and 15-B Crescent Dr. Pleasant Hill, CA 94523 925-932-8779
633 S. Broadway, Unit A Boulder, CO 80305 303-499-8866
www.berkeleyironworks.com CLASS 5 25-B Dodie St. San Rafael, CA 94901 415-485-6931
GRANITE ARCH GEAR CLOSET 11335 Folsom Blvd. Bldg., G Rancho Cordova, CA 95742 916-638-4605 F 916-638-4706
MAMMOTH MOUNTAINEERING SUPPLY 3189 Main St. (Next to Wave Rave) Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546 760-934-4191
MARMOT MOUNTAIN WORKS 3049 Adeline St. Berkeley, CA 94703 800-MARMOT-9 (627-6689)
www.marmotmountain.com MISSION CLIFFS
2295 Harrison St. San Francisco, CA 94110 415-550-0515
www.mission-cliffs.com NOMAD VENTURES
405 W. Grand Ave. Escondido, CA 92025 760-747-8223
www.nomadventures.com NOMAD VENTURES 54415 N. Circle Dr. Idyllwild, CA 92549 909-659-4853
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94 | www.rockandice.com
1220 Diamond Way #140 Concord, CA 94520 925-602-1000
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WASHINGTON BACKPACKERS SUPPLY 5206 S. Tacoma Way Tacoma,WA 98409 253-472-4402
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Pro Pulled Air Guitar (5.10a), Frenchman Coulee, Washington
n September 30, 2002 the famed adventurer Göran Kropp died from a fall while rock climbing. He was leading Air Guitar, a 65-foot 5.10a crack that requires precise nut and cam placements. Kropp was near the top of the route when he fell some 60 feet to a rock ledge. Though wearing a helmet, he sustained fatal head injuries. During the morning and early afternoon of that day, Kropp and his partner took turns leading sport routes. After climbing four or five bolted aretes, Kropp took advantage of an opportunity to toprope a crack, Pony Keg (5.10a). Although Kropp looked solid in the crack he told his partner that he found the climb challenging. Kropp then decided to lead Air Guitar. Kropp started up the route, placing, in order, a small nut, two micro cams and three small to medium cams. He fell near the top of the climb, the crux, shortly after placing a three-inch cam. That cam pulled, and the wire-gate carabiner clipped to the rope on the next cam broke, causing Kropp to fall to the ledge.
biner revealed that the wire gate was not distressed; in other words, the carabiner appears to have failed because its gate was open. While a gate-closed carabiner failure is rare, carabiners with their gates open lose as much as two-thirds of their strength, making failure in a fall a real possibility. What caused the carabiner gate to open? It could have become wedged or constricted inside the crack because its short quickdraw would not let it lie outside the crack. Jammed in the crack, the carabiner could have had its gate pinned open. The short, stiff quickdraw could also have let the carabiner rotate into a cross-loading orientation, another extremely weak orientation. Leading Air Guitar pushed Kropp’s crack-climbing abilities that day. Air Guitar and other 5.10a basalt column cracks like it are steep and require technical crack-climbing skills. Mastering good crack-climbing skills takes extensive practice and training, which Kropp did not have. Air Guitar also requires the precise placement of natural protection. Learning how to properly size and place rock protection before attempting routes with hazardous fall exposure is important. Short quickdraws are best suited for sport climbing. When using natural protection, many climbers prefer slightly longer and more flexible quickdraws or slings, which provide for smoother rope movement and decrease the chance of protection being displaced.
This accident resulted from a series of combined incidents. Kropp was relatively inexperienced at placing natural gear and, though a powerful athlete, was at his lead limit. The fact that the top cam pulled indicates that it was either placed incorrectly or walked to an insecure position, which is possible since he clipped all of his protection with short, stiff quickdraws. Another scenario is that Kropp dislodged the piece himself by kicking it with his foot when he climbed past it. Regardless, Get in the habit of placing two pieces of protection just below crux experienced natural-gear leaders are able moves, and anywhere your protection is suspect. Doubling up gives you an to get solid protection at or near the same extra measure of safety in the event one piece fails in a fall. Also, when you place gear in a crack, be sure its quickdraw or sling is long enough to place Kropp’s cam pulled. let the rope-end track outside of the crack. This will help keep the carabiner Subsequent studies of the broken cara- from wedging in the crack, and having its strength compromised.
96 | wwww.rockandice.com
The annual book Accidents in North American Mountaineering is published by The American Alpine Club. AAC members receive it as a benefit. Call 303-384-0110 or visit americanalpineclub.org to join or place an order.
SOURCE: MIKE GAUTHIER, EDITED
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