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issue 209 | april 2013


chop war is history and the future looks incredible

cirque of the


shaping destiny How Ian Powell

does your helmet really help?

Revolutionized Climbing

black canyon beta

[ page 74 ]

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the unfortunate truth climbing & arthritis [ page 70 ]

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Everyman’s Exposed World-class photography from our readers.

Proboscis Following in the footsteps of Kor and Robbins, a bold team embarks on a ground-up free attempt on one of the most remote big walls in North America. By Mason Earle

44 52 60

Ceasefire For decades Connecticut was the scene of a bitter bolt-chopping war. Now order has been restored, and a flurry of activity is unearthing new gems. By Brian Phillips

The Shaper One of climbing’s biggest influencers, sculpter Ian Powell, comes to grips with the addiction that nearly destroyed him. By Caroline Treadway

COVER: Brian Phillips cuts loose on the pillar formation hosting the route La Mesa (5.9), Ross Pond State Park, Connecticut. PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER BEAUCHAMP THIS PAGE: Nick Bullock on the West Ridge of Kyashar. PHOTO BY ANDY HOUSEMAN

DEPARTMENTS 06 09 12 16 18 20 24 28 32 68 70 72 72 82


True Alpinist Nick Bullock explores the darker corners of his mind by taking on brittle seaside chop routes at Gogarth, unprotected Chamonix ice and horror shows in Alaska, Peru and the Himalaya. By Ed Douglas

Rock & Ice (USPS 0001-762, ISSN 0885-5722) is published 8 times a year (January, March, April, June, July, September, October, and December) by Big Stone Publishing, 2567 Dolores Way, Carbondale, CO 81623. Periodicals postage paid at Carbondale, CO, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: send address changes to Rock & Ice, 2567 Dolores Way, Carbondale, CO 81623. Subscription rates are $29.95 per year, $44.95 for two years. Canada, add $12.50 per year for surface postage; all other countries add $15 per year for surface postage (U.S. funds only). Canada Post CPM #7157697.

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n 1963, Carlton Fuller, the president of the American Alpine Club, tasked Jim McCarthy with putting together a dream team of the day’s best climbers to do something “significant.” McCarthy drafted Layton Kor, Royal Robbins and Dick McCracken and they headed to a near-mythical collection of granite walls and spires on the border of the Yukon and Northwest Territories intending to bring Yosemite big-wall tactics to the wilderness. The area was a perfect choice for the mission. So jaw-dropping were the granite bastions that Arnold Wexler, himself a climber, dubbed them “unclimbable” when he first laid eyes on them in 1955. From that day, the Cirque of the Unclimbables became a proving ground for generations.


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The very name issues a challenge, but the granite— steep, fissured and peppered with footholds—has belied the appellation, and routes like the McCarthy-Frost-Bill (V 5.10) on the Lotus Flower Tower have become classic romps for today’s well-trained alpinists. One wall, however, has retained its iconic status as a tough nut. The Southeast Face of Mount Proboscis is an 1,800-foot slab of waterscrubbed granite that towers above the talus like God’s own drive-in screen. McCarthy, Kor, Robbins and McCracken chose this as their objective in 1963, and after an eventful push that included falls, injuries, 251 pitons and a couple of bolts, they reached the summit. Thirty-one years later, in 1994, Kurt Smith, Scott Cosgrove and I made the second free ascent of the Southeast Face. Our route, Yukon Tears (VI 5.12c), paralleled Todd Skinner, Paul Piana and Galen Rowell’s audacious 5.13b arete, The Great Canadian Knife, a tour de force alpine sport climb with something like 100 bolts. We managed to free our line with only one short bolted pitch. What struck me, however, as we climbed higher and higher on the monolith, was the abundance of holds marking the face to our right and left. The crack we followed allowed us to place lots of good gear, but the wall seemed to offer infinite

SINCE 1992



April 2013

possibilities for free climbing. Twenty-two years after we climbed Yukon Tears, there were still only three independent free routes up the immense Southeast Face. Jonny Copp and Josh Wharton had blitzed the Original Route in 2001, eliminating the aid from a variation called Costa Brava. Since then, aside from a 2010 four-pitch variation to the Original Route, no one had blazed a new free line up the featured granite of one of North America’s most historic big walls. In September, Mason Earle, Bronson Hovanian, Katie Lambert and Ben Ditto helicoptered into the wall. Ditto and Lambert made a one-day ascent of the Original Route. Earle, on the other hand, set his sights on a base-to-summit free climb and, with help from Hovanian and Ditto, he wove a path through the 1996 aid route the Grendel, hand drilling 22 bolts from stances and risking huge falls to produce the wall’s fourth free route, At Dawn We Ride (VI 5.12c). In his story on page 36, Earle describes the clean, featured rock that bordered the Grendel seam. His account echoes what we found in 1994—a wall ripe with possibilities for teams willing to run it out, drill from stances and blaze new trails on a remote wilderness wall.


I was just gonna browse the issue [No. 207] that dropped into my mailTHE box today, but could not D O OL LO L OMI MIT DOLOMITES stay away from reading Tuesday Night Bouldering about permadraws. Where I´m from, western Sweden, this is no big issue. But I can see it coming, so I’m concerned. Superficially, Andrew Bisharat’s case seems bulletproof. People will use project draws, the biners will sharpen and there will be accidents. But does it have to be so? Maybe by changing attitudes and improving awareness among climbers old and new, we can change the way we look at fixed gear. So far there has been only one fatality. But why should we risk even one more? Self-reliance is the heart of the sport. Bolts were a big step towards abandoning that responsibility. Fixed draws take this JOHN BACHAR






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PONDERING MORTALITY In an issue [No. 207] that features lost legends John Bachar, Walt Shipley, Guy Lacelle and Craig Luebben, I was shocked to see how risk was treated so cavalierly in Kate Rutherford’s My Favorite 5.10 and Chris Kalman’s My Epic Adventure. Climbing writing often hinges on an element of danger. However, I found this theme of risk so mistreated that I am compelled to lodge a note of concern to the editors. For Rutherford, it is the North Ridge’s wild exposure that makes it her favorite route, noting the “very loose block, the route’s R rating, and the tenuous

evolution a step further, but without the gain of new routes, just more convenience. We’ve felt this desire for convenience locally, where classic mixed lines are now under pressure from sport climbers who find it dangerous and elitist to have to place one or two cams on an otherwise bolted line. They say, “Nobody brings nuts and cams to this crag,” and, “The line would get way more traffic if it was fully bolted.” Incidentally, I interviewed the young Swedish climbing star Matilda Soderlund, who while climbing in the 5.14s and winning national comps, still had not placed more than a few quickdraws herself, ever. She found it tedious and scary. Remember, every improvement in expediency seems to invite other forms of risk-taking. Thanks for the thought-provoking writing! —John Liungman / Göteborg, Sweden

Death Slab approach, where one misstep could have ended it all.” Kalman the free soloist notes that, “With falling becoming an utterly unacceptable option, fist jams never felt so good.” Both climbers ponder their mortality at the end of their columns, but their examination of risk falls short next to the elegies. To answer the question, “Why do we climb dangerous things?” Rutherford points us towards aesthetics and quotes Rumi: “Let the beauty you do be what you love.” Yes, the aesthetics of climbing are certainly mystical, but invoking mystics does not treat the risk of climbing adequately. In the end, the answers to

why we climb dangerous things must stand up against the ultimate sacrifice, a sacrifice that many legends have paid in full. If there is one responsibility of climbing media, it is perhaps to demand deeper reflection of authors who write about dangerous and exhilarating climbing. When the risks of unprotected moves or sketchy solo down climbs become banal in the same issue featuring multiple climbing legends lost to the sport, I feel that Rock and Ice is only widening a disconnect and promoting risk.

—Adam Calo San Francisco, California

ONWARD THROUGH THE FOG Climbing media, especially the major magazines, has a huge impact on the direction of our sport. Rock and Ice has shown its commitment to owning that responsibility and for that I am extremely thankful. I couldn’t care more about this pursuit we all love, and I for one trust Rock and Ice and its staff to help guide the ship. While I am a big Verm fan, the days of polarizing, one-sided articles have given way to well-thought-out, sympathetic writing that lends real consideration to all sides of an issue—TNB, No. 207, “Perma Problem,” is a great example. That kind of writing and reporting is exactly what this rapidly growing community needs to define itself and get through the next evolution of our sport.

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April 2013




EDITORIAL Publisher/EIC: Duane Raleigh Editor: Jeff Jackson Executive Editor: Alison Osius Online Editor: Chris Parker Editorial Intern: Shelby Carpenter Editor at Large: Andrew Bisharat Senior Contributing Editors: Barry Blanchard, Geof Childs, Will Gadd, John Long, Niall Grimes, Dr. Julian Saunders, Neil Gresham, Whitney Boland, Tommy Caldwell

CREATIVE Production Manager: Quent Williams, Art Director: Randall Levensaler, Senior Photographer: David Clifford Senior Illustrator: Jeremy Collins

ADVERTISING SALES Associate Publisher: Paula Stepp, Advertising Sales Manager: Anders Nordblom, Advertising Sales Manager: Jenna Jordan, Business Manager: Mark Kittay, CPA,

CIRCULATION Circulation Manager: Jeremy Duncan, Subscription Manager: Jen Burn, Circulation Assistant/Events: Casey Weaver,

CONTRIBUTORS Tim Banfield, Christopher Beauchamp, Andrew Bisharat, Jeremy Collins, Steven Curtis, Katie Dalzell, Sam Davis, Ben Ditto, Ed Douglas, Mason Earle, Eric Eisele, Greg Epperson, Jonathan Griffith, Vaughn Harward, Jeff Jackson, Brian Johnston, Steve Graepel, Cary Jobe, Neil Gresham, Ben Herndon, Andy Houseman, Will Hummel, Matt Kuehl, Keith Ladzinski, Lauren Lindley, Andrew Mann, Luke Mehall, Chris Noble, Alison Osius, Brian Phillips, Duane Raleigh, Corey Rich, Dr. Julian Saunders, Wiktor Skupinski, Caroline Treadway, Ray Wood

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Rock and Ice is published eight times a year, with a special annual issue of Ascent. A subscription is $29.95 for eight issues. Canadian subscribers add $12.50. Foreign subscribers add $15. Ascent is $11.95, newsstand only. To order Ascent, visit www., or call 970.704.1442 x118. or email Rock and Ice depends on articles and photographs from climbers like you. Unsolicited materials and queries are welcome. If you would like to submit an article or idea for consideration, contact Editor Jeff Jackson at Unsolicited materials should accompany SASE for proper return. Photos for consideration should be e-mailed to Photos should be sent as low-resolution jpegs, no more than four at a time and a maximum submission of 24. Video submissions for online use are also welcome. Before submitting video, send query to:

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WARNING! The activities described in Rock and Ice carry a significant risk of personal injury or death. DO NOT participate in these activities unless you are an expert, have sought or obtained qualified professional instruction or guidance, are knowledgeable about the risks involved, and are willing to assume personal responsibility for all risks associated with these activities. Big Stone Publishing Ltd. MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, OF ANY KIND REGARDING THE CONTENTS OF THIS MAGAZINE, AND EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS ANY WARRANTY REGARDING THE ACCURACY OR RELIABILITY OF INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN. Big Stone Publishing Ltd. further disclaims any responsibility for injuries or death incurred by any person engaging in these activities. Use the information contained in this magazine at your own risk, and do not depend on the information contained in this magazine for personal safety or for determining whether to attempt any climb, route or activity described herein.

April 2013


[ 10 ]


Jonathan Thesenga, Orient (7b), Ala Dag Mountains, Turkey.



BILL FORREST [1939 – 2012 ]


Forrest was an avid tinkerer and one of climbing’s most gifted gear innovators. He invented cam-able nuts, leg loops for harnesses, light ice tools with sharply dropped, interchangeable picks, and several types of chocks. One of his inventions, the Copperhead, revolutionized aid climbing. Consisting of a tiny copper cylinder swaged around a small wire and placed with a hammer and chisel, these “nuts” could be pasted into seams and pockets, allowing passage up otherwise unclimbable sections of rock. Forrest stopped climbing in 1993 after a bout of dysentery, contracted while attempting Everest, nearly took his life. He got into snowshoeing, however, and in 1994 he invented the first snowshoe with steel crampons and interchangeable, modular tails. Shown here in his workshop, Forrest was an innovator till the end.

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April 2013


olorado inventor and climber Bill Forrest died of natural causes on December 21 while snowshoeing at Monarch Pass. Forrest is remembered for his many landmark first ascents, including the 2,500-foot Forrest/Walker on the Painted Wall in the Black Canyon and Uli Biaho Tower in Pakistan with Ron Kauk, John Roskelley and Kim Schmitz. He made the first solo ascent of the Diamond in 1970, an effort indicative of his commitment to style and his chutzpah. He hauled his own supplies and was completely self-contained during his four-day ascent. On that mission he established a variation to the Yellow Wall with minimal nailing, and lots of funky nutcraft. At one point he encountered an “evil crack” where he “cursed, prayed, chickened out, and finally got with it and struggled. I fought and failed. That crack took my best, but once up it, I was glad it was there; it added zest to the route.” [1971 American Alpine Journal]



story and photos by BEN HERNDON

Joe Kinder on Power Tube (5.14b) at the Cave, Riggins, Idaho.


ike Bockino was sleeping in his car at the Riggins camping area when the Sasquatch ripped open the door. Sightings of the mythic man-beast are common in this neck of the woods. Bockino screamed for his life until he realized he wasn’t being eaten or mauled … just dry-humped.


The Sasquatch was actually Brian “Ray” Raymon, a climber from Spokane, saying hi. “He gets his ideas for jokes from his job as a public defender,” Bockino says, reflecting on the traumatic incident. “Thank god for the high-loft down between us.” Riggins is a theater of eccentric and colorful personalities, and a backwater Northwestern sport-climbing destination known for its rather controversial routes. Three and a half hours north of Boise, Idaho, and hidden within the sub-alpine forests of the Seven Devil Mountains, the Riggins crag is eight miles from the sleepy river town of the same name. Perhaps its remote location allowed Riggins to quietly become one of the more heavily manufactured areas in America. Riggins rock, a type of limestone called accreted terrane, is fine, pale and steep. There are over 100 routes, ranging from 5.8 to 5.14, on two walls: the overhanging Amphitheater (aka the Cave) and the more moderate Projects Wall just up the road. The rock here once comprised a reef out in the Pacific Ocean, which eventually moved along the Pacific Plate and collided with North America. Now situated at 5,000 feet, the area is the go-to sport crag for southern Idaho in the summer.

In the early 1990s, frustrated with the 100+ degree seasonal temps in Boise, a motivated group of climbers, led by local Jeff Landers, scoured the city’s surrounding hills, hoping to find something steep and shady. “You couldn’t just look on Google Earth like you young guys do now for boulder fields,” Landers explains. “We got a tip from a caver at IMT [Idaho Mountain Touring, a gear shop] in Boise and had to hike all over the place looking for this. I even took a geology class at BSU [Boise State University] to learn more about it.” Bushwhacking up a drainage in the spring of 1991 Landers came upon this overhanging amphitheater of virgin stone. Development continued all year, with Landers, Mark Edmundson, Tedd Thompson and Matt Fritz contributing most. Now, 20 years later, the locals have installed some 30 routes in the Cave, and 70 more at the upper Projects. From warm-ups

April 2013


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Climbing Conservation


like Shiver Me Timbers (5.11a) to testpieces like The Maddening (5.14b)—one of the few natural routes in the cave—there is a quality climb at practically every grade from 5.11 to 5.14. A vast majority of the routes, however, have drilled or manufactured holds of some sort. “They simply employed new tactics to the steep, blank walls of the amphitheater,” Bockino said. “And to [the developers’] credit, they maximized the amount of climbing that could be done in that cave. Without chipping, there would be three, maybe four routes there and they would all be 5.14+, if possible at all.” Landers is of the opinion that the cave would be unclimbable without drilling. “There are long stretches in that cave with literally no holds

at all,” he says. “Sometimes there would be a sloper or small crimp, but on a 60-degree overhang, a sloper or small crimp just doesn’t cut it. So we drilled some, and enhanced as many of the natural features as we could.” During the 1980s and 1990s, in areas like Buoux, the Verdon, the Frankenjura, Smith, Mount Potosi and Mount Charleston, routes were being developed in a similar fashion. “We came back from Europe seeing that people there were making climbs where there were none,” Thompson says. “People wanted routes to climb, and we didn’t have the luxury of being on an endless road trip. We had a tiny cave in central Idaho with little to no features.” Landers and other early developers of Riggins have taken some flack from climbers over the years, but he responds to criticism with: “I found it and I can do whatever I want.” “I won’t condemn [chipping],” Left: Joe Kinder lowers Colette McInerney off the anchors on Tractor Girl (5.13a) at the Cave. Below: Mike Bockino climbs Tractor Boy (5.13c). Opposite page: Adam Bradley and Bockino at The Amphitheater.

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[ 14 ]


April 2013


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says Bockino, who manages the Boise Front Climbing Club. “The amount of hours that it takes to hang in a harness and drill all the holds on an 80-foot overhanging route is mind-boggling. Do I wish that some of the routes in some places weren’t chipped? Yes, but I also get pretty angry when people simply pass judgment on the area because on you have to check the ‘poorly/mainly chipped’ box. I think for some cases there should be an ‘amazing/wellthought-out chipped’ box.” Today you’ll see an interesting, perhaps hard-to-reconcile situation where climbers travel to Riggins from Boise and as far north as Washington to enjoy the challenges presented by the steep, physical climbing. If pressed, most of these people are unenthusiastic about the chipped holds. But they still

climb here because these routes are consistently fun and challenging in the 5.13 grade. It begs the question: Does the end result of having an accessible climbing area that many people enjoy justify the means? The locals maintain that it does. “If chipping in the cave had never happened, none of the natural routes would exist,” Bockino says. “It would be one 5.14b in a cave with no warm up.” Riggins still occasionally draws criticism and isolated boycotting, often by climbers who either aren’t physically able to climb there or are traveling athletes able to frequent prime destinations. But the underlying vibe among the dedicated Riggins locals isn’t centered on tension or ethics. It’s about community, getting strong and sharing a round of PBRs in the afternoon.

April 2013


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Photos Robert Bösch

“I get pretty angry when people pass judgment because on you can check a ‘poorly/mainly chipped’ box. I think there should be an ‘amazing/well-thought-out chipped’ box.”




VANESSA COMPTON—A GYPSY EXISTENCE ight or nine years ago, Vanessa Compton tried the first two moves on Loaded With Power (V10), at North Mountain, Hueco Tanks. “It was totally 100 percent beyond my capabilities,” she says. “But I was intrigued.” Each year since, she would “march” back to those dozen moves on overhanging, widely spaced sidepulls and crimps.


“Basically every year I got one move farther, and got to the top of it.” That was in February of last year. “All the days of trying and trying, and falling and falling—it was so worth it.” The problem was a recent high point in a life of separate elements that conflate into a balanced whole. Compton, 31, grew up in Vermont. Her father, John Parker Compton, a Columbia recording artist and folk-rock singer-songwriter, is part of a band called

Appaloosa; and her mother, Josee Bissonnette-Compton, is a painter and illustrator. “The arts world was always our norm. We had two different cultures: My mom is Quebeçois, blue collar; my dad is a crazy musician with super-long wild hair.” She adds, laughing, “Lots of drugs and lots of rock and roll.” She likes to think she got “the common sense of my mother paired with the artistic wildness of my father.”

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April 2013


[ GREATEST HITS ] Loaded With Power (V10), Hueco Tanks, Texas. Injury Man (V6 highball), Hueco. Burden of the Beast (V10), Hueco. Taxing the Pipe (V9), Hueco. Worst Crimps at Groom (V8), Groom Creek, Arizona. Tommy’s Arete (V7), Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Last Day in Paradise (V9), Rocklands, South Africa. To Die For (V5), Hueco Tanks–second ascent of tall Jason Kehl line. The Fin (V3 highball), Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont.

Compton and Frogger (V9), Hueco.

Compton is an artist in collage, ceramic sculpture and tiles (see, who cites landscapes, dream imagery and childhood recollection as inspirations. She is also a musician who has done backup vocals for over half a dozen artists, and once spent a semester in Senegal studying the kora, a 21-string bridge-harp. Four years ago Compton left a job as an art teacher in Boulder to embark upon a gypsy existence divided, she says, into “trimesters.” She and her partner, who prefers anonymity, live in a camper in Hueco Tanks each winter, and

spend shoulder seasons in a van climbing in Prescott, Arizona. From April to November she is mostly alone in the “non-winterized” family home in Greensboro, Vermont, population 200. “My grandfather was an architect and built a house there in 1953. My grandmother was an artist so when she passed away I took over her studio. She was also a collage artist so it’s a nice legacy. The town sells art in the summer and I really focus on my large mixed-media collages there, and then when I’m in Hueco my work is much smaller.”

Photo ©Kyle Dempster






[ Q&A ]

Can you give us an image from your childhood? Everybody had things they did with their parents when they were young. With my dad, it was going to concerts. My first crazy concert was Bob Dylan at age 12. I’ve seen Dylan more times than I can remember. I remember thinking, So this is what people can choose to do when they’re grown up. You’ve done routes, but are you now solely bouldering? Yes, it’s not forever, but while my body can take it. Just being able to push myself at my physical limit, which bouldering demands, is working perfectly right now. I like not being encumbered by gear. Do you climb entirely outside? For the past four years,

yes. I found that I’ve been able to stay injury-free as opposed to when I was training indoors three or four days a week. I also don’t push myself 100 percent of the time, 365 days a year. I’ve found that the people who stay strongest and are the most motivated are the ones who kind of ebb and flow with their psych. They recognize the necessary aspect of resting, and being really purposeful when you climb. You have to feed yourself in other ways and for me that’s visual arts. About half the year I’m really focusing on climbing. The other half, I’m pushing myself in art. That house in Vermont must be pretty cold in April and November. Vermonters pride themselves on independence. We have a wood stove and it’s nice when you get snowed in and everything’s quiet and no one comes around. I prefer bad weather for being creative. I call myself a caretaker there. I’m rooted.

April 2013

My partner visits on and off but I need solitude to be creative. When people come around I’m easily distracted. Last summer my brother lived there. He’s a pro freestyle skier, coaches at Okemo and Killington. Are your parents athletes? Artists and musicians— there are no athletes in the family! But [ours] are sort of outsider sports anyway. What made you change your life? I thought about it for a long time, and made a conscious decision to do exactly what I wanted. I saw a film once where Steph Davis said that with every decision, she asked, was it going to make her feel more free or less free. That reverberated in me. I embraced … being able to move around, and to live in a couple places and to make it sustainable. It’s OK that I live in a van a lot of the time. I feel like the richest person in the world, to live in these incredible landscapes. RI


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Snow ranger Jeff Lane on top of North Gully (NEI 3) in Huntington Ravine. Central Gully lies in the cleft in the background.









n Thursday, January 17, a group of 12 set out to climb Mount Washington via Central Gully, a 1,000-foot grade 2 snow and ice line in Huntington Ravine. Keith Zeier, a retired U.S. Marine who lost his left leg in an IED attack in 2006, was climbing the mountain to raise money for injured soldiers and their families. He was with Andy Politz, a 53-year-old Ohio-based mountain guide. The party included nine other climbers as well as filmmaker Thom Pollard, who was making a documentary about Zeier. The group started at 8:30 a.m. It took four hours to reach the base of the route, which they began climbing at 12:30 p.m. They split into four separate rope teams of three, with Zeier, Politz and Politz’s son J.P. on the lead rope team, and over the next four hours they worked up the gully. A little before 4:30 p.m., as Pollard’s team approached the lip of the ravine, they set off a slab avalanche

that swept down the gully and over the other three teams. One team was able to selfarrest. Another team stopped when their rope caught on a rock horn. Only Zeier, Politz and J.P. fell the length of the gully. Andy Politz suffered a compound fracture of his lower left leg, J.P. sprained his ankle and Zeier injured his back and shoulder. All have been released from the hospital.



>IN HINDSIGHT IT SEEMS OBVIOUS THAT THE GROUP WAS TOO SLOW, TOO BIG AND HAD TOO MANY INEXPERIENCED CLIMBERS for the level of risk involved. The climbers were there for a range of reasons—to climb the gully, to support Zeier, to make a film, etc.— that may have clouded individual judgment. The U.S. Forest Service had issued an avalanche advisory that specifically warned that climbers would “probably find some slopes on the upper end of the moderate rating in several locales in the Huntington gullies,” singling out Central Gully. The group discussed snow conditions with a ranger prior to leaving the cabin that morning, according to lead snow ranger Chris Joosen, but “in the end they had an itinerary they wanted to follow.” Smaller, faster, more experienced groups likely could have been up and off before the danger increased. This group, however, was big and slow, and had members with limited experience in the mountains. “This could have easily turned into nine people cartwheeling into the talus,” Joosen said.

>SIMILAR ACCIDENTS HAVE OCCURRED WITH ALARMING REGULARITY in the Huntington gullies, including a slide that injured a climber in Pinnacle Gully in 2011 [Accident Report, No. 196]. These east-facing gullies are often dangerously loaded by storms. In this case, with overnight snowfall of 4 to 5 inches and 50 mph winds, the convexity at the rollover high on Central Gully was ripe for a human-triggered slide late in the day. Err on the side of caution and avoid climbing on slopes that present classic avalanche signs such as recent snowfall, wind-loading, shooting cracks, rain crust, etc. Take an avalanche-safety course, dig pits to examine snow layers, bring beacons, carry probes and shovels and practice using them. If any signs point toward avalanche hazard, choose another objective or go home.

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April 2013





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CRAPPED OUT ON THE ROSTRUM A TALE OF TERRIBLE WASTE months of laps at Turkey Tail had warped me into N ine a crack-climbing machine, and I arrived in the Valley

primed and hungry. I’d do the Rostrum, Astroman and the Crucifix (5.11c, 5.11c and 5.12b) in that order. But what the hell? My partner for the Rostrum was suddenly going to be two days late, and I’d planned my trip to the hour. Irritated, I raced out to rope solo a route on the Folly. On the way I was hailed by Esteban, an easygoing Spaniard who’d also prepped for the Valley at Turkey Tail, near my home in Colorado Springs. Esteban turned down my Rostrum invitation, but said, “My buddy Manuel is here to do it.”

I returned to Camp 4 looking for Spaniards, and quite soon noticed a few guys with dreadlocks and vari-colored hair attempting to uproot a small tree. Somewhere between my abhorrence of destruction and distaste for the 15 “No’s” posted at the campground kiosk, I managed a, “Hey, what’s with the tree?” “Firewood,” one said. Got an Epic Story to tell? Rock These characters were part of the Camp and Ice is accepting gripping 4 Spanish encampment and, upon learning stories from climbers like I knew Esteban, one said, “You American! you. Articles may be up to 1,200 words . Send to: aosius@ Come over for dinner. We are good cooks and have plenty.”

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I followed them, preoccupied with my Rostrum mission. Manuel was easily found, sitting and sulking. He answered my query with, “Si, quiero escalar el Rostrum mañana, pero malo, malo”—pointing at his belly. He’d eaten bad food and wasn’t quite sure of his viability. Another Spaniard told me, “Chill you Anglo heels. Sit down, eat.” The Spaniards made their meals with a donation from each who partook. Mine was beans, added into their crusty pot, and soon Manuel and I sat with a bottle of wine over this slightly suspect communal dinner. His English was about as good as my Spanish, so we used rudimentary phrases and pantomime. I kept venturing questions, still not even sure he climbed cracks. Eventually, Esteban interjected, “Yeah, Manuel can make the Rostrum.” Enough for me! By 11 p.m., Manuel, still queasy, called it an early night and told me to come mañana. The Spaniards were fun and wild, happily breaking rules. The odd hairstyles and colors were part preference, part subterfuge; meant to confuse the rangers about who was staying beyond the two-week limit in Camp 4. The large orange polka dots adorning Esteban’s dark hair looked as if they’d been made from household bleach applied with a martini glass. He insisted this disguise would make him less recognizable. I accepted the odd logic. One week you see a guy with polka-dot hair, and the next week a guy with a shaved head shows up. Who would connect the two? All through my visit the Spaniards were largely left alone to burn trees, play guitar until 2 a.m. and enjoy what became a two-month stay. I think that the leniency on the part of the rangers was for two reasons: First, the Spaniards looked rough, as if they’d spent the past two years

• illustration by KATIE DALZELL

in the penitentiary weight room. Rangers were probably somewhat fearful of them. Beyond that, they were probably just tolerated as international novelties, adding to the funny weirdness of Camp 4. Next morning I was up before dawn, and by 8 a.m. noticed a Spaniard or two moving around their site. I wandered over with a pot of coffee to make myself useful; I also hoped to prod Manuel. His tent was zipped tight, a gentle snore emanating from inside. I sat behind his tent, sipped coffee, and angrily watched the weather deteriorate. Suddenly, at 10 a.m., Manuel burst from his tent and announced that he was “listo” for the Rostrum. Fantastic! From that moment I paid zero attention to anything except climbing. We raced in my car to the pullout and ran down the gully to the rappels. After the second rappel, Manuel decided he couldn’t wait for the rope, and started down soloing what appeared to be a moderate slab. “Manuel, that’s 11b down there,” I yelled, but he didn’t understand my English. A few minutes later he whimpered, and I tossed him the rope. Any rational climber would have taken a harder look at Manuel. Soon I was living my dream of leading the Rostrum. After a pitch or two, Manuel announced he was not fit to lead, but would happily follow me up. Perfect! We arrived at the crux fifth pitch by noon. The belay for the pitch is on a large flat ledge, where climbers can also escape the top four pitches with a 5.6 traverse right. I cruised the crux to a hand jam but up higher missed a hold, and wobbled through the last 15 feet of 5.10+ fingers, pumping out and dynoing the exit moves. I’d run out this last part; the wall was very steep, and surely a reasonable belay would keep me safe. Reaching the anchor in relief and euphoria, I suddenly noticed a party below us, scream-


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ing. I also suddenly noticed it was raining hard. This part of the Rostrum is under a large overhang and stays dry. I quickly surmised that the party below was simply alerting us to the rain, and letting us know that we could escape off right. “Don’t worry about us,” I yelled, waving. “I see the rain but really want to finish the climb. Thanks!” The rest of the route went well until the final 5.9 offwidth, when I had no large gear. Shimmying up and down wet rock, looking at a fatal fall, I spoke with God, and eventually reinvented the knee bar. On top awaited a few of my life’s better moments. I’d completed my first hard Yosemite

to climb the Rostrum again the next morning. At the end of the second pitch we found the rock splattered with fecal bombs. “Look, Matt,” I said with the air of a police detective. “No way Manuel could have done it. How could anything reach this area from that fourth-pitch ledge over there?” “Well, I don’t know,” said Matt. “Look at the vectors,” I said. “Poo falls downward and it would need to fall outward from the ledge to land here. Someone did it from the top.” “Well, maybe,” said Matt. This was all in June, 16 years ago. The rest of my trip was great and I forgot all about the incident.

Reaching the anchor in relief and euphoria, I suddenly noticed a party below us, screaming.


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route in great form, and met another good climber. However, my delight was cut short by two angry climbers sporting soiled clothes and a foul smell. “You shit on us!” yelled one, poking his finger in my chest. “No, I didn’t,” I said, giving the chest behind the finger a good whack. “Well, your partner shit on us, then!” “No, he didn’t, he couldn’t have. It must have been someone on top,” I yelled, shoving harder. The exchange was spiraling into a fistfight. I only half-noticed that Manuel was silently backing into the manzanita. However, I had no time to think because I heard a third voice. “You stupid climbers, shut up and go back to your cars. You’re disturbing us.” Behind us, unnoticed, glared a father with two small daughters. Shocked, we all apologized, and parted chastened. That evening my partner Matt finally showed and we decided

Months later and back at home in Colorado Springs, I ran into Esteban again at Turkey Tail, and yet again in the Black Canyon. We shared a few beers, and one day I gave him a ride when his car broke down between the North Rim of the canyon and the town of Crawford. My weekly routine normally included two days at Turkey Tail. One day I climbed with a friend of a friend, swapping stories, laughing. She said, “You know, I met this Spaniard here a few months ago. I think his hair was orange. He told me the oddest story. “A friend of his was climbing the Rostrum with some guy, and was sick and had to let it out, and took the stranger off belay at the crux. The poor sucker never even knew it.” [ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ] Steve Curtis is a retired colonel living in Petaluma, California, and has climbed for 35 years. He currently has a dream job teaching three days a week at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco.

James Pearson on an 8c+ project, Project Wall, Kalymnos, Greece. Ph. Dave Simmonite.

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April 2013

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by LUKE MEHALL In the Black Canyon 5.10 is usually a real adventure.

communication. When something unplanned happens, it gets even more terrifying. “A rope, a rack and the shirt on your back” is a Black-Canyon mantra attributed to Jimmie Dunn and Earl Wiggins, who established many classic lines in the area in the 1970s. Dunn and Wiggins made the first free ascent of The Cruise in 1976. Today’s true Black Canyon aficionado stays true to the spirit of the early pioneers, and tries to climb the routes in long, satisfying single-day pushes. But this maxim also encourages some climbers, like us, to get in over their heads. Climbing a route in the Black Canyon demands proper preparation. Dave and I broke that rule to start, slacking off the evening before the climb by watching the World Series, drinking Red Bulls, and then driving to the Black late

where the Scenic Cruise joins The Cruise, a 5.10+ overhanging finger and hand crack that would be a classic pitch anywhere. It was my lead again, I was fully dehydrated, and my arms were still pumped from the offwidth. Although I’d led a hundred or so pitches of 5.10 elsewhere, I simply couldn’t do this one. I hung on a piece, lowered and sent Dave up. Dave was spent and he hung, too, but eventually arrived at the belay. The short October day was getting away from us. On my lead, I got off route before figuring out where to go. It was now getting dark. At sunset we made it to a small ledge, and weighed our options. Since there were no fixed anchors and we only had one 60-meter rope, bailing would take several hours and half our rack. We spent a cold, sleepless night on that ledge, shivering with the



.10 doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. In fact, some climbers might tick one off early in their climbing careers. A gym climber might even get up one the very first day. However, certain routes out there make you realize that mastering this grade takes dedication. The Cruise in the Black Canyon is one of those routes. Dave Marcinowski and I were college buddies, going to Western State in Gunnison, Colorado, and we chose The Cruise as our first Grade V. We wanted something proud, and this Layton Kor line, with its nearly 200-foot 5.10 offwidth followed by two more 5.10+ pitches, screamed proud. Several of our friends had climbed the Scenic Cruise, a more reasonable and popular variation that skirts the offwidth. We chose The Cruise to see if we had mastered the 5.10 grade. The Black Canyon is always an intimidating place to climb. The rock can be suspect, runouts are common, and the low roar of the river often impedes

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into the night, dodging wildlife on Highway 92. In the morning we stumbled down the Cruise Gully, already dehydrated, trying to avoid the poison ivy that guards the approach. We simul-climbed the 5.8 start, then I entered the offwidth. The water bladder, foolishly still on my back, spilled out on my feet. I must have spent two hours struggling up that offwidth, and felt like puking when I arrived at the belay. Dave stemmed delicately through the crux 5.10+ corner, which takes hard-to-place tiny nuts and small cams. The pitch finishes when you punch through the runout 5.9 face moves on pink pegmatite with no protection but an old Star Drive bolt Kor himself must have placed over 40 years ago. We reached the belay ledge

ropes wrapped around us. We’d failed miserably, but managed not to get upset with each other. When morning finally came, we climbed the remaining 700 feet without food or water. I love climbing, and though I realize I’ll never reach an elite level, that day on The Cruise motivated me to at least always be able to climb 5.10. I took a few steps back and climbed some routes I should have before attempting The Cruise, such as Journey Home (5.10) and the Scenic Cruise (5.10+). I climbed all the 5.10s and 5.11s I could find at my local crags in Gunnison, and traveled the country, dirtbagging and dedicating myself to climbing 5.10 trad. I spent a season in Joshua Tree, climbed classic long routes in Red Rocks, Zion and Yosemite, did countless


Certain climbs make you realize that mastering 5.10 takes dedication. The Cruise in the Black Canyon is one of those routes.

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splitters in Indian Creek. A decade later I made it back to The Cruise with my friend Dave Ahrens. We stayed in the campground, got a good nightâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sleep, and descended the Cruise Gully by headlamp. Pitch by pitch the route went smoothly. I led the offwidth and still got a little scared when we were forced to simul-climb because our belay was not high enough, but that overwhelming fear from 10 years earlier never returned. I also led the crux corner, wiggling in the tiny wires, and getting cams when I could. When we arrived at the small ledge where Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d bivied a decade ago, it was barely afternoon. After 10 plus years of paying dues, I got the sense that I could ďŹ nally call myself a solid 5.10 climber. And this time, we cruised on. [ ABOUT THE CLIMBER ] Luke Mehall, 34, is the author of Climbing Out of Bed, and the publisher of The Climbing Zine. He lives in Durango, Colorado, where he is at work on his second book, The Great American Dirtbag.

[ BLACK CANYON > BETA ] [ GETTING THERE ] The Cruise is on the North Rim of the Black Canyon. Turn off 92 just south of Crawford, following signs to the Black Canyon. This road is closed in winter and typically opens in late March to mid April. At the campground entrance, sign a wilderness permit, and register on the sign-in board.

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by NIALL GRIMES What does a Czech whorehouse look like? A large outhouse of a Texan filling station, in case you’re wondering. And there below was a little ferry we were to take to the climbing area, as The Kursk had described. A small craft, large enough for one car, awaited us. It was guided by a rope anchored to the far shore, and beyond stretched tree-lined valleys from which rock peeked out. It looked so pretty. Climbing was close. Gaily we drove down the ramp to the ferry and beckoned the ferryman, a blond chap in a powder-blue boiler suit. “Dolni Zleb, driver,” we said




t needn’t have gone how it did. The Spider was pressing me to go to Spain. What could be better than a week’s sport climbing in Catalunya, in the sun, with bolts and pretty Spanish girls? Quality food, rumors of soft grades. “I think it would be better if we went to the Czech Republic.” He looked at me. I might as well have ordered blowfish in McDonald’s. The Czech Republic was renowned as one of those last bastions of traditionalism, from which you hear stories of enormous runouts, falls and death tolls. It conjured up thoughts of the Iron Curtain and moist summers. When Czech climbers came to our local area, they wore carped slippers to solo the hardest routes. The person who had raved about the Czech Republic some years earlier, who had put it in my mind, was now dead. Another climber who had been there nearly laughed his head off at my notion. It was, in every sense that I could imagine, the opposite of a trip to Spain. Why couldn’t I just admit I’d prefer to go to Spain? To my disappointment, The Spider agreed to the plan. Information was hard to come by, what with my friend being dead and all that. Eventually I found some hints on an internet forum, posted by someone calling himself The Kursk. I read the words: “Drive north out of Decín along the river until you see a whorehouse called the Rio Relax,” and in the funny way of life, a few weeks later The Spider and I found ourselves driving north out of Decín looking for a whorehouse called the Rio Relax.

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April 2013

lllustration by JEREMY COLLINS those jobs obviously compiled at home by someone with an average memory and no photos to go on, and the world above us resembled it only slightly, if at all. Still, lots of climbers were there, and the routes looked great: steep pocketed sandstone, leaning walls and bulbous aretes. We spied some lines, attempted to identify them, and decided instead to go sort out food and accommodation. The tavern where we had parked was now four deep with climbers whose fashion chic was heavily influenced by the book Yosemite Climber and by Nebraskan heavy-metal bands circa 1989. The atmosphere was

“I think it would be better if we went to the Czech Republic.” He looked at me. I may as well have ordered blowfish in McDonald’s. as we drove on board. Without looking at us he pulled a lever and the vessel clunked away from the bank. “Beautiful place,” we shouted, hoping to overcome barriers. Silently, still without eye contact or acknowledgement of any sort, the captain motored his ship onward. We tried again, taking a different tack: “She’s a beautiful craft.” Stony silence. But by now the short journey was over and we were on the far bank. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a litter of notes. I had no idea what their value was—on a short holiday there seems little to be gained from understanding local currencies—so I offered the fistful his way. He plucked a beige one and a viridian one within the medium of dead silence. “Bye bye,” we saluted as we drove off, our excitement undaunted. A short drive led to a crowded parking area near a tavern. We sprang out. By now it was probably too late in the day to climb, so we opted for a recon walk along the cliffs. The area guidebook was one of

jolly and the beer flowed by the stein-full. I decided to join a table and asked, enunciating clearly, whether I could sit beside one of the climbers. He glanced up, then away again. “Yes,” he said to his beer. Never in my life have I heard Yes sound more like No. I sat down just to spite him. The Spider sat opposite me, and it wasn’t long before a barman came and demanded whether we’d like some beer. Of course we would, and pretty soon we were happy. Despite the language barrier, we ordered food, a delicious gravy-covered meat feast. We drank on, and got into the odd short conversation with a local or two. As night began to fall, half the climbers drove away while the other half rolled out sleeping mats and nylon bags under a roofed-off area in front of the pub. We joined them and bade each other night-night. Next day we arose bright and late and, after coffee, went to the cliff, a 10-minute stroll through prime central-European forest. Last night’s bedfellows were there and we tossed out a good few hellos, although gathered few in

LINES OF WEAKNESS return. We oriented ourselves and set off on the warm-ups. I love sandstone: It might be my favorite rock. And it’s the greatest international rock, as no other is so widespread. Almost every climbing region has a good sandstone crag, so if you climb on sandstone in your own country, you can probably climb on foreign sandstone. It’s world currency. It’s gold. I love to sample its different flavors. Here, at Dolni Zleb, the rock was rounded and loomed darkly with turrets and shadowy keeps, like a vampire’s castle. The routes battled directly up obvious lines and looked pumpy and wild. Every now and again ledges appeared, but they were undercut and overhung and offered little sanctuary. We did an arete and a chimney. They were supposed to be moderate, but felt involved enough. They were bolted, but not overly so, and the steepness added to the exposure. Still, we were enjoying it. It was The Spider’s turn to lead and he was eager when I had to excuse myself to do my business. As I returned, a tall youth with tight curly hair stepped out in front of me. “Where are you from?” “Ireland.” “Do you like it here?” “Yes, just got here.” “Have you been to Petrohrad?” “No. Good?” “Very beautiful, you must go.” We chatted on and he enthused about other areas to which I must go. He was nice. Feeling the Spider’s impatience, though, I thought I’d better move on. “Anyway…” I finally said in valediction. “Do you know Adrspach?” “Should I go?” “You must go!” I repeated “Anyway” a few more times before I politely got away and joined my leader, ready to get on the job. But as we prepared ourselves, I heard a scream and turned around to see Anyway quite a long way up the route for such a short space of time, and letting go. He fell, straight-legged like a

[ 30 ]


soldier doll, plunging toward the ground. The belayer had little time to act. Anyway hit the ground feet first at what looked like terminal velocity, but miraculously transferred the downward force into a light couple of steps at the exact moment of impact, and stood and gave me a casual wave. The belayer must have done just enough but the effect was drastic. Anyway stepped toward me like the walking dead and I heard him say: “Have you visited Moravia yet?” An hour later I saw another climber, dressed like a long-distance lorry driver, fall 11 feet onto his side; heard the air crushed from his lungs. But within a minute he was propped against a tree in belaying duty, like a dead soldier being used to give a false impression of numbers. Was this the score? Did people just crater here all the time, with the same impunity with which we might say, “Take”? That evening, as we walked down through the trees, I admitted to The Spider that the place had given me the willies. The gradecomparison table had underprepared us for the difficulties, and despite the bolts I had the impression I was always in danger. Upon reaching the tavern, we found that all the climbers had gone home. The place appeared closed. We sat on a bench outside. Suddenly the barman’s head appeared at a window, a wooden shutter in each hand. We looked at him. His face was red. “Two beers?” “Two beers, yes.” And so began a relationship that lasted the length of our stay in Dolni Zleb. We slept that night again in the barman’s wooden shelter. In the morning we made breakfast on an MSR and sat on his benches eating it. It was expected he would tell us to leave but we had no idea of where else to go. Surprisingly, given the fact that he wasn’t especially welcoming in any other way, he didn’t. We climbed on the deserted crags, inching our way up the

April 2013

Foto: Stefan Schlumpf

LINES OF WEAKNESS scale. The routes were great but I never relaxed, and climbed tentatively. All the time I was haunted by the visions of Anyway’s and the lorry driver’s plummets. The quiet, dense woods—think wolves and trolls—made me uneasy. Climbing successes were thin. Each evening it was back to the empty tavern and the unsmiling service of the barman. He was a short round man who wore silver spectacles and a T-shirt with a picture of his bar on it. It never felt appropriate to ask his name, but his dog, a small ornate cur, was called Mimi. It would spend up to 20 minutes at a time yapping angrily at us until eventually the barman or his wife would appear and shout, “Mimi,” while giving us

twice to pull up the rope to clip. Twice I failed, the second time catastrophically. I sailed through the air and saw the ground rush at me. Just as I feared for my ankles, the rope came taut. With surprisingly little force, The Spider having been pulled into the air, my feet hit the ground. I found myself daintily running along the leaf-strewn ground and came to a stop staring at The Spider. “Anyway?” I asked. I never got up the route but buzzed massively that night and still the next day. I’d finally gotten what I’d been fearing all week. Next day we paid the barman many colored bits of paper for all the food and beers we’d consumed. It didn’t seem like much money. We

I was haunted by the visions of Anyway’s and the lorry driver's plummets. The quiet, dense woods— think wolves and trolls—made me uneasy. a look that told us it was our fault. On the second evening I found Mimi rustling around our shopping bags. “Oy!” I called, and it glanced up and ran off. When I looked in the bags, all our meat was gone, wrappers and all. Thanks to this, we ate at the tavern every night. Any journey involved taking the little ferry across to the Rio Relax side of the river. These trips were often accompanied by further attempts to get some chat out of the ferryman in the powder-blue boiler suit. He barely made eye contact and expressed himself only by taking currency from me. Small variations on these events made up the days of our week there. On the second-to-last day I was trying to redpoint a route graded, I think, a 7. I’m sorry, but one numeral simply isn’t enough to make a grade, especially one you’re struggling on. America knows this, which is why you have 5 in front of the grades. This is as superfluous as an appendix or a tonsil, but does elevate the number to a weightier level. At the fourth bolt I attempted

started packing and, untrue to form, he seemed to be in a great mood with us. He actually took our photo and made funny gestures. He spoke some English and told us he had something to show us. From the back he produced a military telescope: a big heavy thing on a tripod, the sort of thing you could look out from a trench with and not get shot. It was very powerful, and through it we could see climbers in the far distance. “Russian,” he said. “Worth a lot of money.” By the time we drove off, I had the impression that we had become part of the barman’s life, if only for a week. Come again, he told us. We drove down to the ferry. The ferryman was silent again but at the far bank said, “You are going home today. Goodbye.” We shook hands and he gave us a big smile. [ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ]

Niall Grimes has never taken part in any sport other than climbing although he fancies getting into motor racing and bullfighting sometime.

April 2013


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WHAT I’VE LEARNED went to the gym at least twice a week. Youth competitions were an integral part of my experience. When I wasn’t at the gym training for comps, I was at home having pull-up battles on the hangboard with my dad, or trying to beat my personal record of laps across our home wall in the garage. Sometimes I’d stay on the wall for 30 minutes, wearing bike gloves to save my skin from jug-rash. I did so many laps that the gloves became tattered. I regret throwing those gloves away. It seemed like every youth competition was the most important thing ever. I would put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself. Now I know that there will always be another competition or another boulder problem, and neither is going to make or break my life. I vividly remember one night at the bouldering gym. I was flailing

time to see the Northern Lights. As much as I relish those moments, I have learned to enjoy the less-thanperfect times too. That’s one reason I love projecting hard boulders. You fall and fall and fall, and then for a brief moment, you don’t. That fleeting contentment would not exist without all of that falling. For the past seven years, I’ve worked at a small animal clinic. One of my coworkers is an 86-year-old man named Ray who still puts in 16+ hours a week. He has had multiple medical scares that we thought would lead to his retirement, but he refuses to stop working. Ray has taught me the power of having purpose. After 13 years of climbing, my luck ran out and I sustained my first real injury when I took an unfortunate fall in the gym and wrecked my ankle. It forced me to take eight months off—the first real break I had taken since age

The crossroad of pain, full effort, failure and community epitomizes everything I love about bouldering.



he moment before I take a sip of my morning coffee is just as good, if not better, than the first sip itself.

When I was a kid, I was the only girl on the local peewee football team. One of my favorite parts of the experience was at the end of the game when we shook hands with the cheerleaders. They, in their skirts, didn’t know what to make of me, in my shoulder pads. Now I still enjoy surprising people in a similar way, perhaps with a handshake that is a little firmer than they would expect out of me. I only vaguely remember what life was like before age 11, when I found climbing. Members of the Ohio climbing community were diverse in terms of age and background, but all shared a self-deprecating manner. I was taught to value humility and authenticity. I learned that a job done well speaks for itself. I often struggle to find the balance between fulfilling my duties as a pro climber and being true to my Midwestern roots. I’m a competitor through and through. My dad was my first climbing partner and we

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To read more about interesting people, go to

Singing in a choir was a huge part of my adolescent years. That ringing feeling in my chest when the harmonies all clicked—it’s a lot like the feeling I get climbing, when I find my perfect flow. I have experienced utter contentment a few times in my life. One was lying on the shore of Lake Powell during my first road trip out West. Another was waking up under the stars in Greenland just in

11. When I came back, my movement was more purposeful and I had a whole new appreciation. I was pitifully weak, but I have never been happier to climb. In 2010 I climbed a V13 called The Automator. I’d like to think that was the culmination of 15 years of experience, but I think a lot of it came down to luck. It could have easily turned into a long, drawnout affair, but everything clicked on the seventh day and it was done. I returned to the same area and began trying Freaks of the Industry, another V13. It felt good and I figured I’d finish it up the next season. More than 40 days and two full seasons later, I have yet to climb it. I rarely paint my fingernails, but when I do, I feel like I can crimp harder. RI



on a problem with some gigantic sloper, tearing up my forearm skin as I grappled with it. Everyone was laughing and heckling and I was trying my heart out. I don’t remember how it ended, but I carry this memory with me to this day because that crossroad of pain, full effort, failure and community epitomizes everything I love about bouldering.


Andy Hansen and Steep Thrills (5.12a), Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. PHOTO BY MATT KUEHL Ann Raber gets her chops on Guillotine Direct (5.11a), Mayhem Cove, South Lake Tahoe, California. PHOTO BY LAUREN LINDLEY

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Jesse Ericksen speaks to Seven Spanish Angels (V6), Buttermilks, Bishop, California. PHOTO BY VAUGHN HARWARD

Mike Stuart on Twisted Sister, “book grade” of 5.7 R WI 4, but it was mostly ice this year, Canmore, Alberta. PHOTO BY TIM BANFIELD

[ ENTER THE 6th ANNUAL ROCK AND ICE/MAMMUT PHOTO CONTEST ] >SEND YOUR PHOTOS TO ROCK AND ICE! If they get published you are automatically entered in the 2013 Photo Contest, with a shot at sweet prizes from Mammut. >TO PARTICIPATE, e-mail low-resolution 72-dpi jpegs (no more than six at a time, please) to: photos@bigstonepub. com. 2013 winners will be announced in the magazine and online on October 15, 2013. No purchase necessary.

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The Southeast Face of Proboscis. Enough rock to cover 100 football fields.

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Bronson Hovnanian and Mason Earle make the short approach from camp to the start of the business. RIGHT: The author wraps up another day. INSET: The summit register records the second ascent (1963), and the first of the Southeast Face, by Layton Kor, Royal Robbins, James McCarthy and Dick McCracken.

ARNOLD WEXLER, who in 1955 was the first climber to set eyes on the area, was so awed by the sheer monolithic walls that he dubbed them “Unclimbable.” George Bell, who published the area guidebook, wrote: “The Cirque of the Unclimbables is remarkably similar to Yosemite Valley in scale, altitude, and even layout. One can get a fairly accurate perception of the Cirque by mentally shifting Yosemite Valley northward 2,000 miles to the middle of the Canadian wilderness.” Ben Ditto, his wife Katie Lambert, Bronson Hovnanian and I planned to spend a month in the Cirque of the Unclimbables and needed an objective. Without much deliberation we settled on Proboscis. Clearly the most formidable rock in the area, Proboscis is 1,800 feet tall and has enough square footage of rock to cover 100 football fields, yet it contains only a handful of routes, most bearing signatures from the likes of Layton Kor, Royal Robbins and Todd Skinner. On the 13-inch monitor of my computer, Proboscis looked diminutive, rent with cracks and flush with accommodating ledges. Victory was imminent, and I figured we had this one salted away. By mid August we were driving the 325 miles from Whitehorse, the capital city of the Yukon, Canada, to rendezvous with our floatplane at Finlayson Lake in the eastern Yukon. Rumor had it that Finlayson Lake had only one full-time resident: a lone hermit. If it was true, he would be representative of the population density in the Yukon, where there is less than one person for every five square miles. To get us and all our gear to the base of the wall we employed two porters: a Hughes 500D helicopter and a DHC-2 Beaver, a popular floatplane. “Bought her used in ’69,” said Warren LaFave, the pilot and owner of Kluane Airways. I had heard of old climbers who still pulled hard, but to fly in a plane of its age was cause for alarm—best case, it was built in 1967, when production ceased. Worst case, it was one of the first to roll off the as-

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sembly line in 1948. We postulated that the engine had surely been rebuilt, and further comforted ourselves in knowing that the Canadian government thought so highly of this durable workhorse of the North that they once stamped it on their quarter. To minimize expensive helicopter time, the Beaver flew us to Glacier Lake, some five miles by air from Proboscis. From there the helicopter shuttled us one at a time to the base of the wall. Suspended comfortably in the air, we noted the swamps and talus that had taken early pioneers days of struggle to navigate. An incredible concentration of jagged peaks perched above massive glaciers and boreal forest. After the final load, the four of us watched the little blue helicopter whump out of sight, its blades chopping furiously at the frozen air. We noticed three things right away: It was a lot colder than it was down at Glacier Lake. Proboscis was bad to the bone. And we were, to quote Greg Epperson, who established one of the Pro-

boscis routes, “a long way from Momma’s apron strings.” Indeed, the nearest paved road was 100 miles away, a seriousness illustrated by an episode in the early 1970s when the Cirque legend Jim McCarthy had a kidney stone attack in Fairy Meadow, the jump-off point for the Lotus Flower Tower. The nearest help was 25 miles and three days of bushwhacking away, at a tungsten mine. Optionally, McCarthy and team could have staked out Glacier Lake on the off chance a plane landed. Miraculously, a curious helicopter spotted a glint off their cooking pot while they were still in camp. “The helicopter was part of a mineral-surveying crew,” says McCarthy. “Thinking we might be another survey crew, they dropped in to see what we were up to.” My first instinct was to curl up and wait for our helicopter to return in three weeks, but as the shock of the remoteness passed, we scrambled around the small, talus-choked valley in search of a flat place to pitch camp. We found only one level spot in the entire rugged valley: a giant flattopped boulder that looked like a stone battleship. The immense Southeast Face of Mount Proboscis was first climbed



The author goes for it on pitch seven, a 5.12a that, like the entire route, was climbed ground up. The climb’s 22 bolts were all drilled by hand on lead.

in 1963 by Royal Robbins, Layton Kor, Jim McCarthy and Dick McCracken. The climb was McCarthy’s idea, after he was asked by Carlton Fuller, then president of the American Alpine Club, to put a team together and go do something “significant.” McCarthy, who was friends with Wexler and who had seen his photos and sketches of the Cirque, was hooked. He recruited Robbins, who in turn brought on McCracken, Robbins’ partner for the recent first ascent of Half Dome’s Direct Northwest Face. McCarthy asked Kor, perhaps the world’s fastest climber of that era and “a force,” according to Robbins, and the four of them were off to the Northwest Territories, driving from the Tetons jammed into McCarthy’s aged VW Bug with all the gear lashed to the top. The car was so overloaded that the tires splayed outward. The drive was eventful, with many flats and several new tires. After having stopped for a few

days in the Tetons, the climbers drove straight through to Watson Lake. Scouting the region by plane, they spotted Proboscis and chose a direct line up the middle of the wall. In a ground-up push, they launched into the unknown: one team of two climbing, while the other team jugged and hauled the gear. The first night passed with the four climbers standing in slings for lack of a ledge. On the third day Kor pulled a pin and fell. McCarthy, belaying, had his hand sucked into a carabiner, resigning him to jugging the remainder of the route. After two bivies, 251 pitons, two bolts, some A4 and a night on the summit, the crew completed the line. Their climb was noteworthy not just for being the first big technical outing in the region, but because it was the first time Yosemite big-wall tactics had been applied to a remote wall. Says Robbins, “In [Yosemite]

we had gotten to the point that we expected to get to the top no matter what our objective.” Here, they had faced, and overcome, the sense of the unknown. Awestruck by other towering possibilities and having been told by Kor of a magnificent tower he had spied while on a hike, McCarthy returned in 1968 with Tom Frost and Sandy Bill. That lucky trio bagged one of the world’s finest climbs, the Southeast Face of the Lotus Flower Tower. We looked at the existing routes. Besides the Southeast Face/original Route (VI 5.9+ A3) by McCarthy et al., there was the first free route, The Great Canadian Knife (VI 5.13b, 17 pitches), established in 1992 by Todd Skinner, Paul Piana and Galen Rowell, with a reported 100 or so bolts.

PROBOSCIS WAS BAD TO THE BONE. AND WE WERE, TO QUOTE GREG EPPERSON, “A LONG WAY FROM MOMMA’S APRON STRINGS.” Yukon Tears (VI 5.12c, 24 pitches), another free line, by Kurt Smith, Scott Cosgrove and Jeff Jackson, climbed a splitter crack a hundred feet right of the Knife and reportedly sported stacks of finger-jamming with sugar-cube-sized crystals for footholds. A striking vertical crack splitting the 1,000-foot midsection of the wall caught my eye. After cross-referencing with our scrappy topo, we deduced that the crack was the Grendel, a 15-pitch nightmare of an aid climb boasting four consecutive A4 pitches. In the Old English heroic epic Beowulf, Grendel is a monster, a descendant of Cain, who eats the flesh of drunken men. Feared by everyone

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but Beowulf, Grendel terrorizes the Danish king Hrothgar’s mead hall until Beowulf rips off Grendel’s arm and takes his head as a trophy. Chris Righter, Greg Epperson, Kevin Daniels and Chris Kalous vanquished their Grendel over seven days in 1996. When I asked Kalous about the route, he just said to bring a lot of copperheads. Daniels thought the route would go free and gave us 50 bolts. Righter agreed, but said that freeing the line would require “hundreds” of bolts. Epperson noted that on the wall the climbers encountered “crappy rock, seamed-out cracks, loads of rain,” and as a team experienced “near fistfights on bivy ledges, dropped gear and guys snail-eyed on their leads.” With these foreboding scraps of knowledge—what does “snail-eyed” even mean?—we thought it unlikely that we would free their route. To get accustomed to the rock, we spent the first day climbing halfway up the Southeast Face via Women at Work (VI 5.12 R), a variation done in 2010 by Madaleine Sorkin, Lorna Illingworth and Emily Stifler. While Ben and Katie led above, I found myself looking left to the Grendel. Were there holds? Was there any gear? The next morning Bronson and I geared up at the base of Grendel. Ben and Katie rested, hoping to return to complete Women at Work. The first pitch of Grendel was not inspiring. I had to stance drill a bolt, place Peckers in dirt and run it out over 40 feet. The third pitch was more of the same: delicate 5.8 face climbing with a 60-foot runout over a ledge. The fourth pitch steepened to a stunning vertical headwall that had us craning our necks in awe. Bronson is a former territorial surfer

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from Southern California, who saw the light and switched to climbing. Like myself, he is mainly a crack climber. Looking up, we confirmed our worst fear—the “crack” we had seen from the ground was barely even a water groove. A rusty fixed Copperhead was visible 30 feet up. “Well, it ain’t Indian Creek,” Bronson observed. We called it a day when a light rain began to fall. The next morning, despite bluebird skies, I lay in the tent until past 9 a.m. imagining that in a couple of hours I would be shaking like a leaf, runout over hooks or Peckers. But, I asked myself, would Todd Skinner have slept in on a perfect day? Did Layton Kor lounge around like a slob before doing the first ascent of the wall? Ben and I jugged to our highpoint at the base of the fourth

pitch and he generously offered me the lead. I procrastinated, studying the just-less-thanvertical terrain above. With no conventional placements in sight, I racked my harness with an assortment of hooks, and stuffed a few quarter-inch button-head bolts in my pocket. Spying a series of barely visible edges and sidepulls that were 20 feet left of the aid line, I took a deep breath and began climbing the variation. After 10 feet of tenuous tiptoeing, I nestled a hook over a small edge, briefly put aside my atheism and prayed to Jesus as I eased my weight onto the hook. To avoid a factor-two fall onto the relic belay, I drilled a bolt, then pressed on. After 10 minutes of non-committal up and down, I executed another 15 feet of delicate face climbing, and, mindful of the 30-


FAR LEFT: Earle on pitch seven. ABOVE: Northern Lights illuminate Fairy Meadows below the Lotus Flower Tower. LEFT: Our pilot Bruce Macdonald maneuvers his little bird below the face of Proboscis.

foot femur breaker that awaited failure, I stretched and walked my fingertips one by one onto the ledge. I matched and manteled. The ledge was disappointing, but I could balance over my toes, hands free. Gearing up for the trip, I had included a handful of quarter-inch bolts to supplement the 3/8-inch ones we usually placed. While researching Proboscis I had noticed that bolts would be essential, especially for free climbing. All the existing free climbs relied on bolts and some routes were heavily bolted. Expecting to be drilling, we had brought 30-some bolts. To keep bolting to a minimum, we decided to hand drill. When it takes 30 minutes to sink a single stud, you think twice about whether you really need the protection. Quarter-inch bolts go in quickly, on the other hand, and we reserved them for the most precarious positions. Balanced on the ledge, I knew it was time to test the little bastards. I hauled up the drill, careful not to careen backward, and tentatively began to drill. Unable to really bang away, I lightly tapped. Progress was seemingly imperceptible and I gained a new respect for all the climbers who had hand-drilled from stances prior to our use of the power drill— no wonder their lines were so runout! My toes burned and arms ached, but at last I pounded the little bit of metal into the hole. I torqued down the nut, only to watch the lip of the hole crumble from the pressure of the bolt. Unsure if the bolt would even hold body weight, I continued to climb. Amazingly, edges and holds kept appearing almost as if I had conjured them, and

I eventually arrived at a purple Camalot placement backed up by equalized Peckers. I finished the pitch and built a belay 20 feet to the right of the aid seam. Ben motored up on TR, and was off leading the next one in no time. Ben, like Katie, is a faceclimbing ninja, so it was with style and grace that he made quick progress. Past the point of no return, runout, and just feet from an old anchor, he fearlessly French-free dyno’d off a marginal red C3, and

half a day, although the bold character of the climbing continued and the grades got harder. Eventually, we mastered placing the little quarter-inchers, and used at least two per pitch. Five pitches in a row involved bowel-liquefying runouts. On his leads, Ben seemed much more composed than I was. “Keep it loose, eh,” he said once, “so I’ll clear that ledge if I fall.” A day later, while Bronson and I continued up the new line, Katie and Ben split off to wrap up the second ascent of Women at Work. Katie walked a 5.11d R pitch. Ben was mid-crux on a 5.12 R pitch, a section he had previously onsighted, when his foothold broke and he sailed 40

AMAZINGLY, EDGES AND HOLDS KEPT APPEARING ALMOST AS IF I HAD CONJURED THEM, AND I EVENTUALLY ARRIVED AT A PURPLE CAMALOT PLACEMENT BACKED UP BY EQUALIZED PECKERS. reached the old tat. “Off belay, eh!” he yelled. “Okey dokey!” I yelled back. During the few days we spent in Whitehorse, we had become infected with thick Canadian accents. Our plan was to fix our five ropes, return to camp each night, then make a kamikaze blast for the summit. The good weather held and we climbed about a pitch and a

feet before the rope caught. Unfazed, he lowered to the belay and climbed the pitch again. I was five hours into a terrifying seven-hour aid lead when Ben and Katie climbed out of view. I kept climbing, waiting for a massive fall that never came. Bronson and I assessed the ensuing terrain. We rejoiced at the sight of cracks, and though the angle of the wall had not lessened,

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The awesome face of Lotus Flower Tower. LEFT BELOW: Bronson Hovnanian. RIGHT BELOW: Macdonald and the trusty steed.

of our own summit bid daunting, but the weather was undeniably perfect. We jugged to our highpoint and made rapid progress climbing pitch after pitch without incident or falling. Eventually, we joined the upper 5.10 pitches of Costa Brava, the easiest free route on Proboscis and a left variation to the original route, and were on top before noon. One-thousand eight-hundred feet of rappels later, we were back in camp for afternoon tea and soup, amazed that not a single rope had gotten stuck on the pulls from the summit back to the highpoint of our fixed lines. It was, in fact, one of the smoothest, most uneventful expedition climbing days I have had. We high-fived but there was still work to do: The two hardest pitches, seven and eight, one of them my seven-hour aid lead, needed to be redpointed for us to claim a free ascent. Ben, who was photo documenting the trip, had an idea: We would wake before dawn and I would attempt the crux pitch in the early morning light, the “golden hour” for photography. Bronson, Katie and I weren’t psyched, but Ben cracked the whip and we submitted. Getting up early was the best move we made. I redpointed the seventh pitch, an amazing arete, in the fiery morning sun. In my signature style, I over-gripped every hold, turning what was probably soft 5.12a into a barn-dooring 5.12+ pumpfest. One of the great things about climbing is that, regardless of style, a send is a send. Ten minutes after we completed that section, clouds materialized and a light snow fell. I raced up the eighth pitch on toprope, frantically figuring out the moves. A 50-meter stretch of wall was all that separated us from a new free route. I worked out the sequences, and lowered down to the belay. Snow was beginning to pile on edges, and a breeze whipped the ropes. I stared up at the pitch. The snow did not abate. Should I go for it or wait? What if this was the final climbable 15 minutes of our trip? I felt a tingle up my spine, and knew it was time to ride. Ben cinched up his hood as I began climbing. My fingertips were instantly wet. I continued, clipping fixed copperheads, beaks, rivets and a few old bolts on the original aid route. Somehow—and thankfully—I managed not to slip. With relief, I clipped my daisy into the anchor. “Haha! That’s a wrap, buddy!” I yelled to Ben. We rappelled to the floor for the last time, stripping our fixed ropes in a blizzard. At Dawn We Ride is 15 pitches long. I was able to free every pitch, the hardest going at 5.12c R. I redpointed everything except one 5.11-, which I followed. We placed 22 bolts from hooks or delicate stances and put all of them in on lead. The majority of the route is independent from Grendel, our line zigzagging up the face like the reading on an EKG monitor. Before our climb we had heard from several teams about low rock quality, but we found generally good, Tuolumne-like stone that required little or no cleaning, and lots of features that allowed us to do big runouts. In fact, I think Proboscis has serious potential for a mega Bachar-Yerian-style route established ground-up, onsight, drilling on lead. We didn’t do our line in a single push, yet we had been tested and were proud of our effort. With a few days left, though, we had room for a bit more. We popped over to Fairy Meadows and made an ascent of the magnificent Lotus Flower Tower via McCarthy’s line, surely one of the most singular 5.10s in the world—you couldn’t draw a more prominent line with pencil and paper. From the windy summit of the tower we gazed at the surrounding lowlands. What had been bright green when we first flew in was now yellow and golden brown. It was only the first week of September, but fall was upon us. Standing there, I remembered that this barren summit was no place for humans and recalled the words of LaFave, who had said, “Come second week of September, the Yukon ain’t no place you want to be.” LaFave picked us up at Glacier Lake in his trusty Beaver on September 7 and we flew back to his lodge, 90 miles to the east. The forests and lakes seemed quiet, already settling into their winter slumber.

I FELT A TINGLE UP MY SPINE, AND KNEW IT WAS TIME TO RIDE. BEN CINCHED UP HIS HOOD AS I BEGAN CLIMBING. MY FINGERTIPS WERE INSTANTLY WET. it looked like easier climbing was in store. We were barely halfway up the wall, and had no more rope to fix. It was time to make a summit bid—after a good night’s sleep, of course. Bronson and I rappelled and, that night, peered outside every hour to check on Ben and Katie’s rappelling progress. They moved slowly down the moonlit wall, and had to cut a stuck rope. They made it back to camp at 4 a.m. I was glad to see Ben and Katie and could tell they were relieved to be finished with the day’s stress and exertion. I wasn’t, however, excited for the alarm to go off at 6 a.m. With hardly a blink of sleep, we found the prospect

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Mason Earle, 24, spends most of his time in Utah climbing new routes on bad rock.




2 1



5 4

ROUTES OF THE PROBOSCIS 1 The Great Canadian Knife (VI 5.13b, 17 pitches). Takes arete formed by large left-facing dihedral. Two pitches of 5.13. FA: Todd Skinner, Paul Piana, Galen Rowell, 1992.

2 Yukon Tears (VI 5.12c, 24 pitches). Seven pitches of 5.12. Only one bolted pitch. FA: Kurt Smith, Jeff Jackson, Scott Cosgrove, 1994.

3 Grendel (VI 5.10 A4). Four A4 pitches. FA: Chris Kalous, Kevin Daniels, Chris Righter, Greg Epperson, 1996.


4 At Dawn We Ride (VI 5.12c R, 15

pitches). FA: Mason Earle, Ben Ditto, Bronson Hovnanian, Katie Lambert, 2012.

5 Southeast Face aka Original Route (VI 5.9+ A3). Two bolts and 251 pitons placed. FA: Jim McCarthy,

Royal Robbins, Layton Kor, Richard McCracken, 1963.

6 Costa Brava (VI 5.12a R). A free variation of the Original Route. FA: Jose Maria Cadina and Joaquin Olmo, 1992. FFA: Nancy Feagin and Barry Blanchard, 1997 (toproped crux). FFA on lead: Jonathan Copp and Josh Wharton, 2001.

7 Women at Work (VI 5.12 R). Free variation of pitches five through eight of the Original Route with eight or nine bolts. Joins exit of Costa Brava. FA: Emily Stifler, Madaleine Sorkin, Lorna Illingworth, 2010. 8 Crazy Horse (VI 5.11a A4). FA: Jeff

Selvig, Simon Elias, Chad McMullen, 1995.

GETTING THERE The Cirque of the Unclimbables, including Lotus Flower Tower and Proboscis, is in northern Canada, near the border of the Yukon and Northwest Territories. We flew to the capital city of Whitehorse, then drove 325 miles to Finlayson Lake, where we hired a floatplane to take us to Glacier Lake, where we took a helicopter to the base of Proboscis. You can hike from Glacier Lake to the Cirque, in five to 10 hours. You can also fly to Glacier Lake from Fort Simpson, Fort Laird or Watson Lake, and hike from there. It is 1,500 miles from Seattle to Watson Lake, in case you are thinking about driving. AIR SERVICE Kluane Airways Ltd., www., has a floatplane and a helicopter and knows right where you want to go. The outfit also rents sat phones and operates a lodge you can base out of. Prices vary depending on the number of people. A team of four can expect to pay around $2,500 per person to fly from Finlayson Lake to Glacier, and chopper to the base of Proboscis or Fairy Meadows, the staging ground for Lotus Flower Tower. SEASON Late June to the end of August, although we climbed into September and generally had good conditions. Fall days, obviously, are shorter than the 18-hour summer ones. April 2013


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Silas Finch pulls above the urban winter doldrums. Good edges mark the clean face on an unnamed two-pitch 5.9 at West Rock.

A new wave is bringing bolted climbing to Connecticut, of all places.


crimped on the tiny flake and felt it flex under my fingers. I was oozing sweat, adrenaline and doubt. Why did I get myself in this situation—risking injury or death just for a first ascent of a lousy route on an obscure cliff? My only protection was a shallow placement of the smallest nut I carried, and, from 50 feet above the bone-cracking talus, I doubted that it would hold anyway in the chossy rock. Thankfully, I finished the climb—swearing under my breath, more angry than relieved. I promised myself never to do anything that stupid again. I never climbed that route, on the lichen-covered east side of Lantern Hill in North Stonington, Connecticut, again, and I doubt anyone has. Fast forward 14 years. I reach around an arete, clip a bolt, and pop across a feet-dangling traverse. No worries. No big deal? It actually is a big deal, because the route, La Mesa (5.9), is a sport climb in Connecticut, a state where putting “bolt” and “climb” in the same sentence is a relatively new and still controversial concept. Times are changing. There are now 60 new sport climbs and mixed sport-gear routes in six different crags located in central and eastern Connecticut, and they are widely considered a welcome addition, as there are

few places to sport climb in New England. Farley Ledges in Massachusetts and Rumney in New Hampshire are the only places within reasonable driving distance. Connecticut has a long trad-climbing history, dating from the 1920s, with pioneers like Fritz Wiessner, John Reppy, Sam Streibert, Layton Kor and Henry Barber putting up some of the early testpieces. Wiessner and Roger Whitney’s Vector at Ragged Mountain, a 5.8+ done between 1933 and 1935, was considered one of the hardest routes in the country for over 15 years. Climbers such as Mike Hintz, Bob Clark, Ken Nichols and Al Rubin established many of the trad routes chronicled in TRAPROCK: Connecticut Rock Climbs, by Nichols, published in 1982. Hard routes came to the state when Bill Lutkus free climbed May Day (5.13) at Ragged Mountain in 1989. First ascents were ground up and often with marginal gear. This ground-up ethic persisted in the state for decades, well after bolts began to proliferate elsewhere in the country.

pleaded guilty to trespassing and no contest to willful destruction of property, according to Rob Sullivan on Charges had been filed after Ken was caught chopping Mass Production (5.10d) at Farley Ledges. As reported by Sullivan, Ken agreed to pay $249.99 in restitution and to undergo 24 months of probation, was banned from entering five Western Mass crag areas, and was forbidden to chop any another bolt anywhere. Of course, the last stipulation is unenforceable outside Massachusetts. At 64, though, Ken has seemingly mellowed, as evidenced by the fact that bolts have now been prevalent throughout Connecticut for five years without being smashed with a hammer. Nevertheless, when I asked what he thought of the bolted routes that have now appeared at Chatfield Hollow, in Killingworth, he replied, “You know what I think. I think they should be destroyed.”

Mike Perham attempts to unlock a clip on Firecracker (5.9) at the Firewall. Not everyone has embraced bolts. An unknown protester placed these locks.

First ascents were ground up and often with marginal gear. This ground-up ethic persisted in the state for decades.

Connecticut climbers proudly clung to their tradition of bold gear climbs and notoriously stiff grades although the cracks here (unlike in the bullet, gear-friendly horizontal fissures of the nearby Gunks) are often thin, rotten or nonexistent. Yet as time went by, many climbers grumbled on forums about the lack of safe leads. Others wanted to keep the cliffs bolt free, and most routes were accessible via toprope, so toproping became the norm. For years everyone accepted toproping as the only alternative.


o one can write about Connecticut climbing without discussing Ken Nichols. Climbing in Connecticut since 1972, he is credited with putting up the state’s first 5.12, Chain Reaction, in 1985. Some of his leads were controversial or wildly complicated, using tiedoff hooks and multiple ropes, and I’ve seen him pad the base of a cliff with mattresses dragged from his car (though he ultimately decided against that particular lead). Nichols is also probably the most infamous bolt chopper in the country. There’s even a web page,, dedicated to outing him. Any time a bolt is cut in all of New England, Nichols is blamed—and he has in the past admitted to chopping them in various states. He has been physically assaulted, called every name in the book, and arrested and prosecuted. Among his friends, though, Nichols is a patient mentor. A posse of climbers, both young and old, regularly ropes up with him, and he welcomes anyone who is willing to incur the wrath of those who shun him. In July 2007, in Orange County Court, Massachusetts, Ken Nichols

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’ve climbed in the state for 25 years, mostly in the eastern part, and have witnessed a few first ascents I’d consider free solos, where the climber placed some gear but was in groundfall range for the majority of the route. Are these climbs trad first free ascents, free solos or bouldering highballs? Most climbers never repeat these runout leads because they are unwilling to put life and limb in jeopardy. In 1995 a climber broke his back leading Zen Master (5.10), an unprotectable climb at Lantern Hill. Should the person who first led (or free soloed) a route get to dictate that everyone who follows uses the same style? That point is argued ad infinitum on climbing forums nationwide, but the maxim of “no retro-bolting” has been the accepted standard. However, in Connecticut it was taken a step further and in 1993 all fixed gear, including pitons, was removed or smashed regardless of who put it there, how it was placed, or if it was needed for a safe lead. Old pitons removed included ones on Main Street and Hemlock Grove at Ragged Mountain, both put up by Fritz Wiessner in the 1930s. Throughout the 1990s, gear was replaced and chopped multiple times. Although no one admitted to it, Nichols was banned from Ragged Mountain Foundation property. Ken Nichols’ take on it is, “They were led”—later—“without the fixed gear, so it is no longer needed.” Connecticut gained the reputation as either the most ethically pure climbing state or the most backward climbing state, depending on your point of view. Many felt the state was held hostage by the views and actions of one person.


tarting in 2008, bolts began appearing around the state, both on new sport climbs and also on some trad climbs to protect runouts. The bolts provided opportunities for many new routes and scattered the increasing number of climbers away from the heavily trodden Traprock ridges and across the state. None of those involved in the bolting wanted to be identified in this article due to the state’s contentious past. The initial bolting was done in 2008 by a few climbers, clandestinely equipping some “secret” crags like Bear Rock in Durham and Pine Ledge in Deep River. The first officially approved bolting, also in 2008, was in the town of Southington when the C3 Connecticut Climbers Coalition, a

Michelle Chappel grapples with Garbajistan (5.11c/d), Bear Rock.

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Can sport routes exist in Connecticut without competing with trad climbers for limited rock?

Chris Bridge tweaks away on Psycho Jap (5.12b), Chatfield Hollow.

group of loosely organized climbers, obtained permission from the town to place bolts on the Firewall on Bradley Mountain. In 2010 and 2011, other cliffs like Ross Rocks in Killingly, West Rock in New Haven, and even one of the more popular crags in the state, Chatfield Hollow in Killingworth, started getting bolts. There was no overt organization or any agreed-upon bolting policy by the climbing community. Routes were cleaned and bolted top-down—a practice considered anathema to Connecticut tradition but a method that ensures that bolts are placed where needed instead of only where the leader can get a stance or hang off a hook. For a relatively small state, Connecticut has quite a concentration of climbing. Ken Nichols’ 1995 guidebook Hooked on Traprock covers 2,786 routes, and that only includes the Traprock cliffs of central Connecticut. To put it in perspective, the current New River Gorge guidebook lists 2,500 routes. Granted, many of the Traprock routes are mossy or chossy runout 5.2 to 5.5s Nichols’ first ascents. Can sport routes exist in Connecticut without aggravating trad climbers? Bear Rock is one example that suggests they can. An overhanging 70-foot cliff in the Cockaponset State Forest in Durham, Bear Rock was seldom climbed until bolts appeared in 2010. Most of its gneiss is rather chossy, and the cliff overhangs so much that it is hard to toprope. As a sportclimbing area, however, Bear Rock is perfect—with well-defined crimpy holds on steep rock. Now home to nine sport routes ranging from 5.7+ to 5.12a, with most in the 5.11 range, Bear Rock sees groups of a dozen climbers on a weekend. That is more traffic than it drew in an entire year before the bolts. For harder sport routes and mixed trad/sport lines, Chatfield Hollow State

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Park in Killingworth is the place. Here local climbers have put up new lines or added bolts to existing toprope lines to produce 15 new bolted routes on the main cliff and nearby Feather Ledges. One such transition from toprope to sport climb is the classic Shape Shifter (5.12c), first put up by Whitey (John) MacLean in 1990 and considered by some to be the best 5.12 in Connecticut. Climbs here are mostly in the 5.11 to 5.13 range. Firewall on Bradley Mountain in Southington now offers a large number of routes squeezed into a relatively small cliff. About 15 routes or variations have been bolted on the 70-foot-high Traprock face. Firewall is one of the few places where some trad routes (albeit seldom-climbed run-out ones) were retro-bolted, and it is one of the only places where bolts in recent years have been chopped (and replaced). The Town of Southington approved the placement of bolts here, but it can be argued by ethical purists that no town council permission should trump long-established climbing tradition of not retro-bolting trad routes without the first ascentionists’ permission. The bolting advocates argue that the routes bolted here are different lines that are a few feet away from the originals and that this littleclimbed cliff was improved by the bolts and by organized trail work, installing fixed anchors, and cleaning loose rock. The route Fresh Bag (5.8) was bolted over a former trad line called Forest Fire (5.8), and bolts also appeared on the trad line Smoke Out (5.7). Pine Ledge is located down a bonerattling dirt road in the Cockaponset State Forest in Deep River. It is another previously little-known and seldom-visited crag that now draws up to 20 climbers on a weekend day to clip bolts. Climbers from as far away as New Haven and Rhode Island, 60 miles and over an hour away, regularly climb here. With good rock but little in the way of cracks, all routes are bolted. Climbing here involves surmounting a series of well-bolted Gunkslike overhangs. A dozen really fun routes here range from 5.7 to 5.11b, with most in the 5.10 range. Ross Rocks in Killingly is a microcosm of Connecticut climbing. It has classic toprope climbs, trad climbs, and a few recently added sport climbs. While longtime Connecticut climbers come here, Ross is mostly frequented by Rhode Islanders, as it is four miles over the border. With four cliffs up to 85 feet high, it’s the closest crag of any size to Providence within an easy 25-mile, 40-minute drive. West Rock in New Haven is up to 300 feet tall, with spectacular views of downtown New Haven, Yale University and Long Island Sound. Sitting high on a hill above the Connecticut River Valley, the cliff has exposure to rival that of the Gunks. Unfortunately, as an urban crag it also has problems, such as people throwing things off the cliff and car break-ins. While West Rock is notorious for loose rock, many sections of solid rock just need some cleaning and traffic. Route development is ongoing here and the area has potential for some great multi-pitch routes. With the exception of the Firewall, bolting has not come to the Traprock crags of central Connecticut, home to the most classic Connecticut Caption climbing areas: East Peak, Pinnacle Rock, Cathole and Ragged Mountain. Instead, discussions by the Ragged Mountain Foundation (RMF), a climbers’ group that owns and administers the Ragged Mountain area, have so far mostly been about replacing the bolts and pitons that were chopped on historical routes in the 1990s. The consensus among the RMF board is to restore them slowly.

April 2013

Established as a toprope, Shape Shifter (5.12c), climbed here by Chris Bridge, is an example of what some Connecticut climbers are calling positive retro-bolting.

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West Rock, overlooking New Haven, is up to 300 feet tall.

[ CONNECTICUT > LOGISTICS ] [ GUIDEBOOKS ] The bolted routes, both sport and mixed, are on six different crags located in the central and eastern part of the state. Even with good directions, finding them can be the crux of the day. The latest (2002) guidebook, Rock Climbing Connecticut, by Dave Fasulo, does not cover the newly bolted routes. It does provide good directions on how to get to these cliffs. Fasulo is working on updating his guidebook to include these new climbs. Detailed route information is currently available at:

Largely ignored in the past because of its loose rock, nonexistent pro and urban setting, West Rock is home to Connecticut’s airiest routes and even offers a few multi-pitch lines. Kevin Sweeney basks on an unnamed 5.9.

[ GEAR ]

When Nichols was asked how he felt about the plan, his answer was a terse, “That’s not a good idea.” The discussion was dropped with no threat to chop them.

A 60-meter rope and a dozen draws will get you up and down all of the sport routes. But before heading up any bolted routes that you are not familiar with, be aware that some require removable protection.



o where does the future of Connecticut climbing stand? In a perfect world, the climbing community will come together and agree on a comprehensive bolting policy somewhere in the middle of bolting anything/everything and no bolting at all. Hopefully we can find a reasonable approach, but so far nothing has suggested that this kind of cooperative spirit will prevail. Simply discussing this article with six fellow climbers stirred up such discontent that they all stated that they didn’t want to be quoted or identified, and one e-mailed Rock and Ice urging the magazine not to print this story (the other climbers were amenable, but wanted to distance themselves). Yet the bolted climbs are no secret: They have been discussed on the Facebook group Connecticut Rock Climbers UNITE! and the routes at Chatfield Hollow State Park are published on Mountain Project and YouTube. Can sport climbers and their bolted routes coexist with trad climbers and their trad routes? Time will tell, but so far it looks like extreme intolerance may be a thing of the past. Perhaps it will finally become possible for everyone to get over our differences and climb. I still climb trad in Connecticut, but my days of leading runout routes are done. My interest is tempered by time and age. As a full-time climbing bum, however I manage to climb in Connecticut three to four times a week, usually happily clipping bolts. Brian Phillips is spending his retired years trying to get to all the climbs throughout the world on his bucket list.

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Bear Rock Chosstacular (5.10c), FA Chris Beauchamp 2009 Morozyvo (5.10b), FA Chris Beauchamp 2008 Recollections (5.12a), FA Chris Beauchamp 2009 Chatfield Hollow The Bloody Beetroots (5.11b/c), FA Greg Shyloski 2011 Shape Shifter (5.12c), FFA Greg Shyloski 2010 Fat Elliot (5.11c, requires some gear), FA Nate Labieniec 2011 Firewall Playing With Fire (5.11b), FFA unknown Dalha Wanna (5.10a), FFA unknown El Chiste (5.13a), FA Dan Yagmin 2012 Pine Ledge Jamie (5.10b), FA Chris Beauchamp 2009 Kickapoo Joy Juice (5.11a), FA Chris Beauchamp 2010 Syndication (5.10a), FA Chris Beauchamp 2009 Ross Rocks La Losa (5.8), FFA Brian Phillips 2010 La Mesa (5.9), FFA Brian Phillips 2010





an Powell hit bottom three years ago on Thanksgiving in a dumpster near Denver. Huddled under a layer of trash, he was freezing, dope-sick and hadn’t eaten for days. He had no friends who weren’t junkies or criminals. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d climbed, but it had been two or three years. Most important, he wasn’t producing art. He needed to make art. Sifting through the dumpster, he found some paper and pens and drew until his hands were numb. Powell, 42, has been shaping climbing holds for nearly 23 years, practically since the advent of gyms in America. It’s difficult to measure his influence on the sport. Go to just about any one of the 1,500 or so commercial climbing gyms around the country and you will likely see a gallery of his work— a multitude of ergonomic, functional and aesthetic hand- and footholds. Powell himself is not well-known despite the fact that he is among a group of shapers whose holds have arguably done more for climbing than any piece of gear since sticky-rubber shoes. With virtually every top climber from Chris Sharma to Alex Honnold

coming out of a gym, plastic holds have had a profound effect on both raising standards and introducing people to the sport. Shapers like Powell have made indoor climbing not only possible, but fun. “What Ian did with hold shaping is on par with what Paul Turner did with suspension in mountain biking,” says Matt O’Connor, who managed the Boulder Rock Club from 1997 to 2003, and has worked for Franklin Holds, Eldo Walls, EntrePrises and Patagonia. “Ian came up with designs that changed the sport for everyone.” Yet behind the brightly colored holds is a dark story of obsession and addiction. After a period of manic productivity, in which he helped revolutionize the climbinghold industry and produced some brilliant fine-art sculptures, Powell spiraled downward into drug use, credit-card fraud and, ultimately, prison. Which is how Powell found himself scribbling on notepads in a dumpster on Thanksgiving. He spent three days there before crawling into a nearby building and passing out. It was two years before anyone heard from him again.


an Powell is two days late for our interview. I sit on a fuzzy blue couch at The Spot gym in Boulder, Colorado, watching people climb up and pop off the 20-foot boulders that Powell helped build. Powell has no phone or car, and currently lives in a halfway house in Longmont. Most of our communication has been handwritten. I’m not positive he even knows about our interview today. Around 9 p.m., after bouldering, doing abs and campusing, I find Powell in his studio, a dusty nook hidden behind one of the walls at The Spot. He is haphazardly tossing around unfinished designs. He just quit chewing tobacco and is in a pretty dark mood. At 6 feet tall and 220 pounds, Powell fills his studio space like a bull in a flimsy pen. “It’s shape or die,” he says, explaining that he has been busy making hundreds of holds for a new company, Kilter, which he’s starting with The Spot owner Dan Howley. Inside the studio sits a yellow-green wingchair he dug out of a dumpster, and a table of tools. A portrait of Kurt Albert, torn from a climbing magazine, is tacked to the wall. Everything is covered in

Having them in my creative space is something to live up to.” He turns back to his work, which barely slowed during our conversation. “Todd was an incredibly positive person. When I was 19, climbing at City Rock [a gym in Oakland, California], he was super encouraging. He was just the ultimate friendly guy at the crag, a total hero. It’s not like we were friends. He might have known my name. Wolfgang or Kurt, who I met only a couple of times, helped me not want to kill myself. They’re all father figures of some sort.” I scan the makeshift cardboard shelves lining the walls. Foam shapes pack every inch of space. Each hold is different. Some are mini sculptures of alien spaceships and others are small crimps with flaring edges and art-deco incuts that produce myriad hand positions. Some chunks resemble desert sandstone, and others are embossed with tribal designs. Some look almost Japanese, spare and perfect. “So, how do you do it?” I ask, gingerly returning a smooth crimp to the cardboard shelf. Powell smiles. “There are basically five holds,” he explains. “Pockets, edges, slopers, jugs and pinches. So how do we get thousands

SINCE HE’S BEEN OUT OF JAIL, POWELL’S NECK HAS SHRUNK, BUT HIS BICEPS ARE STILL HUGE. HE CRADLES A PIECE OF FOAM LIKE A FIREMAN HOLDING A RESCUED KITTEN, AND STARTS SHAPING. THE ROOM IS QUIET BUT FOR THE RHYTHMIC SLOUGHING OF FOAM. foam, chalk and dust. Powell isn’t just a hold-shaper; he’s a shapeshifter. Every time I see him, he somehow looks different. Today he sports a buzz cut, black-rimmed glasses, jeans and a dirty white T-shirt. A year ago, when he first got out of jail, he looked like some burly Apache warrior, with a long ponytail and a neck thicker than a mastiff’s. His golden eyes are wide and clear, the clearest I’ve seen since I first met Powell, about 10 years ago. In the past year since he’s been out of jail, Powell’s neck has shrunk to normal size, but his biceps are still huge. He cradles a piece of foam like a fireman holding a rescued kitten, reaches for a small metal tool, and starts shaping. The room is quiet but for the rhythmic sloughing of foam. I point to the clipping of Kurt Albert. “Did you know him?” I ask. Powell looks up, smiles and the mood lightens. “I want to put a whole wall up—Todd, Kurt, Wolfgang,” he says, referring of course to Skinner, Albert and Güllich. “These people took the time to talk to me a long time ago.

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and thousands of funky shapes? Honestly, I don’t really know. It doesn’t seem like the math would add up. But I’m pleasantly surprised it keeps working.” Powell takes a hacksaw to a block of threepound foam. Amid a flurry of exfoliation, a limestone rail that looks like a runnel of frozen water forms in his hand. He offers it to me. I reach out, pinching and feeling the curved foam. It’s delicate; you could easily crush it if you weren’t careful. In less than a minute, Powell has turned a block of foam into an awesome hold, ergonomic and beautiful. Powell looks me dead in the eye and launches into the oral history of shaping, stuff you can’t find in a book or even on the internet. I feel as if I’ve been transported to a campfire. “Jim Karn and Tony Yaniro are probably the best examples of super-talented climbers who shaped absolutely brilliant, industry-changing stuff. They married shaping to climbing seamlessly, through training holds. Jim did it through simplifying movement. His ideas were more competition-related. And his holds became the test for seeing who the best climber was.”

Powell’s eyes dart around the studio, as if he’s observing a world that’s invisible to me. “Do you enjoy setting problems as much as shaping?” I ask. As long as I’ve known Powell, he’s been a route-setter. “Really, climbing holds are the vocabulary of route-setting, or the letters of the alphabet. I love setting, but it always pushes me back into the studio because I want new letters to spell with,” Powell says. As much as Powell loves sharing stories about shaping and setting, it’s like pulling teeth to get him to talk about his own climbing accomplishments. He’s not shy, but he does not brag. “I put up a lot of obscure things in the middle of nowhere that I could never find again, and none of them were hard,” is all that Powell gives. Powell says his climbing heroes—Todd Skinner, Nancy Feagin, Duane Raleigh, Jeff Jackson and Jack Mileski—sparked his passion for training. “I remember Jack Mileski once said, ‘All I need to climb 5.14 is a pull-up bar, a mirror and a whip.’” Early on in his climbing career, Powell became obsessed with punishing workouts to achieve new physical goals, like one-arm muscle-ups. He did weighted pull-ups and heavy finger curls. In prison, he did a pull-up with 415 pounds of total weight, which might just be a world record. [Editor’s Note: In fact, the official world record is 402 pounds.] These regimens helped Powell achieve the dynamic movement he has always seen as the future of climbing. “Dynos are still considered this one-move thing, but obviously, it’s about linking those dynamic moves together,” Powell says. “It’s not like tick-tacking up small holds is ever going to go away. But there’s a whole different way to move with constant momentum that only Johnny Dawes seems to really understand.” Powell was one of the first developers in Joe’s Valley and has made numerous first ascents in Hueco. He competed in the open round at four World Cups. In 1991 he was competing at a fighting weight of 160 pounds. Yet Powell says he never reached some of his goals as a climber. “I’m still broken-hearted I don’t climb as hard as I want. Of course I wanted to climb 5.14, V14, but it just ultimately wasn’t my connection. “I could do pull-ups with 200 pounds on, but I didn’t know how to rock climb very well,” he says, laughing. Again, his eyes flicker around the room before settling on the shape in his hand. As frenetic and mercurial as Powell sometimes

Ian Powell in his studio in The Spot climbing gym, Boulder.

seems, he instantly becomes quiet and concentrated when he shapes. When we talk, his gaze is direct and unwavering. I get the feeling he is listening to every word. Powell spent a lot of time climbing urban landscapes, or “buildering.” In many ways, buildering has been a signature of his climbing career. “I’ve done three hard moves in 27 years,” he likes to say. One of those moves was on the Courthouse Traverse in Boulder, which Powell calls his greatest contribution to buildering. One was with Ty Foose and Todd Skinner at City Rock—a dyno off underclings. The third was in a gym in Houston in the late 1990s—another dyno off an undercling. For Powell, there seems to be little distinction between art and climbing. The medium—rock, plastic, buildings—is less important than the line. And at the heart of Powell’s sense of aesthetics in climbing lies a process of discovery. “When you walk around the corner and you’re lucky enough to stumble across that great line, something so beautiful, that’s so beyond you, it’s all-consuming and humbling,” he says, ruminating. “I think all climbers feel that. Everyone freaks out about a great line. We are in the presence of greatness when we find one. It’s pretty close to hearing stories around the campfire at night. It’s a very adolescent male thing, but I just wanna live up to these Viking war-story standards.” Now, instead of searching for great new lines outside, Powell re-creates that feeling for people indoors, in the forms and shapes of tiny pieces of plastic. “That’s what all of us as shapers are trying to do, which is pretty lofty.”


haping is my world,” Powell says. “It’s my voice in the climbing community. I really want to be the best shaper that ever lived.” According to most people, he already is. His long-time friend Ty Foose calls Powell “the most innovative, talented, inspired, possessed shaper, ever, period. No one else is even close.” Chris Danielson, chairman of the USA Climbing Routesetting Committee, and head setter of both domestic and international competitions, says Powell’s work defined the intersection of art and function in climbing holds. “Ian didn’t just make holds to climb on, he made artistic pieces,” Danielson says. Powell’s origins as a hold shaper go back to 1991. In the summer of that year, Chas Fisher was shaping at his year-old company Straight Up, located in a small warehouse

just north of Boulder city limits. He heard a knock on the door. Ian Powell stood in the doorway. At 19, he had a muscular climber’s build, dark hair pulled back into a long, disheveled ponytail, and had just moved to Colorado from Waco, Texas, with Foose. Despite the fact that Powell had no real shaping experience, he was determined to get a job shaping holds.

The first holds were rudimentary and sharp, and there wasn’t much variety. Most hold companies only made 70 to 150 shapes. Foose estimates that there were only about 1,000 holds total on the U.S. market around 1991. For comparison, today Movement Climbing + Fitness in Boulder has a cache of over 10,000 different holds. Although Powell had never shaped before, he quickly showed promise at Straight Up. “Pret-

“SHAPING IS MY WORLD,” POWELL SAYS. “IT’S MY VOICE IN THE CLIMBING COMMUNITY. I REALLY WANT TO BE THE BEST SHAPER THAT EVER LIVED.” “Ian was just a kid when he showed up,” Fisher says. “I was polite but dismissive. I told him I did all the hold shaping myself. But he wouldn’t take no for an answer.” According to Fisher, Powell slept in his car in the parking lot for weeks, bugging him for work. Finally, Fisher set him up in a corner with some foam, “just to shut him up, really.” When Fisher founded Straight Up in 1990, it was one of the first hold companies in the U.S. “We were the ‘it’ hold company at the time. But it was still a very small industry. There were maybe only a few dozen gyms in the country,” says Fisher. With an endless variety of holds available today, it’s easy to take their existence for granted. But in the “dark ages” of indoor climbing, pre1985, holds were limited to actual rocks, pieces of wood, and mixtures of epoxy and sand. Things began to change in 1986 when Arco, Italy, held its first Rock Master competition. According to the IFSC website, 10,000 people attended the comp, one of the world’s first. By the early 1990s, climbing competitions and gyms were popping up around the U.S.

ty soon he was surpassing me in hold shaping in terms of creativity, and I hired him,” says Fisher. “He produced some of the best shapes we made.” Powell says his proudest contribution during that period was the 99-cent foot jib. Back then there were no foot jibs. Straight Up sold them like crazy. Footholds might seem small or insignificant, but they can make the experience of climbing indoors more real and challenging. Swap the footholds on a V5 and you can easily get a V10. Fisher attributed Powell’s early success to his willingness to explore ideas and err. “Ian learns from his mistakes,” Fisher says. “It’s a fantastic attribute. I was a sore learner and would get pissed off at myself. Ian actually helped me be a better mistake maker, a better learner.” Powell shaped, poured, filled orders, swept the floor, answered the phone and was involved in every aspect of the business, even marketing. Powell’s business card read: “Vice President of Innovation.” According to Chris Wall, fitness director at the Boulder Rock Club and Powell’s roommate

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Powell turned to sculpting fine art and hybrid art/ climbing walls. His work enjoyed instant success, with one piece selling for $330,000.

for several years, Powell was the first to make ergonomic shapes that looked like a specific type of real rock found outside. “Whether people choose to acknowledge it or not, every hold that’s shaped in a natural way came after the work he did,” Wall says. “He could make a crimp that was actually comfortable, and used all the aspects of the hand in the way that we were trying to train, but then make it look like a piece of sandstone from Joe’s Valley. I don’t think people appreciated what he was doing.” “He’s a hold whisperer,” says Fisher. “He figured out how to get people to fall in love with holds in a way that nobody understood up until then.”


an Powell was born in 1971 in Atlanta, and was raised by his parents, Fran and Travis, in an artsy part of town. Travis was a builder and Fran managed a gallery in Atlanta that no longer exists. She collected art and was an artist herself. She had a formal background in painting and drawing, and was a talented photographer, but never pursued art professionally. Ian learned to draw at an early age, mostly on discarded matte board at the gallery. He calls his parents by their first names. “Fran encouraged me to be skilled, to be conservative artistically,” he says. “I grew up understanding that Picasso could draw photorealism before he converted and that standard was something to strive for. I love being wacky and super creative but if my lines aren’t tight, it’s junk. If I’m not tight with my grinder on a piece of stone, if it’s slightly off, the piece is ruined. It’s technique and work, technique and work.”

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Fran says that Ian “has terrific powers of concentration.” “When he starts working on something, he works on it nonstop, sometimes for days. I mean, he won’t sleep.” When Ian was 9 years old, he spent an entire summer accurately painting the uniforms on the armies of small green plastic soldiers that came 50 to a bag. “We got him books of all the soldiers’ uniforms and he painted this entire army with incredible detail,” Fran says. “Their belts would be the proper color and their uniforms would be camouflaged. It was fantastic. And then he went back to school and gave them all away.” Ian began climbing at a young age. “When he was 3 or 4 years old, he was always climbing on different sculptures around Atlanta,” Fran says. The Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi, who would become a major inspiration to Ian, had made the sculptures for many playgrounds and parks in Atlanta. Ian climbed on every Noguchi sculpture he could find. Fran’s side of the family, it seems, is known for altruism. Ian’s cousin Richard singlehandedly ran an orphanage in Sri Lanka for the survivors of a massacre during the Tamil Tigers’ reign. His aunt and uncle started an AIDS clinic in Africa, and personally ran it for two years. Fran herself drove an ambulance full of medical supplies into the heart of Sarajevo during the Bosnian war. Ian inherited this altruistic streak, too. “Once I gave him a coat for Christmas,” says Fran, “and it was gone by mid-January because someone else needed it more.” The Powell household was hippie-ish and sweet in nature, except for the regular and unpredictable explosions of violence from Travis. “When he wasn’t drinking, his father was the most loving,

kind, gentle person in the world,” says Fran. Ian calls his father’s instability the hallmark of his upbringing. “Growing up was really wacky at times, super violent and crazy, a pretty unstable environment. You just needed to keep your head down.” Art was Ian’s escape. It gave him structure and comfort. Still, he sees a little of Travis in himself. “There is still a hyper-violent side to me,” Ian says. “It’s really inappropriate.” Chris Wall recalls a time when Ian lost a video game and was about to snap the controller in half when Wall stopped him. Ian punched his fist through a wall. Ty Foose says he has never seen Ian unleash on another person, but he has seen him decimate things. “If you’re an inanimate object around Ian, look out. I’ve seen him turn chairs into sawdust and destroy car doors in seconds.” Ian has cleared crowded caves in Rifle with temper tantrums. Once, being late for work, he demolished someone’s car with his foot upon discovering the person had blocked him into a parking spot. “I poured gasoline on someone’s car and pulled out a lighter at a gas station once,” Ian says, adding that the person had cut him off in traffic. In 1981, Ian’s father shot himself with a 38 special. Ian was 10. “It’s really weird because Travis was only 36, so now I’m starting to think of him as a baby,” he reflects. “It’s a bummer. Psychotherapy was just becoming available to the middle class. I think if he’d held on for a few more years—but he was going pretty fast.” Ian and Fran both say Travis was probably bipolar. Ian thinks he was probably on drugs as well. He’d heard from one of his father’s friends that Travis had taken a couple of hits of acid, or maybe speed or heroin, the night of his death. A couple of years later, Fran and Ian moved to Waco, Texas. Ian had always been a loner, and he was no different in his new high school. During his junior year, Ian met Ty Foose when Ian tried to date Ty’s sister. Ian and Ty weren’t close friends right away, but they both loved climbing and started up a school climbing club. “There was no developed climbing anywhere close, so we would climb on the courthouse, the elementary school, and the buildings around town,” says Ty. After graduation, they lost touch. A year and a half later, they ran into each other at a local climbing area east of Dallas. “We were both climbing seriously and had progressed totally independently at exactly the same rate,” says Foose. “We were shocked.” That was the beginning of a close, creative, climbing-

based bond that would last for years and ultimately become their business partnership. “A couple months later we jumped in Ian’s VW bus and left Texas forever.”


ere’s how you make a hold. Start with a block of foam, which comes in a variety of weights or densities. High-density foam can be as hard as a rock. Two-pound foam is soft enough to shape with your hands. For three-pound foam, Powell’s favorite, you need a tool. Four-pound foam is closer to plaster. The density also translates to the hold’s final texture. “In geologic terms, three-pound is like a dense sandstone. Two-pound is more like the texture of Horsetooth or Flagstaff. Four-pound is more like the slick, creamy texture of Rumney,” Powell says. “Foam gives you a perfectly uniform and predictable climbing texture.” After you’re done shaping the foam, often with a tool—diamond files and Dremel bits are preferred—silicone is applied or painted on. It dries and hardens to become a mold. You then pour liquid polyurethane into the mold and cook it at 250 degrees for two hours. Pop it out of the mold and you have a fresh new hold. At least since 2006, Aragon Elastomers, in Louisville, Colorado, has manufactured holds for nine different climbing-hold companies in the U.S., according to Marci Seidel, director of operations. Today’s standard materials for making holds— two- and three-pound foam for shaping and polyurethane for pouring—weren’t always used. Holds used to be made of polyester fiberglass resin, which is toxic. And although there are early accounts of shapers such as John Yablonski employing Styrofoam, floral foam, and even surfboard foam to make molds, it wasn’t until Chas Fisher hired an intern, Josh Doolittle, an art student from the Rhode Island School of Design, in 1992, that the climbing world was introduced to two- and three-pound foam. “Everybody who got their hands on this foam just fell in love with the stuff,” Powell says. Perfectly suited for shaping and casting, the new foam made it easy to mass-produce holds. The industry exploded as brands such as Pusher, Voodoo and Teknik emerged overnight. By 1996, however, Fisher was facing insurmountable debt at Straight Up. He sold his company to Kevin Furnary, of JRAT. That year, the 25-year-old Powell, with Keith Fletcher, started their own company: e-Grips. The two set up shop in a tiny warehouse next to a strip club on the outskirts of north Boulder,

not far from where Straight Up used to be. At e-Grips, Powell and Fletcher ate, slept and lived right in the building where they were pouring noxious petroleum-based resin. A year later, Fletcher left and Powell’s old high-school buddy Ty Foose moved in. The two lived together and shaped in the same, small, toxic space. Powell and Foose would borrow a truck, drive to Denver and pick up a 55-gallon drum of the explosive liquid-petroleum syrup. “If a spark got into that thing, it would have destroyed that whole complex and half the strip club,” says Foose. The resin reeked for blocks. One day the fire marshal showed up. “He was in total disbelief at how unsafe ev-

holds. It was a thrifty thing for me, being freaking poor. If I had 50 bucks to spend, I’d want 10 meaty holds over five slopers.” At the time, most holds on the market sucked, being brittle and heavy. Matt O’Connor recalls that during his tenure managing the Boulder Rock Club from 1997 to 2003, the most stressful part of the job was broken holds. “If you set a 5.10 on the Tsunami wall in the mid-’90s, you probably used Ladder Rungs,” O’Connor says. “When those things broke, it was terrifying. They were sharp, weighed six or seven pounds and broke a lot. You’d hope the gym wasn’t crowded when they did.” Powell dreamed of finding a way to make an

“WHEN HE STARTS WORKING ON SOMETHING, HE WORKS ON IT NONSTOP, SOMETIMES FOR DAYS. I MEAN, HE WON’T SLEEP.” erything was,” Foose says. “He could tell we were totally poor and trying to scrape together a living, and said: ‘I’m gonna come back in a couple of days and that big drum of explosives had better be gone.’” That night Foose and Powell rolled the drum into Powell’s broken-down Volkswagen van in the parking lot. After that, they’d sneak outside, fill up a couple of buckets and make some holds before anyone came around. They worked 24-hour shifts, using up the resin as fast as possible until they had complete sets of holds, which they quickly sold for enough cash to fill their empty bellies and buy another barrel of resin for $500. It was the first of what Foose calls the “Soviet winters.” “Ty and I ate a burrito from 7-11 three Christmases in a row,” Powell says. “We spent all our money on barrels of resin to make holds. Everything. That’s why I’m so obsessed with small

unbreakable hold. In 1998, after experimenting with a variety of mixes, Powell discovered a unique blend of polyurethane that was more expensive than the old polyester resin, but produced a nearly unbreakable hold. It was also relatively non-toxic. According to Powell, Rob Mulligan of Voodoo, out of Salt Lake City, independently came up with his own polyurethane mix at the same time. Naturally collaborative and enthusiastic, Powell began telling other shapers in town about his great discovery. “Ian would share his ideas even when it wasn’t probably a smart move, just because he was excited and thought the whole world should embrace it,” says Foose. “A smart business play would be to keep it a secret until you have a patent, corner the market and get royalties for the rest of your life for every hand hold ever made.” Powell and Foose made a half-assed attempt to look into obtaining a patent but nev-

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er followed through. Besides, other companies were already starting to use polyurethane. “I don’t inherently like patents,” Powell says. “It’s like, ‘I wanna change the world in this cool new way, but only if everyone pays me?’” Today polyurethane holds are standard. “Literally you went from needing a hazmat suit [to shape holds] to having an inert material you could work with all day long,” says O’Connor. “Powell just wanted the industry to move forward.”


he word artist, Powell says, has always been a loaded term. “And I’ve always been that loaded term.” Says Chris Wall, “It was almost like Ian was living through the classic destructive-artist’s lifestyle. Like a Basquiat or Jackson Pollock. How close can you get to the bottom, just so you can see it? He thought that was really important for his artistic perspective. “I brought it up to him on a few occasions. I

drunk, act outlandish, and people loved it. Galleries and art buyers were practically knocking down his door. “The word ‘genius’ fucked me up,” Powell says. “It crashed headlong into my broken self esteem.” Powell began to self-destruct. He stopped working and sold everything he owned, including his townhouse. He bounced around Boulder, sleeping in his car, or at his girlfriend, Sarah’s house. His closest relationships crumbled, friends scattered and shadier characters entered his life. He stopped sculpting, climbing and shaping. On the verge of losing himself to drugs, Powell struggled to maintain a relationship and a semblance of normality. “I was trying to live a square life with Sarah and then I’d disappear and smoke crack for four days, and come home and she would have broken a sculpture in the middle of the living room. I was heartbroken I had made her that angry.” At some point, as Chris Wall recalls, it became dangerous to be involved with Powell. “I


was like, ‘Don’t you think that’s kinda cliché?’” But Powell whole-heartedly believed in his role. “There’s a certain commitment to darkness,” Powell says. “Artists are sort of paid to go out and explore this territory and report back on what we find. That seems to be the expectation.” By 2000, Powell was still living hand to mouth. Pusher had bought e-Grips then returned it to Foose and Powell for free, according to Mike Call, Pusher’s owner and general manager. But by then, Powell had decided to look beyond the climbing industry. “At some point I realized I needed to do fine art,” Powell says. “It was sculpt or starve.” When Powell started making stone sculptures, they sold instantly for thousands of dollars. Galleries approached him for work. As fast as he sculpted, his work sold. Powell’s biggest sale was a $330,000 sculpted concrete climbing wall he and Foose made for Copper Mountain. They split the money. It was 2004. Suddenly, Powell wasn’t exactly the starving artist anymore. He had money. He didn’t have to work. And he began to do cocaine. Powell says he would show up at galleries

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really wanted to help but I’d been enabling him for a long time, along with a lot of other friends. He’s amazingly charming and very persuasive and very entertaining to be around. I owed him a lot in terms of what he had done for me, especially with my career; things I wouldn’t have done without his influence.” In 2007, Powell was a full-on drug addict. “The first time I saw meth and a needle, someone said, ‘Do you wanna shoot that?’ I was like, ‘Fuck yeah! How do you do it?’” In May of that year, Ty Foose had just made the long 12-hour drive back to Boulder from Hueco when he walked up the path to his apartment to find the front door open. His living room was covered in broken household things. Powell was in the kitchen, leaning over the sink, blood spilling from his arms. “Where are your guns, I need your guns,” Powell said, becoming belligerent. Eventually Foose called the cops and they placed Powell in a psych ward. Powell’s friends were relieved; he was safe for the moment. But Foose describes those hours as the hardest in his life. When Powell got out a few months later, he vanished.


owell landed in Denver with nothing but the clothes on his back. “Once I shot meth, it was a wrap. It was powerful enough to erase my memory. I didn’t know what state I was in, where I was from,” he says. For the next year, he roamed the streets like a zombie through a pulsing underworld of tweakers and criminals. Awake for days, he lived out of dumpsters, crackhouses and shooting galleries, where the most powerful currency was meth and human flesh. “I had four boyfriends and four girlfriends who had all the dope I could shoot. A whole chunk of my life was living in this dude’s million-dollar condo. It was a serious drug scene, an entire world functioning right there among the rest of our society, next to some other million-dollar condo.” According to Powell, these roiling underbellies of drugs and sex can exist in mansions in otherwise nice neighborhoods. “Especially with crack and meth, sex comes into play. Housewives become hookers overnight; I saw it left and right. And they might stay there for a long time.” With his climber physique, Powell could stay high easily. “There always seemed to be someone who would give me free drugs if I took my clothes off.” After a year of hardcore drug use, Powell was emaciated and began looking for other ways to get more drugs. Using fake credit cards and stolen numbers, Powell hit big-box chains and office-supply stores, buying thousands of dollars of stuff to sell to dealers for drugs. Fooling the clerk at the cash register often took nothing more than a combination of fast-talking and a Banana Republic suit, albeit suspiciously rumpled from 10 days of wear. “I wanted to hurt as few people as possible and still get dope in my arm,” he says. When cop lights would appear, Powell ran. He’d run for days. He ran with armfuls of computer equipment or diamond jewelry. He ran in nothing but the clothes that hung on his starved frame, across highways and golf courses, on mall rooftops and through projects. Ironically, he often escaped by climbing buildings. Running from the cops became a daily adventure. One time, Powell was hiding from the police behind a boulder in a Denver park. He felt the cold sandstone on his back and ran his hands across its gritty edges. It reminded him of another life. “There were these weird moments where I’d find cool Dakota edges on these little sandstone boulders all over Denver. Meanwhile, I’m trying


Powell sticking the jump move on the Courthouse Traverse in Boulder. It is one of the “three hard moves” he says he has done in his climbing career.

not to get arrested. Or I’d be running across a rooftop and thinking, ‘Hey, this would be a great place for a climbing wall.’” A year and a half later, Powell landed in prison for hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit card fraud. Though it took time to overcome the shock of being locked up, not to mention sobering up, Powell ultimately realized that prison was exactly what he needed. “Prison is a complete monastery,” he says. “I got crazy clear on what’s important. You learn incredible stuff in jail—heavy serious lessons, obviously.” Powell’s cell was cold, white and uncomfortable. He would lie there and listen to his cellmate, “Mr. Blake,” shuffling back and forth across the bare concrete floor for hours. There was a pull-up bar and a basketball hoop. There were books to read and chores to do. For an entire year, Powell says, he saw no more than a finger of sky behind the cell’s metal grate. “Prison is like scary slab climbing: The only thing you can’t do is freak out. It’s forced Zen.” Powell says that some of his happiest moments were in jail. “You can lose your mind or settle down and enjoy the peace and quiet. When I knew I was going to be in there for a few years, all I could do was work on myself with no idea of the future. You’re not allowed to face success or failure. You can’t face your dreams. You can’t get that job. You can’t get that relationship. You literally can’t try for anything. So you’re kinda protected; you’re kinda happy. “You can train. That’s what I did.” In all those quiet, reflective moments, Powell had time to think about all the people that had touched his life. He appreciated every single one. “I was so happy to be sober,” Powell says. “It had been years since I hadn’t been high on something for a week. At a month it was probably the soberest I’d been in 20 years.” During the infrequent transport between prison facilities, Powell would get a few moments outside. He saw things he deeply missed. “You’d see a real cloud, wide-open sky, grassy hills—normal, beautiful things. Every little thing you appreciate.”


hen I moved to Boulder in 2001, everyone was a climber—a far cry from the scene I’d left on the East Coast in the late 1990s. Suddenly, though, it wasn’t as cool to love indoor

climbing. In fact, everyone complained about it, even though they did it all the time. Today at Movement Climbing + Fitness, the biggest gym in Boulder, you walk into a clean, airy, sunlit space, and are instantly greeted by friendly staff wearing matching green shirts. Natural light falls from skylights onto a sweep of steep walls dotted with thousands of bright holds. The routes are always refreshed. A separate bouldering area stands over continuous flooring—nothing like the old landings of dusty pea gravel or bits of rubber that gave you black boogers for days. There’s wireless and childcare, yoga and fitness classes, sparkling showers and spacious changing rooms. Like many of today’s modern gyms, including The Spot— Movement is not a bad place to be. It’s easy to take the climbing gym for granted. But it’s a luxury, one made possible by people like Powell, who have crafted the modern world of indoor climbing. And I’m lucky to have it. Like Powell now says, when you find yourself

reaching for something to fill an internal emptiness, do something. Go climbing. “Climbing is an incredible way to stay sober,” he says. “It really is.” Today Powell also seems to have reconciled with another old obsession of his: shaping. “I just gotta go shape and the world will be all right. I can be at peace with myself.” In the short term, he’s shaping holds at The Spot. He plans to return to making fine-art sculpture and hopes to build urban parks that combine sculpture and climbing. But in some ways for Powell, making the art is the easiest part. “One of the huge anchors to sobriety is accepting success and not screwing it up. If I’m this lucky and still have a shot, I really need to settle down, make some cool stuff and learn to be OK with it. All that cliché shit is true.” Caroline Treadway is a freelance journalist living in Boulder. This is her first feature for Rock and Ice.

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By Ed Douglas

The Making of an Alpinist I

f you were searching for the moment when Nick Bullock’s life changed, you might think holding another man’s broken head while cerebral fluid leaked through his fingers would be it. Then again, it could have been staring into the eyes of a spitting, raging maniac desperate to head-butt him into oblivion. That would certainly do it for me. Yet after spending months trying to understand what motivates one of the world’s most successful alpinists, I don’t think it was either. I think it was the moment Bullock realized he couldn’t breathe. He was then in his early 20s and hadn’t yet discovered the passion for climbing that transformed his life. He knew nothing of the mountains that have made him one of the biggest names in hard-core alpinism—with ascents of fluted Andean titans like Jirishanca and Quitaraju, and Himalayan giants like Chang Himal, whose north face he climbed in 2009. He had never heard of North Stack at Gogarth, the wild Welsh sea cliff that became another psychological station on his pilgrimage. Instead, Bullock was a newly trained prison

officer working at Gartree in the rural county of Leicestershire, in central England, far from the mountains. At the time, the mid 1980s, Gartree was a maximum-security jail housing some of Britain’s most notorious criminals: murderers and terrorists, wife-killers and pedophiles. Even though he was adjusting to a world of violence and rage—and constant anxiety— Bullock’s life appeared from the outside to be going well. After a false start in his teens, his career was back on track. He had just bought his own house, in a quiet village deep in the countryside. For a young man with no ties, he was making a decent living. The problem was that a lot of his cash was spent on beer and cigarettes. He took his lunch breaks in the officers’ mess, chain-smoking or dozing, waiting for his shift to resume. He didn’t realize what was happening to him until, quite literally, the alarm rang.

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had just been served warning. “At that moment,” he says, “I vowed to do something with my life before I joined the other burnt-out wrecks working towards alcoholism and their first heart attack.” The next day, during his lunch break, instead of heading for his favorite armchair for a smoke, Bullock stepped into a gym for the first time in seven years. In doing so, he reignited a passion for physical fitness that had dominated his teens. He spent a lot of time throwing up, but Bullock was on his way, and this newly kindled determination would see him break out of the prison walls and ultimately escape for good.


quarter of a century after Nick Bullock realized his life had to change, we’re standing in—where else?—a pub in Derbyshire’s Peak District. Bullock is celebrating. He has just published his first book, entitled Echoes, and since I edited it for him, I’ve been invited, too. Bullock’s characteristically broad grin is wider than ever. He has one of those open faces, especially when he smiles, that you trust immediately, and soft brown eyes framed with brown curls, giving him a professorial air. But when he frowns, he looks sharper— and harder—like a welterweight. Think Jason Statham with hair and glasses. Right now, he’s bantering with the poet and climber Mark Goodwin, who helped start him as a writer.

Everything Nick does, even conversation, he does with intensity; and in company, especially with climbing buddies, he’s the life of the party. His publisher, John Coefield, snaps a shot of Bullock with his arm thrown around the shoulders of Paul Pritchard, an iconic figure from the North Wales climbing scene of the mid 1980s, a time and place now recognized as an engine of creativity and new directions. Pritchard is a two-time winner of the Boardman Tasker Award, and has spent the last 15 years coming to terms with a traumatic head injury he suffered while climbing the Totem Pole off the coast of Tasmania. Pritchard’s first book, Deep Play, now stands as one of the great climbing autobiographies, a series of essays that Bullock regularly acknowledges as one of the inspirations for his own writing. Paul wrote the foreword for Echoes. Because he now lives in Tasmania, the two men haven’t known each other long, but it’s clear they have a lot in common. Both are what Pritchard calls in the foreword “full-timers,” living on next to nothing so every moment’s potential can be fulfilled. They are both restless and inquiring. They are also somehow different than the rest of us. They have something extra—or maybe something missing—that compels them to hunt around in the darker corners of their minds. “A few RPs short of a full rack,” is how Pritchard terms it. Then again, as Pritchard also says, “We need ‘characters’ in climbing.”


That alarm bell had come to dominate Bullock’s life. It meant that somewhere in the prison, in some painted cell or corridor, a colleague was in desperate trouble. It meant whatever he was doing, Bullock had to react and help—before things got really out of hand. I’m guessing if he heard that alarm bell now, Bullock would be off and running again. Perhaps in his dreams he still occasionally hears that bell. After pounding down the corridor to offer assistance, Bullock found himself dizzy and breathless, as though suffering from altitude sickness: “A senior officer who was a keen runner saw me red-faced, out of breath and sweating, and knew exactly what was going on. He told me I needed to sort myself out.” Still nauseous and with his heart racing abnormally, Bullock locked himself in the bathroom and sat on the toilet as the gray walls and linoleum floor spun around him. Lots of Bullock’s colleagues drank to excess. Bullock now understood that he had joined them. Drinking seemed the accepted way to cope with the pressure of guarding some of the most violent people in Britain. The life expectancy of a retired prison officer in the U.K. is less than two years beyond employment, and it’s the same in the United States. An investigation by the U.S. National Institute of Corrections found that the life expectancy of the average correctional officer after 20 years of service was just 58. Bullock


Left: Bullock climbs a Stevie Haston E5 called Hung Like a Hampster. “Loose rock, loose top out, but one of the more ‘normal’ climbing experiences on Craig Dorys” on the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales. Below: Poet Mark Goodwin on the left, and Bullock “having a big hair day!”

Bullock is sipping his beer as I pass him on my way out, and I take the opportunity to cuff him gently in his gut. I’m almost shocked by its condition. His midriff is like corrugated iron, ridged and unyielding. At 47, Bullock is more than a year older than Pritchard, whose voice seems that of a past generation. Bullock, on the other hand, seems in the best shape of his life. Even aside from his apparently unquenchable thirst for climbing hard routes, he keeps up a punishing schedule of running, cycling and circuits. I know first hand how tough that is in your 40s. From where does the motivation for such intensity come? “From being locked up,” he tells me when we meet again in Wales a few days later. “From being locked up with other prison officers who seemed to be trapped in a life they couldn’t leave. They went through repeated divorces, break-ups. They were shagging around, dissatisfied. When you’ve got all that in your life, and then you get away from it, there’s no way you’re taking your foot off the gas, because you might drift back.” Bullock is sitting in an armchair in a friend’s house, stroking her cat. Although he still has his place in Leicestershire, it’s been rented out for years. For much of the time, he’s either dossing in his van, sleeping in climbing huts or camped in the mountains. In 2012 he spent a month in Alaska, where he made the first British and sixth overall ascent of the Slovak Direct (Alaska Grade 6 5.9) on Denali, the route Steve House claimed was his first truly world-class climb. After that he spent two months in Nepal attempting a new line on Chamlang. Just now he’s housesitting and has walls around him that don’t shake in the wind, but in essence Bullock is a middle-aged dirtbag, surviving on the modest rental income that his property brings him and some small sponsorship deals. His life is organized to allow him to do exactly as he pleases, and requires exceptional self-reliance and quite a few sacrifices. There is, for instance, no Mrs. Bullock. “It’s not through choice,” he says. “Or, at least, it is a bit. I’m still quite driven in how I live my life. It would be quite selfish if I got into a serious relationship and started a family and then kept buggering off.” How people live is a constant theme in the popular blog Bullock writes. It’s as though, having wasted so many years looking for his purpose, he needs to keep reminding himself of the gray misery he left behind. He has a nearpathological fear of what he dubs mediocrity,

the kind of bland suburban consumerism that he feels has become the default of Western culture. He speaks bluntly on the subject and this can (and does) cause friction. It also makes him an easy target. A short online film, funded by his sponsor to coincide with the publication of his book, catches Bullock typically railing against the tedium of modern life. A dissonance was obvious: “We are told that consumerism is negative,” one comment runs, “[while] we are being persuaded to buy various anoraks. It’s the epitome of consumerism: to sell products by referring to a lifestyle shunning consumerism.” Another post says: “He just seems to think he is now better than the rest of us.” Bullock is used to the charge of elitism. “I’m a long way from perfect,” he says. “I’m just offering a different slant on things. I see it as my place to put another side out there.” He continues, “Deep down, I don’t actually think that what I do is that elite. I think it’s average. Although I do quite like being included in that group, I also feel like an impostor.” What Bullock says he fears most of all is compromise, as though the idea itself could melt the wax in his wings, and bring him, like

that some of us in Chamonix were trying to combine a life of earning a living as guides with climbing and skiing,” he says. “This didn’t make sense to Nick. He was there to climb and nothing else. Anything that got in the way of that was considered an evil.” Having climbed with Bullock, Cool says, “There is no one more reliable. He is totally up for anything.” It’s a view shared by all of Bullock’s partners I managed to interview. Andy Houseman, with whom Bullock climbed Chang Himal (6802 meters) in 2009, says the only time to worry is if Bullock runs out of espresso. “It would take a brave person to go on a trip with him and not take enough.” Also known as Wedge Peak, Chang Himal, in eastern Nepal, had been climbed only once before Bullock and Houseman arrived, from the south. The north face, tucked away on the approach trek to Kangchenjunga’s base camp, leaped to prominence after Alpinist magazine included it in a list of great remaining objectives in the Himalaya. What better way to make your mark? The two climbed the route in four days, with the crux pitch on day two, a shallow, overhanging corner at more than 6,000 meters “sprayed with

It ’ s as though, having wasted so many years looking for his purpose, he needs to keep reminding himself of the gray misery he left behind. Icarus, crashing back to earth. “I think Nick is more caring, understanding and sensitive than many people think,” says Kenton Cool, an alpine guide from the U.K. “As long as being those things doesn’t get in the way of climbing.” Cool fondly recalls evenings with Bullock at Cool’s house near Chamonix drinking cheap red wine in front of the fire, and arguing about climbing’s true path. “Nick always struggled a little with the fact

a sheen of ice”—and a full 60 meters. “It was one of the most impressive leads I’ve seen in the mountains,” Houseman recalls. “He shouted down, quite casually, ‘Watch me!’ before slowly tapping his way up through an overhanging bulge on very thin and rotten ice. His stubbornness and determination really pay off in the mountains. I’ve yet to see him not get up a pitch he starts.” In 2007 Cool and Bullock attempted the north face of Kalanka, but were turned around

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after three bivouacs by rotten ice. “On the hill there is no one more reliable,” Cool says. “He is totally up for anything and capable of climbing virtually everything. We came across some very steep, shitty snow on the first day’s climbing. It looked horrid to me, but Nick lapped it up.” Bullock eased his way up the foamy, unconsolidated ground, Cool recalls, by shifting his weight from foot to foot, “gaining a few inches here, a few more there, until the rope came tight. Of course, there was no belay. I found it petrifying to second, but for Nick it seemed run of the mill.” Bullock and Cool now stand at opposite ends of mountaineering’s spectrum, despite being

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old friends. Cool has become well-known in Britain to a non-climbing public and courts the mainstream media with his yarns from Everest. Bullock regularly teases him about it, often in public. “Nick isn’t jealous of me,” says Cool. “I don’t do enough climbing for him to be that. But on the media front, well, that’s a different story. Despite the fact that he’s a climber’s climber, living in his van on a shoestring, there is nothing Nick likes more than being mentioned in the press.” The contradictory pressures of modern climbing seem unusually strong in Nick Bullock. He distrusts the media, yet frequently engages with it. He dislikes consumerism, but

as a sponsored athlete jets around the world on permanent vacation. He’s emotionally intelligent and likeable, but often seems angry. And while climbing partners attest to Bullock’s steady judgment in the mountains, he has a reputation for recklessness. Who else would fall off Gogarth’s most famous chop route, The Bells! The Bells! (E7 6b)—testing the route’s only piece of meaningful gear, a weary, crumbling peg—and walk away from it? The man himself looks a little uneasy when I mention the widely held perception that he would be lucky to survive to old age. “Fear and Loathing (ED3 VII 6+ A2) was a bit too wild and scary,” he agrees, referencing the new route he climbed in 2003 with Al Powell. This heartin-mouth adventure weaves a line through the darkly Gothic architecture of Jirishanca’s southeast face, arguably the most captivating mountain aspect in the Andes. “Apart from Jirishanca, I don’t think I’ve been that reckless,” he says. “People perceive what I’ve done as being so—that I’m crazy. But actually it’s never felt that way to me. I’m not as wild as people imagine.” Echoes recounts several nasty accidents Bullock has suffered, like splitting his kneecap falling 30 feet in the slate quarries near Llanberis in North Wales. Bullock didn’t bother with a hospital, he just packed the knee with frozen peas and started training again, only getting an x-ray a week later. After the doctor saw the break, Bullock was in a cast for six weeks. Far more serious was the accident he survived during his first attempt on Jirishanca with Powell, in 2002. Climbing the initial gully to gain access to the main face, Bullock and Powell were hit by an avalanche. Bullock, out in front, was plucked off the mountain and hurled hundreds of feet to its base, the avalanche working him over like a boxer pummeling the heavy bag. Within days, and rattling with painkillers, he soloed the northwest face of Ulta, just to get something out of the trip. “I probably have been reckless as a rock climber,” he says. “I tend to press on. That attitude works well in rock climbing. If you’re fit and confident, it’ll work out if you slap for a few holds. There has been the odd occasion where that’s backfired. But over the last decade I seem to have learned something.” Whether or not Bullock deserves his reputation as a daredevil, the places he chooses to climb say a lot about him. He made a specialty of Gogarth’s North Stack Wall, a marginally off-vertical quartzite sea cliff of iconic status in British climbing and favored


Left: Bullock on the first ascent of Homeward Bound (VIII/8), Argentiere Glacier, Chamonix, France. Bullock describes it as: “Pretty scary. Thin ice, loose rock and not a lot of protection.”


Right: Bullock approaches the buttress at the start of the West Ridge of Kyashar, Hinku Valley, Nepal. Andy Houseman, his partner, says, “Every tool and crampon placement felt like a gamble.” Below: Bullock’s guidebook, open to the North Stack Wall pages, shows a bunch of ticked E7s; The Angle Man remains.

by the brilliant and slightly mad, including the artist John Redhead. “You can tell he’s an artist,” Bullock says. “There aren’t many shit Redhead routes. Everything about them works: the moves, the boldness, the names and the mood of the crag. That’s what I bought into.” “It’s not because the climbing on North Stack is super-hard,” says Ray Wood, a Llanberisbased photographer. “In sport-climbing terms, the routes are not that demanding. It’s the nature of the rock. In the back of your mind there’s always the fear that something might snap, and the gear is often horrendous.” “My greatest asset,” Bullock says, “is either having very little between my ears, or what there is being under control.” Bullock climbed almost all the famous testpieces at the North Stack—The Bells! The Bells!, The Hollow Man (E7 6b), A Wreath of Deadly Nightshade (E7 6b)—and in the process illustrated the kind of groove he wanted to chase; hard 5.12 climbing over bad gear. Technical brilliance is fine, his resume implies, but exploring the recesses of the psyche—that’s really what he’s interested in. “It’s why he’s so good at mixed climbing,” Wood says. “He’s best on delicate, runout ground. He just seems to switch a gear and become incredibly precise. There’s no flapping or waving his tools around.” Wood cites as proof Bullock’s first ascent of the hard mixed line Cracking Up on Clogwyn d’ur Arddu, graded IX, 9. Climbing it in 2006, before user-friendly leashless axes, Bullock torqued his way up this overhanging offwidth, shafts flexing, feet pasted to the edge of the crack, a single cam far below him, before his placements failed and he took a long fall. No matter. He got back on and finished it. “He likes his mind games,” Wood says. Solving a complex and risky puzzle like Cracking Up—or Chang Himal, for that matter—seems the only time Bullock’s restless brain is still. In Echoes, he writes that discovering climbing when he was already in his late 20s and working at Gartree, was like finding the psychological key to a lock he couldn’t open. Bullock’s father, he says, worked jobs he didn’t much enjoy—bricklaying, night shifts in the local textile mill and then social work— before setting up his own stationery business. He was a working-class Tory, who hated the unions and watched every penny. When he

“ My greatest asset, ” Bullock says, “ is either having very little between my ears, or what there is being under control. ” got a phone installed in the family house, he fixed it so the family couldn’t make outgoing calls. Anyone who was liberal or open-minded, Bullock says, was dismissed as “wishy-washy.” His father’s uncompromising outlook, however, was balanced by his mother’s parental dedication. She worked as a bookkeeper and then also started her own business, and, unlike Bullock’s dad, was generous to a fault. “If the money had been left to her, we’d have been destitute,” he says. The fact that she could be found under the family car with a set of wrenches when he got home from school

might have something to do with Bullock’s disdain for chauvinism. But until he worked in prison, he’d pretty much absorbed his parents’ political outlook. “I went in as someone who was right-wing,” he says. “I was looking for security. Or at least I thought I was.” Despite his years in the prison, Bullock’s sense of himself has always been wrapped up with nature. As a boy growing up in Cheadle, a small town in Staffordshire with countryside nearby, he was always knee-deep in mud, damming streams, hunting birds’ nests and climbing trees.

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Left: Angel Dust (E6 6a), Blacksmith’s Zawn, Gogarth. “The rock is kinda OK on this,” Bullock says. “Sometimes with a bit of talc powder, making you grip even more and get even more pumped but generally its OK.” Below: Jugging out of Red Wall at Gogarth after getting hosed by a “mega storm.”

boss’s wife. The process dismantled his selfconfidence: “I was psychologically scarred. It made me concerned what people were saying about me.” Finally, he called his parents and came home with his dream shattered. For years Bullock drifted, working in a warehouse at a theme park, dating a girl who loved him and whom he resisted marrying. Finally, bored with life and at his father’s suggestion, he applied for the prison service. “What he didn’t see, or neglected to mention, was the effect it would have on my personality, the horror it would introduce to my life.” Violence and aggression are constant themes in Echoes and they have left their mark on Bullock. “I’m a lot more relaxed now but I still walk around cities conscious of who’s around me. It’s like part of my brain has been sensitized.” What prison ultimately taught him was to question everything he was brought up to want:

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Stepping into the gym and quitting cigarettes, he shored himself up with the discipline of exercise and then saw the chance for a new life. the steady job, the safe option. “I went in as someone who was right wing. I was looking for security, or at least I thought I was.” Instead, it began to dawn on him that there wasn’t a lot of difference between some inmates, those doomed by a bad education or a violent father, and his own situation. “I wanted climbing,” he writes in Echoes. “I was prepared to put in the time and effort to gain the experience. But then, for repeat criminals, there’s also the thrill of the chase, the uncertainty, the tension, the excitement— how much is that part of their drive? Crime or climb? Were they just two intoxicating drugs to get some of us through the sterility of modern life, the consumerism we learn in our schools, from parents and on TV?” Stepping into the gym and quitting cigarettes,

“Mountains are morally neutral. They are big inanimate objects. That’s what appeals to me— their purity. What you put in is what you get out.” There are a few signs that the rage and appetite are starting to fade a little. Bullock was back at North Stack last summer after a couple of years’ break. “It was like coming home. The sun was shining. Seals were popping their heads up. I looked around and thought, ‘I’m just glad to be here.’ It was as much as a reason to be there as the climbing. I thought: ‘I must be getting old.’” Ed Douglas has been climbing for 30 years and is a frequent contributor to Rock and Ice. His books include Tenzing: Hero of Everest. He is currently working with Ben Moon on his life story


As a teenager he was passionate about that quintessentially northern tradition of ferreting for rats and rabbits. He had his first shotgun at 14 and used it to hunt crows, pigeons and rabbits. His life’s path was set; Nick would become a gamekeeper at 16, managing the shooting estate of someone far richer than a person from his own background could imagine. He was also, at one point, a punk, mooching around Cheadle in red jeans, Doc Marten boots and a green combat jacket with the names of bands—The Slits, The Sex Pistols—scrawled on it. This was his uniform, whether he was catching rabbits or buying records. Hardly surprising, then, that when Bullock discovered climbing in his late 20s, Mark Twight’s punkalpinist manifesto—Kiss or Kill—would be such a profound influence. “His writing was so powerful,” Bullock says. “The anger. That grabbed me. It’s anti-heroic and anti-establishment. It appealed to my punkrock youth. I’m not going to play nicely because you want me to; I’m not going to fulfill your expectations of what I should be. He seemed not to care what people thought about him.” Bullock also admires Twight’s intense dedication. “I would never put myself in his league, but in a way I can relate to him,” he says. “He isn’t an absolute natural and he’s worked really hard. That’s the kind of person I’ve always associated with.” Life as a gamekeeper didn’t work out for Bullock. Serving an apprenticeship in North Wales, living a strange, isolated life, he found himself at 16 and 17 being bullied by his

he shored himself up with the discipline of exercise and then saw the chance for a new life as a physical-education instructor. It was like a cell door swinging open. That’s when he discovered the mountains, during the outdoor segment of his PE training course, at Plas y Brenin, the prestigious national training center in North Wales. That’s when he started breathing again. Bullock has seen a lot of violence and corruption in his life. He has lived with a lot of people going nowhere. The memory of holding another man’s broken skull at the prison will, I guess, never lose its horror for him. He has a pretty low opinion of the legal system, having watched lawyers lie to get their clients off. He’s witnessed a lot of moral degradation. So it’s not surprising that the freedom of the hills means quite a bit more to him than the rest of us. “Injustice and dishonesty anger me,” he says.



“It’s really windy up high,” Houseman said. It was 3 a.m. on the Slovak Direct. Setting out, we traversed the ice slope. In my mind, the granite tower blocks swayed—twisting under the force of the wind, the sky between the monoliths streaked red. Plumes of spindrift ripped from the summit slopes and flushed the gutters between the skyscrapers. Andy Houseman, my alpine partner of many years, led us beneath a high, huge and beautiful corner draped with continuous dribbles and overhanging blossoms of ice. As he gained about 70 meters, I peered up, trying to see into the corner. “What’s it look like?” I called to Houseman. “Scary.” Uncertainty echoed within the word. A hundred meters up the corner, I took the lead, pounding Houseman with loose snow. We were getting somewhere, but beyond, a porcelain arete pointed the way to the most technical pitch of the route.

more difficult moves and very few footholds. I had run out of cams. I had spent too long on this pitch already. I had pushed and run it out, risking breaking an ankle or worse, and we were at the point where getting off this climb would turn into an epic, especially if someone was injured. I reversed to my last gear. “Take.” Houseman lowered me and took over using whatever style necessary to get us back on track, and in an hour or so we were both above the crux. I sneaked along an undercut gangplank of granite and, more than any other time on the climb, accepted that we had now reached the point where it was better to go up and over than reverse. Repeatedly over the years I had placed myself in committing places, but a shadow in my mind called this the most committing yet: with no way

I pulled my head from the frozen sleeping bag. The wind had dropped. It was now or maybe never. Kevin Mahoney, one of the second-ascent team, in 2000, had told an aspirant Jesse Huey this A2 pitch would go free at about M8. On his ascent, in 2010, Jesse attempted to free the pitch but ran out of gear, then back-cleaned and aided. Picks twisting in flared cracks and crampon points sparking, with biceps already drained from the pumpy corner below, I fought nearly to the top of the pitch. I could see that only 10 feet of hard climbing remained, but with several

down, and the Denali weather exactly as savage as people had told me it would be. The weather and altitude were in combination more debilitating to me than anything I had ever experienced, even in the Himalaya. HOUSEMAN BATTLED OUT FRONT, thrashing

through the avalanches pouring down the final technical pitch. We had now been on the go for about 22 hours, with thousands of feet still to climb.


ASCENTS OF THE SLOVAK DIRECT 1. Slovak Direct, Grade VI WI6 M6+ A2 2700m. FA: Blazej Adam, Tono Krizo and Frantisek Korl, over 11 days, 1984.

2. Kevin Mahoney and Ben Gilmore, over seven days, May, 2000.

By 6 a.m., 27 hours had passed, not counting the two-day approach and the nine hours to reach the first bivvy. My feet were blocks of ice—I needed to stop and warm them. Reaching the Cassin Ridge at 17,500 feet, we found a flat spot behind a large boulder. The bullying gales prevented us from threading our tent poles, and we crawled into the bag that should have been a tent. The stove refused to start in the suffocating cellophane sticking to our bodies. I felt shrink-wrapped. At last we managed to light the stove and melt some water. I warmed my feet and then crawled into a fetal curl. It was six hours before we set out again. “Let’s go, we need to keep going,” Houseman said. Three thousand feet remained. Up and over the top in one final push, that’s what we wanted, but we were shut down at 18,500 feet by the gales, and set up the tent. Sixteen more hours passed as we lay in it, and neither Houseman nor I talked about the specter of being pinned down until weakness took over. I lay in the little single-skinned tent and watched it buckle. I thought of Al Rouse, who died of exhaustion on K2, and Iñaki Ochoa de Olza, dying high on Annapurna. “LISTEN,” HOUSEMAN SAID.

I pulled my head from the frozen sleeping bag. The wind had dropped. It was now or maybe never. Thigh-deep, avalanche-prone snow made the “easy” part of this climb anything but easy—but, six days since leaving 14,000, we were slowly balancing on Denali’s summit ridge. As I stepped onto that highest point in North America, I thought of something Ian Parnell once said to me, “We both know that the crux of any route in the mountains is the final step onto the summit.” Reaching that non-technical final step means resisting the chances to escape, means being committed, and that is the most challenging part.


3. Steve House, Scott Backes and Mark Twight. 60 hours, single push, June 24-26, 2000.

4. Katsutaka Yokoyama, Yusuke Sato and Fumitaka Ichimura, linking with Isis Face, May 2008.

5. Jesse Huey and Mark Westman, 80-hour effort, June 2010.

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6. Andy Houseman and Nick Bullock, 84 hours, June 2012.


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BLACK DIAMOND VAPOR WWW.BDEL.COM | $139.95 | hen I saw that the new Vapor weighed just 6.6 ounces, or not that much more than my (official) Broncos ball cap, I figured that the helmet couldn’t possibly amount to much in the way of coverage and protection. Yet the Vapor offers as much head coverage as any helmet, including those of twice the weight.


The secret to the Vapor’s phantom weight and considerable protection is two layers of Kevlar and an internal frame of carbon rods sandwiched in a matrix of expanded polystyrene foam (EPS). This structure gives the helmet enough crush and penetration resistance to earn it CE certification, and allows BD to use thinner foam than you’ll find in any other helmet. An eggshell-thin sheath of polycarbonate plastic protects the foam. Besides trimming weight, the Vapor’s unique construction lets it sit lower on your head, minimizing the “crystal skull” effect of high-riding helmets that make you look as if you belong behind the controls of a flying saucer. The low-bulk helmet is also less apt to bang against the rock when you are tight to the wall or under a roof. On my head, the Vapor sits about a ½ inch lower than other helmets and to me this is the big selling point. I used the Vapor extensively on rock and ice, and wore a variety of knitted caps under it, plus, of course, my afro. A simple two-way ratcheting head strap let me snug up or let out the helmet’s

fit in seconds even when the Vapor was already on my head. The chinstrap buckles and adjusts easily, points that I appreciate after fumbling with other helmets’ gizmos. My concern is durability. At nearly $140, the Vapor is the most expensive helmet made, and the one most likely to get dinged up. Already, mine has a nice dent from when I tossed a pair of crampons on top of it. If you are rough on gear this probably isn’t the helmet for you. Lack of a UIAA certification is also something to think about. While the Vapor passes the CE tests, the UIAA requires that the maximum force transmitted to your head be 2 kN less. In the real world I don’t know if this would make a difference, simply because there’s no body of data about helmet use, accidents and injuries. Black Diamond says that they made the Vapor light and low-riding because they wanted a helmet that climbers would wear all the time. To that end they have succeeded. Until now I’ve never worn a helmet for rock climbing. The Vapor has changed my ways. —Duane Raleigh

[ FEATURES ] > 6.6 ounces (6.4 w/o accessory headlamp clips)— one of the lightest helmets ever made. > Easy to adjust and buckle. > Foam body with Kevlar and carbon-fiber rod reinforcements. > Lowest-profile helmet on the market. > CE- but not UIAA-certified. > Expensive.



he Lava Infinity is a hot-forged, lightweight biner that overcomes some of the limitations inherent in the new crop of smaller designs by virtue of its novel shape. A thin spine helps the biner seat against your thumb or fingers and the wide basket provides a nice surface for ropes and slings. The “infinity” gate, basically a wiregate that has been pinched in the middle, maintains the advantages of wiregates—lighter and less prone to “gate flutter” and icing than solid gates—while helping to eliminate tangling. Who hasn’t experienced a moment of panic when your nut tool or wired nut jams through a wiregate, causing a show-stopping clusterfuck?

>34 grams >Major-axis strength: 23kN >Gate-open strength: 8kN >Minor-axis strength: 8kN >Length: 3.53 inches >Width: 2.03 inches >Crimped wire-gate minimizes gear tangles.

The one drawback with the Lava Infinity is a problem that besets all smaller designs: They’re harder to clip and rack than full-size biners. That said I use the Lava Infinity on dedicated gear that I don’t clip on and off my harness, such as my hammer leash and bolt bag. One intangible is the cool factor. These biners just look bitchin’ and draw comments at the crag. That, in itself, might be reason enough to have these on your rack. —Jeff Jackson


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rc’teryx has a reputation for clean, innovative and userfriendly gear, and this pack won’t let fans down.

The new Miura is fully padded with a U-shaped closure that allows access all the way down either side and/or from the top. There’s a haul loop between the shoulder straps that you can use to clip the pack in to belays, and a handy, stiff interior gear loop that allows you to organize your rack. Dual side handles allow the pack to be toted as luggage. The padding throughout the body creates a relatively rigid, boxy pack that is super easy to root through. A roomy top pocket is cleverly designed to shuttle items away from the opening into a pouch farther back. This arrangement protects lunches and other

fragile kit like headlamps. An internal zippered pocket under the lid adds functionality and stash space. I never really used the two front pockets on the back panel, but these would be ideal for flat, durable items like guidebooks, topos and maps. The lack of exterior doodads coupled with the burly 840D nylon fabric makes this pack very haul-able. My only gripe has to do with this ultra-clean design. While I was able to easily pack away rope and draws for sportclimbing trips, I wish there were a couple of small “gumby straps” on the back for clipping bulky items like helmets or axes to the exterior. —JJ

[ FEATURES ] >Weight: 35 liter: 37 oz.; 45 liter: 42 oz. >Fabrics: Body: 840D nylon; back panel: HD 80 foam; shoulder straps: 500D ATY nylon, silicon-treated yarn, EV 50 foam. >Ergonomic shoulder straps. >Adjustable sternum strap. >Hydration-bladder-compatible. >Two-inch-webbing hip belt. >Top-pocket key clip.



erfect timing! What could be the warmest, lightest, loftiest down jacket ever made arrived just as the temp plummeted to minus 5 degrees.

The Encapsil Parka is the first 1,000-fill down jacket and has hydrophobic down stuffed into independent baffling, which, in the sewing world, is akin to climbing 5.15. The down industry is getting a kick in the pants as new technologies emerge to address the shortcomings of feathers. In 2012 DriDown and DownTek came out with technology that treats down with a chemical polymer that makes it hydrophobic— instead of the down balling up like a wad of used tissues when it gets wet, the feathers retain loft. The technology being employed in the Encapsil Parka is drastically different. The down is sent through a vacuum and agitated with low-level radio frequency waves, causing the feathers to poof out beyond their natural shape. Then the down is plasma-treated to give it hydrophobic properties. Until now, the very best naturally occurring down could only

expect to reach a loft of 800, possibly 900, fill power. This new technology has yielded 1,000-fill down, a significant and very cool innovation. I tested the Encapsil in negativedegree temperatures and wet, heavy snowfall. My upper body was never cold while wearing this thing and I was surprised to find that it was just as warm as another expeditiongrade down jacket I own that is more than twice as heavy and three times as bulky. In a very wet snowfall, the nylon exterior did a good job of beading up water, but ultimately, the jacket began to feel wet. Yet the down retained its shape and loft. When I got back inside, I crumpled the wet jacket and watched as it puffed back up. A few problems exist, however. The jacket is really expensive and even if you have 700 ducats to shell out, you may not be able to find one because only 1,000 are being manufactured. —Andrew Bisharat

[ FEATURES ] >Independent baffling and differential cut eliminate “cold spots.” >Helmet-compatible hood with single drawcord for easy adjustments. >Two baffles behind zipper keep out cold and make for snag-free zipping. >Encapsil down first to achieve 1,000-fill power.

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Smart training goes a long way! As it turns out, flogging yourself on the bouldering wall for three hours is not the most effective way of training.

I am 40 and have been climbing for 25 years. I get pain and stiffness in the joints at the end of my fingers for several days after climbing, particularly if I have been crimping a lot. The pain seems to be getting progressively worse.


—Aaron / Forum FINGER PAIN AND CLIMBING are like Johnny and June—inseparable. Though at first it may be such things as skin and joint pain from excessively thrashing yourself to oblivion, in middle age it is more likely due to some form of degeneration … plus or minus thrashing yourself to oblivion. Aging is like a glacier gouging its way around your body—unseen, inexorable. Your pain and how it presents is virtually textbook osteoarthritis (OA)—although, as usual, it is not the only possible diagnosis.

Usually due to an umbrella of factors related to aging and mechanical overload, OA initially affects the joint surface, with other signs and symptoms—such as bone spurs and debris within the joint—to follow. The synovial cartilage that lines the end of the bone (the shiny surface) degenerates and becomes inflamed. This process, along with inflammation of the capsule around the joint, results in stiffness, swelling and tenderness that increase after a workout.

[ Giving Osteoarthritis the Finger ] NON-STEROIDAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS (NSAIDS) are quite effective for managing pain and swelling, but probably do nothing to alleviate degenerative processes, and may even speed them up. Glucosamine sulphate used to be king of the alternative supplements, but even it has seen some unenthusiastic peer reviews in recent years. Green-lipped muscle extract, distilled from a rather tasty breed of shellfish, has shown some promise, but the number of studies is quite small. Most other supplements are a Western version of Nigerian web scams that prey on the hopeful. But you never know. Even if the promised treasure does not materialize, there might at least be a few gold bars knocking about.

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unstoppable process. Smart training goes a long way! As it turns out, flogging yourself on the bouldering wall for three hours is not the most effective way of training. Multiple shorter sessions are likely to produce less pain and swelling, and strengthen aspects of climbing that will help avoid annoying the finger joints excessively. Brief, structured sessions on the finger board and campus board (no full crimps) will maximize your open-hand strength as well as minimize time on potentially aggravating holds in a gym or on a cliff. Be careful, though. The Christians had a better record against the lions than climbers do with the campus board.

How does Alpha Brain [a nutritional supplement purported to increase mental acuity, among other things] affect climbing? —Gerry Hampton / Boulder, Colorado

WELL, IT’S COMPLICATED. Normal people assume that all things sold in The Shops are thoroughly tested by The Government and therefore must perform, at least for a while, as it says on the box. If they didn’t, that would be lying and punishable by The Police. These people move through the world with absolute conviction that the things they buy will make them better in some way. The more expensive, the better it will be. Enter the dragon that is Alpha Brain, complete with unknown white powder, a name that demands subservience from your ego, and a stamp from the FDA. Now enter the brain that is not so alpha—yours. Pliable in all the wrong ways, you Stop suffering and let quickly Dr. J’s medical advice be fall for hewn into your minds! Send your questions to the pretty colors and

magic-box mentality. Ironically, this setup often works out great for everybody via the placebo effect. You believe it will help you, therefore it does. With some anticipation, you take some as soon as it arrives in the mail. Oddly, your chest seems almost instantly more broad and your grip more vise-like. If only you could find a giant beer can to crush like an accordion. Your attitude morphs, you feel greater confidence and possibly that your penis is bigger. You hold your head higher. You catch girls staring at you, which is odd since it’s typically the other way around. Your climbing surges as your confidence grows. You dig deeper, pull harder. You try routes that once intimidated you, and find that they are not so bad and that you really are a great climber. Wow, that Alpha Brain stuff is the shizzle. RI



The obvious and unfortunate repercussion is that the joint will no longer tolerate what you are doing to it, be it the volume or intensity of your climbing, or other specifics like joint angles (read: crimping). Like almost every middle-aged rock star, including myself, you are suffering the accumulative effect of aging, which is quite a humbling journey. Some people will suffer enough from OA that climbing becomes a somewhat unhappy experience, and, if not sexually active anymore, they may consider taking up golf. Most will slow down a bit and continue to enjoy their climbing. Some will negotiate their way through it, temporarily staving off the consequences of an ultimately

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by NEIL GRESHAM Lydia McDonald getting some mileage out of Mr. Fantasy (5.11c), New River Gorge, West Virginia.

WEEKLY MICROCYCLES Select the appropriate weekly plan for your level. If you are required to train on two consecutive days, boulder on day 1 and do endurance on day 2. It’s up to you how to fit the sessions into your weekly schedule. The numbers below indicate days per week. Beginner



1. Low-intensity endurance




2. Bouldering volume




3. Conditioning and flexibility




4. Antagonists and core






Two different structure options are given both for the lead wall and the bouldering wall. Do not attempt more than one in each session, and the best approach is to alternate between the two.


BUILDING A BETTER CLIMBER to the Rock and Ice year-long training plan. If W elcome you followed part one, outlined in No. 208 [see Training on], then you’ll be feeling fit and ready to move on to the next phase. You have laid down a base of general strength and fitness, and the next stage will move on to sport-specific endurance.



For climbers this means focusing on high-volume, low-intensity training. In this phase you’ll start racking up routes in multiple sets and going for the burn. You must also keep up your bouldering sessions, at least one a week, but prioritize mileage rather than working projects. For best results, add a personalized touch by adapting the plan to your goals or weaknesses; for example, by focusing more on specific types of holds or angles, but the overall effect will still be powerful even if you do exactly what’s set out here. Be sure to warm-up and cool down, as well as to listen to your body and adjust the workload if you are not recovering.

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a) Routes / Option 1 [ 5x3s ] Warm-up first. Select 3 different routes of the same grade that you can climb consecutively, “3 in a row.” See guidelines below for optimum wall angle. Note that the grade will be at least 2 or 3 below your onsight grade for beginner/intermediates and 4 below onsight grade for advanced/ elite. Lower off and make the transition to the next route as quickly (and safely) as possible. Climbing 3 routes in a row equals one set. Do 5 sets with rests equal to climbing time. Aim to make subsequent sessions slightly harder by bumping up the grade of the three routes by one letter. b) Routes / Option 2 [ Up-down-ups ] The aim is to climb up a route, then back down a route (usually approximately 2 grades easier), and then back up the first route. For beginners and intermediates, the grade of the up-climb should be at least 2 below your onsight grade and the down-

climb will be 3 below. For advanced/ elite, the grade of the up-climb will be at least 3 below your onsight grade and the down-climb will be 5 below. Do this a total of 5 times, with rest times equal to climbing time. Aim to make subsequent sessions slightly harder using the following target sequence: 1. Make the up-climb a letter grade harder, 2. Make the downclimb a letter grade harder. c) Low-intensity endurance on the bouldering wall [ Random climbing ] Find an easy and quiet area of the bouldering wall. Warm-up first, then climb around, selecting holds at random for 10 minutes. Go up, down and diagonally, as well as traversing. Try linking color-coded problems together, provided they are easy enough. Aim for a moderate and continuous level of pump. If you get too pumped, find a resting position and work at recovering before continuing. If you have a training partner, take turns pointing each other around the wall using a stick. [ 5 mins on /5 mins off ] [ 10 mins on /10 mins off ] [ 15 mins on /15 mins off ] [ 10 mins on /10 mins off ] [ 5 mins on ] >Optimum wall angle for lowintensity endurance training [ Beginner / Low intermediate ] vertical [ Intermediate ] 5 - 10 degrees overhanging [ Advanced ]



TRAINING 10 - 20 degrees overhanging [ Elite ] 20 - 30 degrees overhanging >Finish all endurance sessions with sets of pull-ups and straight-leg raises to failure. [ Beginners ] 2 sets [ Intermediates ] 3 sets [ Elites ] 5 sets

2 BOULDERING - VOLUME Climb the problems in pyramid formation. The hardest problem, at the top of the pyramid, should take 3 or 4 tries. Rest 1 minute between problems at the first two grade levels. Rest 2 mins between problems at the third and fourth levels. Rest 3 to 4 mins between problems at the highest grade level. Aim to do 1 more problem at the highest or second-highest grade level with each session. [ Beginner / Low intermediate ] V0 x 4; V1 x 3; V2 x 3; V3 x 1; V2 x 3; V1 x 3 [ Intermediate ] V0 x 4; V1 x 3; V2 x 2; V3 x 2; V4 x 2; V5 x 1; V4 x 2; V3 x 2 [ Advanced ] V1 x 4; V2 x 3; V3 x 2; V4 x 2; V5 x 2; V6 x 1; V5 x 2; V4 x 2; V3 x 2; V2 x 2

[ Elite ] V2 x 3; V3 x 3; V4 x 2; V5 x 2; V6 x 2; V7 x 2; V8 x 1; V7 x 2; V6 x 2; V5 x 2; V4 x 2; V3 x 2

3 CONDITIONING & FLEXIBILITY This session remains the same. See No. 208 or go to Training on for the article and videos of conditioning exercises and stretches. a) Run (30 mins)—include 3 or 4 intervals. b) Conditioning circuit (10 mins)—Burpees or rope skipping e.g. [ 1 min on /1 min off ] x 5 c) Flexibility (15 mins)—hold stretches for 20 secs, twice each.

4 ANTAGONISTS & CORE This session remains the same. See No. 208 or go to Training on for the article and videos of antagonists and core exercises. a) Antagonists Do 3 sets of 20 reps of the following exercises with 2 minutes of rest between sets. Don’t go to failure (or, optional, go to failure on last set). 1. Push-ups (kneeling if required) 2. Reverse wrist curls. Use a weight that you

can handle comfortably for 3 sets of 20 reps. 3. Finger extensions (with rubber band). b) Core 1. Extreme plank 10 reps x 3 sets with 2 minutes rest. Do an extra rep each session. 2. Iron cross (As extreme plank but spread arms/legs wide). 10 reps x 3 sets with 2 minutes rest. Do an extra rep each session. 3. Leg paddles Lie on your back in a half sit-up position. Hands on temples, crunch-up to mid-way. Stretch legs out straight in front, hold feet just above the ground and paddle up and down. 50 reps x 3 with 2 mins. rest. Do 5 additional reps each session. >GO TO TRAINING ON ROCKANDICE.COM TO REVIEW ANY OF THE ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES. [ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ] Neil Gresham has been training climbers since 1993. Check out his training DVDs at

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I am looking for a helmet, but don’t know whether I should buy a plastic or a foam helmet. I am a weekend warrior, lead 5.11 sport and trad and do some ice. What should I get? —jimbo via

TO ENTER THE WORLD OF climbing helmets is to step into a realm as unknowable as the fifth dimension. Theoretically, we think that helmets will help keep us safe, but no one knows to what extent—there’s no comprehensive body of data that proves one way or the other the benefits of a helmet. Even in the multi-billion-dollar world of professional football, the protection offered by the various helmet designs is a hot topic and even the clinical definition of a concussion debatable. We do know that no blow to the head is good, and that a helmet could prevent or minimize head injuries and likely save lives. Certainly there is no harm in wearing one, so why not?


YOUR HANDS! Only prohands exercises each finger individually for superior hand, wrist, and forearm strength and endurance.

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THERE ARE THREE types of helmets: plastic, foam and hybrid. PLASTIC. These have a hard plastic shell and a nylon webbing suspension much like you’d find in an old army pot helmet. Plastic helmets are heavy—mine weighs a solid pound—but also the cheapest and most durable. These are the old standards, and were once common for ice climbing where you often get clocked in the head by ice. Plastic helmets can take a beating and keep on protecting you, at least from impacts from above. For side impacts, a plastic helmet can bend inward and transmit most of the impact directly to your head. For that reason and market demands, plastic helmets have largely been discontinued by the major players. HYBRID. Think hard-boiled egg. These helmets have a plastic shell with a foam “EPS”

My hunch is that some helmets probably don’t offer the protection that their wearer believes they provide. A helmet, for instance, may have been designed to barely pass the CE test and might not offer much side protection since the CE does not require helmets to be tested in full side-impact mode. Since most rock climbers are more likely to bang the sides of their heads in a fall rather than be struck on the crown by a falling object, certain high-cut models might be little more than glorified pith helmets. You didn’t ask whether I believe in helmets, but I do, so long as I am wearing the best one I can find.

lining similar to or exactly like the stuff used to make Styrofoam coolers. Hybrids weigh around 10 ounces and cost about $60. With a hybrid helmet, the foam sits directly on your head and the webbing harness does not have a true structural function. On impact, the foam shell breaks, absorbing energy. Hybrid helmets aren’t as durable as plastic, but do weigh a lot less. Durability is good as long as you do not pack hard items inside the helmet. Depending on how far the foam comes down the sides, a hybrid helmet can offer better side, front and back impact protection than a plastic helmet, although some hybrids are cut alarmingly high above the ears and forehead. FOAM. These have a foam body of expanded polystyrene with a thin plastic coating, usually polycarbonate, to protect the foam. These weigh around 8

ounces and cost upwards of $100. As with a hybrid helmet, the foam sits directly on your head. Foam helmets are the least durable and bang up quickly if you just toss them around like a slob. Yet I prefer them because they are lighter, and the ones I have look like they would do well in a side-impact situation, such as what you might encounter in a tumbling sport-climbing fall. Most climbers will find that a hybrid will serve them well in all situations. New to the market are the Black Diamond Vapor (see Field Tested) and the Petzl Sirocco. Both are foam, but use the latest technology to make them even lighter than all other models. Both are worth a serious look and I expect to soon see some of their innovations trickle down to the less expensive models. If you do choose a foam or hybrid helmet, carefully read the manufacturer’s notices. Most

[ WIN A C.A.M.P. RACK PACK ] The lightest full-size carabiners in the world come in eight colors to coordinate with cam colors. They are easy clipping and feature a thin spine that makes grabbing them off gear loops a breeze. To score your Rack Pack, send a question to Gear Guy at If your question is selected as next issue’s leading query, you win the goods. Next!

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GEAR GUY manufacturers advise against using their foam or hybrid models in temperatures below four degrees, when the foam can become brittle, or above 95, when the foam can soften. It’s also not a good idea to put stickers on a foam helmet, as the adhesive can adversely react with the shell. Take care not to sit on a foam helmet and carefully pack it away from hard objects such as cams, crampons and ice tools, which can cut or ding the precious foam. Last, a helmet won’t do jack squat if you haven’t fit it correctly. Get it too loose and it can shift and expose your head. That doesn’t sound good, does it? Fit your helmet snugly and cinch down the chinstrap until the helmet no longer moves about. Next!




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Should I carry a first-aid kit, and if so, what should be in that kit? —Ben Asprin, Salt Lake City, Utah

THE GREAT POLAR explorer Robert F. Scott included cocaine, opium, morphine, a tincture of cannabis mixed with chili pepper, and whiskey in his medical kit. To paraphrase Major Kong in Dr. Strangelove, “A fella could have a pretty good time in Vegas with all that stuff.” For cragging, I don’t carry a first-aid kit, but I would pack one to go to a remote location, and I would prioritize supplies to stop bleeding and establish an airway. Anything else is a luxury. For bleed-outs, the U.S. military uses QuikClot, a natural enzyme in powder form that coagulates blood. This stuff will stop bleeding even in the case of a severed femoral artery. You can purchase it from QuikClot also comes in the Adventure Medical Kits Trauma Pak along with other essentials such as a sterile dressing, gauze and tape. D-I-Yers should also get a NATO First Field Dressing, sterile triangular bandages, duct tape, disposable rubber gloves and a CPR pocket shield. That is all you might need to save someone’s life—if it can be saved—in most trauma situations, but, like Scott, I’d toss in a few more items to make being around a wounded person more bearable. A flask of whiskey, pain meds such as the opiates oxycodone or morphine in pill form, antibiotics and an antibiotic wash, scissors, a suture kit and safety pins all help quell the screaming. Familiarize yourself with these items, and know when and how to use/administer them. For example, don’t take the pain meds and whiskey at the same time. If you are serious, take a wilderness firstresponder course. NOLS offers a two-week clinic in many states and charges $600 to $900. At a more basic level you can take a simple American Red Cross first-aid course. Gear Guy Has Spoken!


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MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE SEMINARS (MAS) (209) 753-6556 AMGA Accredited. MAS specializes in finely crafted adventures and professional training on rock, snow and ice. MAS can help you become an proficient mountain traveler while reaching your goals. CA Regions: Lovers Leap, Calaveras Dome, SF Bay Area and Sierra Nevada

FOUR WINDS HIMALAYAN GUIDE SERVICE: 206-282-0472;; Matt FiorettiGuide/Owner- has led 19 expeditions and has 31 seasons of experience at altitude. For group sizes, availability, and climbing/trekking schedule visit us on the web. Pumori Kangchung* Ama Dabalam* Manasulu* Kyajo Ri* Mt Kailash

MOUNTAIN MADNESS; Seattle, WA; 800-3285925; AMGA certified; Since 1984;; markg@mountainmadness. com; Seven Summits • expeditions worldwide • North Cascades and international climbing schools • guided ascents, • trekking, and skiing

FOX MOUNTAIN GUIDES AND CLIMBING SCHOOL; Pisgah Forest, NC; 888-284-8433;;; Rock and Ice guiding and instruction • South American Expeditions • New England Ice • Southeast’s only AMGA Accredited Program GLENWOOD CLIMBING GUIDES; Glenwood Springs, CO; 970-309-4795/877-346-4536;;; AMGA, Rock–Sport & Trad; Western Colorado • Guiding and instruction in Rifle Mountain Park and Glenwood Canyon ITALIAN OUTDOOR; Climbing, hiking, mountaineering and more with Guido Bonvicini, Alpine Guide of Italy; +39 3358239808;;; Alpine Guide UIAGM–IFMGA Based near Milan, in Italy, right in front of the Alps.; We take people all around the Alps and Dolomites, as well as other European mountains. Trekking, rock climbing, trad climbing, mountaineering, ice climbing, all around Alps, (Mt Blanc, Matterhorn, Grivola, Mt. Rose and more). All around Dolomites, (Brenta, Tofane, Lavaredo, Marmolada and more). Special rock climbing in Sardinia, Sicily, Kalimnos, Arco, Finale Ligure, Mello Valley, Orco Valley. Alpine activities for all ages. INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN GUIDES; Ashford, WA; 360-569-2609; www.mountainguides. com;; “Climbing the World’s Great Mountains” Seven Summits • Alaska • Ouray • Joshua Tree • North Cascades • Smith Rocks • Ecuador • Bolivia • Mexico • Peru • Cho Oyu • Alps • Mt. Rainier JACKSON HOLE MOUNTAIN GUIDES; Mountain Adventures since 1968; Jackson, WY; 800-239-7642;;; AMGA accredited; Tetons • Wind Rivers • Wild Iris • Sinks Canyon • Beartooths • City of Rocks • Moab • Red Rock

MOUNTAIN SKILLS CLIMBING GUIDES; Arroyo Seco, NM; 505-776-2222;;; Taos, NM • Red Rocks • Las Vegas • Shawangunks, NY • Mexico • Thailand ON TOP GUIDES/JORG WILZ; Canmore, Alberta, CANADA; 800506-7177; 403-678-2717;;; Certified Mountain Guides (IFMGA / UIAGM) Canada - Europe - USA Mountaineering, Rock, Ice; Canada • Alps • Dolomites • Spain • France • Italy ROCKBUSTERS; SPAIN, COSTA BLANCA, SELLA, +34678243573,, info@; (AMI, MHSSZ) New and fresh approach! We are a multicultural team that speaks English, Spanish, French, Czech, Swedish, and Hungarian. We concentrate on climbing and bouldering, holidays/camps around Europe; Spain, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy SIERRA MOUNTAIN CENTER; Bishop, CA; 760873-8526;;; AMGA and IFMGA certified guides, Rock, Ski, Alpine, Ice and avalanche courses, Custom Trips, Private Guiding, Parent/Child courses and Guide Training; Sierra Nevada • Mt Whitney • Alaska • Patagonia • Dolomites • New Zealand SIERRA MOUNTAINEERING INTERNATIONAL; Bishop, CA; (760) 872-4929;;; Sierra • Mt. Whitney • Palisades • Seven Summits • Ecuador • Mexico • Peru • Europe • Africa • Mt. Ararat • Rock climbing • Ice climbing • Backcountry skiing Avalanche courses

[ GUIDE SERVICES ] SIERR A ROCK CLIMBING SCHOOL; Bishop, CA; 877-6867625;;; PCGI Certified; Customized rock climbing instruction & guiding for individuals, groups & families. Eastern Sierra • Bishop • Mammoth Lakes • Joshua Tree • Bay Area SOUTHWEST CLIMBING; Prescott, AZ; (928) 899-4940;;; AMGA Certified Guides; rock courses, camps, self-rescue, stewardship programs, single track to crag, yoga. Comprehensive instruction and adventures tailored for aspiring to experts; Arizona • Indian Creek • Colorado • Red Rock • Joshua Tree • Potrero Chico • Mexico TALKEETNA AIR TAXI; Talkeetna, AK; 907-733-2218; FAA Approved Part 135 Air Operator, Glacier Landing Concessionaire of Denali National Park;; info@; Alaska Range • Denali National Park • Mt. McKinley • Mt. Hunter • Mt. Foraker • Mooses Tooth • Mt. Huntington • Great Gorge • Ruth Glacier TORRENT FALLS CLIMBING ADVENTURE 1617 N KY 11 Campton, KY 41301; 606-668-6613;;; AMGA SPI certified, WFA, WFR, Rescue 3 International Technical Rope rescue; We offer Guided Rock Climbing, Guided Rappelling, Via Ferrata (1st one in the United States), Climbing Clinics, Night Climbing on the Via Ferrata, Boy Scout Climbing Merit Badges; Red River Gorge, KY Region UPRISING ADVENTURE GUIDES, INC.; Joshua Tree, CA; 888-Climb On (254-6266);;; AMGA Accredited; Rock Climbing and Backpacking, Private Guiding, Family & Youth Outings,Women’s Yoga & Rock Climbing Retreats,Corporate Team Building, and MORE for all levels; Southern California VERTICAL ADVENTURES; Bob Gaines, Director; (800) 514-8785;;; Rock climbing classes, private instruction, and guided climbs at Joshua Tree National Park, CA.; Summer Program at Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks, Idyllwild. Voted #1 Rock Climbing School in America by Outside Magazine in 2008.

YOSEMITE MOUNTAINEERING SCHOOL AND GUIDE SERVICE. All levels of instruction and guiding in Yosemite since 1969. Big Wall climbing and High Sierra excursions. Yosemite National Park, CA (866) 387-5711;; DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, an authorized concessioner of the National Park Service. YAMNUSKA MOUNTAIN ADVENTURES; Canmore, AB, 1-866-678-4164;;; IFMGA/ACMG Certified; Rock • Ice • Mountaineering • Skiing; Beginner to expert programs; Private, family and groups


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CANADA Edmonton. AB. VERTICALLY INCLINED ROCK GYM. 780-496-9390; Victoria. BC. THE BOULDERS CLIMBING GYM at Stelly’s. Newly expanded - 60 feet high, speed wall, and new climbing academy for grades 9 - 12. 250.544.0310, THE NETHERLANDS Amsterdam. KLIMHAL AMSTERDAM., ARIZONA

Sunnyvale. PLANET GRANITE. 25,000 sqft of indoor & outdoor climbing. 60 ft high. Cracks, chimneys, off-widths and lots of steep climbing. HUGE bouldering area. Extensive weights & fitness, yoga & spinning, pro-shop. 815 Stewart Drive, Sunnyvale, CA 94085; (408) 991-9090; 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

Atlanta. ATLANTA ROCKS! INTOWN. is the most popular indoor rock climbing gym in the southeast, featuring more than 12,000 square feet of professionally-designed, seamless climbing surface. With more than 50 top-rope stations, crazy overhanging lead routes and hundreds of climbs, Atlanta Rocks! has plenty of challenging routes for climbers of all skill levels. Lead routes up to 85 linear feet, bouldering features, aerobic and weight training equipment, computerized sales and rentals: 1019 Collier Road NW, Ste A, Atlanta, GA 30318; 404-351-3009 HAWAII

Scottsdale. AZ ON THE ROCKS. is fully air conditioned, has 14,000 square ft of climbing, yoga and focuses on customer service. Contact 480-502-9777 or Tempe. PHOENIX ROCK GYM. 480-921-8322; ARKANSAS

Little Rock. LITTLE ROCK CLIMBING CENTER. www.littlerockclimbing.com501-227-9500 CALIFORNIA Anaheim Hills. ROCK CITY CLIMBING CENTER. 714-777-4884; VERTICAL HOLD SPORT CLIMBING CENTER, INC. The largest in Southern California. Over 23,000 square feet of superbly textured climbing surface. Colossal 40 foot lead cave, 200+ toprope/lead routes, 2 awesome bouldering areas 9580 Distribution Ave., San Diego, CA 92121; 858-586-7572;

San Francisco. PLANET GRANITE. 25,000 sq. ft. of indoor cing, yoga & fitness. 45-ft high walls. Cracks, off-widths and lots of steep terrain. TONS of bouldering with top-out boulder! Full fitness center, two yoga studios, pro shop, views of the bay and GG Bridge! 924 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94129;

San Mateo /Belmont. 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; Santa Cruz. PACIFIC EDGE. Indoor climbing at its finest! 104 Bronson St., Santa Cruz, CA 95062; 831-4549254; El Cerrito (Berkeley/East Bay). BRIDGES ROCK GYM. Extraordinary bouldering, stellar cave, 18-ft top-out boulders, slackline arena, yoga, fitness, full gym, massage & saunas. (510) 525-5635, www.

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April 2013

Waipio. VOLCANIC ROCK GYM.; 808-397-0095 Boulder. THE SPOT BOULDERING GYM. 303-379-8806;


Boulder. BOULDER ROCK CLUB. 800-836-4008; Denver. ROCK’N & JAM’N. Denver area’s premier climbing gyms. Two locations: 9499 Washington St, Thornton; 7390 S. Fraser St, Centennial. (303) CLIMB99 Become a Fan! Denver. THRILLSEEKERS. 300 Ft. MEGA bouldering traverse, 5 lead arches. 38 topropes, 12,000 sq. ft. of climbing surface. 303-733-8810, Grand Junction. GRAND JUNCTION CLIMBING CENTER. 970-241-7622;

Bloomington. UPPER LIMITS. Over 20,000 ft2, 65’ silos, wave wall, bi-level cave, large outdoor bouldering area and 110’ routes. Climate Controlled! Just off I-55 and I-74 309-829-TALL (8255); www.

Homewood. CLIMB ON. 18120 Harwood Ave, Homewood, IL 60430; 708-798-9994; www.


Chicago. VERTICAL ENDEAVORS. 18,000 ft2 of climbing on 40’ high walls. 21 Auto Belays. Programs and Outdoor Guiding for all ages. 630-836-0122;

Jacksonville. THE EDGE ROCK GYM: 8,000 square feet. Top Rope, Lead and Bouldering. Full fitness area. 3563 Phillips Hwy, Ste 702, Jacksonville, FL 32207; 904-683-2512

Crystal Lake. NORTH WALL. 815-356-6855;

Miami. X-TREME ROCK CLIMBING. Florida’s premier climbing facility. 12,000+ square feet . 13972 SW 139 Court, 33186; 305-233-6623;

Evansville. VERTICAL EXCAPE. 812-479-6887;



Ft. Lauderdale. CORAL CLIFFS ROCK GYM. 3400 SW 26th Terrace #A4, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33312. 954-321-9898.



Columbia,Timonium & Rockville. EARTH TREKS CLIMBING CENTERS. Three state-of-the-art facilities within 25 minutes of Washington, DC & Baltimore. Variety of terrain for bouldering. lead and top rope. Recently expanded Rockville gym is now the largest indoor climbing wall in the country! 800-CLIMB-UP, www.

Atlanta. STONE SUMMIT CLIMBING & FITNESS CENTER, 45,000 sq. ft. of world-class climbing. 3701 Presidential Parkway 678.720.9884;


Boston. ROCK SPOT CLIMBING. 617-333-4433;

Boston. METRO ROCK CLIMBING CENTER. 69 Norman Street, Unit 9, Everett, MA 02149; www.

New Bedford. CARABINER’S INDOOR CLIMBING INC. 508-984-0808;

Newburyport. METROROCK North. 40 Parker Street, Newburyport, MA 01950; Worcester. CENTRAL ROCK CLIMBING GYM 508-852-7625; MICHIGAN Byron Center. INSIDE MOVES. 616-281-7088; Kalamazoo. CLIMB KALAMAZOO., 269-385-9891

Pontiac/Ann Arbor PLANET ROCK CLIMBING GYM. 34 Rapid St. Pontiac, MI; 248-334-3904 82 April Dr. Ann Arbor, MI; 734-827-2680. MINNESOTA

Duluth. VERTICAL ENDEAVORS. Over 14,000 ft2 of climbing and up to 42’ high walls. 12 Auto Belays. Programs and Outdoor Guiding for all ages. 218279-9980;


MONTANA Pittsburgh. THE CLIMBING WALL at the factory. 14,500 square feet. 7501 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15208; 412-247-7334; Billings. STEEP WORLD. Your comprehensive climbing center! Gym/Shop; 208 N 13th. Billings, MT; 406-25-CLIMB; NEVADA Las Vegas. NEVADA CLIMBING CENTER. 702-898-8192; Las Vegas. RED ROCK CLIMBING CENTER & MOUNTAIN GUIDES. 8201 W. Charleston Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89117; SHOWERS! (702) 2545604; NEW JERSEY Chatham. THE GRAVITY VAULT. www.gravityvault. com, 973-701-7625 Upper Saddle River. THE GRAVITY VAULT. 201-934-7625. NEW MEXICO Albuquerque. STONE AGE CLIMBING GYM. NM’s largest! Topout bouldering, two lead caves, guiding, complete climbing shop. 505-341-2016; www. Santa Fe. SANTA FE CLIMBING CENTER. 825 Early St Ste A, Santa Fe, NM. 87505; NEW YORK Albany. ALBANY’S INDOOR ROCK GYM. Over 6,000 square feet of climbing. Labyrinth system. 4C Vatrano Road, Albany, New York; 518-459-7625; New Rochelle. THE ROCK CLUB. 914-633-ROCK, NORTH CAROLINA

Wind Gap. NORTH SUMMIT CLIMBING GYM. 610-863-4444. The Best Crags in town! Two Locations in the Philly area: Oaks, PA & Valley Township, PA. 877-8227673 Confidence. Community. Climbing RHODE ISLAND

Lincoln. ROCK SPOT climbing. 401-727-1704; Peace Dale. ROCK SPOT CLIMBING 401-789-SPOT; SOUTH CAROLINA Charleston. COASTAL CLIMBING GYM. 843-789-3265; TENNESSEE Knoxville. THE CLIMBING CENTER.; 865-523-006 TEXAS

Austin. AUSTIN ROCK GYM. 512-416-9299;

Carrollton. EXPOSURE ROCK CLIMBING GYM. 972-732-0307;

Houston STONEMOVES. 281-397-0830; UTAH

Minneapolis. VERTICAL ENDEAVORS. Over 25,000 ft2 of climbing and up to 60’ high walls. 24 Auto Belays. Programs and Outdoor Guiding for all ages. 612-436-1470;

St. Paul. VERTICAL ENDEAVORS. Over 18,000 ft2 of climbing and up to 36’ high walls with roofs and arches. 15 Auto Belays. Programs and Outdoor Guiding for all ages. 651-776-1430; MISSOURI

St. Louis. UPPER LIMITS. MO’s largest! 2 gymsDowntown and West County. Over 24,500 ft2 combined. 13 Auto belays, Top-out Bouldering, 45’ high. Premier gym in St. Louis. 314-991-2516;



Morrisville. TRIANGLE ROCK CLUB. NC’s premiere climbing gym. 9000 ft2. 919-463-7625 (ROCK); OHIO Cincinnati. ROCKQUEST CLIMBING CENTER. 513-733-0123;

VERMONT Burlington. PETRA CLIFFS. 866-65-PETRA; Rutland. GREEN MOUNTAIN ROCK CLIMBING CENTER. 802-773-3343; Second location in Quechee.



Doylestown. DOYLESTOWN ROCK GYM. 215230-9085.

Midlothian. PEAK EXPERIENCES. 804-897-6800;

Philadelphia. GO VERTICAL INC. 215-928-1800;

WASHINGTON Spokane. WILD WALLS CLIMBING GYM. 509455-9596; Tacoma. EDGEWORKS CLIMBING. 253-564-4899


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FREE GEAR GIVEAWAY: Visit - Solid Rock Climbers for Christ bringing the Good News to climbers

WWW.CHESSLERBOOKS.COM. Great new website with 1000’s of mountaineering books, videos, posters, collectibles, bargains. (800) 654-8502

RECYCLE RESOLES Quality Resoling for your Favorite Climbing Shoes. San Luis Obispo, CA. (805) 471-9528



ACME CLIMBING;; 800-959-3785; 509-624-4561; F 509-747-5964; 12 W Sprague Ave. Spokane, WA 99201

WWW.BACKCOUNTRYGEAR.COM; 800-953-5499; 1855 W 2nd Ave, Eugene, OR 97402

877.762.5423 x113 BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAIN SPORTS; customer-service@; 866-905-2767; Towne Center West; 12020 West Broad Street; Richmond, VA 23233

ANYWHERE AT A ANY TIME! CAMPMOR;; 800-CAMPMOR; 800-226-7667; CatalogPO Box 680-RI7 Mahwah, NJ 07430

CLIMB HIGH; info@climbhigh. com; PO BOX 292; Williston VT 05495

Now available for subscribers in print, digital or print and digital. Ipad, Kindle Fire, Android. Subscribe by the issue, by the year, or order single copies.

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GEAREXPRESS, INC;; 888-5805510; F 801-968-7441; 2702 S 3600 W, West Valley, UT 84119; Free shipping over $50

(plus postage outside the U.S. for print copies)




April 2013

MARMOT MOUNTAIN WORKS 827 Bellevue N.E. Bellevue WA 9800

WWW.MTNTOOLS.COM 800 5.10–2–5.14 831-620-0911 F 831-620-0977 PO Box 222295, Carmel, CA 93922

NEPTUNE MOUNTAINEERING; 633 S Broadway, Unit A; Boulder CO 80305; 888-499-8866

RIVER SPORTS OUTFITTERS (865) 523-0066; F (865) 525-6921; 2918 Sutherland; Knoxville, TN 37919

ROCK/CREEK; info@rockcreek. com; 888-707-6708; 301 Manufacturers Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405, Free Shipping over $49

SUMMIT HUT 800-499-8696; 5045 E Speedway; Tucson AZ 85712;;


877.762.5423 x117



MOUNTAIN EQUIPMENT CO-OP 830 10th Avenue Sw, Calgary, AB T2R 0A9; 403-2692420 ; ALASKA ALASKA MOUNTAINEERING & HIKING 2633 Spenard Rd, Anchorage, AK 99503; 907-272-1811; F 907-274-6362;


OUTDOOR SPORTS CENTER 80 Danbury Rd, Wilton, CT 06897 203-762-8797; 800782-2193; KENTUCKY J & H LANMARK 189 Moore Dr, Lexington, KY 40503; 859-278-0730; 800677-9300;;

ARKANSAS PACK RAT 209 W Sunbridge Dr., Fayetteville, AR 72703 479-521-6340; F 479-521-6580; 877-5216340;, CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE 16 11161 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles, CA 90064; 310473-4574; for other SO CAL locations: www.adventure16. com; We carry Vibram FiveFingers

ELEVATION 150 S Main St; Lone Pine CA 93545; 760-876-4560;; REAL CHEAP SPORTS 36 W. Santa Clara, Ventura, CA 93001; 805-648-3803; F 805-653-2581; WILSON’S EASTSIDE SPORTS 224 N. Main St, Bishop, CA 93514 760-873-7520;; COLORADO ALPINE QUEST SPORTS 34510 Hwy 6, Edwards CO 81632; 970-926-3867, OURAY MOUNTAIN SPORTS 732 Main St, Ouray, CO 81427 970-325-4284; www.;; Professional Ice Screw Sharpening and Ice Gear Rental Available! PINE NEEDLE MOUNTAINEERING 835 Main Ave #112, Durango, CO 81301-5436; 970-247-8728; F 970-259-0697; 800-607-0364; www.; ROCK N ROLL SPORTS - GUNNISON 608 W Tomichi Ave, Gunnison, CO 81230; (970) 6419150; F (970) 641 9150; www.rockandrollsportsonline. com;;

MIGUEL’S PIZZA AND ROCK CLIMBING SHOP 1890 Natural Bridge Rd. Slade KY 40376 606-663-1975, MINNESOTA MIDWEST MOUNTAINEERING 309 Cedar Ave. S, Minneapolis, MN 55454; 612-3393433; 888-999-1077;; info@; Free Climbing Cave MICHIGAN DOWN WIND SPORTS 514 N Third. Marquette MI 49855. 906-226-7112, With 2nd location in Houghton. NEW HAMPSHIRE INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN EQUIPMENT 2733 Main St; North Conway, NH 03860; 603-356-6316, NEW JERSEY CAMPMOR 810 Route 17 N, Paramus, NJ 07652; 201-445-5000; 800-CAMPMOR (266-7667); NEW YORK THE MOUNTAINEER 1866 NYS, Route 73. Keene Valley NY 12943 518-576-2281, F 518-576-4352,

REDPOINT CLIMBERS SUPPLY 8283 11th Street, Terrebonne, OR 97760; 541-9236207; F 541-923-1303; 800-923-6207; contact@ redpointclimbing; ROCKHARD Smith Rock State Park, 9297 N.E. Crooked River Dr, Terrebonne, OR 97760; 541-548-4786 PENNSYLVANIA WILD ASAPH OUTFITTERS 71 Main Street. Wellsboro, PA 16901 570.724.5155, TENNESSEE

RIVER SPORTS OUTFITTERS 2918 Sutherland; Knoxville TN 37919; (865) 523-0066; F (865) 525-6921;; info@ UTAH THE DESERT RAT 468 W St, George Blvd; St George UT 84770; 435-628-7277; F 435-628-2894;; PIPE DREAM ADVENTURE SPORTS 327 South Main. Ephraim UT 84627 (435) 283-4644, 800-671-5323, WASHINGTON

FEATHERED FRIENDS 119 Yale Ave N, Seattle WA 98109; 1-888-308-9365; 206-292-6292 - Mail Orders; F 206-292-9667;; customerservice@ WHITTAKER MOUNTAINEERING 5 miles outside Mt. Ranier National Park, 30027 SR 706 East, Ashford, WA 98304; 800-2385756, WEST VIRGINIA


MOUNTAIN SHOP 1510 NE 37th.; Portland, OR 97232; 503-288-6768; F 503-280-1687;; www.

SUMMIT CANYON MOUNTAINEERING 307 8th St. Glenwood Springs CO 81601 970-945-6994, 800-360-6994, WILDERNESS EXCHANGE UNLIMITED 2401 15th Street Ste. 100, Denver, CO 80202; 303964-0708;; info@


NEXT ADVENTURE 426 SE Grand Ave; Portland, OR 97214; 503.233.0706; F 503.233.1362;; climbing@

WATER STONE OUTDOORS 101 E. Wiseman Ave, Fayetteville, WV 25840; 304-5742425; F 304-574-2563;; WYOMING WILD IRIS MOUNTAIN SPORTS 333 Main St., Lander, WY 82520; z307-3324541; F 307-335-8923; 888-284-5968; www.;


[ 81 ]

PARTING SHOT by WIKTOR SKUPINSKI [ ABOUT THE PHOTO ] Klemen Premrl works Wolverine (WI 11), Helmcken Falls, B.C. Two days later he made the first ascent. Tim Emmett nabbed the second immediately after. At WI 11, Wolverine is the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hardest-rated ice climb, and the first of its grade.

Rack Attack.

/@7,930./;9(*27(*2: The Nano 23 is the lightest carabiner in the world (23 g). The Photon Wire is lightest full-size carabiner in the world (29 g). Taken together, they represent the most advanced line of biners ever conceived. Use the Nanos to cut serious weight individually racking cams, on the gear end of double draws, or anywhere alpine. The Photons are designed to deliver sheer bliss during desparate clips on the sharp end. Their over-size design, smooth action and deep baskets make them truly versatile for all styles of climbing. Nano 23: Six cam-coordinated colors. Photon Wire: Eight cam-coordinated colors.


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Profile for Big Stone Publishing

Rock and Ice #209  

Rock and Ice #209, April 2013

Rock and Ice #209  

Rock and Ice #209, April 2013