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GYMCLIMBER 2 0 19 No. 2













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VISUALS Tug of war with the Mawem brothers, and taking flight at Psicobloc.


FIVE RING CIRCUS Behind the scenes at a dry run for the Olympics. FRANCIS SANZARO


FIVE MINUTE WARM-UP Easy yoga for climbers. JEFF JACKSON


CLIMB LIKE AN APE Get back to your origins and become a more natural climber. UDO NEUMANN




TRAINER’S CORNER Secrets from Adam Ondra’s coach.

TEAM AMERICA Our Olympic hopefuls.

PRO TIPS Tips from the world’s best climbers.


UNSTOPPABLE An accident changed her life. Climbing returned it.


BUMP A GRADE How to go from 5.10 to 5.11. TOM RANDALL


PROTECT THOSE KNEES Exercises to prevent heelhooking injuries. ZACK DICRISTINO

PROFILES Three up-and-comers to watch for.




CLIPPING PATH Put the rope in the quickdraw the right way. MATT BURBACH




KOREA IS CRUSHING The culture behind one of the world’s most successful climbing teams. JOHN BURGMAN



COVER: Margo Hayes at the 2018 Innsbruck World Championships. PHOTO: Björn Pohl THIS PAGE: Petra Klingler, of Switzerland, feels the fatigue after competing in all three disciplines at Innsbruck, including the Combined final. PHOTO: Björn Pohl





Bassa and Mickael Mawem Known as Les Frères Mawem—aka the Mawem brothers—this duo is the strongest set of kin climbing today. Hailing from the land of fromage, baguettes and Fontainebleau, Bassa, 35, was ranked first in IFSC Speed in 2018, up from 19th in 2017. Mickael, his younger brother by six years, was 15th in Bouldering and 44th in Speed in 2018. At the 2018 World Championships, in Innsbruck, Mickael placed a heartbreaking seventh in the overall combined, one spot shy of making finals. Something tells us these guys are just getting warmed up. For some seriously mind-blowing feats of strength, check them out at @lesfreresmawemofficiel. Photo by Frédeéric Nigoul WWW.GYMCLIMBERMAG.COM



Josh Larson leaves a contrail at the first qualifying heat at the 2015 Psicobloc deep-water-soloing competition in Park City, Utah, as Chris Sharma powers upward. Sharma went on to place sixth at the lightning-delayed comp. Jimmy Webb nabbed first. Photo by Bailey Speed







Editor in Chief: Duane Raleigh Editor: Francis Sanzaro Executive Editor: Alison Osius Associate Editor: Michael Levy Editorial Intern: Meredith Reitemeier Editor at Large: Jeff Jackson


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Gym Climber is published three times a year. Gym Climber depends on articles and photographs from climbers like you. Unsolicited materials and queries are welcome. To submit an article or idea for consideration, contact Francis Sanzaro at E-mail photos to Gym Climber is produced and printed in the United States. All rights reserved. Copyright 2019 Big Stone Publishing Ltd. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.





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WARNING! The activities described in GYM CLIMBER 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.

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Wonder what the Olympics will be like? The Innsbruck World Championships will give you a good idea.

Above: George Parma (AUT) at the Men’s Lead semifinals. The lead wall, made by Walltopia, was free-standing, constructed in three days (along with the boulder and speed walls) and required 12 tons of counterweight to make the cantilever work.


Far left: Adam Ondra (CZE) on the first move of an insane triple dyno in the Bouldering qualifier. Near left: Not a shabby place for a World Cup: Innsbruck. The Alps rise roughly 6,000 vertical feet from Innsbruck.

The lights are dim in Cafe Bar Mustache and it’s loud. I’m halfyelling to talk. Intimate, with eclectic sets of wooden tables and chairs, psychedelic stencils on the ceiling and faux portraits of Tom Selleck with his fantabulous mustache, the bar could be mistaken for a Brooklyn hipster joint—Bed-Stuy, not Williamsburg. But I’m in Innsbruck, Austria, and the World Championships have just ended. In the corner behind me is the Korean national climbing team. They are sitting in a circle, their Team Climbing Korea jackets on but unzipped, about 10 of them, the coaches too, singing songs and clapping and having a riot and there’s maybe a lone drink or two on the table. The rest of the athletes—names and faces you will see on your television set when climbing goes Olympic in Tokyo in 2020—are busy tossing as many shots as possible down their throats, the Americans especially, but the Koreans pay zero attention to everyone else. Jakob Schubert, the Austrian powerhouse and winner of the Combined gold medal this very night—not to mention snagging gold in the individual lead comp a few days earlier—comes over and slaps his arm around me. “You want to arm wrestle,” he says in a friendly, confident, drunk manner. His English is good. He is all smiles. Schubert is small, about 139 pounds. I can take him, I think. This is my chance! His biceps gotta be destroyed from 10 days of brutal competition. I’m 175 pounds and can use my weight to my advantage. I eye Schubert up. I considered it, really, I did. “No, no,” I say, grinning and pointing to Brandon. “This guy wants to arm wrestle!!” Brandon Pullan, of Gripped magazine, said he wanted an arm-wrestling photo op with Schubert, a potential future Olympic gold medalist. I forget what happens next. “Adam Ondra isn’t here,” Kevin Corrigan, of Climbing magazine, observes. “He’s probably training,” I reply, half-serious. Were you, Adam? Were you training the night after the comp? Schubert is in full frat-boy drinking mode, organizing a massive round of shots, positioning himself at the bar’s end, putting his arm around the bartender, smiling widely, hollering across the bar ... and, for good reason—this is his night. Behind me, the Korean team orbiting the lonely drinks is joined by some Japanese competitors. They all laugh uncontrollably. It’s a cultural thing and we Yankees have no idea what’s so funny. No one else at the bar is wearing their team jackets, only they, but they have, like the other Asian teams, worn the jackets all week, a reflection of how “Olympic” other nations already are. American music, interspersed with global house and funk-jazz, plays loudly, and I’m on my fourth, or is it fifth?, cocktail. I know I need to slow down, I think, but I ignore that. Everyone is here, all the climbers and winners and runner-ups. It’s the last night. The next morning I fly home, conflicted, hesitant and tired, but above all wondering what is to become of climbing when it funnels into every phone, TV and screen to nearly four billion sets of eyes. The Olympics are coming.



It’s early September in Innsbruck, an alpine town of 100,000, elevation 1,800 feet. A few hours’ drive south of Munich— though it took us five—and abutting the Alps on their northern edge, Innsbruck is a major competition climbing hub for Europe, if not the hub. Home of the Kletterzentrum Innsbruck, a climbing gym so massive it employs three full-time hold washers, and with numerous colleges to boot, it’s a town that seemingly does everything better than America. My salami sub for lunch each day could have been from Tuscany, and each evening the Old World vibe of its historic downtown led to one result—sipping ale in quaint beer gardens framed by narrow alleyways and medieval grottoes. I’m here for the 2018 World Championships, the dry run for the 2020 Olympics. I’m here with fellow media gents Brandon and Kevin—both fine drinkers with a writing problem—and John DiCuollo, the Philly-born Black Diamond maestro who is our generous host and ensures we never make it anywhere without getting lost.

S I D E BY S I D E Side by side they stand, the six athletes for the men’s combined finals. It’s Sunday, the last day of competition, and this is what we are here for—to witness the new combined format, the type of format proposed, and accepted, for rock climbing’s Olympic debut in Tokyo. I’m sitting front stage with the best view in the house. I’m



wearing a black “Press” vest but I don’t have one of those $100K cameras the networks have—the ones right and left of me—and if there’s any litmus test or indicator of “climbing going global,” it is in the cost of these cameras and the professionals behind them. So much for dirtbags with camcorders, I think. Stateside, ESPN 2 will be airing the 2019 Spor t & Speed Open National C h a m p i o n s h i p s , 2 019 C o m b i n e d Invitational, and the Bouldering Open National Championships. In front of me, one by one, the men’s combined finalists step onto the mat. Techno thunders in the stadium, and the polyglot announcer seems to be a mix between a South American soccer emcee and Adam Levine. Bookending the right side of the athlete lineup is Jan Hojer, the German V16 bouldering legend who, with disheveled hair and a five-o’clock shadow, looks like he had a hard night of drinking. With a long, muscular frame, he’s the tallest and stockiest of the bunch. To his right is Adam Ondra, a bit gangly, wearing leather sandals and a tight red-and-black tank top. Aside from his momentary lapses of concentration, which is when he inspects his skin—Ondra takes his skin very, very seriously—he seems focused, per the usual Ondra. Most everyone is talking about the Czech phenom. Ondra made the combined finals, a surprise since he’s kept himself busy outside rather than seeking World Cup podiums, establishing the first 5.15c and 5.15d, repeating Yosemite’s Dawn Wall. Ondra is the world’s best rock climber, hands down. On a recent visit to the United States, he onsighted Just Do It, America’s first 5.14c, and then moseyed down to Indian Creek, where he onsighted Dean Potter’s crack testpiece Concepcion (hard 5.13) and sent Belly Full of Bad Berries, Brad Jackson’s 5.13b wide-crack horror fest, whose chains are typically reserved only for lifelong devotees of the wide. Ondra represents one of two things. He is either the last of the great rock climbers to be competitive in indoor competitions, or he is the first of a breed of modern athletes able to slide into the upper echelons of Spanish limestone as easily as the World Cup circuit. My hunch


Vita Lukan (SLO), steels her nerves before the Speed qualifications. The 18-year-old former youth world champion finished 74th out of 89 competitors in Speed, with a time of 14.564. Aleksandra Rudzinska (POL) won the event with a time of 7.56 seconds. She would place 51st in Bouldering.


is that he is the former, since to be competitive in the future world of indoor comp climbing will require full commitment. You wouldn’t expect Usain Bolt to trail run most of the year and still win the 100 meters, would you? And yet, despite being an early critic of the Olympic format, Ondra is here, on plastic, when he could be outside projecting. “First you will come to the Sirens who enchant all who come near them.” —A warning to UIysses from Circe, Daughter of Helios “Yes, I will definitely sacrifice my outdoor climbing a lot for the Olympics,” Ondra told me. “Not because I like the format, more kind of despite that. But it is the Olympics.” Next in the men’s combined final lineup is Kokoro Fujii, with those nervous eyes, who climbs as if an internal spring wants to exit his limbs. Jakob Schubert, the hometown hero who won the lead-climbing final a week prior, is next; he wears a smile that is uncomfortable at times, except when he tops out, then it turns to the grin of a thief. “You see that? … cuz I did,” says his face

Above left: Laura Rogora (ITA) on the final route of the Women’s Lead. Rogora, who climbed 5.14d at age 14, would place 10th in Lead. Right: Dmitrii Timofeev (RUS) gets ready for battle. The speed specialist would place 13th. Lower right: Ekaterina Kipriianova (RUS) , 22nd in Combined, displays her road rash, the result of sliding down a volume during qualifications.

when he knows he just stole the podium. Fifth in line is Tomoa Narasaki, the Bruce Lee incarnate, lean, nimble, with a studied smirk, the most agile and athletic of the bunch, who moves as if he was shot out of a cannon. He climbs with such bravado and swagger that you’re stunned when he falls. Last is Kai Harada, who just last night won the men’s bouldering comp in a dominating performance. Harada is small, about 5-foot-6 and 128 pounds. His lips seem forever pursed and he appears to absorb all of the tension in the stadium, a dew drop ref lecting the world type of thing. His eyes are watery and either he was just cutting onions or thinks he is about to meet his maker ... and doesn’t trust the latter. T hat Japan has three athletes in



the top six men’s combined positions isn’t lost on anybody. Climbing is all the rage in Japan, and, from a country the size of California with roughly the same number of gyms as the entirety of the United States, they are killing it. As I look at the line-up, a dominating thought comes to mind. No American made the combined finals, in men’s or women’s. When the combined competition would end, the best placing female competitor would be Margo Hayes, at eleventh, and Drew Ruana at seventeenth for the men ... which is excellent by the way. To get a sense of the stiffness of the competition, consider for a moment that Hayes was the first woman to climb a confirmed 5.15a, and that Ashima Shiraishi was the first woman to boulder V15. It’s time to begin the men’s combined finals. First up is speed, followed by bouldering, then lead. This trifecta is what the world will witness in Tokyo, and it has been the most controversial part of climbing becoming Olympic. The gist of the disgruntlement is that the “Olympic” format requires the world’s best indoor lead climbers and boulderers to compete in speed—their scores for all three disciplines will be combined for the only medals awarded. No individual medals for bouldering, for instance. Feedback has been colorful. Hayes, an American hopeful, has called the format an “extra challenge,” while Lynn Hill, who dominated World Cup climbing in the 1990s, has stated “I am not in support of the format that imposes that all climbers must compete in speed climbing.” Ashima Shiraishi said she was “skeptical” but that the format “makes sense.” Alex Honnold called the inclusion of speed climbing a “bummer.” Ondra has been vocally critical of the format, citing the obvious, that competition boulderers and lead climbers don’t speed climb, while American bouldering legend Alex Puccio decided against going for an Olympic berth due to the amount of time it would require to master speed. What’s the problem? Most comp climbers don’t train for speed, and few American gyms have a speed wall. It’s just not a thing in the States, or Western Europe in general. Where speed is a thing is in Russia, Poland, Ukraine, China and a smattering of countries many Americans have trouble locating on a map. The current speed world-record holder, the self-coached Reza Alipour, is from Iran. For the women speedsters, of the top five Innsbruck speed finalists, four were from Poland and one from Russia. The nearest American, Kelly Piper, placed 23rd, 1.3 seconds slower than Aleksandra Rudzinska of Poland, who won. For the men, Russia had six athletes in the top 20. Team USA had five in the top 100. For 2018, the National Team Ranking for speed was, starting with first: Russia, Indonesia, France, China and Poland in fifth. We have some catching up to do. Of course, most commentators have failed to mention that speed climbers are just as miffed about not having a medal of their own, and most speed specialists—the Mawem brothers (Mickael and Bassa, from France) an exception—feel they have been effectively shut out of Olympic medal contention, whereas lead and boulderers are basically having to add a few more



speed workouts to their routines and risk getting alpine legs or a losing few hours when they could be doing something else. And, yet, according to Shiraishi, “I don’t dislike speed climbing as much as I thought I would.” Adaptation, she says, is the name of the game. That’s right. Lest it be forgotten, the same outdoor climbing com munit y shunning speed climbing, which is Olympic in its athleticism, is also the same community captivated with El Cap speed records, where climbers pull on as much gear as they can—slings, fixed pro, biners, chains—to dash to the top of a classic El Cap route.


“OUTSIDE INTRUDERS” Implicitly or explicitly lodged within the “speed is artificial” criticism is the concern that “outsiders” are intruding into our sport—Olympic committees, international federations and “suits”—and deciding the way our athletes train, what they train for, who will be cast as “the best climber in the world,” and so on. The concern is about power. Imposition. A once-outsider band of roustabouts, or at least the perception of such, worried that the thing they love is slipping out of their hands.

Clockwise from top left: Manuel Cornu (FRA) before a packed house during the Men’s Bouldering semifinals. In total the three comp walls amounted to 6,458 sq. ft. Alex Puccio (USA) on her way to placing 16th in Women’s Bouldering. She finished 49th in Women’s Lead and 75th in Speed. Andrea Rojas (ECU) psyches up for her attempt at the Speed qualifications. She finished 28th. Francis Sanzaro and Brandon Pullan slaking thirsts after a hard day’s work. Hannah Schubert and Jessica Pilz working through beta at the Women’s Lead finals.

On Friday morning, two days before the combined finals, Black Diamond organized a panel discussion between stakeholders. Ondra, Jerome Meyer (IFSC), myself, Kolin Powick (Black Diamond), Heiko Wilhelm (Austria Climbing), and Silvia Verdolini (IFSC) took part. Dicuollo was our moderator. The panel provided insight into the logic behind the International Olympic Committee’s decision making, and most specifically, at least for me, the why of the format. Meyer, a former bouldering World Cup winner, pulled no punches. “Basically, the Games are quite packed,” he said. “And simply since there is some limit at some point, things are super huge. At some point, there’s a crack in terms of number of athletes, number of events. The number of events is basically the number of medals. And they wanted to fit it into the existing program.” So, that answers it. Not a conspiracy by global sporting elites, nothing sinister, but a matter of programming and television allotments per sport. Individual climbing events and medal ceremonies would have added too much broadcast time—the combined format, with only one medal, is a marriage of practicality and efficiency. As a side note, it should not be forgotten that Olympic medals were awarded in Alpinism in the 1924, 1932 and 1936 Olympic games, but was dropped in 1946, after the war. A later attempt was made to award Reinhold Messner and Jerzy Kukuczka a medal for summitting the 8,000 meter peaks, all 14 of them, but Messner rejected the medal on the ground that he didn’t consider mountaineering a competitive sport. Likely, you know nothing about speed, so here’s the gist—climbers clip into an auto belay below a slightly overhanging 15-meter route (around 5.10d), step onto a sensor and then wait for the buzzer. Don’t make a false start, because one and you’re done. When the buzzer goes, the top male speed specialists can slap the top button in under six seconds. Record holder Reza Alipour can clock a blistering 5.48. Iuliia Kaplina, of Russia, and Anouck Jaubert, of France, have raced (yes, I mean raced) to





Akiyo Noguchi (JPN) gets an interesting view of the final problem in the Women’s Bouldering finals, where she claimed the silver. She was 49th in Speed, 8th in Lead and placed 4th in Combined.

down. As the races continue, Hojer puts in consistent runs without mistakes and advances to the speed finals. Hojer vs. Schubert for the combined speed final—the latter looks flushed, his cheeks rosy and sweaty, and his darting eyes reveal a bit of worry. Their backs to the wall, they await the starting buzzer, staring out into a crowd of 5,000. Jan looks steely. In the end, clean runs, consistency and execution win the speed comp. Hojer didn’t make a mistake, didn’t rush, and though impressive, his victory, like everyone’s defeat, feels provisional, not quite real, speed being so new to these competitors—not a single, dedicated speed cli mber adv a nced f rom t he combined qualifiers—that their smiling and laughing faces, even while lowering in defeat, underscore the fact that they are having fun with this “speed thing.” Hojer 1 point. Schubert 2 points.

PURE FIGHT I grew up with an amputee climber, and he has my respect. On Wednesday, when I first entered the Olympiaworld Innsbruck,


the top in 7.32 seconds. As I watched the first event in the combined finals, the brutality of the false start reared its head. “The fastest man from the qualifiers, Tomoa Narasaki, has false started.” Na r a s a k i, 22 , t he Jap a nese favor ite, i s out . T h i s disqualification would, hours later, cost him. He appeared bewildered as the auto belay lowered him. Now the combined format is showing itself, I think. Drama is unfolding across events and within an event, as in a decathlon. In this sense, the combined format is a good show. Strategy, dealing with exhaustion, pacing, general fitness—all rise to the surface with greater exigency in the combined format. At Innsbruck, as in Tokyo, the podium spots will be determined by how you place in each discipline via simple multiplication. For instance, first in speed, fourth in bouldering and sixth in lead is tabulated as 1 x 4 x 6 = 24 points. The person with the lowest points wears the crown. Hypothetically speaking, replace that sixth in lead with a first, giving you 1 x 4 x 1, then you’ve got 4 points. Narasaki is disappointed: though he couldn’t know it yet, he already has more combined points than the climber who will stand atop the podium in a few hours. Akin to the rules in Track and Field, the one-and-done false start is tough love. In a millisecond an athlete can be virtually tossed out of Olympic contention after four years of sweat-andblood training. I felt Narasaki’s disappointment. Next up is Hojer versus Ondra. They’re off. Hojer takes Ondra by 1.3 seconds, and it’s clear Ondra has some work to do on speed. He looks heavy compared to the others, without the pop in his legs and arms, and he knows it and doesn’t show the let


the venue for three prior Olympic games, there was yelling, lots of it. I had no idea what was going on. It was loud, except the audience was silent. Then I saw climbers tied into two ropes— one above and one below—and as I was walking toward the lead wall it seemed as if the climbers were scratching around looking for holds, as if they couldn’t see. I had stumbled into the visually impaired final, and they actually couldn’t see! For the next hour, I was glued to my seat. It was the poetry of movement ... chaotic, orderly, honest. One by one, the impaired climbers were brought out, arm in arm, with their partner. When they launched off, onto steep 5.12 climbing, their “caller” would yell beta—right crimp high, left foot low—and the climber, because they couldn’t see the next hold, would need to stabilize for each move, but that wasn’t always possible. Each move had a bit of panic as they pawed the entirety of the hold, feeling for the best part ... they reach too high ... too low ... drop back down ... where was that foot? ... they go rogue, flustered in the melee until they settle, then the beta comes again. Their caller knows when to quiet, then yells, either through a bullhorn or via wireless earbuds. I liked the bullhorn. You could

Above left: Maureen Beck (USA) during the Women’s AU2 Para comp. She took the bronze. Top right: Gold medalist Hannah Baldwin (UK) gets set for the Women’s RP2 Paraclimbing Competition. Lower right: Colin Torpey (US) during the Paraclimbing qualifications.

feel the cadence and intensity. Blind climbing is full trust by the climber. It is the real deal—climbing’s dance: requiring full confidence, but needing to rethink, recalibrate, adapt. Hesitation mixed with gotta go and pure team work. Dicuollo and Pullan agreed, the latter noting that it was “the most emotional climbing event I can imagine.” Yep. Minutes after t he men’s combined speed final, the camera panned to the bouldering wall for the second event of the night. For the bouldering portion, Ondra redeems himself after a non-Ondra’esque performance in speed, and is ecstatic with each boulder top. He pumps his fist in the air. Ondra has an excellent memor y.



THE SLOVENIAN VIRTUOSO Gorazd Hren, t he Sloven ia n Yout h Climbing Team coach, has been working with Janja Garnbret since 2008, when she was about 9 years old. Garnbret has been climbing since the age of 6. Films and online pics do little justice to the 5’5”, 104-pound candidate for the 2018 World Games Athlete of the Year.



Rei Sugimoto (JPN) during the Men’s Boulder qualification. He finished 27th out of 150 in Bouldering, 73rd in Lead and 31st in Combined.

Garnbret has dirty blond hair, quiet energy, like a ballerina, and an unrivaled economy of movement. She climbs with more confidence than I’ve seen from anyone, as if she is ordained for the top. Even in those rare photos of her falling, her face seems to be one of indifference, prayer even. Hours before Narasaki false started at the beginning of the men’s combined final, the female competitors duked it out. The ever-graceful and legend in her own right, Sol Sa, 26, of Korea, won speed, followed by Jessica Pilz, 22, of Austria. Sa made her way through the speed field with ease. Garnbret got a disappointing fifth in speed, which meant she needed to win in lead and bouldering to have a shot at gold. Onto the mat steps Garnbret, age 19, for the second women’s combined event: bouldering. She waves politely, mechanical, without emotion and with a forced smile that gets the job done. Nerves, those things that cause most of us to sweat and underperform … well, she appears to have given them to someone else. And, lucky them, the two female Japanese competitors who made the finals didn’t get them either. Meanwhile, as they climb, I’m nervous and shaking out in between taking notes. When did climbers become so professional? If they want to become Olympic athletes, they need to look more worried, I think half-serious. Horrified, in fact, yes, they


Before getting on a boulder problem, each competitor gets to visually inspect it. When it’s game time, Ondra frequently comes out (as he does with outdoor climbing) wearing two different shoes for every problem—one better for edging, another for smearing, etc. Not all of the other competitors do this. In a fine morsel of drama, Narasaki, one of the competitors in last place because of his false star t in speed, unlocks key beta to boulder #3, skipping three moves by lunging sideways off slopey feet and a right above-head thumb gaston to a small edge on the left side of a volume. It’s the most inspired bit of climbing of the competition thus far, and the fact that the subsequent competitors do not try his beta answers one question I have—is beta being shared backstage? Nope. Combi ned b ou lder i n g is done— Schubert takes first, topping all the boulders, same w it h Ondra, but it took Ondra more tries. Hojer gets a disappointing fourth. I am disappointed that the South Kor ea n cl i mb er Jon g won C hon , a multiple Boulder World Cup winner, is not in the combined finals. The finals would have been an additional chance for him to practice his “dad moves,” i.e., his shit-eating-grin-while-hipshaking-and-finger-pointing to his 5,000 admirers. Chon, who got second in the individual bouldering event last night, stole the stage. He loves the crowd and feeds off the noise and energy. He’s got an Olympic personality, the smirk, the showmanship, and he works it. The more Chon the better. But now, the lead final is next, and it’s down to 44 moves. It feels like a horse race between Ondra and Schubert.

need to look horrified like gymnasts do ... stone faced, as if your life depended on the next 20 seconds. Like American gymnast Paul Hamm in 2004. But then, these are climbers and the seriousness of it all, the global stage, the money that’s about to be unleashed into our sport, hasn’t sunk in yet and the corporate sponsors that will come knocking will likely change their faces, but for now, to me, the fun try-hard thing core to climbing is there. Intact.

THINK THREE TIMES, MOVE ONCE Garnbret is unassuming and lean with a boulderer’s build, muscled but not sinewy. If God were to construct an ideal climbing body, Garnbret would be Eve. When she smiles she hides her teeth, and that I noticed this seems to be explained by the fact that, according to her Instagram account—nearly all photos of plastic, with a few outdoors—she had braces as of July of 2018, and, so I reason, she, a teenager, is still self-conscious about her teeth. Garnbret is a cerebral climber, not one to rush. As sculptors say, think three times, strike once. Garnbret thinks for a while, and doesn’t waste her time with pointless attempts. Think. Figure. Visualize. Try. Send. Wave to crowd. Repeat. She’s not the charismatic one … she’s the quiet professional. Hailing from Northern Slovenia, a town called Slovenj Gradec with only a few nearby crags, Garnbret has admitted that she doesn’t get outside much, sending 9a, as the comps keep her busy, but she has eyes on Biographie (9a+). I don’t doubt she could send it rather easily. Over the 2017 World Cup season, Garnbret registered a record nine wins, and she’s just warming up. The stage, the pressure, it all seems familiar to her. It’s Sunday, and Garnbret has placed first in bouldering’s individual event, on Friday two days ago, and got second in the individual lead final, the previous Saturday. For context, I’m still pumped from a session two days ago, when we roped up at a postcard granite crag in the Zillertal, a cows-with-bell-collars type of place, lush grasses, bomber rock, a nearby stream, the

Gold medalist and World Champion Janja Garnbret (SLO) during the finals of Women’s Combined. Garnbret, only 19, seemed unbeatable.

kind of place that makes you want to be an ex-pat, except for when you order the local dish—what seems to be sausage and potatoes—and you get a skinny hot dog and fries, as Pullan and Powick cheerfully discovered. Garnbret, meanwhile, has been climbing hard for roughly 10 days straight, including a speed comp on Thursday, when she qualified 47th with a time of 10.6, which is quite good. For those competing in the combined, the regimen is savage. Miho Nonaka, of Japan, had four bloody tips on the last day from thin pads. Boulder #4 of the women’s combined finals was a masterpiece. With two large volumes for feet, the women had to launch to a sloping hueco, then semicampus down to another dual-tex hueco, the lack of texture for the thumb making it hard to hold the swing. Garnbret unlocked the sequence with a brilliant toe hook high and left, unused by all others, and it got her to the top. In combined bouldering, Garnbret handily secured first, Sa second and Pilz sixth. To recap, in speed, Sa took first, Pilz second and Garnbret fifth. Thus tallied after two events: Sa with 2 points, Garnbret with 5, Pilz with 12. With lead next, a few outcomes present themselves. The points are multiplied and the lowest score wins. If Sa gets second in lead, she gets gold, because Garnbret already has five. If Pilz gets first, then she remains at 12, but she needs Garnbret to place third (15 points) and Sa to get sixth (12 points), which would tie Pilz with Sa. It’s all confusing, and not.

SPEED CLIMBING IS HARD Speed climbing is hard. It’s not about technique, but execution. Of course, how you do it involves technique, but as soon as you start, you have to be on autopilot. You have to toss the holds to your feet with a primitive ferocity while trying to kick the footholds to the floor and propel yourself upward without botching your footwork. Imagine running as fast as you can with a glass of wine in your hand. For my first attempt on the speed wall, I was fortunate to have the American team present and training on the wall. Great—time to show them a thing or two! I



FA C E O F A N AT U R A L Let’s move now to the lead wall. If you’re a competitor, you have six minutes to send. For the women, Pilz tops the route, but Sa feels li ke t he one to beat . Garnbret needs to top, which she does commandingly. It’s not f lashy, but composed, pro rock climbing. Without mistakes, she gets the job done. Gold is for Garnbret. After lowering, she sports a proud, satisfied smile. Chris Sharma used to have that face. Ondra too. It’s the face of a natural.



Sol Sa (KOR) and Alexandra Elmer (AUT) during the women’s Speed qualification. Sa finished 2nd in the Combined final, with an impressive 1st in Speed and 2nd in Bouldering.

In the ensuing hype t hat w ill be Olympic climbing, in Tokyo in 2020, it’s about one thing: the athletes. It’s not about the growth of the sport, which doesn’t make sense any way—sports are not corporations that need to grow. The Olympic dream is basic. It’s about inspired and dedicated athletes, training hard and fighting through the ups and downs. It’s about those who want to be the best and how they inspire the rest of us. Forget everything else. To answer the question that was nagging me—will climbing be “Olympic” in 2020? Turns out it already is. Francis Sanzaro is the Editor of Gym Climber and Rock and Ice.


stood beneath the route and made an adult decision. I chickened out and opted not for the actual route, but an adjacent ladder of jugs, the speed warm up. I tried to climb fast, not looking down, and got a decent rhythm. I liked it. Kolin Powick, the top BD engineer who designs all their fancy climber gear, said my inaugural run wasn’t bad. I’ll agree with him ... but, of course, he was lying. I decided to up the ante. For my second go, I figured I would look at my feet, since they slipped a few times the first time around. Off I went. Look down at feet. Within seconds I fell. I fell again. Then again. Damn! I learned two things—looking at your feet takes time. Not looking down and simply remembering where your feet go is easier than looking down and remembering where your hands go. I also realized that speed climbing is about rhythm. Once you fall, it’s incredibly hard to get back “into it,” which is why when you see someone fall on a speed run, they typically fall again and again as they try to regain momentum. That happened with Schubert on the finals’ run against Hojer, and many others. During all of the qualifiers and final runs, I didn’t see anyone recover from a foot slip. Third, I learned that speed shares more with modern, parkour-style climbing than anyone lets on, at least in a few ways—maintaining momentum across moves, explosive power, dynamism, precision, tenacity, coordination.

Now for the gents. After the first two events, it feels like a three-way race. Ondra has 10 points, Schubert 2 and Hojer 4. In my mind, Schubert has it. In order for him not to secure gold, he would have to get fifth and Ondra not win. Both are unlikely, especially for the Austrian— Schubert is no stranger to the top podium in lead comps. Ondra ties in and nearly tops the route, two moves shy of the anchors. It will be the high point. Hojer falls early, all but knocking him out of second. Schubert is up last. He has everything to lose. About 15 feet up the route, Schubert reaches a good rest. Except the next move is an allpoints-off dyno that looks to be about V5. Should be easy for him ... but it’s a hueco, and if he misses, Schubert doesn’t wear the crown. Looking nervous, he paces around the jug. Bounces his feet. He coils up ... and latches the dyno. It’s a wrap. Schubert for gold.


June 19 - 21, 2019 Sofia Tech Park, Sofia, Bulgaria

Being able to meet and compare successes and challenges with operators in other countries has been probably the best part of the summit. Chris McFarland | Operations Director at Momentum Climbing

The event is good. I love the networking part of WICS. Being able to talk with people from all around the world about specific climbing gym stuff is what I really like about it. Peter Zeidelhack | Operations Manager at DAV Climbing Center Munich-South

I think anyone who wants to open a climbing gym would benefit a lot from being here. Chris Sharma | Professional Climber and Gym Owner



Ashima Shiraishi, 17 Ashima. Like Cher or Seal, she’s someone—perhaps the only climber—who is known by her first name alone. Her celebrity has transcended the insular world of rock climbing, with profiles appearing in The New York Times and even The New Yorker. The 17-year-old, of Japanese heritage, has literally grown up before our eyes, thanks to YouTube and Reel Rock segments. We have seen her morph from that pint-sized New York City crusher—who in 2012, at 10, became the youngest person to send V13 with Crown of Aragorn , in Hueco Tanks, Texas—to a paragon of all-around technical ability, in 2015 becoming the first woman to climb V15 with Horizon, Mount Hiei, Japan. She set an equal pace on plastic. From 2015 through 2017, she three-peated as dual IFSC Youth World Champion in lead and bouldering. In February she won her first U.S. Bouldering National Championship. Balancing outdoor climbing and her ballooning competition schedule as she tries to qualify for the Olympics is a challenge, but Ashima told Gym Climber in October that she is confident she can “juggle them both.” In 2017 she began competing on the adult World Cup circuit, with impressive finishes. She gained a World Cup podium in October, placing second in Xiamen, China, in lead—her strongest discipline. In 2018 Ashima logged another two finals appearances in World Cups, and at the World Championships, in Innsbruck, Austria, finished fifth in lead. She told GC of the World Championships,

In spring 2018, Ashima moved to Japan with her parents. Her relocation prompted some to question whether she might switch teams and try to compete for Japan in 2020. But she seemed to quiet these rumors on Instagram: “You are probably thinking it’s all because of the Olympics but tbh [to be honest] I’ve always dreamed of being based out of Japan so that I can enjoy the abundance of rocks spread out all over the country.” She has continued to compete for the red, white and blue in international comps.   —Michael Levy




“I was very frustrated at first because I felt like my performance went downhill from lead [and] bouldering to speed, but I am actually quite happy with my attempt at the event. I learned so much at this one competition.”



Zach Galla, 18

“I felt pretty confident going into the Combined Invitational that I would at least make finals”—which required consistency in all three events—”but I had no expectations after that. As the final round went on, I realized I had a 28


chance to win. I was pretty surprised.”

He had a head start training speed, he says, as opposed to athletes who have had to rush to learn it. “Even before the combined format was announced, my coaches put a lot of emphasis on being well-rounded because of the benefits it has on individual disciplines of climbing.” The Atlanta-area boulderer, who began climbing at 8 years old, made his first Open Finals in February 2018 at the USAC Bouldering Open National Championships, finishing fifth. He was third in 2017 USAC Bouldering Youth Nationals in Salt Lake and third at the Battle for the Fort National Cup, Fort Collins, Colorado, last December. While he has top-notch gyms to help him train in hopes of an Olympic berth, Galla also has some time constraints. “I’m still in high school, so I have to go to school every day during the week,” he says, “but I get out at 2:10, so I have enough time to go to the gym and train. I train three days on, one day off, and alternate between different styles.” He says if he wasn’t geared toward the Olympics, he would still be saving money to travel and compete in bouldering.   —by Meredith Reitemeier


Two guys hauled hard up the speed wall. Both were top athletes, but the one in purple, Zach Galla, pulled clearly ahead, his arms and legs a fluid, skittering blur. At the USA Climbing Combined Invitational in Salt Lake City on January 20, Galla clocked an impressive 6.82 seconds, coming in second in speed behind Nathaniel Coleman, and beating out John Brosler, who set a new national record of 5.99 but couldn’t recover from a previous mistake. Yet the 18-year-old Galla, from Suwanee, Georgia, is primarily a boulderer. Going on to win bouldering, and placing sixth in lead (won by Sean Bailey), Galla walked away as champion of the Men’s Combined Invitational, earning a coveted spot on team USA. Galla seems to have come out of nowhere, but has simply slipped by under the radar—until now. He says:

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Drew Ruana, 19 Rudolph “Drew” Ruana is a true child of American sport-climbing’s birthplace, Smith Rock, Oregon. The 19-year-old has not only established the area’s hardest route, Assassin (5.14d), but his parents by chance met at the area. One of them was a bit of a dirtbag at the time, and maybe that was good luck. “My dad didn’t have any food, and my mom had a bag of tortilla chips,” Drew says, “so he offered her route beta for some chips.” Ruana, from Redmond, Washington, is among the top contenders to gain spots at the 2020 Olympics. A climber from early childhood, he began competing 11 years ago. Ruana has been letting the idea of the Olympics simmer in his mind, and last year decided to begin training toward that goal.

He has taken a “deferral year” before college and is putting in eight to nine hours a day at the climbing gym. But school remains on the table. “Student of the month” last May at Woodinville High School, Ruana was recognized for balancing the duties of a dedicated student and top athlete. He was placed in advanced courses from the seventh grade until he graduated last year. He eventually plans to study chemical engineering, following in the footsteps of his parents, both engineers. While many climbers were surprised by and criticized the combined format for Olympic climbing, Ruana says he accepts it. “I think for now, we’re all winners because we got climbing in the Olympics,” he says. “The combined format showcases the best aspects of climbing, although in the future it’d be nice to have individual events. It’s pretty hard to turn a speed climber into a boulderer.” As to making the cut, Ruana says, “There are so many strong athletes in the U.S. right now . . . [O]n any given day, any of us could make it. Or any of us could have a bad climbing day and blow it.” Although he used to say he was strongest in sport climbing, Ruana now considers bouldering to be his forte. His accomplishments include 17th in Combined at the (adult) September 2018 IFSC Climbing World Championships in Innsbruck (he was highest-placing American male); second in the Sport Climbing Open National Championships in March 2018 in Reno, Nevada; and third in the USAC Bouldering Open National Championships in Salt Lake City in February 2018. This past February, he was third at Bouldering Nationals in Bend, Oregon.  —By Meredith Reitemeier




“I realized it was just a matter of fine-tuning,” he says. “I think I have a chance of doing well”—in the qualifying process—“if everything lines up right.”

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Margo Hayes, 21 In one of the best moments in one of the best films in the Reel Rock 12 tour, Margo Hayes, 19 at the time, quietly recites the details of her climb like a memorized dance routine, with every move drawn out on index cards taped in a trail down her wall alongside a mirror. The route is La Rambla, in Siurana, Spain, and with her ascent on February 26, 2017, she became the first female to climb confirmed 5.15—following it with a second one, the famous Biographie, at Céüse, France, that autumn. Hayes, now 21, is one of those who may take part in another moment in history, the 2020 Olympics. The Boulder native is putting in the work and began incorporating speed training into her regimen after the combined requirement came out.


Although best-known for her lead-climbing accomplishments (she climbed 14 5.14s on rock in 2016), Hayes is well-rounded, bringing home the gold in both bouldering and lead at the IFSC Youth World Championships in Guangzhou, China, in November of 2016; coming in first in bouldering and second in lead at the Pan American Youth Championships in Montreal in October-November 2017; and placing an outstanding 10th in bouldering (and 21st in lead) at the adult IFSC Climbing World Championships in Innsbruck in September to finish 11th overall. Hayes’s interests span much more than climbing. In 2016, she won a prize in a scholastic art show with a piece that meshed art and science. She moved to France the same year to immerse herself in the language and culture, studying at university in Aix en Provençe. In May, Hayes joined the 60-plus climbers who met with politicians to discuss protecting public lands. In an email to Gym Climber in October, Hayes presented herself as positive about the all-around format and what it has generated. “I think that the combined format adds an extra challenge, because most athletes specialize in one or two events. It was exciting to watch the combined final in Innsbruck this year and see how quickly athletes have taken to all three disciplines!”   —By Meredith Reitemeier




“It’s going to be a challenge to qualify, but I’m going to give it my best shot,” Hayes told Rock and Ice magazine last April. “There is no other way to qualify but try!”

Colin Duffy only seemed to come out of nowhere. At the USAC Combined Invitational, his first adult comp ever, the 15-year-old clocked a surprise fourth in the stacked field. Yet in youth comps, he has two world and eight national titles to his name. The Broomfield, Colorado, climber, not only the youngest but smallest (5-foot-1 and growing fast) competitor, was second in sport and fourth in bouldering. Colin wrote on Instagram:

“I had such a great experience this weekend at the combined invitational! It was … exhausting to climb every discipline back to back but made for a really fun time!” He called himself “shocked” to make finals. Others in the know will have been unsurprised. In Innsbruck in September 2017 at the IFSC Youth World Championships, packed with a record 1000-plus competitors, the then-13-year-old won in lead with what the IFSC called “a crowd-pleasing dynamic finish.” He did it again the next year in Moscow. As stated, “[H]e stuck the concluding dyno for another magical finish.” His win boosted the United States from sixth to third place in team standings. Colin is a confident climber, who looks at a problem, goes right into it, and moves unhesitatingly. Small-statured now (while expected



to reach about 5-foot-7 or ’8), he is well used to long jumps between holds. He is a ninth grader at Stargate Charter School and has been a member of Team ABC since age 8. Chris Hampson, co-chief operating officer at Team ABC, describes him as focused, determined and quiet. “He takes it seriously,” Hampson says. “He comes in and puts his head down and gets to work.” Colin Duffy’s mother, Nancy, agrees that he is quiet and shy, but says with a laugh, “Not with the family! He has a great sense of humor. He’s fun.” The family happened onto climbing by chance, when Colin at 3 saw a wall at a rec center and wanted to ring the bell at the top, but it was a piece of luck in many ways. In the boy’s infancy, Nancy detected a curve in his back; he also had a tilt to his head. At six months old, he was diagnosed with congenital scoliosis. “If we meet people with scoliosis, we tell them they should climb,” she says. “Climbing helps scoliosis. It’s a great thing.” Based on X-rays and their doctor’s response, the family believes the curve in Colin’s spine showed improvement within months after he joined Team ABC and began working out there three times weekly. While the family is neither focused on nor eliminating anything, any dreams are more of Paris 2024 than Tokyo. “If the Olympics become part of it, that’s great,” Nancy says mildly. “Mostly, he loves climbing.” For now it’s one event at a time, the next being the USAC Sport and Speed Open National Championships in Alexandria, Virginia, in March. 

—Alison Osius


Colin Duffy, 15

Claire Buhrfeind, 20

“A lot of my friends still climb together a lot,” she says, “and we always meet up in whatever place or country we are.” When on the international circuit, Buhrfeind works with the renowned coach Roman Krajnik in Austria “or wherever in Europe he is,” she says with a laugh. He also comes to Dallas every year. Buhrfeind, who climbs on rock (once doing three 5.14s in the Red River Gorge in two days) is a balanced climber who has also competed in all three required disciplines (speed, lead and bouldering) since age 10. In August 2017 she won in bouldering, lead and combined at the Youth World Championships in Innsbruck, and the following spring she became the first athlete to win both lead and speed at the USA Climbing Open Nationals, in Reno. On the big stage, she made a bang at the Arco World Cup in Italy on July 26, reaching lead finals and finishing right beside the podium, in fourth (25th overall at a comp that had lead and speed). 36


Other results had been 19th in Chamonix in lead on July 10, and 18th and 23rd in bouldering World Cups in Hachioji, Japan, and Meiringen, Switzerland, in June and April. In September, the World Championships in Austria went less well, with 39th in lead, 31st in bouldering. “I totally blew it,” she says with a laugh. “You’re on your game one day, and the next day you can be so far off. In lead it was really hard for me to quiet my mind.” The fourth in Arco was an exciting turning point, especially for someone who values feel over results: “In the previous comps, I was overthinking it, not fully present. I talked to Kyle before I competed, and he said, ‘You go enjoy it. You love to compete.’ I do. I truly love it, and when I keep that as my focus I just climb better.” 2019, which early on included a fourth at Bouldering Open National Championships in Bend, Oregon, will be a huge year. “I think my biggest challenge will just be opening myself up to the process,” she says. “It’s really a vulnerable thing to go for something like this, and you have to be O.K. with whatever works out. “I know I’ll never regret really going for it.” 

—Alison Osius

See “Olympic Scorecard,” Gym Climber 1, 2018-2019, for Part 1 of this roundup. The United States will have the opportunity to send two men and two women to the 2020 Olympics, in Tokyo, if those competitors are also in the top 20 in world rankings.


Three times a week Kyle Clinkscales, longtime Team Texas coach, posts a workout at the Summit Gym, near Dallas, titled, “Senior Citizens’ Practice.” Claire Buhrfeind, 20, and John Brossard, 21, both alums of the fabled youth team, join with Ben Hanna, 20, a fellow Olympic hopeful, and a few strong locals for practice from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. While Hanna is from Santa Fe, a number of others grew up together on Team Texas, part of Summit Gym. Buhrfeind started there at age 10.


Overcoming failure. Obsessive focus.


Dedication to the send.



Focus on your technique during easier workouts and warm-ups. When you are climbing on something that isn’t too hard, you can focus better on things like perfect foot placements and muscle relaxation. Once you can do them perfectly on easier stuff, you will automatically do them better at your limit as well. —Jakob Schubert, AU, 2018 Combined World Champion

Don’t be afraid to try ridiculous things on modern boulder problems. Be innovative. Dare to try something that seems unreasonable, even if you think you’ll look silly. It’s the only way to find out what really does or doesn’t work. —Staša Gejo, RS, 2017 Bouldering European Champion

If you want to get to the next level, but feel like you’re stuck on your current one, go to a gym and try to get out of your comfort zone by attempting routes that are about two grades harder than your maximum climbing level. Break the route into two halves: Concentrate on technique in the first half; climb it smart. After mastering it, get up to the second half using the easiest holds on the wall, and project the second half. Once you’ve figured it out, try putting the whole route together. —Anak Verhoeven, BE, 3-time Lead World Cup Gold Medalist

Combined World Cup champion Jakob Schubert.

Stretch! This is something that can really help most climbers. The most important places to look to improve flexibility are your hips, shoulders and back. Everyday for at least half an hour. But you need to stretch correctly: Learn from a physical therapist, a coach, a yoga-teacher, a friend—it doesn’t matter, as long as you stretch correctly. Otherwise you risk injury.

Don’t compare yourself to others —just do your best, and make sure to have fun!  

—Jernej Kruder, Slovenia, 2018 Bouldering World Cup Champion

Climb as quiet as possible. This one is simple enough. Don’t let your feet or hands make excess noise while climbing. It’s been said often, but I can’t stress enough how helpful this is for refining technique and accuracy while on the wall. —Justin Salas, US, 2018 Visual Impairment Paraclimbing World Champion

Train with training partners, climb with friends. I love climbing with my best friends, but every time I try to do a “train” with one of them it devolves into hanging out and just fun climbing, usually followed by a few beers. In order to keep my focus, I line up partners with similar training goals as mine, and make it clear that we’re here to train, not socialize. —Maureen Beck, US, 2014 and 2016 AU-2 (Forearm Amputee) Paraclimbing World Champion




—Alexey Rubtsov, RU, 3-time Bouldering World Cup Gold Medalist



Finding My Footing on a Prosthetic Leg My feet–one human, one prosthetic–wobbled on the foam-cushioned floor. I gazed downward, to the skin of my right leg and titanium of my left, then upward to the knot on the rope, then further up, settling on the dusty wall ahead. The belayer said, “Climb on!”

As I started up the wall, my left leg—which now wore a prosthetic socket, microprocessor knee, pylon ankle, carbon-fiber foot, and an assortment of metal bolts—felt heavy and cumbersome. The right leg, weak and out of shape, quaked. My



Ticket to Worlds: the author all smiles in the warm-up area at the 2018 IFSC Paraclimbing World Championships, in Innsbruck. On her climbing prosthesis are Evolv’s Adaptive Foot and Eldo-Z shoe; her microprocessor knee (right) balances against the wall.


I curled my fingers into the pockets of two gray holds and hopped my right foot up to another one. My left leg lagged, metallic shin scraping the concrete. I hiked my hip, tightened my thigh, and yanked. The prosthetic toe grazed a rock and missed. I tried again. Missed. Again. Missed. On the fourth attempt, the toe caught. That was all it took: one placement of one prosthetic foot on one foothold. My first time on a rock wall, I glimpsed who I used to be. One year earlier, I had never met an amputee. Each day I commuted by bicycle to the school where I taught. On weekends I racked up dozens of miles with friends in an inline skate club. Philadelphia is a walkable, bikeable and skateable city. I did all three. That lifestyle screeched to a halt on the morning of November 9, 2010, when I was hit by a garbage truck while riding my bike to work. The truck turned right, across a designated bike lane. I was in that bike lane. At age 41, on a sunny Tuesday, I transformed from a healthy, athletic woman to a critically injured trauma patient. My left leg was crushed and mangled. I suffered a fractured pelvis, broken ribs, internal injuries, and major blood loss. Fortunately, I was wearing a helmet. When I hit the cold blacktop, I was fully conscious, yet helpless, frightened and bleeding on the street. An ambulance rushed me to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, the nearest Level I Trauma Center. For two days, surgeons tried valiantly to repair my left leg and other injuries. As a complication, fluid pooled in my abdomen, requiring more surgery. My entire body began to fail. At the end of the second day, surgeons amputated my left leg above the knee. It was the only way to save my life. When I arrived at that rock gym nearly a year later, it was for a rock-climbing clinic for amputees. Although I was still learning to walk on a prosthetic leg, my prosthetist Tim Rayer encouraged me to be active again. “Rest is rust,” he always said. After seven hospitalizations, 14 surgeries, and nine months of physical therapy, I craved exercise and endorphins. More than anything, I craved being able-bodied again.





The author on her first (ever) but not last podium. (Left to right) Rebecca Levenberg, Wiebke Deimling and Jess Sporte at the USA Climbing Adaptive National Championships in Boston in 2017.

CLIMBING FILLED THE SPACE LEFT EMPTY BY MY DISABILITY. IT GAVE ME A NEW ROUTINE, A WAY TO BE ACTIVE, AND A PLACE TO GO ON WEEKENDS. beginner routes in the gym. Yet while my friends improved steadily, my own climbing stalled. In the spring of 2017, after years of trying to teach myself, I signed up for lessons with Michael Wyman, the head routesetter at Go Vertical. He admitted he didn’t know much about amputation or prosthetics, but he knew all about climbing. His first suggestion was to lock my prosthetic knee so I could stand on it like a straight leg. It worked. I could place it on holds and depend on it. My climbing improved immediately. We also worked on basic climbing techniques. Michael taught me to turn my hip into the wall to make myself taller. Since I am just under 5 feet tall, this was key. He taught me to shift weight onto my prosthetic side to reach


arms were skinny and wrung out. I had no noticeable strength or talent for climbing, just a fierce determination to rise above what had happened to me. As I pulled myself up the wall, I was filled with exhilaration. I’m back, I thought. This is my ticket to leave my disability behind. Meanwhile, outside the climbing gym, I tried to regain what I’d lost. Friends practiced sports with me, and I learned to bike, but my prosthesis would come loose from the motion of the pedals. When I was on skates, my left foot didn’t feel the ground, and I couldn’t use my prosthetic ankle to steer around potholes or navigate hills. Worst of all was the anxiety. I visualized crashes. Traffic noise sent me reeling into red alert. While I relearned some skills, I couldn’t keep pace with my friends or old life. In my third year as an amputee, I traveled to Orlando, Florida, for the 2013 Amputee Coalition National Conference. Ronnie Dickson, World Champion Paraclimber, spoke about his own amputation at age 17, and how he discovered rock climbing. Afterward, I told him how much I had liked climbing the one time I’d tried it. “A group of us are going tonight,” he said. “You should come.” That night it was Ronnie’s own climbing that mesmerized me. He traversed the wall, muscles extending and contracting in tandem, each move strong and calculated. His sound foot led, and his prosthetic foot followed, gracefully pausing on the tiniest chips. He used his prosthesis as if it were part of his body. Could I learn to climb like Ronnie? What would it take? In the process, would my leg become part of me again? I began to sign up for amputee climbing clinics with the Orthotic and Prosthetic Activities Foundation (OPAF), Paradox Sports, Peak Potential, and Adaptive Climbing Group. I bought my first pair of climbing shoes and signed up for a belay class at the local rock gym. Climbing filled the space left empty by my disability. It gave me a new routine, a way to be active, and a place to go on weekends. There were no other amputees at the gym, so I found some able-bodied climbing partners. While they had all their limbs, they didn’t seem to mind that I was missing one. My skills weren’t as advanced as theirs, but rock gyms are designed

for diversity. We chose our own routes. There was no pressure to keep pace with anyone. Those climbing partners became my friends, and Go Vertical became my new favorite hangout. At first I ignored my prosthetic leg entirely. I hopped up the holds, making my right leg do the work of both. I reached as high as I could, using big power moves. Over time my arm muscles strengthened. I even developed a onehanded pull-up we called “the flying squirrel.” After a while, though, my prosthesis began to weigh me down. It had a knee designed for walking, but the built-in resistance made the leg heavy and tough to bend on the wall. Also, it was getting scraped up! One day, I unscrewed it and attached a “swim leg” I wore to the beach and pool. With its simple free-swing knee, the swim leg was lighter and easier to maneuver as I climbed. My prosthesis still dangled most of the time, but I was more agile. Through trial and error, and pure persistence, I worked my way up the


handholds on the far left. While these moves may have come naturally to climbers with two legs, I had started climbing as an amputee, when nothing felt natural. With each new strategy, I grew curious about what my body could do. I started to value my prosthesis for its usefulness. That confidence extended outside the gym, too. At the supermarket, I figured out how to reach the highest shelves. At home I braved a stepladder to change a light bulb above the bathroom mirror. After seven years as a trauma patient, I began to identify as an athlete again. I had been working with Michael a few months when Chris Prange-Morgan, a friend and climber I’d met through the amputee community, told me about an adaptive climbing competition. I had never considered competing, but thought it would be a good way to meet other climbers with disabilities. I still considered myself a beginner, so I emailed one of the organizers to find out the entry requirements. She responded immediately: “Anyone can enter.” Well, I figured, I’m anyone! In June 2017, I drove from Philadelphia to Boston for the USA Climbing Adaptive National Championships. The g ym hummed, full of families, coaches and competitors scoping out the roped-off competition routes. As I wandered through the crowd, a woman rolled up in a wheelchair. “You’re an amputee,” she said matterof-factly. She was, too. Bonnie Denis, an experienced climber, introduced me to

Left: “Climbing helped me find my ability again, and my able-bodied climbing partners were instrumental,” as well as the amputee community. Marian Bailey, right, is the author’s regular climbing partner at Go Vertical. Right: in action at the Paraclimbing Worlds, Innsbruck.

climbers with leg and arm amputations, limb differences, visual impairments, spinal-cord injuries, and other neurological and orthopedic impairments. In an hour, we had gathered in a nearby restaurant eating Thai food like old friends. The biggest reward came the next day, when I watched everyone climb. Some amputees wore prosthetics, and others climbed without them. Visually impaired climbers used “callers” on the ground to describe the locations of the holds: “Right arm, two o’clock, long.” Seated climbers, those with limited or no use of their legs, depended on their arms and cores to pull themselves up the wall. No one seemed disabled. These athletes seemed more able than able-bodied climbers. They were super able. It was a redpoint competition, with three hours to climb routes of varied difficulty and accumulate as many points as possible. With no strategy in mind, I chose routes that looked like fun, and spent as much time cheering for other athletes as climbing. Halfway through the competition, Jess Sporte, a fellow amputee and new friend, looked at my scoresheet. A seasoned competitor, she’d been guiding me along. Her eyes widened, and she said, “I think you’re winning!” My top three scores were the only ones that would count, she explained. “Don’t climb anything lower than this one,” she said, pointing to the lowest of the three. I set off to work on a route I’d been avoiding. It was filled with volumes and unfamiliar holds, but a send would raise my score. For the next hour, I fought to pass a protruding hold shaped like a giant elephant leg. I hung from it, swung from it, wrapped my arms around it, and tried to catch it with my feet—all to no avail. When the competition ended, my forearms were black and blue, and my left leg, coated with sweat, was sliding out of my prosthesis. But Jess had been right. I placed second in the category of female lower-extremity amputees, surprising everyone—most of all myself. It was my





first time on a podium, ever. After the competition, I started to think adaptively, as amputees do. What can my body look like? What can it do? And how can I use these differences to my advantage? Able-bodied at h letes could n’t cha nge t heir body construction, but I could. Prosthetics present a unique oppor tunit y for adaptive athletes. We’re built from interchangeable parts. We can be better. Stronger. Faster. Friends at the gym suggested a more aggressive shoe for my prosthetic foot, so I tried La Sportiva’s Otaki. With its arched sole and downturned toe, it improved my grip on footholds. I continued to study other amputees and research other adaptations. The following summer, I shared what I had learned with my prosthetist and his team. They offered to build me a prosthesis specifically for rock climbing and utilized Evolv’s Adaptive Foot and Eldo-Z shoe, attached to a simple pylon. At the gym, I tested knee angles until I settled on an approximate 15 degrees. The lightweight leg had a fixed knee joint and a short, rigid foot, which increased control and stability. I named my new climbing leg Roxie. That June I placed third at the 2018 USA Climbing Adaptive National Championships, which came with a special honor: a place on Team USA at the Paraclimbing World Championships in Innsbruck. That disability I was trying to leave behind? It was my ticket to Worlds! On September 11, 2018, the competition opened at the Kletterzentrum Innsbruck, a climbing facility with outdoor walls so massive and overhung they look like tidal waves. Between those walls, the warm-up area bustled with the usual climbers and climbing gear, and was also filled with crutches, canes, wheelchairs, service dogs and prosthetic legs. Athletes were everywhere, huddling with teammates, pointing at the routes, and chatting in different languages. Beyond the climbing walls, mountains rose into the Austrian sky. With qualifiers just minutes away, I should have been nervous. But I was simply in awe, struck by how far I had come. When I heard my name called, I walked to the assigned routes and clipped into the double belay system. The first route was extremely difficult from the start, but on the second route, I took off. I pulled together all the skills I had learned, executed smoothly, and finished within four holds of the top. I was satisfied I had climbed my best on both routes. At the end of the night, I ranked eighth in my category. Eighth in the world? I’ll take it! Truly, I had already won. I had traveled to Austria. I had befriended climbers from around the world. I had surpassed any limitations, real or imagined, from that life-changing accident eight years ago. In the end, it wasn’t about competition or finding my place on the podium. It was about finding my place in life. It was about moving forward, beyond ability or disability. On the wall, I gained my footing in both worlds. Rebecca Levenberg is a climber, writer and speaker from Philadelphia. She works as a peer-mentor coordinator and volunteers with hospital patients and adaptive athletes. See www.





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TRAINING / Intermediate

Sound advice from a top climbing trainer

By Tom Randall A climber with great wisdom once said that if you can climb 5.11, you can climb just about any mountain, cliff or wall in the world. That’s about right. Once you start moving into 5.11 terrain, you will often be on steeper and more overhanging walls than before. The pumpy sections may not last for the entire route, but will require you to hold lock-off positions for a number of seconds and maintain a more sustained effort of climbing, though the moves are often interspersed with large handsoff rests. Use the following exercises to step up your game.



REPS: 5 REST BETWEEN SETS: 3-5 minutes SETS: 2-3 INTENSITY: High, but not so high that you cannot keep good form for all 5 reps. GYM FACILITY: Pull-up bar, rings or large holds on a fingerboard. For this exercise, use a shoulder-width grip, and keep your palms facing away, knuckles towards you. All movement should be slow and controlled, without kipping. Start in a straight armed, hanging position with your hands on the bar and your shoulders engaged. Initiate an upward pull to bring your chin to the bar in a controlled manner and try to keep speed consistent throughout the range of movement. Once you reach the top of the movement, lower back to your starting position with total control. If you’re not able to lower in control or can’t keep your shoulders engaged at the bottom of each movement, either stop the session for the day or reduce intensity.


GOING FROM 5.10 TO 5.11


Supported by

STEEP BOULDERING REPS: 2 boulder problems (stop if you lose good form). After you do the first problem, rest three minutes before repeating it. Doing a boulder problem twice is a set. REST AFTER SETS: 5 minutes SETS: 6 INTENSITY: Medium to high. You want to be operating 1-2 grades under your maximum boulder grade. GYM FACILITY: Bouldering wall. To apply some of that initial core tension and strength we worked on in the first article (5.9 to 5.10, Gym Climber No. 1), the place to do it is steep terrain! Once you’ve improved in the basic elements of strength and conditioning as a climber, it’s extremely important to use the skills. Bouldering will enable you to execute the physical gains you’ve made in a more adept and purposeful manner. The aim of this session is to choose six steep boulder problems, and repeat them just twice each. With the first attempt you will be attempting to flash the problem and may make some small errors. In your rest period, reflect on what things you could have improved, and aim to improve your performance in the second rep. This self-reflection is really important for genuine improvement.


POWER ENDURANCE REPS: 4 reps of 8 moves (stop if you lose good form). REST AFTER REPS: 10 seconds (enough to chalk up) REST AFTER SETS: 5 minutess SETS: 4 INTENSITY: Medium (look at boulder sections approximately 4 grades below your limit). GYM FACILITY: Bouldering wall, circuit board, toprope, lead, auto-belay or Treadwall. Working power endurance is generally easier on a bouldering wall or circuit wall.

Power endurance is the ability to sustain moderate efforts of climbing without any major rests. On the climbs you’ll be trying, it’s those sections where you’ll be climbing continuously for one to four minutes, which doesn’t sound like much, but it will feel like it at the time! In my experience, power endurance is best worked on bouldering walls and circuit boards, as you can use your time more efficiently and doesn’t require a partner. The aim of the session is to climb your chosen boulder problem, about eight moves, four times in short succession. You top the first, quickly chalk up and carry on doing three more reps. With the correct intensity, you should feel increasingly juiced at the end of the last rep. Kudos! Tom Randall is a professional climber, entrepreneur and founder of Lattice Training, The Climbing Station Gym, Sublime Climbing and Wideboyz Volumes.

One key to advancing from 5.10 to 5.11 is to boulder on steep terrain. Pick two overhanging problems one to two grades below your maximum ability. Do one problem, then rest three minutes and then climb the second problem. Rest five minutes and repeat six times.





INJURY PREVENTION Heel hooking is a necessary technique but can torque and damage your knee. Silver medalist Akiyo Noguchi of Japan during the final of the Women’s Boulder competition in Innsbruck.

Learn to manage, and maybe prevent, one of the most common climbing injuries By Zack DiCristino • USA Climbing Team Lead Physical Therapist You chalk up below the bouldering wall. The crux on your project revolves around a hard heel hook. Today’s the day, you tell yourself. You start climbing. You set the heel—yes, I got it!—and inch up closer, but in the raw excitement you hear a small pop above the back of your knee. Ugh. Unfortunately, you just got one of the most common climbing injuries.



THE INJURY Climbers often report a snapping or popping sound at the time of injury. The sound may indicate a ligament sprain or the iliotibial band snapping over the boney part of the lateral knee. Mild to moderate swelling may occur quickly with low-grade sprains or partial tears of the LCL and proximal tibiofibular ligaments. The climber may also feel “unstable” at the knee with



In today’s climbing and gym world, I am seeing two injuries—heel-hooking injuries and lumbrical strains—more often than ever before. Climbing gyms provide a canvas for imagining and developing moves that require unique solutions. These moves are undoubtedly effective, and really fun, but can place us at risk for injury. Performing a heel hook can create high forces at the knee due to the biomechanics involved. The upper leg and lower leg (femur and tibia/ fibula) create long moment arms (the length between a joint axis and the line of force acting on that joint), with your knee caught in the middle. When the toe is turned out, high tensile and shear stress can occur at the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), lateral meniscus, proximal tibiofibular ligament, popliteus tendon, dorsal joint capsule, iliotibial band, and lateral hamstring tendons. The medial knee can undergo shear and compression as well. Therefore, our possible injury list includes: meniscus tears, LCL and proximal tibiofibular sprains, hamstring strains, hamstring avulsions (where the tendon fractures the bone where it attaches), among others. So yeah, it’s quite a list. Heel-hooking injuries are not fully preventable given the biomechanics, but we can at least decrease the risk through proper warm-ups and preventative exercises.


types of meniscus tears and degrees of ligament sprains require different treatment approaches (surgery versus conservative treatment, how long to brace, what movements/activities to avoid, etc.).


The lateral structures of the knee: the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), proximal tibiofibular ligaments (not pictured) and the medial meniscus are areas of concern for heel hooking.

an LCL sprain. With a meniscus injury, swelling may appear more gradually over the next day, but persist if the tear does not heal itself. Moderate or severe strains at the hamstrings may result in discoloration, pain and guarding (spasms or tightness) when straightening the knee, and possible weakness with actively bending the knee. The strain may occur in the muscle belly (more mid-thigh) or higher, where the muscle meets the tendon (aka “high” hamstring strain). Hamstring avulsion injuries usually occur at the ischial tuberosity (your sit bone) and tends to appear during explosive movements. Getting the right diagnosis is paramount. Start with a physical examination by a medical professional. If signs and symptoms hint of a meniscus or ligament injury, then you may need diagnostic imaging to confirm the diagnosis. Diagnostic ultrasound may not be able to rule in/ out some injuries such as hamstring avulsion injuries, so an MRI is recommended for those. Different

Physical therapy can begin as soon as your physician clears it. For LCL, proximal tibiofibular sprains and meniscus injuries, treatment initially includes pain and swelling management through icing and compression for up to 72 hours after the injury. Knee range-of-motion exercises, and low-load muscle activation exercises of the quadriceps and gluteals can begin immediately. If an LCL sprain is present, a stable hinged brace can provide protection. The later phases of rehab (in two to four weeks depending on the severity of the sprain) focus on restoring functional strength and neuro-muscular control, to prevent reinjury. Take care in performing isolated hamstring strengthening (e.g., leg curls) if an LCL and/or proximal tibiofibular ligament sprain are present given the attachment of the lateral hamstring tendon at the fibula, where these ligaments also attach. This initial phase of rehab is also the

time to assess whether you are activating muscles (specifically the gluteals) in the correct sequence. These muscles aid in heel-hooking, taking stress away from the hamstrings and knee by involving the hip. These exercises can include simple prone hip extensions to learn the proper firing pattern, then applying the strategy to “bridges” with variations that mimic heel-hooking maneuvers. Once you can perform the exercises without pain and you demonstrate proper strength, you can reintroduce heel hooking. If you suspect a high-hamstring strain or an avulsion (pain will be closer to your sit bone), DO NOT stretch your hamstrings or start any strengthening exercises yet. High-hamstring strains need to be treated more conservatively and gradually than mid–hamstring strains.

PREVENTION For hamstring strains, perform dynamic stretching as part of your warm up. Forward leg swings can improve mobility as well as activate the hamstrings and gluteals. Also, single-leg deadlifts warm up the gluteals and hamstrings, as well as your overall balance. Performing bridges is also a good way to activate the gluteals, especially if you plan to do some steep routes/problems.

UPPER: Prone hip extensions activate the gluteal muscles, and are a good exercise for rehabbing after injury, or simply for strengthening these key muscles to reduce the risk of injury. Focus on squeezing your buttock muscles to extend at the HIP, not just at the knee. LOWER: “Froggy bridges” also activate the glutes and are another good exercise for injury prevention.






Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Extend your arms to the side in line with your hips. Extend your spine and lift your chest. Focus the mind. Be relaxed and awake for a couple of breaths.


With an exhalation, turn your head to the right, chin in line with your right shoulder. Inhale, then turn forward. Exhale, and turn your head to the left, chin in line with your left shoulder. Repeat twice for a total of three reps. 50



a.] Inhale, and lift your arms to shoulder height. b.) Exhale, and bring your palms together in front of you, keeping your arms fully extended. c.) Inhale, bend the elbows, and bring your palms to your chest, fingertips touching. d.) Exhale, extend the arms to the front, and bring the palms together. a.) Inhale, and open the arms to the side, keeping the arms extended. b.) Exhale, and bring the palms together in front. Do three reps.






This easy, flowing yoga sequence will focus your mind, activate your breathing, and warm up your body


5 a.



a.) Reach your arms overhead. b.) Extend your arms completely, make a fist. c.) Extend your fingers 20 times (or until you develop a mild pump). d.) Swing the arms in front, right over left and left over right, three times.







Keep your arms extended with your palms facing the floor. a.) Move your hands to the right, bring them to the center, move them to the left, and return them to center. Repeat three times. b.) Keeping your arms extended, fingers together, roll your hands in a circle to the right three times, then to the left three times. c.) Spread your fingers, roll your hands to the right three times, and repeat to the left three times. d.) Make your fingers into claws, and roll your hands to the right three times and to the left three times. Your wrists might crackle and pop as they loosen up. WWW.GYMCLIMBERMAG.COM





a.) Fold forward; hold the upper arms with your hands; relax the neck muscles, and allow the head to hang down. Take three deep breaths. Bring your hands to your hips, inhale, and come up. b.) Stand straight, lift your chest, and take a couple of breaths.


Bring your hands to your hips, exhale, and keep your legs extended as you fold forward. Bend your knees, and with an inhalation, roll your torso up and right. Exhale, extend your legs, and roll down to the left. Do three reps to the right, and three reps to the left.


Stand firmly on your left foot. Raise your right leg, thigh parallel to the floor. Make three wide circles to the right with your right foot. Make three circles to the left. Switch legs.







Stand firmly on your left foot. Extend the right leg; point the toes at the floor. Roll the ankle to the right, and circle three times with the pointed toes. Repeat to the left. Switch legs.


Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Extend your arms in line with your hips. Extend your spine, and lift your chest. Focus the mind. Be relaxed and awake for a breath or two, then go send everything.

Jeff Jackson is Editor at Large for Gym Climber and Rock and Ice.





By Udo Neumann

Our human ancestors spent 60 million years as arboreal creatures. Up until roughly 3.5 million years ago, trees and cliffs were key habitats for our ancestors, serving as places to hide, sleep, observe … and, of course, play. A good climber on a high perch was less likely than one on the ground to be eaten by a predator and could scan surroundings with more ease, aiding in survival. As a result, our locomotor system evolved for hand-assisted running, climbing and jumping in trees.


Modern g ym bouldering is sometimes dismissed for not having anything to do with “real climbing.” By “real climbing,” critics often mean sport climbing, in existence since the 1980s. Hard sport climbing requires a strong upper body, heaps of contact strength, and it mostly takes place on two-dimensional surfaces. On sport climbs, pushing and pressing, the techniques of modern bouldering, are typically less efficient than pulling and holding. Dynamic jumps in sport climbing are often not possible, or practical, the way they are in bouldering because the contact points are small and painful. Running jumps, when part of a boulder problem in particular, are often criticized as “circus tricks”… as if that were a bad thing. The three-dimensional jumping and stemming of modern bouldering provide fodder for the criticism that indoor bouldering has evolved further and further away from climbing. But when you look at modern bouldering from an evolutionary standpoint, and not from a sport-climbing perspective, a different picture emerges. Climbing is to humans what swimming is to fish. Or flying to birds. When we climb, we explore a complex, 3-D habitat and employ movements our primate ancestors still use. Modern gym bouldering is a return to our real climbing roots. Let’s take a closer look at these types of movements.




CROSSING GAPS As the distance between contact points increases, risk assessment and complex coordination of movement become more important. All of our primate relatives use combinations of running and jumping to reach the next contact point. Evolutionarily speaking, combinations of running and jumping were always a requirement to climb. Gibbons, a species of small apes found in Southeast Asia, are capable of navigating jungle trees at 35 miles per hour and have been known to leap upwards of 50 feet from tree to tree in a single hop. Crossing large distances between contact points is a signature aspect of modern parkour-style bouldering, and every World Cup competition will have numerous boulders involving such a skill, something that competition climbers in the 1990s and early 2000s didn’t have to master. In the above image, Tomoa Narasaki crosses a large gap during the 2018 Innsbruck World Championships. The move required the athlete to push off a giant volume and latch two small crimps on a triangular volume nine feet to the left. The crux wasn’t so much the jump, but arriving at the hold with just the right timing and body position to stick the crimps.

MOMENTUM Crossing a gap requires the intelligent use of momentum, and it is momentum that differentiates modern climbing from its predecessors. When you use momentum, the line of gravity falls outside the base of support provided by your contact points—i.e., the climber is never simply pulling downward



Tomoa Narasaki crosses a large gap at the 2018 Innsbruck World Championships. He was the only climber to complete the problem in this manner.



and so a reaction is needed in order to stay balanced and moving. Momentumbased climbing moves have a window of opportunity for this reaction—and the more difficult the move is, the shorter the window is open. For instance, when a climber dynos to a bad sloper that cannot be held statically and has to launch immediately off the sloper to the left, then in order to reach the farther hold momentum has to be maintained and redirected through the middle hold. See top-ranked Janja Garnbret complete this move below. The middle sloper cannot be held statically, so Garnbret has to pendulum her body to arrive at the next set of holds perfectly. Latching the middle sloper has a small window of opportunity. Often, in World Cup bouldering you will see a triple, which requires the climber to make three dynamic moves in a row and carry momentum through each of them, none of which could be done statically. Carrying momentum is about timing, and time constraints very much characterize modern World Cup bouldering.

Alex Megos practices a complex move involving a foot stab.

COUNTERMOVEMENTS & CO Countermovement, arm and leg drives, and other variations go by a variety of names. In the U.S., moves like these

are called pogos, in Germany a ninja kick and in Japan cypher, but the meaning is the same—the enhancement of jumping performance when using an arm or leg swing to generate momentum for a jump. In the image below, notice how Garnbret swings her left leg to begin the movement. This is a lateral pogo. The increased velocity of take-off stems from a series of events allowing the swinging limb to build up energy and transfer it to the rest of the body during the subsequent stages of the move. It is used to increase energy at takeoff and to store and release energy from the muscles and tendons around the joints and ‘pull’ on the body through an upward force acting on the trunk. Say, for instance, the holds are so bad that a climber can barely hold them, much less generate momentum from them to move sideways or up. One common solution would be for the athlete to swing their legs to generate lateral or upward trajectory. Problem solved. Often, however, this type of move requires a precise foot stab at the end of the movement cycle, as German rock star Alex Megos demonstrates above.


Janja Garnbret alone solved this swinging problem at the 2018 Innsbruck World Championships.

Parkour athletes practice their movement art on man-made, mostly uniform structures that permit the hand to wrap around cylindrical shapes, like rails. In climbing, though, most contact points can tolerate limited peak force, so we have to handle them carefully and smoothly. Ten years ago, the main issue with any dynamic move was to reach the next hold. It would usually be positive enough that how the climber got to it didn’t matter, only sticking it. This is no longer the case. The challenging part now often begins the moment you reach the hold. Contact strength is



steps, and so the ability to incorporate rhythm has become essential for top athletes. Same for combinatory, which goes to the heart of double and triple dynos. With large volumes, a high degree of orientation ability is now standard.


still important, but modern holds cannot be held unless you position your body perfectly in relation to them. Hence a top competitor may often get one hand on a finishing hold but fail to bring the other hand up to match, an added difficulty intended by the setters. Dynamic bouldering is about achieving the ideal position relative to contact points by means of managing the competing zones of balance created by your limbs. In high-level comps, differences in contact strength have little visible impact on the results in finals. Differences in mobility, hip control and reactive leg force are, however, extremely decisive.

Boulder problems require solutions that work. Ideal solutions used to consist largely of hand and foot sequences, so-called beta. With the introduction of Above: Megos volumes in comps and gyms, however, re-discovering his beta became much less obvious. What arboreal nature. Middle: “works” in each case depends entirely Jongwon Chon wins Chongqing 2017 thanks on the individual climber. to this problem. Below: To find your solution, you have Garnbret holding tension to simultaneously compare your on a difficult dyno. skills and the requirements of a

COORDINATION Coordination is the harmonious cooperation of sensory organs, peripheral/central nervous system and the locomotor system. As classically defined in sports physiology, the coordination abilities are: adaptive, balance, combinatory, kinesthetic, orientation and rhythm. Many were absent in climbing until very recently, such as rhythm. Today, combinations of running and jumping require very fast

Udo Neumann is a coach, filmmaker, photographer, and author. He wrote, with Dale Goddard, the book Performance Rock Climbing.




problem, then gauge the result. It is advantageous to focus on solving the problem your way, rather than distract yourself by guessing what might have been the intentions of the route setters. Courage and confidence in one’s own solution decide bouldering competitions.

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Natalia Grossman


USAC Combined Invitational, Salt Lake City, women’s bouldering: First problem elicited a high-point tie, to no one’s surprise, between Kyra Condie and Brooke Raboutou. Only two women completed problem number two, but it was not the same duo. Topping out with Condie was Natalia Grossman, age 17, of Boulder. Grossman was to place second in bouldering, and make the podium in third overall, finishing above some big talents. Grossman is a Fairview High School senior who moved from Santa Cruz, California, to Boulder to climb and train with Team ABC.

John Brosler

Texas-born and raised is proving quite the recipe for climbing success. John Brosler of Plano, who grew up climbing with Team Texas, clinched the 10-meter US Men’s Open speed record at the SCS National Championships as early as 2014 with a time of 3.95. The now 21-year-old has amassed nine national speed titles, including a gold in the 2018 Sport and Speed Open National in Reno, Nevada. In recent years he was based in Boulder, studying at the University of Colorado, but at present he is “taking some time off school” and has returned to Dallas.



Off the radar before Bouldering Open National Championships, Dylan Barks changed that with a single problem. Barks, 23, was the only competitor out of 76 to top men’s #2 in the qualifying round. He made finals, to finish fifth overall. Before 2019, Barks’ best year on plastic was 2013, when he took gold in the Junior Sport Nationals. Barks moves with a deliberateness not common among his gym-bred peers, and likely gained on real rock. From Anne Arbor, Michigan, he has climbed 5.14d in the Red River Gorge, Kentucky.


Dylan Barks


Klaus Isele



QA compete. That is the danger of learning new things. Are there good mental strategies to avoid generating bad engrams when working a route at your limit? It’s not a mental thing. The rule is simple: the last repetition should be the best. After your best go: rest for a few minutes. If you are studying for your final exams, would you see a bunch of TV series after all the learning? No!

Adam Ondra’s personal physical therapist reveals some, but not all, of his secrets. What first got you started in osteopathy? During physical therapy school, you have mandatory internships. … I interned with a very good osteopath, and he was simply in his own league. He understood the patients as people. He saw their whole situation. And his anatomical and physiological knowledge combined with clinical reasoning was profound.

Tell me about something fun that happened at a World Cup after-party. I think there were some French guys … they climbed a statue in Vail and nearly got arrested, but somehow his friends convinced the police not to imprison him. You work with Adam Ondra, the best climber in the world.



On a scale of 1-10, how important is flexibility? And why? Can be 1 or 10. Flexibility is nothing without control and contraction. Just because I can reach something does not mean that I am able to pull out of that body position!

What separates Ondra from the rest of the world’s climbers? His determination and passion! He isn’t fancy . . . he doesn’t dress in trendy ways. He is easygoing but only cares about climbing like I have never ever seen in my 10 years of work with top elite climbers. There is a lot of talk about “engrams” in high-end athletic training, not just climbing. What is an engram? Think of it as a path ... an engram in our brain is a connection pattern. Look at the stars. Connect some of them with imaginary lines. Then you get

While he was working on Silence (5.15d), Ondra experimented with Isele on a strategy to help get the crux moves ingrained into his body. The solution, seen above, was a hybrid between visualization and beta-specific resistance.

constellations. Every star is like a neurological cell in your brain. Connect the right ones, and there you go—your backflip is possible. But if you try your backflip wrong too many times, you will have a good and bad engram, and they

What are your personal climbing projects? I’d like to sit on a port-a-ledge on pitch five of a route I just opened with friends in Greenland. From the ledge, I will throw out my fishing rod to cast 200 meters below into a fjord! No internet, nothing but rock, nature and fish! That’s my dream. What is the future of physical therapy for you? The old system of having a national coach that is the trainer for 10 to 30 athletes will not be the future. I could maybe have one or two more athletes like him and that’s it.


What’s the most exciting part of working with top athletes? The sweaty palms! Feeling that you are in it as well. The excitement, the up and down, the crisis! The solution of the crisis. The community. The World Cup after-parties. The traveling, the people . . . Damn. I think I am addicted.



climbing everyone to

541.388.5463 Bend, Oregon Since 1988


USA OLYMPIC TEAM SELECTIONS There will be four USA Climbing National Teams for adults in the 2019 season. Four men and four women will comprise each.

U.S. Overall National Team will compete in all disciplines at all World Cups that USA Climbing participates in. U.S. Bouldering National Team. The top-ranked athlete from each gender will be invited to participate in Bouldering World Cups. U.S. Sport (Lead) National Team. The top-ranked athlete from each gender will be invited to participate in Lead World Cups. U.S. Speed National Team. The top-ranked athlete from each gender will be invited to participate in Speed World Cups. Ashima Shiraishi on her way to a win at the 2019 Bouldering National Championships in Bend, Oregon.

U.S. Overall National Team is selected through four primary events. The Combined Invitational, held January 18-20, Open Bouldering National Championships, held February 1-2, and Open Sport and Speed National Championships, held March 8-9. An athlete can qualify in two ways for the U.S. Overall National Team: by winning the Combined Invitational or through a combination of their results in the four primary events. Individual Discipline National Teams are selected from their respective discipline’s National Championships, Open Bouldering National Championships, held February 1-2, and Open Sport & Speed National Championships, held March 8-9. The Overall National Team will be named at the conclusion of Open Sport and Speed National Championships. All Individual Discipline National Teams are formed at the conclusion of their respective discipline’s



National Championship. Finally, a reformation of the Overall National Team will occur in late July that will recompose the Overall National Team to the top 4 in the U.S. Overall Ranking. OLYMPIC QUALIFYING SUMMARY (SUBJECT TO CHANGE PER IFSC): Forty athletes (20 men, 20 women) will qualify by name, by country, for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020 through three primary pathways, with a maximum quota of two athletes per gender, per country: First, via World Cup Ranking, which will qualify up to two per gender per country to the final 2019 Olympic Qualifying Event (OQE), in France. This method is the most challenging as it means our team must compete frequently to establish points that keep the members in the top 20 overall rank. Only the top two ranks per discipline

will be used in calculating the top 20 overall rank. Six Olympic spots will be secured via this pathway. The second pathway is through the 2019 World Championships (WCh) and subsequent Combined World Championships (CWCh), held in Hachioji City, Japan, in August. The top 20 combined athletes per gender from the WCh will qualify for the CWCh where seven spots will be secured. The third pathway is through the Continental Championships held in late February/early March 2020. For the Pan American countries (U.S. included), this event will be held at the Sender One LAX gym. The winner of this event, assuming maximum quota has not been met, will secure the final spot.

USA Climbing will fund the travel, room and board costs for the Overall National Team members to compete at selected World Cups and the World Championships for the 2019 season.


THESE TEAMS WILL BE SELECTED AS FOLLOWS (Refer to USA Climbing Rulebook V3 for detailed information):




GEAR 1 8 2


6 4







$92.00 | A finely crafted edge-master hangboard that even comes with a slot for your phone on top. The board has an asymmetrical design to keep your hands at their proper width.

$75.00 | Great little gym pack. A top-loader, the Payload has easy-to-use rope-carry and helmet straps, and external daisies sewn onto the front panel for clipping any incidentals.

$119.00 | No-frills, lightweight harness ideal for competition climbing. At just 14 ounces, and with four gear loops, it’s streamlined for performance.



$180.00 | One of the most popular shoes for performance climbing, for good reason: excellent on the steeps, perfect for toe or heel-hooking. A classic by anyone’s standards.

$94.95 | Intended for entry-level climbers, BD hit the mark with the Momentum. Durable, fits to street size and comfortable...and notice the price.





$65 | Attention gym owners or those with a home wall: get rid of your crappy holds and ante up for some of the finest blocs from Pusher.







$14.95 | Designed to have thicker walls than other tube belay devices, the Shell is a workhorse, simple and sturdy, made to last. As in session after session, year upon year.




$25.95 | Classic over-the-shoulder rope bag with sewn-in tarp, making it a good choice for indoors or outdoors. 9. BLUEWATER


$300 | Designed for extended wear and as an ideal gym rope. The low impact force is also easy on anchors.


A GYM MANAGER’S Guide to Rental Shoes



Falco VCR




All-arounder ideal for rental and extended wear on moderate to difficult climbs. Falco VCR has a slight downturn and LOWA’s LC-SuperGrip® rubber compounds.

A comfortable shoe designed for long life: the rubber of the sole is pulled over the toe edge, which is protected by 6 mm rubber. For use as a rental, it is fitted with a patent system for easy storage.

Minimum order: 8 pairs. Sizes: 5-14 Non-marking? Sole is nonmarking, but rand marks. Size on heel? Yes. Machine washable? Yes. Contact: or 203.353.0116.

Minimum order: n/a. Sizes: 4-16 men’s (half sizes to 14) Non-marking? No. Size on heel? Yes. Machine washable? No. Contact:





Designed to balance comfort, price and performance, the Tanta represents a high-quality addition to a rental fleet that allows climbers to enhance their climbing experience.

The origin has a flat-lasted profile, sticky yet durable Vision rubber sole, and a leather upper that gives a feeling of padded luxury and attention to detail. For an entry level shoe, it has amazing value and quality.

Versatile hook-and-loop closure shoe made from 100% breathable and washable fabric. Comfortable upper for those who climb frequently. Double rand with contrast color for wear indication.

Minimum order: 1 pair. Sizes: 4-14 men’s. Non-marking? No. Size on heel? Yes. Machine washable? No. Contact:

Minimum order: 10 pairs. Sizes: 34-47 (halves); 48-50 (whole sizes) WOMEN: 34-42 (halves) Non-marking? No. Size on heel? No. Machine washable? N/A. Contact:

Minimum order: No minimum. Sizes: 34-48* (half sizes, no 36.5, 39, 41.5, 44, 46.5) Non-marking? No. Size on heel? Yes. Machine washable? Yes. Contact:

Rogue VCS

Kid’s Stickit

Gym Master



Exterior size icons for easy fitting and a machinewashable canvas upper, which won’t stretch with use. The delamination-proof one-piece molded outsoles make this one of the most durable Five Ten shoes.

The ideal shoe for beginners. Supportive midsole allows for increased feeling and sensitivity while the Stealth® C4™ outsole is great for smearing and climbing in the gym.

Minimum order: No minimum. Sizes: 3.5-15. Non-marking?: Yes. Size on heel? Yes. Machine washable? Yes. Contact:

Minimum order: No minimum. Sizes: 3.5-15. Non-marking? No. Size on heel? Yes. Machine washable? Yes. Contact:




A hook-and-loop closure slipper for kids with a highly adjustable fit for fast-growing feet. Easy access system so kids and put on and remove their own shoe. Minimum order: No minimum. Sizes: Kids 26-35 Non-marking? No. Size on heel? Sizing can be marked if specified. Machine washable? No. Contact:

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Photo: by Maggie Hellmann of climber, Lou Renner at The Climbing Wall Amsterdam - De Klimmuur.

Track your climbing progress and find climbing partners.

THE SKILLS By Matt Burbach

To clip overhead you’ll need to pull up slack and hold the rope in your teeth so you can haul up slack, as World Champion Jain Kim illustrates, but be careful not to fall, or you’ll be visiting your dentist.

CLIPPING LIKE A PRO Tips for getting the rope in quickly and safely

In climbing, that usually means not thinking at all. Being an expert means being able to execute the fundamentals in any situation or circumstance. Clipping should be second nature.



The mechanics of clipping a rope into a quickdraw are as simple as they seem; however, applying those mechanics with pumped-out forearms and Elvis legs can complicate things. Practiced, fluid and efficient technique is an absolute necessity. First, start with the action of clipping. Although there are a few ways you might get the rope into the carabiner, the ones discussed here are the more commonly used. If these styles do not work for you, experiment with others. Ultimately, the best way is the one that is the fastest and most comfortable for you. When you encounter a quickdraw, the gate will either face left or right. Its positioning determines how you grab and handle the rope before clipping.




MIDDLE-FINGER TECHNIQUE Use this method when clipping a carabiner whose gate is facing away from your clipping hand (e.g., gate is facing left and you are clipping with your right hand). Pick the rope up as if you’re shaking hands with it, touch the quickdraw with the middle finger, and snap the rope in with your index finger and thumb. If the carabiner is positioned against the wall on lessthan-vertical or vertical terrain, the middle finger can pull the draw away from the wall to facilitate.

PINCH TECHNIQUE This technique is for when the carabiner gate is facing in the same direction as your clipping hand (e.g., the gate is facing to the right and you are clipping with your right hand). Pick the rope up the same way as before, but open your thumb widely enough to grab the biner’s spine, and snap the rope through the gate with your index and middle finger. Practicing both techniques on a carabiner hanging close to the ground will help you to improve rapidly.

Top: Incorrect. This is a “Z clip”: when the leader is clipping the side of the rope that was below the quickdraw. Far left: Correct. The rope enters the carabiner from the wall side and exits out toward the leader. Near left: Incorrect. The rope enters the carabiner from the climber’s side and tracks toward the wall. This type of clip can come unclipped

AVOIDING THE BACK-CLIP There is a right and wrong way to position the rope in the draw. The correct way to clip a rope into a carabiner is with the climbing end (attached to the climber) running up along the wall and then out through the carabiner toward the climber. An incorrectly clipped, or back-clipped, rope passes through the carabiner from the climbing side and then into the wall. Because a back clipped rope can unclip in a fall, take great care to ensure that you clip the rope correctly every single time.

Bottom: Correct. The climber grabs the rope above the quickdraw to clip the next bolt. Very good!

Z CLIP A Z clip occurs when a lead climber grabs the rope from below an already clipped quickdraw. The rope then travels from the belayer to the higher draw, back down to the lower draw, and then back up to the climber. When this happens, rope drag prevents the climber from moving up. To avoid Z clipping, grab the rope close to your harness tie-in point. When you reach up to clip, the end of the rope will be attached to you and not the middle section below the last draw. If a Z clip does occur, simply unclip the higher carabiner and reclip properly.



Jessica Pilz (AUT) employs the pinch clip. Note how she is relaxed, weight on her feet and balanced.

Because clipping requires you to let go with one hand, position your body for a stable and restful stance. Let your legs take your weight and relax. Feet should be secure and the quickdraw should be within reach. The optimal body position for clipping a draw is with the carabiner at chest or abdomen height. If you choose to clip from higher above the carabiner, you may forget to clip or be too far above the draw to reach down and clip. If you are too low, you’ll have to pull up a lot of rope, risking a longer fall. Rope drag is another consideration. If you have already clipped several draws, or the route changes direction or angles, rope drag can hinder you in hauling up enough rope in one pull. In this case, pull up enough rope to reach your mouth and gently hold it in your teeth. Quickly grab another pull of rope and immediately release the bit between your teeth. Take care with this practice—a fall could pull your teeth. If you are uncertain whether the quickdraw is close enough to clip, reach out to touch it. Once you are ready to clip, make the commitment. Be still if it’s a difficult clip. Any excess movement can throw you off balance or make you slip. Keep your eye on the draw until the rope is secured. If you rush the process, you may bobble the clip. If you’re just getting started, stand on the ground and clip a rope into a draw until the action becomes second nature, with both hands and gate facing both directions. The better your clipping, the safer you are, the less pumped you’ll be, and the better you’ll climb. Your belayer will also thank you for being sketch free on the sharp end. Matt Burbach is the author of Gym Climbing: Improve Technique, Movement and Performance (second edition).






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Lyn Barazza checks her highball head on Flatline (V8), Yosemite Valley, California. After pulling through 15 feet of a powerful and sustained crux, the aspiring sender faces a lone crimp, an iffy foothold, and a long reach to the lip of this imposing piece of stone. May your resolve be as bullet as the Yosemite granite.

the natural art of bouldering


Keenan Takahashi guns for the crux grip on El Corazon (8B/V13), Rocklands, South Africa. El Corazon has three holds spread over 15 feet of bullet orange sandstone. Despite being a popular problem in a world-class climbing destination, El Corazon seems to have only one known path to success: Go all-out.



Nalle Hukkataival attempts to unlock the subtleties of an infamous project in Black Velvet Canyon, Red Rocks, Nevada. Despite a month of consistent efforts, the Finnish phenom's best efforts weren't enough. Time will tell if succeeding on the project is a matter of getting miraculous conditions, or whether this simply could be one of the hardest problems in the world.





FACING PAGE: Takahashi tipped out on the Yabo Wabo low-start project, one of many futuristic problems. The stand start is a cryptic V11 established by Randy Puro that has seen only three ascents in the better part of a decade. The sit start adds 15 feet of intense compression moves that have yet to be linked. Definitely a contender for one of the hardest undone projects in Yosemite.

Takahashi sorts out the topout as he works to connect the dots on a project on the Green 45 Boulder, Upper Chaos Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. So far, no one has found a path through the micro-edges on this potential line, but if completed, it would solidify this pocket of Chaos Canyon as having the world's highest density of hard boulder problems, adding to Jade (V14), Don't Get Too Greedy (V13), Domestic Cat (V14), and Creature from the Black Lagoon (V16).



Randy Puro glides through dreamy orange sandstone on The Beaten Path (8A/V11), one of the many new problems opened at The Coop, a developing sector in Rocklands.






FACING PAGE: Daniel Woods dynos to a $1,000 cash prize during the New River Gorge Boulder Bounty competition in November 2017 in West Virginia. This problem eventually fell (as did most of the boulder bounties) at the hands of Jimmy Webb, who called it Get Rich or Die Tryin' (V11), after Webb's harrowing experience topping out the slippery 25-foot block. ABOVE: Roman Yalowitz tries his hand at a project during the Boulder Bounty. Yalowitz selected the King Louie project as his best shot at a win during the bouldering competition. On the first day of the month-long event, he woke up at 6 a.m. and drove to the project in Fern Creek. He rehearsed the top out and began trying to send the 25-foot highball by himself, with only a few crash pads. At 10 a.m., Jimmy Webb arrived at the boulder and flashed the V11 project to claim the first bounty. Yalowitz pulled the problem's second ascent just a few minutes after Webb.



Jimmy Webb finds a V14 out of the Cosumnes River Gorge, California. In a brief season of development in early 2018, Webb discovered and made the first ascent of this stunning arete, which he described as "like Cocaine Corner in Yosemite, just a lot harder." He named the line Yayali, a reference to a fabled giant in the legends of the Miwok tribe that first inhabited the region.



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KOREA IS CRUSHING Japan’s dominance on the international competition circuit has been highly publicized, but its neighbor South Korea is just as climbing-crazed by John Burgman






Last September, as Korea’s superstar competitor Jain Kim took first place at the 2018 IFSC Lead World Cup in Kranj, Slovenia, she also notched her way into the record books as the winningest competitor in IFSC history. With more than two dozen victories to her name, Kim is rightly a celebrity within the competition-climbing sphere. But she’s also famous in the Korean landscape at large.

Above: Jain Kim has won 29 golds, 14 silvers and 16 bronze World Cup medals. Left: A typical afternoon session at a Korean gym begins as crews gather, snacks get pooled, and smartphones sit ready to capture and upload any big sends.

acknowledged the increasing interest in the sport and asserted, “Possibly the best part about picking up climbing is the growing number of competitions catered to beginners, amateurs and professionals alike.” While Koreans have long had select success on the international competition stage, recent results indicate the country is in the midst of its own climbing flourish—not unlike the highly touted climbing boom storming Japan, where, in Tokyo alone, there are over 50 gyms. Consider that South Korea’s national bouldering team



finished the 2018 World Cup season in eighth place—right behind a country that is approximately one hundred times its size, the United States. Kim’s male teammate, Jongwon Chon, is irrefutably one of the best boulderers in the world. Like Kim, Chon is known for his methodical style, exceptional crimp strength, and, of course, his dancing. Chon won overall World Cup titles in 2015 and 2017, and most recently the 2018 Asian Games. A slew of other top Korean competitors such as Hanwool Kim, Hyunbin Min and Sol Sa, who have placed as high as third and fifth respectively at World Cup competitions, indicate that the country’s national team has incredible depth. Such abundance of elite competitors is based on a grassroots interest in climbing that has manifested in the form of many climbing gyms popping up around South Korea in recent years. Seoul, a city of roughly 10 million, has 50 gyms jam-packed within its urban confines. The city has seen the founding of B Bloc Climbing in its posh Gangnam region, The Climb in its


Over the years, Kim’s sponsorship deals have included usual suspects like La Sportiva, Spyder, The North Face, and Red Bull, but she has also enjoyed endorsement deals with SK-II, a Korean company that makes beauty and skin-care products, and Korea’s mega-brand of electronics, LG. In 2017, she even climbed a Seoul skyscraper, the Lotte Tower, as a televised event. It was promoted as Kim’s attempt to become the first woman to climb a skyscraper taller than 500 meters, and publicize climbing to a larger Korean audience. Kim’s ongoing renown in her home country would not be as smooth if South Korea, one of the most media-rich countries in the world, was not quick to devour any climbingrelated content. Inherent in climbing are many of the dualities that epitomize Korean culture—an embrace of both traditionalism and modernism, equal parts metropolitan and mountainous, and genial while also undeniably competitive. The Korea Herald, one of the country’s leading newspapers,


college-centric Hongdae neighborhood, and V10 Climbing in the retail-dense Cheonho area, just to name a few. While Korean climbers at these gyms sometimes use Western brands of accoutrements—like Organic chalk buckets, E9 climbing pants, and Evolv shoes—they also wear Korean brands. Kolon Sport and Blackyak are popular Korean activewear companies, and Butora shoes—also of Korean origin—are prolific at every gym. The formation of an overseeing organization, the Korea Sports Climbing Wall Association, less than three years ago gave a collective voice to nearly 200 gym owners and managers at its inception—indicating the breadth of South Korea’s gym industry.


Given the country’s urban density, most of the new Korean gyms take the form of cozy bouldering spaces wedged in the bowels of corporate centers and shopping malls. Consider Koala Climbing Gym, a 2,000-square-foot facility that resides in the fourth basement of a 20-story office building—mere steps away from a nail salon and a ramen-noodle restaurant in Sang-am, one of Seoul’s busiest swaths. The limited space, approximately the same as the average coffee shop, means that patrons are inclined to interact—which makes any gym visit a social as much as a physical experience. Koala Climbing Gym’s owner, Chaeyeon Lim, says that Left: Kim at the 2018 Asian Games. Above: Silver medalist Sol Sa of Korea during the Boulder final of the Innsbruck World Championships, 2018. Sa would place an impressive second in Combined.

South Korea’s youth, in particular, gravitate to these gyms that offer a degree of mingling inside the greater retail spaces. And bouldering at a gym makes for great video content in a country that seems obsessed with smartphones. “Koreans in their 20s and 30s spend a lot of time on social media like Instagram,” says Lim. “Bouldering fits perfectly with those platforms. It’s easy to record at the gym, and tops are awarded very quickly—so young people just seem to dig it.” This blending of climbing and socializing—and social media—in South Korea is extensive and fascinating. While it is common for a climber in the United States to visit a gym and climb alone, such a thing is rare in South Korea. Korean society is communal, a trait indicative of Confucianism, the philosophical foundation of Korean life, and traces back to the lessons of Chinese teacher Confucius more than 2000 years ago. Confucianism emphasizes group interaction and social inclusion. Even in the present, Confucianism influences





Left: Jongwon Chon, 2018 World Trip; Hachioji, Japan, Bouldering World Cup qualifiers. Right: A young climber stretches before taking to the walls of Gorilla Climbing Center in the Korean city of Seosan. Lower: Chon whips up his fans at the World Championships in Innsbruck, in November, where he placed 2nd in Bouldering, 33rd in Lead and 110th in Speed.

Donggyu Lee, who founded his own crew, Armstrong Climbing Crew, with fellow climbers who happened to be frequenting the same gym. “I think Korean climbing culture reflects Korean general culture—the many crews are indicative of a more communal aspect within Korea’s culture.” The same mentality that makes climbing crews ubiquitous at gyms permeates the highest level of the sport in South Korea, where the national team operates in an equally close-knit fashion. Byungju Hwang is the Chief Director for the Korean national team, and he notes that the team is founded on unity and a familial vibe. The team not only trains together, but also often hangs out together, travels together, and eats together—shared meals are an important thread in the country’s social fabric. A Korean National Team Training Center allows team members to spend even more time together with intensified training, and the group approach to training starts early. “Since 2015, we have sent a team of about 20 to 30 young climbers to the


most everything in South Korea, from public bathhouses (known as jjimjilbang) to group rooms for Karaoke (known as noraebang). For climbing, this ethos prompts a myriad of climbing social clubs—known as “crews” in Korea or, more formally by their Korea name, dong-ho-hwe. These climbing crews, usually comprised of half a dozen or more members, regularly meet at the gyms to climb, session on a MoonBoard, grab a bite to eat or frequent a nearby bar. There are no membership dues or formal requirements other than simply hanging out together and climbing a lot. If that sounds like the sort of activities you do with your gym buddies on a regular basis too, you’re right—but in South Korea, the crews also brand themselves with formal names and logos, their own Instagram pages, and even eponymous stickers and T-shirts. Respect Bouldering Crew, Hold-Holic, and Beaches Climber Girls are just a sampling of the crews with robust social-media presences. A typical climbing session with these crews at a gym is loud but focused. Usually only one crew member climbs at a time, with other members watching intently, yelling encouragement in the form of “kaja, kaja”—Korean for “go, go,” not unlike the common cry of “allez, allez” in French gyms. Instagram selfies abound and beta is discussed—often over coffee. Another unique feature of Korean gyms is the presence of coffee vending machines. As a session inevitably morphs into relaxation, the crew sticks together and climbing remains the focus. “In Korea, there are a lot of crews or groups—not only in the climbing community, but in many other sports too,” says

World Youth Championships, which helps climbers naturally gain experience and the competitive spirit together,” says Hwang. “I think this provides a good foundation for Korea’s national team.” Starting climbers on the national tract at an early age comes with certain eventual complications that competitors in other countries—particularly the United States—don’t have to overcome: All men in South Korea are required to serve in the military for about two years, usually before they reach the age of 30. “Most men in our country must go to the army in their early twenties,” says Wookyung Kim. Kim is a diehard climber from Seoul who dutifully completed his mandatory military service eight years ago. Since then, he has taken trips to climb in Yosemite and Arapiles while holding down a steady job in marketing at an outdoor equipment company. “The military service wastes an important time in our lives,” he says, speaking for climbers like himself who accept the conscription as an obligatory multi-year break from climbing. He acknowledges that the future could be bright because there is a “sports unit” in the military for Olympics-related training. “But,” says Kim, “there is no climbing … yet.” The possibility of the military’s “sports unit” someday including climbing indicates that Korean culture is still evolving with its climbing craze. Kim’s international travels to climbing hotspots have made him hyperaware of the

importance of conservation as well. He notes that as part of the popularity surge, Koreans must also embrace responsible outdoor ethics with climbing’s recent popularity surge. “Some old places are quietly disappearing,” he says. One popular sport crag on the peak of Seonunsan was closed to climbing because human traffic and litter were angering monks who consider the mountain sacred. Seonunsan has since re-opened to climbers as a result of friendly discourse with the monks, but the situation illustrates the fragility of South Korea’s ancient sites. The climbing boom and its brunt have prompted the launch of Korean conservation groups, such as Go Real Rock, which has developed new bouldering areas such as Dobisan and Jinan while also protecting older crags and holding group cleanups. The abundance of gyms has translated to a breadth of outdoor grades; the hardest boulder in Dobisan is rated V7, while Jinan features a burly V14 boulder. Go Real Rock’s mission aptly encapsulates the whole communal mentality of South Korea and its climbing: Only through teamwork with local communities can we create the kind of culture that respects our environment and ensures the future of climbing in Korea. John Burgman is the author of Why We Climb and coaches a youth bouldering team at Hoosier Heights in Indianapolis, Indiana. He lived in South Korea for five years and writes about South Korea’s climbing community.

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While it’s true that indoor climbing does not involve the exact same risks as outdoor climbing, it’s entirely untrue that indoor climbing is risk free. Often, the risks indoor climbers learn to manage are identical to those that outdoor climbers manage, and, more important, some indoor risks are unique to that environment. It’s prudent to inventory indoor climbing hazards, differentiate indoor risk management from outdoor risk management, and ultimately have some trustworthy tactics and techniques to stay safe and have fun in the gym.



• Both lead climbers and boulderers generally land on a • Work up to bigger falls, practice downclimbing, avoid padded surface. As a result, many climbers are willing to climb higher and risk larger ground fall impacts indoors than they are outdoors.

Z-clipping and tripping hazards while leading

• Be vigilant about managing the rope to keep it in front

• Indoor climbing often brings a heavy emphasis on

• Rest and recovery are vital. • Avoid training through pain. • Use a professional trainer, if one is available.

• Holds break, cell phones and other objects fall out

• Clear all objects out of your pockets, and remind your partners to do the same. • Inform staff of broken holds. • Take unnecessary hardware off your harness while climbing. • Don’t be afraid to wear a helmet indoors if you prefer.

training, and it’s easy to over-train, injuring tendons and joints in the process.

Impacts from above

• Skill-related mistakes

of people’s pockets, and climbing hardware can be dislodged. Most of us don’t wear helmets indoors, making us vulnerable.

• Improper execution of any climbing-related skill

(belaying, knot-tying, equipment use) may be more likely in the social setting of a gym.

Some hazards are unique to indoor climbing, including crowd-related hazards associated with lots of people in close proximity behaving unpredictably while doing a dangerous activity, and facility hazards associated with a confined space. Let’s list some of the most common and consequential examples, then brainstorm what climbers can do about them.



skipping protection bolts.

• Closely spaced bolts and quickdraws make Z-clipping

errors more common. Plus, with so many clips to make, a climber must be more conscious of keeping the rope in front of feet and legs to avoid tripping over it. Protruding climbing holds may be impacted as well.

Soft-tissue injuries


of feet and legs. Clip bolts at waist to chest level instead of reaching high for the next clip.

• Learn all skills from a knowledgeable and reputable instructor or mentor. • Agree to a double-check and communication plan with every partner. • Avoid complacency!



Bouldering climbing during less crowded times of day. • It’s easy to wander underneath another climber •• Consider Climb with increased awareness when kids are bouldering. • Curious and excited children will occasionally stand around. directly beneath a climber, not knowing or understand- • Be willing to sacrifice the send when crowds create ing the risk.

Roped climbing Lead climbers directly above toproping climbers can land or swing on a climber beneath. Toprope climbers can pendulum into one another on routes that don’t stay on a single fall line.

• •


• When it’s busy, avoid leading in toproping areas. • When it’s busy, stay on the fall line for the rope and anchor. • Keep an eye out for climbers deviating from the fall line of their ropes and anchors.



From Passion to Profession For some of us, climbing is more than just a passion. If you are like us at the Climbing Wall Association, you have turned passion into profession. Though the indoor climbing industry is a tight-knit community, indoor climbing is poised for extensive growth over the coming years. In fact, indoor climbing is projected to become a $1 billion industry by 2021*. It is safe to say that career opportunities in indoor climbing will continue progressing in a growth-oriented direction. The question is: Are you ready to seize the opportunity? If your priorities include growing your career in the indoor climbing industry, there is one event that you need to mark on your calendar: the CWA Summit. The CWA Summit is the only annual gathering for the indoor climbing industry to learn, grow and network with each other. *Climbing Wall Association’s 2018 Indoor Climbing Industry Report.

EDUCATIONAL CONFERENCE As the reach of climbing gyms continues to expand, the CWA Summit offers the opportunity to hone professional skills and earn important certifications. The Summit provides 42 presentations and 15 workshops that are aimed to help climbing gym owners, managers, routesetters, coaches, and trainers do their best work. NETWORKING If you are looking to grow your career within the indoor climbing industry, the CWA Summit is the place to gather with industry leaders and meet like-minded individuals from gyms all over the world. From nightly happy hours in the exhibit hall, to the official CWA Summit after party, the event provides numerous social opportunities to make meaningful connections and build your professional network.

TRADE SHOW In addition to offering educational opportunities, the CWA Summit also features a trade show where attendees can connect with 70+ vendors who provide the services and equipment to make indoor climbing possible. Sponsors and exhibitors of the 2019 CWA Summit include walls and flooring, holds and volumes, equipment and retail, software, and much more. INDUSTRY COOPERATION The CWA Summit is a place for industry professionals to connect and solve commonly-held problems faced by gym owners and operators. The event features industry roundtables based on a discipline or topic area, and the 2019 conference will continue this work of cooperative problem solving and discussion.

SNAPSHOT: CONFERENCE CONTENT 1. Cultural Leadership: The Key to Employee Engagement and Motivation. Chris Stevenson, Stevenson Fitness. 2. Mentoring Your Setting Team for Customer Progression & Retention. Jackie Hueftle, Kilter Grips + the Routesetting Institute. 3. Defining the What and Why of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Elyse Rylander, OUT There Adventures + The Avarna Group. 4. CWA Work-at-Height Certification for Competent Persons. Petzl Technical Institute + Climbing Wall Association.

Emily Moore (@emilyjmo) is the Events Manager for the Climbing Wall Association. She is passionate about community development, particularly for the nearly 1,000 participants of the annual CWA Summit.





Hiring Practices

Gender Equity

Training New Setters

Developing Your Gym’s Identity

Customer Experience

Professional Development

Customer Empathy

Competing with a Changing Industry

Facility Maintenance

Community Building

Working at Height


The experience of attending the CWA Summit is driven by the passion and enthusiasm of the indoor climbing community. This year, come find out for yourself, and take your passion and profession to new heights. For first-time attendees, you may use the promo code GymClimber2019 at checkout for $50 off your conference registration. Visit to register today.



M A Y 1 5 - 1 7 , 2 0 1 9 | L O V E L A N D, CO

The CWA Summit Is the Indoor Climbing Industry’s Premier Professional Development Conference and Trade Show



Find Vendors

Join Us at the Indoor Climbing Industry’s Largest Annual Gathering





Loud music fuels your climbing session.

Loud music may disrupt others trying to enjoy the outdoors, including landowners.

Leave the speakers at home or at least turn them off when others are nearby.

Lowering off the top anchors is the norm.

Top anchors may not be regularly monitored for wear.

Consider rappelling to lessen the impact on anchors.

Gym staff clean up chalk spills, and provide trash cans for bar wrappers and discarded finger tape.

Chalk spills and trash are your responsibility.

Clean up after yourself and pack out your trash.

You stash your pack and unused gear in a locker.

Sprawling gear can crush plant life, trample sensitive soil, and disturb other climbing parties.

Be aware of where you’re dropping your gear and contain it as much as possible.

Fixed draws on lead routes are standard.

Landowners may not appreciate the visual impact of fixed draws.

Know the rules before you go, and don’t leave draws on your project unless they are allowed.

You do your business in the bathroom.

You do your business in the wild.

The best methods for human waste disposal vary depending on what kind of environment you’re climbing in. Know before you go:

Climbing in large groups is no big deal.

Climbing in large groups is not always appropriate, especially when the crag is crowded or in areas where access is sensitive.

Stay low profile—climb in pairs at crowded crags and in areas where access is sensitive.

Gyms implement rules and standards to encourage safety, but it’s the climber’s responsibility to double check gear and partners.

The great outdoors contains many natural elements that can create hazardous situations, and it’s the climber’s responsibility to manage these hazards.

Climbing is inherently dangerous inside and outside. Be aware, find a mentor, and double check your gear and your partners every time.

Illustration by Kristin Marine

Responsible outdooR climbing pRactices that help pReseRve access

RESTORE OUR CLIMBING AREAS Many of our climbing areas are being loved to death. Become an Access Fund member today, and join a growing movement of climbing advocates helping to conserve and protect our climbing areas.

Protect America’s Climbing


by Heiko Wilhelm


Number of climbers who will compete at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. 20 men and 20 women.

161 02 5.48 SECONDS How long it takes the current Speed World Record holder, Reza Alipourshena from Iran, to sprint up the 15-meter speed wall.

Number of climbers per gender who can qualify for each country for the Tokyo Olympic Games.


Number of people who have won a World Cup in two disciplines: Olga Bibik and Tomasz Oleksy are the only ones to have won in Speed and Bouldering.

6 out of 8


Number of World Cup victories of Jain Kim, who holds the record. 28 victories were in Lead, 1 was in Bouldering.

Women’s Lead World Championships titles went to Austria between 2005 and 2018. Four of those in the hands of Angela Eiter. SCAN THIS TO FIND US ON INSTAGRAM

• Heiko Wilhelm is the author of “Beyond the Face” and VP of Sport for the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC)





Number of climbers who have won World Cups in all three disciplines.

Number of World Cup starts of Barbara Bacher from Austria. She has the current record. The runner-up is Italy’s Jenny Lavarda, with 150 starts.


Aleksandra Rudzińska sprints up the ... speed-training wall in her hometown of Lublin, Poland. Rudzińska won the gold in Speed at the 2018 World Championships with a blistering time of 7.56 seconds. When speed climbing was announced as part of the Olympic format, many top-level climbers criticized the decision, saying that speed climbing was contrived or wasn’t real climbing. Fact is, speed climbing is difficult and most competitive boulderers and lead climbers don’t do well on the speed wall. But the reverse is also true: Most top speed climbers aren’t competitive in bouldering or lead climbing. Photo by Marcin Ciepielewski

L I V E.CL IMB . REP EAT. The New Zone Climbing Shoe Get in the Zone during your next session with this new high-performance shoe built with our innovative Engineered Knit Technology. Designed for hard, steep climbing, the Zone combines unparalleled breathability and comfort, with a high-performance, semi-aggressive shape, engineered for the send.Â


Profile for Big Stone Publishing

Gym Climber #2 Spring 2019  

Climbing's Inside Track

Gym Climber #2 Spring 2019  

Climbing's Inside Track