Tuesday, December 25, 2012

12 Days of Psyche: Mountain Epics

For your 12th day of Psyche I present... Christmas. For your gift here are a few snowy adventures from climbing prodigy David Lama. As a teenager he dominated the World Cup circuit before parlaying his talents in the mountains. He's already doing some of the hardest and most coveted alpine ascents in history and is basically just warming up as he learns a new craft. We can't even imagine what the future holds.

Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas everyone! The 'dope will get back to business after the first of the year.

Monday, December 24, 2012

12 Days of Psyche: Girls Killin' It

... on hard, local boulders. Here are two vids of Brit Mina Leslie-Wujastyk on a recent trip, making mincemeat of some of America's hardest boulder problems. There's also a short synopsis about the trip in Rock & Ice, punctuated with her thoughts on heading back to training after the trip.

As we turn the corner into real winter, Leslie-Wujastyk, though liking outdoor climbing best, is unperturbed to face gym days.

“I like training,” she says mildly. “I like trying hard. I get a kick out of seeing the improvement.”

And since I said "girls", here's Alex Johnson flashing a very scary V9. And she looks casual. Super rad.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

12 Days of Psyche: Why We Climb

This is a great interview with the late Patrick Edlinger. I don't generally find climbing interviews inspiring but this one is different. "Le Blond's" views don't seem tainted with jealously or disdain about the new generation, which is so common it's become cliche. He's extremely positive and insightful, and also gets at the heart of why we climb.

"You're obliged to to focus on here and now. To concentrate totally. All of a sudden you forget your problems. The things that don't interest you."

We also get to hear the story of Ceuse, still probably the single best climbing cliff on earth. How he stumbled upon it on the eve of a trip to the US, tore up his tickets, and stayed there for the next four years. It's like a climbing dream (literally for me as I've had so many dreams of finding epic crags I can't begin to remember them all.)

But, since an interview isn't enough for Psyche, here some "Dreammaker" action from 1982, the brilliant film Life By Your Fintertips. It's got one-arm pinky pull-ups, doing the splits between boulders, a sweet van, high white pants, German techo music about robots, drum solos; basically anything you'd need to get motivated to climb.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

12 Days of Psyche: Making Weight

Since it's the weekend and you theoretically have more time, here's a pretty cool movie that's on Netflix play it now called Occupation: Fighter (also on Amazon et al). It's about a no-name fighter training for his shot at the title. It's a pretty good movie but if you aren't into fighting you can load it and just watch the best part, which comes near the end as he's training for his big night and then has to make weight. This section of the film is AWESOME. As anyone who's wrestled well knows, making weight sucks. It's interesting here to see how things have gotten more systematic but that doesn't really make it any easier. It looks miserable and will certainly help you get through your next workout when life has you feeling like eating donuts instead. He also takes a full body ice bath (a couple of shots make the trailer), which is another one of those I'm-more-dedicated-than-you moments. All in all, it's one of those movies that reminds you that you could be training harder. Get after it!

Friday, December 21, 2012

12 Days of Psyche: Buildering

Here's a 3- part Psyche for your Friday. When I first began climbing we buildered all the time. Gyms didn't exist and real rock was a pain to get to so we made up all sorts of circuits on the UCLA campus. Next, during the start of the sport climbing movement, routes of glued-on holds under highway underpasses became all the rage until,eventually, gyms became the standard and buildering mainly disappeared. These three vids show that it's still alive and well in some parts of the world. The first looks like better climbing. The second one come with this claim,

"At 2:42 min you will find a boulder called "FEINDESLIEBE" (EnemyLove) Font 8B+/8C, and in my opinion the hardest builder in the world."

I'm not sure how the guy would know, given it's a sport based on mainly lore (not to mention it's often illegal) but, whatever, it's pretty cool (click on the quote) and almost makes we want to look for some urban circuits around here.

Finally, we have an actual climbing vid that also features some buildering and makes it look pretty creative--perhaps even more fun than the route.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

12 Days of Psyche: Snowy Mountain Biking

Cool vid of hittin' the trails, roads, and bike parks around SLC and Park City in winter, from local company Boo bikes, a bamboo bike maker. Local is a world prospective, as Boo is located in Colorado, but they're main riding, Tyler Wren, hails from Utah.

This is a lot like what my winter's looking like. Some of the Yak attack's going to look like this and I've got to be used to it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

12 Days of Psyche: Rad Blind Guy

Dogs, friends, climbing, nature; what more do you need? Apparently not much. I have to say that I'm not usually inspired by stories of handicapped folks doing stuff. Not that they personally wouldn't inspired me, because I'm sure they would, but because those videos are almost always presented in the same hyperbolized light, as if there was a fundraising event about to follow. Drives me nuts because I find it embarrassing for everyone involved. Anyways, this video is not like that at all. It's just a guy out there, living life and having fun. And it's friggin' great. And super inspiring. And it's at the cliffs near Bruce and Alisa's home. And he has a very special dog.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

12 Days of Psyche: Power Climbing

I love this style of climbing, which is a hybrid of bouldering and climbing. Routes like these require total focus once you leave the ground. You can never rest, or even recover, and the added element of rope and gear make them feel much different from bouldering. It's not the kind of thing most people associate with climbing, where the common sentiment is higher, longer, better. But the way I look at it, the longer a route is the easier the movements must be, leaving for more margin for error. Short climbing require, as Todd Skinner said, "laser-like focus". Most of my favorite routes have been similar.

Monday, December 17, 2012

12 Days of Psyche: Record on the Tour Divide

Here's a short but inspiring vid about the guy who set the Tour Divide record. This has to be one of the most grueling physical challenges out there. It also seems a bit boring unless you're wired like this guy. Given it runs more or less through my backyard, one of these years I might have to try and get enough time off work to give 'er a shot. For more about the race, you can now stream Ride the Divide (a documentary about the TD) on Netflix: Ride the Divide

Sunday, December 16, 2012

12 Days of Psyche: Climbing Alone

The Almighty: A Climbing Story with Tyrel Mack from Fisher Creative on Vimeo.

Yesterday's Loskot vid got me thinking about climbing alone. I might have climbed alone in my life more than with other people. I certainly do at the moment. Now it's because I'm busy and never sure when I'll have some time. Once it was because I was so un-busy that I couldn't find others with enough free time to always be out. In actuality, much of it's choice. I like being outside, in nature, alone. Because everyone else seems to think it's so weird I enjoy vids like this, if just to remind me that there are others out there like me. Today's Psyche has a totally different tone but what it lacks in rad is made up for in mood, at least in my opinion. So there.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

12 Days of Psyche: Klem

How do you one-up Haston? You don't, but Klem Loskot is back to climbing and that's pretty cool. He was always one of the biggest characters in the sport. Not just because he was strong and put up ground-breaking ascents, but because his style of both finding the routes and recording them were, well, different. He's was always off the beaten track and always very.... something. Austrian? The video is one example.

He quit climbing for some years but is back and, apparently, still very strong. Here's a really good interview on Rock & Ice. Click the excerpt for the rest.

It matters a lot because it gives you access to the flow, the feeling of climbing weightless, dancing up with smooth moves. It’s amazing, like in skiing or surfing! This feeling is what "sport" is all about. It is hard to get it in climbing because you need to be very fit.

Friday, December 14, 2012

12 Days of Psyche: 1500 Pull-ups

Fuckin’ Stevie Haston, man! Psyche doesn’t always require video. Reading Stevie’s blog is like one long strange Psyche trip. This guy is, what, 55 years old? He’s been bolting all day (harder than climbing) and he comes home and rattles off 1500 pull-ups. It’s just so.. SO… rad. Then he posts this:

A perfect bolted a brilliant route, radiant sunset. . Got home and did 1500 pull ups on the board..... Still haven't mastered the small sloper with one hand, anyway there is always tomorrow...

So, yeah, in the midst of all this he’s trying to hang a hold at his power limit. I don’t care if none of this sounds sensible because this guy’s older than me, stronger than me, and out training me. He wins.

Today I did a lot, me happy if I can keep it up for a couple of months I will improve. Simple Innit?
- Stevie un-bored Haston

Thursday, December 13, 2012

12/12/12: A Tradition Ends, A Challenge Begins

Yesterday marked the end of era, as me and some of my friends (mainly Hans) have used these yearly aligned numbers as an excuse to tackle a hard physical challenge. It’s ranged short, savagely-intense workouts, to day long escapades, to odd historical tours. The only thing that mattered was that it was hard, which all, very much, were. Except yesterday.

Since it’ll be 89 years until another such alignment I wanted to finish in style. However, being bed ridden for two straight weeks with a puzzling respiratory ailment picked up by riding through our summer of smoke, I found myself in no condition to push any sort of physical, or mental for that matter, limit.

I do, however, have a bike race coming up that I have to find a way to train for. With a new prognosis I feel I’m on the right track. Anyway, I can’t afford to waste much more time and harbor any realistic ideas about finishing what’s promoted as “one of the world’s toughest adventures.” It’s time to move forward, so here’s what I came up with.

12 X 12 X 12 equals 1728

So I plan on doing 1728 reps of 12 different things in the next 12 weeks (takes me through the race), beginning by doing 12 of all that apply. Here’s the list:

1. Training* minutes on the bike
2. Pull-ups
3. Push-ups
4. Lunges
5. Yoga moves
6. Ab Rollers
7. Stairs climbed IAD (in a day)
8. Steps carrying my bike IAD
9. Rocks thrown for Finnegan and Iris
10. Hours of actual bike racing (28.8)
11. Hours of trekking in Nepal (28.8)
12. Ounces of beer

Yesterday I did 12 of 1-9, which was sadly hard. If all goes well I’ll knock this list off well before I leave in Feb, which will easily if I hope to have any sort of chance of riding my bike over 18,000’.

I’ve set up a golf scorecard. After one day I’m 21 over par on every hole. The goal is to change that as quickly as possible.

Sorry about the lack of posts. Work and illness have taken all my time. But, as it’s December anyway, all we really need to some psyche to keep us rolling into the New Year. So, starting tomorrow, I’ll finish out the year with 12 days of Christmas Psyche.

pic: drenched in sweat in 08 during 'crazy 8s' with hans florine

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Bananas and The Most Ripped Man In The World

"There's some strong climbers here," was the first thing Wolfgang said after scouting a new cliff. "I mean, like, REALLY strong!"

We were checking out a "secret" crag in Slovenia, back in 1993 or 4, the rumored training ground that had pushed the Slovenians to the label of world's strongest climbers. This was before internet, accessible video, and a world where new hard routes were presented to the public as soon as they were done. Sport climbing was still new and we were all looking for secrets. The Slovenians, who had a long track record in elite alpinism, had found a cliff that was supposed to be the best in the world, allowing them to churn out an entire generation that was supposedly wreaking havoc on the standards.

While all that turned out to be more-or-less true--we ran into a group of virtual unknowns who were all climbing at a higher standard than any American--it's not what this story is about. Wolfie had bumped into "The Banana Man", as we came to call him, who was, and still is, the most ripped person I've ever seen in my life.

The Banana Man wasn't Slovenian, or even that great a climber, but man did he look like it. Running into me, a person who searched out strange diets, seemed like fate. I spent the rest of the trip attempting to tap into his logic.

You see, this guy ate bananas. A lot of them. Like a gorilla, which he looked like. He had a massive bushel of bananas in his van that took up more space than a person. It was the craziest thing I'd ever seen. On my return to the US we began to eat far more bananas.

pic: leather is always in. wolfie and gernot with the grand dame of osp, slovenia. she would sell you climbing gear but only if you had a glass of wine with her first.

I never, however, got really into the full-on banana diet. The banana man didn't climb any harder than me. It's simple to deduct if you eat nothing but bananas you'll be ripped, since your diet lacks almost any fat or protein. But, still, he was performing at a high level on a diet that didn't seem possible to survive on, which was a great example that what we learned in school about nutrition wasn't set in stone.

I'm bringing this up because I stumbled on the above video and the site 30 Bananas a Day, which seems like it's run by the same friggn' guy (who also makes a great case for cycling your coffee for performance). Also, one of my older posts has an anecdote from a couple of utlra runners who live on mainly "expired" fruit they can buy from the grocery store for almost nothing. Their health is still fine, and they win a lot of races. Hard races.

The moral of today's story is the nutrition science still has a lot of unknowns. Take advice with skepticism and don't be afraid to experiment. As for me, I think I'll get back on the bananas and see how it plays out this time around.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Revisiting Psyche

Yesterday Bob Banks posted an article titled Revisiting Psyche. The gist of it is that he ran across an old bouldering guide (written by me) that he had all marked up in his quest to do every problem in it and couldn't believe how psyched he'd once been.

Today I picked up my old copy of Edwards' Santa Barbara Bouldering (1997) and thumbed through it for the first time in over a decade. Marked on the inside cover with my name and The Castle phone number should I lose it, it's quite a walk down memory lane. The book is bound together with a rubber band, torn up and marked up with scribbled field notes and comments on nearly every page. At my current state of climbing psyche, it's hard to believe how psyched I once was, spending every rest day walking through the hills looking for more stuff.

We all move on in life. Bob went on with those notes to write the definitive book on Santa Barbara bouldering. But this is a cool post for another reason. Reminiscing of bygone days also plants seeds. Those days are gone, sure, but reflecting on them helps create new ideas, dreams, and motivation.

It's inevitable that priorities shift and single-minded focus becomes fractured. But with life comes experience. An invaluable tool for sorting things out efficiently. "Youth is wasted on the young," said everyone's favorite wit spewer, Oscar Wilde. It's a sentiment hard to argue with,especially doing a workout at P3 or seeing teenage girls do this. But I do fight it or, more accurately, roll with it pretending it's not happening. My life is better than it was, I can continually improve it, and there are still lifetime goals out there, even purely physical ones, to be obtained before I ride off into the sunset.

Finally, it's important to note that I am not alone in this belief. I can be a tad optimistic, as Bob likes to point out, but I'm still getting stuff done and there's no good reason that you can't, too. Thanks to my job I get to witness people who change their lives on a daily basis, at almost any age. And while we never get our youth back we simply don't need to. We can do anything we want. And we can do it now.

pic: cover lore - yes, that's tuco the rat, standing on top of one of the better boulder problems i've established. more shockingly, it's phil 1) bouldering 2) outside 3)not at the tor. finally, it's a jason houston shot, bringing back even more memories of psyche and singlemindedness.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Warriors for the Working Day

I love December. Not for the holidays and indulgence, but because it’s the month I reflect on past year of training and get to re-shuffle the deck and create a new template for what’s next.

The year’s wane is always a ghost town here at ‘the Dope. I’ve had over 2 million readers, and less than 1% of them have engaged in December. So I’m dedicating this month to my friends and the die hards interested enough in training to still be reading about it when the rest of the great unwashed is reveling to the point of disgust, hoping it will motivate them to make a proper New Year’s resolution.

This month I won’t distill for the masses. It’ll just be straight talk on training, motivation, and other assorted oddities that will hopefully be amusing and, if you don’t get it, it’s on you to catch up. God’s will I pray thee wish not one man more.

We few, we happy few. We band of brothers. For he who sheds his blood with me will be my brother. Be here ne’re so vile, this (month) shall gentle his condition. And gentlemen in (America), now a-bed, shall think themselves accursed that they’re not here, and hold their manhood’s cheap, while any speaks who fought with us...

Friday, November 30, 2012

Faces of Movember

I'd never ask for money for something like Movember. Although it's a great cause we all should make our own decisions about what we do with our money. However, if you find yourself with some cash you'd rather not donate to the IRS, I will throw my name in a hat and with the below offering. Find yourself entertained and need a tax write off go to my Movember page.

Without further ado, here's how my Movember progressed.

The official photo of Movember

"How about a little teamsmanship?"

The most interesting man in Movember

"I do not always raise money. But when I do, I prefer if it's for something useful."

Sometimes dopers don't suck

"ils sont tous dopers!"

Birthday Challenge Failure

Peace, man

"I want to take you highhh-er"

Birthday Challenge Reboot

"I'm going to hunt down the disease that killed my friend and destroy it. Probably with dynamite."

American Flyer

"Hittin' the Jackie Robinson Sports Institute for the Torture Test. Better pump."

And, finally, the look on top that would make Nick and Nora proud. "Frankly, my dear, I do give a damn!"

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

BDC P1: Sometimes The Bear Eats You

Birthday Challenge ’12, part I. A man much wiser than myself once said, “sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you”. Today’s event falls under the latter category.

The weather had been a bit dicey and when I sent out my pre-challenge email hoping to wrangle support. I got a reply from Bob making fun of my optimism given the less-than-stellar conditions. Turns out he was right. Here’s the report I sent out after what turned into just another training day.

A bit too optimistic, yes. This failure falls under two categories:

1) November is always a crap shoot weather-wise.

2) It's always the unknown part of the challenge the gets you.

Taking the second part first, aware of the above possibility I started on the 3 routes I hadn't had time to rehearse, beginning with the hardest. Figured if I could do it things would be all downhill, so we warmed up in the garage (I did one of the easier practice 12s I'd set during training and felt good). It was also in the sun first thing in the morning, which seemed like a good idea with the chilly forecast.

Well, it turned out to be hard, but doable, so the logistics seemed right. The weather forecast, not so much. It was in the sun for about 2 minutes when we got there, followed by clouds, wind, and intermittent squawls. There was also a huge water streak, which had shown up since I put the draws on it two days early, and the trail had gotten worse, so the approach was more arduous, but that's nitpicking. The real issue was the weather.

Anyway, because this route was completely dry two days prior and it hadn't rained or snowed we didn't bring the torch up. So during the full upper section one foot was always on wet holds. I put the draws on it and sussed the moves. Dried it best I could. Then proceeded to fail at the 3rd to last move, then the 2nd to last move twice. Clearly because of a foot slip once but I was also pumped and couldn't feel the holds so it was hard to say. We had a heater so I'd start warm but on each go, post "crux" at a shake out jug, I couldn't feel anything, perhaps due to conditions akin to climbing in a car wash. The finishing moves didn’t feel too bad but the holds are very small and slopey, not great for numb fingers. Anyway, after the last failure it was really too late to complete everything else so I decided to hope the weather improved and reboot, turning the day into more training.

The positive takeaway here is that the route turned out great--far better than expected. Hard from start to finish. Probably "stand-up 12b" or soft c according to Ben.

Went home to drop off Romney, as there was no longer reason to keep her suffering with us, and the weather was perfect. Headed up to the Choss Garden, which had the other two routes I hadn't gotten on. Weather at the car was great. At the cliff (after a terrible approach post holing into talus--always good fun) the "car wash effect" had followed us. Howling wind, spitting rain, which we couldn't tell if it was coming from the sky of the wet streaks on the wall. It was so bad Ben didn't bother booting up.

First half of the lower part of the first route was wet and icy, which made it a little exciting. This "pitch" is only 5.10, leading to my extension, an easy/mid 11 that went really well.

Lowered down the new finish I'd bolted that was linking the cruxes of a 12a and 11d (which I'd done recently and it felt easy). I knew my section would be the crux but since you hit it after a big rest I didn't think it would change the grade. I was wrong. It was both wet and icy and the sky was wet, so it's kind of hard to say, but this section was far longer than I expected. 19 new moves after 24 moves off the previous 2 routes. I tried it quite a bit and didn't get it clean. Blaming it on an "insta-freeze" big flat hold in the middle of the crux that would render my hand useless after I grabbled it (maybe some Buddhist Palm effect). I'm sure it'll be easier in proper conditions but I think it's going to be solid b and maybe harder if the rest doesn't pan out on redpoint as good as I think it will.

Back in town weather was still nice. People were cycling in shorts. Most of the snow had melted. So we headed up Grandeaur to check out Hydrogen Psychosis, another of the perceived hardest routes. As soon as we get near the crag the weather that had been following us around all day returned. Blasting wind, freezing temps, all in all pretty awesome. I'd cleaned the top of this route of snow on Wed and it was completely wet. It was now dry so I lowered down it to re-chalk the holds, I was feeling absolutely cooked by this time but I went post-crux to the top in one go much easier than I expected then did the crux section and the crux clip without incident before calling it a day and turning the route over to Ben hoping he'd find some easier sequences. He didn't but he liked the route a lot, calling it super techie and "a powerful son-of-a-bitch" in the 12b/c range.

We were assessing all the routes on the way down and think that all of the 12s might be 12b (originally thought 2 would be a), plus another 11d or 12a and two mid 11s. This is harder than expected but still doable. I was absolutely cooked at the end but we'd also done the hardest approaches and probably as much volume as if I'd done all of the climbing and gotten it first try. Trail conditions were grim, definitely adding an element as there's probably more than 3,000' of ascent. Most importantly, all of the routes are quality; great local additions that I’ll continue to do for fun.

On the food/drink element: 5 fritters and 12 Olys - zero chance. Ben and I ate 3.5 fritters between us. Felt awful. Bob said he thought 5 fritters would be impossible in 12 hours and I think he's right. We had two boxes with 6 fritters in each and it felt like it weighted 20 pounds! Not sure what I’ll do for the food and drink element, which isn’t such a big deal when you plodding all day and burning calories but a real hindrance when you want to your body to perform a 100% anaerobic effort.

If I had good conditions and a great day I could pull it off (about how a birthday challenge should feel, like everything has to go perfect), and I'm going to try when I get the chance.

And try I did. Will post as soon as I get the chance...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Adventure Monday: Turkey

After countless breakfasts, lunches, dinners and even dreams, this summer the time finally came to remove the photo off the kitchen wall.

Here's an outstanding account of an off-the-beaten-track adventure in the mountains of Turkey, not a place generally associated with high-end alpinism. My favorite part is how well it conveyed the games climbers play in their heads dreaming of ascents. Most of these go unfinished. It's much easier to spy a line up a rock face than it is to make it a reality, especially in far off lands. But without such visions our sport would not exist. Occasionally we live our dreams, and this is a tale of one of those times. Be sure and click through to the photos at the bottom. There are still many amazing remote areas left to be explored. For those of us with an inkling of adventurous spirit, it's guaranteed to set your mind in motion.

The story of the new route on Cima Vay Vay dates back to 2005. It was then that Larcher first heard about the great wall of splendid limestone from his friend Recep Ince - the alpinist and owner of the campiste that has always been the base for climbing expeditions in this mountain chain. Ince knows these mountains like the back of his hand, far better than anyone else and a year later the first "contact" came about. "I set off with Recep" explained Larcher "and after walking for two long days, having climbed over numerous passes, following no path at all and with only a rough map which ended 2/3 of the way there, we finally reached the Barazama waterfalls. We bivied ad the foot of the majestic Vay Vay amphitheatre and managed to photograph the face in the fleeting early morning light... At home I hung this photo up in my kitchen and I knew that, sooner or later, its time would come."

And there, at 3000m, is another clue as to why someone can be so in love with such cumbersome toils. For they were awaited by "an idyllic place, a hectare of happiness, a place of tranquillity amid the moraine. It was our small, provisional paradise: a perfectly trimmed lawn ideal for our tents, a snowfield to the side which acted as a fridge, a crystal clear lake fed by a stream, two boulders which provided shade on rest days, both in the morning and in the afternoon..." And, what is more, this was all located directly opposite Vay Vay, that authentic sheet of rock, 1 km wide, 600 meters high and even with glacier at its base. Marvelous!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hardest Onsight, Climbing Circus Tricks, & More

Weather's looking perfect for a long weekend (at least here) so get outside and do something to earn your feast. For inspiration, here's the hardest route ever onsighted, courtesy of Black Diamond and, of course, Adam Ondra.

We don't exactly know it's the hardest but Ondra onsighted two 9as this day, downrating both, and said this one was harder. Since both would be the world's first 9a onsight we're assuming the title. Anyway, it's pretty clear from the vid that he can go deeper. Very, very impressive climbing from the guy with, by far, the most impressive climbing tick list in the world.

However, until he onsights something like this (go to 1:20) he can still raise the bar. The move in this video (maybe onsighted--have no idea) is the most bizarre climbing move I've ever seen. It's like a circus trick and I had to watch it 5 times to figure out what happened. Competition climbing has changed to the point where it's almost more like watching Cirque Du Soleil than how people ascend a rock face.

Check out this last video of a climbing comp from the 80s. Quite a difference, eh?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Le Blond: RIP

Another climbing legend is gone. Details are completely lacking but a French newspaper has reported that rock legend Patrick Edlinger passed away last week, well before his time at 52. It does not seem as though it was climbing related.

Edlinger was a pioneer in the sport climbing movement but will be most remembered for his soloing on film, as well as his amazingly fluid style, which seemed to matter more to him than his achievements as he once said, "(sic) To only reach the top is a waste of time. What's important is that we do it in a way that is pleasing." DPM has a great compilation of his videos here. The one I've posted is a very French look at one of his rampages around the US, doing all of our hardest climbs at the time.

Sadly, there's no 'net postings of his showing at the first World Cup climbing competition in the US. This is the place I first saw him climb and it had a huge impression on me. Not only did he dominate the field, he did it as though God was on his side. After two days of climbing in dark cloudy conditions, the sun decided to make an appearance only after "The Dreammaker" (a name that seemed to be made up by CBS) latched the jug at the very lip of a huge roof, which not only lit up his face and highlighted his flowing blond locks, but sealed his victory and electrified the crowd. It was the stuff of legend, but only another day in the life of Le Blond. May he rest in peace.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Don't Let Night Ruin Your Day

Here's a cool video on running at night. Headlamp technology has become so good that darkness isn't nearly the obstacle to adventure that it once was, and not just for running. It's becoming more and more commonplace to plan hard climbing routes at night (Caldwell et al worked on these pitches in the dark), which seems insane. And for tomorrow's challenge I'm charging my batteries right now.

Sorry for the lack of blogging lately. Work and organizing my birthday challenge have my time pretty well used up. Upside is that I'm saving up some good stuff for the New Year when more people are paying attention.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rock Tasting

"People go to France to taste wine. I came to England to taste rock." - Caroline Cialvaldini

In need of a some Psyche to get your Monday going? Thanks Hot Aches productions for making their film, The Odyssey, is available to download from free for the next week by going here.

The Odyssey follows four climbers on a tour to some of England's most history trad climbing locations. This means, aside from a lot of varied and beautiful scenery, in lieu of the standard crank-o-philia associated with most climbing vids you get your trad on with a heaping dose of scary.

The crew, all world-class (professional) climbers, take Joe Brown's "if ya didn't fall off you must not 'av climbed anything 'ard then" philosophy to the hilt and take to the air regularly. They all have amazingly good heads, laughing where average climbers tend to freak out, but the seriousness of what they're doing still comes out in subtle ways. It's a very different look at climbing than what's played up in the media. Truly scary falls are somewhat rare in climbing films. If you miss that aspect, this is film for you.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Salt & Sugar: Video Chat

Video streaming by Ustream

Here's yesterday's chat, the more robust version of this article. The odd opening came to Keith in a dream, and who are we to deny such a vision? I'm sure there will be more chat dreams/themes in the future. If you have further questios, ask away here.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Fasting, Aerobics, and Weight Loss

GoreTex Experiance Tour - Dave MacLeod goes for a run! from Hot Aches Productions on Vimeo.

I just got back from an easy morning run. It was slow, almost plodding, ended with a short stretching session, and in total took about 45 minutes. I did it because I need to shed a few pounds quickly and it’s the oldest trick in the book when it comes to fine tuning your weight loss.

I was reminding of this “trick” yesterday when my friend Ben brought up Dave Macleod using this tactic to get ready for his hardest routes. We used to run this tactic in college for track. As for climbing, before the most successful road trip of my life I’d tweaked a finger and had to back off on my training. Without the ability to train for strength I aimed instead for lighter (a roundabout way of getting stronger in gravity sports) by starting 3-4 days per week with 2-10 miles of easy aerobic-paced running. I ended up going into that trip 8 pounds lighter than my average weight, which increased my performance far more than any strength training could have hoped to.

Running in the morning before you eat helps improve your body’s use of fat for energy or, as Macleod puts it, “normally if I run I do it after the overnight fast to get into fat oxidation quicker”. A fasted state, while not optimal for hard training because you quickly run out of stored glycogen (or bonk, a point where your workout goes south quickly), is great for easy to moderate exercise because you can improve your body’s ability to tap into it’s “fat for fuel” process.

In general, light aerobic training has very little effect on your metabolic process. This is why you often hear trainers say things like “cardio only burns calories while you’re doing it where weight training burns calories all day long” and so forth. Aerobic training in a fasted state helps your training in two ways. It heightens your metabolism for a longer period of time than it normally would and it doesn’t break down much muscle tissue so you can utilize it during your hard training.

This is why when we recommend doubles programs one of your two workouts is always easier than the other. It’s not running that’s the magic pill here but aerobic training done in a fasted state. Running is efficient, since even easy running stresses the body more than most things, but any low-intensity exercise that raises your heart rate will work. For example, Cardio X was designed as the P90X doubles workout, which is why it’s much easier than everything else. If I don’t feel like going out, like I do right now because it’s raining so thankfully i'm already done, I’ll pop in a cardio vid instead.

vid: macleod on a 'run'. my runs are often similar. i don't generally (ever) solo 7B in my hiking boots but would guess well over half my runs are explorations that include a lot of off-trail rummaging around looking for rock, or whatever, which often includes technical climbing or, at least, scrambling over rock. you don't need to keep your heart rate at a steady state to get the effects of aerobic training. you just need to keep moving.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Punks, El Cap, and The Red

October may be the best month for climbing but early Nov tends to have the best days. So it's hardly surprising that rad stuff is happening all over that place. As usual, it starts with Adam Ondra...

Fresh off establishing the world’s hardest route, Ondra came to the US for the first time, heading straight for the only place with enough hard climbing to entertain him, in theory anyway. A few days ago he flashed a 9a+ and, yesterday, he onsighted two 9as. He downgraded all of these but we must keep in mind that nobody had ever onsighted a single 9a, much less two in a day, or flashed 9a+. Adam has onsighted more 8c+ than the rest of the world put together so, as Jonathan Seigrist suggested, he may be too strong to know. Or maybe he’s just being modest. Uk CLimbing has a full report here. The downgrades won't really stick until confirmed.

Speaking of Siegrist, he’s on El Cap with Tommy Caldwell on the latter’s decade-long Yosemite odyssey with what will be, by far, the hardest wall route in the world should anyone ever do it. Siegrist offers this great post where he shed’s some light on the difficulty of this monster. Maybe Ondra should head to The Valley.

My favorite post by far, however, comes from Oz where October doesn’t even matter. Mayan Smith-Gobat has given Punks in the Gym, the world’s first 5.14, its first female ascent. But it’s not the route or the grade that made her tale special. It’s her personal relationship with the climb. Realizing life long dreams is very cool, especially when they take this much effort. Mayan nails the travails of just how hard redpoints at your absolute limit can be.

Punks in the Gym put me through a full range of emotions. It caused me a huge amount of frustration, forced me to examine myself and my motivations for climbing. Before heading down to Australia on this last trip, I seriously debated the amount of effort I have invested, and whether it was really worth it… Eventually, I came to the realization that this route does hold a special importance to me. Therefore, I chose to sacrifice other goals and put a month into training specifically for this route. As a result, I felt much stronger this year. However, it was still a struggle… both mentally and physically.

vids: mayan’s been on an incredible roll lately. she’s also free climbed el cap so, since the punk footage is lacking, the el cap vid picks up the slack. she’s makes some nice observations on why we bother with such nonsense as climbing and, if you’re intro freeing big walls, she gives you blow by blow beta on the crux of the salathe—-incidentally another monumental climb and the first big route to get freed on el cap. the pitch she’s describing in the vid was so out there at the time that most of the climbing world didn’t believe it had really gone free.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Movember Is On!

i don't know yet. probably dynamite.

I've joined Denis' Movember team to help raise money for prostate cancer (cause, you know, if you're male in the US you're probably getting it at some point). In order to give you the most bang for your buck, I'm going to try and do this as entertainingly as possible. Here's the deal:

I'm doing Movember "backwards", meaning that I'm starting with facial hair that will be carved into various themed shapes throughout the month. Suggestions might be taken, and those who donate will have the most influence.

I'll also add a birthday challenge to the fray. This should up your motivation factor as I'll be suffering for you as well. You can read about the planned day...

Birthday Challenge is set



Donate enough and I'll even let you name a first ascent. Currently the only names set in stone are Hydrogen Psychosis and Electric Jellyfish. There are six more routes and all of 'em need a name.

Here's the link to my Movember page. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Great Rides: White Rim In A Day

Since October’s the best month of playing outside I’ll end it with one more classic ride: The White Rim in a day. I did this a few weeks back with my friend Jeff (partner during last year’s 25-hr Frog Hollow race) and we caught perfect conditions for this stunning tour of the Canyonlands.

niebrugge images

The White Rim Trail is one of the most scenic roads in the world. Except for a few miles on the mesa you’re never not looking at postcard view. Unfortunately my phone broke en route, which is probably good for this post as I’ll use other, much better, photos, which also will provide reference links for anyone interested in more info on this classic adventure.

Doing it in a day is not requisite and, in fact, while a fairly-common tick for ultra geeks, is probably not the best way to do it. If I were going to pay a company to SAG for a long ride this might be the one. As Jeff said, “I can’t imagine there’s a better mountain bike tour in the world”. There are many Moab outfits happy to do this, like this one.

We, both ultra geeks, opted to skip the booze cruise option. If you found your way here it’s your lucky day as I’m going to provide some key beta. Jeff is a Moab local, spends an inordinate time exploring, and has thus learned many tricks for efficiency in the desert.

Look at the above topo. Now move the start to the bottom of the big finishing climb. We parked about a mile down this road, meaning that we had most of our climbing done before breakfast. We also stashed most of our water at the park entrance so we were able to climb without a ton of weight. Since it’s the least scenic part of the ride we also did it in the dark so that sunrise hit just as we were entering the good stuff. This piece of beta both gave us a nice warm-up during the chilly morning but also allowed us to finish on the flats along the river, instead of with a brutal climb. It was aesthetically perfect.

schaefer switchbacks: pat bonish

The riding on the White Rim, while technically easy, is challenging over the course of a day. Miles of slickrock beat you down and, by the end, my hands hurt more than anything else. At one point I made a comment on training for Paris-Roubaix and we spent a few miles mulling over the possibility of doing it on a road bike before dismissing it as nothing more than self-flagellation. You can ride the White Rim on anything but the more suspension you have the happier you’ll probably be.

a couple of the climbs are steep. good link for those looking for a more complete trip report

For us the ride was more style. Doing the climb in the dark also allowed us more time for sightseeing. We spent close to 2.5 hours poking around and still finished well before dark. We even got lucky and found this.

Jeff is the most interesting man in the desert, surely. He knows everything about the canyonlands and its history. Not only can he suffer but he’s also an excellent climber and has spent the last few decades on the trail of the Anasazi and Fremont. He’s is constantly filling in the authorities on locations of new archeological sites, which means I had a first rate historical tour of the White Rim and everything you can see from it. This, I suppose, is another reason why you might want to do this one guided, even if you opt to do it in a day.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Can You Taper And Gain Fitness Simultaneously?

ClimbTech Removable Bolts for Rock Climbing from ClimbTech on Vimeo.

I did a birthday challenge test run this weekend. It was, unfortunately, harder than expected. Now I need to start tapering for a performance peak but I still lack fitness in one physiological realm, beckoning the question: can I taper and still gain fitness?

Further complicating this issue is that I don’t have a date set for the challenge. Like an alpinist, I’ll be watching the weather and take my shot when I can. I need a weekend in the next two to four weeks. The forecast is calling for perfect conditions this weekend but that would seem suicidal if my test run was an indication. The longer I wait the more time I have to train but the chances also increase that I get completely shut out by winter.

Tapering is never simple. Basically, the less training you do over the last two weeks before an event the more your body recovers, which increases your reserves for race day. Two weeks is the magic number because that’s how long it takes for your fast twitch (emergency so far as your body is concerned) muscle fibers to fully recover. However, two weeks is enough time to wreak havoc on your system when you’re used to training hard. Primarily, your reduced training load can negatively affect your diet and sleep patterns, two things that can send your fitness level south quicker than anything else.

Luckily for me I’m lacking endurance, though it’s power-endurance, which is harder to gain than aerobic endurance. Still, it’s better than if I were lacking power, which would spell doom at this point. I could use more power (who can’t?) but since I’m getting all the moves on my routes and will get a recovery bump of a couple of percent through tapering, that bit of hay is in the barn.

With this in mind, here’s my training template for the next few weeks. For those confused by this lingo use this blog’s search function for “periodization” and you’ll get caught up pretty quickly, or maybe start with the 5 most important factors for race training.

Goals: To taper in all areas but make increases in power endurance, or resistance in climbing terms (the ability to hang on when pumped).

Variables: date for actual peak not set.

Logic: Since I know the event will happen on a weekend I will have a hard power endurance session early each week, and one more on each weekend that it doesn’t happen. All other training will be based around recovery and weight loss. The latter is super important because every pound you lose without sacrificing fitness is increases fitness by decreasing the load you need to push (think of it as taking weight off of a max set).

Specific focus: The challenge (click here) includes heavy volume of aerobic work so I’ll want to keep riding and hiking at an aerobic pace. I recently did a hundred-mile mtn bike ride so I think I’m okay here as long as I continually get some saddle time.

Finish the work on the routes. 4 of the 8 routes still need some work and it’s no small task. While not “training” it’s hard work (watch the vids) that’s, at least, good for caloric burn and weight loss.

Increase anaerobic endurance. This is the rub. In my test run I did 4 of the 8 planned routes and failed within the last 4 moves of the others. This sounds close but I was using routes in my garage that I HOPE are harder than the actual climbs. They might not be, however, and I was completely cooked. To have any confidence I need more cushion.


Mon – Aerobic conditioning and active recovery: yoga, easy but long-ish ride and/or hike.

Tue – Hard anaerobic session. Redpoint burns at challenge intensity but—very important—nothing above challenge intensity. No 100% moves or powerful bouldering problems. No moves I might fail on due to anything but being pumped because it’s too much recruitment (of high threshold muscle cell motor units).

Wed – Aerobic training. Slight different than Monday, I’ll do some specific muscular work for climbing that works as active recovery. Some easy routes, rice bucket and stabilization work, a solid ride and/or hike at aerobic level, and yoga. This is a high volume but low-intensity day. Should not feel hard at all but burn calories.

Thurs-Fri – Active recovery only.

Sat – Test run, which is a lot like Tuesday.

Sun – Active recovery.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

First Female V14

With October sending season in full force how about the first female V14 for your weekly Psyche? Congrats to Tomoko Ogawa for completely her three-year project, Catharsis, at Shiobara, Japan, and taking the sport to another level.

If this looks familiar it's because the problem was also featured in this Daniel Woods video last spring. With over 20 moves it's almost more of a route than a boulder problem. No matter, it's one of the coolest looking boulders I've seen.

Uk Climbing posted a short interview with Ogawa on how she trained for Catharsis, which you can read by clicking this excerpt. These perfect fall conditions won't last forever. Get out there!

I thought I need more finger strength and reach. I did "finger pull ups" for a long time that I had seen Daniel Woods do in a DVD. It is like hanging on a campus board with open hand and close it to crimp and open and close over and over while you are hanging.

And I started to straighten up my body. Actually I was hunched. I thought because of my backside muscles got too big since I started climbing, I wanted keep my chest and body open to extending my reach. But it took a year to get better...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Chill Pill: The One Drug You Should Be Taking

I review studies almost everyday. Most are on food, exercise, or supplements and how they might better your life. But there’s one topic, far less popular, that’s a constant theme running through many of these, which leads to better results 100% of the time: chilling out.

Today’s post highlights an article from Dan Buettner and NY Times on some of the longest living populations in the world. The main character left the US for his native home on an island in Greece to die when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer nearly four decades ago. The laid back agrarian lifestyle not only cured his cancer but allowed him to out live all of his doctors.

Six months came and went. Moraitis didn’t die. Instead, he reaped his garden and, feeling emboldened, cleaned up the family vineyard as well. Easing himself into the island routine, he woke up when he felt like it, worked in the vineyards until midafternoon, made himself lunch and then took a long nap. In the evenings, he often walked to the local tavern, where he played dominoes past midnight. The years passed. His health continued to improve. He added a couple of rooms to his parents’ home so his children could visit. He built up the vineyard until it produced 400 gallons of wine a year. Today, three and a half decades later, he’s 97 years old — according to an official document he disputes; he says he’s 102 — and cancer-free. He never went through chemotherapy, took drugs or sought therapy of any sort. All he did was move home to Ikaria.

It’s an amazing story that’s less unique that you might think. I can’t recall how many instances I’ve noticed the common theme of improvement in a study is linked more to a lifestyle change than whatever was being studied, especially when that change led to less stress.

Of course we can’t all move to an island. We can, however, chill out. It’s entirely within our scope, no matter what we do and where we live. Remember the Seinfeld (the show about nothing, aka everything) when George becomes the “opposite of every man you’ve ever met” and his casual dismissal of a car cutting him off turns on the woman he’s with? That was more than self-deprecating humor. It was a lesson.

We’ve become a nation of control freaks in the world that can’t be controlled. It’s a no win scenario. We look for distractions to ignore it but these things, like sports, TV, political nonsense et al, make it worse as they too are uncontrollable. We need to focus inward, on our day-to-day lives and what makes them rich, which is not money but our relationship with others around us. "It's not the end of the world," is a cliche we too often ignore. What are we in such a hurry to do, anyway?

In Samos, they care about money. Here, we don’t. For the many religious and cultural holidays, people pool their money and buy food and wine. If there is money left over, they give it to the poor. It’s not a ‘me’ place. It’s an ‘us’ place.”

You don’t need to move to an island to do this. All you need to do is find a way to relax. Exercise and diet, both major elements in the story, are the best place to start because they force your body into a more relaxed and healthy-functioning state. The rest is completely within your control and you can start right now, by reading the article, which sufficed as my daily dose of chill. Now maybe I'll unplug my clocks.

Seeking to learn more about the island’s reputation for long-lived residents, I called on Dr. Ilias Leriadis, one of Ikaria’s few physicians, in 2009. On an outdoor patio at his weekend house, he set a table with Kalamata olives, hummus, heavy Ikarian bread and wine. “People stay up late here,” Leriadis said. “We wake up late and always take naps. I don’t even open my office until 11 a.m. because no one comes before then.” He took a sip of his wine. “Have you noticed that no one wears a watch here? No clock is working correctly. When you invite someone to lunch, they might come at 10 a.m. or 6 p.m. We simply don’t care about the clock here.

stamatis moraitis tending his vineyard and olive grove on ikaria. andrea Frazzetta/LUZphoto for The New York Times

Friday, October 19, 2012

60 Year Old Climbs 14a

Think you’re getting old? It’s all a number. 30 years ago there were no 5.14s in the world so what’s this guy’s doing, at age 60, is the sports equivalent to dominating the NBA during the Magic Johnson/Larry Bird era. Pretty rad, eh?

Sure, he lives in Spain, where there are more 5.14 climbers than the rest of the world combined, and has a couple of crankenfrank kids who push him along, but there is simply no way to deny the elite athleticism and dedication it takes to do something like this. When you watch this guy climb there’s no way to tell he’s not 21.

Also on the Psyche meter, this route is in Rodellar, one of my favorite climbing destinations on the planet. Happy Friday. Do something hard this weekend.

So what was the first 14 in the world? Punks in the Gym, in Oz. Here's a bonus vid of my friend Jarmilla on it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Salt & Sugar: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Silent killer or manna from Heaven? What’s the straight dope on the role of salt and sugar in your diet? These nutrients, so vital for sustaining life that historical lore could fill the History Channel for a month, are also the root of the world’s obesity epidemic. Next week, these two misunderstood nutrients will be the topic of my live video chat q & a with a longtime sidekick, or colleague if you will, Denis Faye.

Here’s a little teaser:

Most of us are aware of the evils of sugar. Modern food companies have been adding more and more of it into packaged foods to the point that they’ve created an imbalanced sweet tooth for many consumers. This has led to an overindulgence problem that is the spearhead of the obesity epidemic.

Sugar is a high-density food, meaning that it doesn’t give you a lot of bang for the buck in a nutritional sense because it has a lot of calories with few nutrients. In nature, where it exists only one part of a whole foods picture, it aids in transporting the other elements of those foods into your system efficiently, as well as providing energy on its own. The problem is that we’ve isolated and now put it into things where it serves no purpose than to fill you up and make you crave more of it.

Salt you’ve heard of too. Your doctor probably tells you to lighten up on it because overconsumption can lead to a myriad of diseases. It makes the news regularly, under the name of one of its ingredients, sodium (salt is sodium chloride), when we learn things like a single dinner entre at a food chain contains more sodium than the RDA states you need in a week.

Salt is nutrient dense as it’s a vital electrolyte with no calories. We can’t live without it. Because of this we tend to crave it, which food companies know so they chock food full of it in order to fuel our desire to buy more and more of their products.

If these stories sound similar it’s because they are, the net of which is to sell you more foods that cost little to make. These foods, both high in calories and low on nutrients, have the unique ability to make us both fat and malnourished at the same time. We’ve been swindled into terrible eating habits and, worse, created an epidemic addiction for two things that are clearly killing us. Yet...

These are two of the most important foods on the planet.

Try to perform at your highest level and you’ll quickly understand the marvels of sugar. Sugar turns to glucose in your blood and glycogen in you muscles and this fuels your body and brain far better than anything else. If you run out of sugar in a long athletic event your body will slow down and, at some point if you don’t stop, die. Used at the right time, sugar is the most powerful performance-enhancing substance known to man.

run out of sugar during a race and you'll quickly learn its merits

Salt is even more important and less understood. Most of us consume far too much of it but, oddly enough, the inverse is a big problem in healthy populations who can be too strict about limiting it. Salt is absolutely vital for life on any level but the more active you are the more you need. 500mg a day is enough for an average sedentary person but a cyclist racing on a 100-degree day can burn through 2,000mg in an hour! Those who eschew all salt find themselves at risk for hyponatremia, an electrolyte imbalance that will kill you swifter that a bite from a black mamba. There’s a good reason salt has been the catalyst of many wars throughout history.

gandhi used salt to thwart the british

Join us Thursday, October 25, and 2PST (5EST) and have your questions ready. Links will be posted on all of Beachbody’s social feeds and the chat page here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Road Bike Party

So much on the agenda that I almost forgot about a Psyche for this week. For shame. Well, here's a good one that takes no intro and is a nice alternative to my last post. It shows the beauty of bike riding, although if you try this at home you might end up needing a blood transfusion for a different reason than US Postal. I certainly won't be trying this on my Bosberg, or any bike for that matter. Mighty fun to watch though.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Tale Of Cyclists And Dope

As a cyclist and long time fan of the sport it’s a fascinating morning. The Lance Armstrong saga finally played out yesterday when 11 of his former teammates came clean about their doping practices and the USADA traced more than a million dollars of payments from Armstrong to doping expert Dr. Michele Ferrari. The jig, as they say, is up.

I don’t say shocked because most of us who’ve been around the sport for a long time knew what was going on. Tyler Hamilton’s recently released book, which was supposed to blow the lid off the Armstrong era, only confirmed what many of us already knew to be true (though it had some outstanding anecdotes and is an excellent read). It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure something to be amiss when today’s generation of cyclists, despite improved equipment and training protocols, is across the board 10% slower than they were a decade ago, especially when some of them are the same people.

I say fascinating because of the way it happened and to see the public react, as well as watching Armstrong and Bruyneel continue to play innocent when everyone around them is losing their head and blaming it on them. Can money really buy you out of everything? That part is still to be played out.

But as a cyclist it’s nice to have a clean slate, and today we do. Long term it will help the sport, even if racing is a bit more boring (it was fun to watch Armstrong, Pantani et al charge up mountain passes like they were on motorcycles). Sure, there are still dopers, but racing is decidedly believable now and with the knowledge of physiologic human potential much better understood it’s likely to stay that way, at least for a little while. The pressure on young cyclists to dope has been diminished.

I’ll leave it at that, as further commentary starts to become off topic for most of my readers. Those of you looking for more should have a look at this. It’s the full USADA v. Lance Armstrong report. 200-plus pages, which I have not had time to read but will someday. Apparently there are a thousand pages floating around somewhere but, looking at the ToC, this will satisfy even the most rabid fan’s curiosity.

The USADA vs. Lance Armstrong

foto: the bygone days of another era crédits: panoramic

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

When To Deviate From The Plan

This is a follow up post to my training article that appeared in Dead Point Climbing Magazine last month. I’ve been on the plan myself so here are some observations that will answer some of the questions I’ve been getting about recovery and lock-off hangs.

Yesterday I got on an old nemesis, a 140-foot traverse that I used to train on many years ago. The crux has been underwater for ages, so I hadn’t been able to try it in a decade. I figured it might be dry, finally, and a decent barometer of how my training is going since I’ve only done the entire thing a couple of times and it’s always felt right at my limit.

I began this training cycle in earnest on Sept 1 following the plan I wrote for the article. The board workouts were exactly the same. We added a set of lock-offs on the wall, superset with bicycles (see them here as a part of Sean’s training) which one of us would do while the other did their rice bucket. I didn’t do the weight training, since I do plenty of that in general, and have been mtb riding or running/hiking on the off days.

Though I’ve done this plan before I knew it might be ambitious for me right now. For one, I’m old—probably older than DPM’s entire demographic. And while I’m fit, age matters. You don’t recover as fast. The other factor is that mountain biking isn’t a perfect rest activity and I didn’t want to stop riding. So I was expecting that training with only one rest day might be challenging and I was right.

After two weeks I needed to back off because I feared getting injured and my workouts weren’t improving. I added some climbing days and lengthened the time between sessions. My climbing was awful. I expected it to be bad but I was so worn out from the training that everything was a struggle. This is why I don’t usually recommend much if any climbing during the program. It worked, however, and the extra recovery time allowed my workouts to start improving. I also started to get stronger on rock as I adapted and was able to integrate the strength gains I’d made.

This pushed my schedule out longer than four weeks. Week 5 just ended and I still have a few workouts to go in order to finish the planned 4-week cycle. I just took a week off of training and did two very hard days back to back outside. My climbing wasn’t great, I still feel effects of the training/recovery holding me back, but I’m much stronger than when I started. The longer schedule with more rest and some actual climbing seems like it was the right course, this time. What you do should be based on your own recovery.

I’ve had to adjust my lock-offs and most of you will, too. Full lock-offs felt too stressful on the elbow, so I start locking off as high as I can, then medium, then low (but not all the way down). Repeat for a set of 6. The actual angles don’t matter much. Do what you can and STOP doing them if you’re elbows get touchy. We actually started the phase attempting lock-offs on the first workout and scrapped the idea less than one set.

So, yesterday, after a day of traveling and office work I got to the traverse pretty tired. I was still feeling the effects of my hard two-day session and wasn’t sure if I’d even climb. But the traverse was dry so I stared re-acquainting myself with the movements that I once had wired but were mostly forgotten. It seemed impossible. I thought about leaving and going for a run, instead, so that I didn’t waste the afternoon.

But because I hadn’t seen the thing dry in so many years I figured I might as well try. I did the first 80 or so feet of 5.11 to warm-up. I botched a bunch of the sequences but managed to hold on to the rest before the business end, and felt it wasn’t as hard as I was expecting.

Then I began a move-by-move assessment of the second half. The ground had washed away, adding some new footholds (making one of the cruxes substantially easier and probably taking a grade off) and tacking a scare factor to the finish, but it still seemed way too hard for my current condition. Oddly enough, as I warmed up it started to feel doable and, then, even stranger, not all that bad. Just before dark I gave it one good go and, shockingly, it went. I’m now even more psyched on my training program and can’t wait for the next session.

Original article

Part II

Part III (diet)

Part IV (crazy sciency shit)

Other good ideas

vid: couldn't find a pic of the sandbox so here's another traversing nemesis of mine.

Friday, October 05, 2012

The World’s Hardest Climb...

...just went down. Not so shockingly to Adam Ondra (congrats, man!) I wasn’t going to put this here until the full video came out but then I saw the above pic of him on the upper crux (Petr Pavlicek photo). It reminds me that I need to try harder. Not just at climbing. At everything. Yeah, yeah, this kid’s got natural talent but all people at the top of their fields, ultimately, succeed because they try harder than everyone else. When I watch people like Chris Sharma and Ondra climb I feel lazy. Today’s Psyche is to remind you not to give up. Have a sending weekend!

That is, if you don’t blow your shoulder out watching this video of Adam on the first part of the route. Romney was saying “that doesn’t look like the world’s hardest route...” until he started the lock-off/gaston sequence when she got silent and then went “...oh”. Sick. Just sick.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Birthday Challenge Is Set

So I might as well make it official and put the pressure on. I need something to kick my training to the next level so here it is. Since the year is ’12 and I’m 51 going on 52, 512 is going to be the theme for this year's challenge. What I have planned has high potential for an epic fail but, as the saying goes, if you know you can do it than it isn’t a challenge.

In one day:

8 first ascents
5 of them 5.12
on 5 different rock types
in 5 different canyons + 1 mountain done with 2 modes of self-propelled transport (biking/hiking) totaling at least 51 miles with 5,200’ of elevation gain
and, to keep it pure, I’ll add 51 ounces of beer and 2 King Pin fritters

This isn’t the kind of Herculean enduro fest I usually set-up. Volume isn’t the issue; it’s the ability to perform at a high level throughout. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. It could only work if I could find 5 hard routes in my local canyons that haven’t been done and, given SLC is one of the most popular climbing centers on earth, that was no picnic. But when I recently sorted this part out it had to be on. Most of these routes are right at my current limit, or a bit beyond—-perfect! So the key will be to both improve my top end game and the ability to maintain it all day long. A fine challenge indeed.

I like to make my challenges unique and this is another I’m sure has never been done. 5 X 5.12s probably narrows the field to a handful, maybe, but the opportunity of 5 different types of rock and canyons in one region is what sets this apart before even bothering to try and find someone who bike commutes to their climbs.

Of course, I haven’t done it either and there are so many places where this can go south it’s almost not worth discussing. The one thing I can control, fitness, is marginal to start. I’ve not done 5 pitches of 5.12 on anything I didn’t have super wired since, probably, 1996. So there’s that. Hey, it ain’t birthday pretty hard.

History and rules

I got this idea from Trent Baker, whom I supported on an attempt to self-support (ride/hike) to 5 different canyons and climb a 5.12 in each. My birthday challenge that year was doing 4 routes each in 8 different canyons. This sounds harder but hardest route I did was 11b and many were under 5.10. The climbing aspect was much, much easier. The riding was more involved but I’m pretty good at riding a bike around.

This challenge was only worth attempting if I could find first ascents that were meaningful to me and the local climbing community. Being busy, I climb locally most of the time so it’s worth investing time to clean scruff near my home if I’ll go back to it regularly for training. What I’m doing for this challenge is cleaning up some forgotten crags and modernizing them with new routes to make them worthy as local training destinations. I’m psyched on the routes I’m doing, otherwise I’d have found a different challenge.

I’m cleaning ahead of time. It would be impossible to make the routes good if I didn’t and, for routes to be worthy it takes a lot of time and elbow grease-—especially for things that have gone unclimbed until now, meaning a lot of people felt they weren’t worth any effort. Sport climbing Fa’s are a public service. If you’re not up to doing a solid job leave it for someone else. My rule is to simple: make routes that I’ll go back to climb over just for fun.

vids: above is a good look at what putting up routes is like, all in a very nice setting. below is a funnier take, me going overboard in order to add 15' of climbing to a traverse in a local canyon. oh, the things we do for sport!