Fame! …and rock climbing…..

In the future, everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.

Presently, I scramble to find deeper meaning in my new found notoriety.  It began with the most noble of intentions, this humble blog, and quickly ballooned into a nebulous cloud of love, hate, climbing, and everything in between. I suppose I realized something bigger than myself was growing when a climber friend of mine told me Matt Segal was frantically trying to track me down; sending emails and texts out to his entire contact list. He was most likely wanting to thank me for sending views to his article. You’re welcome, Matt.

Before I knew it, gear started overwhelming my mail box. Like Santa’s sack, a seemingly never ending flow of letters and packages awaited me each week. I would like to thank Don McGrath, Ph. D., who was the first to believe in me by sending me a copy of his new book for climbers, The Vertical Mind.

Buy it on Amazon or wherever books are sold.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t read it because if you knew me you’d know I’ve been blessed with an almost unnatural talent for controlling my mind. When I climb, I don’t worry about falling because I trust my abilities, I trust the rock, and I trust the top rope to hold my fall.

Before I knew it, ropes, back packs, jackets, shirts, quickdraws, helmets, and water bottles all kept coming. I wasn’t too sure what was happening at first. I knew becoming sponsored meant a lot of free gear, but I hadn’t received any contracts faxed over or anything. What are these companies expecting me to do with all this free gear? I literally have enough to start my own gear store now…

All the climbing magazines wanted a piece of me. Dead Point Magazine put me in their December issue.  Download/get it now!

Check out the latest issue of DPM, pages 8-9

Chris Kalous at the Enormocast has since told me that our recording may have become lost or damaged, so we’ll definitely have to schedule another show together.

Climbing, Rock and Ice, Climberism, Gripped, The Climbing ZineGóryAplinist, Outside, and somehow I even had an editor from the now dead Urban Climber (Dave Graham Magazine) contact me!

Brendan Leonard was overheard calling me total-rad.

So what do you do when fame and opportunity come knocking at your door? How do I step back and make sense of this spotlight that’s been cast upon me? We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems. I remember a few years ago the biggest name being thrown around in the climbing scene (before Adam Ondra) was David Lama. The young Austrian climber did amazing things in the sport climbing world. He had everything… youth, talent, girls. He had incredible strength in his arms and fingers, but not much strength where it mattered most (see: The Vertical Mind). Then he went out to lunch, and I don’t mean the Gluten-Free kind. Bonkers, batty, berserk… he went “Full-Ueli”.

He became an alpinist?

Is this what happens with fame? Am I destined to drink Red Bull, scratch my way up a frozen Patagonian tooth, while helicopters and Red cameras shoot me in slow motion? Will my crew leave their garbage and ropes and cans of shit behind on some pristine bivy ledge, ultimately forcing me to take the blame? It wasn’t my shit!!

Renan Ozturk, how the hell am I supposed to say no to you?!

For now… I will fight the urge to walk up any mountain. I will keep hitting the ‘junk’ button on those Linked-In requests from Hayden Kennedy and Kelly Cordes. I will stay true to you, my fans, and to the thing we all love: Climbing.

I won’t forget about you guys, even if my view from the top makes you look small.

Wes

 

My Interview on ‘The Enormocast’!

I had spent the last 4 weeks bolting new sport routes in Indian Creek, Utah, where I was fortunate enough to run into climber and podcasteur, Chris Kalous. Chris has been the voice of climbing on the interwebz for over two years now. His rich and sultry voice has been many climbers only break from NPR and This American Life podcasts on those long road trips to wherever the temps are good for sending. The Enormocast spawned out of the old ‘Off Belay’ podcast, which I had been following from the beginning. After the dissolution of ‘Off Belay’, Chris ventured on his own, and has been spewing out an hour of content twice a month, for 67 episodes now, with no end in sight.

Chris Kalous - So you know what he looks like if you see him at the crag.

Chris Kalous – So you know what he looks like if you see him at the crag.

So there I was, drill in hand, rapping down from a potential off-width sport route, when I spotted the mobile studio and home on the road that we’ve all heard mentioned on countless episodes.

The 'Del Fuego'

The ‘Del Fuego’

Chris and I had been trying for a while to connect for an episode of The Enormocast, though strangely, I was never able to reach him, nor find out where he was, so setting up an interview was a scheduling nightmare. It was mere happenstance that I was able to get to him in time before he was able to change a flat tire on the Del Fuego.

At first, Chris didn’t recognize who I was, until I mentioned to him that I was a fellow guide and internet personality, known for helpful tech tips, and training advice, movie reviews, opinion pieces, etc.. I spent a few minutes listing off some of my more popular posts.

“Wesley? Wesley Summers??” Chris asked,

“YES!” I shouted! It was great being ‘recognized’ out in the real world. This is how pro climbers must feel, I thought. Chris went into the front of the camper to grab a tire iron, as I began grilling him on why it’s taken so long for us to get together. I told him I had tried getting in touch with him before, but he explained his inbox is so full, my email must have been lost in the ether. Makes sense, I literally have almost a hundred emails from clients and sponsors clogging up my inbox on the daily.

Chris was struggling with lug nuts as I asked him when he thought we could record an episode together, as I was in town for a few more days and would be available any time. He told me he was getting out of the Creek as soon as possible, and he didn’t have his recording equipment. That’s when I had a brilliant idea! An impromptu, outdoor recording session with me and Chris Kalous, recorded entirely on his iPhone! No scripts, no rehearsal, no editing!

Chris’ skirmish with the spare tire was far from over, so after a few moments of hesitation, he whipped out his phone, hit record, and we started.

I wont get into details about the interview, since I don’t want to ruin the future epsisode, but let’s just say, the world better be ready for Wesley Summers!

It took Chris a little over an hour to change the flat, and in that time, I feel I was able to express my best ideas about climbing, about life, about love, loss, failure and success. Chris agreed it was one of his favourite interviews. If he wasn’t in such a hurry to get out of there, I would have wanted to play it back and listen to the whole thing, but I guess I have to wait with you guys! Will keep you posted when I hear from Chris!

 

Make sure to check out: http://enormocast.com/

And download the show if you haven’t already!   https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/enormocast-climbing-podcast/id490027390?mt=2

 

Wesley

 

Reel Rock Tour 9 – An honest review of ‘Valley Uprising’.

I have talked extensively about the great “Stone Masters” from Yosemite’s past on here before; often not favourably. However, when Josh Lowell and Peter Mortimer invited me to the Reel Rock 9: Valley Uprising premier in Boulder, CO, of course I said yes. I, like most climbers, look forward to crisp fall temperatures, and sending conditions, almost as much as I do the screening of the annual Reel Rock Tour. We are climbers, outcasts, dirtbags, and general dredges of society. Most of us will watch the same clip of Adam Ondra climbing Illusionist 5 or 6 times before knowing which film won ‘Best in show’ at Cannes.

The Reel Rock Tour is our film festival. This is what we look forward to each year. Oh I hear you, “what about the Banff Mountain Film Festival, Wes?” Are you kidding me? The Banff Mountain Film Festival has more to do with getting naked, beating a caribou drum, and giving thanks to our earth mother, than climbing. Sure, each year there’s a small cross section of Will Gadd ‘best of’ clips and whatever corporate beasts Jimmy Chin is serving will hobble together a slideshow or poster signing with Chin himself walking around signing you up for National Geographic subscriptions.  We get it NatGeo, you’re cool now.

national_geographic_cover_may_2011_ds

 

But dammit, this is the Reel Rock Tour! This is where the cutting edge of climbing meets 1080p! Past Reel Rock Tours have given us films like, Progression, The Swiss Machine, On Sight, The Sharp End, and King Lines. These are giants: films that have inspired us, got us off the couch, and showed us the kind of climbing we as weekend warriors have only dreamed of. Just look at this trailer for Reel Rock 2010:

Bad ass or what? Now… this gets me back to Valley Uprising. I suspect, that after 8 forays into adrenaline pumping movie mastery, the team behind the Reel Rock Tour thought they could pull the wool over our eyes and release a SINGLE film for this years tour, and somehow we wouldn’t notice. Valley Uprising is a passion piece – an art film made by film-makers who think we need more Shindlers List when all we really want is Cliffhanger. Sure, Yosemite has a rich history of climbing, cool stories, blah blah blah… We’ve all heard about the aid climbing, the drugs, freeing of the nose, speed records, naked solos, the plane crash filled with weed… These stories are tired, and I’m tired of hearing them. Google ‘John Long + Climbing + Yosemite’ and you’ll get the same old sound bites talking about the glory days. I can’t even read an anchor book without John Long mentioning to me how bad ass the stone masters were before the invention of the equallette. Railroad iron slung with webbing as protection? You don’t say…. that’s news to me!

Even though we’ve all heard the stories before, I could forgive a little rehashing of old classics, if not for the blatant use of film footage literally poached from dozens of movies we’ve seen a hundred times. They say that Valley Uprising is 10 years in the making… and I believe it, because apart from a few new interviews, and some old Yosemite photographs that have been made 3D through some fancy CG wizardry, all this movie has done is spliced together footage from old Reel Rock films, stock footage from the National Park service, and an overlay of some sick beats. This is what we’ve been waiting for all year? All decade?!

To be honest…. this movie could’ve been made by the same guys who make ‘fan-made’ trailers on YouTube. Or by whoever made this trailer, it is fucking brilliant:

That all being said…. Who am I kidding? You’re all still going to see this movie. I’m going to see it a few more times myself. Why? Because fuck the Banff Mountain Film Festival, that’s why!

Wesley

 

Do ‘First Ascentionists’ have any rights?

Look at this photo carefully….stonemastersSee anything special? Is there anything ‘mythical’ about it? Did the men in this photo have super natural powers that allowed them to effortlessly float up sketchy routes with only a handful of home-made gear, or worse, a rack filled with failed inventions like this:

lowe camYup… Think of those next time you’re Elvis leg kicks in as you try to place that bomber X4 on some 5.5 at the Gunks. The truth is, climbers in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s weren’t the fearless bad asses that our generation is lead to believe. They just didn’t know any better, and ignorance doesn’t make you a hero.

We’ve all seen that silver haired, cantankerous, ‘vintage’ climber at the base of some classic 5.fun route at the crag spewing outrageous comments that somehow the new-school climbers have ruined the honourable pursuit of rock climbing. Like we have no respect for what climbing used to be.

What climbing used to be?? This is what climbing used to be:old climbersClimbers from ‘back-in-the-day’ would pound in pitons, yard on gear, pull on branches, and at the end of the day, name and grade their ascent. Today, many of these routes exist as ‘classics’ with 1 or 2 bolts, (1/4 inchers), rusted out to shit, a few corroded pitons, and holds that have either broken off, or become polished from over-use. So logically, someone should upgrade the route to the 21st century, right? Remove the crap gear, retro bolt it with stainless steel, and put up a fun, safe route, right?

This is where people go nuts… Ask this question on Mountain Project, and you’ll get the typical response..

“If you can’t climb the route as the FA did, either get stronger, or find another route to do and leave the 5.6 R/X routes for the big boys!”

This is climbing’s most egregious obstacle. We think we owe it to the first ascentionists somehow, as if they deserve respect for their gorilla tactics on the rock. Routes with runouts should be protected safely. Routes with pitons should see them removed, and replaced by bolts. 5.6 routes should exist for 5.6 climbers, not 5.13 climbers who work up enough courage to get on an R/X route that’s well below their free solo level, and then spray about it to their other 5.13 climber buddys.

Unless the FA owns the cliff where he/she put up their first ascent, they should have no say in what style someone can or cannot climb a route. The great thing about a bolt is, you can choose to not clip it. If you want to climb a route in the style of an FA, find out what shoes they were wearing, if they used chalk or not. Were they drunk? Did they used a hemp or nylon rope? Try to match the conditions exactly. If it was raining, wait for a rainy day. If they clipped only 1 bolt, 60 feet off the deck, feel free to skip the first 8 bolts that I put in, and relive the glory days. Sit around the camp fire at night, and bask in your awesomeness. I however, warmed up on the route, clipped all 16 bolts, and lowered off the Fixe Draco sport anchors, because it’s my goddamn right to do so.

 

Wes.

 

 

 

 

 

How to tell your Mom you rock climb.

If you’re like me, you’ve more often than not had to explain to “non-climbers” what rock climbing really is. People frequently have an image in their minds, and it roughly looks like this:

scrambling

 

We call this, “scrambling.”

Scrambling does not rock climbing make. Trying to explain the idea of climbing a vertical rock wall under your own power, using the rope only as a way to not die should you fall is rocket science to your average office worker. Though we have fantastic resources for the layperson out there (think Vertical Limit, Cliffhanger), most folks in the real world have no concept of what we do. A family member once asked me about why I go out to a local ‘crag’ almost every weekend, asking “how many times can you climb the same mountain, don’t you get bored?” I mentioned that there were over 200 routes at that “mountain”, and I haven’t even done half yet. I said: some are too easy so I skip them. Some are too hard, so I’m trying to get strong enough to do them. Some are low quality, zero star routes that aren’t worth doing. Some are “R” rated and I’m working up the courage and beta to get through them. And some, are yet to be discovered.

This is the look I got:

For the love of God, don’t ever, under any circumstances, try to explain what bouldering is. Hell, even I don’t understand it…. Find a rock, sometimes less than 10 feet tall… try to get to the top. No, not the easy way up: find the most difficult way up. No, don’t start trying to climb standing up, get as low as possible with your ass hovering inches off the ground. Good. Now fall 50 times, shred your skin, bleed, curse.. and if the temperature and humidity are just right, you’ll get to the top. Down? Take the easy way down..

So what is rock climbing… How do you explain what working a route is? How do you explain how the human body can stay glued to a rock wall with only a toe and a few fingertips crimped on edges the width of a book cover? How do you explain to your Mom how gnarly your fall was on that 5.11 splitter because you ripped half your pro, flipped upside down, and cracked your helmet, only to try again 30 minutes later?

You don’t.

Don’t tell your Mom anything! In fact, don’t try to explain climbing to anyone who doesn’t climb. There are only two possibilities: Either they’ll think you scramble around on 3rd class terrain with Vibram FiveFingers on your feet. Or worse, they’ll think you’re planning to one day climb Mt. Everest. There is no middle ground, and in both those scenerios, you’re a giant pussy.

The next time you’re at a family dinner, and everyone starts asking about your “rock climbing” hobby, just whip out a few photos like this and say, “it really helps me become ‘one’ with nature”:

 

Scrambling2

How to project a route.

There’s one question that many of my clients keep asking me: How did you climb that route so well? The answer is simple… I’ve climbed it about a hundred times! When we watch videos of Adam Ondra onsighting some ridiculous grade, like 5.14d, we’re not getting the whole story. It makes great video seeing a professional climber float up the wall, but the reality is, it may have taken Adam 20 times to finally learn the moves before he flashed the route. Sometimes this is done on top rope, on rappel, or even studying photographs of the route. This is called “projecting.”

Just last week, I was out at the cliff on one of my “projects.”

DSC_1092As you can see, I am top roping the route. This is because lead climbing can be dangerous. Taking an unexpected fall can result in flipping upside down, or worse, getting the rope twisted around an ankle and snapping it. This is why most climbers will rehearse a route before taking to the sharp end, to minimize the risk of a fall. I have been working on this route for over a month. The first time I tried it, I was able to stick clip my way up to the anchors, and have left my rope on it ever since. This is so that when I get to the crag, my rope will always be on the route to save time. My first few times on the route, I would ascend the rope, working the moves out in my head. I made tick marks to help me remember and visually see where the small, yet crucial holds are. Each time I’m on the route, I try to perfect my movements, try different beta, move around my tick marks, and make mental notes. Practice makes perfect, and climbing is no exception.

I have probably top roped this route 40 times, and have got it down to only 2 falls. I know the areas I need to work on now, so it makes projecting so much easier. This is how I will send the route!

So what kind of climber are you? Do you try a route once, and if you fall, move on to another? Or do you invest the time to project, and one day go for the send? I challenge all of you to head to your local crags, and find a route that is out of your league. Next, throw a top rope on it, and just work out the moves. Take photos, make tick marks, and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! It’s not glamorous, but this is climbing folks! If you want to get better, you have to put in the time.

Wesley

 

Can we trust “sponsored” rock climbers?

How do we know if Adam Ondra has actually climbed 5.15c?

Did Ueli Steck really solo Annapurna’s West face?

Is Daniel Woods’ sit-start of The Ice Knife really V15?

We as climbers like to believe there is something sacred about our sport. Short of a few European boulder cups, we generally don’t have throngs of screaming spectators, or massive arenas in which we climb. By and large, we pursue our sport in seclusion, surrounded by majestic vistas, towering rock formations, and a handful of close friends. We celebrate small victories, and even large failures. Clipping the chains on your long term project can taste just as sweet as retreating off your summit push due to bad weather, as long as you surround yourself with good people. But there’s a dark cloud looming over us, and it has nothing to do with the weather.

We all read the magazines, watch the movies, and ogle over the photos and articles of the latest and greatest routes put up and sent by our favorite climbers. We get inspired, and find the mental toughness to stick it out for another work week so that we can get out for two days on the weekend and shred out on the rocks with greater ferocity than the week before. This has always been the role of the sponsored climber: Get the rest of us off our asses.

This was all well and good when being “sponsored” meant that you get a schwag -bag full of climbing gear from Black Diamond every 3 months filled with shoes, chalk, and maybe a rope. Today, however, climbers such as Alex Honnold, Sasha DiGiulian, Ueli Steck, and Adam Ondra, get more than just a new pair of rubber shoes. These, and dozens of other “pro” climbers, are making millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Alex Honnold is backed by companies such as Goal Zero. One look at his Facebook wall, and it’s clear he has become a corporate shill:

alexh

That’s not all… Do you ever wonder what the best climber vehicle is? Sprinter van? Westfalia? Wrong! It’s an Audi! That’s right, here’s Ueli Steck showing us dirtbags what to save our coffee house tips on:

Then there’s Red Bull. What real climber even drinks this stuff? These climbers would have you believe that the only way to become the best, is to get a massive caffeine high every time you tie in to a rope:

redbull

The list goes on and on. When we’re talking about big money, there is only one constant. There will always be cheating when the incentive of money is on the table.

  • Lance Armstrong doped.
  • Jose Canseco doped.
  • Ben Johnson doped.
  • Barry Bonds doped.

Why? Because the better they performed, the more money would be thrown their way by sponsors. The only difference between the above list, and professional climbers, is that at least other professional athletes have to undergo drug testing.

Now, I’m not saying that all or even any pro climbers take steroids… but are we just supposed to take their word for it? I can’t climb V15 yet, and not many people outside of the inner sanctum of top level boulderers can, so how do we know Daniel Woods’ latest V15 send isn’t actually a V14, or V13, or even completely fabricated? Instagram photos can be Photoshopped. Maybe a lot of these routes and boulder problems that sponsored climbers claim to have sent don’t even exist. Who actually goes out to verify these things?

When there’s big money on the line, athletes are known to bend the rules, or even outright break them. We shouldn’t think that climbers are immune to this. If Ueli Steck can claim to solo Annapurna without any evidence – – surely Bob from the climbing gym can claim the same. In fact, just last week I chugged back a can of Red Bull, cranked up my tunes on my Goal Zero speaker, and sent North Americas very first 5.15d. I named it, Prove me wrong, bitch!

I’ll take my Audi now, please.

Wes.