How to make a successful climbing movie.

I love climbing movies. Nothing inspires me more to get inside and climb than watching Adam Ondra shred on the next greatest 5.16. Of course, we don’t all have the dozens of film makers, grips, directors, and personal assistants following us around like Adam does. Often, we just use our cell phones, or the greatest gift to rock climbers: the GoPro.

But just having a GoPro doesn’t make you a film maker (although it helps). There’s an art to making a successful climbing video, and something that I feel I’ve become pretty good at. Over the last few years, I have probably watched more climbing videos than anyone. I know what works and what doesn’t.

Step # 1: Music.
I know you probably listen to obscure Indie folk bands with soft vocals, and soothing ukelele and bongo rhythms, but rock climbing is an extreme sport, and if you want to hold the viewers attention, you need extreme music. Dub step works best, but anything hardcore should do. The less extreme your video content is, the more you should amp up the music. Like this:

Step # 2: Humour.
We all take climbing very seriously, but you can’t be so intense all the time. Sometimes, we like to goof around and have some fun. So put that in your climbing movie. Recently I found this video, where a climber takes a pretty standard, run of the mill fall. Normally, this is no big deal, but overlay the right song with the footage, and you’ve turned an ordinary moment, into an extraordinary one!

Step # 3: Timeline.
Don’t just start your film in the middle of a climb. You need to tell a story. Rock climbing on it’s own can look pretty boring. Most viewers want to know how the day started. They want to see you wake up, get out of bed, and make a coffee. They want to see dramatic close-ups of water boiling, and french presses pressing. How about a time-lapse of you packing your gear? Add the right soundtrack, and you’re half way there! Stick that GoPro outside the car window, and show us the drive to the crag. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear?

Step # 4: No more butt shots!
There’s nothing worse than filming a static shot of a climber from below. It’s boring, and nobody can tell what’s going on. Don’t be lazy! Strap that GoPro on your bucket, and show us what it’s like to be a climber! This video, seamlessly blends footage from a GoPro helmet cam, with a static overview shot. The dialogue, the story, and the footage are gripping, and you really get a sense of what’s going on. This video would receive an A+, if only we we’re shown video of how they got there, what they had for breakfast, and of course, a sunset shot while having a beer at the summit.

Film on! Wes.

Climbing with a life coach: The only way to the top!

I sometimes find it difficult to uncover the motivation I need to get out there and climb. There are days when I just feel lazy. I dream of staying on the couch, eating a bag of chips, and watching Battlestar Galactica all day. For most climbers, it can be an arduous and gruelling internal battle to get up and move every day. It’s demanding, being a climber, and being a climbing guide is even more so.

Though I do not have any clients as of yet, I still need to commit several hours a day to working on my business. I need to plan adventures for clients I will (hopefully) have in the future. I need to design business cards, waivers, fliers… It can become exhausting! Rock climbing is my life, my business, and my hobby. Without someone there to guide me along, I would easily spiral out of control, and lose my way. I know many of you feel the same way. This is why it is in your benefit to assign someone as your “Climbing Life Coach”. Somebody who can push you, while keeping you grounded. Somebody you can spill your guts to. Feeling frustrated with that 5.10+ you just can’t seem to send? Your coach can mentor you through it, step by step, and you’ll get up that route, I promise.

We all need someone to inspire us. It is nearly impossible to progress as a climber on your own. This is also true for your career. I’m lucky. Climbing IS my career. I want to introduce you to Kevin, my Climbing Life Coach:

If that doesn’t inspire you, maybe climbing isn’t for you. Think about it. Why are you not achieving your goals? Do you not want it bad enough? Are you not strong enough? The answer is, maybe. The only way you are ever going to know the answer is if you have someone like Kevin to guide you. And when you have that special person, and you start to grow as a climber, give me a call.

Maybe you can be my first client. Let’s stumble through this adventure together.

Good luck, and keep climbing that mountain,

Wes.

Matt Segal: Pioneer or Destroyer of Routes?

Recently there was an article on the Climbing.com website by Matt Segal, called, “To Bolt, or Not to Bolt”. The article talks about a route he established in China, called Air China, 5.13+ R. Segal talks about how he wanted to establish the hardest trad route in China. Right off the bat, we see that he had a goal in his mind, and nothing was going to stop him.

Matt-Segal-Air-China-Fall-3As a route developer myself, I don’t seek out contrived lines just to fit my climbing goals. If a route ends up being easier than I thought it would be, I still take the time to clean it, and equip it in a safe way. Segal so desperately wanted this route to be considered a “traditional” route, he risked his own, and his belayers life just to try to nab the first ascent. His ego drove him to almost paying the ultimate price. In the end, the crux was so dangerous, he ended up adding a bolt, and sent the route using that bolt.

I understand the drive he felt. But there comes a point where you should check your ego at the door, and not let your pride destroy what might actually have been a great route. In the 21st century, you are IRRESPONSIBLE if you are establishing R/X routes. Period.

There was a time, where most trad routes were what we consider, R/X. This was simply because climbers in the 70’s didn’t have the gear necessary to protect the route. Bolts were terrible, and cams were not around, so many thin routes were put up with shitty hexes, and pounded in pitons. But today, we have bomber protection, 6 inch stainless steel glue-in bolts, and there’s no reason (other than selfish ego-stroking) why you should rob the community of an excellent, well protected sport route, just because you were stupid enough to risk your life and climb it using tiny off-set brass nuts, and three 000 C3’s.

Sure, the FA gets to name the route, grade it, and goes down in some guidebook or online route repository. But he/she does not own the rock, or get to dictate ethics/style. I would have no problem going to China, and bolting the shit out of Matt Segals route.

Do you agree? Let me know,

Wes.

 

5.14! What does it take?

Recently, a lot of you guys have been asking me what you can do to become better climbers. As someone who strives to always get better, smarter, and stronger – I have spent a lot of time asking the same questions. Am I training right? Eating right? How much have I improved this season? Will I ever climb 5.14?

It’s not easy. Unless your name is Adam Ondra, climbing is something that takes an exuberant  amount of hard work. Those people who don’t take it seriously, end up plateauing at that magic number, 5.9. This is because, beyond this grade, climbing becomes very technical, and requires some sort of sport-specific adaptive cultivation.

Do you think Chris Sharma started climbing 5.14 from just climbing once a week at a climbing gym? It was a conscious decision he made to get better, and having the tools and knowledge to accomplish what the mind has proclaimed. As a young climber, pushing through the grades, I feel the same way. I am at a level where I need to make a cognizant choice to climb at a 5.13 or even 5.14 level. I’m starting to set routes that challenge me. I need to stop climbing at grades I know I can climb (5.12+) and start climbing things that are beyond my limit. This is where the magic happens. And here are some tips to make that 5.14 grade, turn into reality.

  • Treadwall: treadwall04The most important part of training for climbing is climbing. This amazing piece of kit allows you to do that, on an exponentially grand scale. Want to climb El Cap in a day? The only way to do it in your New England garage, is the Treadwall. Sure, 5 grand is a big chunk of change… but think about it, what would you pay to have a “big wall” in your back yard? This is your only chance.
  • Diet: Climbing is not weight lifting. It is not running. There aren’t many nutrition and diet books out there on climbing. And most of the ones out there for other sports, don’t translate well over to the vertical world. As climbers, we eat Goo, Clif Bars, Protein bars, trail mix, and oatmeal. It can get pretty disgusting. One thing I’ve found that helps me, is to switch to eating one meal a day. Back in the 70’s, this is what climbers in Yosemite would do, and they were way more jacked than you. The science behind this is complex, but the theory is, if you have one giant meal a day, the muscles that you used for climbing, use all of that food energy to get stronger. I have been doing this for 3 months now and have had huge results.
  • Limit Climbing Outdoors: Climbing outdoors is great. It’s one of the best ways to climb. But it is so much more involved. You have to pack your pack, drive to the crag, hike in, gear up, rope up, lead a route, make an anchor…. annnnddddd…. now its 3:00pm and you’ve only been up one route. If you want to get strong, sacrifice the outdoors for a year, and focus on spending time at the gym climbing routes, and running laps.
  • Cruxes: I always find that for me, the crux on a route is the hardest part. It’s usually a very hard move that spits me out like an olive pit. It can be exhausting boinking up a rope, or having to reclimb part of a route, just to try the crux again. Instead, try to recreate to crux at a gym, or inside at your home wall. Mimic the angle, and the holds, and climb it over and over until you have it dialled. I have done this for my serious projects, and firmly believe I wouldn’t have sent without it.
  • Legs: When people first start climbing, they think that they need a lot of finger strength and big biceps. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The most important part of your body when you climb, is your legs. The stronger your legs are, the less weight you put on your fingers. When you see Chris Sharma dynoing from a hold, 70 feet above the water, it’s not his fingers or arms he’s using to propel him to the jug, it’s his legs! Do squats and leg presses, and really tone those thighs. Your hands are only used to keep you on the wall. You shouldn’t have much weight, if any, on those fingers.

Whatever you do, make sure you really commit. Climbing isn’t easy, so don’t treat it like a game. This is work. This is your life. This is why we climb!

Shred on, Wes.

Gear… on a budget!

We as climbers live our lives on a budget. We work 6 months of the year, so we can climb the other 6. We crash on couches, and eat out of dumpsters, just so we can save up a few bucks for gas. We hit the open road, wondering how we’ll be able to survive on 16 bucks a day. But when it comes to gear… like Rob Ford, we crack. Sure, my Columbia jacket from 1997 still works, but damn, have you seen Arc’teryx’s new Theta SVX jacket? Well I’m here to tell you, you don’t need to break the bank. You don’t need that new $800 jacket, or a new $300 rope from Sterling with Chris Sharma’s creepy blonde moustache hairs sewn into the fibres. Here are some great pieces of gear which won’t cut into your craft beer fund:

  • Rigid Stem Friends: Oh I’m sorry, are you scared? Are you worried that these cams aren’t as shiny as the new Black Diamond X4’s? Well for that $70 bucks you were going to spend on that 0.1 camalot, why not take a break from cat videos and spend some time checking out craigslist or ebay for some good ol’ used gear. Sure, it’s nice to have a brand new rack dangling from your harness, but guess what, your dad climbed in the 70’s with pieces of railroad spikes as protection, and he still climbed harder than you.cam
  • Mountain Project: Guidebooks are great. They’re nice to hold, and look great on a bookshelf. But guess what, your dinner party guests don’t give a crap that you have all 7 volumes of “Freedom of the Hills”, or 4 versions of the “Red River Gorge” guidebook. If you’re going to spend $40 on a guide every time you go to a new climbing area, then please, can I have a ride in your limo? Go on-line, get the app, or print off a few pages of beta. Yeah I hear you, “but it’s not always up to date, and it doesn’t have everything” – Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were going to climb everything.
  • Goodwill: Have you ever been to the Patagonia store? They have to special order their price tags from a car dealership in order to fit their prices on them. Do yourself a favor, when you see a Goodwill, or Salvation Army store, go in and have a quick browse. Oh that R3 hoody you’ve got is pretty nice, but for $200 I could have bought 50 of these:fleece
  • Budget Shoes: Sweet Solutions brah. You must shred hard.  But guess what? If you go back to the 1970’s with the cheapest ClimbX or Madrock climbing shoes you can find today, they would be so blown away, they would think you were an alien from the planet Climberon-5, sent here to replace those stiff, heavy, high top junk rubber atrocities they used to climb in. Seriously, if you think you’re falling off your proj because your shoes aren’t down-turned enough, perhaps you’d be better off as a spelunker.
  • Ice Climbing Gear: Modern ice climbing gear can be the most expensive climbing gear out there. Over the years, i have figured out a great way to save money. Don’t ice climb.

Have any other tips? We’re all on this journey together, so leave it in the comments or on the Facebook page!

As always, keep it real.