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.

 

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Crag Cooking – Say NO to Clif Bars!

It was around 1 p.m. and the hordes of shirtless gym rats were at the crag rummaging through their alpine packs, dumping out first-aid kits and shiny new quick draws, desperately searching for that last Clif Bar. Watching them devour what honestly looks like a hunk of really nicely packed cow shit makes me want to barf. Sure, there’s a sick-as-hell climber on the packaging, and yes, flavours like Peanut Toffee Buzz sound incredible, but don’t get sucked into the hype.

These dense turds do have their place, however. Ueli Steck has said that he took half a Clif Bar up Annapurna (without the packaging to save weight), and even I took a few up the gruelling, intense technical climb up Mount Marcy this winter. It was the right amount of fuel I needed to keep me alive in that alpine environment.

The crag is not the Himalayas. It takes 5 minutes to hike to the cliff, and we’re climbing single pitch routes in the sun all day. So why the hell would you suffer and eat nothing but Clif Bars, Gatorade, and Goo? Because of the climber on the packaging?

When I’m out for the day and climbing single pitch routes at an easy access crag, I can honestly tell you that half the weight in my crag pack, is dedicated solely to food, and instruments/tools to cooking that food.

6a00d83452c19069e200e5519a630a8834-800wiThis is my camp kitchen. I literally bring it with me every single time I go climbing. Right around 1 o’clock, I stop what I’m doing, find a flat area to set up my picnic blanket, and begin cooking. I bring olive oil, spices, broth, a spatula, a frying pan, a pot, a cutting board, and oh yes, a cheese knife. I will bring flour and water, and pan bake my own crag bread. I cook everything on the BioLite wood burning stove (comes in handy charging my iPod/speakers too!). Just yesterday, I spent an hour making a fabulous meal at the base of a classic route, and everybody just stood there staring at me. They were clearly super jealous. Having a hot meal can make the difference between sending and not sending. Next time you chow down on that Mr. Hankey shaped protein bar and head up on your proj, ask yourself, “am I failing because I’m weak, or am I just friggin’ hungry??”

Do yourself a favour, put together a crag kitchen kit, and practice making a few hot meals at home before venturing outside. Perfect your recipes, and you’ll be the envy of every other climber at the crag. You’ll be # 1, while everyone else is stuck eating # 2’s.

Let me know how you guys do!

To get you started, here’s a fantastic crag recipe for “Vegetable Polenta Cakes”:

med polenta cake

5 C water

1 C cornmeal

2 tbsp sweet peas

2 tbsp corn

2 tbsp red pepper (diced)

2 tbsp parmesan

salt

white pepper

nutmeg

olive oil

 

Direction:

1. Bring water to a boil, season with salt. Whisk in cornmeal, corn, peas & red pepper. Continue stirring until no longer grainy. Add parmesan, white pepper and nutmeg to taste.

2. Once polenta has thickened (approx. 30 min) Pour mixture into a saran lined baking dish. Add a second layer of saran wrap on top & smooth down directly onto polenta. Chill for 2 hrs.

3. When ready to make polenta cakes, lift polenta out of the dish, remove saran wrap & place polenta on cutting board. According to desired shape-use either round cookie cutter or cut polenta into large squares.

4. Place saute pan over med heat & add 1 tbsp olive oil. When oil is hot, add cakes & cook until golden brown on both sides (turning as little as possible).