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

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Movie Review!: The Eiger Sanction

If there’s one thing we as climbers lack, it’s Hollywood films about rock climbing. Sure, we have the classics, Vertical Limit, Cliffhanger, and even Mission: Impossible 2, but other than that, I thought we were out of luck. That is, until someone recommended to me, The Eiger Sanction.

Yes, this movie came out in 1975, and yes, it is AMAZING!

The plot?

A classical art professor and collector (and former badass climber), who doubles as a professional assassin, is coerced out of retirement to avenge the murder of an old friend (on the Eiger North Face).

If that doesn’t have you running for the DVD bargain bin at Walmart, I don’t know what will. First off, I was confused at the title. I didn’t even know until some googling after I watched the movie that the “Eiger” is actually a real mountain! Eiger

I would love to go there someday and climb it! Who wants to plan an expedition next year??

Anyway, the movie begins with someone getting killed by an assassin. At least I think so.. the fighting is really awful, and if I’m to believe these are highly trained killers, then I’m a 5.14 climber (not yet, but soon). After that, we meet Clint Eastwood, the epitome of cool-as-shit professor. When a cute, young, blonde student shows up at his office asking if there’s “anything she can do” to maintain her B average, I was hoping Clint would do the right thing and say something like, “close the door and lets find out.” Instead, he tells her to study her little ass off… and sends her on her way. What a gentleman… Although he does slap her on her ass as he says it.

 

The next scene we meet another assassin, who looks like one of my dad’s bowling buddies, mind you, and he tells Eastwood that his old boss “Dragon” needs him for another hit. They get into a bit of a scuffle after Eastwood says “Don’t call me buddy, pal, or sweetheart!”, and Eastwood throws the guy out of his office.

But alas, Hemlock (Clint Eastwood) shows up at the secret assassin killing organization, run by the albino, blind, cold blooded lizard man named ‘Dragon’. He tells Hemlock that another agent was murdered, and the killer is a climber, so now Hemlock has to head to the Eiger to find him, and take him out. Obviously…

Hemlock takes the job, or “sanction”, and flies down to Utah to begin his training for the Eiger. This is where the movie goes from cheesy 70’s blacksploitation theatre, to legitimate Reel Rock Tour worthy badassery.

clint eastwood climbingI dont know how they filmed this… But I’ve got a $2000 DSLR camera, and a hell of a lot more climbing experience than Clint Eastwood, and yet when I try to film climbing, it never looks like this.

Hemlock trains for about half the movie with his old mentor, and a native american climber girl who doesn’t talk, but makes Hemlock run on 4th class terrain with jeans and a denim shirt on, after which she sheds her top and reveals her breasts to him, either for motivation, or because… well, it’s Clint freakin’ Eastwood.

After some more fights, more ass grabbing, and more offensive 70’s characters (Hemlocks old arch nemisis is so gay, he named his dog, “faggot”), Hemlock and his old mentor climb an unclimbed tower, and marvel at how well Hemlock is climbing.

the eiger sanction beerThe best part of the movie is when Hemlocks buddy says, “How about a beer?”. Then Eastwood replies, “If you brought beer up here, you’re even crazier than I thought!” To which buddy replies, “I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid. I didn’t carry it, you did. It’s in your pack!”.

That line alone… is worth watching this film.

Anyway…. after that, they go to the Eiger. A bunch of stuff happens, he tries to find the killer, people die… but it’s mostly mountaineering, and nobody likes to watch mountaineering.

5/5 Stars! * * * * *

What do you guys think?

Wes

 

 

Climbing gear is a rip-off!!

I watch a lot of these shows on television where people ‘pitch’ businesses and products to wealthy investors. Aside from inspiring me to pursue my guiding business, these programs have taught me that most products cost 46 cents to make, and yet are sold to you and I for $50. Never is this more true than for the outdoor gear industry. There’s a reason we call Patagonia clothing, Patagucci. The “real world” has no clue that the ugly brown fleece sweater I’m wearing, probably costs more than the faded Guess jeans, polka-dot Gap shirt, and those SoftMoc moccasins combined that the girl sitting at Starbucks is wearing. But why?

patagonia

  • Newsflash: Every sweater that you own for climbing is made out of plastic. That’s right… You are paying cashmere prices for the same material as that disposable fork you’re eating your kale salad with. And how much plastic is used to make one sweater? About the size of a small apple! Stretched out into plastic thread, and woven by machine (or child in sweatshop) into that fancy sweater. Total cost of plastic? 79 cents. Total cost to you? $249.99. Stop the madness..
  • Cam I help you? Spring Loaded Camming Devices, Friends, Camalots… These are the ultimate “bling” in climbing. Nothing proves how badass you are more than having a shiny new rack of cams dangling off your harness, other than some well loved hexes. Lets do some math here… A # 6 Black Diamond Camalot costs $110 at your average gear shop and weighs 1 lb, 4 ounces. Scrap aluminum prices are about $ 0.74/lb. That means the camalot has 92 cents worth of metal in it. That’s a mark-up of….  over 10,000 %! But I hear you… you’re paying that mark-up for the engineering, integrity, and safety of the the product and design… These things are bomber!

106320088_medium_bf0da2

 

  • This ain’t your daddies hemp rope: Climbing Ropes are ridiculous… At least with most other climbing gear, if you take care of it, it can last a lifetime. Rope on the other hand, barely lasts a season. Why? Bingo! It’s made of plastic! Climbing gear companies are huge corporations that pretend to be grass roots, save the whales, organic hippie farmers. They are out for one thing: Profit. I’m sure that these companies would be able to produce a stronger, longer lasting rope made from something other than nylon, but why would they? Most ropes can only take 6 or 7 falls before the company recommends replacing it. And at over $200, they can be sure you’ll be bled dry at the start of every season. Even someone like me who doesn’t fall often, has to worry about the rope deteriorating into dust after a season’s worth of UV damage.

Damaged rope

  • Shoes: I for one, don’t believe in climbing shoes. If you think wearing Solutions makes the difference between sending, and not sending, get in the gym and train, because you’re not strong enough yet. However, I know most of you wear some form of climbing shoe. Have you ever looked at a climbing shoe? I mean, really looked at it? It’s nothing more than a few strips of leather, stitched together, and dipped in rubber. Slap on some velcro and paint, and boom, you’ve just made a climbing shoe that sells for $179. Now you’re talking AirJordan prices, and worst of all, climbing shoes only last a couple months before the rubber wears off, and then you’re left with the worlds most uncomfortable house slipper. Climbing shoes should cost about 30 bucks, and be coated in a rubber that doesn’t wear out.

climbshoe

It’s all about greed folks. These companies preach the dirt bag lifestyle, though I wouldn’t be surprised if all the employees are out there sipping on macchiato’s in their Audi’s, listening to Nickleback, while we pick up the bill.

Let’s change the world.

Wes.

 

Answering Your Questions:

There have been a ton of comments and questions on this site, and on various online forums. I have tried to avoid reading the very negative ones, but will try to address some concerns some of you have had:

Via RockClimbing.com: hippiegrrrl has said, “Cams can clink and rattle on your harness, but they ought to be shipped with safety foam”

My Response: Yes. Cams can clink on a harness, but surely being packed in a box, and thrown around a shipping facility/truck is different than that. The postal worker could literally drop your box of cams from the 4th storey window of the post office down to his truck, and you would never know how good his aim is.

Via MountainProject.com: Jeff J said, “If that is his TR anchor, I never climbing a big wall with this guy. I can not imagine the cluster F*%& that would ensue. ”

My Response: Jeff, I am sad you wouldn’t want to climb a big wall with me. I hope to one day soon go big wall climbing, but feel I need a lot more practice Aid Climbing. Aid seems to be the one area of my climbing skills which is lacking. I know that it is the most technically and mentally challenging part of “climbing”. Maybe after a few years of Big Walling, you feel that you can make less bomber anchors. I, on the other hand, believe an anchor should hold at least 3-4x the maximum load conceivable.

Via SuperTopo.com: budmiller wrote, “certainly a fake but a very good one. The devils in the details, like how he set his own 5.12!”

My Response: Budmiller, just because I set my own routes, does not mean I am fake. I try to be as real as possible. If somebody does’t agree with my grading of a route, they can certainly voice their opinion. Rock climbing grades are all subjective. There are some 5.13’s out there that some people like Chris Sharma would grade as a 5.9, because to him it is easy. I feel like the route to me, is 5.12.

Via ThisWebsite: Anonymous wrote, “Hey Wes, great blog. Helped me get the right stuff to go do some top roping out at the crag out in Sydney. Totally stoked to read your blog. Hey man was wondering if you could like teach me how to like place those anchor things in the rock….but like over the internet man. Raaaad!!”

My Response: Thanks so much! I am very happy to have helped you! It’s nice to know I have fans out in Sydney! I love Kiwis, and hope to visit some day! Those anchor things in the rock are called bolts! It is very important you learn how to place these from a certified mountain guide/route developer and check with your local climbing area’s access fund before ever attempting to do so. I am a self-taught route developer.

If you have any other questions or anything, make sure you drop me a comment or question on here or on my Facebook Page!

Iran, and I ran.

Recently, I found out that Iran will be building a new mega climbing gym:

http://www.archdaily.com/470579/new-wave-architecture-designs-rock-gym-for-polur/

iran

This is awesome! I’ve never quite seen anything like it before, and I’ve been to literally DOZENS of climbing gyms. I think this is great. Since there is no rock climbing in the middle east, I feel like building these giant climbing gyms will finally bring in some much needed tourist dollars to the war torn region. And best of all, gives us climbers a reason to travel to the middle east, since as we all know, we can’t go anywhere unless we know there’s climbing nearby!

I for one, am looking forward to checking out Iran’s route setting!

See you there!

Where are you buying your climbing gear?

I found this video… The climber in the video is very frustrated… I suggest you watch the whole video as it is very informative, but the main point is: If you order climbing gear online, you expect it to be packaged safely. Climbing gear, cams specifically, are very fragile. They should be individually packed in foam in such a way that there is no movement, and no metal on metal touching. Receiving a package with 2 or more cams touching basically calls in to question their integrity. What is your life worth? It’s impossible to know how the package was handled. For God’s sake, if you drop, scratch, or fall on a piece of gear — it should become a keychain, not something that you trust with your life.

Also…. I was not aware that Black Diamond carabiners are made in China? Not cool.. I would call for independent testing of these carabiners to make sure they have the same standards as ones made in the USA.

As always, why knot climb?

Sandbagging at the Red.

I want to talk about some of the things new climbers will experience with outdoor routes. Something called, “Sandbagging“.

Last fall, I was lucky enough to tag along on a trip some of the climbers from our gym were going on to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. This was my first time at “The Red”, and I didn’t really know what to expect. Back home, I can easily climb any of the 5.11 routes at the gym, within 5 or 6 attempts. But “The Red” was different.

We started on a climb called,  “27 Years of Climbing“, which had a written grade of 5.8. Usually, I am able to send this grade first try, but found myself struggling after every clip. I think I had to rest on each one. I am not sure if this is one of those historic routes that were climbed when routes only went up to 5.10, but I think the grade should change to reflect modern grades of today.

After some lunch, we headed to a route called, “Gettin’ Lucky in Kentucky“, which had a written grade of 5.10b. Some friends were “working” this route, and I decided to attempt it on top rope. I couldn’t believe the ridiculous grade of 5.10b! This route was waaaay harder than anything I’ve been on before, and I felt very discouraged. This is the trouble with “Sandbagging”. Some areas intentionally grade routes harder than they are, and when people climb there for the first time, they are shut down by grades they easily can climb back home.

kentuck

Anyway, this is just my way of saying, don’t let climbing sandbaggery get you down. It’s their issues, not yours. Believe in yourself!

Climb on! And climb on rocks!

Wes.