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

 

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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).

 

 

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.

Inspired!

As some of you may know, recently, Alex Honnold completed an incredible free solo in Mexico, on a route called “El Sendero Luminoso“. This was very inspiring to me. Sometimes, (more often than not), I cannot find anybody that will climb with me. It sucks because not having a belayer really prevents me from progressing as fast as I know I could. At the gym, this isn’t a problem because of Auto-Belays. I love them. I only wish there was a portable Auto-Belay that I could take outdoors (I’m looking at you, Petzl!).

Anyway, a few days ago, pumped with adrenaline from the Honnold video, I decided to attempt my first outdoor boulder problem- with NO crash pad, and NO spotter.

What a thrill! I attempted a local problem with a grade of V1, however, I added a sit-start variation which I believe may bring it up to V3. Not sure who I talk to about adding my variation to the guide book, but either way, it was incredible.

The boulder is almost 10 feet high. I started slow.. controlled my breathing… half way I took a rest on a jug, and I controlled my anxiety. I made one final crux move…. And I was on top.

I know this doesn’t compare to what Alex Honnold does, but to me, it was my first free solo.

boulder

On a side note… I recently have been getting some negative comments on here and on various forum sites. I am sorry if I have offended anybody in any way. I will review all of your constructive criticism, and try to help the community better with my, and your expertise.

Peace, Wes.

Another Bolt War…

So I recently found a route at one of my local climbing areas that I believed was unclimbed. It was a beautiful route, so I decided to set up an anchor and rappel the route and clean it. I tried to send it on top rope, and felt like it would be an amazing addition to the climbs at the cliff. I came back the next day and put in bolts to make this climb accessible for everybody to enjoy it. When I was finished I lowered back down to the ground and was confronted by 2 very angry older climbers. They had told me that I was wrong to put bolts on this route because it had been climbed before and the person who climbed it first didn’t put any bolts in, so nobody can.

How was I supposed to know that this was climbed by somebody else? There were no anchors at the top, no bolts, and its was dirty and full of loose rocks. I felt like I was adding to the routes at the cliff, but these climbers were very frustrated and confrontational. I decided I’d better leave.

I think that it is unfair for someone else to say how a route should be climbed. I like my route, and I’m hoping others will get to enjoy it as well.

I named it, “Rock Climbing Life” 5.8+, in honour of this blog!

RAGE!

So… as most of you know, I climbed my first 5.12 recently. Some people at the gym have been not so nice when I told them (I posted it on the gym bulletin board). I don’t understand why people feel the need to criticize others. I don’t know why they feel the need to put me down. Maybe because I started climbing later than some of them, and still have progressed quicker – could it be jealousy? Is this just human nature?

For now, I will continue to set routes that are hard for me, and work on sending them. I will try to ignore the haters. I climb for me. I suggest you all do the same.

Peace and Love (and rock and plastic).

Wes.

Progression!

my routeLong story short, I sent my first 5.12 route today! At our gym, I spent a few hours trying to set a 5.12 route, so that I could work on something at my limit. I had tweaked the route dozens of times, and when I felt it was ready, I grabbed my climbing shoes and tied into the sharp end! I worked it on top rope for almost 2 days! Finally, today I reached the top. I want to thank my belayers for their patience and encouragement. I was able to do the whole route with only one fall (it was only on the 3rd move so I kept going). I feel like this is the hardest route I’ve sent, the previous hardest being a 5.11. I am excited to keep progressing as a climber.

This is why we climb!

Cheers, Wes.