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

 

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).

 

 

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.

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.

Tech Tips from a Pro.

So how about another “Tech Tips” post? I know a lot of you are overwhelmed with the amount of gear and knowledge out there when it comes to rock climbing, and it can be tough to filter through all the junk. Here our some things I’ve learned that have helped me get to where I am today:

  • Socks are your friend: Climbing shoes are made of leather. Leather is an organic material, and can decompose when in contact with moisture (sweat). This makes the climbing shoes very smelly and can ruin them. I started climbing without socks because thats what I was told, but after a month, they smelled so bad that people in the gym wouldn’t go near me! I chucked that pair of shoes in the bin, and have switched to exclusively wearing socks with every new pair. Any cotton sock will do the job.
  • Brushes only go so far: When I climb at the gym, or even outside, I find that the toothbrush I’m using doesn’t quite get the holds as clean as I need for optimal friction. A little trick I use is to carry a spray bottle with me filled with water and alcohol. When I am going to project a boulder problem or route, I make sure to brush each hold, then, spray it thoroughly with the water bottle, wait 10-15 minutes until completely dry, then dip the toothbrush in some chalk, and re-brush each hold. Do this, and you’ll jump a full number grade.
  • Boinking: A lot of climbers will try (futilely) to “boink” up a rope after a lead fall. I see climbers do this all the time in our lead cave where a fall puts you in space. They are usually so tired after trying to blink, that even when they make it back on the route, their exhaustion overwhelms them, and they fail to send! Thus, I like to use a little trick that outdoor climbers have been using for decades: prussiking. I always carry paracord on me anyway, so when I need to get back up to a route after a fall, I set up 2 prussiks, and use a quickdraw clipped into my harness to ascend the rope. In a few minutes, you’re at the top, and not tired at all!prusik
  • Core, core, core: You’ll hear a lot of climbers use the term, “core”. This is used to describe the fact that a lot of climbing uses the muscles in the middle of your body. But climbing itself does not work out these muscles. In order to get “core” strong, you need to supplement your climbing with crunches and sit-ups! The best way to do this is in between routes or boulder burns at the gym. Do a boulder problem, do some sit-ups, do a route, do some crunches. This has literally saved my life in times where you cannot fall, and have to do a “core” move.

Anyway guys, I hope you enjoy todays post. Have any other tips you want to share? Leave a comment!

Namaste, Wes.