Interesting Ethan Pringle Interview at Climbing.com

I was surprised today to see Ethan Pringle's name pop up in Climbing.com's hot flashes section for getting the 3rd ascent of Australia's Wheel of Life (V15-ish). Last year Pringle sustained the same injury I had when I was 23--a torn labrum in the shoulder. And damn, has he bounced back fast. It took me over 2 years to fully recover. I guess he had a better PT.

One part of his interview really struck home though, and that was about rediscovering the pure joy of climbing on easy routes when injury takes away the obsession with grades:

"...We hiked over to East Cottage Dome and, against my better judgment, I got on this 5.10c. I actually had to push myself and my shoulder outside my comfort zone, and it ended up being one of the most satisfying climbs I've ever done. The whole experience was so fulfilling. It was great to know I could still get that feeling from easy climbing."

I got that same feeling the first time I sent the Basketball Mantle (V3) on the Shady Grove boulder at Rumbling Bald 2 years after my surgery. I felt like I had totally pushed myself and my shoulder, but it was the first time I felt I had climbed a "real problem" again. The feeling of satisfaction was just as great, if not better, than after sending my hardest projects in Boone years before. I still remember laying back on the rock, and just soaking the experience in and feeling grateful (especially cuz I almost biffed the mantle and fell from the top without a spot and just one deflated old Cordless pad!).

Anyway, reading this interview hit very close to home. The whole thing can be found at Climbing's hot flashes page.



The Danger of Technique…and the Challenge of Restraint

I started climbing about 15 years ago, which means I was climbing before I could even drive a car. I’ve had a lot of high and low points with climbing during that time. But regardless of the highs and lows, there’s one thing that remains constant (besides my obsession) and that’s technique. It’s not that I have great technique, but over 15 years you learn how to move with the rock, not against it. Within a year after I started climbing seriously after taking 2 whole years off for a torn labrum, I was back to climbing V7/V8. Strength gains were a part of that, but largely it was due to the fact that technique stays with you, you don’t have to relearn it, and even if you’re a bit weak it can help you pull through a lot of stuff. And that’s where the danger of technique comes in for the injured climber, I’m finding.

I’ve had a messed up neck and shoulder for over a year now and I’ve lost a lot of strength in that time. But when I’m out climbing (especially if I’m with friends) I get psyched and can’t help but jump on a problem. A lot of times I can pull through only because I’ve got the technique to fall back on. And then I suffer the consequences with days of pain and a further prolonged recovery time. If technique went out the door at the same rate as strength, I’d be hopelessly shut down on most problems and couldn’t continue to hurt myself. So this is my big middle finger to technique! Damn you, muscle memory, for giving me just enough skill to think I can still pull down when it’s obvious I should be drinking Bud Light Lime on the couch. Of course, I can blame whatever I want (this is America dammit), but the real culprit here is obviously my lack of restraint. It’s a strange test of will to not climb since I’ve spent most of the last 15 years pushing myself with climbing. What a strange reversal: Not climbing is the new climbing, in the sense that climbing has always challenged me and now not climbing is maybe even harder.

What scares me the most is I think this is how getting old begins: Learning to accept with grace the things that are beyond your control. I’m sure there is some peace to be found in learning that lesson, I’m just not sure I’m ready to accept that I’m already there. I’d like to think I have at least a few years of grace-free living left in me.



The Summer that Wasn’t

Please excuse the post title; it’s just the English major in me trying to be dramatic. Let me put it another way: This summer is kinda lame so far. I’m still working full-time and also taking two pre-req summer classes to prepare for grad school in the fall (one just finished last week, thank gawd). The only thing that’s getting me through is knowing I’ll be living back in Boone in a about a month, and that I’ll have 3 weeks in August to do nothing but climb and creek swim and take a few side trips. As it is, I’ve made it out climbing twice in the last 5 weeks. That, my friends, is pretty weak sauce, even for an injured geriatric in the heat of summer.

This weekend me and Melissa went to our apartment in Boone (that we’re having to rent all summer to lock it in for the Fall). We spent most of the time studying but we did make it to the swimming hole that’s near our place and to Beacon Heights on the drive home. As soon as we set down our pads at Beacon Heights it started raining…hard. So we climbed a couple of lines and high-tailed it outta there before the thunder and lightning got too crazy. I didn’t even really get warmed up! The good news is that I didn’t have time to tweak my shoulder, either—it feels great today. But I’m sticking to my plan of not climbing anything hard this summer and slowly building the strength back up. I’ve been having some interesting thoughts on the dangers of technique to injured climbers, as well as a non-western perspective on how to think about climbing grades. All of which I’ll post about soon. With injury and no free time, I’m having to get all philosophical about climbing. Ah so…So here's my one last deep thought for today: Moving to Boone as an injured climber is like going to a feast with a stapled stomach. And this thought truly keeps me up at night lately.

Melissa on some of the fun slabs at Beacon Heights:

We escaped to the car in a break in the rain. Grandfather was looking pretty stormy.



Barnardsville Boulder and Walker Creek Boulders

The Big Ivy National Forest near Barnardsville offers the closest bouldering to Asheville (about 25 minutes or so) and it’s relatively cool in the summer months. There are also a lot of creeks to take a shallow dip in to cool off on summer days. If interested, you can also add some easy (but not terribly exciting) rope climbing in at Snake Den.

The Barnardsville boulder

The Barnardsville boulder is pretty cool. For one thing, it’s huge and the rock quality is pretty good. You’ve got to be climbing around V5 to get much out of this majorly overhanging rock, though. There is one really fun V2, but it’s a high ball. Bring lots of pads for this place. Oh, and the approach is like 2 minutes. Sweet.

Walker Creek boulders / Sanctuary

This is a good place to warm up for the Barnardsville boulder or bring beginners. The left wall of the boulder has 3 V0s and a long, fairly easy traverse (maybe v0 to v2, depending on where you top out). There are also some small peripheral faces and boulders with easier routes. The overhanging side of the main boulder has some fun routes that range from V2-V4, with harder routes waiting to get sent. I think there are a couple of V8-ish routes in the middle of the face for someone with mad crimping skills. This boulder is recently developed, so bring some brushes and an eye for new lines. There are also a few scattered boulders up the trail (see the directions below).

A low-res video of a fun, easy overhanging problem at the Sanctuary:

Another short video of Chakra Khan at the Sanctuary, Walker Creek boulders.

Driving directions:

From Asheville, take 26 for about 12 miles towards Johnson City. Take exit 15 for Barndardsville / Jupiter / 197. Take a right off the ramp and go 6 miles until you are in a very small “downtown” area, and turn Right on Dillingham road. This road eventually has a few confusing semi-forks, but just stay on the main road; it’s pretty obvious as long as you don’t let the forks deceive you. The most obvious fork in the road is 3.8 miles after you turn onto Dillingham rd; just stay to the Right at the fork to stay on Dillingham. After another mile from the fork, the road turns to dirt and you’re in the Big Ivy wilderness.

For the Barnardsville boulder, drive 2 miles up the dirt road and park in a pullout in a bend where the creek goes beneath the road. Hike up the 4WD road to the left of the pullout for about 100 yards. You can’t miss the boulder.

For Walker Creek, take the first right turn that comes about a half mile after the road turns to dirt in the National Forest. Take this road down to where it dead-ends in a dirt parking lot for the Mountain Light Sanctuary and Walker Creek trailhead.

The main boulder here (I’ve been calling it the Sanctuary) is just above the parking lot. In fact, if you look up the hill and to the right from the lot, you can just see it through the trees, even in summer. The best way to access the Sanctuary boulder is to walk up the Walker Creek trail about 30 yards. I’ve put a small cairn on the left side of the trail. Cut into the woods here and follow the faint trail up and left back towards the boulder. It’s a bit longer of a hike this way than cutting straight up the hill (2-3 minutes total maybe), but less steep (and so probably better for erosion).

There are some more mossy boulders as you continue to hike about 10 mins up the Walker’s Creek trail. You can see pics of them in this old post. Go explore if you’re feeling adventurous.



Great Climbing Photography Video

This video is a really cool behind-the-scenes look at climbing photography. Lots of nice exposure, too. Check out those telephoto lenses! Crazy. Makes the rock climbing cameras I reviewed last week look dinky.



Last Day to Speak Up on Chimney Rock Park Plans!

It's just come to my attention that today is the final day to make comments about future plans for the state park. If you want to be able to climb in places other than Rumbling Bald in the new Chimney Rock State Park, now's the time to speak up. As rock climbers, what will shape the park are our comments. Yes, our comments really are used for the planning process and if we want to be heard we have to submit our comments TODAY. So Please do it now if you're interested in the future of rock climbing in Chimney Rock State Park. Here's how (it only takes a minute if you use the italic cut and paste answers below for the fill-in part of the form):

Go to www.greenways.com/chimneyrock.html Click on 'Online Comment Form' on the page's top right.

You'll be asked about how you'd like to use the park, and which of 3 future plan options for possible directions for the park is your favorite. Here's a quick breakdown of the plans:

(Keep in mind these plans are not strict, and it's likely nothing shown in the three plans will depict exactly the shape of the park in the future. With that in mind, here are the three options presented.)

Option 1 is extreme. Strictly conservation oriented, Option 1 does an extreme disservice to any and all recreational interests in the park, and arguably goes against the mission of N.C. State Parks.

Option 2 is a good middle-road, balancing recreation and conservation, but still probably not providing enough recreational opportunity in a park that is so large.

Option 3 is great for recreational interests, with still enormous swaths of land that will remain untouched and preserved. However, the proposed road up a steep mountain side in Worlds Edge would cause too much damage in a ecologically significant area. For this reason, it's worth opposing this road explicitly.

For the write-in section responding to the question, "What would you like to see not shown in the plan of your choice," here's a suggested comment:

Increased management planning and study areas on a cliff-by-cliff basis for rock climbing access; increased rock climbing access in general, throughout the park; rock climbing access within the entire Rumbling Bald, Worlds Edge, and Rount Top Conservation Management Areas, as well as other areas of the park; rock climbing access within the Chimney Rock attraction area.

As climbers, it's critically important we show a desire to balancing conservation interests with recreational interests in the new park. For the write-in section for Additional Comments, here's a suggestion:

Preserving the unique and often rare natural resources of Chimney Rock State Park and Hickory Nut Gorge is a major concern for rock climbers in the park. Another major concern for climbers is our desire to see significantly increased access to climbing resources in the new state park, climbing resources other than the south face of Rumbling Bald Mountain. One resource protection perspective out there says climbers and natural resource protection the Hickory Nut Gorge area are not compatible, and that climbers should be confined to Rumbling Bald's south side. The first part of this view is simply not true. There are no studies in Hickory Nut Gorge that support this view, and there are too many precedents from around the country--and world--where climbers have worked in successful partnerships with conservation biologists, on a local, cliff-by-cliff, route-by-route basis to achieve mutually shared goals of recreational access and natural resource protection. Furthermore, allowing climbers access only to Rumbling Bald's south side actually only increases the danger to the natural resources there, concentrating and increasing user-impacts in an already very popular area. A better, common-sense solution would be to spread the use over a wider area, decreasing the impact overall by spreading people out.

In the new state park, we have the opportunity to create yet another precedent for well-balanced state park management, preserving the natural integrity and species of Hickory Nut Gorge while increasing the recreational opportunity for one of our state's most responsible user groups. Rock climbers look forward to working toward conservation solutions that support well-managed climbing access throughout the new state park.

Again, it's essential that climbers speak out in great numbers. Make yourself heard! Again, go to--http://www.greenways.com/chimneyrock.html--review the plans and make your comments now. It really does take just a minute and could make a huge difference.

Imagine all that incredible rock possibly being more open to climbers! It's worth a quick survey, eh?



Frixtion's Competition

Used to be that when I googled Frixtion, this blog was one of the very few things that popped up. The biggest competition was the FriXion pen and some band with a facebook page. But now there's a new contender on the block using the the oh-so-clever mispelling. And he's--god forbid--one of those "rap artists"...only he's from England or something. He's like the Euro Eminem. But I figure I'm going to start using this song as the backdrop to every climbing video I make from now on. It's obvious that fate is bringing us together. So let the velvety sounds of Frixtion wash over you, my friends...


Snake Den, Barnardsville

Snake Den appears in the 3rd edition of the Climber’s Guide to North Carolina by Thomas Kelley, but not in the new guidebook from Mountaineer’s press that has become the standard for the state. I went there briefly this weekend to teach Melissa how to rappel and thought it might be useful to put the topo online for those who can’t get a copy of the old book. They are online at Amazon, but they’re a bit steep because the book is out of print.

To be honest, Snake Den is a marginal crag at best. It’s mostly slab and the routes are nothing to write home about. Plus the guidebook warns against critters of all sorts like wasps and bats living on and in the rock. However, it’s the closest crag to Asheville and it has zero approach time since it’s right next to the dirt road. It also has a few very easy and very short routes to the left side of the crag that are nice, hike-up-accessible topropes for beginners or kids (and a good place to practice rappelling). The rest of the rock requires trad gear, which I think is too bad (though I normally love trad climbing so don’t give me hell for saying that :). This crag is very underused and not very exciting, but it could be a great training ground for new climbers. If there were just a few more bolted anchors at the obvious ledge systems, I think this place would be much more popular for toproping. And why shouldn’t it be? It’s not got a lot else going for it. And maybe it would relieve a bit of congestion on Looking Glass’s south side if this place were a bit more beginner-friendly. But before anyone breaks out the bolt guns, it’d be good to check with the NFS folks to make sure there’s no bolting ban.

If you hit up Snake Den and the two boulders out in Barnardsville, you can get a halfway-decent light day in when you don’t have a lot of time to drive somewhere else.


From Asheville, take 26 for about 12 miles towards Johnson City. Take exit 15 for Barndardsville / Jupiter / 197. Take a right off the ramp and go 6 miles until you are in a very small “downtown” area, and turn Right on Dillingham road. This road eventually has a few confusing semi-forks, but just stay on the main road; it’s pretty obvious as long as you don’t let the forks deceive you. The most obvious fork in the road is 3.8 miles after you turn onto Dillingham rd; just stay to the Right at the fork to stay on Dillingham. After another mile from the fork, the road turns to dirt and you’re in the Big Ivy wilderness. Stay on this dirt road for 4 to 5 miles as it winds up the mountain. The crag will be on your left and the best parking is just past the wall on the right.

Directions to boulders are in this post.

Note: Click to enlarge. The blue bolts are newer looking anchors I noticed above the corner. I haven't been up there, though, so approach with intelligence. Topo Copyright Thomas Kelley and published by Earthbound Sports.


1. Freddie’s Dead 5.2
2. Unknown 5.3
3. Dark in Bad 5.7
4. Sunny Daye 5.5
5. Wasp Flake 5.4
6. Scrambled Brains 5.7
7. Mist 5.6
8. Syringe 5.7
9. Desolation Row 5.8
10. Testosterone Bunny 5.7
11. Unknown 5.9 X
12. Bookends 5.6 (starred route)
13. Fer-De-Lance 5.9
14. Yo Mamba 5.10
15. Redneck 5.8
16. Unknown 5.9

Disclaimer: This info comes from a book that’s 15 years old. I’m supplying it as a reference, but keep in mind that things change, bolts rust, climbing’s dangerous, etc, etc. So don’t sue me if a bolt’s missing and you wet your Huggies on a big runout.

Other info to know:

You can camp just about anywhere out here; it’s all NFS land. Just follow NFS rules and regs.

This crag gets a lot of sun in the summer, so go early or late to beat the heat.

It's about 180 feet tall at the highest point.

The dirt road is closed in the winter, usually after the first snow. It opens in the spring, usually by May 1st.

You can reach Douglas falls if you keep driving up the road where it dead-ends and hike in for about a half mile. You can also find other small pools to cool off in one of the many creeks.

To wrap up, If you approach Barnardsville climbing as a diversion rather than a destination, it can make for a nice day. Just make sure you're comfortable with all things trad before you climb at Snake Den, and methinks you'll need double ropes for some of the rappels from the very top.



Ze Future, Part II

So I was thinking more this weekend about technology and how climbing ethics might have to change over time to accommodate for information gleaned before an attempt on a route.

And that’s when I had a Nostradamus-like prediction: The Tech Point is soon upon us.

Yes, the tech point. We all know red points, and pink points, and onsights, and flashes. But once ipads and the like start getting embedded in every damn thing like our fingernails, we’re gonna need a standard for what it means when you’ve sussed a project to death via the internet before you climb it. And that’s the tech point. Someone call 8a.nu and tell ‘em to update the score card.

And as should always be the case in matters of the future and malicious technology, we need only to turn to Keanu Reeves for guidance. Sure, we’re just looking at video clips now in 2010, but eventually the tech-point will become way more sophisticated, as Keanu shows us:

Example 1. Keanu in Johnny Mnemonic, using virtual reality to work out the tricky beta for some burly project that’s rumored to be in the 5.16 range.

Example 2. Keanu in The Matrix, downloading stuff straight to the brain case. This is probably the most efficient way to go if you don’t mind having a giant USB port in the back of your head. It beats working a hangboard, in my humble opinion. I'd lose the trenchcoat before roping up, though.

The question is, what will you do? Will you be one of the “hippies” who are all righteous and “pure” about climbing, but who couldn’t crimp their way out of the stone cellar prison in Silence of the Lambs? Or will you embrace change and the tech point and crush like Keanu?



Ze Future?

Perhaps you've seen this, but I thought it was too interesting not to share: There's now a Red River Gorge climbing guide iphone app.

The luddite in me thinks this is kinda weird, and goes against one of the main reasons for being in the woods climbing (which is to disentangle from the complications of the real world). But then there's a part of me that thinks, "Damn, that's pretty f-ing cool. I'd use that if I had an iphone." Just chalk up before you use it. You don't want to drop it on a 90% humidity day at the gorge. Which brings up another point...all my guidebooks are trashed. I'd probably trash my phone at the crag too. But maybe that just reflects on me...

Regardless, it's an interesting undertaking, and something that will become more common I'm sure. But can you imagine the debates this technology could spur? "Hey, you didn't get the onsight because you watched the embedded video first!" You only yellow-pointed tech-pointed it, dude. Sorry."

Check out the vid:

And the Red River Climbing home page.


Site Design Changes...again

Ruh roh, I've tweaked the site again. I guess I get bored easily. But this look is pretty clean. It allows for big pictures. I like it. Maybe it'll stick around for awhile this time.

Rock Climbing Camera Roundup

I’ve been thinking about getting a new camera for climbing lately because I’m pretty tired of lugging my big Canon Rebel around. It takes up a lot of room in a pack or pad and is something I’d rarely take up on a climb with me. So going small is key to me when choosing a new camera for climbing. And since I’ve been doing so much research, I thought I might as well share what I’m finding.

The Olympus EPL-1: The best climbing camera for the amateur D-SLR shooter?

To understand why this camera works so well for climbing, you need a little back story on the technology. D-SLR cameras (the ones with interchangeable lenses) have always been bulky because they have a mirror inside them that flips up when you press the shutter button, thus exposing the scene being shot onto the sensor. Olympus was the first camera maker to remove the mirror and use a very small sensor in a camera with interchangeable lenses. The result was the EP-1, which wasn’t quite pocket-sized, but was a damn sight smaller than your average clunky D-SLR.

The EP-1 came out in 2009 and it cost about a grand; a bit too pricey for most climbing shooters who want an affordable and small, yet capable camera. An updated EP-2 came out soon after, but the price was about the same. But with the recent release of the EPL-1, the price dropped to around $550—the same price you’d pay for a Canon Rebel or similar Nikon entry-level camera. The Olympus does everything you expect from a full-fledged entry-level D-SLR camera. RAW capture, aperture and shutter priority, HD video, a hot shoe for flash, plus the ability to change out lenses for different angles of view. Notably, this camera also makes the leap into more creative photography easier for the novice. Rather than requiring the shooter to know about apertures (f/stops) and shutter speeds, the camera menu offers up options like “Make background blurry.” Normally you’d need to know that you want to select a wide aperture to achieve this (plus a close focusing point on your subject), but the camera helps make the technical process less mental.

In recent months a whole slew of these small, mirrorless cameras have come out, most notably from Panasonic and Sony. However, Panasonic’s offerings, like the GF-1, are very cool but still pricey by comparison. And Sony’s ultra small NEX is mired with menu navigation issues that everyone seems to be complaining about. Maybe they’ll get this worked out on the next generation. If they do, watch out: The NEX will probably be the climbing camera to get since it too has a competitive price point and is even smaller than the Olympus.

One drag about getting into the interchangeable lens game is the cost of those extra lenses, which are often more than what the camera itself cost. Olympus does sell a converter for the EPL-1 that allows it to use many older Olympus lenses, which you can often find used for much lower prices. However, these are full-sized lenses that will seem awkward and heavy on this small-bodied camera. You’ll be wondering why you bought a small camera just to slap fat lenses on it. The kit lens that comes standard on the EPL-1 seems good enough though, and you may not need to buy a lens for a long time. But when you start hankering for more creative options or telephoto ranges, you’ll be glad you have the option to gear up to other lenses, even if it’s pricey.

New cameras in this mirrorless category are coming out at a fast pace, and it’s only a matter of time before Canon and Nikon jump in the game. Innovation happens fast, but at the moment if I were going to jump into buying a small, interchangeable lens camera, it’d be the EPL-1.

Pansonic Lumix: Great choices for compacts

There are a couple of other options I’d consider in the non-D-SLR category. I’m a big fan of the Panasonic Lumix series of cameras and they have two worth mentioning.

Panasonic Lumix LX-3:

UPDATE: The Lumix LX-5 is now available and offers a longer lens range of 24-90mm

The Lumix LX-3 does everything a D-SLR can do, only it’s got a fixed lens. But it’s super compact (this thing is really tiny), shoots in RAW, has a hot shoe for accessory flash, records HD video, and is a great choice for someone wanting a flexible camera but not wanting to jump into the lens game. In fact, the lens on this camera is one of its main selling points. It’s got a 24mm wide-angle lens with a large aperture that’s great for low-light and using fast shutter speeds. And the wide-angle lens is great for capturing close-in scenes like bouldering in the woods when you can’t get back very far from your subjects to take in the whole shot. However, the lens is also the one major complaint about this camera since it has almost no telephoto range whatsoever (I think it tops out around 60mm). If it did offer more in the way of capturing distant subjects, this camera would be just about perfect. As it stands, consider your shooting style before buying—if you shoot a lot of telephoto, like climbers high above you on a route, beware. If you don’t shoot tons of telephoto, keep in mind that this camera has a big sensor and records large image files, so you can always crop in close later on the computer to get up-close shots. Sure, it’s a bit of a workaround, but it is a sensible option if you’re excited about this kick-ass camera. It's also got an optional tele-converter you can buy, but who wants to remember to carry one? Going price is about $400. This camera has been on the market for about 2 years, so it should be updated soon. Hopefully they’ll add some more telephoto range to the update and this thing will be a killer camera for climbing.

Panasonic DMC-ZS7:

This last camera is a great choice for those who don’t need a lot of pro-camera features but still want creative options. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 has aperture priority, shutter priority, manual mode, the ability to switch between aspect ratios, and a pretty crazy-long lens all in a very small package. The lens goes from a fairly wide-angle 25mm (which is unusual in a pocket cam) to a whopping 300mm telephoto. I’m sure that photo quality suffers to some degree with a lens this compact covering this focal range, but of all the reviews I’ve read this is seldom a complaint. One complaint I did read that is worth considering was that there is a noticeable shutter lag. How noticeable I can’t say, but this could make a difference when trying to capture your pal dynoing if the shutter doesn’t close until after he snags the jug. But shutter lag is a fairly common issue in the compact camera category and is one of the sacrifices made for the size and convenience you get. This camera still deserves serious consideration if you’re in the compact market, especially as the price is about $300. There is also a similar model, the Zs5, that has few less features and is in the $250 price range.

Side note: The ZS7 belongs to a category of cameras called “travel zooms” and there is a great, in-depth review of almost all of the latest cameras in this category at dpreview.com

This is far from an exhaustive list on all of the cameras that could fit the bill for good climbing cams, but these are the main ones I've been looking at.

So which camera am I thinking about? It’s a hard call, but the way I see it is I’ve already got a D-SLR, and even though it’s clunky, I’m not sure I want to spend $500 just to shave some size—so the Olympus is out for now. I love the Lumix LX-3, but it’s still pricey and the lack of telephoto capability is something to think about. So I’m currently leaning towards the Lumix DMC-ZS5 because it’s pretty affordable (ie, I won’t freak out about taking it out near the water at the Linville Gorge boulders), and it offers many of the things I like about the LX-3 with a better focal range. Seeing as how I’ve got a D-SLR for creative photos already, I’m gonna go cheap, easy, and compact so I’m more likely to carry it with me at all times. Now I just need to scrounge up 250 bucks.

Anyone have a camera they love for climbing? I’d like to hear other thoughts or suggestions!


Movie Review: To The Limit

I was surfing around Netflix this weekend trying to find an instant play movie to watch. This is usually a frustrating experience that takes about half the length of time it would take to watch a movie, and then me and Melissa end up watching some drivel like Lethal Weapon 3.

But I was pretty enthused to come across ‘To the Limit,’ a German documentary about the Huber brothers’ attempt to break the speed climbing record on the Nose. Their goal was to climb the route in 2.5 hours. On their first trial run, they did it in something like 9 hours. Ah, the stage for drama is set!

Sadly, the movie only partly delivers. Thomas gets injured the first summer they attempt the climb, and then there’s a completely unnecessary sidetrack as the brothers head to Patagonia, where they hang out in tents for a long time and have very little video footage to show for an attempt to traverse the range. It really felt like the movie’s director didn’t have enough footage to make length and added this diversion.

So, the bros head back to the Valley the next summer, where they are drawing close to the record…until Alexander takes a giant whip and seems to get injured. (Side note: The giant falls these 2 take are never shown on film…why? In fact one of them is implied with slow-mo of falling rocks in a chimney for some reason.) We’re never really sure if he is injured or just a bit banged up since the movie ends there. Wait, what? Yes, it ends there, with some slackline footage and “words of wisdom” from iconic Yosemite homeless guy Chongo. Do the guys go back for another attempt? Do they succeed? Well, yes, eventually they do break the record, but the movie must’ve been set for distribution before they make it because it doesn’t even mention their success at the end. I had to go and find the info online.

So this is an imperfect documentary to be sure. But there are good parts, and I’d say even great parts. The coolest things:

1. I never knew the Huber brothers were human. I assumed they just showed up to the valley and crushed the record first-go with their mad German skills and efficiency. But through interviews you really get a sense of their personalities, rivalries, and even doubts. By the end, you’re seeing they are VERY human.

2. I had no idea what kind of belay / safety system gets used in speed climbing, and though it’s not fully explained, you get an idea of the ballsy techniques used to climb this fast. Basically, the leader’s already climbing as the second jugs up the line to the belay. Seems sketchy as hell!

3. There is some killer footage, both of landscapes and the Hubers hauling ass on the rock. The best part? The giant slow motion pendulum recorded 2000 feet off the deck. It takes like 3 major swings to nab this shitty crimper, and Alexander’s just floating out in space over the valley floor as he builds up momentum.

While I can’t give the movie glowing reviews for some of its weaknesses, I can say it’s worth watching, especially if you have Netflix and can check it out for free. It certainly held my attention for an hour and a half. Also, I woke up the next morning feeling like I had better get some exercise. The Huber brothers are probably in their 40s and they're out there making hard shit happen. It’s enough to make a person feel bad they just sat on their ass for about as long as it took the bros to climb the Nose.

The trailer:

Quick Note: Shortoff Mtn now open

According to the CCC website, Shortoff Mountain is open again to climbing after the seasonal falcon nesting closure. The usual closures at Looking Glass, Whitesides, Big Lost cove, and NC Wall are still in effect.


Route Setting for the World Cup

I'm not a huge fan of comps or indoor climbing in general, but it's certainly an aspect of the sport that gets a lot of attention. I never really thought about who sets the routes for the mutants that will be climbing in these comps before, so this interview on B3bouldering.com with route setter Chris Danielson was interesting, especially when he says things like: "The third boulder was the least inspiring and a miscalculation from a routesetting perspective." I Imagine there's an insane amount of pressure and nerves when the whole climbing world is paying attention to the holds you selected, and the angle you screwed 'em in at.


New Granite City Topo Available

Stroll on over to Upstate Bouldering to get a new PDF guide for bouldering at Granite City, which is near Cashiers, NC.

I've never been there myself, but look forward to checking it out sometime this summer. If I'm not mistaken, there are a lot of great waterfalls in the area as well, so you can make a pretty killer summer combo trip of bouldering and creek swimming.

Here's a video that shows the rock quality for those who have never been before and are considering the trip.

And here's a Google Map from Asheville (disclaimer: I haven't used these directions myself! Also check out the Upstate Bouldering site for more directions):

View Larger Map

Thanks for the great topo guide, Brad.

Update: Brad dropped some rope climbing beta into the comments:

There are also quiet a few roped routes at Granite City too. There are 2 ways to the mini-gorge in the very back...through some of the crevasses near the Drunk Tank boulder or to the right at the very end of the Back Alley area. The gorge has about 30-40 ft walls with mainly tougher top rope routes (bring a lot of slings/webbing to set anchors on trees at the top). There is also at least one trad route on a pillar in the middle of the crevasse maze, with a set on anchors on the top of the pillar. Bring your sense of adventure and your eye for developing and I'm sure there's a boulder or roped route for everybody.

Linville Gorge Bouldering

I've only been down into the gorge to boulder a couple of times, both without the help of a guide or a map. Even without a guide, it was fun just to wander around and scope out the possibilities. Back when I was there a couple of summers ago, there was very little chalk anywhere; you pretty much found a boulder, chose a line that looked good, and tried to climb. It's a fun adventure and the surroundings are hard to beat. The second time I made the hike in, it was starting to rain so I only got a couple of lines in before we had to bail. So I'm looking forward to exploring more in August after my move to Boone. For now, I thought I'd put together a collection of beta on the area.

First, a few videos to show ya the sweetness that is gorge bouldering. Here are a couple nice ones from DPM:

Linville Gorge North Carolina - Project Day from Werd on Vimeo.

The Wataugan(V12) from Nate Draughn on Vimeo.

Here's the trailer that LVM Rock made for their movie on climbing in the gorge. There's some great footage of the bouldering included, so check it out (and keep an eye out for some of the crazy highballs!):

Summer Ascents 08 from lvmrock on Vimeo.

Now for the beta:

Mike Stam has set up a online guide on his blog that shows problems and locations for TONS of bouldering in Linville Gorge. Mike has been developing problems in the gorge for years, and this site is a great resource for anyone wanting to get down there and explore. Get your adventure bouldering hat on, as well as yer swim trunks, and check out this guide:


For a bit more info, including obviously important directions into the different bouldering areas, see UpstateBouldering's post on the gorge (Thanks, Brad):


Boulder photos: Mike Stam