Jul 30, 2011

Saturday Syke

The entire video is brilliant.
The section starting at 11:10 is most relevant for the rest of the post.

This is video does a great job addressing why 1st ascents are special. Not 1st ascents in the absolute sense (the first person to climb something), but 1st ascents in the relative sense (the first widely available to the public).

One prime example is the grade of 15a. "Realization" (or whatever it is called this week), sent in 2001, was very public. That grade had been climbed much earlier, "Open Air" was sent in 1996. Which one had a bigger impact on the climbing community?

This concept extends to cryptic ascent information. It has inherently less value for the community than open information about ascents. Is a first ascent about the climber, the climb, or the community? How about including approach directions in the spray as the minimal standards for the public acceptance of a first ascent?

Jul 25, 2011

Review: THE VOO - Rock Climbing in Vedauwoo

I'm an ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) of climbing. I find value and enjoyment in pebbling wrestling, clipping bolts, and playing with widgets. I can partake in all those styles in one afternoon on the coarse granite of Vedauwoo, WY. Throw in easy access, free camping, and relative cool temps, it is an ideal summer destination. Last weekend my girlfriend and I decided to escape the oppressive heat, thunderstorms, and flood warnings of Boulder, CO for the wonderland of rocks called Vedauwoo. I picked up THE VOO: Rock Climbing in Vedauwoo, the new guidebook, on the way out of town. The following is my take on it.

The guidebook is gorgeous, stacked with pictures, both historical and contemporary, that jump off the page. The guidebook is rich with first ascent information, including drama and gossip.

One aspect of guidebooks that I highly value is helping me get to the best climbs quickly. This book does a mediocre job of that. There are plenty of clear and detailed overview maps. However, there are no written descriptions of the approaches. You have to guesstimate approach times from the map scale alone. Several of the cliffs had multiple approach trails, again you have to choose by map scale alone. In addition, there are no descriptions of sun exposure. Being the middle of summer, my girlfriend and I were desperately chasing shade. Again, we had to guesstimate it from the overview maps. Once you get to a cliff, it is easy find the routes via the color photos.

There is a lack of written descriptions for individual climbs. Cracks are described by colloquial terms (e.g., "hand", "fist", or "squeeze"). Given the range of physiology in the human species, this is a vague and arbitrary method for describing size. Imagine a company selling pants by listing size as "adult male" or "child." It would have been better if the guide listed crack size in inches. There was little (or more frequently no) information about gear. I had to bring more gear than necessary on every climb. There is an occasional crypt remark regarding wide gear. Most sport routes do not include bolt counts, and bolt density ranges widely in The Voo. I climbed one pitch that had 3 bolts within 15ft. I climbed another pitch with more than 15ft between the bolts. You get very different experiences in attempting "sport" routes listed in the book.

Overall the guidebook is like Vedauwoo, great but not world class.

Jul 24, 2011

Saturday Syke

Sport climbing (like all of climbing and most human activities) is inherently silly. However, there are moments of transcendence.

Jul 22, 2011

Forcing The Move

The men's 1st problem of the 2011 Arco bouldering final.
Three climbers use three radically different methods to accomplish the same goal. I unable to discern the routesetter's intention.
Does the routesetter's intention matter?

Routesetters, from novice to expert, obsess over "forcing the move." They have platonic ideal of a particular climbing move. It could be mundane, a two crimper dyno to a jug, or esoteric, double bat hang. Routesetters hallucinate that people care. People don't care. People care about other qualities of a problem. Primarily, they want challenging and fun problems to solve. If problems can be solved multiple ways, it doesn't diminish the quality of the experience. In fact, alternative sequences can enrich the quality of the experience. I argue it is more interesting to encourage the richness of climbing. Otherwise, it is the same people climbing the same problems in the same way (sounds eerily like the climbing scene on Front Range).

I view routesetting as installation art. I create a context that only matters once people interact with it. I can't control how people climb "my" climbs (or what they say about them). Additionally, I'm usually working 3 climbs ahead. I would have to stop creating to address criticisms.

Stop focusing on forcing the move. Start focusing on creating art.

Jul 20, 2011

Pendulum Wave Loading for Threshold Bouldering

Lately, I have been trudging through the Westside Book of Methods. It is written by Louie Simmons, the bastard son of Jack Kerouac and Jack Lalanne. I don't apply the methods (e.g., reps, sets, and rests) to climbing. I do apply the principles (e.g., role of technique, mental attitude, and importance of maximal strength). In particular, I use the concept of pendulum wave loading to improve my threshold bouldering.

Threshold climbing is a concept I picked up from the Self-Coached Climber *. Threshold climbing focuses on successfully climbing your personal hardest moves. Mentally, it accustoms you to trying hard and succeeding. Technically, it can facilitate the identification and treatment of limiters. Physically, it strengths your entire body for harder climbing. The goal of threshold climbing is climbing few moves, as opposed to completing entire problems or routes. Threshold sessions are short, under 45 minutes, and intense, complete rest between attempts. I have successfully been using it to improve my climbing for several years. With anything you consistently do, you'll plateau. Applying pendulum wave loading has helped me break my personal plateaus. I'm excited to share it with you.

To use pendulum wave loading in training, you systematically manipulate some variables while holding all others constant. The two variables I manipulate for threshold climbing are number of tries and number of moves. For the first wave of a cycle, I set number of tries at 1. During the first session, I set the number of moves to 3. This is relative easiest combination on my joints which lays a healthy foundation for the rest of the cycle. I create mini-problems that should take me ~1 try to complete 3 moves, no more or no less. I stay at the 1.3 (tries.moves) level until I plateau (i.e., I stop seeing improvement. I'm no longer sending all my 1.3 projects). Then I progress to 2.3 and stay there until I reach the same criterion. Then 3.3. Then I start the second try wave. I aim to send a new set of 3 move problems on my second try. Sometimes they are too hard, sometimes they are too easy. I adjust and move on. During this process, I gain valuable insight into my climbing which helps me select the appropriate outdoor climbs. I continue through 2.2, 2.1, 3.3, and 3.2 threshold bouldering levels. Finally, I reach my mini-peak with 3.1. These are very hard movements. They would have felt impossible at the beginning of the cycle. Through systematic progression, I have improved my mental, technical, and physical capacities to succeed on them. At this point, I start entire process over again.

One of the prerequisites for this training is objective benchmarks. That is only possible if the training holds don't change during a cycle. It is possible to systematically progress with holds that change but not optional. For that reason, I choose to train at CATS or my home gym.

* The long awaited follow-up is scheduled to be published in October. Very Skyed!

Jul 18, 2011

Guide: Wolverineland, CO

Just kidding!

I would never attempt that but someone else has started one. Given my interest in the future of the guidebooks, I'm watching. WikiBoulder has the best potential for a website I have found.

Jul 7, 2011

Video: Unknown Climb at Zorro Sector of Wild Iris, WY

I couldn't find this climb in the 2011 Guidebook. It is quintessential bouldering on a rope. My best guess for the grade is 11c. The crux revolves around a long pull off a good mono (Brilliant!). Bring a brush! It is dirty but should clean up to be a nice addition to the area. Share your knowledge.