Beta Blog

Finding balance in climbing, coaching, and School

Posted by Brennan Robinson on Aug 8, 2017 12:33:42 PM

Everybody that climbs on a serious level wants his or her life to revolve around climbing. When I’m on a climbing trip, all I think about is what’s around me and how I wouldn’t want it any other way. Eventually, however, the climbing trip ends and reality sets in once again. Then, it's time to return to school, then go to work, then train, then go home and do homework, and before I know it, it's already 11 o’clock PM. Finding balance is challenging. Thus, aspiring to focus solely on climbing and get paid for it is every climber's dream, but it’s a lot harder to achieve and sustain than it seems.

Being able to balance life and still maintain a strict training regime for climbing can be very difficult to do. It comes down to motivation. To be able to balance all of life’s curveballs and still find time to workout or make it to the gym is on you, and there will always be some time to do so. Working out on the go is always an option if making it to the gym isn’t. A lot of the workouts I do don’t take more than 15 minutes each, and the floor or a pull-up bar is all that’s usually needed. If I ever find myself caught up in school, I workout whenever I need a study break to make up for not being able to make it to the gym.

Starting in the fall, I am going into junior year at the University of Portland, and I am already planning out how I’m going to balance my training, work/coaching, and school. Making it to the gym, and finding time to go on climbing trips another challenge. That, for me, usually takes a bit of future planning and thinking ahead. I coordinate with my job at Planet Granite in Portland about hours, so they don’t interfere with classes and traveling on weekends. I will work both days on the weekends for the first two weeks of the month, then I have the next two weekends off, and this is the time that I escape life once again.

That time is what I train for and what makes all the planning and juggling of life worth it. Going on a climbing trip is what keeps me sane in some of the craziest of times. It’s the time to forget about everything else that’s going on and just climb in some of my favorite places on Earth.

Juggling all of these was something I wasn’t used to when I first started attending college. It took a lot of trial and error, and I am still learning as to how I could more effectively do so. Surprisingly, it's my staying busy keeps me motivated to continue pushing myself in every discipline, physically and mentally. Whenever things get harder to manage, that’s when I become most motivated and try my hardest to succeed at what I’m doing, whether that’s school, coaching, or projecting a hard climb.

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Who Needs Pants?

Posted by Matt Lloyd on Aug 2, 2017 6:33:24 PM

I am 34 years old, and at this ripe old age, I possess the maturity and decision-making skills of a hyper active toddler. Or so I have been told. So, when I inform you that I have been climbing in Clear Creek Canyon since I was 18 years old, you can only imagine what kind of early 20’s energy-fueled hellion I was. Let me help you picture it. I made knee-jerk decisions quickly and with impunity, often trumping my most recent terrible idea with a more dangerous and more reckless version of the original idea before I had the time to punctuate it. The following story is about one such decision:

I decided it was high time to try this turd of climb in the lower part of Clear Creek Canyon just outside of Denver Colorado called “Ghost.” It was graded 5.14a despite its 20-foot stature. It had been recently put up and then quickly down-graded to 13b by another climber and then in almost no time upgraded back to 14a by yet another. This kind of route drama is exactly what I looked for in a project. In the hopes of finding the softest and easiest “hard" climb that I could do, I wished to avoid any challenge or work that a real project might require. That allowed me to quickly inflate my ego and post about my triumph on the internet in as little time as possible.

I know, I can be an asshole. But can’t we all? Anyway, as the ego driven-grade-chasing-dingbat that I was, and sometimes continue to be, I set forth to wrangle a buddy into checking out the climb with me. I used all kinds of exaggerations/ lies to get someone to come with, throwing around words like “classic” and “epic” and “no approach." My friend Adam was easily convinced.

After parking just upstream from the climb we illegally crossed this little rickety foot bridge over the river and began taking turns climbing and figuring out the surprisingly fun, strenuous moves on this bouldering-on-a-rope route dubbed “Ghost.” After a few burns and a lot of flailing around, we decided to call it a day. Too much effort was being expended. There was beer to drink and I don't neglect my beer.

It’s at this point where things went South, as the saying goes. I decided that walking 100 feet back to the bridge to reverse our safe, comfortable approach was just too daunting. I mean, who could be bothered?

Thus, I decided to forge across the early season river, which was pumping at high water. I took one look and thought, "I got this, it's just water."

I decided I should take my pants and shoes off since I didn't want to get them wet as the water was by all accounts “kinda high.” I had the forethought to consider that driving home with wet clothes on would be “itchy”; after all, I’m not a barbarian. So after removing my pants and shoes, I wadded them up into a ball and held them in one hand above my head to set forth like a character from the Oregon trail.

I had taken about five steps before the current of the water, which had enough brute force and speed behind it to drown an elephant, snatched my legs out from under me. In my panic, I let go of my pants to save my climbing gear. Obvious decision there.

Trying desperately to keep my climbing bag dry, I raised my hand higher like a good pupil in Sunday school. The goal was to keep my climbing gear dry, which I succeeded at the behest of the rest of my body going under. But the water consumed me, water boarding me like an ISIS fighter in GITMO.

I drank enough river water to rehydrate a 50-year-old cowhide rug. In that moment, my reason simultaneously kicked in (better late than never I suppose). I realized I might in fact drown.

So I let go of everything and swam/flailed/crawled for the other side. When I made it to shore, I felt quite proud of myself. I was a conquering hero, a soldier returning to home after the war. A wet, pant-less soldier. I raised my fists like a medaling Olympian. I am all that is man. Then I saw Adam.

Adam was always much smarter than me. He made what people sometimes call “good” decisions. Adam avoided fights and rough housing, he didn't drink too much and made it his life's purpose abstain from unnecessary risk. Adam chose to walk around the raging river via the intact and easily accessible foot bridge while I did whatever it was I was going to do.

He didn't even bother trying to talk me out of it as there was no point. Adam got back to the car so fast, he lapped me. He stood there on the bank of the river shaking his head.

That was not the first time I had received Adam's disapproval. We hung out frequently and my late night ideas for entertainment often involved breaking the law and vandalism, which is technically the same thing, but only sometimes. That is when we realized what had actually happened.

My pants were gone, eaten by the river and taken to wherever things that get lost go. Not only that but my car keys, which were inside the front right pocket, were also gone. That didn't seem like as big of a problem at first as it was. Let’s recap.

I had no pants.

I had no shoes.

I had no car keys.

My car was locked.

My wallet was inside the car.

My cell phone was inside my car, which was conveniently next to Adam’s cell phone.

What were we going to do? We couldn’t drive home without keys, we couldn’t call for a ride without a cell phone.. and oh, I'm still pant-less.

That is the part of the story where someone who wasn't intently listening to this mildly entertaining story blurts out “Why didn't you just hitchhike?”

Did I mention I was pant-less? I’m tall, skinny and in tighty-whiteys. I looked like a wet, sad giraffe. We had no choice. We had to cowboy up and walk out of the canyon. Sorry, Adam.

If you spend any time in Clear Creek Canyon you know only two groups of people use that road. Climbers and Gamblers. The latter comes ripping down the canyon after guzzling a few free whisky-sodas and gambling away little Johnny’s inheritance. Let's just say I got a few honks on the way out.

After about an hour of walking barefoot in my underwear on the side of the road, dodging broken glass and nails, I quietly hoped that one of those drivers barreling down canyon would just nod off for a moment and run me over. A boy can dream, can’t he?

When we arrived at the mouth of the canyon, I surveyed the scene, looking for the right person to approach and ask to borrow their cell phone. I was looking for someone who might not run as I approached. Someone who might not call the cops.

Adam and I looked even worse at this point. Tired and dirty and, yes, still not fully clothed. A 6 foot 5 pant-less meth-head with his 5 foot 3 sidekick. We resembled master blaster from Mel Gibson’s Beyond the Thunder Dome.

Two men enter one man leaves. Thanks, Tina Turner.

Anyway.

After scanning the possible marks, I zeroed in on a kayaker. I made this choice deliberately based on some commonly known facts that I had gathered over the years. Kayakers voluntarily get into cold dark rivers in high water, riding in a cramped plastic boat for recreation, indicating both a low IQ and propensity for danger. These are just the sorts of qualities of that indicate a person to whom a request from a pant-less man to hand over a fancy new iPhone could seem logical. Success. Kayakers are alright in my book.

After an awkward cab drive home, all was well. Adam and I sat picking some glass out of my feet while I apologized profusely. It was at this moment that I reflected on the day. Where did I go wrong? What would Jesus have done? The moral of the story?

Don’t fall when you cross the river.

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Divine Fury and Norwegian Metal

Posted by Tom Smartt on Jul 18, 2017 4:44:39 PM

I remember the day I sent my hardest route. It was a wet, rainy one at the pipedream cave in Maple Canyon, Utah. For some reason, I was on a Norwegian heavy metal kick. I was climbing a route called “Divine Fury," and it just seemed right to listen to music that channeled that “fury.”

It rained a bit early in the afternoon, and though the crag was normally quite populated, few people were present. I was pretty sure I’d have no luck that day. I'd do what I had been doing two days out of every three: putting in goes, building muscle memory, and feeding the upkeep on the ridiculous amount of fitness required to climb in that cave.

Before what would ultimately be the send go, I put up both my hands and said: “In the name of Odin, stop raining!”

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How Tight Should Climbing Shoes Be?

Posted by Clay Chaszeyka on Jul 13, 2017 2:56:49 PM

If you're new to climbing, you're probably aware of the fact that your shoes are key to your success. You've likely heard rumors that if your feet don't hurt, your shoes aren't tight enough to be truly effective! But is that true?

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6 Tips to Overcome Climbing Fears

Posted by Mikayla Tougas on Jul 13, 2017 1:48:20 PM

Everyone is afraid of something, and many rock climbers face their fears on a daily basis. Some climbers already know how to overcome these mental challenges; however, many are still being held back by them. Until we learn how to control our fear, we are limiting our true potential.

I started climbing almost five years ago. I instantly became obsessed with the sport. A month after I started climbing, I went to my first climbing competition. After that day, I realized I wanted to dedicate my life to rock climbing. Despite my dedication and love for the sport, I am terrified of heights, falling, and failure.

I was at my second USA Climbing SCS Regionals when I promised myself I would not let my fears hold me back from my passion for climbing. At this competition, I was talking to one of the coaches about my fears. I told her how I am terrified of heights. She responded by saying, “Well, maybe this is not the sport for you.”

I was dumbfounded. I could not believe someone I looked up to just told me I should give up my dreams because of fear. From that moment forward, I was determined to prove her negativity wrong. I was not going to let my fear keep me from climbing.

I became committed to finding every trick I could that would help me clear these mental barriers. I wanted to become the best rock climber I could. I wanted to prove that I am stronger than my mind. I was not going to let anything hold me back.

But how did I do it? How did I get rid of my fears? I didn’t. On the contrary, I have taken control over my fears. I do not let them rule me. Six tips that have helped me overcome some of my mental barriers are:

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How to care for your climbing shoes

Posted by Clay Chaszeyka on Jul 12, 2017 5:55:04 PM

There's a lot of advice out there -- some serious, some not so very -- about how tight your climbing shoes should be. (e.g. "Your climbing shoes should fit snugly, but should not cause pain" to "Your climbing shoes should feel a little like you'd imagine foot binding would feel!")

Bottom line? Snug is good -- painful is bad! You don't want to end up with any number of nasty foot conditions (bunions, toe deformities, bleeding under the toenails, etc.) because of climbing shoes that are simply too tight! That said, it's not as common to hear people talk about whether to wear socks or not, and how to avoid ending up with stinky climbing shoes!

In light of that, we thought it would be useful to discuss how to wear (and care) for your climbing shoes. After all, you spend a lot of money and put a lot of thought into getting the best shoes, so you naturally want them to last.

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Balancing life and competition climbing

Posted by Ross Fulkerson on Jul 5, 2017 5:36:09 PM

In comps, you will inevitably run into variables that you had not planned for that will force you to change your routine. For example, just a few weekends ago, at west coast divisionals, I was up first and only had 20 minutes to warm up. Although not ideal, I was able to limit my warm up to the bare minimum and still feel confident on the wall. Beyond my routine at the physical event, I’ve worked to develop similar eating, sleeping, and training habits. This familiarity and consistency between comps helps me to relax and maintain focus when I’m at the comp.

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Choosing a great climbing partner

Posted by Clay Chaszeyka on Jul 3, 2017 3:19:29 PM

Climbing isn't just a sport. It can be a lifestyle - just ask all the #vanlife climbers out there! The uninitiated may shake their collective heads at our foolhardiness, but for those of us who live and breathe climbing, nothing compares to the feel of clean, sturdy rock beneath your fingers as you dangle from a breath-taking height in the light of the rising sun. Before you can experience this life-changing sport that we have come to love, however, you must have a great climbing partner. After all, your life will be in your partner's hands.

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Reading Routes- How to Mentally Map Out Your Climb

Posted by Clay Chaszeyka on Jul 3, 2017 11:49:57 AM
Climbing isn't all about the physical; much of it is mental, as you've probably come to find out if you've been at the sport for awhile. A considerably large and critical part of the mental aspect is the planning, or "reading," of climbing routes - read on to learn more:

Why Read?

Reading a route is the climber's way of evaluating the task at hand; it's about coming up with a game plan to save you time, energy, and frustration. While reading requires a good amount of practice, the benefits are definitely worth the patience!

Climbing is all about movement. The science of how the body maneuvers, shifts its weight to achieve different centers of gravity, and propulsion all come into play. You, as the climber, are the student of your own body and there is much to discover that will reap great benefit.

Taking the time to survey a route can make your climb more decisive and fluid. All of the sudden the climb doesn't feel like an uphill struggle but rather a rehearsed piece of performance art. You'll find yourself making fewer mistakes, finding hidden rest spots you would have missed before, learning the optimal positioning for clipping, and changing misplaced hands and feet less frequently. All of these add to a stronger, more enjoyable climb and to the reward of reaching the top.

How to Plan a Climb Sequence

The first task when reading a route is to inspect the climb from many angles. If your only viewpoint is straight up, you might very well miss some critical beta. Look from the side to find hidden sidepulls; look from far away to scope out the last few moves of the pitch, and don't forget to sit down below. All these fields of vision help you gather the most data to develop the best solutions.

Next, distinguish the holds of the entire climb. Start with handholds and then place footholds accordingly. Having several foot options for each handhold can assist you in problem-solving before you even get on the wall. After you've finished mentally planning the holds, mime them while still on the ground. Visualize the body movements from one hold to the next and allow your body to move through them.

After miming, it's time to look for clipping holds and rest spots. With your hands and feet outlined, you can more easily find these key areas and take advantage of them.

Finally, review your entire climb. Visualization and "walking through" your body movements are powerful tools for any athlete. But the catch is: don't be married to your planned climb. Having read a route allows you to be equipped with an approximated roadmap, but don't be afraid to adjust while you're up there.

Things will come up that you didn't see or expect. That's the fun part! Go as prepared as you can and accommodate as you go. Changing just one or two sequences of an entire climb on the fly is much easier than getting on a wall with no plan at all.

At the Gym

If the walls at your gym could talk, they'd tell you that someone specifically designed them. Like a choreographer planning what his dancers will look like with each created movement, so the designer choreographed what you will look like climbing his/her wall. You get the honor of decoding their suggested sequences. The gym is the perfect spot to start your route reading career because of this.

Look for clues as you plan. Handholds will generally be larger than footholds and they will most likely be covered in chalk dust from other climbers. Footholds are usually smaller and marked with black rubber scuffs. Take note of these hints as you strategize.

Lastly, try your best not to be self-conscious. Yes, you may feel funny sitting at the bottom of the wall miming your way through the air as you imagine your climb. (Although, it's not much different than air guitar!)

But guess what - climbers won't think you're crazy. Trying hard is what this sport and lifestyle are all about, so there's no need to be embarrassed. And when you fall, (and you will fall when you're progressing), don't feel defeated. Gain knowledge as to why the fall occurred. Did you miss something in your route reading?

At the crag

Take some advice from mountaineer Conrad Anker when it comes to mapping out outdoor climbing sequences. If the walls and mountains he climbs could talk, they most certainly would propose carefully considering the journey ahead.

Conrad analyzes the rock type in the area of his climb. Is it granite with a slippery surface? Rough sandstone or soft limestone? Is the rock flakey and likely to break causing a hazard? Does it have useable features or are there features at all? A good climber takes into consideration all these variables.

Then comes memorizing the moves - by miming the holds and using muscle and brain memory to store them, any climber can act his/her way up the mountain without even touching it.

In addition to this, Conrad also looks for good resting spots, especially those natural-feature ones where hands are not needed. Lastly, he keeps a journal. Drawing a map of the climb ahead can be one more tangible way for your brain to go through the motions of the route and can help you remember and perform it far better.
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Improve Your Dynamic Climbing With These Simple Tips

Posted by Clay Chaszeyka on Jun 26, 2017 6:48:12 PM

The goal of climbing well is using as little energy as possible. Climbing efficiently requires different techniques for different situations: whether static or dynamic. Dynamic movements, compared to static, require a quicker, more powerful response to successfully complete the move. Static movements are more simple and save more energy, but it's important to compliment your static climbing with explosive, dynamic movements.

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