Hopes and Expectations

This summer I'll be bouldering in Rocklands, South Africa. I've been to Hueco Tanks and Fontainebleau in the past and Rocklands is measured at this same standard. In 2011, before I travelled to Fontainebleau I had some thoughts to share about my dreams of that magical forest and what I expected from my time there. Looking back, time having eroded things, I feel that my experience there was not what I had hoped it to be.

In 7 weeks I'll be departing for South Africa. How many and what expectations do I have? What do I want this trip to be like? The answer: I don't know.

Before my trip to Fontainebleau I was fully prepared and ready. I would look through the guidebook at night and imagine my body moving across the rocks. I would imagine the French villages and the beach sand stuck to my climbing shoes. I arrived and absorbed everything, comparing things to my expectations and constantly awakening.

Before my trip to Rocklands I am also fully prepared - prepared physically and logistically. I have a copy of the guidebook, I have my clothes ready, reservations made, and time booked. Physically I'm prepared as much as I'm going to be. I competed all season, trained with the team all season, and challenged myself as much as I could.

However, I am not prepared mentally and I don't know why.

I'll keep comparing this Rocklands trip to my Fontainebleau trip. It wasn't until about 2010 when I wanted to go to Fontainebleau. For six years before that I had no desire. The climbing style was as foreign as the location and I wasn't attracted. Maybe in the end I just needed to grow more, or at least grow into it (Fontainebleau). It eventually happened and I was so happy for that. The memories of that trip are wonderful.

Have I grown into desiring the Rocklands? I think so, but not at the same level. Is it simply because it's no longer my first trip over the atlantic to a major desination, or have I just not watched enough Rocklands videos online? Is it simply because there's no magic in Rocklands? There's no footage of Ben Moon sending Karma, or Ty Landman crushing Khéops. You can't ignore the fact that there's just fewer magical moments to expect from Rocklands.

Or is there? Let's be honest, I didn't climb well in Fontainebleau. I don't know how much of it was due to the weather but in five weeks I climbed only one V11 and two V10. The week before in Albarracin I did three V11 and one V10 in one week.

However, with a doubt, the magical things I can expect from Rocklands are great climbing moments. I will climb better in Rocklands. I will climb harder, I'm sure. I'm good at the style of climbing in Rocklands and I will enjoy it.

I just have to get mentally prepared for it. That's the missing piece. I need to know the climbs more, read about the place more, dream about it more. I need to have expectations. Magical or not, achieveable or not, inflated or not. Perhaps once I have those expectations I can then begin to let them go, replacing them with hopes and then I can succeed.


A few years ago I got hooked on the campus board.  It's a great way for me to train power and I really enjoy it.  I go long stretches where I don't practice it at all, and then I'll get back into it and train on it once a week.  I do a cardio warm up and boulder lightly for 45 minutes.  After that I get to the board where I follow a modified version of Ben Moon's workout. Immediately I was fascinated with the magical 1-5-9: Start matched on rung 1, move up to rung 5, then to rung 9. Match, drop, and rejoice.

1-5-9 was made famous in the film "The Real Thing" - The first true bouldering feature film, "The Real Thing" was released in 1996 and chronicled British legends Ben Moon and Jerry Moffat on a trip to Fontainebleau.  At one point in the video they're training on a campus board and Ben completes a new personal best going from the bottom of the board to the top in only two moves doing "1-5-9".  I say "1-5-9" in quotes because if you watch the video (which everyone should) you can see that the last rung on the board is only at half the regular spacing because they have run out of room on the wall.  So, Ben Moon's accomplishment is actually "1-5-8.5" according to the specifications of his board.

This "1-5-9" soon became the aspiration of all would-be tough campus boarders.

The first board that I trained on had rungs spaced at 8 inches apart.  After a while I achieved 1-5-9, to much screaming and excitement.  It was at this time when I became interested in the specifics of the campus board design in hopes of measuring exactly how valuable my accomplishments were.

The original campus board was built in 1988 by Wolfgang Gullich.  Although I've never officially heard first hand, this board is believed to have had rungs spaced at 8 inch distances and is the reason why a number of boards worldwide have this spacing.

The original campus board

After training on that original board with Wolfgang, Jerry Moffat built his own campus board at the famous "School Room" in Sheffield, England.  This board was built with rungs spaced at 22cm (except the last one) and this spacing has slowly become the standard spacing for an official campus board.

The board in the "School Room"

After researching online and speaking to climbers in Sheffield, Altitude Climbing Gym built a beautiful campus board completely to specifications:

- Approximately 20 degrees overhanging - Rungs spaced at 22cm - Columns of large, medium, and small rungs.

I have been on the campus board once a week for a about a month and I've recently repeated my personal best achieved in March 2009. I completed 1-5-8.5 on 22cm spaced medium-sized rungs!  This is a big deal for me and it’s equal to Ben Moon’s accomplishment in The Real Thing. I’m really excited. Here is a video snapped with my mobile phone:

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While symbolic of a great accomplishment for myself, it's also a pretty good achievement in the climbing community and certainly not a usual occurrence.  However, keep in mind that Malcolm Smith and Daniel Woods have done 1-5-8.5 STATIC.  Alternatively, there's only a handful of people who are rumoured to have done 1-5-9 at 22cm, a feat which has been discussed to be around the V14 level of effort. I can't wait to get back at it and keep reaching for that last half rung.

If this got you psyched here's some other fun stuff:

In this video Nalle Hukkataival does 1-5-9 on a board with 20cm spacing.

In this video fellow Flashed climber Yves Gravelle does a number of impressive feats on a board with 20cm spacing.  1-6-10 is truly impressive.

For even more reading on the topic Jamie Emerson wrote an interesting article in 2010 with some good comments.

I recently climbed my oldest project and I'm psyched

On May 15 I went to Val-David with G, Awall (& Neil), Pallek and Eric. Two days remained before returning to Europe. Hopes were high to send Crazy Belly but unfortunately it didn't happen. I actually didn't even try it. The conditions were really bad. The temperature was fine but it was actually the humidity that was a factor. Climbing so much in the desert I've been spoiled by the lack of wetness. At Val-David the rock was wet under the roofs and slimy all over most other holds. I couldn't even dead hang some of my regular warm-up holds. It just wasn't the day for it, and I'm fine with that. I am hardly in top condition and therefore it gives me something to train for when I return to Canada.

We moved on past that and I remembered "O Couto".

I first tried this climb in 2007 or 2008 - my longest project ever. At V10 it was always something I wanted to do, plus it revolves around a really bad left hand crimp which I like. I've never been close to sending it. I can get the crimp but freeing my right hand to move to the top was always really hard. Denis gave me some beta about two years ago, which was to under-flag my right leg once I got the crimp (here's a video of him doing the climb). I had tried that and it had never helped but I stuck with it.

This session I can't say I changed anything but something must have been different because it all felt doable. After my first burn I realized that it didn't feel bad like before and then I sent on maybe my 3rd try. It felt like it should have four years ago. I really can't figure out why, but it doesn't matter because it felt sooo good to bump to the top of the boulder and let out a cry of joy to be on top. It feels great to have that chapter all done and over with. I'm getting too old for lifetime projects.

The opening moves of O Couto, photo © Andrew Pallek

Photo © Andrew Pallek

100 V10+ and Bishop Video

For a while now I’ve been really excited to achieve a small personal climbing goal – climbing one hundred boulder problems that are V10 or harder. I noticed in Hueco that I was relatively close. I haven’t been chasing V10 to achieve it but I’ve been excited every time I do another V10+. Before taking a week off I had a great climbing day with fellow Flashed athlete Max Moore in Las Vegas. He showed me a bunch of the new boulders he has been climbing and I repeated all of them and managed to get my 100th V10+. I can't wait to get my next 100.

I recently made a new video featuring only a small collection of the climbs that were done during our 3 weeks in Bishop California.

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Here’s some spray about some of the climbs I did recently:

The Aquarium V12 – Amazing cool boulder problem. You start climbing up this soft V10 and then traverse a long ways out this roof. The Crux is a hard drop-down move. 17+ hand moves. Lately I’ve been psyched on these long power endurance routes. Such as…

Bubba Lobotomy V12 – This is a traverse into Toxic Avenger (one of the best problems ever). The traverse isn’t very long but it makes the crux dyno at the end of Toxic Avenger really hard. I fell like 25 times at the last move. The pockets rip up your skin so much. I had so much fun working this one.

Cholos – V9 (featured in the video below) – One of the hardest V9 I’ve done. It’s certainly V10 difficulty if you ask me. It has the smallest pocket I’ve ever pulled on – a half-pad first two finger open pocket. Ends with a crazy slow-motion dyno (see the video).

Mandance V11 (featured in the video below) – This one is super hard in my opinion. You don’t see a lot of people doing this one. Super painful first hold and then just hard moves. My feet cut and I swung around 5 times before being able to put them back on. Crazy.

Viva Las Vegas

Well, another 4 weeks come and gone and another great bouldering trip in the bag. After Hueco we spent a month in Las Vegas with my friend Adam. I only took a little over one rest day a week and climbed on some really amazing boulders, some of which are likely in the collection of the best in the country. World class for sure. Climbs like Stand and Deliver, Wet Dream, Lethal Design, Americana Exotica, Gription, Lindner's Roof. There's so many top-quality boulders in Las Vegas. In 4 weeks I managed one day ascents on 2 V11, 6 V10, and maybe 5 V9. Of all the climbs I completed the only ones I didn't manage to do in one session were Slice and Dice V9, Scare Tactics V10, and Lethal Design V12. Slice and Dice is just really hard for me (see video), Scare Tactics needs some beta on the starting position, and Lethal Design is just a massive undertaking (unless you're Paul Robinson or Alex Johnson).

The best part of my trip was my ascent of Lethal Design. I don't have video footage of my send burn (my camera woman was taking a rest day and my one spotter thankfully chose to spot) but this climb is a long climb with 17 hand moves on tiny crimps before encountering the highball vertical topout above a pit of deadly talus adding maybe another 6 to 10 hand moves. Word is that I managed the 5th ascent. It took me a couple efforts to get all the moves and my beta figured out and then a couple more sessions to finally complete it on red-point. I don't have much endurance so I really need to try hard on a problem like this. Really quite hard for me. It's ascents like this that remind me that climbing is different for everyone and one problem while easy for one person can be totally different for another person. The only climbs I left undone were Atlus Shrugged and Burnt. I'll have to return to complete those. So close, falling past the crux (I hate that).

Here's my Las Vegas video. Lots of the climbs I did with Adam. Fun times for sure.

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We're in Bishop now for the next 3 weeks. Time to get re-psyched. After a couple rest days here I hope to get some great climbs under my belt.