Hueco Season!!!

In honor of Hueco Season here are two videos from the 2010 season of my friend Vanessa and I in Hueco. Winter has come, time to drive south!

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Winter Update - Carter Lake! + Bishop + Yosemite!

Well, sort of a lot and not much has been happening for the last few months. I've driven around some, visited family, climbed a little. The weather has been...unusual.  Way drier and warmer than normal. One result of this was that as I drove through California I had a couple of fabulous days in Bishop.

Bishop hasn't seen a dry winter with perfect temps in a few years. When I was a younger climber every winter, no matter how crappy the weather was up north by Lake Tahoe and Reno, and no matter how bad the weather report for Bishop said things would be, Bishop itself could always be counted on to be sunny and cool--perfect for climbing in a t-shirt yet sticking to the rock. Then came the bad years---the feet of snow that closed down the Buttermilks repeatedly and set every vagabond in the pit on the 17 hour drive to across four states to Hueco.

Now things are back to normal, in Bishop at least. I got a chance to hang out with my good friend Israel and finish up some old projects on glorious afternoon at the Happy Boulders. A few weeks later I came back again for an afternoon at the Buttermilks with my good buddy Alex Johnson (who pretty much crushed her way through some highballs--read about it here:  Bishop Bouldering Blog: Alex Johnson, Golden Age (2nd?) and More), watched an exciting 49ers game and had dinner with some friends,

...and then headed OVER TIOGA PASS to boulder for a few days in Yosemite!

For those of you who don't know, this is crazy because Tioga Pass is never open in January. Never. It is always buried in snow. But this year?  Open, dry and clear. Families were ice skating and picnicking on the ice. Alex and I stopped to slide around a bit, which was fun for the novelty if for no other reason. Then we packed back in and made our way to the Valley proper where we met up with good friends for some fun bouldering in the best temps I've ever seen in the Valley. It was crisp and cool but not too cold, and so very dry that the granite felt fantastic.

After watching Alex crush her warm-up of Orion (V7 highball, last move is the most committing) and then do Drive On (V10) in 2 tries we headed down the trail to the classic Great White (V1?) which we climbed with our friend Sasha and her dad Tom, and old-school Valley climber who proved he's still got it as he literally vaulted over the top outs of Great White and the V2 to its left.

The next day Alex, Sasha, and Tom headed off to do a long route somewhere and Kelly Sheridan, Kyle O'Meara and I had fun in Camp 4. The highlight of the day for me was the group send of Battle of the Bulge, a V6 that I don't even know if I've tried before but did 1st go this trip after watching Kyle demonstrate the beta. Kelly, who is a strong climber but has feeling out of sorts due to his recent four-year bout of Law School, also managed to climb the problem in only a handful of tries.

Now I'm back in Colorado and the weather here is unusually dry. Last weekend we went out to local area Carter Lake to have some fun in what we hoped would be nice temps. The air temp was nice, as was the sun, but a few periods of gusting winds definitely made us tired by the end of the day. Now it's time to check out the new bouldering by Rocky Mountain National Park as even Estes Park is unseasonably dry, meaning the best temps in years are available on some of the low lying boulders. I'm psyched, as the drier temps hopefully mean no more pressure splits like I got in Font last year:

Hope everyone had a good holiday, and here's to hoping for enough moisture to replenish the watersheds but enough dry days for sending!

Fontainebleau 2011 Post & Video 1

After a many-faceted epic last year that lead to canceling a three month trip to Font at the last moment (literally, the day before we were supposed to fly out) we spent what turned out to be quite a productive season in Hueco and felt glad we'd missed a wet European spring.  Hueco was fun, but we really enjoyed our previous experiences in Font and wanted to come back.  After hemming and hawing about what to do this winter, we finally took the plunge and booked our tickets for two months this spring.

It seems like we booked our tickets for too late.  Like last year's weather, this year February was very very wet, with lots of rain, lots of damp climbing days, and a few sort-of-dry days, though the rock didn't totally dry out until a nice streak in the beginning of March.  And then it rained again.  Anyways, on one of the dry days we ventured out to an area called Oiseaux near the more popular area of Roche aux Sabots.  I made this little video of a wonderful problem called Brasil, also 7a, though don't go to to try to translate Font grades to V grades, because they despite attempts to the contrary they don't really translate.  I've seen multiple V14 climbers utterly fail on 7a's here and spend all day working to send 7c's, then do 8a's in a few tries.  Font is it's own kind of climbing area, and everything here should be taken purely as it is--fun movement on cool holds in a beautiful setting.  Here's a great example.  Enjoy!

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Setting the Mammut Bouldering Championships part 2: Qualifiers

At the risk of boring all you non-routesetters, I'm going to do one more MBC post and take you through qualifiers. I figure most climbers have climbed in a gym at least once, for training, because it'd been raining for days and they had to get out of the house and their significant other really wanted to go, right? And maybe you even did a competition once, just for fun? Ok, so there'll be some common ground here... Steven Jeffery working some French technique on Men's Qualifier 3

Qualifiers were held at The Front Climbing Club in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The Front is a great gym for comps because it's one long beautiful plywood wall that can be easily split up into sections and makes for fairly easy viewing.

Last year the citizen's comp was set before we ran qualifiers so the pro competitors had to pick their problems out from the jumble of holds and tape. The idea was that the Front's setters would be spared the hassle of setting overnight after qualifiers in order to be ready for the citizen's comp the next morning.

Unfortunately, for the pro competitors the massive amount of holds on the wall led to more than one technical and more than one top-seeded competitor not making it to finals.  Not ideal.  This year the Front agreed to do the extra work and let us leave the walls bare besides the qualifier problems.  This made us a lot happier (because the problems were more aesthetically pleasing and we didn't have to watch competitors screw the sequences up as much) and the competitors were a lot happier as well.

The field was thick with talent and a large part of the difficulty of setting an event like this is splitting the competitors fairly.  In order to split them up it is nice to set problems that challenge a wide range of abilities, so the climbers who advance will be the most clever, powerful, technical, subtle, and precise.

One benefit setting at the Front is the large back room of special holds, including weird comp-pour holds, unique features, and wooden volumes.  Tonde (our French setting friend) dug a bunch of the volumes out of the back and mounted them on the wall in an interesting fan pattern, which was eventually slightly altered to create a very technical and challenging Men's 3 (see the picture above) and Women's 3 (picture quite a ways below).  He also gave Joel a volume for Men's 4 and leant me John Stack's custom made big red globe for use on Women's 5.

Me showing off the big red globe on Women's Qualifier 5

The red globe was made of fiberglass molded in layers over the end of an outdoor propane tank.  It was first used on a Men's problem 2 at Sendfest a few years ago by Chris Danielson (and was orange, I think), but we busted it out again for this comp, this time for the women.

Originally I was going to make the women grovel with the gigantic sloping feature, but we realized the bulge was awkward enough as it was without the additional challenge of finding the few rough spots and pulling on them.  I wanted to use grip tape, as Tonde did on his volumes, but it wouldn't stick to the fiberglass.  Luckily we found places that jibs would stick solidly in the fiberglass, and I drew gigantic flower-shaped tick marks out of chalk to help the climbers find them.

Because it was Women's 5 we expected the women to be tired by the time they got here.  In order to challenge them, I made the approach to the globe out of fun and powerful moves between large holds on a steep roof.  Here you can see Kate McGinnis using the toe-hook method to match the big worm and go for the double Mini T-Rex holds.

Kate powering through the roof on Women's Q 5

Once you got the t-rex holds you had to basically campus your left hand around the corner to a medium sized edge, then heel hook your right foot next to your right hand and rock up to get a jib on the bottom right side of the globe.  From there you had to match feet and keep your balance as you stood up and slapped left hand over the top of the globe, hopefully to find the jibs.  From there it was match hands and mantle/jump to the top.  Tim Kemple took a very nice picture of Alex Puccio doing this move.  Overall I was very happy with how the problem turned out, with women falling off every single move but some still managing to get to the top.

Women's qualifier 1 was set by Brian Sweeney--his first ever big comp problem!  I think it turned out fairly well, only requiring a few tweaks to be comp-ready and getting sent by almost everybody (as problem 1 should be).  The red sloper (third hold) definitely got greasy though, and posed an unexpected challenge as a few major competitors fell off it on their first attempt.

Sweeney showing off his first pro comp problem, Women's Q 1

This was Sweeney's second year helping at the summer MBC, and besides setting a problem he also provided big help by forerunning other problems, taking pictures, hanging banners, keeping the rest of us in a good mood, and doing all the other tasks we setters have to contend with.  He and Joel even spent part of one day painting the volumes.

Sweeney and Joel making things look pretty.

A hold taped so it wouldn't get paint on it.  It had to stay on the volume for painting because there was no way to keep it in the exact right position otherwise.

The other new MBC setter this year was Bret Johnston from Seattle.  Bret is an awesome kid, and there's really not much else to say about it.  He came in with a good attitude and kept everybody laughing as he set his problems and helped us tweak ours.

Bret showing off Men's Qualifier 2

Flashed Athlete and national setter Joel Zerr set Men's qualifier 5, and it was an awesome problem.  He used a volume to create an interesting flip around backwards sequence that lead to a powerful downward match, then a big move up to the mega T-Rex and a technical and powerful finishing sequence that nobody was quite able to do, though both Daniel Woods and Paul Robinson got close.

Daniel Woods using the correct sequence for Men's Q 5 while Alex Puccio does the technical perch move on Women's 3

Paul Robinson looking good on Men's Qualifier 5

Daniel becoming one of the few men to pull into the headwall moves.

Overall I'd say qualifiers were a success, and, though not all the strongest competitors made finals, the field for finals was very impressive and all who made it were definitely worthy.  It was nice to have a variety of styles in the qualifier problems, and having Tonde set both Men's and Women's qualifier 3 problems was good because he threw a lot of Frenchie Technical Style into the mix that most US competitors aren't used to having to deal with.  Most of the competitors I spoke with seemed happy as well, happier than last year at least, and all had had fun on most, if not all, of their problems.

More photos, recaps, and videos of qualifiers and finals: Bouldering ChampionshipsDead Point MagMomentum Video MagazineClimbing Narc, or just google it!

Thanks for sticking with me!

Setting the Mammut Bouldering Championships 2009 part 1: Backstory and Rainproofing

Like most climbers, I make a measly living through an amalgamation of several different jobs, including working the front desk at The Spot Gym in Boulder, setting routes at the Spot, taking photos and writing bits for magazines and websites, and occasionally routesetting for major competitions.  Unlike some banner years in the 80s and 90s, these days competition routesetting can hardly be considered a way to make a living in terms of $ made for hours worked.  With rare exception, any given pro comp will require a straight week of 12-20 hour days of setting, tweaking, and forerunning.  In return you might get travel money, a hotel room (often shared with several other people) a food stipend, and sometimes a little bit of money for your trouble.  In addition, the people are great, the comps are fun, and the climbing week after your 2-5 post comp rest days is a good time to send your projects with all the strength you've built up from forerunning. The gigantic eye and other parts of Walltopia's Prometheus.

This summer was the third straight year the Mammut Bouldering Championships was set atop the parking garage at Shiloh Inn in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah.  This tradeshow comp used to be called Sendfest, and the first two years I helped set it was held by The Front Climbing Club and USA Climbing.  In 2007 NE2C out of the northeast took over and began holding a two location comp with qualifiers at The Front and finals atop the parking garage.  The wall for finals has been different every year, with a modular Pyramide wall in 2007, four beautiful curved plywood walls in 2008 made especially for the event by John Stack and Vertical Solutions out of Salt Lake, and the 2009 Walltopia Prometheus with huge streaked features and a gigantic red eye.

Setting the Walltopia Prometheus

The eye was supposed to have four huge black eyelashes above it, but they were too easy to use as volumes and would have made it difficult to set really hard final #4 problems, so we only used one of 'em.

One of my very best friends and fellow Flashed climber Joel Zerr came along for the second straight year to help set the event.  Our friend and amazing setter Kyle McCabe, NE2C head Jason Danforth, Jason Kehl, traveling French World Cup Setter Tonde Katiyo, photographer and Flashed athlete Brian Sweeney, underrated genius Paul Handlen, and skinny white boy Bret Johnston from Seattle rounded out the setting group, though we got help from the wonderful people at The Front and the dedicated volunteer employees of NE2C as well.

Joel, Bret and Kyle playing with a rose move off the lift.

We set finals first, spending mornings and evenings (until way after midnight) atop the garage.  We couldn't set all day because from around 3-7 the sun was directly on the wall and the heat was too much to bear.  The holds were new (i.e. very textured) and the wall was an aggressive fiberglass, so forerunning was especially brutal, especially when the holds were still hot from being in the sun all day.  Bret sustained an especially bad wall burn on the inside of his right knee that he whined about for days afterward.  We were lucky to have a lift to set the tops of the very tall wall, and the lift also helped a bit when we had to set up a rain-proofing system on the back of the walls in case it rained (like it did last year).

Tonde and Kyle strapping a plastic roll to the back of the wall.

Our system turned out to be rudimentry, it was hard to set up (cause the backs of the walls were black and often in the sun when we were working on it) and made of thin plastic and strapping.  The idea was that if it did start to rain we'd remove the strings and the plastic sheeting would unfurl like a red carpet down the back of the wall and keep water of the back of the wall and therefore from running through the bolt holes (also like it did last year).  We weren't positive it'd work, and the plastic sheeting was thinner than we thought it'd be, so we were delighted when, in the middle of our last forerunning session, the strings holding one section up untied themselves and we heard the plastic rolling down the back of the wall and hitting the ground.  We looked and it was covering the wall, and hadn't torn.  Success!  Sort of.

We were lucky it didn't rain.


Here is a picture of Paul holding up the eye with a piece of strapping.  It's a good thing he was there, or nothing would've gotten done.

Next week, part 2: setting qualifiers!