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:

[vimeo video_id="57188058" width="580" height="326" title="Yes" byline="Yes" portrait="Yes" autoplay="No" loop="No" color="00adef"]

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.

Weekly Climbing Feasts

Hello again from Ten Sleep! After spending an alternately hot ‘n’ soggy or cold ‘n’ soggy spring in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, we’ve been back here in Wyoming for almost a month now. The summer season started out not-so-promising, with cold temps leaving my numb fingers torn apart. Dry, cold air means zero friction; you need a little bit of moisture to help keep hands tacky enough to stay on small holds, not to mention being able to feel them. Anyhow, the cold days left me with chunks of flesh ripped from my fingertips for a couple weeks, until the true arrival of summer more recently.

That happening prompted some quick sends of early-season projects on my part, allowing me to delve right into my long-term relationship with this summer’s biggest challenge. I’d actually tried this route out last year at the end of the season, and given it some good flails, with not too much success – some of the moves were just at the edge of my power limit, meaning I maybe did a couple of the moves only one time, total. This year, though, I’ve found that regardless of the outcome of the route (Send? No send? I don’t know…), at least I’m stronger, since I can do a bunch of the moves in ways I couldn’t last September (i.e., the right and realistic way a climber would who could actually have a hope of sending the route), and I can do many more moves in sequence already. Psyched about this!

But the real news for this year so far has been this season’s incarnation of après-climbing training days. Quick history: three seasons ago (2008), I tried to maintain training through the summer, failed because I got greedy about sending, and then regretted not training. Two seasons ago (2009), I trained on my own through the summer. Last year (2010), I almost always had company in training, but we stuck to the stuff for training inside the house – exercise bands, pull-up bar, hangboard, and body weight. Not so much for this summer…

This summer, the routine that’s established itself goes something like this: climb all day until everyone’s skin is thrashed (along with some muscles). Return to the casa, where I run off to do my hour/hour-and-a-half of weight training on the Bowflex while everyone else heads into the bouldering gym. After I’m done, I go out to the gym, where people are starting to get tired, and that’s when the real fun begins – CAMPUS TIME.

We spend an hour or two campusing around the gym like little kids in a playground, making up all sorts of footless challenges for one another as we monkey about. The falls are dramatic, the moves are ridiculous, and the fun factor is out of hand. It’s a hilarious time, totally captures what rock climbing and bouldering should pretty much always be about, in an ideal world – just pushing your own machine to do things you’re not sure it can do, and having an absolute and light-hearted blast while doing it.

It’s the start of a new week here in Ten Sleep, Wyoming, and I’m already looking forward to the end of the week’s campusing craziness, wondering who will show up this time to play. In the meantime, though, I’ve got days of good climbing on real rock ahead of me – and that’s pretty exciting, too.