Tuesday, September 28

Ragin' Paigin'

It's interesting how emotional rock climbing can be. Our display of strong emotions over a route is proof that there is indeed something more to it than just holds and chalk. It's proof that we really care about it, and that we're invested. If we could untie, coil the rope, pack up and forget about it.. then it wouldn't be worth much, would it?
The full spectrum of the projecting process including frustration, nervousness and inspiration, is entirely contagious. Even as a willing belay slave, I've vicariously lived the ups and downs of the sharp end while belaying my good friends over the years. I may have never touched the route, but I know that he/she (WE) are nervous at this part, or that this move right (HERE!) is heinous hard. I know the top is easy but (WE'RE) still stressed out!
I vicariously witnessed a project come full circle yesterday, and while of course I can not claim to have experienced the same level of emotion that my lovely partner did- I'm definitely still very STOKED. After a dozen or more days of attempts, Paige Claassen dispatched the fourth ever ascent (first female) of Tommy Caldwell's infamously difficult 'Grand Ol' Opry' 5.14b+ at the Monastery here in Colorado. I watched almost all of Paige's impressive process on this technical and thrilling route over the course of late August and September. From day one I knew she was capable, but seeing her so confidently stitch this climb together was super inspirational.
Grand Ol' Opry, established by Tommy in 1999 thwarted the attempts of many very capable climbers for nearly a decade, until it had it's second ascent in 2007 by Rifle mastermind Andy Raether. Originally graded 5.14a by Tommy, Andy felt that the climb warranted the 14c grade after investing many days of effort. Both Herm Feissner and Luke Parady (both well known for their mutant strength) were also working the route at this time and the pitch had also tasted the skin of Adam Stack and Justin Sjong over the years. I invested a couple days of effort that year, and then returned in the early summer of 2008 and managed it's third ascent. At the time, this was my second ever 5.14, and while I knew it was significantly harder than any route I'd yet to summit, I felt unable to confirm or deny Andy's upgrade due to lack of experience.
the dreaded approach
When Paige was in the top-roping stages of working the route (there is a quite thrilling run-out in the meat of the crux), I jumped on and managed to repeat the climb (on TR) after re-learning the moves. This route is a very specific style of climbing, characterized by hyper-technical, relentlessly long and shouldery moves. It requires accurate footwork, very thick skin and even a touch of compression in the crux. I now feel well qualified to state that Grand Ol' Opry is unquestionably the most difficult 8c (14b) I've ever been on, and to a climber that is unaccustomed to this unique style, it could definitely feel 8c+. Regardless of the exact grade, this send marks an impressive breakthrough for Paige and a truly inspirational day even in my life, as just a humble belay slave. Needless to say, I'm SUPER proud of Paige.

In other news, I had the chance to get out and work with Videographer Jon Glassberg of LT11 this past weekend, putting together a cool little video of myself repeating the area test-piece, 'Prime Time to Shine' 14b in Clear Creek. It was a bit warm climbing on this thing in direct sun, but it yielded some rad clips- stay tuned for the finished product!

After tireless training, both for Kryptonite, and in preparation of my trip to the East, I finally got myself in for some massage work this morning. Erik Cumming (GRIP Massage) specializes in massage for athletes and has been developing massage techniques specifically for the climbers body. It's definitely not a vacation massage, but the results are fantastic. I feel a bit like a cooked noodle at the moment, but I'm always very psyched after a rest day.
nothing but STAINLESS!!!
Now, with less than a week before I take off to Kentucky, my psych levels are beginning to boil. I'm really excited to check out RoctoberFest, hang out with a handful of great friends, and of course, sink my teeth into some of the finest stone on the planet..

Monday, September 20

beloved reruns

I've been doing quite a bit of climbing up at the Monastery near Estes Park recently. This has been one of my favorite cliffs for quite some time, and I'm always excited to hike in, enjoy this amazing place, and repeat some of the best routes in Colorado.

Although I do like the occasional plastic session, on a nice day I would always prefer to train outdoors. I've repeated routes at my local top choice crags countless times- as I would a route set in the gym- and the best quality routes simply never get old. This particular cliff has got a great selection of hard routes that are the perfect training grounds for my upcoming goals in the East (leaving in 2 weeks!!).. not to mention that the fall colors are approaching their peak, and my girlfriend Paige Claassen, along with most of the crew, are super psyched on this cliff as well- It's hard not to be..
Nick Duttle puts down Mike Wray's, 'The Quickening' 13c
Kaelen Williams puts in an effort on 'Dreamcatcher' 13c/d
Tony Yao takes a break from Rifle on 'Quickening'

Thursday, September 16

next up

I've had such an overwhelming amount of support and psych pouring in from the community over the last few days, it would be downright wrong for me not to begin by saying thank you. I see my success on Kryptonite as a representation of how far I've come as a rock climber, more so than a particular breakthrough in difficulty- and this of course is much more personally meaningful. If there is indeed a 'secret ingredient' to my success, it's only that I work my ass off.. and nothing feels better than tasting the fruits of years of honest hard work. It means a lot to me that so many people responded to my send with comments like.. 'you've inspired me to train harder' or 'I'm skipping work on Friday to try HARD on my project!' This is the real benefit of sharing our experience with one another, and I'm hopeful that I continue to inspire the community in such a way.

Momentum is a powerful ally and at this point my main focus is to stay as motivated as possible over the next three weeks until I begin my extended trip to the East. I've kept myself from revisiting the Red River guide book and checking out the New River Gorge and Chattanooga area guides because I'm quite certain that it would create uncontrollable psych. In the meantime, I've got a couple more potential new routes to look into up in Estes Park, and a few stray rock climbs around the Front Range I've yet to try.
estes valley granite
One other thing that has, for a while now, motivated me is my day job (miraculously this is NOT a typo). I've been setting routes at the Boulder Rock Club for nearly four years now. The process of setting requires a unique blend of artistry, vision and mechanical skills. You have to be able to wield a drill, charge up ladders and bust ass while at the same time begin able to visualize movement, different body types, and think creatively- setting good routes is really challenging, and I continue to learn from the process. It's especially cool that I have the freedom to set routes in the BRC that might attack a weakness of mine, or sharpen a skill set that I'll be needing.. anything to stay motivated!
Paige Claassen wrote an awesome little lifestyle piece about our recent road trip on the Sportiva LIVE site. if you have a minute definitely check it out. Tonight I'm heading to the Boulder Theatre to shoot the shit with friends and have a look at the 2010 Reel Rock film tour- stoked! Also Arcteryx has posted a really cool, visually awesome short about skiing in Kashmir.
and lastly, I'm proud to announce a fresh partnership with Maxim Ropes. Paige has been a Maxim athlete for a while and we frequently climb on her ropes- I've been shocked with how durable these cords are. Climbing legend Randy Leavitt heads up the climbing team which features the diverse talent of wicked climbers like Alex Honnold, Ethan Pringle, Lisa Rands, Jacinda Hunter, Paige Claassen, Scott Milton, Chris Lindner, Lev Pinter, Kris Hampton and now.. excitingly, myself!! I'm very excited to be part of the team.

Sunday, September 12


Setting goals is really quite a beautiful process. It's essentially a method of bringing our dreams into our reality. After a few rounds of setting seemingly impossible goals, only to see them to fruition through hard work, anyone would be addicted to the process. A worthy goal should be one beyond reach - one that will require growth to access. In the case of 'Kryptonite', it would be years between my first dreams of climbing it, and actually being remotely capable.

A number of years ago, while training for my first 13d, I built a campus board in my parents garage. I dragged an old cushion from a patio chair underneath my feet and I cranked laps on those dusty Metolius rungs til my fingers gave up. On that campus board I inscribed '9a or bust' and dreamt of one day achieving such an astonishing difficulty. Obsessed with Tommy Caldwell and his achievements, I decided then that I would one day make Kryptonite my first 9a (and I even remember thinking to myself.. 'if I actually do that one day, I would just toss in the towel.. call it good.. that's how psyched I'd be').

Superman = not psyched
Today was my 5th day working on Kryptonite. My dad and I left Boulder late morning and arrived to a hot and sunny trailhead several hours later. I plugged in my headphones, and cranked out the 45 min hike with swirling thoughts of excitement, nervousness, beta, stress and all the other random things that pop up when you're too psyched on a project to remain still. It was quite hot. I was worried, but also confident.

I warmed up on the bottom of Kryptonite twice, lowered down, and took a 15 minute snack break (PBJ on millet bread if you were curious). I cranked my Solutions over my still busted up feet (I managed to semi-seriously hurt myself at a water park a couple weekends back), yanked my kneepad on and reviewed my beta. Once I left the ground, any nervousness, stress or anxiety dissolved.. I drew my attention to only my next move.. rest.. move.. rest.. move.... clip anchors.
It went just like I wanted it to- perfectly. Every movement, rest sequence, foot placement and clip was executed in the very same way that I had been dreaming about. It was as though I had just rehearsed the route in my head, move for move, but this time the emotion of victory was real. This achievement represents an important breakthrough for me and I hope that it's just a stepping stone to whatever may come next.. A whisper of a goal from years ago, became realistic, and then was accomplished. I could not be more stoked!!
the season here is brutal.. everyday the sun crept lower in the sky
Kryptonite contains a very long stretch of consistently powerful climbing. It's similar in nature to Rifle's 'Living in Fear', but far more bouldery and much longer. A number of the sequences required special attention being in that I'm short, although thankfully I did find a very favorable method through the exiting crux that I imagine the taller climber could not use. I do not feel as though it suits my strengths, although I've grown as a climber so much over the past couple years that I'm not totally sure what my strengths are any more. It's one of the better climbs I've done, and it's certainly the hardest.

I'd like to extend a sincere thanks to my Dad, the best climbing partner I've ever had, for the many times (not just recently) that he's skipped a meeting, cut out early and busted his ass to give me a belay and support me. I'd also like to thank my good friends ( / employers) at the Boulder Rock Club for putting up with my frantic work schedule rearrangement over the past ten days while I tried to maximize my days at the Fortress.
I'm considerably more psyched than I appear here
I hope that I can share my excitement about this breakthrough with my community, and most importantly- inspire YOU! to crush whatever may lay in your path!!!!!

Saturday, September 11


Like I've mentioned before, one of the key ingredients to a project is investment. I make a lot of day to day sacrifices in my life for climbing, but when I become really focused on a goal it's hard for me to think about much else. At work, laying in bed, eating breakfast, watching movies.. I'm still rehearsing beta in my head or contemplating logistics. It may seem like a curse to some.. obsession to others.. but this is just a raw representation of commitment. If you find yourself experiencing such symptoms, don't be afraid: you're just STOKED and it's OKAY!!
colors changed significantly since last week
Patty's in New Castle = Awesome
My dad and I returned to the Fortress this past Wednesday and Thursday. We arrived at the crag soaked from minimal bushwhacking through damp shrubbery and a healthy hike in drizzle. I actually prefer damp climates for climbing given that I have unusually dry skin- so I was stoked. This would be my third day on the route, and at this point things really started to come together. I established a high point from the ground, and managed a key stage in any project.. the psych-inducing 1 hang. Rapidly my goal for the two day working session was complete and without hesitation I set a new one: to return the following day and finish the route.
trailhead psyched
Expectations however, are more often a burden than an inspiration. The next day, high winds and extreme dryness (along with my tired ass) shut me down. I'll admit I left the crag disappointed.. silly expectations! Although I did establish a important new high point twice, as well as 1 hanging the route again. I'm stoked to be feeling rapid gains from a successful summer season of climbing and more recently training, which leads me to believe that I could potentially be on the edge of a fresh breakthrough- which would be my first since early October '09. I'm a total believer in the application of the power curve to progress in (at least my own) climbing ability. As I've become stronger and/or more skilled, the plateaus between breakthroughs have become much longer and increasingly harder to surmount.
Needless to say, I'm very excited about my progress. I feel like there ain't nothing to it but to do it at this point and I'm too stoked to be picky about weather so I'll just keep tossing myself at the beast 'til it lets me clip some chains! I'm heading up tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 7

september shots volume 1

the sun sets on a terrible wild fire just outside Boulder (9/6)
razorz at the Monastery
Paige finds warmth between burns on her project..
so it begins....

Saturday, September 4


To me, having a project denotes an extra special level of investment. A project must consist of a process- which invariably involves doubt, excitement, failure and hopefully success. A project is our chance as climbers (and humans) to grow- as contrived, selfish and silly as our pursuit is, exercising determination and commitment in any area of your life induces growth.
one of my first days on 'Grand Ol Opry' - circa 07
'I swear this thing doesn't go' -beneath the breathtaking 'Sarcasm'
In the beginning, my reckless obsession with progress led me to a number of lengthy projects. My first 5.14 was a striking granite arete above 12,000 ft called 'Sarcasm' 14a. I hiked 2.5 hours each way to access this incredible route. In the end I invested probably 8-10 days of effort to make the third ascent of this amazing climb during the summer of 2007. 'Grand Ol Opry' 14b+++ would become my second 5.14. Over the course of two seasons I invested almost a dozen days on the third ascent of this route, one of my favorite climbs to date. However, it was 'Vogue' 14b/c in September of 2008 that required the greatest investment yet. Over two seasons, I hiked over 15 days to the Industrial Wall, battling nearly all of my weaknesses and falling from a massive reach at the bitter end of the route day after day after day. Since Vogue, I've managed all my summits in 10 or fewer tries total, over the course of a couple days maximum.. which in some ways has been awesome, but deep down I've known that I would need another proper project to grow as a climber. The three climbs I've listed were all major landmarks in my progression as a rock climber.. and what do they all share in common? Tommy Caldwell. He's been my greatest inspiration from day one and his contributions to the community are far too many to list. It's only appropriate that I choose yet another Tommy route to hopefully inspire my next breakthrough.
Bob Siegrist. Supportive, inspirational, psyched.
On Thursday morning, my ever supportive Dad and I took off towards the famed Fortress of Solitude. I had gathered as much beta and info as I could to give myself what would hopefully be a positive first couple days on 'Kryptonite' 14d. We spent both Thursday and Friday up there.. it was awesome. I could go on endlessly in detail about holds, crux moves, short person beta, the hike, etc etc. But to keep things simple, I'll only say that I'm stoked, it went well, the hike is not that bad, and the Fortress and Kryptonite are exactly what I need right now. An area that's remote, wild and inspirational.. a route that tests my weaknesses, that's hard, but also eye opening.
the mighty Fortress
It's very unlike me to make my goals public- anyone who knows me well is aware that I ask a lot of myself and I'm always under my own (sometimes overwhelming) pressure. I keep things to myself because I feel like I expect maybe a little too much as it is.. without the pressure of the community. However, I derive a lot of inspiration from my peers goals and ambitions (and success)- and that's what it's all about - that's community.. so in that very spirit I wanna say, I've got a project and I'm f#cking motivated!!!!
the view

Wednesday, September 1

a sequence

One of my very first driving passions in life was skating. I grew up on a unique hybrid of skate and mountain culture, but it was the skate media that largely directed my lifestyle. Although I haven't taken a day of skating seriously in over 7 years, I still frequently look to the pursuit for inspiration. I spend far more time watching skate videos than I do climbing vids. Among a number of aspects of why I still look up to skate culture is the timeless and always psych-inducing photo sequences that have existed in skate media throughout many of the sport's generations. It's a great way to capture action and give a series of movement justice while still experiencing it just moment by moment. Now that I've got a rad new camera, I'm stoked to grab some unique climbing sequences.. for now I've put up a cool one from photographer Torrey Piatt of myself (sporting a boss mohawk) climbing 'Copenhagen Angel' 13b at Wild Iris. Enjoy!

On a similar note.. if you've got more time to waste- check this rad new NIKE SB vid from Berlin.. dude ollies an 18 stair at the end!! WHAT?!