Links of the Week (7/13/2020)

Climbing and travel planning…who wouldn’t want to read these links?

“Don’t kill your husband, don’t kill yourself.”

“Don’t kill your husband, don’t kill yourself.”

“Don’t kill your husband, don’t kill yourself.”

This mantra looped in my head as I led out on some of the worst stone I’ve encountered in my 24 years of climbing.

I have my own mantra I use while climbing…luckily it was never this ☝️. Great story and makes me miss home.

Wild Kingdom: Katie Lambert Explores the Remote, Seldom-Visited Citadel


As a climber who doesn’t plan on breaking any records or even leading a 5.12 any time soon, I seek out the 5.10-and-under climbs at my local cliffs. I like climbs that don’t make me contemplate my mortality on every move, as I suspect most of us do as well. Still, the media so often focuses on the climbers ticking 5.15s—the Adam Ondras and Margo Hayeses—when so few of us attain these grades. Perhaps the climbers who make it possible for us to enjoy mellower climbs—our favorite 5.8, 5.9, and 5.10 sport routes—also deserve credit.

Amen to that!

The Mod Squad: The Tireless Climbers Establishing Moderate Sport Routes Around the Country


For my trip planning, I almost exclusively use Gaia GPS for researching, routing and tracking my adventures. I will go through some tips and tricks that I have learned along the way, along with some of the features of Gaia GPS.

I really enjoy Gaia GPS and subscribe to it for all of the MVUM (motor vehicle use maps) stuff. This is an article I’ll be referencing for a while.

So you want to map your adventure with Gaia GPS… — Explore4R


Thomas Frank’s productivity videos are watched by nearly 2 million subscribers. For every video, he writes scripts, collects b-roll and manages distribution so that every video is high quality and finds the right audience. Notion helps him and his growing team organize all these moving parts, freeing up more time for him to focus on the creative work.

Notion is one of those apps that I wanted to use but couldn’t find a use for….well that has ended for me. Notion has now replaced Noto, a note taking app that I was particularly enthralled with for a short period but it’s short comings started driving me crazy.

I’ll be writing about Notion more, but in the meantime you should check it out. (spoiler…I partly use it to plan trips in conjunction with Gaia maps)

Notion – The all-in-one workspace for your notes, tasks, wikis, and databases.

Links of the Week (6/22/2020)

Gadgets, wanderlust, and climbing…

This is one hell of a knife.

I’ve owned a Benchmade knife for years and love mine.

Benchmade Bugout, Believe The Hype


If you’re feeling a bit of wanderlust at the moment, but are stuck at home waiting out the pandemic, perhaps this video will help.

Video: Antarctica—Land of Extremes — The Adventure Blog


Head out to any crag these days, and you’re as likely—maybe more likely—to see people scrolling through Mountain Project on their smartphones as you are to see them leafing through traditional guidebooks.

I remember when MP first started up…never thought my stack of climbing guide books would be obsolete. still cool to see this site continue to grow.

Mountain Project and REI Split, New MP Partnership To Be Announced Soon – Rock and Ice


Some of the most famous climbers in the world, such as Lynn Hill, came from gymnastics backgrounds. When I started climbing, I had a high degree of bodyweight strength and conditioning from my time in gymnastics and parkour

​I was a gymnast and let me tell you, lots of that translated to climbing. But just like this author, I had to work my climbing technique before I really started to progress.

From Weak to Strong: An Expert Gymnast’s Training Guide | Evening Sends

Links of the Week (6/15/2020)

So much outdoors…

Despite characteristically capricious weather and relatively brief weather windows, this past summer season in Patagonia proved to be an exciting one for climbers, paragliders, and BASE jumpers alike.

​The pictures alone are enough to inspire you to get out there.

Highlights from Patagonia’s summer climbing season: new routes, linkups, paraglides and BASE jumps – Alpinist.com


Getting big sponsorship dollars to pursue your outdoor adventures is a dream for many people. After all, who wouldn’t want to make a living hiking, backpacking, traveling, and pursuing your other passions.

Makes sense…but good to hear it distilled down here.

Video: How to Get Sponsored in the Outdoor Industry — The Adventure Blog


Being able to fix a tire on your bike is a fundamental skill that ever rider needs to know.

​As someone who accidentally ran over his own bike recently, this is a video I needed to watch.

Video: How to Fix a Flat Tire on Your Bike — The Adventure Blog


Solo backpacking can be the ultimate meditation experience. You can travel at your own pace, view beautiful scenery in solitude, and really get the chance to tune into your environment with minimal distractions. But, for some, venturing out to the backcountry alone conjures up visions of long, wide-eyed nights in the sleeping bag, wondering what is making that noise outside the tent?

Whether you’re committed to conquering solo backpacking by choice or forced to go alone because your trail partners can’t get time away from work, this article offers some tips to help you make the transition from backpacking with others to backpacking alone with confidence and ease. If you’re already backpacking solo, review these tips for additional ideas for safety and comfort.

I dream of the day I can get out and do some real backpacking camping trips again.

Tips for Solo Backpacking – Gaia GPS

Some Stories: Lessons from the Edge of Business and Sport

Climbing and business CAN go together…

Bought this book a while back because I have always enjoyed reading about the adventures of Yvon Chouinard and his fellow climbers. This book sprinkles in a bit of business and it’s neat to see how lessons learned on a mountain can apply in the office too.

Lessons from the Edge of Business and Sport

Links of the Week (6/01/2020)

The Fourth Estate, virtual Park tours, and climbing gear…

Climbing gear should be regularly inspected to make sure it’s not only functioning optimally, but also safe to use. Most of us know this, but in practice, may not examine this critical safety equipment as often as we should. Now, as we’re all stuck at home and away from the cliffs due to the pandemic, it’s an excellent time give your gear a check-up. This guide breaks down how to inspect soft and hard goods, what to look for, and when to retire your climbing gear.

Sometimes I go through my gear when I can’t itch the scratch that is calling me outside. Inspecting it is a good idea.

How to Inspect Your Climbing Gear and When to Retire It


Over the past few months, the reverberating shockwaves of COVID-19 have forced much of the world into a state of isolated lockdown. As social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders come into effect around the globe, more and more people are finding themselves stuck indoors for weeks on end. The result has been the spread of a second, psychological pandemic: cabin fever.

Gorgeous.

Google Brings the Great Outdoors to Your Living Room


A good wide angle lens is a fantastic and versatile tool that can help you create all sorts of interesting images, but they can also be quite expensive. However, when you dive into the world of vintage lenses, there are quite a lot of great deals to be had. This great video features three awesome vintage wide angle lenses, all of which you can buy for under $100 on the used market.

​When you finally can get outside again, pop on that wide-angle lens to capture those landscapes.

3 Great Wide Angle Prime Lenses for Under $100


The term Fourth Estate or fourth power refers to the press and news media both in explicit capacity of advocacy and implicit ability to frame political issues. Though it is not formally recognized as a part of a political system, it wields significant indirect social influence.

The “Fourth Estate” or “Fourth Branch” is an interesting concept if you chew on it a bit.

Fourth Estate – Wikipedia

Climbing By the Rivers of Zion

The freedom and stress of climbing my first “big wall”…alone.

In 2010, I scraped together a couple days off around the first weekend in March. I hadn’t planned on going to Zion by myself and climbing my first big wall solo…

But there I was.

“Oh shit”, I thought. “Am I stuck on the side of this rock wall? Am I going to have to cut my rope? But if I do that how will I rappel?…”

My thoughts began to race as my desperation increased and my heart slowly sank in to my stomach.

“What the f#$k am I going to do?”


Photo by Zack Melhus on Pexels.com

Zion National Park was established in 1919, is located in southwest Utah, and is best known for its dramatic desert canyon landscapes and natural rock arches.

A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile (590 km2) park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles (24 km) long and up to 2,640 ft (800 m) deep. Located at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert regions, the park has a unique geography and a variety of life zones that allow for unusual plant and animal diversity. Zion National Park includes mountains, canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths, rivers, slot canyons, and natural arches. (Via Wikipedia)

If you have never been, I’d put it on your list. It is incredible.


I had been trying to get a climbing partner to head out there with me but hadn’t received any definite yes’s from my buddies. This led me to practice my roped soloing just to get SOME sort of practice. Finally I got someone to answer the siren call that is familiar to all climbers and we made plans to drive out to Zion.

However, a few days before I left, he got a job he’d been interviewing for and had to bail.

Damn!

So it was off to Zion all by my lonesome.

Freedom in the Journey

I loaded up all my climbing gear in to my black Jeep and drove that stick shift beauty across the southwest from one beautiful location to the next. Driving across that part of the United States can feel like driving in another world. You cruise across rust red landscapes and suddenly dive in to sheer canyons that are hidden until you are right on top of them.

The freedom you feel in a landscape this beautiful is difficult to describe.

All I can do is encourage you to stop hesitating and just drive….which is what I did. Eight hours after leaving San Diego, I was in beautiful Zion National Park.

Watchman Campground

Watchman Campground the next morning

Freedom…and Stress

March in Zion is still pretty cold and I awoke to the sight of my breath and frost on the outside of my tent.

Nevertheless, I had to get my day started, and the anticipation to start this climb pulled me out of my warm sleeping bag.

After breakfast, I drove over to the pull-out across the road from the Cerberus Gendarme climbing area. Here is a shot of where I was climbing…not a bad spot huh?

Red arrow points to the area where I was going to climb.
Red arrow points to the area where I was going to climb.

That little red pin on the left?…that is Angel’s Landing (a well known tourist attraction and hike).

Touchstone ascends the wall just to the left of the obvious crack/corner that goes most the way up.

Touchstone Wall

A mixture of anticipation and worry began to creep in as I looked at 800-1000 feet of climbing that I was about to try.

Am I really going to climb that without a climbing partner?


One thing you have to realize about climbing solo (roped)…you do ALL the work.

Normally you have a climbing partner to split the work with you, alternating between climbing and belaying. Yet, when you rope solo, you actually end up doing 3 times the amount of work you normally would.

Here is the partner climbing equation as a baseline for comparison:

climb the 100ft pitch, fix anchor, belay your partner up to you = 100ft of work (for 1 person)

Repeat by number of pitches (8 for this climb) = 800ft of work

Here’s the rope solo work equation:

climb the 100ft pitch, fix anchor + rappel 100ft back to your previous anchor + ascend the 100ft of rope you fixed to the anchor you just climbed up to = 300ft of work

Repeat by number of pitches (8 for this climb) = 2400ft of work

I was about to climb 2400ft to ascend 800ft!


The Climb

(warning: lots of climbing jargon going forward)

yeah...he's a climber too
yeah…he’s a climber too

With a nice short approach I was looking up at the bolt ladder first pitch in no time:

pitch 1 bolt ladder
pitch 1 bolt ladder

While I was very happy that this well established climb had some fixed hardware, the first 5 or 6 bolts are definitely REACHY. I’m 5’8” with a reach a little longer than my height and I had to top step in my etriers like a mo-fo. But I got them all and made my way to the second pitch with the short roof.

You can see the 2nd pitch’s roof section (triangular shadow I think) above my lead line on the upper left:

I rapped the 1st pitch and got ready to clean.

I was surprised at how straight forward the roof section was. The 3rd pitch was pretty straight forward and went smoothly.

Here’s the view looking down from the top of the 3rd (or maybe 2nd) pitch. Either way...fun shot
Here’s the view looking down from the top of the 3rd (or maybe 2nd) pitch. Either way…fun shot

Tired but happy, I called it for the day; fixed my two lines and headed back to camp.

The next day I didn’t expect how tiring re-ascending 300 feet of fixed ropes can be. Once I got back up to my previous day’s high point, I snapped a couple pics of Angels Landing behind me:

Angel's Landing behind me
Angel’s Landing behind me

Here is a closer shot of Angel’s Landing. Other climbs like, ‘Prodigal Sun’ goes up to the right of the light, square notch and ‘Angel’s Hair’ follows the crack system to the left of it:

Angel's Landing wall
Angel’s Landing wall

After about 500 feet I think I got off route because I ended up doing some very sparsely protected face climbing way to the left of the next anchors.

My ability to curse like a sailor was made well known by my echos throughout the canyon…but I got through ok (even though I had to run it out some). I don’t think it would have been as bad if I wasn’t solo, but climbing solo always adds in that extra factor that spices up a climb. Being off route doesn’t help any either.

At the top of the 5th I took 10 minutes to refuel and actually look around and had my WOW moment when I got this view that I don’t think too many people get.
At the top of the 5th I took 10 minutes to refuel and actually look around and had my WOW moment when I got this view that I don’t think too many people get.
pitch 6, touchstone wall

Now it was on to pitches with more free climbing.

The 7th pitch was another interesting one with the long crack that took #4 C4s, but as I only had two I had to leap frog them all the way up (at least 20-30 feet) to the short chimney squeeze.

I stopped there as there was a bunch of slings/ropes around a huge fixed chock stone and I was running out of light and just ran out of water.

I knew the top of the 7th ends at the tree but I made the call to start rappelling from where I was and thanks to all the fixed anchors, rappelling the route was very straight forward even by headlamp.

The Scare

Rappelling by yourself is a lot quicker than with a partner, but the risks are all your own and thus MUCH higher.

I had already descended over 400 feet and had about 300 to go, when I stopped at an anchor station and began to pull my ropes down to me.

Now the key when pulling your rappelling ropes is to make sure that all of that rock above you won’t snag the rope you are pulling up through the anchor you rappelled from…on the way up OR on the way down. A stuck rope can mean a long cold night stuck to the side of a rock wall while you figure out how you get down, or hope to flag down rescue in the morning.

I was pulling my rope at the top of the 3rd pitch (so the ropes were through the 4th pitch anchor) when all of a sudden I couldn’t pull it any more. Thinking I was just tired I gave it a bit of a whipping motion to get it away from the rock, hoping that the momentum would get it to move again.

It didn’t.

As I whipped the rope more and more hoping I could free it from whatever it was snagged on, my heart began to beat faster.

“Oh shit”, I thought. “Am I stuck on the side of this rock wall? Am I going to have to cut my rope? But if I do that how will I rappel?…”

My thoughts began to race as my desperation increased and my heart slowly sank in to my stomach.

“What the f#$k am I going to do?”

The Calm

Hanging from the side of the wall, darkness now fully descended on the canyon, my thoughts settled. Then an interesting thing happened…a moment of calm and clarity came like the sudden ceasing of a storm.

I really only had three choices.

  1. Cut the rope
  2. Hunker down for a cold night
  3. Give one last full body weight pull on the rope

When you are backed in to a corner with nowhere to go, clarity can hit you like a slap in the face.

”Full body weight pull it is then” I thought.

I have never pulled so hard on a rope in my 10+ years of climbing.

All of a sudden I dropped…

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

Then…just as suddenly…I was jerked to stop by the anchor I was tethered to. With a whirling, whipping sounds that zipped through the air, my rope flew by my head.

It was free!!

Somehow I had pulled my rope free and it was now hanging below me patiently waiting to be of use again.

With a hoot that echoed down the canyon I set up my rappel and started down to the dark canyon floor. A couple pitches later I was finally down to the car and utterly exhausted. I threw my gear down and made my way back to camp once again:

The Bitter End

Knot terminology:

Bitter end: the very end of the line

Climbing big walls is a push-pull relationship.

You will get psyched to have a project to work up to, obsess over the details, read about it, and even dream about it as the rock pulls you to it.

Then you actually start climbing.

Over the years, I have heard people describe Big Wall climbing as “Type 2” fun.

Type 2 fun is miserable while it’s happening, but fun in retrospect.

That is spot on.

So, even as the fear of being stuck, the nerves of climbing off route, and the exhaustion was still fresh…that very next day, I drove around and just enjoyed the park.

Reveling in the fact that I had just been a speck on the side of these thousand foot monoliths, I sat in the back of my Jeep, ate my lunch, and stared up at what might be my next climb.

one last B&W picture I took
one last B&W picture I took

A New Guy’s Take on Crossfit and Family

This is a peice I wrote a few years ago. I am reposting because I am missing my gym family…

Six months ago I had only heard of Crossfit in passing. I didn’t know what a wall-ball was, had never heard the term Olympic Lifting, and would have checked to make sure my kids weren’t around if someone had started talking to me about snatches or improving their clean and jerk.

I am a Crossfit New Guy.


A Lifetime of Fitness

Photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash

I am not new to fitness. As a former collegiate gymnast turned rock climber, I spent much of my life in a gym and have been a part of some sort of fitness family for about 27 of my 33 years on this planet. Rock climbing has consumed the majority the last 10 years of my life, but due to a nagging injury that seems to only surface whenever I climb, I begrudgingly have been keeping myself out of my home away from home.

My wife and I have some friends who are part of a local crossfit gym and we have seen the transformation it has had on them. Thus, with some prodding from my better half, I decided to go check it out. I had always been skeptical about crossfit gyms as I thought they had a certain reputation that I wasn’t a fan of, but judging things by their reputations is something I try not to do. So on a sunny Saturday morning I drove myself to our friends’ gym.

Boy was I shocked by what I discovered.

Crossfit is so much fun! The reputation of aggressive weightlifters that talk about eating nothing but meat and more crossfit was completely unfounded. In fact the coaches don’t even use terms like “box” or “paleo”. The first coach I met was super mellow and quite receptive to my newness to the crossfit world and quickly tailored my first basics class to my strengths and weaknesses. Being that I have an extensive gymnastics background and came from 10+ years of climbing we mostly focused on how to do the barbell movements and olympic lifts.

The Importance of Family First

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

What shocked me the most on that first day, was the family feel that the gym had that was so similar to my current climbing gym and gymnastics gyms of the past. In fact there seems to be almost more of a family centric feel since the crossfit gym doesn’t have college night, birthday parties, boy scout troops earning badges, or boyfriends trying to get their girlfriends to “just grab that hold!”. Fewer transients coming through the gym means you mostly see regular members…something that only strengthens that family aura.

Now crossfit isn’t for everyone. I LOVE to work out and leading a life of fitness is a big part of who I am. For me crossfit is perfect for what I want in a workout regiment and once I figured out that all that crossfit is, is a bunch of people who really like to workout and be healthy, I was all in. Perhaps I’ve been lucky with some great coaches, but I think that I have found a sport/workout routine that I’ll stick with for a while.

How Does Crossfit Help with Climbing?

Photo by Tristan Pineda on Unsplash

Good question.

I don’t actually know yet. Due to that climbing injury I mentioned, I’ve forced myself to stay out of my climbing gym which can be really tough to do. I’m sure that my climbing specific endurance is not good but I know for a fact that if I went out and climbed a moderate 1,000 foot climb I’d have a lot more overall stamina. If you ever get to jump on a big wall like Half Dome in Yosemite, you’ll find out that 75% of your energy isn’t spent climbing but doing everything from hauling, ascending ropes, and more. You have to be in shape if you want to last on a big wall and I know that crossfit has whipped me back into shape fast.

Is crossfit for you? I don’t know but I encourage you to at least give it a shot. Even for just a workout or two.

As for me, I have some big Yosemite plans this spring and I know I’ll be ready…thanks to my Crossfit family.

This was first posted over on Medium. If you like these longer form posts, you can get early access to them by becoming a Patron for $1 a month.

Links of the Week (4/14/2020)

Ever wonder what it would be like if you came back from isolation just to see the world in a pandemic?

When the world screeched to a halt, I didn’t notice. I was off the grid near Antarctica, lost in the cacophony of some 200,000 penguins. Elsewhere, highways were emptying, planes parking, and businesses shuttering as COVID-19 gained ground. But the order for social distancing hadn’t yet stretched to this corner of the planet.

I look away for one minute!!!!!

‘You are the only passenger’: How I returned to an empty world

Creativity, it is said, is intelligence having fun.

Never looked at it this way, but I’ve always heard that creative people (like comedians for example) are usually pretty smart.

Talent, you’re born with. Creativity, you can grow yourself.

Where is home for someone who travels full time?

Never thought of that.

Dirtbagging in the Time of COVID-19

I’m in the middle of my sophomore year at college, studying journalism. It’d my dream to someday work in climbing media. Do you have any advice for what I can do to make that dream a reality?

Ask an Editor: How Do You Get a Job in Climbing Media?

Links of the Week (3/23/2020)

Climbing will be in the Olympics…you pumped?!

The inclusion of climbing in the Olympics is new, but the topic itself has been around for decades

Over 10 years ago I knew this would eventually happen. Glad to see it here.

Climbing in the 2020 and 2024 Olympics: How We Got Here and What the Future Holds


Climbing will premier in the Olympics on August 4 at the Aomi Urban Sports Park in Tokyo, Japan. Prep for the venue is well underway.

First Look: The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Climbing Walls


There will be a total of 40 climbers (20 men and 20 women) competing at the Tokyo Olympics, and each country attending the games has been given a maximum quota of two competitors per gender. The climbers who have already qualified for the Olympics were selected through a series of Olympic qualification events, including the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) World Championships this past summer in Hachioji, Japan, and a more recent combined contest in Toulouse, France.

Meet the Athletes Climbing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics


The sport of climbing and cinema go back a long way and there are dozens of great films to see, both from Hollywood and from climbers themselves.

The Hollywood climbing films range from sorta realistic to the absurd to downright cheesy. And the library of classic real climbing films is big.

​Lists like these are always fun. I think I’ve seen about half of these and my two favorite are probably Return to Sender and Cliffhanger. 🤣

25 Must-Watch Real and Hollywood Climbing Movies – Gripped Magazine