Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Tradition and ascents.

Do traditions matter any more, or is the completion of the ascent the only goal?

After reading a Jens Larssen 8a article on old Font problems, it reminded me of the time before the internet and social media.

Mountaineering:
Messner and Habler did a free ascent of Everest without supplemental oxygen 1978. This was seen as the best form to ascend a mountain, yet there are numerous ascents from then to now with oxygen tanks, it seems that this tradition is long gone and forgotten.

Note: I believe that a valid mountain ascent needs to be without supplemental oxygen, as the pioneers Messner and Habler really set the bar on this one. However the fact that Everest is a financial gain for many, the style takes the backseat.

Ice/Mixed/Drytooling:
The use of heel spurs to gain and ascent are long gone, now we have the rampant usage of figure 4's and 9's to ascend routes. There are a few key climbers trying to eliminate this from a valid ascent, for reasons like; if you are in a F4, and you move out to a hold and miss it, you will still stay on the F4 tool side and you can repeat that move until you stick it. With NO F4, you would simply fail and fall off, just like a rock climb dyno or deadpoint.
Is this really an important topic worthy issue? For climbers who really want to keep the tradition of the best form to ascend, then for sure it is.
This is by no means saying those who do such are not good or accomplished climbers. It is simply stating that there are better forms for ascention. "Tooling" is not like rock climbing where the harder it gets the worse the hold become. The reality about drytooling regardless of ice is most end up being drilled or chipped out at some point. It is just not the same as rock climbing ... but still fun and crazy workout

Note: I am a proponent of the NO F4/9.

Rock climbing:
Is the usage of a rubberized knee pad the best way to ascend a route? Rifle Colorado and Sonora, California are both home to routes that have a rampant use of rubberized knee pad to ascend a route. There have been many climbers who have ascended these routes without rubberized knee pads, Alex Huber is one to note, and in the early 1990's on routes up to 14c, the top end of these two crags. So does this mean that he is just a freak/better climber, or that the routes can be done without the usage of rubberized knee pads, and should be done that way?
We as climbers have accepted the fact that shoes are rubber and the usage of climbing chalk, so is the use of rubberized knee pads just an extension of this thinking and tradition? Some climbers still climb barefoot, so would that mean that routes need to be ascended without shoes? Or is the usage of the "kneepad" similar to grabbing/weighting (without anyone else knowing) a draw just to get an ascent?
For example in bouldering is it okay to touch the ground/pad/spotter with your feet and continue?
Back to Huber, he really set the tone for this, some climbers said he was too strong, where they needed the "kneepad" to gain the ascent. Another example of this is Jim Karn (1990/91) doing all of American Fork Hell area in a week ... most of the locals said he was simply much stronger that he believed, yet Karn noted the routes seemed easy, and coming off a successful Buoux trip where numerous 14s went down. In 2015/2016, Alex Megos sends FRFM 9b in short work, along with most of the worlds 9's. We know he can run laps on mid  14 with ease, and send 9's in short work. Is he a freak of nature? Or just a person who trains to be the best he can be?

Note: I do not see or hear of "kneepads" for the top Euros? I maybe wrong on this?

Note: I am on the latter side of this concept. I believe that you can knee scumb without the "kneepad", simply climb the route with the tradition time honoured methods.

During this past summer we had some climbers from the Rifle area come up to Acephale, they certainly climbed well and seemed to enjoy the climbing and weather. We got to the discussion about kneepads and I of course let them know my thoughts. One of the replies was "then you didn't get on anything hard for you, if you did not use them". The reality is this is not about me, but I will note that back in the early 90's many of the testpieces went down without kneepads, Back then it just seemed like cheating ... not the kneebar itself but the rubberized pad.

Today we have SILENCE 9c and Adam Ondra has a rubberized knee pad ... So maybe I am out to pasture, like way out there?

It seems today that the NEW SCHOOL comp style is the way and gyms are now catering to this parkour style. I figure most will realize where I am on this, but is it good or bad for climbing on rock? I will as well not that Sean McColl trains for rock style but climbs compstyle ... this is where I think most gyms miss the rock style and go for mostly parkour compstyle. This comes back to the alpinist climber who slams and will not sport climb, mostly as they are at such a lesser level that the ego just can't deal. Yet the sport climber can if they wish move over and learn the alpinist skills and are already at a solid skill level that the climbing part is simple. So WTF does this mean? Well if McColl trained just for new school comps and did no training for actual rock, then he would not be climbing in the 9's as he has done (why the McColl focus? He is one of the top comp climbers and climbs 14d so 9a.) The Euros are very well versed in both, Ondra tops in comps and rock, and if you follow his training he is power based and extremely focused on movement. Megos is German power, like Gullich was, except he has the comp ability built in from his youth.
Sonnie Trotter is one of the few who are pureists, and he was a full on comp climber from the early 2000's. His horn gets touted a lot in the media, however he is a climbers climber. He simply does not just follow the rules of climbing, but seems to live by the traditions and style of climbing. He may well be out there for himself, but he is a climber and we all have egos, yet he seems to hold to the traditions and that to older climbers not just gets respect, but gives us hope that climbing can be true, even in this social media hyped up - red bulled up climbing community.

I will note that I miss the old days with Scott Milton, Todd Guyn and the legendary Joe Buszowski, and Levente Pinter (THE PUNTER), where we had the crags to ourselves and even though we may not have seen eye to eye on routes, we always kept the traditions and style pure. Our old training facility in Dale Robotham's basement in Calgary, where we had the 60 cave and the traverse wall that went 30/40/45/40/30 ... for about 40 ft of wall. Yep the early 90's, when training was in basements and steep was where it was at. The moonboard is the original cellar wall, and thank Sheffield and Moon/Moffat for that.

Many "Coaches" will say that technique is the best method for getting up a route. I however believe in the old school tradition of power, the stronger you are, the easier climbing is ... of course you still need to know how to move and read climbs, that's experience and time learning movement. Yet many top climbers had become that with their power level. Jim Karn, Jim Sandford (CDN), Levente Pinter, Todd Skinner, Boone Speed, Fred Nicole, Wolfgang Gullich, Gerhard Horhager, Alex Huber, Jerry Moffat, Ben Moon, Chris Sharma, Alex Megos, Adam Ondra. Sure there are more, and a lot of other great top elite climbers, but the above seem to be the power based climbers. They like(ed) short hard routes and really focused on that style. Today this still seems to hold true to the top elite. We are again hearing of 20m 9's. I will note again that I focused on this for many years, okay maybe still do, back in the 90's I had extremely good success on this style ... today I still try for that success, yet seem to be drawn to the 30+m routes of the RRG ... maybe Guyn and Milton's words have finally sunk in 26 years later? I am sure they would say no fricking way ... and they however are still much better skilled climbers ... they both move very well on most lengths and angles, and yes Milton climber harder so that sort of trumps the words.

I hope that todays climbers do not let go of the traditions and style, that they keep pushing for the next generation to have more to do and not less.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Route building and FA's, Angst and thanks

FB, has seen lots of posts about projects and no red tag or such on them, and some climbers doing the projects, or at least trying hard to send them. They have noted that their was no information about the projects, so how were they to know?

Well it seems that FB has a lot on information about what's going on and new routes ...

I have been outspoken on this as I have been a builder since the mid 80's and know the efforts that go into a new route and the respect to be given to such ... like the extra effort to find out if it's still a project.

Greg Tos has been developing Echo Canyon since the start of it and has put countless hours and funds into such, and no posts on media about his sends ... just building and sending. He did not start this rant, he was the one defending the builders and a Pro Climber (PC) noted that no red tag so how are climbers to know? To me that was another response to one of the PC poaches from last summer.

I have posted about a particular Pro Climber (PC) as he poached a route of mine last summer, and the fact it was not fully cleaned  was even worse. This was reported on the TABVAR page on FB which I know the PC reads and he utilizes social media for his profession. Up to this point that PC and I had been friends for 25 years ... and I had been a supporter of his to those who questioned his motives ... then BAM! all gone in one send of his ... and I was still cleaning the route, it took another half day to clean off the crap that I had not gotten too in the roof. Yes I was pissed, and still carry a bit of that this season. NOTE: to me a builder it was like doing a deck and then the client paying the PC instead of me ... BTW, there was no spray about the send of a this new route at Acephale, but yes I was very happy for many reasons to actually be able to send again ...

He should be the one who holds back and supports the efforts of those who build ... as he is a PC with the biggest companies in the industry ... so with his behavior, we get the behavior of the companies that sponsor him. His public persona should be industry first personal left at home. whereas those of us older and or not a PC, can have and often do get our personal to the public. I have called out on this PC as having the competitive and angst of the 80s and 90s, Get ahead of all other climbers, just so you can afford to live the meager PC life back then, this seems to be the way he still lives life, as he continues the, no red tag means send, send, send.

I have been called a liar, coward, asshole, and many others, like grow up, once I let my personal views out on this PC in public. That's okay as others love this PC and that's life, he carries the media ... they can have that.

A route in reality costs with labour about $1,500.00 ... so if you poach then prepare to pay. If you have not done all the other routes in an area then stay off the projects, check TABVAR on FB. Thank the builders as you would have nothing to climb if it was not for them. There would be little or no routes at Acephale, Bataan, Echo, Carrot, Lake Louise, Grotto, The Ghost, or Yam.
Don't just take the media for information, ask around, learn and move on.

So on that note, I will Thank the current builders, Greg Tos and Bonar McCallum for Echo, Mark Norman continues to build year in and out, Evan Hau even bolts some for us to send, Josh Muller for the same on that, Craig Doram for the Unicorn, Andy Genereux for the Ghost stuff and a bit of Yamnuska. Levente Pinter for a route a year, and again ones that we can climb ... Likely leaving others out.


Monday, 23 November 2015

What's happening to climbing in the new age of Social Media

What happened to climbing? We have in a few short years gone from selective leading edge media coverage to this Social Media age of instant posts, likes, instagrams …where the individual is the “selector”.

Note: this is not a bitter old grumpy post, more a what the frick happened and is happening, to get a good dialogue. Disagree, agree, but please try to keep either decent and no FU replies.

Bit of background, (mostly from a Bow Valley perspective):
I grew into climbing during the mid 1980's. Born and raised in Calgary, AB, Canada, we really had limited routes to climb, and being young and keen I ventured to the infamous Smith Rocks with one of my original climbing partners. It was Smith or the "Valley" and seeing as I was more into sport climbing, the Valley was a no go, plus Smith was closer and one could live there quite cheaply.

Smith created the current stream and backbone of today's  North American (NA) sport climbers and the sports ethics, styles and traditions. Smith hosted the hardest routes in North America and brought in all the world's best climbers in a very small area. The top climbers of the time did get media coverage, the magazines poured over Tribout, Edlinger, Le Menestrel Brothers, Moffat, Moon, Gullich, Huber, Skinner, Franklin, Speed and Karn. However a host of other climbers were sending as hard or close, and often building the routes ... Alan Watts (who is largely forgotten or likely no one has an idea who he was/is) built a large percentage of the Smith routes, and climbed 5.14 back then ... yes Jibe did FA most of Alan's routes, a bit of a standoffish in how it was done, yet that was pretty much how the community was, if you built it and not send it, one of the other's will be on their way to send, and most often not in a friendly way. 

Back then when routes were sent and in the media, it was because a new hard leading edge route was sent an FA or repeat ... To Bolt, Leave it to Beaver, La Rose and Chouca, Liquid Amber, Hubble, Action Direct, Om, Houlihan, White Wedding, Super Tweak, and world cup winner and top 5.14 repeater. 

Does it (did it) really matter if you hit the media? Well many who sent a lot of the hard routes and those who built and sent, remained somewhat anonymous to the outside world of other climbers, the core certainly knew who you were, Goddard, Griffith, Piana, Sandahl, Azin, Beck, the AF crew, the Rifle crew, Holt, Sandford, Reid, Guyn, LeBlanc, Milton, the Wilson's and Pinter, Bergman’s Oats … I am certain to miss some ...  Most of these climbers built and sent leading edge climbs of their era. Some pushed the grade boundary to the upper elite 5.14+, others in the 5.14-. So how does this matter? Well back then any sponsorship meant you had more time training, building and climbing translation less time working for money, to allow the time to climb.

Back then as today, there are paid pro climbers like Sharma, Ondra ... the world cup crew, and others who are able to get the gear and often help on trips. All of these climbers have made it because of what existed to them to gain experience and push their limits, and for the few push beyond. To me, this is the key as I see the sport, pushing the grade and adding new areas/routes. An example is in the freeride MTB, where "rampage" has pushed the limits and now backflips/front, corks ... 50ft plus drops, 50ft plus gaps are becoming the norm for the top riders. This then provides more to the recreational or up and coming club level rider to realize what is possible and maybe push those limits later on.

Back in the 80's and 90's 14c was pretty much the limit (yes it seems that Hubble and Action Direct are upped to the 14d), Hubble, Action Direct, Om, Just Do it. Today we have 5.15a (15b Ondra in Mollans), with a host of climbers at the top end of the 90's range, probably as many as there were 5.12 and up climbers in the 1980s. Today however we have online media, just what I am writing on, where we can share our opinions, views and sends instantly, regardless if it is old-era media worthy. Climbing gyms provide the ground to get better quicker, to learn movement and gain power and ability. Some of our pro athletes have made their living off promotion via the media, laying the groundwork for the next generation to follow suit.

Note: Many female climbers back in this era added to the elite level, Destiville, Hill, Ebersfield, up to and sending 14a. The women did not have first female ascents, just ascents, and often they had second ascents of the upper elite level routes. I was fortunate to climb with Lynn Hill back in the late 80's and used her beta for a few hard Smith routes ... yes she sent most of the hard routes before most elite men.
Other euros who were building, like Lafaille at Ceuse;  Onsighting 13c and redpointing 14b, Raboutou; Nicole brothers, Bain de Sang, 9a, and all Fred’s boulder problems v14, hey it’s Fred; Manolo, Atkinson, Dawes, Dunn, Pritchard ... Nadin for world cup wins and 13c OS.

Today, we have many climbers who post sends of 13+, 14 - in an era where 14+ is the bottom end of the elite. If you climb 14c today you are in that bottom elite world class level. Yet time and time again we read media reports of particular climbers who have sent cool and respected climbs, that are really only media worthy of promoting that particular climber (as some have put it, self-promotion). Our current climbing media community is now seemingly built on how much you can post and tweet. There are many good climbers today, many that are at the top level of "our" era, that it may seem worthy to us, yet back in our era it would be like a 5.13a climber getting the media and the coveted dollars (minimal) that went with photos and sponsorship. Today we have 5.13 climbers who are sponsored, in an industry where dollars are very limited and tight ... that's just silly for a sport. Yes it helps the companies spread their brand, and add more climbers to the funnel, but does it help the sport?
My thoughts are no, as it does not push the limits, unless it adds new routes and areas for those new climbers to enter and climb on.
An example on this, let’s say you just sent a personal best 13c, well fricking awesome for you, for real, however is it worthy to send to "Gripped" to report on a send of a route that was likely sent years before or decades? Just like when I do a few link ups, are they worth reporting on ... NO! But they are certainly fun and challenging for me.


Do I think it's awesome when a person sends a personal best, heck ya! regardless of the grade, to me this is a big Woo Hoo ... But talking about the big picture of the sport, Ondra sending a new 15b, around St. Leger, Southern France, and a 22m rig to boot. So it’ll remain hard no matter your endurance … How often does Hubble get sent? Action Direct? Compared to some of the enduro 9a’s?

We are not like Tennis, where, as a game, it would show instantly that the 5.13 vs 5.15 would just not stand. We are more like Surfing, a lifestyle with competitions and leading edge athletes. Maybe this is a core issue? Our WC’s just don’t carry the same weight as an ATP open Grand Slam event. We are way more into the 9a send trains of Sharma or Ondra, and that kid Megos … he’s not just sending, but crushing the sends – the next generation.

As a longtime climber who pushed the limits of my era, I respect all climbers, I really enjoy other climbers sending projects, however one starts to lose a lot with this new realm of media-gratification as if they are the "shit" when they are just good recreational climbers, but plaster Social media with their sends.

For example if you are a Canadian competitive climber in the open category and you are not placing in the top of these national events, then you are likely not the "shit", just another good (a tennis goes) Club player. Our top competition climber, Sean McColl, is not just winning WC’s, he’s sent 14d, trains in Europe, where there are a lot of 14c/d climbers, so if you want to be better and/or win in WC’s, then you train with them and add your edge to try to be better.

The sponsorship game should be from the top end climber, then downwards to those that climb well for their area, build areas, get more people into climbing …
For most companies and sports, this is the way they have sponsorship set up. However, Social Media is seemingly eroding this and the more likes or friends you have then the higher your sponsorship level will be, as selling products is the companies goal. (note on this; most of these climbers are still good mid-level climbers, 5.13, it takes a lot of effort and dedication, but still far off that top end mark that keeps the sport moving forward).
Club level is darn good, many folks don’t have the time or ability to go “pro” but can ascend to a high level and push themselves while working on a life in the normal world. As the pro world is very different than the one most people live.

In our small area of the Bow Valley we have a few top level climbers, Pinter still has the 5.14d top end, Hau, Muller and McGurk who just sent 5.14c. The old (young) guy Milton still has the Canadian top elite climber emeritus status. Trotter is still in that elite level, but he's aging like we all do, and he's sort of a Bow Valley resident now. Most of these are pushing the boundaries and providing the benchmark for the next generation to hike Bunda Ju Fara … it’s the 75ft drop effect. Personally when I hit a 4ft drop I am the shit, in my own mind … likely just scared the shit out of myself. These climbers are the benchmark or those about the reset the bench for our area, and maybe at the top end level.

As a person and climber I respect those who build routes and or send new elite level routes vs. those who repeat routes that have been around for 2 decades or more and media the crap out of them just to get more exposure. This behaviour is not adding to the sport, but it is certainly adding to the likes or whatever that twitter has? It’s mostly about the “look at me this is what I have done; look at me, myself and I”.

As Greg Florek pointed out on a FB comment very well, there are different levels of sponsorship ... totally, the upper end does get some money, some are paid very well, others add by using speaking engagements, slides shows, talk’s, and these are more often the most well- known. My response is backed in our history; If you are a sponsored climber you best be better than the club level climbers or your area …

History Example of media and climber levels:

Skinner was likely the finest at this, a top end climber who also recognized he had a following and a way to use that and his experiences to allow him to work differently and climb as much as possible. Skinner was a friend of mine, one I respected and many climbers did. But there were many climbers who disliked his media prowess. He made a very good living off this. He was also a top level elite climber and a builder or new routes. He was a very good guy, and energy that was fully infectious. Skinner had the media savvy and the rock climbing ability to back it up!

Piana was Skinner’s long time climbing partner, and a climber who was in that elite level realm, but less known to the “public”. He was one of the original elite level climbers and builders who was sponsored which allowed him a little less work time and more time to build routes … another climber who without, you would have less Wild Iris and Sinks Canyon, oh yeah and that Salathe Wall thing.
Both of these forms were the norm of our generation, however the Skinner media push took off to a crazy level with Facebook … one of our locals Gadd has this game so dialed that at one point he had to ask people to stop friending him. Sort of a reap what you sew … Gadd however is a very good all round adventure athlete, but the top mixed climber, where he mostly gains his other climber respect. Yes he is a good ice climber, but there are many good top end ice climbers.  He also wrote a piece on Social Media, see below.

For a climbing company it's all money to them, either in gear or gear and actual dollars and most of those in that position are old school dirt bag climbers who are very frugal/cheap ...

Today our climbing community seems to have put a weighting on the media/promotion versus pushing the sport. To me pushing the sport is the only way to go, or it will fall off. What the heck happened to pushing the limits of the sport in your era? Being the best, or one of the best at rock climbing? From an elite level, be it on the low end, I find it sad that today, climbers are getting sponsorship based on how much they put out in the media vs, climbers who instead are out there pushing the limits of their era. Many of the existing elite level climbers have to push themselves on this media insatiable aspect of more and more ...

The generation that followed mine we have Levente Pinter, who set the bar at the 5.14d level with Bunda je Fora, Acephale. He really put it on the line for the sport and kept the envelope expanding. He was not a poster, nor a tweeter, (we really did not have that back in the late 90’s and the early 2000’s, so maybe that’s the real issue) but he was a top level climber (14d) who also added a lot of new routes for the generations to climb on. He had to “fight” to get gear, climbed on crappy draws or ropes just to send … While during this time some 5.12 climbers who could mixed climb were able to gain more sponsorship. Really a sad focus on the climbing industry, as they focused on this craze leaving many rock climbers behind. Hey, as a mixed area builder and leading-end level mixed sport routes, I feel I can state this, it’s fun, but it just does not have the same breadth as rock climbing, less climbers, it’s cold, and only a few places in the world have sport mixed climbing/drytooling.

I do think that the current media is crumbling away the foundations that our previous climbing generations had built.  I hope that the core climbers of today keep pushing the limits, as the sport has become large enough that the recreational side and posts/tweets, are overtaking the professional side.


What happened to respect the elders, push the era and pass it on, all keeping it as merits versus mouth/keyboard?

I just read a Gripped article on Yamnuska, where the poster laid out their new bolted routes from 5.10 to a 5.12a grade, one does it matter to the scene? Or is this just a way to get a bit of attenion? The attention the person likely gets is just less respect, more spew, and more grid bolting on the Yam, so a win for some and a WTF for others. Again it’s awesome that new routes are getting done, but does the person really need to spew this forward?

A good read on mentorship, scroll down to that section:

Another evening sends article on Kinder, who states: training paid off, and I have new goals, but keeping them out of the social media, as too much pressure to complete. He is 35 years old, so at the elite level, it’s tough to stay there … well unless you are Dani Andrada ... Kinder was a leader in the Social media push as well … seems to be a change back to just climbing.


Sort of ironic on Gadd, as he has utilized the media about as good, as anyone out there, but he is the shit on the mixed climbing, and at being a top level athlete.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Shep Steiner

Shep Steiner; Climber, builder, Bow Valley Alberta, PhD. Art History. Prof at University of Manitoba.  
1993 … A wet season spring in the Bow Valley, but we did get Bataan rocking during the chinooks of January and February … Then came late springtime, Shep Steiner and LeBlanc hitting up what we know now as Acephale. LeBlanc’s mentor/partner, Joe Buszowski was very busy guiding and being a husband – he and Steiner climbed a lot together back then – they built the Carrot Patch and a couple of classics on the Ravens nest buttress in Carrot Creek … so we end up as the Steiner/LeBlanc team. The duo lugged up bolts, ropes, tools and the Buszowski/LeBlanc Hilti, with the turbo kit, as it needed 36 volts and when built the three 12V motorcycle batteries provide 80 plus bolts, all with a 30ft cord … it helped out immensely (note: so did Bill Rennie as he funded the hardware about $5k) we of course needed lots of coffee and brought up a stove for coffee … a bit of history on this tenuous partnership, as I was a Calgary climber with a place in the Bow Valley, but not really a part of either. However, as I learned from Buszowski, I had the passion for adventure and building, Todd Guyn, likely the preferred partner for Steiner, but Guyn was just too damn lazy to build, he’d go away climb, shred and come FA our builds … but that’s a story on Guyn.
Now this team had a very intriguing background on an off for years, LeBlanc the younger one had met Steiner in Harvie Heights, early 1980 as they had cabins in the hamlet. Back in 1984 Steiner could drive and convinced LeBlanc to go on a climb called the Gonda Traverse, 5.7, (1982) … LeBlanc was 14 and Steiner 16 with a car … so they went onto the climb and LeBlanc had the first incursion of his love for “slabs” scared and freaked, Steiner then figured why not do the roof to top out and get this kid off the cliff. So on came, the Gonda roof and as usual Steiner hiked it and then to their surprise LeBlanc followed much better than the slab … wow like that doesn’t tell about his career … Then came 1984 and Steiner dragged LeBlanc into Grotto Canyon where he taught LeBlanc how to climb sport routes (with Buszowski and where LeBlanc and Buszowski became friends) and LeBlanc sent Farewell to Arms, 10d/11a … it had 3 self-drive bolts and a pin.  As the summer of 1984 ended, LeBlanc went off to school in London, Ontario and Steiner went off on his own and built some awesome climbs.
1988 rolled around and Steiner became a central figure in the “Water Wall” debacle. This was really a division of what was acceptable and not … the Calgary scene thought that the manufactured holds on water wall was way too much and “borrowed” all the builders gear that was left on the three routes (Known now as Shep’s Diner, 13a; The Resurrection, 13+; and Crimes of Passion, 13a). A few heated phone calls, a few lycra tights got rumpled … as the dust settled these routes are excellent training and fun routes, no less real than any other route. Steiner and Andy Genereux had the most back and forth “tuss”. Steiner’s route, Shep’s Diner 13a; Steiner had a “Head fuck” with this route 1 fall a zillion times … back to University he went … PhD. In Art History UBC, Shep’s Diner was FA’d by the notorious Scott Milton 1990 … LeBlanc and Jason Holt had lapped it, but left the chain clipping, as this was with respect to our friend Steiner … Milton did not share that, nor should he have, as there was little respect between the two of them … that’s a Milton story and it’ll come.
Shep’s Diner name came from the fact that we ate dinner at his pad in Harvie Heights almost nightly … so the route name just fit and stayed that way.
Late March 1993 … Upper Wall Acephale (named by Steiner, as the Journal of Acephale was part of his academic background) Le Stade du Mirroir became … FA Steiner, 12b and an impressive FA … blew off the last two bolts … true Steiner fashion full belief, consequences stay way back in the mind. However a bit of terror for the belayer, as his head bob getting into the undercling to clip the anchor had not just a 60ft whip, but one that would stop short at 30ft by a massive dead tree angled perfectly to “catch” a whipper. LeBlanc sent (FA) the left route called, Le Blu du Ciel 12b. Steiner built a few more, Le Jeu Lugubre, 12c;   Full Fathom Five, 12c; Port Hole to Hell 13c/d FA Todd Guyn; Sweet Thing 13c FA Guyn. Then off to the lower wall where he built and sent, La Part Maudite, 12c. Steiner was the machine for this back then and his education found the name for the crag. He truly built routes for the next generation – screw the current rules and limitations, but keep the style and ethics, just push the envelope and then keep going.
Acephale in 1993 was truly a crag. Sure it had routes from 1992 from Richard Jagger, Daren Tremaine and LeBlanc, but the 1993 season with Steiner pushed it onwards.
The lower wall also got the Steiner influence. Steiner built “The Accursed Share” 12c; and did a few other obscure routes, like SR16 12-, (Shep’s Rig 16). LeBlanc built and sent Naissance de la Femme, 13b, Guyn FA’d the route. To some of us it didn’t matter to FA, but to build new lines, create and send. Steiner got a bit injured and left the building scene, finished his PhD. And is now a professor of Art History University of Manitoba, with a wife and daughter … wow how grown up.
Some stellar Steiner routes, Carrot Patch; The Carnivore, 13a, FA LeBlanc; Mouthful of Freddie, 13c, FA Guyn; Oedipus Complex, 12b; The Gizzard 12c, Ravens nest buttress. I think he built this one just to piss Genereux off, as it goes straight through The Wizard, 11d/12a a very good Genereux route of the 1980’s. Steiner placed a bolt that is crucial for where the Gizzard goes through the Wizard – but this may well have been placed by Buszowski … however he always managed to stay unscathed from these kinds of altercations, yet a central figure … wonder where I learned from.

Shep also had the best dog, as he was the first of “us” to have one, named Tuzo, a Malamute with a bit of some rather large, wild and pack like in him like maybe a ¼ … he was about 120lb and became the first crag dog for Acephale … he had a lot of history and some great stories … he was the first, coolest and Steiner’s best friend ever … maybe his daughter may be overtaking that, but it’s a dog/master relationship that is crazy special. Harvie Heights 1984? Tuzo had crazy energy as a puppy, so Steiner and Momma Steiner figured the best place for Tuzo at night would be the garage … morning comes and upon entering the door, the inside held bottles, glass ones, as it was the 80’s … the place was littered with shards of glass everywhere and Tuzo was like WTF? See what happens when you leave me alone. Tuzo was the Alpha dog in the Bow Valley, and at about 12/13 years old, Steiner and LeBlanc were in Carrot Creek, doing some obscure route at the entrance area, SE side … some dude on a “trail” run with a large young dog behind him … LeBlanc on lead and then it all slowed down … the young dog noticed Tuzo sleeping next to the creek, way off from any issue … the young dog decides to be alpha and holy crap … I was a t a bolt so clipped in and in that moment Steiner’s off belay sprinting the 50ft’ish to Tuzo … Tuzo let’s the young dog know he’s old and not interested … Steiner’s at about 30ft away … a few more barks from the young dog and then TUZO is happening … the young dog is in an quick moment in the water … like under it with Tuzo on top and not gonna let go … Steiner now tackles Tuzo, the young dog sprints frantically away and the dude about 3 minutes upstream saunters back … meanwhile Tuzo is soaked and fully pissed at Steiner, Steiner is soaked and the dude then decides to yell at Steiner … let’s just say that even if his run was over, we never saw him the rest of the day … Tuzo you rocked and we still miss you … 20+ years. Tuzo did become a house dog (likely right after the garage escapade) as well, he and the Steiner household cat created a cool bond that lasted until Tuzo passed.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Big Rock

Big Rock, Okotoks Alberta.

This erratic has been a longstanding bouldering area since the 60's? Think of the Lockwood route and others.
During the late 80's, the area got a lot of new school activity. Jeff Marshall had that place dialed, sending many obscure problems and all the standards. Of course you had the "others" from the era, one of their finest was Bill Stark, and he may have done the hardest problem back in the 80's, on the North East corner wall East rock (pretty sure it is 12a, as more of a route height) Barry Blanchard called him in his book "The Calling" a "Mercurial: climber ... seemed to me from knowing Stark that he was just as much a climber as "Bubba and Wally". So nods go to Bill Stark for being a kick ass climber, doing his own thing and being a climber. I am sure that Barry and Kevin Doyle hit the rock up lots, but they saw it just as a training place, not the way Stark saw it. I know this as I met Stark via Jason Holt, who I climbed with from 84 to 89, on a lot of trips with a lot of days.

The Stark route ... not sure if it has a name, but Holt and I had top roped it a lot and I managed to go for the solo of it back then and was super stoked ... and then Stark told me that he had sent a while back ... so no FA.

During the 80's Stark noticed a young guy ... Jason Holt ... who managed to become one of the best of his time, unfortunately cut short (his climbing life) by being Holt. Done and moved on in 1989 at the crag called Buoux, Provence/Luberon France. Holt sent many of the classics in flip flops ... remember no padding back then. He then set sights on the East Rock North, right of chasm on a problem he named the Resurrection ... V7, 1988. During his time, Holt manage one of the early ascents of Rude Boys, Smith Rocks and became known as a force. It was a pleasure and a torment to have those days with Holt, however it was and is one of the best times of my climbing life and actually turned me into becoming a climber. Holt's last route was J'irai Crache Sur Vos Tombes, back in 89 given 8a. Jerry Moffat did an onsight and downed it to 7c+ ... a very prolific thing to do back then with a longstanding tradition of hammering on your competitors.

The 90's came along and the "Rock" got another resurgence from LeBlanc, Todd Guyn and Richard Conover ... followed by/with Seth Mason, the Wilson twins (they repeated most or all the problems as well). The West Rock, NE side on the "Green" section ... the longstanding undone open piece of bouldering got sent (LeBlanc 92?) called the Torment of Evil V10/11. Then it got the usual added starts and finishes ... This actually got so ridiculous that "we" the aforementioned, started to take away finger usage to add to it ...like no pinky ... silly competitive BOYS.

Then the "res" wall got more and more deviations/variations, low traverse, mid traverse, high traverse and into the existing problems ... thank Richard Conover for these ... that dude could lockoff for hours on end ... and a ridiculous ape index.

Then came likely the hardest boulder problem V12 what is now Jabba ... FA Seth Mason, '94/95? This was a LeBlanc project (so many attempts and yet so many failures) (I just saw a video of Josh Muller sending and his sequence was awesome ... and then Adam Curries' send which looks like the sequence I used) and of course with the competitive nature of that era Mason was out to send before ... and successful. I did manage to send after ... however I did not do any sit start, Mason may have, likely that he did. We as well did links into it later, from the low traverse, as this was our training area.

Mason also did Mon Col the roof project just to the South of the East rock NE corner ... V11 and saw repeats ... LeBlanc, Archimbault (Dan Amal), Simon Villeneuve ... likely others I am missing.

This rock was and is stellar and holds a huge spot in the climbing lives of most in the Alberta area.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Drytooling/Sportmixed climbing

There has been a solid push and commentary by a few Euros on what I call sport mixed climbing, where you clip bolts and rarely hit any ice, some do venture into the ice zone, like a few in Haffner main area, or the Cineplex, but may others are pure ice tools on rock with light small boots with usually just the front section of bolt on crampons. Jeff Mercier has done a lot of this conversation, they call it Drytooling and Drytooling Style.

Back in 2004 I was part of a crew that ended up building quite a few sport mixed routes. We built a lot of routes in the Thriller cave area of the Stanley Headwall, and most of those had lots of crazy ice and some giant daggers. The Haffner cave known as the Hoar cave with the Sean Isaac Caveman test piece and maybe first M10, saw us add in 4 new routes. They are from M8 to M12, and have now seen many ascents. One of the cool things is all but Piltdown Man have gone in a non Figure four and no heel spur method, as back then it just seemed to be the purest style and like most other genres of climbing, that's what you seek. For Example Neolithic went down with heel spurs in and that particular ascent took about 30 minutes of climbing (kinda crazy how long one could stay on a steep wall with them spurs). Compare that to the no spurs (which of course are now long gone ...) you just could not hang around too long ... just fell off when pumped/out of gas. Take the Figure 4 and 9's out and you had to pull and hang on and use all your power and skill to make the top. Again only Piltdown man has not gone this way and it is M12 vs M11.

This may well be very silly to say that no F's make the ascent better or pure'er, but it sure makes it harder, kind of like doing a rock move vs grabbing the draw to help through the move. If I am unable to do a rock route, maybe it's just too hard so why try to use other methods to bring it down to your level? (if anyone reads this, I may well get some flack for this). F's just make a move easier, to gain height, distance and decrease the pump. Personally I just rather fall off than use one of the f's - yes I have used them but back in 2005/06 I decided to for me go as pure as I can. I even have under heel bolt on section still on my boots, the only help they have is keeping me from teetering over on flat ground. FYI I do not use knee bars unless you can just scum your pants, meaning no cheesy knee pad coated with sticky rubber to me that just seems silly ... took and still take a lot of flak in Rifle for that, but to me just seems the way to climb.If I remeber correctly back in the mid 1990's Alex Huber visited a crag in southern California known for must use knee bars and pads to be able to ascend the routes and Alex Huber did chain all the routes with no knee pad, just brawn skill and endurance. So why would one continue to use knee pads? Why do mountaineers still use oxygen tanks on climbs that have been done without oxygen tanks? It seems that the ascent often overshadows the style. So to quote an older Grivel USA add "... Style Matters" kinda funny that this was based on a very skilled and outspoken Alpinist named Mark Twight. And I a sport climber ... okay just old school climber share the same thought on this.

This genre of climbing to me, is just darn fun and super physical and with our winter in the Calgary area of the Canadian Rockies, it seems like a good way to spend some time.

Way back in 2004 I also built the website www.sportandmixedclimbing.com this has most of the route info, some broken links, will get to that, but requires my old machine booted up ... However most of the routes are still around, there is a new Drytool crag on Grotto Mountain, Canmore, Alberta, not to be a dick, but my guess is full F method.

Anyways, had a few to put some words down, enjoy the climbing but remember Style does matter!


Wednesday, 6 March 2013

From the UBC dialogues on "Is sport worth the risk?"


I had the pleasure to be a part of the UBC dialogue series on “is sport worth the risks”?

What I gathered from the dialogue was that sport is a bit general, is it sport as we see it, or recreation? If we see it as Sport that is pushing the limits, then we can really dig into the risk factors. For example, grass roots league hockey vs. the NHL. This follows with the other aspect, safety in sport.

Example of Hockey:

Grass roots should not have hitting; this should follow similar patterns to school, where each grade has a shift in level appropriate to the age. When the athlete reaches a certain age, then the full impact of hockey can take place.

At the upper levels, the full realm of the game should be played and respect for all players must be adhered to. The elite level, NHL, has an increase in risk, with the level of all players being so high, but the risk is not just accepted blindly, but taken into account as part of the player’s ability to deal with the risk is at the same level as their athletic level.  Accidents do happen.

It would seem that the safety equipment is at a very high level, and this may well be the cause for certain recurring injuries, like concussions. The shoulder and elbow pads have such a good protection level for the player’s impact, but what about this impact of the opposing player? At 30mph, getting hit in the head by a hard shelled elbow seems to produce knocked out players. This did not happen as often 10 years ago with the small soft elbow pads, as the elbow’er would feel the impact as much as the opposing player. Don Cherry of all people has been a big proponent on removing the current elbow and shoulder pads to a soft protective impact.

At the elite level sport is worth the risk, as the actual risk is not as high as the public perceives it. We do though need to ensure that those coming up the “ranks” know all aspects of their game, and not just respect it, but all others playing it. Athletes such as Lance Armstrong failed to respect the game and the other player’s; he was in it purely for himself, otherwise he would have played the game at the respect of the sport level. This is the other risk of sport, the lure of fame and fortune.  Lance has proven that he was no longer in it for the sport, but for the fame and the business, millions of dollars were at stake.

Here’s the unique thing with the sport of climbing, safety and risk are always at the forefront of the sport. Every year the gear gets better for safety, which does help with the risk. However, now we are in an era where risk has been greatly decreased because of the gear. The media has also played a major role here, where they focus on the snippets of “rad” and leave out the effort and behind the scenes – all the work it takes to get to the level of these “snippets”.

Back to the “Is sport worth the risk? – YES! However for the grass roots, recreation-sport should not have risk until the participants can handle the risk.