Monday, August 31, 2009

Gym Progress

Gym Climb Progress Report
August 2009

When I first started to climb a little over a year ago, I didn't really understand what I was getting myself into. I knew I really liked the feeling of getting to the top of a climb, even if I was still on the baby wall, but I never really understood the package you get when you enter the climbing world. No one warned me about the bruised knees and the bumped elbows,or the emotion that comes along with the experience of pushing yourself to the limit. I guess it turns out that I don't really mind that stuff, as long as I feel that I'm moving forward in the process.

Great Western Power Company

I've been growing into a decent climber, but it always takes me a little longer to get things flowing when I'm learning "the ropes" of a new hobby.... OK, pun intended. I fondly remember the day I finally made the last move on that baby wall 5.7 route in the corner at GWPC. That thing kicked my ass for weeks! But I finally figured out what I was doing wrong, and nailed it. Now I struggle with '5.10a' and 'b' instead, however I still fall off of 5.7s every now and then on a bad day. I still have much to learn, but so far I have gained a great deal of knowledge about technique. Now I just have to figure out how to apply that knowledge while I'm climbing indoors, and out.

Nice long arms

Legs. Legs are important. If you don't use them, you are not climbing. Without legs you are just doing a bunch of pull ups on a rock wall, and I'm not very good at doing pull ups -nor do I care for them. As a beginner I didn't have a very good concept about how climbing works. I was mainly using my primal instincts and thought hand holds were the most important feature. This turned out to be a very false perception. Not only must legs be used to push up on, one also has to keep an eye on where your feet are. Looking up will only get you so far up a wall.

Remember to look at your feet

Arms. Using your arms effectively is also important. I learned that without straight arms I become pumped, fall more, and have a horrible time trying to climb some of the easiest routes. A lot of my progress in the last 6 months or so has been mainly due to straight arms. If I'm flailing around, it's probably because my arms aren't straight, specifically my left arm. It has a tendency to do whatever the hell it wants. Dealing with that was actually stunting my progress for a while, but now I have learned to catch the arm behavior, and correct it.

Eric brought a Flip camera to the gym the other night, and we filmed each other climbing. It was a huge help, and great confidence booster, to watch myself climb. I was able to see where my climbing was stellar, and where I needed improvement. I suggest taking pictures or video of yourself if you need feedback, or just want to watch yourself in all of your amazingness. It work wonders!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gear Review - REI Camp Bed 2.5

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REI - Camp Bed 2.5
Self-inflating sleeping pad
Oversized, side-sleepers, car camping


Many people prefer doing it in beds, but others occasionally venture away from them. Some people can sleep face-down on the floor. Many of us are side sleepers and really need something to cushion our shoulders and hips. After several years of using and abusing a thicker-than-a-raft style inflatable mattress (not unlike this), I decided we needed something a that would be more dependable and less likely to leave you deflated or hammocking.

Two Camp Beds stacked up with our superlight tent

Enter the REI Camp Bed 2.5. Thing is a large oversized self-inflating pad. Rolled up, these are a bigger than your a PVC air mattress, with two being somewhat bulky. Luckily, they are pretty lightweight, and make up for their bulk in comfort. Once you spread them out, they are no longer bulky. They are large enough and thick enough to feel luxurious on a nice, flat camp spot, but they have a low profile in the tent. This means you might get away with squeezing them in a backpacking-size tent. Which are often simpler, and more cozy than a big car-camping tent. You should be able to get a pair of them into any tent at least 50 inches wide.

The two oversized pads fit great in our "3 person" tent

The biggest complaint I have about the Camp Bed 2.5, is that I often overinflate the pad when topping it off with a few breaths before bed. Now, I inflate it firm, then bleed some air out to tweak my comfort and maximize the coosh. So far the nylon fabric seems much tougher than the exteriors of hollow, inflatable mattresses; I've not yet had to use the included repair patch.

But the best thing is getting a pretty killer night's sleep. It has enough padding for even a pretty hefty side sleeper, and keeps your arm from falling asleep. It insulates you from the ground well, due to the combination of foam and airspace, and has enough room to move around and sleep in different positions. Despite the bulk (which is reallly not that bad) these pads garuntee a pleasanty experience when car camping. We even use them for house guests sometimes. They are worth their weight in golden slumber.

Note: REI seems to have updated the product line to have both a regular 2.5 and an extra-large. The model we have is almost identical to the regular, but the specs may slightly.

  • Tons of cushion
  • Fairly light for size
  • Tough outer material
  • Great spare bed for guests
  • Bulky even when packed
  • Proper storage requires space
  • Only convenient for drive-up camp sites
  • Dimensions - 72 x 25 x 2.5 inches
  • Average weight - 3 lbs. 14 oz.
  • R-Value - 5.6
  • Insulation - Foam
  • Packed size - 5.5 x 26 inches
  • Design type - Inflatable
  • Shape - Rectangular
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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

To the Leap!

Trip Report – Lover's Leap
July 2009
Guest Blogger: Kenneth Davenport

Our good friend Kenneth and some of his fellow climbing buddies headed up to Lover's leap this past month. He spent the time taking a newbie on trad, and climbing some sweet 5.10 climbs. They experienced all sorts of situations, and it seems like they had a blast doing it! The Leap always brings an adventure with unpredictable weather, lines at the routes, stellar climbs, and more. Below, Kenneth describes their adventure in his own words-

The infamous stretcher

On Friday evening Chris drove up and got a campsite- however there were still some available on Saturday morning. Joss, James, Sarah, and I arrived late and bivvied.On Saturday Chris led Pop Bottle with Joss and myself following, then we futzed about figuring out whether to do Haystack in the hottest part of the day with two parties of two ahead of us already. We ran into a Seth (with dog Annie) and a Chad who work at Marmot, and we discussed options for short climbs.

Kenneth climbing

We all went to Surrealistic Pillar and I decided that I wanted to lead it. It was fun and challenging, but I bootied a UK nut on the way up. I went way past the first belay and ended up on top of a choss pillar. It turns out there were spots to build an anchor either there or 50 ft of down climbing below. The sky was looking bloated, and Chris decided that if it started raining she would not climb. She let Joss go, and by the time she got up to where I was, we were getting horizontal rain. With zero percent chance of precipitation in the forecast!! I rearranged the anchor with minimal cams and nuts and leaver biners, and we rapped off. Joss was a little nervous since she'd never rappelled before but I walked her through it. We auto blocked her setup, gave her gloves, and with Chris giving a her a fireman's belay, she got down safely. I pulled one of my cams from the anchor and left a solid .75 C4 and the bootied nut, and rapped down.

Chris climbing

When we got back to camp we ran into folks Topher knew (and we recognized from the gym). The Marmot dudes also came by with a couple sixers to share. I passed around the bourbon and we sat under trees to chillax, lament, play with Annie, take pictures, and set up tents before heading to the Strawberry Lodge for dinner. Cooking outdoors in the rain didn't sound appealing at this point. By the time we were finished eating however, the rain had stopped.

Who wants to boulder?

Chris and I woke up early Sunday to retrieve my gear off Surrealistic Pillar, and we found a party of three ahead of us on it at the first belay station. We hollered at 'em that we needed to bail yesterday and left gear, and not to touch it, and they acknowledged. I let Chris lead the first pitch, since we now knew where the first belay was. It was a heady pitch and Chris took her time but nailed it. Joss showed up for moral support and a photo op while Chris was setting the anchor.


I led the rest of the climb, bootied my own gear (humming the Final Fantasy battle victory music as I did so), down-climbed back down the chosspile, watched a lizard of a climber leading an impressive-looking .11something nearby, traversed around the arete, and ran the hell out of the last 150 feet of 5.5 dike-hiking. I think I set 3 or 4 pieces and slung a horn though. I barely had enough rope to build an anchor in a safe spot at the top.

Kenneth busting a move

After topping out we went back to camp, packed up, ate avocado, brie and tomato on flat bread, moved crap to the car, and hiked up to the Main Wall to look at stuff. James and Sarah tried an 5.11a sport route on Tombstone Ledge and lobbed off a couple times before calling it done. Before that they'd talked me into leading a 5.10a sport route called Arctic Breeze. I flashed it and Chris, Sarah and I ran laps on it afterward. After the long hike down, we bade farewell to Chris and headed to Z Pies before the long drive home. YUM!**

Lovers's Leap by Joss

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

DDTV: Cracking Spicer

Duration 7:53

First official video with our fancy-pants camera. Also, shooting on rappel made for more appropriate shots than the butt-dominated fare you get on the ground. Be sure to check out the HD version if you have a very fast connection.

YouTube: Regular - HD Huge

This is climbing the easy 5.6 at Spicer Terraces on toprope. This was originally intended just as a test of our HD camera, but ended up getting considerably more time invested into it. I wanted to try a specific editing style, which may have drained the "action" a little bit, but it's still a fun video and a vast improvement over our earlier videos. I'm hoping there will be a couple more to come in this vein.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gear Review - prAna Zion Shorts

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prAna - Stretch Zion Short (men's)
Cargo short / climbing short / stretchy synthetic
Size reviewed: XL

the prAna Stretch Zion Short

Rarely is a piece of outdoor clothing, that you buy for a specific purpose, so well suited to everything else that you do that it ends up being the go-to item in your arsenal on any given weekend. The prAna Stretch Zion Short has turned out to be one of those surprising garments, one that doesn't seem to ever quit or let you down.

Half the surprise is that I would probably have never bought these if they hadn't been on clearance at the time. I had wanted something better than gym shorts for climbing outdoors, but hadn't been looking real seriously. My criteria were pretty simple: stretchy, tough, and not made from cotton. Boy, did these shorts ever fit the bill! They are mostly nylon, like most good hiking and outdoor pants, but with a touch of Spandex to make them completely climber-friendly.

See? Very stretchy!

They are laid out much like any other cargo short, and the bottom pockets zip for extra security (think car keys, ID, etc.). Also, they've done something in the weave that makes them tough-as-nails, even compared to a lot of other nylon pants. They are, top-to-bottom, almost everything you could ask for in a climbing short.

These shorts don't bat an eye at apparel-shredding quartz monzonite

And then some, since I've become accustomed to their giving and stretchy nature, they have now become my favorite shorts for hiking as well. My only complaint is that occasionally they feel a little warm, and could possible breathe better, and I do think that regular belt loops would be an improvement.

A technical fit that is still comfortable and relaxed at the end of the day

So, while I initially though prAna was just trendy gym-wear for boulderers and yogaholics, I stand corrected and impressed at the quality outdoor garment they've produced. I would gladly pay full price for another pair, and if anyone wants to cough up a donation, I'd love to review the ful-length Zion Pant as well (hint-hint, prAna).

  • Tough
  • Stretchy
  • Pockets
  • No belt loops
  • Gets dirty quicker than some other pants