EVO Climbing Gym-Louisville Gym Review

Time to train hard!

It’s always exciting to walk into a new gym for the first time, not knowing at all what to expect. On a rainy, cold, and miserably gray day in the final hours of what would finish our incredibly warm and dry March(the driest on record for Colorado), I couldn’t help but notice the thick and luminous clouds that hovered over the sky. Looking off into the distance, a mere 10 miles to the west, you could see the bottoms of the Flatirons covered in a light dusting of snow. It was a Saturday and for lack of better words, the weather just plain sucked. It was a perfect day to check out the new Evo Rock Gym in Louisville.

Nestled in an industrial complex near the Colorado Tech Center, amidst a sea of giant buildings, Colorado’s newest state of the art climbing facility has been contructed and opened its doors to the climbing community. When you walk inside, it’s quick to see the modern architecture looking above you. The colorful and brand spanking new holds littered the wall like a sea of wildflowers in a freshly blooming spring meadow. Thick concrete floors lay beneath my feet and above my head hung GIANT exposed metal piping used for ventilation. It was clear this was going to be a fun day checking out a new gym.

I spent nearly the entire day in the gym and got a good feel for what this climbing facility was all about. I showed up without a partner and focused more on bouldering for the day. Despite running in to several groups of friends that were doing some sport climbing on the main lead walls, I decided to stick to my original plan and do some pebble wrestling, on plastic. Afterwards, I hit the weight room upstairs and finished the session with a run on a treadmill. Below is my critique of the gym. The good, the bad and my overall thoughts. Hope this helps make your decision easier the next time you head out for that training session!


-New state of the art facility

-Lack of Crowds

-Family Focused

– Another gym to add variety to your training

-Main lead wall is about 50 feet tall and a good angle for training for outdoor routes

-Lots of campus/systems board options upstairs

-Weight room has entire rubber floors

-Main boudering cave is steep and fun(similar to The Spot)

-Free standing boulder in the middle of the bouldering section

-Friendly Staff


-Gym is much smaller than anticipated

-Lead walls could be steeper in sections

-Too many Top Ropes

-No top outs on any of  the boulder problems(including the freestanding boulder in the center of the room)

-Too many vertical walls in the bouldering area

-Very inconsistent setting and grading(common with all new gyms)

-A little too “family focused”

-Diffculty of boulder problems and routes should be higher(Max Sport Difficulty- 5.13b and Max Bouldering Difficulty V10)

-Very Expensive : $20 day pass and you only save $1 per visit when you buy a punch pass($190 for a 10 punch pass)


I thought the gym was fun but certainly not worth the $20 day pass attached to the session. Even with a punch pass, popping in for a quick workout is almost NOT an option since it’s still $19. As for the gym, I think it’s a great family oriented spot but for the serious boulderer or sport climber, it might not be what your looking for. In my opinion, there is a lot of wasted space in the gym and everything could have been made bigger, steeper and harder. I think it would be perfect for the people that live in the area(Louisville, Broomfield, Westminster) who want to get into climbing or who already climb but don’t take it too seriously. This is NOT a gym for the “diehard” climber who want to train super hard. The bouldering was much better at Earth Treks in Golden or The Spot in Boulder. The route setting was much better at the Boulder Rock Club and the lead walls were more impressive at either Movement facility. Bottom line, the climbing gym scene here in Colorado has become more competitive than ever and in order to get me to spend my hard earned money on a membership or day pass, the gym has to deliver. But don’t take my word for it, check it out on your own and decide for yourself if you like the gym. I think in any other area of the country, this gym would be a top-notch climbing facility, but, remember that we live in what many would consider one of the top climibing areas in the entire world.

There are 10,000 routes within 60 miles drive from Boulder. Endless boulders are not even accounted for on this list and there are literally a dozen gyms within 40 minutes drive from my doorstep, the two closest being Movment Boulder and the BRC just a couple minutes drive(or bike ride) down the road. And, if the gym scene wasn’t dense enough, I heard Movement beat Brooklyn Boulders to the punch and will be opening yet another gym in Denver, this time a bouldering specific gym. And let’s not forget about Jason Haas opening a $6 million/20,000 square foot facility in Broomfield, which as the crow flies will be a stones throw away from Evo. I wish the best of luck to all these climbing gym owners and hope that there are enough people to support these places. By the looks of how busy crags have been over the last year, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of climbers getting their “climb on”!


Train hard so you can do this in style. Inverted upside down 5.13 climbing in a remote part of Mexico! Climber: Chaz Ott

Rifle Sucks, Or Does it?


“Dude, I thought you hate Rifle?”. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked that question this past summer. Truth is, I once hated Rifle with a passion. I thought the rock was total choss. The routes were uninspiring to me. I always thought to myself, “If you want quality limestone, head to Europe!”. If that was not doable, then a quick 7 hour drive from Boulder would get you to Tensleep, which surely had better rock quality than the super crowded cliffs of Rifle. On that note, I always thought Rifle was a total shit show. Baby strollers and cribs at the base of climbs, people spraying beta everywhere to one another, and routes that seemed impossible to send despite being solid at the grade, were just a few things I hated about this place.

Many years ago ascent of Pinch Fest

In past years, I frequented Rifle a few times every spring and fall and always thought the exact same thing. “This crag sucks!”, I told myself. I can remember getting on routes for the first time and getting a total beat down, sometimes, even on the so called  “warmups”. I could truly not understand for the life of me what people saw in this place. I have heard numerous people compare the climbing in Rifle Mountain Park to that of the famous Red River Gorge, arguably the best sport climbing venue in North America. This comparison always made me snicker. Having not climbed in Rifle for a few seasons, I went on one single weekend trip during the summer of 2015. I vividly remembered getting on a 5.12b called Lost and Found on the right side of the Meat Wall like it was yesterday. Fresh off sending some 5.13+’s, the hardest I had climbed at that point, I thought I was going to crush Lost and Found. On my onsight attempt, I managed to fight through some difficult sections and make it all the way the top, as in, I was at the anchors. Having not climbed much at Rifle and especially not accustomed to the awkward and preplexing style, I found myself nothing short of being pumped out of my freaking mind, a term I like to call “stupid pumped”. Fiddling with my feet amidst my arms melting in fatigue, I grabbed some rope to make a quick clip of the chains. Guess what happened next? Yup, that’s right, I punted off the top like a red headed step-child. No pun intended. I walked over to my climbing pack, tore off my harness and nearly wanted to cry. “I hate this fucking place”, I muttered soft enough that no one could hear my words.

Fast forward to the spring of 2016. I was eagerly planning my summer and where I wanted to focus my energy. Rather than climb at my physical limit, which for me now requires freezing cold temps, the summer is as good time as any to step down and tick a bunch of 5.12’s and 5.13’s that I hadn’t already done. Problem was, in the front range, I had done just about all of them. Any route I deemed worth doing in Boulder Canyon, Clear Creek Canyon and the Flatirons, I had already ticked. Given that I didn’t want to climb harder than 13a as the temps skyrocketed in June and July, I got it in my head that I was going to try something different this year. That something “different”, turned out to be Rifle.

Uli Fernandez on The Crew, Wicked Cave/ Vian Charbonneau Media

One of the first things I had to do, making the decision to spend a summer rock climbing in Rifle, was to let go of my ego. Since I hadn’t climbed much in this style and SENT not a single route past what is usually a warmup for me, I decided to give this place one last shot. I would not get frustrated and I would not get annoyed. I was determined to not have freak outs trying to send routes that I can usually do first go at literally any other crag in the U.S. “Dude, I thought you hated Rifle” barked my friends from the front range who were not use to seeing me in the canyon. Climbing hard routes for me is all about personal growth and for the summer of 2016, deciding for the very first time in my entire climbing career, to spend ample time at Rifle, turned out to be a very memorable summer and quite the learning experience.

My route philosophy has always been the same and an attribute I think has positively influenced me as a climber.  I have always loved the feeling of being crushed in the beginning phases of a project, only to later find success. We all know that feeling when magic happens at the crag and you “hike” your project with relative ease. It is that feeling, for me, and probably for ALL of us, that keeps us coming back for more. So if I liked that feeling of failure, which ultimately would change to success, why did I have such a problem with failing at Rifle? The answer is ego.


From the start of the summer, my only goal was to climb at Rifle and learn from the experience. Now that warm weather is long gone, and I sit here at my kitchen table typing this, with snow outside, it’s grey and miserable, I reflect on my past summer in Rifle and it undeniably does nothing but make me smile. I was truly blown away by the quality of the climbing, length of most rock climbs and the sheer volume of difficult routes the canyon housed. To add to all this, and honestly what surprised me the most, were the people of Rifle. Many of the climbers on any given weekend in the summer, were the same people I saw ALL summer. Many of these climbers, regardless of where they were from, would come to Rifle year after year, summer after summer. In many cases, I found climbers would literally not climb anywhere else BUT Rifle during the summer months.

Overall, the locals and weekend regulars were very welcoming. I found myself exchanging beta with dozens if not hundreds of climbers over the course of the summer. Sometimes it was me giving beta to a climber who hadn’t been on the route that I just did or more likely it was another climber(a complete stranger) screaming over to me to clip from one hold higher or telling me that I was missing a critical “knee bar”. The beta was welcome and proved to be quite useful, in many cases shaving countless burns off the back end by simply allowing me to have one more trick up my sleeve.

I was also pleasantly surprised with the weather in Rifle Mountain Park during the summer months. Whether a climber wanted sun or shade, depending on what time of day it was, was easily accommodated by simply moving around in the canyon from one side to the other. Often times I would find myself warming up in the sun at Ruckman Cave, then heading over to the Project wall in the middle of the day when it started to get hot. In the evening, when the south side of the canyon was again back in the shade, I would head over to the Arsenal or the Anti-Phil. During the hottest days of summer, taking a dip in the creek running through canyon made things quite pleasant. This same creek, acting as a refrigerator unit throughout the canyon, kept things strangely cool despite ambient temperatures soaring well into the 90’s. Bottom line, you can find pleasant conditions at virtually any time of day, any day of the week in any month of the summer. If it gets too hot for your project, you can simply head to the shade to try and onsight a route you haven’t been on, or grab a cold one from the cooler which is conveniently located a short walk from your car.

Andrey Shprengel doing some “standard” block pinching at Rifle

Simply “hanging out” in Rifle on any given day, is part of the life here, reminiscent of the slower pace that accompanies traveling to many areas in and around Europe. People are not in a rush to get anywhere(well maybe getting their warmup on before the masses show up to do the same thing), or taking a much needed break to rest their tired and weary bodies. Climbing at Rifle is physical to say the least, so taking an hour or more between burns is mandatory for most climbers. Despite the common Rifle climber really getting after it, on any given day there are a lot of people just hanging out, either waiting for cooler temps or taking a long break before their next burn. And lets not forget the Rifle mid-day siesta, where people can be seen sipping a frosty cold one in just about every local in the canyon. Its not uncommon, on a scorching hot summer day, to see people drinking a beer under a shady tree, laying in a hammock or sitting on the tailgate of their pickup truck in one of the dozen parking lots. Needless to say, the “downtime” at Rifle is unlike anything I have seen at any other climbing area in the United States. And even after the lazy lunch or beer break, most people can be seen a few hours later back at it, on their projects or cooling down at the end of a long day on a route they have wired. Quite frankly, this is what makes Rifle awesome!

Hanging out between burns with the crew

Similar to that feeling of a route seeming impossible at first and then ultimately it coming together for an eventual send, I found my mindset from the start of the summer til the end very much the same towards climbing in Rifle. At the start of the summer, I literally hated Rifle with every ounce of energy I had. I was asking myself on a weekly basis why I was going to waste another weekend in such a place.

My first couple weekends camping in the canyon were quite tough. I didn’t know anyone and every time I showed up in the canyon the camping was already full, sometimes even by Thursday night. By the end of the summer that had drastically changed. Not the actual busyness but the routine. Before I even left my house in Boulder for a weekend in Rifle, I often had multiple text messages from various people letting me know that they had already grabbed a site. I even showed up late Friday one weekend in the midst of the busy summer season only to find all the campsites full and a GIANT Hispanic church group engulfing the entire group site, partying hard like it was Cinco De Mayo, in the middle of July. WTF! There had to be 100 people in the group campsite, yapping little shit dogs everywhere, campers lined up like it was an RV show in South Florida, and blasting Mexican music like I was at a Ricky Martin Concert, only the music was far worse. Guess what? I still managed to find camping. Granted it was the “overflow”sites and what seemed to be the only spot left in the canyon to pitch my tent. The chaos of that night quickly fades into my memory when I start thinking about all the dark, cold, and starry nights I spent in Rifle last summer, far more good than bad and overall a really fun camping experience.

On the actual climbing realm, I had a similar experience. My first weekends in the park were filled with doubt. I had no idea what to get on. Grades seemed confusing and all over the place. Every single route felt really hard, even at levels I usually can do first go. As time went on, I didn’t much care. I was finally enjoying myself! My years of climbing experience ultimately bled through and I started to find myself dropping routes like a fly swatter dropping an insect. BUT this is not to say that a few routes took WAY more burns than they should have taken, for instance, the route In Your Face 5.12d at Ruckman Cave. Despite having ticked short burly routes all over the country and have done dozens of 5.12d’s onsight or flash at major crags all over America, I just kept falling at the crux over and over and over. I think it became comical. Overall, that was a memorable one, not necessarily because of the quality but because of the amount of burns it took me to send. I have done several 5.13c’s faster than it took me to send that route. But in the end, much like the rest of the routes I have done, before my feet even touched the ground, I was already thinking about what was next?

By August, I would say my persistence and patience paid off as well my complete mindset on how I viewed this place. Throughout the summer, I climbed an incredible amount of awesome rock climbs, many of which were the same I thought were a total choss pile of confusion just a few years back; really just a few months back! Overall I had an amazing time learning the canyon and got to meet a lot of great people. I spent years hating on Rifle and not fully understanding what all the fuss was about. Now I knew. On my final weekend, with not a single person in the Arsenal(“Oh the Arsenal is too crowded whine the masses!”), I managed to hike the ultra-classic Pump-O-Rama like it was my job. I tied in, in utter silence, only to my breath, and started up the long, pumpy and overhanging 80 foot route right up the center of the cave. The sweat poured down my face as my arms melted in fatigue. Jug after jug, knee bar after knee bar, I inched my way up this all time classic endurance route. When I managed to the get to the top and clip chains in relatively quick fashion(this is Rifle after all), I thought to myself one simple thing.

“Damn, this place is fun!”…

Fighting the pump on Pump-O-Rama


Disclaimer- Before reading this article, know that it will have some controversial things and I truly don’t think it’s safe or smart to starve yourself. There is suppose to be an element of comedy in the recommendations, especially given that climbers comically joke about being too heavy even though most maintain a healthy weight. Take it for what’s it worth before reading on…

There have been a few times in my life when I experienced dramatic weight loss, mainly due to some kind of illness. When I get sick, I learned from some top Naturpathic Doctors to NOT eat anything. Sustaining from eating, or fasting as it is called in the health world, is a very effective tool to use to beat an illness, whether it be a common cold or something more serious like the flu. In a nutshell, digestion from eating food takes energy and when you don’t eat during a period of sickness, your giving your body more energy to fight off your illness. Plain and simple, it works. I have experienced this first hand. One thing that has distinctly grabbed my attention each and every time I have experienced weight loss during a period of fasting, is my climbing performance when I return to rock.  Although you may feel like your going to be weak, even lethargic, from lack of calories, I have found that the exact opposite is usually the case. In all my instances when I have lost weight, sometimes having not even climbed or trained in weeks, I return to only find myself crushing. Hopefully the stories listed below will ring a bell and make you realize how important body weight is to a rock climber. Read the following short stories and be prepared to have your jaw dropped(and to start starving yourself)…

Story #1- The Mexican Send 

It was a hot winter day. The sun was scorching down on the dried cactus that surrounded us on our hike in to the crag. Back in my home state of Colorado, the snow was piling up outside people’s windows and burying the cars that lined the street. But in Mexico, it was hot and sunny. My feet burned as I walked cross the arid landscape. Finally arriving at the crag, after a little over and hour hike, I dropped my rope on the ground. Above me lie a route called Surfer Rosa, a route I spent 28 hours getting to by car. I was focused. I wanted to do this route since my last trip to Mexico and it was my main objective for this trip. As opposed to a week the last time I was here, this time I had a full month. And despite being surrounded by loads of quality routes, this is the route I came here to do. I looked up at the dangling draws on the looming overhanging wall, amidst a sea of giant snakelike tufa features, and couldn’t help but feel the excitement and nervousness.


Being light has it’s advantages, as I found out quickly on a project in Mexico, which ended up not being so much of a project…

I had one major problem though. I had gotten extremely sick prior to this trip, back in Colorado and should have probably cancelled altogether. I hadn’t eaten food in nearly 10 days and had lost a ton of weight. My digestive track was ravaged by a virus and I couldn’t seem to keep anything down. So, I didn’t try to eat. My energy levels were at an all time low and my body weight was as low as when I was in college nearly 10 years prior. Despite feeling like shit(pardon my language), my persistence or maybe stubbornness prevailed, and I chose to go on the trip anyway. If anything, I could just work the route for a few weeks until I felt better. I roped up and got on the route only to find myself making quick work of all the moves I remembered to be most strenuous. After hanging, I blasted through the crux first try, moves I severely struggled with the year prior. Funny thing was, in my mind I just felt weak and super scrawny. I lost a good portion of muscle in my back, chest, biceps and stomach over the last 10 days and it showed. “Dude, you ok?”, asked my friends. They barked, “You don’t look so good”. The truth was, they we’re right. I had no business being on a route of that difficulty. I looked and felt anorexic.

Long story short, this route and especially the difficulty level, at that time, should have taken me the entire trip and there was the lurking possibility that I spent an entire month on it and didn’t get it. Funny thing was, I didn’t need a month. I sent the route in 4 tries on my second day of the trip. When I clipped chains, I lowered down in complete shock, utterly speechless. Even to this day, well over 5 years since that day, I am still shocked.


Climbing wild tufas on my Mexican project, which only ended up taking me a few tries over two days due to my lower bodyweight…

Story #2- Tensleep Troubles

A few summers ago, I hopped on one of the most ultra-classic routes in Tensleep Canyon called Hellion. It is an absolutely brilliant route, described in the guidebook as 80 feet of climbing perfection. I was surprised to find that I could do most of the moves early on. I was very psyched that the route was solidly difficult, such high quality and I thought I could put it down pretty fast. Man was I mistaken. I had a fairly flexible schedule that summer and thus had planned on being in Tensleep most weekends from the start of the season to Labor Day weekend. Each weekend that I subsequently went back to try to send Hellion, another 10 burns ensued. I had the route ridiculously wired. The crux was getting through a powerful and lengthy V7 sequence for the first 4 bolts, then it was super pumpy 12d/13a to the top. I had the section from just after the crux to the top so wired I could have probably climbed the route in my sleep. Problem was, I could never get there. Every single time I got on the route, I just couldn’t get through the the first four bolts to save my life. I fell hundreds of times at the exact same spot. Despite the route maybe taking another summer of working as the season was coming to a close, I would not give up. The route was amazing and worth putting 500 burns into if that is what it took.

Powerful starting moves always made it challenging getting to the 4th bolt. That is of course until I lost a bunch of weight…

On the very last weekend, and my very last trip to Tensleep that summer, I had doubts that I could pull it off. I had been extremely sick and once again, lost a bunch of weight leading right up til the trip. I went to bed at midnight on Thursday, got up at 6 am the next day and made the 7 hour drive to Tensleep. Around 2:00 pm, I pulled into the parking lot utterly exhausted, having only slept 6 hours the night before and had eaten very little food all week. I hiked up to the cliffs and once again felt like I was going to pass out. I had no energy whatsoever. I did my usual warms up and then dropped my rope below Hellion. There was another climber on the route, lowering down, brushing, ticking holds and struggling to get through the crux even on top rope. Yup, the crux was hard. When the climber reached the ground, I asked politely If I could give the route a “quick” burn on his draws. He of course said yes. When I tied in, a crowd gathered to watch my burn. Others heard me telling the person working the route that I had been on Hellion a bunch and was going to be fast. If anything, they wanted to watch and get some beta. My girlfriend at the time, who had belayed me many times earlier that summer, was on the other end of the rope. Now, a large crowd had gathered to watch. As I tied in to the sharp end, I yelled over to people spectating not to expect much and that I had been sick and had zero energy. Once again, I got on and completely crushed it. When I clipped chains at the top and was lowering back down, people cheered and my girlfriend yelled up with joy. I had a shitty ass grin on my face that had to have been a mile wide. When I first stepped foot on the ground, I was shocked at what had just happened. I barely broke a sweat making the route feel like it was an 11a and not the 13+ that it was. Honestly, it was so easy I probably could have sent it 6 times in a row with no rest between burns. I  untied my rope, threw my shoes into my pack and thought to myself ” Wow, it really pays to be light!”.

The point of these stories is to NOT portray my badass-ness, there are 15 year old girls sending harder routes than I ever will, somewhere between math and science class. I’m really just a wanker. However, one thing is for damn sure, being light really helps if your wanting to climb harder grades. Going back to said 15 year old girls sending 5.14’s, “Do you think they have an advantage?”. The answer is YES. They are light. And if you look at a good portion of the elite sport climbers out there, you will notice that all are pretty skinny people. And no matter how “light” you think you are, we can all stand to lose a few pounds, even if it’s muscle. If your abs are NOT totally popping, you can drop more weight. If you have any excess bulk in your quads, back, chest(like myself), etc, you can lose more weight.

The most important thing to take away from this article is that for ALL rock climbers, body weight is a very important factor in how hard you can climb. Being light when your trying to send a hard route or project, as I have showed, can be more beneficial than your endless training sessions in the gym. I thoroughly recommend going on a strict diet for a full 2 weeks prior to sending a project. You should reduce your caloric intake to at least 1/3 of your normal daily calories. If your trying to break into a new grade, you may want to go full “Climborexia” and eat nothing at all. And even though this may seem like horrible advice, it works whether you want to believe it or not. When you send your hardest route, I will of course say ” I told you so!”. And when you send, treat yourself to a rice cake with a little bit of salsa…

Special Note: If your going to go FULL Climborexia, you should probably consult a physician first…


The Art of Redpointing


I am not a 5.15 rock climber. I am not on the US climbing team. I am also not a professional. I have what many people would consider a “normal” life. I have been lucky enough to climb rocks from time to time and to have in my eyes some great success along the way. One thing I have found great success with over the years is something many climbers do consistently once they reach a certain level, the infamous “project”. I don’t remember what grade it started at for me, probably somewhere around the 5.11 mark, that I began doing routes more than once to climb it successfully. Over the years, working or projecting a route has quintessentially become what this sport means to me. Get on a route, fail, sometimes a lot, in order to one day maybe succeed. It is that moment of success that truly is the inspiration in our sport. No matter how short, how brief a moment in time that the success is, it IS glorious. I have been lowered down from the top of a rock climb literally in tears, not because I hurt myself but because I was elated with joy. The tears of success are what keeps me coming back for more.

Those tears fuel my passion like rocket fuel in a spaceship. Without them, the sport would mean nothing. Those same tears are why I move on to the next project and start the whole process of failing over and over again. No matter how long it takes for me to succeed, I will not stop. In my mind, I treat a climbing project much like I would my own child. And much like my own child(I don’t have kids yet!),I would never give up on them. Perhaps, this is why I have been largely successful with the routes I have tried. Whether a route takes me 2 tries or 1,000, I will not stop until the process is complete. Through these trials and tribulations, successes and failures, I have learned more than I could have ever imagined. I would like to share in what my eyes is the most beneficial thing I have learned along the way. To my fellow comrades trying to take down their next project, the secret lies in one single thing…



Consistency- This is probably the most important thing in overall redpointing strategy. As discussed above, in order to succeed you must sometimes fail a lot. The harder the route or more lofty the objective, the more you are going to fail. Expect it, except it. Now that is out-of-the-way, you must first focus on getting on the route with great frequency and consistently. For me, the hardest rock climbs I have done at any given time required me to be on them every few days. This is very important. No matter how hard I trained or how fit I thought I was, the one thing that brought victory the quickest for me was simply being on the route over and over and over. I’d thrash myself, my skin, my body, and often times my ego, only to rest a few days and go back at it all over again. The more you get on your project the more likely you will have success come at a more rapid pace. PERIOD. On this note, be selective with picking your project.

Training for the route-Not all of us have the luxury of living in a mecca for climbing like Boulder, Colorado. I have 10,000 routes within a 60 mile drive from my house. This makes projecting largely, well, easy. But, what happens if your project is in another city, state or even country? For instance, getting on a project consistently in Ceuse, France when you live in Canada may be difficult, actually make that nearly impossible unless you’re a traveling professional. So, for all us mere mortals, what in the world are you supposed to do if you can’t follow RULE #1? The answer is to train for the project. I personally have had great success with adjusting my training specifically to my climbing objective. If the route is long and endurancy, no need to work power. If the route is short and bouldery, there is no need to be doing doubles or triples in the gym. Bottom line, cater your training to specifically meets the needs of the route your successfully trying to climb. Do you need more finger strength for the route? How hard is the boulder problem crux? Do you have enough power? Do you feel fit enough? Answering all these questions and formulating a plan to train for a specific route you wish to redpoint could be the best approach to ticking a far away project. Instead of a route taking you 20 tries, it may only take you 5 because of the time spent training appropriately.

Trying hard projects means your going to fail, A LOT!

Top roping a project- There is no shame in top roping a project in order to feel more comfortable and intimate with the rock climb before you choose to lead. In fact, I am constantly surrounded by some of the top climbers in the country(people who climb 5.13 and 5.14) whom commonly use this tactic. Top roping a route or the crux sequence of a particular climb could save you many burns in the long run. Could you get past your ego for one minute to top rope a route for a few burns if it meant you sent the route in half the amount of tries? The answer should be yes and you should  certainly try it. Now looking back, I know for a fact that I could have redpointed certain routes quicker if I actually top roped them a few times to actually make it through the crux which I couldn’t pull. The best climbers in the world do this and you should too. Now, I’m not saying to top rope the route until your ready to send but a few times can certainly help.

Stick Clipping- Most sport climbers these days are intimately familiar with what a stick clip is and how to use one. The next time you start a project that is above your onsight or flash ability, try opting to drag a stick clip up the route and stick clip your way to the top. This will allow you to touch holds, explore sequences, tick holds(Please no foot long hot pink tick marks) and simply get familiar with a climb you have never been on. This is especially important if you are breaking into a new grade of difficulty or are intimated by the route. I have had many projects in the past where I couldn’t get to the top and refused to use a stick clip or top rope it. Now knowing what I know, I am positive I could have sent the route quicker had I done these tactics.

In order to succeed on a project, you must be willing to try hard….

Hang dogging- A classic methodology and what I consider a lesson in Redpoint 101! I recently started working a route which was pretty difficult for me. Rather than try to actually rock climb, I chose to hang on every single bolt despite the fact that I certainly could have linked sections. In fact the first time ever on the route, I linked the first 6 bolts or so but the second time I got on it I chose to hang every bolt. When you hang-dog a route, you can really work out the best sequences and clipping stances. Usually upon starting a new project, I will intentionally do this to shave burns on the back-end of the project. In a nutshell, if your going to be projecting a route at your limit, you need to be hang dogging, at least for the first few burns until you find the most efficient beta. It is only then that you should start linking sections and begin the actual redpoint process.

Breakdown and linking- Leading into our next redpointing tactic, lies the art of breaking down a rock climb into sections and then attempting to link sections. This is very important and a tactic I see ALL but the best climbers forget to do. Lets say a rock climb is 100 feet long and the hardest parts are at the top. This was exactly the case for a route I worked about 3 years back, which at the time was harder than anything I had ever done before. When I mentally thought about doing the route in its entirely, it felt overwhelming and impossible. I always said to myself, how in the world am I going to do that boulder problem at the top of the climb after already completely 70 feet of pumpy climbing? You will probably NEVER have success if you think like that. I chose to mentally break the route up into sections that I thought were doable and then ONLY work sections one at a time. For example, I was able to climb the first 3 bolts to a knee bar rest. That was section #1. The next section was 2 bolts before getting into another kneebar. That was section #2, I did this exact thing more or less for the entire rock climb and then began to climb it in sections. I would climb section #1 and than hang and rest. I would than climb section #2 and than hang and rest. I got to a point where I could consistently climb each section clean without falling or hanging on a rope. Once I got to that point, I started to link different sections together. Before I knew it I was linking numerous sections and maybe hanging 5 times on the route. Maybe over time I worked that down to 3 times, than 2, than one and before I knew it I had SENT! Breaking down hard sections and than practicing linking sections with rests in between is perhaps one of the most effective tools in the art of redpointing. When your climbing a 100 foot rock climb it can be overwhelming to think about right? Well, on the flip side to that, how about climbing a 20 foot section? That doesn’t sound too bad does it? Use this tool and I guarantee it will prove to be helpful in your next project.

Take the whip!

Strategy- You can’t possible send a route, especially if it’s at your limit or maybe even a little beyond, without having some strategy around it. For me, when I am getting close on a project, my entire training and climbing schedule will be switched up in order to help aid in my success at a redpoint attempt. If I know I am headed up to a project on a Friday and I’m going to give it a ball to the walls attempt, I may opt to rest on a Wednesday and especially on the Thursday before. Maybe I will focus on some stretching the day before, or going for a very light run to just get the muscles engaged. You should also think about getting a good night of sleep and being properly nourished the day of your redpoint attempt. This WILL greatly help with your success and a tactic I see most elite climbers perform like clock work. Other items to consider as strategy is to lock down a warmup regime. I see many people warm up on the route going bolt to bolt or warming up on a route nearby that they have wired. When everything is said and done and your ready to go into battle, you need to make sure your mind and body are ready to put up a fight.

Pick Realistic Goals- I see climbers on both ends of the spectrum whom pick projects that are either too easy or too difficult. I have always found that my redpoint limit is usually somewhere right around a number grade higher than what I am capable of doing first try. For example, if you have flashed or onsighted a 5.11a, you are probably capable of projecting and redpointing a 5.12a whether you think you can or not. Obviously, this is not set in stone and there is no mathematical formula to this equation. Sometimes the difficult thing about a project is that the outcome is unknown and that you could potentially end up putting a ton of work into one single route and never actually getting it. However, I have found that this is usually NOT the case. I am a firm believer that if you can do all the moves on a route, you can most certainly send the route. Sometimes doing all the moves and sending may seem galaxies away from each other but for the most part you just need to develop the appropriate strength and fitness to start connecting sections of the climb together. And even once you get the route down to a one hang, victory could still be a long ways off. I have one hung routes literally dozens of times before sending. Most likely, the stars will align, you will feel strong, you will have perfect temps and a send usually ensues. It’s important to pick realistic goals and to slowly work your way up in difficulty. Climbing at elite grades of say 5.13 and 5.14 requires nothing more than dedication, determination and patience.

I spent a precious day trying to send Table of Colors(one of the best routes I have been on in the United States) at the Red and came up short. Next time…

Project like a pro- I always think it’s a bit ironic when you see people freaking out on their projects due to failure. If you don’t like failing, than projecting is probably not going to be your cup of tea because your probably going to fail a lot before you succeed. Except the fact that if you are projecting a route, especially if it’s at your limit, that the route will take a lot of attempts. Don’t stress about it. Some of the most respected climbers in the world stay calm and collected despite feeling the pressure of sending a route that they have put a ton of work into. You have to understand that projecting is like an art. The more you do it, the better you will get at it and over time, you will probably have success. I have had projects that I ended up sending far before I should have and many that took way longer than I thought they would. The bottom line is to have fun and truly enjoy the process. Don’t forget that the more burns a project takes, the more you will grow to appreciate the route when it’s all said and done. My favorite rock climbs have not always been the hardest routes but the ones that I put the most amount of effort into. In a nutshell, failing a large portion of times while on a project will make it that much sweeter when you eventually are clipping the chains. My hardest routes, in some cases, have taken me multiple years to complete. Enjoy the process!

Believe in yourself- I think its important to walk into a project with the right mindset and that is to have the confidence that you can ultimately do this thing. Don’t be cocky and think your going to crush a 5.14 when you have never actually done a 5.14. In fact, you can probably expect the opposite when entering into a new grade or a new domain. Prepare and expect to get beat down. The beat downs are what makes us stronger. I usually walk into a project and have confidence in everything that may help me send that rock climb. Whether you’re a strong endurance climber or have a lot of power in the bouldering domain, use your strengths to your advantage. Your mind goes a VERY long way in the sport of rock climbing and your need to know when to use it to your advantage. If I’m walking up to a roue that is extremely long and more endurance based, I will tell myself that I have done routes of the same length like this before and I’m good at resting. This is one of my strengths. On the flip side to this, if I’m choosing to project a route of the same difficulty but maybe is only half the length and more bouldery (one of my weaknesses), I still might use my mind to help me block out doubt. I may say, well the route is only half the length so I don’t have to hold on for as long. Again, my mind just turned something negative into something positive. Bottom line, if you truly believe that you can send a route, then ultimately you most likely will. Having a strong mindset will take your climbing to another level…

Sometimes with a project, its DO or DIE…

You should try every single strategy and tactic this article has to offer. The burns its saves may be countless and the smiles you will have after sending something you never thought possible will be bottomless. This will do nothing but fuel you for your next adventure.

Get after it!


Breaking into new grades

Never have I done a sport in my entire life like rock climbing. Despite picking up climbing fairly late in life, I’m happy that I found it, or rather, that it found me. I have learned a lot over the last 10 years since starting on plastic at a gym in Jackson Hole, a place where I resided during my stint as a professional freeskier. I can remember the exact ski season, sometime around 2008, when I started spending more time in the climbing gym than I did on the ski slopes.

Climbing Photos 175

For me, skiing had always been there. I was intimately familiar with what life was like as a skier. For more years of my life than not, I made the slog from my home in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia in the flat farm lands of South Jersey to the mountains(more like hills) in the Pocono’s of Pennsylvania. I practically lived at Blue Mountain Ski Resort during college, sometimes sleeping in my car so I wouldn’t have to make the drive back home during multiple ski days. Moving to Vail after college was a game changer for me and ultimately changed the direction of my life. Even to this day, that two day drive on a cold dreary November day from New Jersey to Vail was probably the most important decision I have ever made. Leaving New Jersey and making the decision to follow my dreams of skiing the Rockies meant a change in my lifestyle. I was giving up good jobs and security for a life of passion and adventure. Something about the unknown allured me more than any high paying job ever could.

Now nearly a decade into the sport of rock climbing, I’m hooked. Most if not ALL my days are planned around my climbing schedule, or training for climbing. Every day has a purpose, whether it be a rest/recover day, or training finger strength at the local gym just a mile from my house, or climbing a project outside. Weather, work, condition of my skin, soreness of my forearms, objectives, every single little decision for climbing or training is carefully evaluated. Despite all the things I have learned over the last decade and especially the last 5 years since I sank my teeth into the sport, I have learned one very important thing along the way.

The mental game of climbing for me has become the most important element to being a stronger climber. No matter how many hours you train on the campus board or finger board, nothing will improve your skills more than using your mind to your advantage. I remember when I first started climbing 5.12- at my local gym, the Boulder Rock Club, and thinking to myself, “Could I really be a 5.12 rock climber?”. I couldn’t believe that I, me, Curt MacNeill, was going to climb a 5.12. This was a very big deal! I went from hanging virtually on every bolt in the gym, to hanging every other bolt, to two hanging the route, to one hanging the route and to eventually sending the route. All along the way, I didn’t really know what the hell I was doing, I just knew that I wanted to climb a 5.12 and break into the rock god status. Eventually one 5.12 led to another and before I knew it I was a 5.12 rock climber. The transition to sending 5.12 outside may have been a bit more time consuming but in the end, the same thing followed.

Several years later, I was in the exact same scenario with breaking into the 5.13 grade. In the back of my mind, the infamous and rhetorical question popped up again, “Could I really climb 5.13?”. When I projected my first 5.13a outside, a route called SuperKreem, at the Slab up in the beautiful Flatirons, the outcome was completely unknown. Frankly, SuperKreem was a big step up in difficulty than anything I had previously done before. And the question of whether or not I was a 5.13 climber lurked in the back of my mind every single god forsaken burn on Superkreem. When I first started working the route, I remember thinking to myself that this could take me forever to complete. Everything said and done, it didn’t take me forever, it took 6 weeks. And even after sending my first 5.13, I still thought, “Can I really climb 5.13?”. Afterall, some people gave the route 5.12d? Doubt set in once again. But as with climbing, when you break into a new grade, usually with one specific route, others tend to follow. And they did, lots of them…

My very first 5.12a outside, Empire of the Fenceless at Easter Rock…

Several years later, having climbed and trained my ass off, the same exact rhetorical question popped in my brain. But this time, it was different, it was more serious. Afterall, I was getting into more serious grades, a grade that very few people ever reach, a grade so elusive, so mythical, it’s as if I had a better chance of seeing Big Foot in the Flatirons than I did of actually sending a route of this difficulty. As I progressed, the question started lurking in the back of my mind like the Lochness Monster would in Puget Sound. “Could I really climb 5.14?”. Many people try, even fewer succeed.

One of my very first 5.13’s, Sonic Youth in Clear Creek Canyon…

In the grand scheme of things, I had always believed that climbing at the 5.14 level was reserved for the “super elite”. Despite living in Boulder, Colorado, a place where it seems like everyone climbs 5.14, and also being constantly surrounded by media source’s portraying more climbers than ever sending hard, climbing at the 5.14 level meant you had mastered the sport. I had no idea what that meant, I just knew that it was really really hard and that I could probably never climb one. But everyone seemed to be doing it around me so I thought, “Why not me?”. It was a good question and one that I asked myself 500 times over the years. In the past week alone, I learned of Ashima, a little 15 year old girl from New York City, and her feats of climbing V15 and 5.15. “Wow”, I thought to myself, “I’m a total wanker!”. Then I read of Margo Hayes, an 18 year old local super crusher, sending 5.14c at the Red River Gorge shortly after winning the national championships in sport climbing. Again, I asked myself, “Why not me?”. Despite being surrounded by people like this all the time, only because I happen to live in the center of what many people would call the “mecca” for rock climbing, realistically, probably less than 1 percent of the total climbing population actually climbs at the grade of 5.14 or harder.

Joel's Camera Oct. 2008 008

And once again, I asked myself, “Could I actually climb 5.14?”. The answer didn’t really matter in the long run, the nature of who I am as a person is to try to push myself as hard as I could. Call me a grade chaser if you want, I think its clear that the best rock climbs in the world happen to be the really hard ones. Every time I watch a video of Chris Sharma projecting a 50 meter 5.15 somewhere in Spain, I start foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog. What can I say, it’s the hardest lines in the world that are the ones that inspire me to want to get stronger or try harder.

When I first started projecting my first 5.14, I didn’t think I could ever actually climb that route successfully. It was hard, really hard. I couldn’t do crux moves and I could barely get through sections to clip up. But, I was stubborn, really stubborn. I was inspired by the line and wanted to climb it no matter what it took. Nearly 18 months after touching the holds on a route of that difficulty and a grade I never thought I could climb, I SENT. And even after I sent, I still asked myself the question, “Could I really climb 5.14?”. Afterall, some other strong climbers who climbed the route said it was 5.13d. And as with all routes, when you do one, you typically want to do another. To me, this is what climbing is all about, its that “search” for the route that inspires you to pound yourself into the ground, sometimes doing whatever it takes, to take it to the next level.

Burly tufa pinching on what would be my first 5.14, nearly 18 months before the send…

The most important thing that I learned throughout the process of self doubt is to take the rhetorical question of “Am I really a_______climber?” and throw it out the window. Having self doubt will do nothing but undermine what your really capable of. Replace it with, “What do I need to do to climb a________?”. Having self confidence and setting realistic goals in small incremental steps should be your best plan of attack to break into new grades. Slow and steady progress is the key and before you know it you will be climbing a new grade that you never thought possible.

After being immersed in this sport for nearly a decade, and meeting super crushers in every shape and size, I am a firm believer that anyone can climb anything if they are willing to put in the work. So now that I have done a few 5.14’s, I ask myself, “Can I climb 5.14b, or 5.14c, or even 5.15a?”. Instead of having self doubt moving forward, Im moving on with confidence, determination and sheer motivation. The important thing in regards to the question above should not be a simple yes or no, but rather, “How hard am I willing to work to climb a______?”. The answer to this question, again steers away from a simple yes or no and gives me a plan of attack. How am I going to train for a harder grade? What is my weakness? How long will it take me? What obstacles will I face?

My dad following on his first ascent of the 1st Flatirons…

Entering into a new domain on the difficulty scale really may just mean you have to work a little harder. Since I have now climbed 5.14a, of course, I now have my sights on bigger and better(and a wee bit harder). Maybe climbing a 5.14b or 5.14c that really inspires me will take me several years to complete? Maybe I will never get it? Maybe I will never be a 5.15 rock climber? In fact, maybe I will never even climb anything harder that the routes I have already done? But, and this is a big “but”, I just might die trying…

One of my best days of climbing with my father atop the 1st Flatiron…


How I trained power for Shine 5.14a(part 2)

Let’s get one thing straight. I am an endurance athlete, always have been, always will be. Being able to endure pain for long periods of time is my specialty. Ever since my days as a long distance runner in high school and later a competitive cross country mountain bike racer, the longer events catered to one of my strengths. Decades later, it doesn’t surprise me that when it comes to rock climbing, I have always enjoyed the mega long sport pitches. I have to say, my style, and what I love the most, is that “fight” to hang on. Now with a large number of very difficult routes under my belt in the 30+ meter category, the long and pumpy routes have become my favorite.


Routes like Snake Watching(5.13a) at Overhang rock, which requires the full length of an 80 meter rope just to get back to the ground safely or a climb like Choose Life(5.13d), which is a 100 foot long endurance testpiece in the Flatirons, is what pushes my buttons or trips my trigger. Even though I sent Choose Life a few years back, the experience sometimes feels like it was just yesterday. I remember very vividly what it was like climbing through the v6 crux section of Choose Life all the way at the top of the climb, pumped out of my mind. Stupid pumped, silly pumped, the kind of pump where you can’t even hold onto a gigantic jug if your life depended on it. I love that feeling.



Dan Levison on the super long and super pumpy Choose Life 513d

Primo Wall in Clear Creek Canyon outside the bustling city of Golden, is the polar opposite of that climbing style. Housing some of the hardest routes in all of Clear Creek, condensed into a small 100 foot section of cliffline, routes at Primo wall simply put “pack a punch”. All of the routes at this wall, topping out at no more than 50 feet, have wicked hard moves that cater to the climber who has power and bouldering strength. Power is the name of the game at this wall. Shine(5.14a), a route put up by Peter Beal around 1997, still stands as one of the canyon’s hardest lines nearly 20 years later. I remember when I first got on the route years ago to test the waters that I got shut down hard. It is the vicious boulder problem at half height that I could never do, not even close. This same boulder problem over the years has thwarted the attempts of many strongman. To my surprise, I revisited Shine back in the fall after finishing another 5.14 project and quickly stuck the single hardest crux move that I could never pull. I can probably attribute my progress on Shine to two distinct factors.


Housing Clear Creek’s highest concentration of difficult sport lines, Primo has become a mecca for the aspiring 5.13 and 5.14 climber…

The first factor was simply the sheer amount of time I spent on Thunder Muscle(TM for short) in the Flatirons. Despite coming super close to TM back in May 15′, I came up short and the warm weather of summer started to set in. I more or less let go of the route entirely for the summer. Once September hit, I started going back to TM a lot. And I mean A LOT! For the most part, TM was the only route I climbed on for virtually the entire fall season. Being on a route as difficult as TM, clocking in at 5.14, would be the best training that I could have ever done for my climbing. Power, something I clearly lacked since I have never been strong at bouldering, was something that TM addressed first hand. The moves and boulder problems were difficult. Let me rephrase that, the boulder problems are some of the hardest I have ever done in my life. Whether I actually sent the route or not, I knew it was working a weakness so I stuck with it. Fuel for the fire, that’s all it was…


Training power on Thunder Muscle’s V8 crux proved valuable


The process of working and ultimately sending TM proved quite valuable to my overall abilities as a climber. I always had the endurance as I stated in the beginning of this article but the one thing that dramatically changed for me was my overall power and bouldering strength. TM has crux sections in the v8 range that I must have done several hundred times by themselves. Think about what doing a v8 several hundred times would do for your climbing? Sometimes I did the moves over and over, essentially doing a v8 multiple times in a single session. What do you think that would do to my climbing? You guessed it, I got strong. Very strong.

The second factor which helped me develop more power in my climbing was the amount of high intensity/ hyper-gravity bouldering I did at the gym. As soon as the cold of winter set in, sometime around mid- December, I started to do some bouldering with a weight vest.  Hyper-Gravity training as it’s often called is hands down one of the fastest ways to increase power and certainly grip strength. Most, if not all the bouldering I did training in the gym between the start of the year and the time I sent Shine, always involved climbing with more weight than just my body. Now several months later after training in this very specific way, all I can say is WOW! Never in my life did I think I would ever be able to boulder in the V double digit’s or have the ability to climb a 5.14 that’s only 50 feet tall. Basically, for the grade, the shorter it is the harder the moves are going to be.


Many years ago ascent of Flying Cowboy’s, one of the many powerful and classic routes at Primo Wall…

When I started the hyper-gravity bouldering back in January, I was only using about 4 pounds of added weight. Slowly over time I built up to using about 7 pounds. It may not seem like much but I can certainly say that it made a HUGE difference on how difficult everything would feel. If you have never tried hyper-gravity training before, I suggest you give it a whirl. Your body in a nutshell adjusts to the excess weight during your workouts and slowly adapts to the added stress. Fingers, forearm and bicep muscles get strong. Bottom line, when the weight vest came off, I crushed in a way I never had before.

The biggest overall gain in my personal climbing(in the way of power) was clearly achieved by these two factors. Hyper-gravity training with a weight vest was immensely helpful. I have also heard pro climbers in the past talking about consistently working a route at a difficulty level your trying to break into. For me, it was the ever elusive grade of 5.14. I could have climbed 5.13b all day every day but it wouldn’t have helped to send a 5.14. If I wanted to send a 5.14, then I would need to be on a 5.14 ALL THE TIME. I did and fortunately all the stars aligned and I sent TM back in the fall. Now, with Shine, it was just climbing another route of the same difficulty I had already done. No more mental block. No more asking myself the rhetorical question, “Could I really climb at a 5.14 level?”. Frankly, Shine, although given the same grade as TM, felt worlds easier to me. Could it be the fact that I am that much stronger than I was before I trained all of my weaknesses?

Only time will tell…




Shelf Road goes OFF


A long time ago, in what feels like almost a different life, I was a die-hard surfer. I was fortunate enough to have a father into such a cool sport and lucky enough to have an aunt and uncle who owned a beach house in Ocean City, NJ. The combination proved to be very inspirational in my life. By the age of 10, I had my first surfboard gifted to me on Christmas morning, my dad as excited to give it to me as I was to receive it. Needless to say, I have been hooked ever since. The classic Billabong slogan, “Only a surfer knows the feeling” is very true. I have done a lot of fun things in my life, including rock climbing, but just for the record, there is NOTHING like pulling into a glassy barrel at your local break. Absolutely nothing. Surfing at such a young age is still one of the most memorable and gratifying things I have done in my entire life. I can remember there were days when the weather was beautiful, the swells were up(meaning big waves) and everything was perfect. It was a surfers dream come true. Surfers would often refer to those perfect/dreamy days as “going off”.


Jim Mankovich in the middle of Shelf Road “Going off”


Winter Camping at Shelf Road with views of the crags in the back drop

Shelf Road, located in the western foothills outside of Canon City west of Colorado Springs, can be absolutely dreamy when the rest of the state is buried in snow. Many winter climbing days are spent basking in the warm sun working on your tan. The temps are perfect, the routes are prime and for the most part, just like my former surfing slogan, the days seem to just “Go Off”. Truth be told, for more or less 4 months out of the year, Shelf Road quintessentially “goes off” and it has become my go-to winter crag here in the Centennial State.

This winter has been a very fun and successful one for me down here in the high desert and its only getting started. Coming off my first 5.14 send back in October, my strength and fitness were as high as they have ever been leading up to the start of the winter.  I started out the year with some great Shelf Road onsights in the 5.12 range, a feit I always feel proud of given that this climbing area can be not so straight forward and relatively blank, sometimes humbling the strongest of climbers. Getting a 5.12 onsight at Shelf, even if your a 5.14 climber, can be quite a challenge. One wrong move as simple as putting your left hand in a pocket where your right hand needs to be is definitive enough to spoil a first try attempt. Sometimes, even on some easier climbs, reading a sequence for the first time on the fly can be utterly frustrating. Needless to say, first try climbing at Shelf can be a heart breaker.


My dog Mama wondering “What the heck we are doing at this place, AGAIN?”

Despite being a solid onsight climber overall, having done as high as 5.13a on my first try in other areas around the country, I have not done harder than 5.12b at Shelf Road on a first try attempt. This is where second try “sends” become the norm at this beautiful climbing mecca in the heart of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains. It’s pretty common to  get on a new route here, climb about half way up, fall on a blank panel of rock, yard back up only to figure out a sequence that works, rehearse the moves til your fingers are shredded and turn purple, then turn around and try to fire it second try. Yup, that sounds about right! It seems as though with most of my sends this winter thus far, this was exactly the case.


Shaking out on the Example 5.13 a/b

 The sad thing about Shelf Road is that the climbing never really lived up to the difficulty of the first ascentionist’s dreams. Unlike Smith Rock, which happens to have a plethora of hard routes in the 5.13 an up range, Shelf never fully delivered. There might be a couple dozen 5.12+ routes and maybe only 20 routes that are 5.13a or harder. This is not to say that Shelf Road doesn’t have hard climbing though. The hard routes at Shelf(basically anything 5.12a or harder) can be extremely challenging, especially given that the harder routes tend to be a very old school style of climbing. Over the years, I have tried many of Shelf’s hardest lines, only to find many of the climbs much harder than what the given grade was in the guidebook. If you don’t believe me, try a route like “the Example”, put up by none other than Colin Lantz in 1988 right before the International Sport Climbing Competition at Snowbird, Utah. This route was cutting edge at the time and despite only being given a 5.13a/b grade, the route is super sandbagged.


The guidebook explicitly states, “Undercling like your life depends on it” at the crux

So far this winter, some of my sends have been epic; and others, well, not so epic. I bagged Cure for the Common Crimp (5.13a) on my second try, after coming extremely close to my first true 5.13 onsight. I had no beta whatsoever and came one move away from hiking it first try. It didn’t take much effort to send it on my second go and it felt pretty soft for the grade. Literally the day after, I went and did My Generation(5.12d) on my second go, in what was a full on “balls to the walls” attempt. On my first try of My Generation, I couldn’t even do the boulder problem off the ground. It was really hard and I fell right away not even making it to the first bolt that I had stick clipped. The moves felt desperate and I didn’t think there was any chance of sending on my second try. I worked certain sequences over and over and over til my face turned blue. On my second go, with every bit of fight I had in my body, I stuck the opening boulder problem, feet cutting and my body swinging far away from the wall trying to stick a jug near bolt one. I surprised myself and got through it, only to have the crux of the route coming up next. I think I fought harder on that route than I ever have on a 5.12d! But for the record, that’s how Shelf Road can be. I happily clipped chains on that beast second try.

Check out this video of me sending My Generation 5.12d on my second try!

A week later I returned to the same area, only to send Ejection Generation(5.12c), a linkup of its two classic neighboring routes, very casually on my first burn. It felt extremely easy compared to what I did the week before. It was fairly straight forward and the holds felt like jugs compared to everything else I have been trying at the equivalent grade the weeks prior. Next up was Fossil Future, again the experience being polar opposite of my send on My Generation, which happened to fall in the similar 5.12+ grade range. The day I did Future Fossil, I had a pretty big mileage day. I think I climbed close to 10 routes before giving my first burn to Future Fossil at the very end of the day. I was physically tired and my skin was totally shredded. I only got on it to check it out and maybe come back to it on another trip. To my surprise, I had a little fight left in me and managed to fire it second go. Future Fossil was certainly one of the best routes I have done at Shelf and not one to be missed!


Shelf Road Sunset Circa Winter 2013

Warm days, abundant sunshine, epic camp fires, delicious meals and great people have made this winter at Shelf totally epic. Shelf Road plain and simple has been going off!