Monday, June 29, 2009

Ransom Notice

Dangerously Brown Robinson...

We have Max.

Here are our demands:
1 - Candy.  Lots of it.  Copious amounts, even.  Bring it.

2 - Ice Cream.  We'll accept it in regular, sandwich or cone forms.  We'll also accept DQ Ice Cream Cake.

3 - Sophie.  We hear that she can cook, and we're hungry people.  Plus, she's very pleasant.

You have 4 days until the Ebay auction is started.

Frank is standing by...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Quick Hit

I'm sitting in the Manchester, NH airport right now, waiting for my plane to arrive. I've spent a couple days visiting our good friends at Jetboil. We saw some pretty cool stuff and were served dinner on a sword last night.

On the positive, I've missed a day or so of 90 plus degree heat back in Madison. So sad that summer is here. I did just get an e-mail from RV asking for beta on Perfect Medium, a classic hard problem at Devil's Lake. I give him and Remo lots of credit for trying to grab that crimp in the heat of summer. That could not have felt good.

Hopefully that problem will see a couple more ascents soon.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Andy T. Knapp

This morning produced some more sad news, unfortunately. Midwest Mountaineering lost a dear friend this morning when Andy Knapp passed away. Andy was diagnosed with Cancer about 6 years ago and fought it the entire way.

I didn't get to spend enough time with Andy to know him well, but by all accounts he's a remarkable man. It seemed that everyone he touched had some story to share about him. He was just an electric person that befriended everyone he met. The outpouring from the outdoor industry has been immense and he'll be greatly missed. I feel like I missed out by not taking the time to get to know him better.

An adventurer true and true, Andy made 2 epic solo cycling trips to Alaska. The first trip was a "there and back" deal and he met up with many people on the same journey. One of those cyclists would eventually star in the TV show "MacGyver". I always thought that was kinda cool. His second trip was made just two years ago as a 40 year anniversary of sorts. He did this latter trip while diagnosed with Cancer, mind you.

Andy was incredibly strong and will be sorely missed. Please go to his website for more information and even more stories about this incredible man.

There has been too much of this recently.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Projects, Part Quattro

I hate most online shoe reviews. They're either PR fluff from the companies marketing team/athletes or the person is in love with their new shoe because they just threw away their last pair of vintage late 80's Boreal Ace's and can't believe the difference that comes with a shoe that was designed in this century.

I've been thinking a lot about this in the past few days. I completely believe that there isn't a shoe on the market that's "perfect". Maybe I'm wrong but there are things that I'd change on pretty much every single pair of shoes I've owned. I think that a lot of shoes are pretty close, but none of the shoes I've used have gotten the "5 star" marks from me.

As of right now I'd put the Projects at 4 stars, which is pretty high on my scale. To give you a frame of reference I think that the V10's(no toe rubber) and the Testarossa's are the only shoes that I've tried that deserve the same 4 stars. In the 3 star range sits pretty much the entire new Scarpa lineup and the Solutions. I'm pretty sure that every other shoe I've used is below three stars.

Why the 4 stars then and not a glowing 5, you ask? Well here it is. There are two things that I'd like to see changed on the shoes. First up is the Velcro strap that goes across the top of your foot. Very early on the velcro started to bunch up on my right shoe and it looked a lot like this:

No matter how many times I straighten out the velcro it bunches up again. I've just learned to live with it as it doesn't affect performance too much. It's just a little awkward and uncomfortable.

I haven't heard widespread reports of this happening so this might be a somewhat isolated incident but a stronger strap would reduce this to a non-existent problem. It'd be a relatively easy fix and would make me happy for sure.

The other aspect of the shoe that I wouldn't mind seeing a slight change in a future rendition is the last. I'm pretty happy that I've got a reasonably average sized foot. Not super narrow and definitely not wide. Just right in the middle. When I got the Project's I was surprised at how low volume they were. It seems that others have noticed this as well. Again, not a huge deal but a little extra space through the midfoot would have been appreciated.

With all that said there is a reason I gave it four stars, in my own mind. The obvious story is the sensitivity and this was exactly what I was most curious about. What would it do for me? How much of a difference would it really make? Would I like it??

Well, I like the sensitivity a lot. I was kind of surprised by the shoe. I came into it with an almost pessimistic view of how the shoe was going to perform and I ended up liking them a lot. I knew they were going to be sensitive but I really didn't know the extent of it until I tried them on.

I'm still kind of blown away by how sensitive they really are. It's tough to describe unless you've put them on and felt it for yourself.

Based on descriptions from Five Ten I had thought that they'd be mainly saved for the steep climbing and was a little worried as we don't really have a ton of that in Wisconsin. I've been pleasantly surprised at how well they've worked on some "less than steep" problems. Smearing and using them in pockets has been extremely easy to do. The one recurring theme with these shoes is that when I climb in them I begin to use my feet more efficiently. I've started wrapping my toes around holds more than I could have with other shoes and in certain instances have been able to keep my feet on holds that I previously couldn't.

The ability to feel absolutely every little nubbin on a certain foothold is kind of astonishing and something new to me. It took a while to get used to and to figure out where and when to use them.

Heel hooking with them has been fairly good. I like that they have a narrow heel profile and I can fit them into slots a little better than with bulkier heels. While the heel cup isn't super deep it still grabs onto holds fairly well. As good as any other Five Ten does, really.

As for the rubber, I can't say that I've noticed any real difference between Mystique and Stealth HF. It's sticky, sure, but not anything mindblowing. I think more than anything the fact that the shoe doesn't have a midsole keeps your foot on certain holds more than the rubber will.

Overall the shoes have held up remarkably well. Aside from a small delam on the outside of my left foot they are in pretty good shape. I haven't blown through into the rand yet and the shoe itself seems to be intact. No real issues on durability yet. I'll be sure to update when they do have any problems though.

I'm pretty happy with the lineup of shoes that I have right now(Testarossas, V10's and Projects). That will be changing a little bit this Friday though(!!!NEW TOYS!!!). The projects are a really nice complement to a stiffer, more robust shoe and definitely more of a specialist than the others. I'm surprisingly happy that I got them and I can't really complain too much about the shoe. It's outperformed my expectations for sure.

Obviously people are going to compare them to the new La Sportiva Speedsters that should be coming out in the next month or so. There are a few key differences though. Namely the rubber. Instead of 2mm of Stealth Mystique the Speedsters are going to get 3mm of Vibram XS Grip. That, coupled with the outsole that's going to roll up onto the top of the toebox should make a shoe thats incredibly sensitive and also should be a fair amount more durable than the Projects. I'm going to wager a guess that the Projects are going to be a bit more sensitive than the Speedsters will be, but will be a little less durable.

It'll be interesting to see what everyone thinks of these shoes as they gain more of a following. Any way that you think about it, I'm glad that both of these shoes are on the market.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Birthday Challenge??

Birthday Challenges are not my forte.

I've attempted three throughout the years and, while I did OK on my first one, I've gotten progressively worse each time. It's been kind of sad really. Everything from my weak attempts to run, to my insane failure of a bouldering circuit around the lake.

I've been understandably reluctant to partake in one again after my last attempt left me with my worst bouldering fall ever. And I wasn't even climbing. I was cleaning the topout of Pinball Arete at the Burma Boulders and slipped off and fell into the pit. Note that this has one of the worst landings at the lake and I fell into it with no pads below me. I've never gotten away with something quite like I did there. Multiple people heard about it and asked if I'd broken a leg. It's a very bad landing.

On a funnier note Kelsen told me, just seconds before I fell, "Be careful man, don't fall off." I muttered something about being fine and told him to give me his chalk. And then I bit it. My Karma cup emptied right there.

So I'm in the super duper early phase of radness right now. Just trying to put together either one circuit of 26 classics or one each for dodge and the lake. I've got a wish list of sorts below. Anything marked with a question mark is just that, a question. I'm not sure that I'll include those but I'll probably put in a few of them. Let me know what other problems you think I should put on the lists. I'm very open to suggestion.

There is one thing that I'll be leaving out, and that's those damn Greenbush fritters. They're the biggest sandbags out there.

Here are a few pictures from my last challenge below. I'm not sure how to explain them, so I won't. Beautiful.

1 - Burma Warmup
2 - Burma Slab
3 - Slope(r) of Dadaism
4 - Bark Biter
5 - Venus Rising
6 - Perfect Medium
7 - ?Sex and Chocolate?
8 - ?Bulbous?
9 - ?The Zipper?
10 - Flatiron
11 - ?Beautiful Soup?
12 - ?Alpine Club?
13 - Anchorpoint
14 - 45 Degree Left
15 - 45 Degree Center
16 - West Bluff Lunge

1 - Camp B Warmup
2 - Camp B Crack
3 - Picasso Right
4 - Hangman
5 - ?Sandstone Violence?
6 - Huston's Arete
7 - Alpine Bouldering Club
8 - Grounded for Life
9 - ?Illusions of Paradise?
10 - Godfather
11 - All in the Family
12 - Out Past Curfew
13 - Broken Dreams

The Arrival

Katie, apparently very interested in her elbow, and myself looking disgusted and somewhat stunned.  I'm not sure why.

Wow. So summer has arrived. It's now humid, sticky, buggy and very much the midwest.

Three of us made a quick evening trip up to Governor Dodge last night to hopefully get on some rock and man, it was less than ideal conditions! It probably didn't help that we got on Cannons, which is about as friction dependent of a problem as there is at Dodge. The muggy conditions, sadly, didn't help us out much.

It was fun to get out, for sure, but I'm still sad that summer is upon us. Conditions held out for a decent amount of time, actually and this spring was pretty good for a lot of people. I'll try and do a spring recap later this week. It's been a good year for a number a reasons.

Here are a couple pictures from last night.

RV trying to repeat Cannons in the summer heat

Hitting the crux hold on Cannons

Friday, June 12, 2009

What A Difference A Year Makes

Last year at this time Katie and I were taking a summer off of climbing. We had tons of fun doing everything but climbing and it was honestly one of the best summers I've had. Fun, relaxing and very low stress.

All the while we were both watching the website Mountain Project as Governor Dodge absolutely exploded. Well over 100 problems were found and established and maybe 10 or so areas were found. Much of this development was thanks to Mr. Sweatpants(Who might be getting hitched now but I'm not sure. He'll have to enlighten us.) who made countless three and a half hour treks up to Dodge solely to develop new boulders in the heat and humidity of summer.

I couldn't believe the traffic Governor Dodge was receiving. I mean, I spent the better part of the 2006 fall up there and, while it was good, I couldn't really imagine it was THAT good. It seemed that everyone was coming out of the woodworks and bouldering at Dodge every chance they had. People that had never bouldered before were buying pads and heading out. Something that I had never experienced in the area, something that I had longed for and wanted so badly, was happening. We were finally developing a bouldering community.

Katie and I went back in the fall and had an absolute blast on some of the new stuff. So much of what we got on was fun and I was impressed with every single area we went to. At the same time though I somewhat surprised that this traffic hadn't translated over to more traffic at Devil's Lake. I think I just expected people to want to explore all of the problems at the lake. What I underestimated was the allure of friction and piss easy approaches.

I also realized that information was very readily available for Governor Dodge and it definitely wasn't available for much of Devil's Lake. That's where the Wisconsin Bouldering Blog came into fruition. After talking to Nic from Five Ten for a few months and telling him that I wanted to get him to the lake, we were finally able to get together and head up to the lake for a day. Brian and Remo came with and it seems like that was the starting point for this season at the lake. Immediately after that people started getting interested in the bouldering there again. I started getting e-mails asking for beta and people stopped me at the gym asking for directions.

I couldn't have been happier. Remo has been making regular trips up with RV and has been amazing about putting all that info up on Mountain Project. In fact I saw the two of them leaving a coffee shop for the lake yesterday as I drove to work. Bastards. As I'm writing this Remo is putting up more pictures and notes from yesterday. It's fun to see the energy returning to the lake. The climbing there is so good and shouldn't be left to cobwebs and fallen leaves. I really hope this continues forward and more people start bouldering here.

The past two years have been incredible for Wisconsin Bouldering. While this is by no means a destination itself, we are beginning to have three major areas at our disposal. That's something I couldn't have even imagined a few years ago. Now I just need to get up to Rib...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

So Ill Guidebook

Last week while I was interneting I found out that the new So Ill Bouldering Guidebook was available. There had been rumors for a while now that a sweet new guide was going to come out and I was very psyched to find out that it wasn't some super cruel hoax. I ordered it on the spot.

I was very pleased three days later when Katie found it in our mailbox. After chasing her down and prying it from her hands I opened it up and was pretty happy with the initial look and feel of the book. It's a nice size and seemed to be very well put together and polished.

After looking through it for a couple of days I'm very impressed. This is how guidebooks should be. Beautiful color pictures and incredibly clear topos and directions. We have all seen the poorly done guidebooks and while they can be endearing in a certain way, the So Ill guide is a good testament to what should be a standard. There were maybe 4-5 areas that I didn't know about and two of those are pretty major areas that are seemingly very worthwhile. He also included topos for Elephant Rocks in neighboring Missouri. Having been there many years ago, it was nice to see what some of the problems actually were.

One thing that I appreciated a lot was the brief history write up in the front of the book. I'm a nerd when it comes to climbing history and I'm pretty sure that the "history" section is my favorite part of all guidebooks. Matt Bliss did a great job with this one.

Definitely a worthwhile purchase. After I actually go down there again I'll try to update everyone on whether or not the directions helped us not get lost. Unlikely.

If you want to purchase a copy go here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Son of the Irish

In May of 2004 I made the decision to move to California to climb. I had good friends in Madison and Menomonee and was overall pretty happy with life in town. I wasn't exactly sure where my life was going or what I wanted to do but I could have seen staying in Madison for a long time.

More and more though I started to think about what it would be like to live near an area like Bishop. I made the choice and decided to go for it. I was going to move to Mammoth Lakes, an hour north of Bishop. Having merely lined up one interview and a possible place to live I loaded up my Mazda MX-3 with everything I could and drove for three days to get there.

As soon as I got to Mammoth I found my pad and made my way down to the Buttermilks. It was beautiful. I couldn't have been happier to have these as my local boulders.

I spent a couple weeks trying to line up a job and a place to live. With a little bit of luck I was able to secure both. I was set.

On one of my first few trips down to the Buttermilks I was working the Cave Problem on Grandpa Peabody and a man and his wife came around the corner. He started to fondle the start holds for Evilution and muttered something about them being greasy. I was, and still am, enthralled with this line. Jason was one of my climbing hero's and I was in awe of the problem. I couldn't believe that this man could do the moves and I went over to him and scoffed something like "You gonna try it?". I tried to be as sarcastic as I could since I saw the man as inferior to the perfect climb.

I was wrong, obviously, and very naive. I learned more about climbing, trying hard and so much else that afternoon climbing with this mystery man. He took me around the Buttermilks showing me classics, must do's, what not to do's and future projects for me. He insisted that I needed a tour and that he was the man to do it. Off we went.

He first showed me the Birthing Experience which is hands down the craziest problem I've ever done. You start by crawling into the start hole and sitting in a giant hueco. He gave me no beta and told me to just "get in it!". After humiliating myself thoroughly he relented and showed me how it was done. I followed after him.

He took me over to the shrimp boulder and really started to teach. He said I should get on Perfectly Shrimp. It was a V6 and therefore out of my league. After I said that he laughed and told me that if I can fall on a V4 I can fall on a V6! I started to get the painful moves and couldn't believe it! I was climbing on a V6!!!!! It was mind blowing.

After a while I was falling at the crux, just slapping at a sharp crimp. It's funny that I can pinpoint such a major point in my climbing to this period. It's exact. He changed how I climbed with two simple pieces of advice.

"Look at the hold and just grab it!" he said. "Don't slap the hold, you gotta grab it with your fingers! And stare at the thing. Don't let it out of your sight. Ever." I came back a couple days later and did just that. It was almost liberating to climb the problem and realize that there should never ever be ceilings with climbing. I wish he had been there to enjoy it with me.

My mystery mentor, his wife and myself continued on to the Buttermilk Stem and we both climbed this amazingly fun problem. He of course did the sit and I did the stand. It was there that I finally learned their names.

Marci and Michael Reardon.

It was months later that he had his massive soloing day in Joshua Tree and his name would become synonymous with free soloing. I truly enjoyed following his exploits and looked up to him in most everything he did. He had strict ethics and I respected that even if I couldn't abide by them.

Without him knowing it he changed how I climbed and how I looked at so much of life. We exchanged a random e-mail here and there for a while until his untimely death. I've still got the last exchange saved and I look at it every now and then. He ended with the phrase below. I wish I had another chance to climb with him.

"See you out there, just remember to never say, "Take!"

All best,


I wish nothing but the best for the families of Jonny Copp, Micah Dash and Wade Johnson. Climb safe everyone.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Katie looking for her next gully/testpiece

There has been a serious lack of climbing lately. With moving and travel there just hasn't been a lot of extra time to make the drive to the lake or dodge. It was no surprise that we were pretty excited to be driving back up to the lake yesterday. We'd planned on hiking out to Jenga and then maybe hitting a couple other areas as well.

We took the ferry over the Wisconsin River to start things off. I hadn't been on the ferry since I was a kid and it was much more entertaining to me this time around. I'm still not sure why they didn't just build a bridge. Funny.

The hike in sucked. I'd forgotten how bad it could be and it was all grown over and horrible and loose. We spent a little bit of time at Jenga and then packed up and left, tired and sweaty.

We started walking out but neither of us really wanted to go out the way we came in. We found some random gully and started up after a quick scout. It's been a while since I've done loose, scary, 4th class gully and I've definitely never done it with a pad on. It was kinda terrifying actually. We were off balance the whole time and the pads kept on pulling us back. The route itself was quicker for sure but man was it scary.

We both figured that we'd developed a new style of climbing....boulderneering. Mountaineering is easy. Climb up, climb down. Maybe it snows a bit. Pffffftt. Child's play! Lets see someone do the first "padded" ascent of the K2 or the Eiger! It'll add yet another totally absurd variation to the mountaineering world and really, I think we all know that's exactly what everyone needs. Plus if you fall you already have a sled attached to your back. Perfect!

I look forward to hearing about everyones exploits in the world of boulderneering. Let's pave the way people. The climbing world needs us!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

First Laps

Katie and I dinked around on the wall last night a bit and I took a couple of pictures. My camera was running out of battery so I didn't have a whole lot of time to mess with them. Oh well.

I think we're going to try to put up the remainder of the wall in two weeks. Fun.

One of the warm ups

Yes, her elbow did manage to find the crease of the pads and hit the cement

I forgot how much noise the wood holds make

And a very large bunny.  Her name is Figlet.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Home Wall - Phase One

A couple weekends ago RV and Chris came over to help me build the first section of the new home wall. We put 90% of it up the first day and Katie and I finished it up last Sunday. We had originally kicked around the idea of doing a 60 degree wall but decided to change it up a little to allow for more moves. We added in a initial section of about 35-40 degrees that runs four feet on top of a one foot kicker. Then we kicked it back to maybe 65 degrees for another 6 feet and finished it up there.

I took some time last night to set a couple problems on it and the angles are fun and allow for about 4-6 move problems. They'll be longer with a bit of traversing added in. Hopefully we'll climb a little more on it tonight and start to set some more stuff.

My skin couldn't handle much last night and it seems that the past couple of weeks have just screwed all of my tips. I've never had it happen like this before but this is by far the worst condition my skin has ever been in. I'm curious what you guys use for your tips? I've been using badger balm but I'm not a huge fan and I picked up a small tin of burt's bees to try out. Remo and Nic both use something and swear by it but I can't remember what it is or where to get it. Fellas???

Back to the homewall though. I think in the next couple of weekends we're going to try and finish this thing up for good. We're gonna do another 8 foot section of the wall with a 2 foot V-Shaped connector between the two pieces. In all the wall will be about 18 feet wide and should give us some good room to play around on.

I'll do my best to take some pics tonight though. I picked up a pretty sweet flood light setup last night for about 20 bucks. It lights up like the sun down there!

Monday, June 1, 2009

I'm Back!

Sorry for the brief power outage there! Mountain Hardwear and Montrail were fun and we got to see a ton of very cool things out there. The Berkeley area is pretty cool in general and we even got to go on a mini field trip to see more of it.

On Wednesday we went out and did a 5-6 mile trail run. It was incredibly fun for the first mile but by then my off the couch agenda seemed to stop working and I shuffled the remaining distance. I really can't ever see being a runner. Wow. I finished though, and not in last place, so I was happy and it was nice to start off the week in such a cool place. At the end of the day I got an "off the couch" award, a mini hand held fan. So that was nice.

When Katie and I were being showed our current house we started talking to our landlord about climbing. He used to climb and seemed to have made a lot of trips up to Gibralter before it was closed up. We laughed and moved on, not thinking much of it.

Well, last night Katie and I were cutting off the last piece for phase one of the homewall and I happened to see some 2 x 4's up in the rafters of the garage. On one of them I saw a yellow sticker and I wanted to take a closer look. I moved the piece of wood around and this is what I saw.

We were both somewhat blown away. Very quickly we figured that they had put up a homewall up many years before we moved in. We started to look around the garage and started to see more pieces of the puzzle come together. We saw weathered pieces of wood, more 2 x 4's and even a piece of wood with ape index's on it. It was kind of crazy to think about and was an interesting look back into the Madison climbing scene however many years ago.

I like coincidences like this. They bring around just how small the climbing community really is and I love to casual reminder of that. Here are a couple more pictures that I took last night.

The Ape-Index-O-Meter

Renee and Pat's phone numbers

A very cool reminder of past climbers