Thursday, December 30, 2010

Punt Of The Year

So I'd talked to Nic bout who was gonna get punt of the year and we both kinda decided on Wisco getting it. I mean honestly, we didn't really step up this year.

As of today though, I've made an executive decision. It's one that I think we can all agree upon. Something that won't be devisive or create arguments. Instead it will breed community, agreement and laughter. Above all else it will create unity.

I'm all about unity bitches.

I have ties to 5.10. Our good friend Nic Wouldjablowmezija (got the 'z' in there nic...just fer you) is their door to door charleton. I like to support my friends. Plus they make good kicks and I like that.

I like Sportiva. They make good shit. Their shoes are solid, they push innovation and they try stuff.

I like Scarpa. Jon is good shit and their shoes are solid, well built tools. They is good peeps.

People seem to like Evolv and Ian climbs for em so I'll give them a spot up here too. They make decent stuff from what I've seen. I'd give them more credit if Freaney still climbed but he plays pro badmitten now. Something like that.

Mad Rock had been the bottom of the barrel for years and years when it came to shoes and hardware. I'm not sure how but someone stooped even lower. Someone made a shittier shoe than Mad Rock.

Well...Maybe not so much shittier as just straight up copies of their shoes with a new logo.

Climb X. What a bunch of fucking punters. You were the joke in January when this first came up. You were the joke at the summer tradeshow. You're still the joke for copying the company that copied everyone else.

Everything you do is a ripoff of someone else's design and their not so hard work. You are the reason that the climbing industry gets held back every few years, just like Mad Rock was almost a decade ago. You are the reason that I hate copycats and lazy designers. You serve absolutely no purpose in our community and it kills me to see the lack of innovation in your line. You wait for someone else to come up with some idea, good one or not, and then you steal it and photoshop your logo on it.

Mad Rock was born out of controversy, stolen materials and copied lasts. It's only fitting that it happened twice now.

As you all know I'll support any company that offers innovation that serves a true purpose. Companies shouldn't be sitting around designing the same stuff over and over. Copies only drag our industry down and serve zero purpose. I want to give a couple of shout outs to companies that are doing just that.

Organic - Josh, we love you over here. You make the best pads on the market bar none. End of discussion. You alone changed how people think about pads and have risen to the top for good reason. Even all the other companies out there know it and admit it. It kills me a little bit whenever I see one of those ripoff Metolius chalk bags on someone. Keep on keeping on bud.

Five Ten - Two words. Team Shoe. Enough said.

Mountain Hardwear - I absolutely love being aligned with a company that actually cares about innovation. Everyone here needs to go to this link to see why I've been so busy this winter. Trango/EV Tents. Windstopper. Waterproof Softshells. Stretch Welded Seams. Welded Tent Windows. OutDry Gloves. And now, Air Permeable Hardshells.

Petzl - No competition. GriGri. Spirit. Keylock. Frame Construction Harnesses. Quark. Nomic. LED Headlamps. Mini T. Reverso. Ecrin Rock. Elios. Meteor. Elia. Ange. GriGri2. CORE Rechargable Battery. Those are just SOME of the things they came out with before anyone else even thought of it.

Polartec - Go here. After you click on Mountain Hardwear that is...

Mystery Ranch - One of the few true innovators left in the pack game. They've gone out of their way to prove there's more than just a framesheet to a pack. With other companies being so "in vogue" right now it's refreshing to see them out there doing their thing.

Nicros, Teknik, Pusher/Revolution, DRCC, E-Grips - These are some of the only hold companies that I'd spend my somewhat hard earned cash on. They're pushing the gym scene forward and are coming out with shapes that are leaving all others behind. Buy some. On the asap.

These are just a few of the companies that I see pushing the industry on a day to day basis. Too often we're stuck thinking that innovation is a white zipper, a new color or a fancy new copy of a formerly successful design.

What we need are more companies truly innovating. Moving things forward and driving each other to make the shit we use better.

What we need less of are companies that steal other companies mediocre designs and then market them as their own mediocre designs. That's just lazy. Lazy and stupid.

For that Climb X, you get the Punt Of The Year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Employee Of The Year

Well it really came down to two people. Kelly or Nic.

Remo, you had a good year and put down two of your nemesis problems. RV, I'm glad you did Moj and had an otherwise great spring season.

Everyone else out there, you did fine work but as much as I don't want to do it, I have to hand it to Nic. There's one reason and one reason only you're up here.

You finally stopped being a fucking punter on the 30.

Having seen two of the many epic punts personally it was one of the few times that I actually felt bad for someone when they punted. Now not only did Nic punt on the 30, he punted what, 15 times? 20 times? I don't even know. It was a bunch though.

Sometimes it only makes it better.

Now what made the whole thing even better than we could have imagined was Narc's update on it. Man that shit was classic.

- A mere 10 comments of support for Nic
- 4 commenters voiced their dislike for Nic without having ever met him
- 3 people called him a douche (myself included) and Nic called himself a douche twice
- 2 people complimented our cheese curds
- Sweaty and I used the words Punt or Punter 6 times
- There was an inane argument over whether or not to include So Ill in the Midwest (it's part of the south by the way. master gnar says so.)
- Nic was told to go back to preschool, that he was living a sad life and that he was a "newB"
- The comments got so frustrating that Nic ended up having to lock the video with a password.

One of the best comment threads I've ever seen. It was almost as good as this one. Check it out here.

So congrats Nic. You earned it...ish.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Year In Review

So. 2009 was a good year. It was a really good year.

2010 wasn't exactly a banner year unfortunately. It seemed that nothing really aligned. People got injured, the weather sucked, the psyche wasn't there and the exploration didn't exactly take off like last year. If anything it just showed us how good 2009 was. Last year will go down as one of the more influential years for DL bouldering. No matter what happens going forward we can all be proud we were there for it.

Now 2010 wasn't a total bust. Good shit happened. Read below to see just how bad I am at predicting stuff.

1 - Beautiful Soup will be climbed by 7 people.

As far as I know Melin, Ian and Remo were the only ones to finish this one up this season. I was psyched to hear about all three of them and Remo in particular put a long term project to bed which is always satisfying. Ian also did it very quickly on about his 5th-6th try. Impressive, to say the least.

I'd be psyched to know if someone else did the problem. There are always dark horses coming up from Chicago and Milwaukee so all the info I have may not be truly complete. A sheriff only knows so much.

Now, a couple others did get very close. RV and Eggnuts both nearly latched the rail and I'm convinced they would have satched it up had they caught it. Jeff also punted a couple times after a very long day and after nearly doing Keymaker. Proud effort on all their parts.

2 - Alpine Club will be climbed by 3 more people.

So before summer was out both Kyle from Milwaukee and Paul from Madison did Alpine Club via the bump method. Both were proud efforts and it was cool to hear it getting done. The real fireworks came later in the fall though when Kelly McB made one of the most impressive efforts I've seen to date. She did the problem in maybe an hours work for its first female ascent. On top of that it was one of the fastest ascents that problem has ever seen.

Ian, Jeff, Katie and myself all agree on just how rad it really was. So impressive. To put it all in perspective four people who climb V12 or harder have put one or more days in on the problem. Of those four only one has done it(Nic) and he did it on his second day.

Fucking rad.

Alpine Club continues to be a nemesis for me but the big departure this year was that I enjoyed the process. I took the time to learn something new each time I went out and my psyche for the problem has only grown. I'm 31 days into it and I can't wait for day 32.

3 - Keymaker will be climbed by 2 more people.

I really thought Jeff had it in him. He was so close it's hard to believe he didn't do it but alas, Keymaker stymied his best efforts. On his way down the talus he started talking about how he'd have to fly back for this one. It's incredibly fun for me to see someone so psyched on a line at the lake. It kinda blows me away.

My personal fitness wasn't where I wanted it all year and for that reason alone I didn't really want to try the line. I did the jump move a couple times so it was nice to know that was still there but I'm hoping I start to feel a bit better in 2011. I think a couple others have it in them as well. Chris Esser has a good chance for it as it's very much his style and he's climbing very strong right now. Ian also has a chance if he can get past the pain of the crimp.

Sally up bud. Sally up.

4 - Moj will be climbed by 3 more people.

Well, RV was the only one to do it this year. What the hell guys? You let the skinny brown kid finish it up??

All stupidity aside, RV's send was a very proud one for him and it's special because I know it meant a lot to him. The problem is definitively his anti style and it took him a lot of work and a lot of punts. On top of everything he did it in the summer which is proud in itself.

Esser is close on this one, Ian is psyched to see it as is Jeff when he comes back and there are a couple others who have said they want to finish it. I'm curious how it goes next year.

5 - Black Sheep will get a second and third ascent.

Sorry Nic.

6 - Sandstone Violence will get climbed by 3 more people.

Hmmm. Not sure this one got done by anyone new this year. Chris, Jeremy, RV and I were all close and eggballs threw another lap on it but it didn't seem to attract much attention this year.

Maybe next year.

7 - Sex and Chocolate direct will get sent. Finally.

Thanks Remo.

The day that Nic did the Lamest Show on Earth, Remo cleaned up this one. On top of doing one of the more impressive highballs at the lake he took a couple wingers off the top which is just terrifying to think about.

Good work bud. I know you wanted it badly.

8 - The three "new" hotspots will be the east bluff talus fields, the Massive Vertigo end of the west bluff talus fields and Steinke Basin.

Steinke did get some good action this year and I do think that area has bunches of potential. The north end of the West Bluff also got a few new problems but nothing astounding as far as volume goes.

The area that I personally think holds the future for the lake is the East Bluff. RV and I found a TON of potential new stuff when we ventured up that way and there is so much unexplored terrain it's crazy. I'm excited about it going forward. So much to do.

What none of us saw coming was the Dog Walk/Stache boulder. That provided the starkest example of the amazing potential of the lake. It now holds 4 lines V3-V7 with a perfect landing, good height and a piss easy approach 20 yards off one of the most travelled trails at the lake. On top of that it filled out the 500 ft woods area so nicely and now there is a beautiful little circuit you can do for a fun day at the lake.

Every time I go to the lake I find new stuff. I don't think any of us can even fathom the amount of potential this place has. It is absolutely astounding to me.

9 - 7 new projects V6 or harder will get established.

So this one we actually got close on.

1 - Sex and Chocolate With A Cherry On Top - V8 - Remo
2 - Lamest Show On Earth - V9 - Nic
3 - Tunder Tighs - V7/8 - Nic
4 - Moo Stache - V6 - Aaron/RV
5 - Magnum P.I. - V6/7 - Dobbe/Aaron/Remo (not sure who actually did it first.)

I think those 5 are it. With all of those there are tons of projects that are close. The Seam Proj was so tantalizingly close it was hard to fathom. RV, Chris and Myself all got insanely close and it turned out to be much harder than any of us expected. Personally, Half Dome feels incredibly close as well and after getting the first move on lockdown the second feels all there. Should be an interesting one.

Other projects include the corner project up by Moj, the big money project at steinke and the falling pieces project by Jenga. This is the one area that I think the lake will continue to grow. Hard problems will continue to fill out and I'm curious to see where it all goes.

The list above is a very impressive one and I want to thank the people that take the time to put up new problems. It's more work than people think and it goes unheralded much of the time. We've got a core group of people doing it and It's great to see.

10 - One of those projects will turn out to be double digit.

Not this year. That said, there is definite potential out there. Half Dome might fall just under that but the Corner Project has serious potential to be brutally hard. Other projects abound and I think we'll see the upper end fill out nicely in the next couple of years.

It's been a very interesting year. Many times after a resurgance the next year is kind of a letdown. It happened with Dodge in 2008 and it happened with the lake in 2010. I truly have no clue what's going to happen in 2011. All I can hope is that we all stay healthy and that we get lucky with the weather.

I would love to see more people out there exploring, finding new areas. It takes a different breed of people to do that. To take a full day off from climbing just to walk around the talus. Unfortunately this is what the lake needs and we seem to be lacking those strange fools. There are definitely gems out there. We just need to find em.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Best Of 2010

Man. I spend all year long taking pictures of you fools and this is what I get. 2,686 pictures and this is the best you guys can do???

Obviously I'm too lazy to do the 7 days of gnar again so this will have to suffice. I expect better work from all of you next year. None of this Busch league stuff. Everyone best be on their 'A' game when work resumes on January 1.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Whenever we get snow I think about Mammoth a little bit. Katie brought it up this past week and I had fun talking to her about it so I figured I'd bring that back here. I miss the story telling aspect of this site.

Stories are what make us who we are. They're our memories. They're what we sit around the campfire talking about or what we drink beers to at ugly sweater parties. For a very brief moment you have the ability to bring others into what you felt for a particular moment.

I like that.

That's also why I like photos. It's that brief image of what it felt like to be there. The emotions and the actual, real truth are open to complete interpretation but it's a millisecond in time that can't be taken away.

This particular picture was taken in late December of 2004 on our deck. The deck, in summer, was about 30 feet off the ground and when this happened I was maybe 20 feet above the landing below me.

Our back yard couldn't have been more perfect. A nice steep hill with a short but sweet runoff. Throughout the winter we built multiple kickers, gap jumps and rail setups. At one point we even had a picnic table back there. It was eventually lost to the overwhelming amount of snow.

All of that came after the above picture though. That moment set the winter up for us. The season had opened on October 21 that year with an insane 5 foot base of snow. Yes. October. I'd never imagined the amount of snow I'd seen so it all hit me like a pile of bricks. It was an amazing sight to see for yourself.

My dad describes it best. He came out to visit in the middle of February and during that trip we got about a foot and a half of snow one night. It was impressive as I'd come home from work at about 11 at night with perfectly clear skies. Stars everywhere. When I woke up I saw blue skies and sun accompanied by said 1.5' of snow and I went to pick up my dad.

When I opened the door he had a big smile and started talking about how amazing all of this was. In all honesty it was rather incredible. In a matter of 6-7 hours a major storm had rolled into town, dumped a foot and a half of fresh snow and then moved on. Impressive.

I looked him dead in the eye, gave him a huge smile and politely told him, "This is a best". In reality, during that season, it was just that. A dusting.

From October 15th to May 15th we received just under 600 inches of snow. Almost 50 feet for those of you without calculators At the time it was the snowiest year on record and even now it's only surpassed by the next seasons total...a mere 7 inches more.

At one point in mid January my roommate Blu and I were sitting in the house relaxing. He had the day off and had just gotten back from riding. I was getting ready to take the shuttle up to work and came upstairs to grab something to eat quick.

Normally, as snow accumulates on your roof it just kinda cascades off in sheets. The house rumbles a bit and you grab the shovel to clean off the deck. It's pretty fun the first time but then it loses its luster. For about 2 weeks we'd been watching our roof catch snow and refuse to release it. Over time it just kept building and building. Then one day it got a bit warmer and the bottom foot started to soften up and melt. Then that night it froze.

When we saw it the next morning we all kind of nervously laughed and joked about how much that was gonna suck to shovel off the deck. After another storm rolled in we got even more nervous. This was the second time that it'd gotten a decent amount of snow on it without coming off but this time was a touch more intimidating. The roof had somehow managed to collect 8 feet of snow with the bottom foot comprised of 100% bullet ice.

So there we were. Blu and I in the living room. It was so nice and quiet.....and then it wasn't. The entire condo started shaking, pots and pans were falling off the stove and cups off the countertops. All we could do was watch as the whole slab sheared off the roof and roared onto the deck. Our living room went almost dark and the slabs of snow and ice were bowing our sliding glass door in and we both genuinely expected our deck to break.

It. Was. Amazing.

Our upstairs living room looking out on our deck.

It ended up taking 4-5 hours to clean up and we had to climb up from below the deck to get on top of it all. One of the most powerful things I've ever witnessed.

I ended up snowboarding 150 days that year. My job made it so that I could ride pretty much any day I wanted to. I could ride to work if I worked late or I could ride home if I worked the early shift. It couldn't have been more ideal. Coming into that season I'd ridden some, but not a lot. I'd never really enjoyed it that much but I was blown away with how much fun it was out there.

When that first picture was taken though I hadn't really done anything like it before. I'd never done just a standing drop like that. Let alone at that height. For those who want a sense, imagine doing a drop off of Big Bud Arete or Slope of Dadaism. I don't really care how deep the snow might be, it's intimidating.

I waffled back and forth a bit with Darren and Blu egging me on. None of us knew if it was going to be deep, cushy, soft snow or if we'd hit hardpack snow that we'd shoveled off the deck previously. That was the big unknown.

Darren took this one from the roof.

Obviously I went for it or I wouldn't be telling this story. We did deck drops all winter long eventually having to stop because we had too much snow. By the end of the season we could walk directly off our deck onto the snow.

I doubt I'll ever see snow like that in my life again. I don't think I want to actually. I quite often say I could spend many summers in Mammoth but never again another winter. It was just too much of everything that comes along with Mammoth.

I had fun though. Lots and lots of fun.

Blu and I after shoveling my Blazer out. This was about a third of the way through the storm.

The before picture.

Another random pile of snow. It was so wet we could open the sliding door without a worry.

Blu climbing out the window onto the deck.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Trip Of Northern Aggression - Grades

Oh yes. Grades. Numbers. Sickyillgnar sends of the highest degree.

Not quite.

Katie did accumulate some great numbers(5,5,6,7, plus a couple punts on another 7 and an 8) but I did not. Happily though, I climbed a shitload of easy stuff and did Slush Puppy once again bringing that total up to maybe 30 laps on the rig. I really enjoy that boulder problem. One of my all time favs. No question.


As you all know, grades suck. Adam Henry does one thing right telling you to get the white out and pen ready just in case you disagree with a grade. Who cares, really?

They can be fun to talk about though and Katie and I chatted about them enough to get my head around what I want to say here. Bear with me. I may have had a beer or two at this point. Heh.

What I'm gonna make an attempt to do here is compare 3 different areas. Should be a fun time.

Disclaimer - I absolutely hate grades and abhor what they do to the climbing community. That said, I see their relevance.

Little Rock City - This is without a doubt the softest of the three areas that I'll talk about. Grades don't seem hard here, but it's not soft in the grand scheme of the world. They seem right on par with what standards should at least start at. Possibly it's the type of problems or the kind of holds but people generally climb rather well here.

Common consensus is that grades are solid and the problems themselves are fun. The nice thing about it all is that grades seem the least talked about topic here. No one seems to care. Some stuff is hard. Some is soft. Most importantly people seem to talk about quality here and that's one of the endearing factors about the boulderfield. The climbing is just plain good and that's what people care about.

The other cool thing is that it's a very historic area dating back 30-40 years. It's got a ton of history and as you walk through the field you find yourself over and over again smiling to yourself at how good you have it.

Flat landings. Comfy holds. Friendly locals.

In many ways I find this area the most enjoyable climbing I've ever encountered. I truly love it here.

HP40 - Oh Horse Pens. What can I say about you. I really do love you. Your atmosphere is perfect and I truly love being able to stay in your campground for days on end without having to leave. You're a rare gem and you'll always hold a special place in my heart.

You try so hard though.

Inevitably grades come up when you talk about HP40. The new guide only made that type of talk more prevalent and it's entertaining to me.

For those that don't know, the latest guide downgraded many problems almost randomly. There seem to be very few "testpiece" problems there and it makes the grades even more confuzzled than you'd imagine. Random downgrading seems to be the motive and it's pretty fun to watch as an outsider. Even some of the locals seem salty.

The most entertaining part of this is that HP40 is the youngest area that I'll talk about and the downgrading seems to come almost 100% ego driven. HP wants to be the hardest area. It wants to be the most sandbagged. It wants people leaving beaten, bruised and battered.

It's just not THAT stiff though.

More than anything it's a style thing(much like the next area I'll talk about). You get it or you don't. If you get good conditions and the problem suits you, then things feel rather easy. In the guide Adam states that problems are based on someone doing the problem many times in perfect conditions and knowing the optimal beta.

I can oddly understand that to a certain point. I've done Slush Puppy many, many times and it feels absolutely piss easy now. Like warm up easy. I would never grade it based on that though. It just fits me. It clicks.

That's how it happens sometimes.

HP is an interesting one to me partly because the comps continue to drive the grades down further and further as locals get the place even more wired.

I'll end HP on a funny note. Katie and I went across the 4X4 road to Suspicion and Wrist Distentia on one of our days there. The comp tags were still up so we had a look around. What made me laugh is that the guide came out earlier this year, 8-10 months ago. Wrist Distentia had already been downgraded from the guidebook from a V8 to a V7.

They try so hard.

Devil's Lake, WI - Yep. I'm bringing DL into this. We all know why. DL is old school. The grades are stiff, the rock is solid and very slick, the approaches tend to suck and the landings are brutal. All of it brings a certain experience to a day at the boulders.

What's striking to me about the grades at DL though is that ego isn't really there. We don't try to grade stuff hard, it's just how it's been done for decades before us. I can't count how many times I've heard the phrase "it'd be V7 at any other area.....but it's soft V6 here. It's the lake.".

When you come here you just learn to get over it. The grades don't matter. You can do a problem with a certain number attached to it but when you get done you aren't happy cause you climbed a V7. Or a V10. Or a V4. You're happy that you climbed a beautiful problem over a shit landing with far too few pads and far too many confused spotters shuffling pads over different levels of talus.

One of the endearing things about the lake is that grades lose meaning very quickly. It's not that you go there wanting to pad your scorecard with sick sends and high numbers. It's not that you bring someone there hoping they get shutdown on grades they can normally do.

Grades just don't matter that much there. Grades lose their focus and the problems take center stage. The movement takes over and conversations about grading come about so little that you don't even think about it. It's just a fact of life. You deal with it and move on. The climbing is too good not to.

You stop thinking about how Jenga could be a V6 or a V7 and you keep reminding yourself how good of a climb it is. Alpine Club doesn't register as a V9 but rather an absolutely perfect boulder problem with an obvious 'sit your ass on the ground start' and amazing movement. Flatiron doesn't come to life as this brutally hard V4 but instead a John Gill problem. A problem with such history that you can't help but ignore the history of the chipped hold that no one seems to be able to point out.

Problems like Big Bud Arete and Smooth Operator lose the fact that they're moderates and instead morph into beautiful, hair raising highballs that keep your attention until the walk off.

So often when we go on trips we get so attached to a number. We get so convinced that our trip won't be successful unless we climb something hard. Something at our top level. We seem to forget the basics of why we do this. We forget that it all comes down to enjoying yourself on a given problem or route. Enjoying the movement and the experience we ignore all too often.

Too often we need to reevaluate our climbing and our motivations. It's times like these that I enjoy having an area like the lake nearby. It keeps me honest.

Enjoy some of the other pictures from our trip. It's been fun recapping it for anyone paying attention.