Monday, 16 March 2020

Is climbing about influencer's or about climbing rock?

Climbing in the 80's, 90's and early 2000's was about sending hard routes, with a focus on FA's and new routes. Now we have "influencer's" via Instagram and Facebook, who have huge followers, and for most of these climbers, they do not put up routes, they either repeat routes, or are gym/competition climbers. The Elite level are on IG and FB, yet do fall short of the traffic generated by the influencer's.

If climbing is to continue, we need new routes and the elite to keep pushing the envelope, so those coming up have routes to develop on and then take over the envelope push.

The Olympics will bring the masses to see the sport of climbing, and likely will take on following the influencer's versus following the elite or the developers. Gyms share in this as well, as they offer learning areas and training grounds for those committed to rock. Why do our elite's or developers get left aside for these influencer's? One answer is the mass appeal they have on Social media sets the ahead on any hashtag or search and thus they seem to be the actual elite level athlete for our sport.

Our old guard was fortunate to not have social media,and any climber that has sponsorship really earned it. They either climbed at the 8b to 8c level and or built routes and areas. Now that elite level is really 8c+ and up, which is really a huge jump, and the low end was the max of the old days, give a route or two, Hubble and Action Direct and OM/Open air.

Social media has kind of allowed our manufacturers to be "lazy" and use IG to find climbers to sponsor. This really places a lack of focus on what makes climbing climbing. New routes and pushing into the 9th grade are what will actually keep our sport moving forward.

This is no relation for male of female, yet most females do not put up new sport routes. They do put up a lot of Alpine routes, Climbers like Ines Papert continue to push that realm. Repeating routes is important and keeps our grading system accurate, or at least tries to do such.
We need more females to put up routes, they obviously have the elite level to climb at the upper elite level, and really always have.

Lynn Hill, Catherine Destevelle, Liv Sansov, Robyn Erbesfield/Raboutou climbed 8b+ back in the late 80's/early 90's and continued for years, and/or are still cranking away. They were climbing alongside male climbers, often in way better style. We all were just climbers gunning for the send.

Currently in North America, we have some of our best climbers, and route developers who are fast falling off the sponsorship radar, or already have, for pure IG influencer's, who are very good climbers, but not in at the  elite level or the current climbers.

Chris Sharma is still putting up new high end routes, he is getting older and his business life will take over more of his time.
Dani Andrada is still bolting new high end routes and like Sharma, is getting older. What will happen when these two stop bolting routes? I am sure Spain has other builders.

France has the new machine Seb Bouin, who is not only sending 9b repeats, but bolting and FA'ing as well. Like Spain, I am sure France has more than just SB.

What about North America? Western USA has one main bolter and repeater, who is really pushing the envelope, regardless of the Social Media scourge on him (right or wrong). Without this man, that part of the USA would be pretty shy of routes to do at the new level. Joe Kinder is still sending and putting up 9's and discovering new areas as well. He really is one of the keys for our sport in the USA. I am not arguing about his Social media demise, nor about the one climber out of that left standing, climbers will recognize their importance for climbing.

The Vegas area has Andy Raether who seems to stay in the showdows, yet once you drill down, you realize he has either put up the new 8c+ or harder, or done the second ascent. The main man Jonathan Siegrist continues to repeat, and build. He really is the main USA climber at the top and continues to impress and push. He is the true professional.

The female side, really should not be a side, just another climber. I learned more from my few routes done with Lynn Hill way back in the late 80's, movement and power.

I will note that the one main difference is route building, where there is a lack of female route builders. As I know many female climbers stronger and better than most males.

So all this said, climbing for climbers is about just that, climbing. The media and companies have focused more on the social marketing side versus the actual climbing side. With this focus, we will have no new routes, just repeats of existing climbs, and focused on likes and visual posts.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Boreal Shoe Review

Boreal Synergy:

The Synergy is the ultimate shoe for steep limestone. It has the feel and sensitivity of a slipper, but with a velcro closure of a shoe.

These have become my go to shoes over the Satori for Acephale, so for overhanging limestone, where smearing and general foot pressure are the key to success, these are the shoes.e
I as well wore them on our St. Leger du Ventoux trip, and they did not disappoint. For my style, they smeared on many of the tops of the routes, where you are smearing or toeing into a small runnel pocket on a vertical to slightly less angle.

Boreal Satori:

The Satori is a stellar shoe, it has a very good horseshoe toe edge system, that is not too stiff, but adds more edge control than the Synergy.

These have been my favorite shoe, since they came out, and they have always performed amazingly well.

In the RRG, they are perfect for the edgeing power needed, while still being able to smear onto the 40 plus degree overhanging routes.

For summer's cragging at Acephale, they as well have been crazy good.

My wife climbed in the Lynx for years, and now has been wearing the womens Satori, and loves them, her go to shoe. She was a huge fan of the Stigma's and the Lynx made up for those.

Boreal also has a Satori Womens, which has a narrow fit, and lower wrap around Heel-Arch, for a Female ankle.

Boreal Ninja:

The new Ninja, 2019, is a slipper version of the Satori and Synergy, it climbs a bit stiffer than the Synergy, but a bit less than the Satori.

So for t hose who do not need the extra fittings with a velcro closure system, and are on steep stone, the Ninja is perfect.

Do not expect an easy slip on slipper, they take a smidgen of effort, but once on, the fit is solid and feels snug the whole route.

The only issue with the new Ninja's, is they are no longer have the Green shoe colour of version 1 Ninja, which climbed a lot of hard routes in the 1980s, 1990s. One of the best, goes to Wolfgang Gullich, wearing them on Wall Street, 14a, mid 80's, with wool socks!

Jerry Moffat climbed numerous 14's in the Ninja's.

Ben Moon did Hubble 14d, Agincourt 14c, and many more of his 1980's and early 90's 14+ routes, in Boreal shoes.

Dani Andrada has been with Boreal since he started, so likely Boreals have climbed more euro grade 8's than any other shoe in the world.

Boreal Dharma:

The Dharma is the ultimate edgeing shoe, it is the Satori, yet with a stiff horseshoe edge that gives you the foot power to stand on small edges for as long as you can hold on, with very little foot fade.

For those who crave, or are used to a solid edgeing shoe, then this is the ticket for you.

Boreal also has a Dharma Womens, which has a narrow fit, and lower wrap around Heel-Arch, for a Female ankle.


For approach shoes, I vary with the following:

Boreal Alligator:

They can get to Acephale, or a short RRG stroll. The carbon heel cup adds a lot of foot support. Plus I wear them most days.

Boreal Bamba:

Feel like a pilllow on your foots, and they are great for everyday chilling.

Boreal Flyers Vent:

My preferred approach shoe, burly, good foot support and traction. When carrying a pack with rope, draws, drill, batteries, bolts ... they are the choice.

I wear a US 8.5 street shoe and in the climbing shoes I wear a US 8.

I wear the same size in all the Boreal shoes, one half size down from street shoe.

My wife wears a US 7.5 street shoe and wears US 7 in Boreal.

All these have excellent heel hooking abilities, and toe camming as well.

They are, or will be available in MEC, and most Canadian retailers. as they now have Sasso Vertical Rep agency in Western Canada.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Bow Valley History updated, January 2020

Sport Climbing History in the Bow Valley

This is information based off Galloway’s new Bow Valley guidebook - this BOLD writing is JD LeBlanc’s historical perspective on the Bow Valley – take it for what you want, but I have tried to add in as much as I can remember – I may miss some things – but as I was a part of the scene from the mid 1980’s, I have a good historical perspective, but may well be out, or off, on some things. I would like to give Galloway big props for getting this completed and into retailers – a big job – this is really a comprehensive source for the Bow Valley sport climbing areas. I have added in a bit more in the history of the area – it’s a blog, so don’t expect post doctoral work. The Black is the Derek Galloway text.
The Bow Valley and the Canadian Rockies has a rich climbing history that officially started over 125 years ago. The Canadian Pacific Railway brought over the first mountain guides from Switzerland to safely guide the adventure hungry tourists that the newly completed railway brought.
Dave Morgan was one of the pioneers of sport climbing in the valley, he pushed his limits and those of everyone else, so much that he blew his elbows out – a super amazingly skilled climber, that if still able to climb would have hit the 5.13 level easily. Dave also lent LeBlanc a battery powered drill for a lot of the 1992 development at Bataan, as the Buszowski/LeBlanc drill had battery issues. This battery issue led to the first usage of the battery series of 12volt motorcycle batteries, where we were able to get 80+ holes per charge. (Our drill became famous in the hands of Barry Blanchard for his local area movie set work – we even got money out of it. This TE10A finally hit its end in the winter of 2004 bolting in the Haffner Hoar Cave, another Buszowski/LeBlanc route effort, where we added 4 more lines to the original two). The sport grows, and grows: 1986-1990
The momentum that was created in 1985 continued through into 1986/1987. Both development and difficulty remained firmly rooted within the narrow canyon walls of Grotto Canyon. Much of the low hanging fruit had been grabbed in the previous year, but there were still routes to be had. Sean Dougerty nabbed the highly fingery Importance of Being Ernest 5.12a, along with the steep Mr. Olympia 5.11d. Bruce Howatt managed to jump the standard ahead a few notches to 5.12d with his desperate testpiece; Tropicana 5.12d with the help of a couple chipped edges.  
A new addition to Hemingway wall was Success Pool 5.12a; this was bolted by the trio of Haberl, Parboossingh and Milton. FA’d by Jason Holt, as a jab at the duo of that trio, Simon aside. Jason Holt was really the “man” of this generation; he had done ascents of the Smith Rock Test Pieces, Rude Boys, 5.13c, 3rd North American to repeat it - Oxygen and pretty much every route up to the 5.13c grade back in the late 1980’s. Holt was a force, in more ways than one, and the inspiration to Marc Dube’s “Jason Lives” 5.13a, back of the lake. Holt had a tendency to poke other climbers in a “not so nice way”.
One good true story is a conversation between him and Sean Dougherty on the “Success Pool” bolt which is clippable on the route Walk on the Wild Side 5.11c, Sean was really upset that you could do the crux without placing gear, Holt replied that is there a better style then, than bolts or gear – Sean replied that “yes, no bolts or no gear is a much better style”. Holt then asked if the best style is sent, then is that the way the route should always be sent in. Sean said absolutely! Holt then replied “I just soloed it today, and then down-climbed the 5.8 chimney! Sean said “bullshit” but I had witnessed it, and anyone who knew Holt, knows he would never lie, not matter what, it’s just not in his nature. Let’s all be happy that there are bolts still in it, even though the solo style was better, but I am pretty sure it would only have an ascent or two – but it is too bad that the retro bolting is totally off the original line.   
Back then we had the illegal “Mine” routes, of which Howatt and Steiner had put in some great effort – Buckshot 5.12+, and the El Norte 5.13+. They have since been off limits and are no doubt now in some building somewhere in Canada, as the actual walls have been blown up and crushed.
A small pre-curser of what was to happen across the river on the near blank Water Wall. While the walls laying along the creek were being picked over by the others Joe Buszowski, Marc Dube, and Jim Sanford (Sandford was really a keen driving force, learning under the master, Buszowski, he would become one of the few 5.14 Canadian climbers, and the single driving force behind the top end Squamish sport climbs, like Bravado, Pulse and many more) found an entirely new wall lurking up the east fork of the falls; The Alley. Several worthy additions such as Barchetta 5.11cSubmission 5.11d, and Grace Under Pressure 5.11d made all the cleaning worth it. In the mid 1990’s Daren Tremaine added a few great classics to this wall. However the Milton route “Big Breasted Girls Go to the Beach and Take Their Tops Off” 5.11b surely ranks as the best name ever and one intended to add as many letters to the Jones/Martin guidebook.
Let’s not forget that this area had the illustrious Will Gadd, maybe the most competitive climber most will meet. Will grew up in Jasper, AB, moved to Boulder, CO for school and climbing. Will would redpoint Crimes of Passion while doing 3 pull-ups off the huge incut top rail – only to add it to 8 or 10, maybe more, as LeBlanc and Guyn would add in one more each time until Will got fed up, added a couple more, then that was that.
In the following couple of years John Martin took his newly acquired drill and set to work developing Cougar Creek; a brand new area. By the time the 1990’s rolled around he had turned it into a full-blown area with over 80 routes. It even started to compete with Grotto Canyon in terms of popularity. Grotto held its ground on the technical difficulty front though with the additions of Joe Buszowski’s Mr. No 5.12b, Joe Buszowski and JD LeBlanc’s Cracked Rhythm 5.12c, Simon Parboosingh’s Tintin and Snowey get Psyched 5.12d, and Marc Dube’s Crimes of Passion 5.13a. Shep’s Diner 5.13a was redpointed in 91 by Scott Milton, however, back in 1989, Jason Holt and JD LeBlanc were able to lap it to the final jug – without clipping the anchor. Reason: Shep Steiner had put so much into it and so much more in the Bow Valley (without Buszowski, Steiner, Dube and the previous factions of Pochay, Zacharias and Howatt, the Valley may not be what it is today!) that neither wanted to take away the effort by Steiner, who was ridiculously close a lot. The route name came about via Shep’s house, as he hosted us a lot for dinner, housing and sauna. This was also the years that the Water Wall’s harder routes were manufactured on its blank looking right end with the help of a gas powered generator rented from town. Much drama ensued. The generator went missing, which led some to think it had been stolen in retaliation for its use. In the end it turned out that a flood had buried it completely. Making for an interesting story when it had to be returned! It should be noted, before you curse and think poorly of those involved, that at this time across North America route builders were just getting used to the idea and possibilities that the hammer drilled provided them, and there was much experimenting with it to build holds and entire routes before it was realized that this wasn’t such a desirable path to take. Just look to the Kacodaemon boulder in Squamish and the harder routes at Smith Rock as a couple of examples. As time passed, tensions eased, and things were put into perspective these routes actually gained a fair bit of popularity and traffic that remains to this day.

Carrot Creek’s route count continued to grow at a steady pace, with Keith Pike’s Sword in the Stone 5.12c and Simon Parboossingh and Joe Buszowski’s The Lizard 5.12b being two of the finest, Buszowski and Steiner had also added a route that dissected the Wizard ending up and right, “The Gizzard” 5.12c, then Buszowski added his “Cup-O-Joe” 5.13a. All the most desirable lines at Barrier had been bolted and development started to slow considerably, although Keith Haberl still managed to find a gem when he climbed the desperately technical Regatta de Blank 5.12b. Grassi Lakes also got a few routes at this time, but the rock quality was considered pretty poor even by Rockies standard and the area was soon left abandoned in search for easier areas to clean and bolt.
: 1991- 1995
The first half of the 90’s saw the Bow Valley break through the 5.12d ceiling and rocket into the elusive realm of 5.13. While there are many that contributed to this breakthrough in standards and would help to push it forward over the coming decade one climber stood above the rest; Todd Guyn. Not everyone in the route building community was concerned with difficulty though, and the trio of John Martin, Jon Jones, and Andy Genereux continued to open new routes, walls, and areas at an incredible pace.
Right out of the gate Todd Guyn and LeBlanc tweaked out a few of the projects on the Water Wall, and as usual, Guyn FA’d with LeBlanc straggling behind. 
Todd was also one of the premiere climbers in North America, where by the mid 1990’s he had close to 100 5.13 ascents, noted by Tom Herbert out of California, who was keeping track of his own ascents and knew of Guyn, as Todd was one of the top crusher’s of the era. 
These routes started to put the Bow Valley and Grotto Canyon on the map with a string of hard sends when he finished off the work of others and redpointed Cause and Affect 5.13a, Burn Hollywood Burn 5.13b, and The Resurrection 5.13c. Also redpointed was Shep’s Diner 5.13a by a young climber by the name of Scott Milton. A name that would later become synonymous with high end difficulty­ in the Bow Valley during the second half of the 1990’s. All of these routes were on the Water Wall and where the products of the “generator” incident that had occurred in the previous years. Simon Parboossingh proved that there was such thing as a natural 5.13 though when he climbed Metabollica 5.13a. While the hard-men concentrated their efforts on the Water Wall Andy Genereux grabbed two classics with Tour de Force 5.12a and Tour de Pump 5.11b further up stream while Jon Jones added the forgotten gem, Sidewinder 5.11b at the Paintings Wall. Up at the Alley Dave Thomson added the tough Snakes and Ladders 5.12a.
Carrot Creek continued to see a flurry of development with another 70 routes being added to the count. Among the best where Jon Jones’s No More Mr. Nice Guy 5.12a, Andy Genereux’s The Warlock 5.12a, Sun City 5.11d, and Todd Guyn’s test-piece, American Standard 5.13b. With the big jump made in difficulty during the first half of the 90’s the steep and previously thought un-climbable cave got another look, and Shep Steiner, JD LeBlanc and Joe Buszowski established a slew of test pieces, with Elmer Fudd 512d, Carnivore 5.13a (Shep Steiner), Doppio 5.13b (built by Joe B), and Mouthful of Freddie 5.13c (Built by Shep Steiner) and the classic Black Coffee 5.12d – LeBlanc/Tremaine.
Cougar Canyon also continued to see more growth with more than 50 new routes going up with John Martin responsible for most of the routes as usual. (maybe better worded – LeBlanc, Buszowski and Steiner built and worked on the Carrot Patch routes with a few FA’s, but as usual of those days, Guyn swooped in and FA’d Mouthful of Freddie, a Steiner bolted and tweaked route – same as the “Carnivore” Not to be overlooked was the Parboossingh “Last Boy Scout” 5.13-, bolted and close by Simon, but he was killed on a guides course via an avalanche. Milton FA’d that one. Steiner’s classic Oedipus Complex 5.12c and LeBlanc’s Liar 5.13b are two excellent additions to a good crag.
Along with the tried and true getting more routes the Bow Valley saw three new areas emerge; Raven Crag, Bataan, and the game changer, Acephale. Peter Arbic discovered the small but steep Raven Crag perched above the town of Banff and  put in the first pitches of The Masque 5.11d, and Telltale Heart 5.11d, PA added in a bunch of great routes here up to the mid 5.13 range – PA would also add in some of the best routes at Skaha, he’s an interesting man with a good passion and energy, plus he liked to bolt and climb – Skaha would not be the same without his efforts, and neither would the Bow Valley. Both of which he would latter add extensions to, creating two classics weighing in at 5.12d and 5.13a.Milton and LeBlanc managed to send all the lines in the crag - except the project to the right - as it happened, we were led to believe they had been sent - this caused a little rift between PA and the duo ... all good after a few beers ...
JD LeBlanc led the charge at Bataan, with ­­­Nirvana 5.13a, and (1992) Jacob’s Ladder (1993) 5.13aBolting of Vishnu, and the FA of the Jagger bolted excellent 24 Frames per Second/the Book of the Dead, 5.13a, However, Haberl and Jagger climbed and pushed themselves alongside Ryan Johnstone ... but soon discovered that even though the stone was amazing the hike was not, and securing a partner was next to impossible. Bataan, first route was the Haberl - Truckasaurus, 5.12a, on top of Nirvana – yes problematic, but darn good. Keith and LeBlanc hiked up ropes and lots of bolt to the crag – his efforts allowed the crag to be what it is today – we had some funny times, but mostly it was labour intensive and tough.
JD LeBlanc then turned his attention to the newly discovered “cliff of the future”, Acephale, and went to work alongside Richard Jaggerin 1992 the duo built the left end of the lower wall. (Todd Guyn and his Austrian friend Helmut Neswabda came in to the “project” later on, 1994 (May have been 1993, but pretty sure it was the year after the 1993 monsoon season with Steiner and LeBlanc and lot’s of coffee) and helped create some excellent routes).  Illy Down was the first route on the lower wall left side, at 5.12a, now 5.12c, as it’s a V7 boulder start! Jagger added in “Girl Drink Drunk” 5.12a, The Irradicator 5.12a. Tremaine created Nickel Bag 5.11a. However, the lower wall warm-up Neoconstructionist 5.11c was put up by Tim Pochay, and maybe the hardest trickiest warm up around. The lower wall yielded maybe the best route in the valley, LeBlanc’s Deal With It 5.12c, the great stone route of Naissance de la Femme 5.13b, Guyn’s Nemo 5.13a , and Wet Lust 5.13d, Neswabdas The Dark Half 5.13a, and Last Dance.
The Upper wall then hosted the infamous Steiner route “Le Stade du Miroir” 5.12b (1993), The Hood 5.13b, Sweet Thing 5.13c (Built by Steiner), The Hype 5.13c, the classic Altius 5.12c, and the uber gigga classic Tremaine/Johnstone Jingus 5.12c/d, and Tremaine’s stellar Swelltone Theatre 5.12d. Levente Pinter at 16 years old, bolted, and created Army Ants 5.13c, he would become one of the strongest and ever respected climbers in North America.
 : 1995-1999 
In the upper end of the difficulty range things continued to progress but there was a changing of the guards. Todd Guyn started to lose steam with his long stream of sends, while Scott Milton (Scott was the first Canadian to climb 5.14, which he did in Southern France in 1993 – Mass Critique, followed by the infamous To Bolt or Not 5.14a and many more. Sandford established the first 5.14 in Canada and added a few more in his home area. LeBlanc sent a few in the states. Todd Guyn however, continued to send almost every route up to 5.13d in Western North America and send them very quickly – if you ask me, Guyn was the finest climber of my generation – he could onsight 5.13 and send multiples in a day, his style was to not work the route much, send quick and move on – others were the opposite – work a lot, send less … Plus pretty much any where he went projector’s would cringe, as they heard of his crushing – tape or not, it he could send it, it went down. In that era, he could do such, leave and most would never know – today we have and the world knows!) was coming into his prime and would take Todd’s place at the top, far above the rest of the pack for the foreseeable future. His crown jewel was Acephale’s Existence Mundane 5.14bA route that was originally bolted and prepared in 1994 by Richard Conover – pretty visionary really – glue can be knocked off with seven edges made of glue before it was still considered too hard and abandoned. Scott loved a natural line though and decided to show the climbing community just what was possible with what Mother Nature had provided. He removed all but one of the edges not sure if there was anything below that last glue edge and redpointed what would become the Bow Valley’s hardest route for some time to come. The last glue edge was later removed by visiting climber, Sonnie Trotter. This didn’t change the grade however, because of a micro edge hidden below. There’s no doubt though that had Scott gambled and removed the last edge (had there been nothing below, the route would have been un-climbable) he would have redpointed the route just the same. This was the Bow Valley’s first 5.14, but not its last.
 : 2000-2010
The new millennium saw more steady growth, both in the overall base of routes as well as in the upper range of difficulty. A few younger climbers started to emerge as the new driving force in difficulty, while a few new route builders joined the ranks and started establishing the crags for the future.
Tremaine had quietly established the Bayon at Heart Creek, home to a dozen routes, 5.12 to 5.13+. His route Salty is considered to be one of the best 5.13’s in the valley. LeBlanc then set himself on another new line – Old Timer 5.13+, FA’d by Milton, followed by LeBlanc – now considered a standard for its grade.
 Acephale had a new wall – the Junction – lower wall meets upper wall – thanks to Todd Guyn, who created the classic Hickory Dickory Dock 5.12b – 35m of great climbing – followed by his Bucking Horse 5.12b another 35m rig – then the addition of 3 more routes, Dale Robotham’s Lose Yourself 5.12b 30m, LeBlanc’s Go Ask Alice 5.12d and the 2010 addition of the Duck-Bill 5.12c/d both 35m. This adds a rope-stretcher wall with a great alpine feel.
More and more people started making the trek up to Bataan and its growth continued to explode. The father and son duo of Ian and Chris Perry joined Jon Jones and Roger Chayer and set to work on developing the fledgling area. By 2005 they had added countless new routes and walls with many classics among them. Among the best where The Kinematic Wave 5.11d, Crank Call 5.11d, Goldfinger 5.11c, Significant Digits 5.11b, Welcome to the Fabulous Sky Lounge 5.12b, and Eyes Wide Shut 5.12a. Other notable ascents were Ross Suchy’s send of an old LeBlanc bolted and often tried route back in the early 90’s, but left it, as he could not – at that time – solve the crux issue. But shortly after the Suchy send, it got a second … Vishnu 5.13c, and Scott Milton’s redpoint of Roger Chayer’s brilliant Freedom in Chains 5.13c.
Up at Acephale Scott Milton turned his attention to all the abandoned projects that littered the Upper Wall and when he was done just about every bolted line was transformed into a new route. Among them were Port Hole to Hell 5.13d, Whale Back 5.13d, Fully Jingus 5.13d, Endless Summer 5.13d, and Leviathan 5.14a.
The Bow Valley came about from pure freedom and passion – little rules, no climbers. Today we have many rules and lots of climbers, for those of us in the “older” category it’s odd, but it’s also great. Without the new generation we would not have brand new areas, like the “Echo Grotto”. Suchy, Meiss, Tos, Perry grew as climbers from what was established, then went and created more, in all levels too! Without the prod of a guy like Galloway, who sent every hard route in the Valley, added many more, heaps of energy, all with his own grading style. Really most of us think it’s his way of “speaking from the soapbox” some of us rant from it, rave from it, pontificated from it, DG grades from it. However, whether it’s 13a or b, it’s still hard. The Bow Valley hosts some amazing sport climbing, and a lot more rock to create new vision upon – you just need to be prepared to hike!
The Bow Valley would not be what it is today without the pioneering vision of Joe Buszowski – sure there were other hard climbers – Zacharias, Howatt, Korman. 
Joe created and sent most of the classics at Lake Louise on gear, most are bolted today, and he did the second ascent of the Terminator, the FA of Mixed Master and later in 2004 created most of the hard mixed routes climbers get on these days – the Thriller cave area, Haffner creek and cave. However, what Joe did was not just see new areas or routes; he saw in younger climbers a certain thing that he helped shape. Jim Sanford became one of the finest climbers in Canada – he may well have done it on his own, but Joe helped show him what was possible. Todd Guyn and LeBlanc came out of the Joe B mentorship program and it shaped our future. Todd went on to become the most prolific 5.13 climber of our era – he could send multiple 13’s in a day, he shredded up the famed Blasphemy wall in the VRG, back in the mid-90’s – alongside his hundreds of other 5.13’s. LeBlanc climbed a few hard routes, and was one of the founders of Bataan and Acephale – however this could not have happened without Shep Steiner – his passion and skill built many of the Acephale classics and his education created the name of the crag. Richard Jagger was instrumental in the building of Bataan and Acephale – he took over from Keith Haberl who unfortunately was often injured and just could not continue to sport climb. Some of the old crew was still cranking Dornian and Rennie – Rennie became a key to the whole thing as well – he was the silent funder of bolting gear. We weren’t working, or at least had no real money, so Bill funded us with bolts, brushes, hammers … this really enabled us to create what we wanted to build. Rennie still climbs 5.12, pretty well for a working old man. David is the force behind the sport climbing federation in Canada, he sits on the UIAA IFSC board and still climbs 5.12 and he’s older than Rennie …
Acephale has a few issues of dates - but I can guarantee that the first bolts were in the Hood and Hype, 1992, as I was with my wife on one of our first "dates". No other bolts were at this crag until later on in May and June 1992 with the Lower Wall routes of Jagger, Tremaine and LeBlanc. This crag had been spotted, walked to by numerous climbers, but no effort - same went for Bataan. FYI no trail really existed to Bataan nor Acephale - these were laid out and hammered down by the builders.
In closing, the new guidebook is a great data source, solid pictures, well laid out - to most they likely will not care at all. This book should help those coming into the areas for their first time. Would I buy it - I did - purely because it's Derek's effort and he's a solid climber and builder - so you need to support it.
To those who read this and think - bitter old prick - you are wrong - I have been a part of the scene since it started and provided a lot of the routes today's climbers build themselves on. I still climb and add new routes, was one of the few climbers to climb 5.14 back in the early/mid 1990's and tried to push the sport here, to help build routes and climbers. I wish Steiner would be able to have kept climbing, same for Buszowski, but life moves on and so does the scene - let's just not forget the past - and hopefully more climbers will be keen on sending and building more areas – the Echo crew is on fire – maybe we could prod a few to get into the Middle Grotto, along the “Playground” dry tool crag trail and resurrect the old cave “Caveman of the Apocalypse” …

Note: 1995/96? before Jean and I married, I fell off the anchor on Know /your Enemy, 14, confirmed by Alex Megos, as he clipped the anchors and gave it hard 8c 14b, and it's only 15m long. It was my bolting and during the send, there are some big ribs at the anchor, which is the same anchor for Doppio and Black Coffee Blues, and the one I was standing on came off as i was clipping. I fortunately did not deck, nor did Jean get knocked out, as she was tied in, under the roof at the start.

Also during this season, I bolted and came close on Shine, upper wall Acephale, yet the gaston to get out the roof broke off during the redpoint send, and that was that, no more holds. Joe Kinder and Josh Muller moved the bolt, and sent the route, at 14-.

Prior to this, I did send Whiteout, 14b, Logan Canyon, China Wall. Dead Souls, 14a Hell, El Diablo Wall, and Cannibals 14a, Hell Cave. Rodeo Free Europe, 14a, Rodeo Active 13d, Throwin' the Houlihan, Heart Full of Ghosts 13d/14a, and Atomic Cow, 13d.

Climbing, Training, both or just one?

Growing up climbing in the 80's was more about getting out on the rock, to learn to move and figure out what climbing path you would take, mountaineering, alpine, traditional, or that new safe sport-climbing? Back then we learned while flailing on the rock ... how to move properly, get some strength and learn ... that was the main way to get better was simply learning and most of the time that learned experience translated directly into climbing harder. Today we have such diverse climbs that this method does not translate to becoming a better climber.

Today's routes require movements skills equal to strength, or vice versa. They are powerful and movement related. I will note that 90% of the harder routes have a continual overhang to them. The 80's style was mostly vertical to slight overhang, with only a small percentage in the continual overhang style. American Fork and the RRG had a few routes back in the 80's. Boone Speed and Porter Jared.

Once the 90's came in, the climbing scene full broke the envelope with power climbing on steep stone, most of this was on shorter sub 20m routes, except the RRG. Gullich fully set the stage on steep stone, hard bouldery routes, with maybe just a few bolts. he as well could climb vertical 8b+ with socks in his Boreal Ninja's. Moon followed suit on that style, others followed them by working on their routes and blending the 80's endurance. Tribout, Rabotou and Moffat were at the helm of that style, they could pull hard boulder problems and then keep that focus over long endurance climbs. The two of them put up the top end of the endurance 8b+ and harder. They had the tech style and the power combined, they trained like power boulderer's and did volumes outside to get the same level of endurance.

During that same time some North American climbers were following the Gullich/Moffat regime and producing short steep power 8b+/8c. Speed had Super Tweak, Dead Souls ... Todd Skinner had Throwing the Houlihan, Rodeo Free Europe, 8b+. In Canada Jim Sandford had Bravado 8b/8b+. Yes there were many other 8b+ in NA, but these were boulder style routes. Today we see the same thing in Margalef, Spain, Mollans sur Ouveze, France, except they are now in the 9th grade of difficulty and in the 20m length.

For years the sport climbing scene focused on long endurance climbs with 8b+ to 9b. massive 40+m routes. During that time only a few managed to send the old school short routes. Alex Megos truly transformed what we can do today, yes even over Adam Ondra. How is this possible? well Ondra is one of the finest rock climbers to date, he has the skill set of a technician with the power of a beast, he can send 9's that are 15m or 50m. So what about Megos? he is the new version of Gullich, he really has yet to hit a route that poses an issue to him, His power level is well beyond the rest, including Ondra. Ondra is a better climber, but Megos will set the new edge of the envelope, like Gullich did. How would I know this, well let's take a look at what I have learned and experienced, and you can decide.

Megos came to the Bow Valley and sent Bhunda de Fora, 9a, Levente Pinter's build and FA. Now the "Punter" is no slouch, he has bouldered V14 and climbed a lot of 8b+ and harder. BdF had denied a lot of climbers, and took one of the best in 2006 20+ tries to send, Dave Graham, and he was the man/machine back then. Megos took 3 ties in like half an hour to send it, while sending all other bouldery cryptic routes up at Acephale. His power level is like watching Connor McDavid skate easily around all NHL players and making it look like a beer league game ... even Sidney Crosby, who is the best player since Wayne Gretzky. Megos then added a new extension to an old abandoned line at the Raven crag and set it at 9b. He then proceeded to Squamish, BC to send Dreamtime, a super tech slab start on a 9a. He fell off that start numerous times, then once sent, he flashed the upper section, which is know as the crux. Most of the ascents had issues with the upper section and those senders are stronger than most top climbers. His power level is just that much more than the current top end climbers and there are a lot of them, Dani Andrada, Chris Sharma, Iker Pou, to name just a few. Just like back in the 90's with Moffat, Tribout, the LeMenestrel brothers, Didier Rabotou, Fred Nicole. and Ben Moon. Moon and Nicole kept to the short bouldery routes and Nicole just kept to blouldering and setting the bar for all boulderer's world wide.

Megos trained as a youngster and he did this in the new "school-room" way then hit the rock and sent the hardest routes with ease. The Cafe Kraft coaches trained Megos to climb and to climb harder than the existing generation. The same goes for Ondra, he trains to climb and does such with full on specific training to send a route. Most of the current generation train to climb and train to keep themselves able to send at their limit. They must climb a lot as well to stay in climbing shape to send.  Chris Sharma, Edu Marin, Dani Andrada, Patxi Usobiaga, Seb Bouin ... to name a few of the more prolific 9 climbers and builders on them as well.

So what does training have to do with climbing? Well if you want to push yourself, you need to train and most of us train indoors. So you will need to take on plastic gym climbing in some form. What's the best form? is it bouldering or rope climbing? The past and present teaches us that bouldering is the way to get stronger, as roped climbing inside will not add to your strength, it will add some endurance, but only to the height of the gym, and even one that has 60+ft of vertical, will get you pumped out on the rock, on routes at your higher end.  Bouldering specific will get you stronger, but specific means training power on steep terrain. If you can boulder V5 inside with confidence then you will be able to make gains by campus board on good rungs, and specific steep moves. Once in the good power end of V7, the campus board mid rings will help increase the contact strength of the fingers and hands. As you will have built up the pull strength on the good rungs.
Now bouldering is not just about sending an upper problem in a gym, it is about getting the body stronger so you can pull down on smaller holds on less steep walls and when it gets steep, which it will, then you have the power and base to be able to pull and move on that steeper ground  and do such efficiently. As well all get pumped out, some just manage the efficiency better, like Ondra, where a Megos has so much power that he can be less efficient and still send. Canadian competition climber Sean McCall is a good blend of power and endurance, where Sonnie Trotter is a rock exemplar of this blend, power from his youth training and competing combined with stellar rock skills and experience to 9a. In my day for Canada we had Scott Milton, 8c/+ climber for 20 years, one of the best in North America. We really had no Megos, as Gullich passed away in 1992. Fred Nicole certainly had the way more power than any other climber, but applied his skills to bouldering and he as stated previously built modern day bouldering. Jim Karn took his Euro sending 8b+ skills to AF and obliterated the Hell area in a week. Some as well got close to the same but wet conditions thwarted on Dead Souls ... I Scream was not yet done, another Speed 8c/+ in the mid 90's. He was maybe the power climber of the 90's for the USA. However, he did build and send lots of the VRG routes and they are techy as can be. Steve Hong, Todd Skinner added greatly to that power style of climbing and Hong still seems to produce in his later years.

Just to provide a bit of background. Some of use got close to sending the Utah steep 8b+ or harder, failing on the second last move of Super Tweak numerous times ... so close to a full send of the wall in a week, 1995. Some of us were very proficient at steep climbing, sending most of the Utah Steep routes, except I Scream and S. Tweak, then moving to Lander and a couple as well escaped ... damn snow at 9,800ft! Same went for Rifle Skull cave, except that whole thing went down! (sometimes a good competitive edge works for me) However this may sound a bit egotistical, or to some lies, but all true, the last Lander trip was 1996. I built my power base in a basement cave, 50 to 60 degrees overhung, 8ft max vert, with 50 ft of varying 10 to 40 overhanging traverse wall. I had managed to send some hard endurance techy lines, but my focus was the steep terrain, Wild Iris, AF, Logan, and at home, Bataan and Acephale. I managed a few of Sandford's upper end steep boulder routes in Squamish as well. Up until 2006 I was able to send 8b+ ... We did not have the gyms to learn power and movement, but once available we used them as much as possible. Many of our home area steeper routes were all before the CCC in 1995.

Then along came Chris Sharma and Tommy Caldwell and as 15 year olds with the new school bouldering power from the gyms, obliterated Utah, all the Logan China cave routes, even adding the start to Blackout into full 8b+/c. Slightly easier than it's neighboring left line Super Tweak 8c. The Hell cave area posed no issues, neither did the techy endurance rig at the VRG Necessary Evil 8c+. So this new generation added that power to endurance and we got, Jumbo Love, 9a+/9b, Flex Luthor, 9a+/9b ... and then Sharma helped place Margalef and Oliana more on the map with numerous 9's. Caldwell created the historic Dawn Wall ascent. They moved the bar. They moved it by building a super strong power base, it seems that Sharma remains on the power end of things, while Caldwell has adapted into that techy out there aspect, while still remaining stronger than most strong upper end climbers.

The Euros are however a very different climber, Dani Andrada has probably climbed more 8b+ and harder than any other climber around, he lives climbing, a true guardian of sport climbing. The euros as strong and have stupid tech skills with endurance, they get to climb on stone likely 10 months a year. Some of us live in a place like Calgary where you may get 2 good months ... bummer!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Tradition and ascents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Route building and FA's, Angst and thanks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 23 November 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

History Example of media and climber levels:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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