Thursday, November 30, 2006

On Getting Over It.

After spending 3 weekends in a row exploring the bouldering one gully over, a couple friends and I finally made it into Penitente Canyon and I found the inspiration i needed to finally sport climb: This 100 foot boulder.

Ever since back country rescuing a South African man who took a 60 foot ground fall onto his back right next to me from a bad belay, I am better safe than sorry and putting my life in another's hands has been too risky . That evening was too long, too dark, and too cold, and the expierence left it's mark on me. The last I heard, that man will never walk again. But sometimes the greatest risk in life is not taking one at all. This bluebird spring day I was taught this by Scott Neel, Mike Anderson, Brain Rhodes, and Keith Ladzinski and I climbed "Heucos for the Tanks" first try. "On Belay!"

photos above: Justin Jaeger half-way to the chains on "Huecos for the Tanks" on the immaculate 100 foot face right of the classic arete "Bullet the Blue Sky" in Penitente Canyon, Colorado. Big boulder problems = Big fun!
photos: me

The Visual # 1

photo: Keith Ladzinski
"Gliding Through Waves Like Dolphins" v11
Alpha-Farms, Rocklands, ZA
This is the hardest problem I have actually put forth more than a day's effort into. It just beckons to be climbed. Intially it lured me in to trying it due to the fact I could do all the moves but one. And the fact that the only other problem in the area is another testpeice at v13, called "Ray of Light". By the way, props on that Chuck. So which should I choose? 10 weeks of straight bouldering on steeps will lure you into trying a lot of things that your not used to. Some day I hope to finish this problem.

The Visual # 2

photos: Keith Ladzinski

"Roof on Fire" v5 Roadcrew, Rocklands, ZA

Wow, so this particular problem is so classic. I mean, your climbing under an arch! It starts on the opposite side of the roof and traverses perfect incut crimps with a toe-hook opposition (see visual). The crux is holding the swing and having the stones to stand on top of this problem. i first saw this problem in a Prana add of Michi Treisch many years ago, and always wanted to climb it. I did.

The Visual # 3

photo: Keith Ladzinski

"Jaws" v5 at the Alpha-Farms, Rocklands, ZA

No highball here, but hard for the given grade I thought. Although probably low-odds, the chance of falling off the 50 foot cliff 2 feet behind the pad is enough to hold on a bit harder.
I waited till dark to send "Jaws" so that I couldn't see off the cliff behind me. The Darkness helped Keith expose this beautiful 3/4 moon as well.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I had the great honor of interviewing one of my climbing heros, Jim Holloway, over lunch last winter. Here are a few of the questions I asked him

Andy: You established what is known as the "Big Three" boulder problems on Colorado’s Front Range. They are; "Slapshot" on Dinosaur Mountain in the Flatirons, "Trice" on Flagstaff Mountain, and "Meathook" at Fort Collin’s Horsetooth Reservoir, all three of which are un-graded and remain un-repeated. They could be the world’s first v12 and v13 boulder problems. Tell me about these problems.
Jim: Well Slapshot was a pretty significant problem for me. I specifically hiked up Dinosaur Mountain to work on Slapshot a number of times for about a year in 1976-77. I remember that the holds are very marginal, if you glued a quarter on the rock it would be a good hold! I remember John Sherman pulled off a loose flake at the start and glued it back on. I sometimes wonder if it was put on upside down because the hold is about twice the size as I remember it being! The beat is; pulling up, and lunging all at the same time for a little seam near the top. The take off point is critical so that you don’t lunge out instead of up. I took a few rocky downhill rides from missing that move.
Meathook too was an interesting challenge. My good friend and climbing partner, Jim Michaels, and I would go up to Horsetooth Reservoir and he would go to up to the "Talent Scout Wall." I wouldn’t really care for it because I had done it back in high school. So, I’d wait for him down at Meathook, trying and trying to do the first moves, but I never really took it too seriously. Then, one day I finally pulled of the ground! The rest went on autopilot, and it became a legendary problem, one that’s much more technical than Slapshot.
I’ve heard Trice called several things over the years, Chris Jones started calling ti "Another Holloway Route" or "AHR" and someone else started calling in another "Hell" route. I just called it Trice. When we first took notice to that line we were bouldering up there , his name was he had a friend called the big D, David something, he had the strongest fingers and I remember him putting his hands on the beginning undercling holds of the problem and I remember saying, "Now pull up", thinking no one could ever lift off these hold and he did! I got inspired and started working on the thing from that start. I remember you start under the bulge on an undercling, made a big move to a 3finger pocket with the right hand, bring the left up to a small hold and jump for the lip. There are no footholds. Again, I had the open-handed technique down, and you can’t crimp on the pocket, so it suited me well.

Andy: Will you ever shoe-up and go bouldering again?
Jim:The cerebal nerves in both my legs are dead, when I get up in the morning I have a hard time getting up and down the stairs. Driving is kind of interesting when I can’t tell were the pedals are. I can’t feel my feet. I’ve had 70 some stiches put in my leg over the last year from three different cuts I didn’t even feel happen. They even stiched them up without novicane. I can take an electric drill to my feet and there is nothing there! I often get phantom pains, I feel pain even though my sensory nerves are all dead. For me to get back on the rock would be a disaster. It would be difficault to handle for me mentally. My brain thinks I can shoe up, but my body knows I can’t.

Andy: Do you have any words of wisdom for a young climber like myself?
Jim: Number one is always have fun. Don’t take climbing too seroiuously that you become a slave to it. I saw people so plugged into climbing, that they couldn’t get there minds around anything else. By the time they got out of the car to climb they were so worked up, so intense about climbing, that they couldn’t enjoy the expiereince . I think that holds a lot of people back. I think those people should re-learn how to just relax, and enjoy what they are doing. Ya know, we’d never talk about climing, even on the way to the climbing areas! Intenseness can hold ability back, I truely believe that. Jim Michaels and I used to always stop at lakes and throw rocks on the way to go bouldering. Why the hell woiuld we do that? Well because we just enjoyed doing it, see? It would drive our friends crazy, and it really showed me the importance of enjoying other things. Go fishing! Be serious about what you do, but don't let it comsume you. If you one day become disabled, like me, you’ll miss the fun with your friends much, much, more than a piece of rock, trust me. Take it slow. The routes I miss the most are the easy ones.
photo: John Gill

A Fear of Creaky Heights

I'm not real accustomed to 35 foot, 7a, boulder problems. So it was when Andy Raether and I first "found" the roadside Area of the Rocklands that we walked up to this boulder in the pale dusk light. Andy Raether said, "I'm doing it." Andy Mann said, "I'm not." "Creaky Heights" is indeed the center piece highball of the area, a pure 5-star line 30 feet up the center of a slightly overhanging boulder on measly little crimps that lead into an off-balance stab for an upside-down tufa at 23 feet. sketch. I knew I had 10 weeks to do this problem and it was nice to be able to have an excuse for 9 of them.
I had some anxiety towards this problem, not because of the grade, but because I had seen some huge helicopter falls from the tufa move. One in particular from Cedar Wright who barely hit the crashpads.
One day on the drive to the boulders from our little farm house, Chuck's car went up in smoke atop Pakhuis Pass. There were baboons all over the pass that day, even surrounding the car with curiosity. We decided to split up. Chuck had to take the other car into town for help with others. Chuck asked me to hike the high-def camera and sound equipment into the rocklands the rest of the way on foot. Daniel was close to sending "Monkey-Wedding" v15, and he couldn't afford to miss filming the event. It was a rest day for me, so I agreed.
After falling from the last move twice in a row, Daniel took of his shoes, and Keith and I put down the cameras. We sat quietly under the setting sun for a half-hour it must of been. Then, I just knew it. "Daniel, I said, let's fuckin' do Creaky man." "Hell yeah" he said.
I was in complete focus with my surroundings as I chalked up. Sunset. 55 Degrees. Light westernly ocean breeze. Smells of sand, eucyliptis leaves, and frozen time.
"Believe, breath, and don't look down", I told myself, "you can do this." And before I knew it, I was past the crux and reaching out for the tufa, the move that had thrown Cedar off. Right as I grabbed the tufa, my feet blew off the holds, and I managed to throw my right hand above my left on the tufa and controlled the swing somehow. I reeled it in and made the full-body length lock-off move to the lip on complete auto-pilot. I flashed the same problem I said I would never do the first time I saw it. I sat on top of the boulder and watched the sun-set over the Cedarburg wilderness and we hiked out in the dark to meet up with Chuck for a ride back to the farm.
photo: Keith Ladzinski

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dinner Sender?

Due to the diet of world class climbers it can be very hard to feed them. I have been chosen to the Specimen team not only to assist production and media but because of my career as a chef. Believe me feeding nine hungry climbers dinner on two small electric burners is not easy. Therefore I had to Grill most nights in order to be able to cook all the food together.
It was a live and learn basis for trying out the local meats especially with protein high on the list of needed nutrients. For instance the chicken here is amazingly cheap, easy to grill, versatile with different ingredients, delicious and easy to digest. The 5 key components to making the athletes happy. If on component is off it sometimes won't work. For instance the ostrich is cheap, easy to grill, and delicious. But it is not very versatile in another dish and though it is very lean and healthy it is not tender and can be a nightmare to digest. The performance the next day often shows me the results. I learned the trick to it all quickly. Cook the meats as planned but double the evening's starch ratio. Don't like my grilling and you can gorge yourself with as much rice and vegetables as you can eat. Shopping for a team this big can be a headache as well. Really no one gets what they want and sometimes that is a good thing. If I got what was on the grocery list every time Daniel Woods would pack chocolate bars and potato chips for lunch every day. I am essentially guarding this circumstance very carefully. The health and hygiene of the team and it's members is very important when living in such tight quarters together.
photo: Sarah Marvez

Pick up the new Urban Climber Magazine to see my full feature length article on Chuck Fryberger

Though only a few of his previous films have seen international release, Specimen is his 9th feature length film. Several of these projects have also been scored by Chuck's DJ persona, Underground Chuck. On top of this, he has maintained a full-time commitment to the sport of climbing. He is what you would call a "semi-professional", with sponsors like Scarpa, Black Diamond, and Cloudveil Mountain Wear. Chuck's life during the school year is a time-management nightmare. Although he studies less than he should, he makes up for it by working extra hard in class and visiting his professors during office hours. He trains for climbing less than he should, but in a similar vein, he makes up for it by training in smaller intervals with higher intensity. Basically, he has little choice but to be a schizophrenic. multi-tasker, and winds up making compromises in several areas of life in an attempt to be good at everything.

Filmmaking is notoriously sleep-deprived endeavor, while bouldering is notoriously sleep-dependent. In a life of constantly finding balance and order he has been able to play the filmmaking, climbing and his music education off of each other, triple-dipping by using some of his climbing film projects as music composition exercises for his classes.

a day in the life of chuck in specimens pre-production days

6:30am - wake up, wish I was still asleep.
6:30 - 7:00. Phone calls to South Africa to work on Cars / House / Customs Time change makes this 4 - 5pm SA time.
7 - 7:30. Breakfast, watching FOX news... the most entertaining and least accurate news channel on TV. Laugh at FOX news.
7:30 - 8:30. E-mail. Always the endless details to take care of.
8:30 - 8:45. Assemble wherewithall to have a day at school.
9:00 - 9:30. Ride bus to school, study and talk on Cell phone while on Bus.
9:30 - 11:00. Music Theory II. wish I had more time to compose music.
11 - 12:30. Aerobic workout at the PE building.
12:30 - 1. Eat Lunch while making phone calls.
1 - 2:15. Performance Art and Experimental Music Class
2:15. vow to push the limits more in my creative work.
2:15 - 3:00. E-mail / study / cram session
3:00 - 4:15. Digital Music Techniques Class.
4:15 - 5. Audio Engineering Society Meeting.
5 - 8. Paradise Rock Gym. Train with Sarah and boulder.
8 - 9. Head Home and make dinner.
9 - 10. fight falling asleep while working on projects for tomorrow's classes.
10 - 10:30 talk with Sarah
10:30 pass out. Dream about boulders

Photo1: by Sarah Marvez
Photo2: Chuck sends "Oral Office" V12/13 Rocklands, ZA

"Diamonds on the Soles of your Shoes"

Perison Park, Colorado. Justin Jaeger on one the best problems in the state. The problem is cleverly named for the crux swing move shown here at 15 feet. As your feet cut, you must reach high for a sloper out left. The soles of your shoes swing right out from under you every time and directly face the Diamond of Long's Peak, 14,200 feet. It is as terrifying as it is electrifying. "Diamonds on the Soles of your Shoes", v6/7, has seen 5 ascents. FA-Eric Decaria 6/06

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Finding and Establishing of "Shosholoza"

Ahh..., to say i had a hand in the finding of the one of the best and hardest boulder problems in the world would be silly, when it fact, it's funny really.

During our second week in the rock lands Chuck, Keith, Andy, Cedar and I were invited by our host farmers, Lafras and Marakka to go on a 4 wheel drive tour of the farm we were staying. On Back roads only Lefras new about from being a boy growing up there, he promised to show us amazing undiscovered Bushmen cave paintings. Cedar and Keith jumped into the cab, while Chuck, Raether, and I (along with the farmer's two dogs) hoped over the tailgate and into the bed of the truck. Looping around the farm through mazes of valleys and cliffbands, not much in the way of stellar boulders were to be sighted at first. I mean there were boulders, but no Huecos, ya know? From the house we were renting we could always see a group of large boulders, what seemed like miles away, fixed on the horizon and had hoped the tour would find its way there. As our personal tour of the farm winded down, we turned an unseen corner into a shallow gully. This gully had potential, and we were passing it fast. Andy and I started banging on the top of the cab at Lefras and yelling "Stop Here!" He pulled over and we went to have a look around.

It seems quite magical indeed that the first boulder hidden over the hill was this one. I didn't even know Fred at the time, and no way even for a second thought I'd be back to show him this boulder six weeks later.

And so the Sassie Boulders were born. After finding the shortest path from the house, an hours hike brings you to an untouched boulderfield, and possibly the greatest concentration of problems in the rocklands. So as it goes, we hiked up there everyday, also passing the first boulder we saw, on route to finding and developing other stuff. Hell, we only took one look at the boulder problem going up it's 60 degree face, before almost writing it off completely. It was so beautiful though, ahhh, you can't imagine it's grandeur! I would walk up to it now and again, pawing the starting holds and looking up at it's seemingly blank face.

A pair of perfect sized double D holds at shoulder height led into 6 feet of blank rock, into, if you squinted your eyes fuzzy, can be imagined as a 2 or 3 finger side-pull which led into another 6 feet of blank rock to a credit-card sized flake on the outside edge of a massive untextured hueco right below the lip. Absolutely no foothold the whole way. 3 moves and the more you looked at them, the more the problem looked v4! I mean I could see the holds now. If I could reach them, I could practically chalk-up on them. So it looked to me.

Now play god for me a minute OK? Pick me up from Colorado, with your big hand of fate, and drop me in front of this problem at "no-wheres-berg", South Africa. OK, now pick up the world's greatest climber, you'll find him somewhere in Switzerland, and drop him right next to me on a beautiful sunny winter day. Let's continue...

I'd show Fred what i thought are the moves and the holds to the finish. "Want to warm-up first?" He asks. "Yeah", I said, "will you come spot me on this thing first real quick?" "OK" Fred shrugs his shoulders and complies. After doing my project second go, (when Fred is spotting you, you try....hard. "Keith, did you get that!?" I yell as I'm topping out the boulder. I imagined the picture of me dynoing to the final jug with Fred spotting me, half-way through the move! I imagined how it would look on my mantle at home. I even considered it for this year's christmas cards, even before I could find the downclimb of the boulder i had just climbed. It turned out that Keith was over setting up to shoot the project boulder when it came time for Fred to give it some goes. Oh well, I thought. Christmas Cards? Fred and I circuited the areas better warm-ups with his girlfriend Mary and settled back down under the project to have a smoke before his first burn.
"Pretty nice huh?" I said, speaking of our little secret area. "Yes, it is very nice", Fred said. (He generally will say this about everything when you ask.)

Then I set up about 20 feet away from the boulder to run sound for the attempt, and cue up with Chuck, who is filming on top of another boulder 100 feet away. Fred takes him time chalking, sometimes regaining focus that he needs to climb takes 5 minutes or more, so count on using more film than expected.
His method for climbing the problem, he decides after 5 failed attempts, is this;
Find the sweet spot on the DD slopers. Lever into a fetal position, right foot between the hands.
Pull into wall tight and let go your right hand. finger crawl into sidepull and snatch it with only pinkie. Then use pinkie to gain the other inch needed to get into the hold. Let off left hand and hold on. One-arm pull-up and stab for Credit card sized flake. Swing out all 170 pounds of Swiss Beast on it. Don't breath. Establish and Campus to lip.
So it went next try. In perfect form. The best problem I have ever seen and the hardest problem i have ever seen. Time stood still as he looked down at me from the summit. He lets out a scream at the summit, for it is his last day in the Rocklands, and likely his best. We smoked a couple cigarettes that he had rolled between his final two attempts and laughed at the improbability of the first move. I will never forget the moment. I even carry the brush he used to clean the holds between attempts as a reminder that anything is possible.

Fred named the problem "Shosholoza" It is the name of a traditional Zulu folk song meaning, "Go forward or make room for the next man." After giving a tour to Bernd Zangerl before we left he set his sight on repeating it. I just got news that he did indeed send it and it sparked me to reconsider my photos from this day. Bernd says, "the grade for Shosholoza can be V13/14. It is awe-inspiring and one of the best problems I have ever climbed." Word Bernd, glad we could point you in the right direction.
photos: me

Sunday, November 12, 2006

As Specimen's promoter, assitant director and audio technition I hereby announce once again

photo: keith ladzinski

Chuck Fryberger's "Specimen" set to Debut in High Definition @ The Boulder Theater on November 28th, Tickets on sale now!
Boulder, Colorado/ November 12th 2006/
One of the most anticipated documentaries of the year, "Specimen", transcends the boundaries of typical sports films by using state of the art technology and a thought provoking storyline.
"Specimen", by local veteran filmmaker Chuck Fryberger (Colorado Daydream, Friction Addiction) follows some of America's top athletes deep in the wilderness of South Africa. Cedar Wright, an accomplished traditional rock climber, is on a quest to understand climbing's most mysterious discipline: the ropeless art of bouldering. With difficult moves high above leg-breaking landings, bouldering is essentially high stakes gymnastics with worse consequences. As demanding as a routine on the rings or the parallel bars, bouldering tests the mind and body of its participants. Athletes are attracted by its unique blend of adrenaline and aesthetics. Through conversations with some of the best athletes currently practicing the sport, Cedar gains insight into this unique lifestyle. As a result he learns what it takes to do the impossible both on the rock and in his own life. The lessons he learns resonate with anyone who has ever tried to improve at something they love. Specimen features today's best boulderers, in the world's greatest bouldering destination, the Rocklands of South Africa.
Starring; Daniel Woods, Fred Nicole, Andy Raether, Lisa Rands and Cedar Wright.
On the surface, "Specimen" is about one man's desire to be a better boulderer. However, the film uses bouldering as a metaphor to address a fundamental human struggle, which is this: People are often told that whatever they work hard for will be achieved and that achievement is limited only by your effort. However, the truth is no matter how dedicated you are to something and no matter how much you truly believe in it, sometimes it isn't achieved. In Specimen, Chuck proposes that achievement is not the key to happiness in any pursuit. Instead, true happiness comes from the ability to enjoy each moment of the struggle itself.
Please visit to view the full-length trailer.

Fate, Dead People, and the Probability of Boulders

I often wonder how when i walk up to a perfect climbable boulder: "What are the fucking odds of this seriously?" Of all the factors that have to go into the creation of a perfect boulder problem the probabilities have to be lower than they are! You mean to tell me I've never seen a dead person or a black bear in the wild but I can randomly stumble across lifetimes of boulders with just enough small holds to get me to the top after precisely 10 tries, within 25 miles of my house. You tellin me that I can set-up camp in the random pitch-black Utah desert and when I wake up Justin and I can just mosie across the street and find this boulder!? Bullshit. No Way. I'm calling it fate and running with it.

Allen's Park, the Past, and the Present

Allenspark East Bouldering barely matters. Why? Cause you weren’t there when it did.

As bouldering areas are found and developed, many more fall into the past. The founders Mike Freischlag and Curt Frye took me there over a few weeks last summer to reclean some holds.

When Mike and the late Skyler Crane, who died in a motorcycle accident a few years back, found a day of sport climbing at the Iron Clads, a crag east of Allenspark, a bit uninspiring they went looking around the forest and found the bouldering. Good work boys, solid shit. Of course I’ll find out more than ten years later, but nothing’s changed at these places, hardly anyone has even been there since. The area is o.k. to today’s standards, but good enough to be held secret at the time.

In the Picture here is a friend Kevin Murphy on The Mammoth Rub Boulder, (lets just call her big boned), the Mammoth Rub was one of the many boulders in the area held sacred at the time of the area’s development. Matt Samet, the area’s premier developer, said, "at one point during the time we were developing Allenspark my friend was taking people up there to show them the area. At the time I was very proprietary of the place, for no good reason. A complete ego-manic." Matt laughs at the recollection. " I told her, your not taking those people up there, I put up 98 percent of the problems, and I get to say who goes there and who doesn’t! I was being such a prick." With great ego, and a healthy dose of good fun, Matt would culminate to calling himself "Allen" because "this is my Park. " (Classic) "The rest of the time they slagged the shit out of me! The slagging is evident in the names of the best problems.

Allenspark East was and I guess still is; just another bouldering area. I found that a little story of a place helps it along. There are problems being put up, problems to be found, problems unrepeated, and people to tell you the stories of ‘em. I wanted to hear the stories from the developers and maybe learn something myself. But it was by watching the guys trying there hardest to climb Skyler’s memorial route, a problem way above their level, I got all the beta I needed on why this place is special. Like any area on any other day, it’s about blood, sweat, tears, and a little slagging of your friends past and present

Fred, Belief, and My Jumpshot

I spent Fred's last day in the Rocklands with him. Right up until we hiked out in the dark with enough time for him to pack, sleep and fly back to Switzerland. When climbing with him I'm like a fucking magnet for his energy. Every word he said, every gesture or remark that comes from him, is soaked up like a sponge into my already overloaded brain. My respect for him is only personified by the respect the respected have for him. He is the man, but you knew that already.

I have such high respect for Fred as a boulderer that I must have looked pathetic too him. The 3 years I've been praticing the sport was obvious too him and probably quite painful to watch. But I thought I am Andy, and he is Fred. I can't help that, I am a student and he is Michael Jordan. Well turns out that he knew I couldn't dunk a basketball from the foul line, and probably never will. So he gave me some pointers on my jump shot instead. "Use your feet Andrew!", he'd say.

What attracted me most to quitting my job and flying across the world, only to get to climb a few times with Fred Nicole, was the unsteady focus, respect and belief he has in the sport that I love. Bouldering is his life too and i want to know what the hell he still gets from it. Well save your money because it is no real secret. Climbing gives him focus and climbing gives him belief. We all need these things to escape our struggles, and he is no different.

Here a competetive Fred is trying to figure out a not-so-classic problem Chuck beat him up just moments before, as his wife Mary, is begging him to just give it up and leave, because she is getting cold and hungry. Like a kid ignoring the dinner bell, Frederic Nicole just wants to play for right now. "Just one more try honey."


Cedar, Freedom, and Unexpected for Dinner

After spending 9 weeks in Africa taking bouldering too seriously spending much of our time on other climber's agendas, there came a day for my friend Cedar Wright and I to just get out, get high, and be unexpected for dinner. We just left the house that morning on foot. Jacked up on caffeine, we headed miles into the fields behind our farm to what seemed to be far enough away place from home. We figured on developing new boulders and taking it easy. To unwind our cluttered minds and personal agendas.
Cedar is a big-wall climber with a big-wall kind of appetite for excitement. Climbing on small boulders, despite the physical challenge leaves him mentally hungry. Cedar lives his life as a professional climber, and believe me, there is nothing professional about it. For Cedar it is just how he wants to be, mostly just left alone. He struggles to find a kind of self-freedom from society. Always playing his guitar, he sings and writes his songs as they come on the wind, but he is always just a second away from freedom. This is true of his climbing as well. He often scares me in dangerous situations on the rocks as I wonder how much he has to live for. I learned to trust his judgement. I had to learn to respect his choices. We shared many close calls, if only in our minds, in search of freedom. He is closer to finding it than I am.
Cedar fell from this problem and landed in the space between the pad and the rock a foot behind it moments after I snapped this photo. "Help" he said before pitching off. "I can't help you Cedar", I said on our long hike back by moonlight. And we smoked.
photo: me