At-Home Training for Climbers

While we’re always psyched on climbing, the sad reality is you don’t always have enough time to visit the crag, boulders, or even the gym—especially during the work week. Lucky for us, there are numerous ways to stay strong and build climbing fitness without leaving the house. Try some of our basement beta, and you’ll realize that training in the home gym during the work week can translate to sending on the weekend.

Courtesy: Beastmaker
Courtesy: Beastmaker

Hangboard

Hangboards are one of the most popular at-home training aids. While that might be because they’re small, easy to mount, and inexpensive, these devices are also very effective. Climbers literally hang from a variety of different-sized pockets and holds to build finger strength. As a side note, this is why hangboards are also sometimes called fingerboards.

Pull-Up Bar

Although less climbing-specific, a pull-up bar suits anyone who wants to take a break from their fingerboard, rest sore fingers, or simply work larger muscles. In fact, you can use it in all manners to build climbing strength. To start, the classic pull-up is a great exercise for increasing pulling power. Then, Frenchies—pausing to lock off at certain angles through the movement of a pull-up—are a fantastic method for building endurance and simulating the pause climbers take when clipping a bolt or placing gear. Allez!

Courtesy: Sestogrado
Courtesy: Sestogrado

Rock Rings

No room for a hangboard? Don’t have a wall you’re comfortable drilling into? Live a life on the go? If you answered yes to any of these questions, rock rings may be the best solution. Used as a pair, these individually molded grips are suspended using a cord that can be hung from any number of anchors. Think about a basement beam, a backyard tree, or even a swing set at the local park. Although lacking the diversity of a hangboard, rock rings let you move freely. In turn, the motion places less strain on your joints compared to doing pull-ups or Frenchies, which involve a fixed position that may be hard on the elbows.

Courtesy: Reading Climbing Centre
Courtesy: Reading Climbing Centre

Campus Board

If you have a bit more room available, consider a campus board. Wolfgang Güllich devised its simple, utilitarian, and effective design to train for sending the world’s first 9A, Action Directe. On a series evenly spaced rungs on a slightly overhanging wall, climbers move up and down without using their feet to primarily build power. Additionally, you can increase finger and core strength and improve accuracy when moving between holds. Because of the physical demands, it’s not recommended for new or young climbers.

Crack Machine

Climbers looking to crush cracks can build a crack machine to practice technique and gain strength. Simple and easy to construct, crack machines feature two stiff wooden boards mounted to resemble a crack. And, while advanced constructors will create adjustable machines, most basement builders will find it easier to create multiple cracks in the sizes they want to train—primarily finger and hand. The best part is, a little goes a long way, and you can climb both up and down when training.

Home Wall

For those with room to spare, a home wall is the way to go. From mild to wild, a home wall can range from a simple mounted piece of plywood to a full build rivaling the rock gym. Whether it’s freestanding or mounted to the wall, the most important components are the holds. Consider a wide variety of shapes and sizes for increased diversity and fun in setting. Overall, the best home walls tend to be the most frequently used ones and ultimately do their job—getting you strong for climbing.

Courtesy: Moon Climbing
Courtesy: Moon Climbing

Moon Board

For pro climbers and those truly dedicated to getting strong, try a Moon Board. Back in the ‘80s, legendary U.K. climber Ben Moon devised the first Moon Board in his basement in Sheffield, England, and by the 2000s, the trend had caught on. Compact and simple in design, Moon Boards have a uniform size and configuration: 8.06 feet wide, 10.40 feet high, and positioned at a 40-degree angle. The holds are placed in fixed locations, creating a wall that is the same, no matter where it’s located. Because of the universal layout, it’s possible to project the same route as your buddy across the country, or your favorite pro climber.

As such, serious climbers can find thousands of established problems posted on moonboard.com and the MoonBoard App. Even better, with the addition of an LED system, you can download and illuminate the problems to make route finding easier.

Books

Strong fingers and abs only get you so far, especially if your training plan is haphazard, your mental game is lacking, or your technical skills are weak. If any of that rings a bell, check out one of these books for training your brain.

  • If you have the hangboard or home wall but are unsure of how to best use them, The Self-Coached Climber offers excellent advice for developing your own training plan. And, for something even more programmed, check out the training plans available from Uphill Athlete and the Mountain Tactical Institute.
  • For climbers truly looking to train their mind, The Rock Warrior’s Way is an insightful read about mental training.
  • The Mountain Guide Manual: The Comprehensive Reference—From Belaying to Rope Systems and Self-Rescue is an incredible technical skills guide that will greatly improve your climbing systems’ efficiency. Practice them at home, and you’ll find that you’ll have a lot more time to spend sending at the crag next weekend.

Have a training technique we didn’t mention? If so, tell us about it in the comments.


Video: Rope-Soloing El Cap in 24 Hours

Rope-soloing is one of the most misunderstood climbing disciplines out there, but it might also be one of the most exhausting. Doing 3000 feet of it in 24 hours on one of the world’s more famous big walls? That’s an accomplishment worthy of a video.


The Dos and Don'ts of Indoor Rock Climbing

The climbing gym is a magical place, and most outdoor sports don’t have an indoor equivalent. If they do, it doesn’t offer nearly the same level of enjoyment as the real thing (ahem, running and biking). When it comes to climbing, however, even though we will always prefer real rock, the rock gym never feels like less of a compromise. A few things that frequently occur here can make it a less-than-great experience, though. Having a little etiquette will ensure your sessions are fun for you and everyone around. So, what are the dos and don’ts of climbing indoors?

Courtesy: Markus
Courtesy: Markus

DO: Be supportive of other climbers!

While climbing isn’t exactly a “team sport,” it is most definitely a community activity. Just as they do in the wild, climbers indoors rely on each other for a secure belay, a good spot, and words of encouragement. Here, be sure to do that whole “treat others as you wish to be treated” thing. Cheer others on, move a crash pad underneath a fellow boulderer if they’ve misjudged where to put it, and offer up advice when someone asks for it. But…

DON’T: Start handing out unsolicited advice while they’re climbing

This is called “spraying beta,” and nobody likes it. Even if you’ve watched a climber flail on the same section of a route or boulder problem for the last 20 minutes—and you know exactly what they need to do to move past it—unless they ask for your help, keep your mouth shut.

DO: Jump on hard-for-you routes!

A regular gym is where people can try to get better at running or spinning, or make gains in the weight room. But, progress never happens if you stick to the same routine. Similarly, a rock gym is where climbers can go to fine-tune their technique and build strength for scaling harder routes. And, similarly, it will never happen if you climb the same grades each time.

So, yes, jump on that V6 you’ve been eyeing for the past week or two, even if you still sometimes struggle to send V5s or V4s. Or, try out the new 5.11 your favorite setter just put up, even if you had a hard time figuring out the 5.9 they set last month. In order to get better, you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try harder things. However…

Courtesy: Aimee Custis
Courtesy: Aimee Custis

DON’T: Hog the wall while you try to figure it out

Unless no one else is there, never take over a particular route or section of the bouldering wall as you try to piece the moves together. In general, repeatedly falling off and jumping back on is a good way to build character. However, doing this without allowing other people to give it a shot earns you a bad reputation.

DO: Look around, mingle, and be social!

Maybe you’ve noticed the same person or group is always there when you are. Or, maybe a particular climber that you just can’t help but watch makes you wonder if they have springs in their bones. In either case, strike up a conversation! You can’t have too many climbing friends, and the rock gym is the perfect place to meet new ones. Just make sure you…

DON’T: Get in the way of other climbers

Nevertheless, people are still primarily at the rock gym to get in a good workout. So, avoid getting so involved in conversation that you fail to notice you’ve parked yourself right in front of a climb someone else is waiting patiently to jump on. When you’re bouldering, keep in mind that the crash pads are there to break a fall—not offer you and your friends a cushy place to sit and debate which bar you should head to when you’re done. And, if you’re walking and talking, be sure to stay aware of your surroundings. Otherwise, you’ll end up walking underneath people who are climbing.

Courtesy: Meraj Chhaya
Courtesy: Meraj Chhaya

DO: Bring your kids to the gym!

The next generation has to start somewhere, and bringing your little ones is as good a place as any. The gym allows you to show your kids the ropes (overly obvious pun intended) in a relatively controlled environment, without the distractions or potential dangers presented by climbing outdoors. Having them at the gym also keeps things entertaining for the rest of us. There’s nothing I love more than watching a 7-year-old make it farther on a new boulder problem than my husband can on their first try.

DON’T: Let them run wild while you climb

There’s nothing worse than a kid running around while you’re belaying or underneath while you’re bouldering. If you’re going to let your kids tag along, they should know proper gym etiquette, too! When you teach them how to tie in, also explain why it’s important to give other belayers some distance and not run around, behind, or in front of them. As they get more comfortable falling or jumping off a boulder problem, make sure they understand that adults also fall and jump. As such, being too close—either underneath or on another problem that crosses paths—is dangerous for both parties.

Courtesy: Aimee Custis
Courtesy: Aimee Custis

DO: Have fun!

The best part of climbing, whether indoors or out, is that it’s fun. On-sighting a new route is always exciting. As well, topping out a gym’s bouldering wall can sometimes be more satisfying than topping out an actual boulder because you know there’s a safe, easy way back down. And, climbing with friends is almost never not a good time.

DON’T: Be that guy or girl

Despite climbing’s inherent fun-ness, there are plenty of ways to ruin it. Don’t be the person who makes a trip to the gym a nightmare by doing these things:

  • Unnecessary screaming, yelling, or grunting. Making noises while you’re climbing happens. When you’re outdoors, the open space makes it more tolerable for those around you. At the gym, however, the confined space turns even the least-offensive grunt into the noise of someone who just popped a shoulder out of place or broke an ankle. Try to keep your noises to a minimum.
  • Bouldering with a harness on. There may be nothing dangerous about this, and it probably won’t affect your own enjoyment. However, it does make you look foolish, and it’s embarrassing for your friends. Take your harness off when you’re done with ropes.
  • Dressing inappropriately. Guys, most rock gyms are climate-controlled places, which means there’s almost never a need to take off your shirt. Ladies, booty shorts with a harness is neither attractive nor comfortable. Keep your rock gym wardrobe simple: a T-shirt or tank top with climbing shorts or leggings. And, unless you’re renting shoes from the gym or have a medical reason to keep them on, take off your socks!
  • Throwing a wobbler when you don’t send. This is especially common amongst boulderers, but it happens on the ropes, too. Either way, it’s not a good look on anybody. Remember that you’re there to get better at the sport, and that you have to fail occasionally in order to do it. Nobody wants to listen to you curse or watch you throw your shoes at the wall. Keep it together, take a few deep breaths, and jump on a route you know you can do to build your confidence back up before returning to your new project.
  • Chalk snafus. Some gyms require chalk balls in an effort to keep their facilities clean. But, if we could all just be a little more mindful, it wouldn’t be an issue. Pay attention when you’re walking around, so you don’t knock over someone’s chalk pot. Don’t scoop out a handful, and then sprinkle half of it on the floor as you rub it into your hands. And, don’t forget to cinch your chalk bag shut when you pack your stuff up.
  • Gym Sprawl. Unless you’re at the gym during a quiet time of day, bring only what you need onto the floor. This usually entails your shoes, chalk, and harness. I know it’s nice to check your phone or grab a sip of water in between routes without having to walk back over to the cubbies or locker room. However, if the gym is busy and everyone has their non-essential stuff at the wall, moving from climb to climb becomes an obstacle course—and not a fun one. Plus, if you leave your stuff in a cubby, your chances of leaving something behind or going home with a broken phone because someone stepped on it are a lot lower.

Did I miss anything? Share your tips for proper rock gym etiquette in the comments!

Courtesy: Aimee Custis
Courtesy: Aimee Custis

Video: First Teaser for The Dawn Wall

In January 2015, the world held its breath as Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgenson worked at the first free ascent of El Capitan’s notoriously difficult Dawn Wall. But for Caldwell, the climb was more than simply a six-year effort. This video is just a taste of what we’ll be looking for in the full film, coming later this year.


9 Tips for Taking Your Climbing from the Gym to the Crag

With ropes hung, routes marked, and a trained staff on hand to ensure safety, the rock gym is a great place to learn how to climb. But, pulling on plastic just isn’t the same as climbing on real rock, and many climbers eventually look to expand their horizons to local crags. If you’re considering taking your climbing outside this year but aren’t quite sure where to start, here are some things you need to know.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

1. Pick Your Discipline, Then Get the Gear

Bouldering and top-roping are the main options for most new-to-the-outdoors climbers. Both styles involve some common gear, namely shoes and chalk, but also require some items specific to the activity. Thus, deciding on a style is an important initial step.

Bouldering is a popular way for gym climbers to transition outdoors, because it doesn’t require knowledge about anchor building or belaying. When bouldering, climbers use a crash pad, rather than a rope, to protect themselves when they fall. Bouldering crash pads come in a variety of sizes and styles, and it’s not uncommon to use multiple ones to protect your climb. Although bouldering requires less technical knowledge, the physical climbing encountered is often more difficult than what’s found on top-rope routes.

Climbers who have been top-roping in the gym can replicate that experience outside if they know how to build anchors and have the gear required to do so. The specific gear will vary between locations, but a static line, a few slings, a cordelette, and a handful of locking carabiners—larger carabiners like the Black Diamond RockLock Screwgate are great—will usually do the trick at areas with first-timer friendly setups. In addition to anchor-building gear, invest in a belay device, your own climbing rope, and a harness, if you’ve been relying on a gym rental. Top-ropers should also add a helmet to their kit, as time spent below a cliff exposes you to the threat of something being knocked down on you.

Some climbers who lead in the gym may also want to take the sharp end their first time climbing outside. For those looking to jump right into sport climbing, check out our sport climbing gear list.

2. Get the Guidebook

Doing some research before picking a destination saves a lot of time and aggravation. For example, does the area you’re planning on visiting have fixed anchors, or will you have to build your own? Guidebooks are a valuable resource for learning about what to expect at a climbing area, and offer up information on everything from where to park to what gear to bring. Although guidebooks are helpful, an internet search lets you broaden your knowledge of an area and get up-to-date information about access and conditions.

Pro Tip: If it’s your first time out, avoid routes that the guidebook says require trad gear (camming units and nuts) for building the top-rope anchor.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Pick the Right Location

Choosing the right location for your first time climbing outside can make the difference between success and frustration. Boulderers will want to find spots with a wide variety of problems and safe landings. A few popular destinations for newer boulderers in the Northeast are Hammond Pond, just outside of Boston, Massachusetts; Lincoln Woods, a short drive from Providence, Rhode Island; and Pawtuckaway State Park, about 30 minutes from Manchester, New Hampshire. Fellow gym climbers can also be a great resource, so don’t hesitate to ask around the gym’s bouldering cave about nearby areas to visit.

New outdoor climbers looking to top-rope should seek out sites with easy setups. Ideally, the location will have a diverse grouping of climbs, easy access to the cliff top, and simple anchoring solutions. Greater Boston has a plethora of excellent crags for first-time top-ropers, including Hammond Pond, Quincy Quarries, Rattlesnake Rocks, College Rock, and Crow Hill. So, too, does Connecticut, with Ragged Mountain being a popular destination.

Pro Tip: A 75- to 100-foot static line is a great solution for when the guidebook recommends bringing “long slings” for top-rope anchors.

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4. Partner Up

No matter if you’re bouldering or top-roping, a good climbing partner is critical. Although bouldering can be a solitary sport, it’s much easier and safer (and more fun!) with a partner. A good bouldering partner spots you when you fall and moves the pads underneath you as you climb. They also are great for helping you decipher moves and keeping the stoke high.

A top-roping partner is essential, as they will literally be holding your life in their hands while belaying. In a perfect world, a new outdoor climber’s partner will have more experience and can serve as a mentor through the transition.

5. Don’t Set Your Expectations Too High

Although gym and outdoor climbing have many similarities, the transition may be challenging. For instance, the grades are harder. So, even if you’ve sent all the “hard stuff” indoors, don’t plan on crushing your first day on real rock. You’ll also need to re-train the way you think. Outdoors, the routes aren’t marked with brightly colored tape and may be difficult to follow. In addition, real rock holds may be hidden and may be greatly different from what you’ve encountered at the gym. Along with these points, indoor climbers often start to learn a gym’s holds. While the gym may change specific routes, climbers have likely gotten familiar with approaching particular holds.

6. If You’re Climbing on a Rope, Learn Some Basic Skills

If you’re going to be climbing on a rope, get familiar with some basic skills. Even something that you’ve been doing in the gym, like belaying, can be complicated outside due to hazards like rocks, uneven ground, and roots. Furthermore, if a climber is heavier than the belayer, the use of a ground anchor might be necessary. Speaking of belays, if you had to execute a belay escape, could you? To prepare, spend a few minutes at the end of each gym session to practice these skills before going outside.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

7. Hit the Books (and Not the Guidebook)

Before heading to the crag, take a moment to hit the books, and brush up on the techniques and systems needed for outdoor climbing. A Falcon Guide: Toproping is one of many great books available to new outdoor climbers. For climbers interested in learning to advance their systems, in addition to their skills, to the next level, Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills covers everything from basic to advanced topics in all climbing genres.

8. Safety is Critical

Whether you’re climbing inside or outside, the sport is dangerous. But, the outdoors has far more hazards to manage. Here are a few tips to keep you safe:

  • Close your top-rope system by tying a knot at the end of your rope. That way, you can’t lower the climber off the end.
  • Always be mindful about where the cliff edge is, especially when you’re setting up a top-rope anchor. Anchoring yourself in while building your anchor is a great way to stay safe.
  • Rocks break and nearby parties sometimes knock stuff off while they’re setting up. Wear your helmet even when you’re not the one climbing to protect your head.
  • Boulderers should scout the descent and be comfortable with it before committing to the climb.
  • For boulderers, falling is almost as important of a skill as climbing. Practice correctly falling—ideally, with slightly bent legs to absorb impact, and avoid leading with your hands to protect your shoulders, arms, wrists, and fingers—and spend some time identifying safe landing zones before you head up.

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9. Take a Lesson

If you’re interested in getting outside but don’t feel confident doing it yourself, sign up for a lesson with the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School. In no time at all, the Climbing School’s AMGA-accredited guides will have you familiar with the fundamentals of building a top-rope anchor and mitigating outdoor climbing hazards.

Can you think of any other gym-to-crag tips? Share them in the comments!


Don't Be a Fool. Stop Doing These 10 Things While Climbing

Every year, we celebrate April 1st with practical jokes and hoaxes. But, if you’re practicing the following climbing habits, the joke’s on you. Here’s a list of 10 safety tips for you to employ this year, so that you’re not climbing like a fool.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

1. The end is near

It seems every year there’s another story about a climber making the foolish, dangerous, and potentially deadly mistake of rappelling off the end of their rope. Easily avoid this imprudent error by tying stopper knots at the ends or otherwise closing the system before you rappel.

2. Reckless rappelling

In addition to stopper knots, learning the right way to rappel can prevent you from looking like a fool. Start by extending your rappel device and using a third-hand back-up. Don’t know what we’re talking about? Here’s a good video from the AMGA showing the whole process.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Don’t lower your guard

These days, both sport climbs and ropes come in a wide variety of lengths, increasing the odds of making the misguided mistake of lowering your partner off the end. Make sure the joke isn’t on you by tying a stopper knot on the free end before you start climbing.

4. Crack jokes—not your head

Whether it’s falling debris from above or an impact during a fall, your head is exposed to all sorts of danger when you go rock climbing. Considering that helmets have gotten increasingly light and comfortable, in addition to protecting you from a potential head injury, you’d have to be a fool not to wear one at the crag.

Rapping-Lost-in-the-Sun

5. Does the trick every time

Sometimes, the oldest tricks work best. For example, the tried-and-true act of checking to make sure the climber’s knot is tied correctly and the belay is rigged properly before you leave the ground is an excellent way to avoid a joke that falls flat.

6. Aging antics

While some old tricks work great at the crag, old gear certainly doesn’t. We get it—climbing gear is expensive. But, risking serious harm or death over the cost of a sling, harness, or rope is more than foolish; it’s dumb. Learn about your gear’s lifespan and replace it accordingly. Not sure where to start? Check out our goEast article “When Should I Retire My Gear?”  

7. Cleaning anchors is no joke

A potentially catastrophic mistake commonly seen at the crag is climber-belayer miscommunication when cleaning anchors. Before hastily heading up a route, confirm your course of action with your belayer, and stick to the plan. Even better, stop being a clown, and learn the right way to clean an anchor.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

8. Buffoonery at the belay

There’s plenty of time for tomfoolery at the end of the day, and the real trick is getting everyone home safely. Since the belayer literally holds the life of the climber in their hands, all of the attention should be focused on them—not on clowning around at the base of the climb.

9. Don’t be a one-liner

Driving to the crag alone is awesome…April Fools! Don’t do this—it’s expensive, it’s bad for the environment, and most crag parking lots have a limited capacity. Try carpooling, even if it’s only for part of your drive. While you’re at it, check out these outdoor podcasts to keep the drive from getting monotonous.

10. The price of the put-on

Thinking that access, fixed gear, and keeping the crag clean just happen is the pinnacle of buffoonery. Consider donating to the Access Fund, or a local climbing association, like the Rumney Climbers Association or the Gunks Climbers’ Coalition. Better yet, volunteer for a cleanup day, or perform the ultimate stunt by practicing Leave No Trace.

 

Do you have a good tip to avoid being the crag jester? If so, we want to hear it! Leave it in the comments below.


Three Crags for Early Spring Rock Climbing

With spring’s mild weather arriving early this year, it’s time to venture outside, and remember what it feels like to be on rock. If you’ve spent the winter pulling plastic or you’re simply excited to get outdoors, check out one of these excellent early-season climbing destinations.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Lincoln Woods, Rhode Island

Just minutes outside Providence sits Lincoln Woods State Park. Home to some of New England’s best bouldering, it’s a frequent first stop for many of the region’s climbers. Thanks to its southerly location, it’s rarely exposed to as brutal of a winter, often making the problems dry and climbable, while snow still buries other popular areas.

With various boulders scattered throughout, “The Woods” almost always has something to climb, no matter the conditions. In fact, it’s possible to do everything from chasing the sun to hiding from the wind or even avoiding an unexpected spring shower. Even better, because most of the park’s classic boulders are in close proximity, it’s easy to move between them in search of better conditions or a different grade. Just use the park’s loop road and a handful of well-developed climber paths.

In March and April, cool mornings and evenings provide the perfect temperatures for finding friction on the area’s granite boulders. Later, cool nights keep the bugs at bay. Further making The Woods a great early-season destination, the wide variety of problems, in terms of both style and grade, allows climbers to acquaint themselves with crimps, cracks, and slabs while gradually increasing the difficulty.

While bouldering might be the primary attraction here, Goat Rock has a small amount of top-roping. This roughly 30-foot tall cliff offers some easy slab climbing on its flank and some truly hard climbing on its steep, overhung face. If you are planning on top-roping here, either bring some trad gear or a long static line for anchor building, and beware of broken glass.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Quincy Quarries, Massachusetts

Quincy Quarries is another fantastic early-season destination. Located just seconds from I-93 near Boston, it offers great single-pitch routes on solid granite, as well as a smattering of fun, moderate bouldering. And, just like Lincoln Woods, it is often dry and climbable well before the region’s other areas.

While the heartiest among us come here year round, the season really picks up in early March, when area climbers begin longing for “real rock.” During warm weeknights and weekends, you’ll often find locals sending the most popular routes on C Wall, K Wall, M Wall, and Knight Face. Most parties seem to top-rope a variety of routes during their sessions, moving around the crag from one easy-anchor setup to another. You’ll also encounter some solid trad climbing and even a few sport routes. Whichever style you choose, be forewarned. The grades are old-school, and the layers of graffiti covering the first 10 feet off the ground only make the routes harder.

As long as it’s sunny, the Quarries can deliver a great outing even on the coldest of spring days. The walls of Little Granite Railway Quarry, noted in the Boston Rocks guidebook as A-F walls, form a natural reflector oven, heating the surrounding area as much as 10 degrees above the ambient temperature. If you end up there on one of those days, definitely check out C Wall’s many top-ropeable routes.

Of course, because the Quarries is a multi-use urban park, the climbers tend to head elsewhere once areas to the north and west “open up.” But, this shouldn’t deter you from checking out the early-season scene. Moreover, once you’ve spent a day or two placing your feet on spray-painted nubbins, the friction everywhere else will feel fantastic.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Pawtuckaway State Park, New Hampshire

Pawtuckaway State Park, or P-Way, in southern New Hampshire is best known for its bouldering. But, it’s also home to some fun top-roping and short-but-challenging trad climbing. Because of this, Pawtuckaway has become a popular destination. Generally, it’s the perfect place for getting in early-season pitches and problems while you wait for winter to leave and before the bugs arrive.

Top-ropers will want to visit P-Way’s Lower Slab for its selection of easy-to-set-up moderate climbs and the large open space at the bottom of the cliff. These factors also make this a popular area for large groups.

While the Lower Slab is ideal for rediscovering technique and working noodley winter arms back into shape, the Upper Cliff—located a short walk uphill—offers some stellar crack climbing that can either be top-roped or lead on traditional gear. Before you tape up, don your hand jammies, or go au naturel, however, be aware that what the cracks lack in height, they make up for in difficulty, and the ratings are old school.

Tim-P-Way

No trip to P-Way is complete without trying at least one of the area’s renowned boulder problems. A short walk from the cliffs, the Round Pond area receives a lot of sun, and is home to a diverse group of problems. Thus, it’s an ideal place to visit early in the season. Also a short walk from the cliffs, the Boulder Natural area is home to many of Pawtuckaway’s classic problems.

Don’t forget to visit Pawtuckaway’s Blair Woods bouldering area. Separate from most of P-Way’s other climbing areas, Blair Woods delivers a large amount of easily accessible and moderately rated problems without the crowds. Like everywhere else in Pawtuckaway, bring the bug spray just in case, and be prepared for the park’s skin-eating coarse granite.

What’s your favorite early season crag? Tell us about it in the comments!


Senior Superlatives: Valentine's Day Adventure Dates

Whether you’re looking to slide into romance, hike into their heart, or tie the knot this Valentine’s Day, consider one of these awesome outdoor-inspired trips to stoke the adventurous spirit—and the passion—between you and your special someone.

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Most Likely to Make Your Date Feel Like Royalty: Ice Castles, Lincoln, NH

Treat your significant other like the king or queen they are by surprising them with a trip to the Ice Castles in Lincoln, New Hampshire. If you tour the castles early, you can finish the day toasting to your relationship at Seven Birches Winery at the RiverWalk Resort less than a mile away. If wine tastings aren’t your thing, spend the day shredding the gnar at Loon Mountain instead, and hit the Ice Castles at night to see them all lit up. Once there, check out a fire dancing performance, and stay warm with cinnamon buns and cocoa.

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Best Place for a Romantic Outdoor Getaway: The Berkshires, Western MA

No matter what your winter sport of choice is—skiing or snowboarding, snowshoeing, hiking, or cross-country skiing—there are plenty of places to do it in the Berkshires. So, make Valentine’s Day last an entire weekend by treating your beloved snow bunny to a little bit of everything this winter wonderland has to offer: ski under the lights at Jiminy Peak on Friday night, hike Mount Greylock on Saturday, and then, spend a few hours Nordic skiing on trails designed by seven-time Olympian John Morton at Hilltop Orchards. And, be sure to end the weekend on a high note at Furnace Brook Winery while you’re there. Accommodations in the area range from quaint Rockwell-esque bed-and-breakfasts to lavish five-star resorts, making it easy to find the perfect place to turn up the romance (or just recover from the day’s activities) each night.

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Most Likely to Earn You a Gold Medal in Dating: Olympic Sports Complex, Lake Placid, NY

Much like the Berkshires, Lake Placid is basically a winter athlete’s paradise. In addition to world-class skiing and so many great winter hikes that it’ll be hard to choose which one (or two) you want to tackle, this cold-weather haven nestled in the heart of the Adirondacks takes it a few steps further with some of the best ice climbing in the northeast, miles and miles of fat biking trails, and, of course, the Olympic Sports Complex, where you can take a run in a real bobsled, take a biathlon lesson, or ice skate on the same rink the 1932 USA Men’s Speed Skating Team made history with a gold medal sweep. If a date here doesn’t get you a podium finish, nothing will.

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Coolest Date (Literally): Guided Mt. Washington Trip with EMS Schools

Bring your Valentine to the top of the world, or at least of New England, on one of the literally coolest dates ever: a winter ascent of Mount Washington with the EMS Climbing School. Bundle up and head to North Conway, New Hampshire to show the “world’s worst weather” that you’re not afraid of it. Because even if the snow is falling and the wind is blowing, it shows you can weather the storm; you’ve got your love to keep you warm.

Credit: Ashley Peck
Credit: Ashley Peck

Best Way to Warm Their Heart: With a Big, Fancy Rock…Climbing Trip in the South

Even people who truly enjoy winter eventually reach a point in which they’d like to escape it for a few days. If you and your honey are tired of the cold, use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to head south (or southwest) for a warm-weather climbing trip. I’m someone who is typically so anti-Valentine’s Day that my mom sends me a Halloween card every February 14th, but the year that my now-husband took me to Horse Pens 40 for a mid-February bouldering vacation was the best Valentine’s Day I can remember. In fact, I almost surprised him with a Vegas Valentine’s weekend to climb at Red Rocks this year, since we both loved climbing there so much last spring. If you’re into grand gestures, a trip like this is perfect…and even if it’s not the rock she was hoping for, I promise she’ll love it.


VIDEO: Photographing the Milky Way Over Acadia

Video and text by Kris Roller
Video help from Nick Girard

Behind every great photo lies a story, one that describes the process and events leading up to the photograph. To me, the amount of planning and effort you put into its creation makes it that much better, and no photos require more work and preparation than astrophotos. When planning a shoot that involves the night sky, you have to take a few things into account: the equipment you are using, the location, and timing.

With astrophotography, the Milky Way is an extremely popular subject. But, depending on what part of the world you are in and the time of year, getting the perfect shot can be tricky.

Location

Generally, you want to be in an area with little-to-no light pollution. I use Google’s light pollution maps to help me pinpoint the darkest spots anywhere I travel. Also, the farther south you go, the more you can see the Milky Way and its galactic core. When you are in the Northern Hemisphere, the Milky Way always faces south. So, for this photo, I knew I had to choose a location that would allow me to face in that direction, and Google Earth 3D helped me identify possible spots. And, because I knew I was shooting rock climbers, I also had to find a climbable rock that was pretty exposed to the night sky. Acadia, Maine, turned out to be perfect.

Timing

For those in the Northern Hemisphere, the Milky Way’s core can only be seen from February to late October. Depending on what’s in the foreground and where you want the Milky Way to be, you will want to plan your shoot during certain months. Various apps can help you organize this, and for this specific photo in Acadia, I used PhotoPills. The timing of the year was important, too, because I had to get the Milky Way a couple of hours into its initial rise above the eastern horizon. July ended up being ideal.

Equipment

Most DSLR cameras are great for shooting astrophotography. The equipment that I used was a Sony a7RII with a 24-70 mm f2.8 lens. Usually, you want to shoot the night sky anywhere from 14 to 24 mm—wide enough to see the Milky Way’s vastness. My setting was 24 mm 2500 ISO for 15 seconds. Generally, you can set the shutter speed to 20 or 25 seconds, but I had live subjects, so I had to keep it shorter than usual. Otherwise, any sudden movements would’ve made them come out blurry.

Post Processing

After I took the photo, I processed it in Adobe Photoshop first to bring the Milky Way’s details out. Then, I imported it into Lightroom to touch up the rest of the composition and balance the light on the foreground. After your shoot, there are numerous ways to process your work, but these two programs are the most common for night photography.

Credit: Kris Roller
Credit: Kris Roller
Credit: Kris Roller
Credit: Kris Roller

Song credit: “Pyrite Promises” by Dionysia


Ditch the Cold: 8 Wintertime Rock Climbing Escapes in North America

The bliss of cool Sendtember and Rocktober days has finally given way to downright cold, snow-, and ice-covered rock and perpetually numb fingertips. To us climbers, that usually means we either give in to the sterile siren song of the climbing gym, turn in our rock shoes for ski boots, or go full masochist and pick up ice tools to tide us over until our screaming barfies resign and our frozen fingers thaw. But, fear not. While your Rumney project is snowed-in, other climbing areas are coming into their prime, if you can escape the Northeast to check them out. So, take a winter vacation, dig your rock shoes back out, and sample some of the best winter climbing destinations in North America.

Credit: Ted Schiele
Credit: Ted Schiele

The American Southwest & Mexico

The American Southwest is undoubtedly the best place to go. Plentiful sun and mild temperatures will melt away your icy Northeastern core. Whether you’re a new boulderer just getting your feet wet or a hardened tradster who isn’t ready to sacrifice your fingers and toes to the ice climbing gods, the Southwest is open to a lifetime of trips.

Credit: Ted Schiele
Credit: Ted Schiele

Joshua Tree National Park, CA

The former stomping grounds of climbing legends like John Bachar and John Long, Joshua Tree’s rock formations beg to be climbed. The park is home to roughly 5,000 routes, so its variety really shines. Bring your crack skills and your rack, because you’re inside a wonderland of rocks. World-class bouldering also intermingles with trad climbing here, for those who want to stay closer to the ground.

Lodging can be had in the town of Joshua Tree, but if you really want to immerse yourself in the rock, get a spot at either Ryan or Hidden Valley Campground and walk to these world-class climbs. On rest days, go exploring the labyrinths of rock, or check out the multitude of day hikes and short loops. Don’t miss the Cholla Cactus Garden at sundown or the views of the Colorado and Mojave Deserts from atop Ryan Mountain.

Classics:

  • Double Cross (5.7+, trad)
  • Sail Away (5.8, trad)
  • White Rastafarian (V2 R)
Credit: Hayden Bove
Credit: Hayden Bove

Red Rock Canyon, NV

Its placement right outside Las Vegas makes Red Rocks a perfect winter getaway. The beautiful sandstone peaks provide ample opportunities for every sort of climber. If you’re a boulderer, check out the Kraft Boulders for concentrated bouldering, or venture deep into the canyons for a solitary experience. Sport routes are ample throughout the area, especially in Calico Basin and The Black Corridor, where great lines are just an arm’s length apart.

For the adventure climber, Red Rocks is a no-brainer, as it offers routes over 1,000 feet tall for full-day outings on bomber, well-protected rock. Stay at the nearby campground, snag a local Airbnb, or go all-out and hit the Strip to try to make back that money you spent on new cams. Rain is infrequent in this area, especially compared to the East, but if there is precipitation, be sure not to climb until the rock has fully dried to preserve the routes.

Classics:

  • Solar Slab (9 pitches, 5.6, trad)
  • Epinephrine (13 pitches, 5.9, trad)
  • Levitation 29 (9 pitches, 5.11b, mixed)
Credit: Ted Schiele
Credit: Ted Schiele

Bishop, CA

A favorite among climbers, this unassuming town on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada is California’s most concentrated climbing hotspot, packed with sport destinations, world-famous bouldering areas, and alpine granite masterpieces.

The steep-walled Owens River Gorge cuts through hundreds of feet of volcanic tuft. As such, the sport climbs here are long and pumpy, favoring endurance over all else. Despite sharing the same rock as the gorge, the boulders on the Volcanic Tablelands offer more gymnastic movement, involving pockets and overhanging features. It stays much warmer here than any other climbing area in Bishop, so it’s a great option when the temperature drops.

Credit: Ted Schiele
Credit: Ted Schiele

The real crown jewel, though, is the Buttermilks. These granite monoliths sit below the imposing Mount Tom on the edge of the Owens River Valley. They have a reputation as only a location for highball bouldering, but that isn’t true. Rather, there are classic climbs for people of all comfort levels.

The town is full of climbers, van-dwellers, and vacationers alike. Check into one of the hotels in town or make use of the Pleasant Valley Campground at only $2 a night. Being only 45 minutes from Mammoth means that you could be bouldering at the Buttermilks in the morning, and make it to Mammoth Mountain for some fresh Sierra powder by lunch.

Classics:

  • Heavenly Path (V1)
  • Jedi Mind Tricks (V4)
  • High Plains Drifter (V7)
Courtesy: Visit El Paso
Courtesy: Visit El Paso

Hueco Tanks, TX

The birthplace of American bouldering is a winter destination that still holds up to this day. Much has changed since the legendary John Sherman devised his V-grade scale here. Currently, two of the three areas, East and West Mountains, are closed to the public without a paid guide, due to a high concentration of sensitive pictographs. North Mountain is open without a guide, but climbers must make reservations in advance. Despite the red tape, it remains an awesome spot to spend a trip and provides a more private and pure experience than what you would find at places like Red Rocks.

Classics:

  • Ghetto Simulator (V2)
  • Moonshine Roof (V4)
  • Baby Face (V7)
Courtesy: Scarpa
Courtesy: Scarpa

El Potrero Chico, Mexico

Ever dream about doing Yosemite-esque, big-wall climbing with nothing but a stash of quickdraws? Dream no more, because, just south of the border, the small town of Hidalgo is a limestone paradise and more. Fly to Monterrey, Mexico, and catch a taxi, or punch it south from Laredo, Texas, for three hours to arrive in Hidalgo. Nearly everything is a sport line that is well-bolted and without crazy runouts, including 20-pitch big-wall routes.

If 2,000-foot epics aren’t in your wheelhouse, more reasonable multi-pitch outings and single-pitch cragging can be had all within a short walk or drive from town. Stay at one of the numerous campgrounds and climbers’ hangouts here, all with views of cliffs like Rancho el Sendero and Homero.

Classics:

  • Will the Wolf Survive? (4 pitches, 5.10a, sport)
  • Space Boyz (11 pitches, 5.10d, sport)
  • Gringo Disco (1 pitch, 5.11b, sport)

 

The Southeast

Long known for its outstanding climbing, Southeast sandstone is some of the finest anywhere. It’s perhaps best known as a fall destination because of places like Red River Gorge in Kentucky and New River Gorge in West Virginia, but drive a little further south towards Chattanooga and get ready to slap some Southern slopers through until spring. All of these destinations are close to each other, so hitting them all in one short trip is possible. Word to the wise: This is still the East we’re talking about, so it rains and will likely be chilly. Need a place to stay on your Southern journey, and you’re not into stealth camping? Hit up the Crash Pad in Chattanooga for a place to…crash, as well as pick up some beta on all the locations. It’s also a nice central location for all the bouldering in the area.

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Stone Fort (LRC), TN

Stone Fort (aka Little Rock City) has something for everyone: great, inspiring lines at all grades, slopers, crimps, highballs, and lowballs. The boulders are on a golf course, so park at the climbers’ specific lot and sign in at the clubhouse.

Classics:

  • Storming The Castle (V1+)
  • Mystery Machine (V3)
  • The Wave (V6)

Ricktown, GA

Rocktown, GA

More secluded than either Stone Fort or HP40, Rocktown is a newer area with fresh problems still being put up. The rock is similar to elsewhere in the Chattanooga area, with huecos, crimps, and a plethora of slopers leading to even more slopers and then to the top-outs. Free camping is possible in the lot for those looking for a longer-term visit or wanting to keep costs down.

Classics:

  • Ripple (V2)
  • Croc Block (V5)
  • Golden Shower (V5)

Horse Pens 40, AL

A remarkably dense boulder field that can be traversed in 10 minutes means there’s less approaching and more sending. Get your top-out pants on, because these routes are challenging and slopey. And, stock up on skincare materials—it’s like climbing on sandpaper here. HP40 is on private land in the foothills of the Southern Appalachians, so be sure to respect the owners. If you aren’t making use of the camping on site, pay your bouldering fee to ensure that we can continue to climb here. It’s less than two hours from Chattanooga, so it’s a good option to stay here for a few days at a time before returning to the other boulder fields nearer to the city.

Classics:

  • Bum Boy (V3)
  • Groove Rider (V5)
  • Popeye (V5)