On Wandering + Wayfinding

My First Climbing Comp: The Substance Matches the Hype at adidas’ Ticket to Rockstars Brooklyn

Past a skate shop and bulky shirtless crossfitters, and opposite an axe throwing bar, sits a climbing gym in the old Daily News garage in Brooklyn.

Amateur climbers were gathered to compete in the adidas Ticket to Rockstars event. Many, like myself, were there for their first ever competition, while the crusher few were vying to win entrance to the Finals in Stuttgart, Germany, and the chance to compete against pros. 

For the intro price of $25, I signed up for some cheap thrills, swag, and this story. Considering the notoriety of World Cup comps and the upcoming Olympics, I wanted to see what the hell this was all about.

Would the experience live up to the hype?


It was 2pm on a hot and hazy Saturday, the sun is radiant and the blacktop is radiating heat. Children in green shirts are spilling out into the street chattering with the enthusiasm of a sugar high. Heavy baselines boom from the open doors of the stucco entrance that reads, “THE NEWS – BROOKLYN GARAGE BOULDERS.”

Inside, the chalky air rises in convection flumes and settles in back quarters and on black mats. Friendly faces check me in, while pint-sized competitors and families with cameras gather around for the award ceremony in the background. 

“The prize for the top female… well, uhh, girl,” the announcer pauses. “The top finisher in the girl’s Kids Jam category is Tessa Huang who flashed nearly every problem!” 

Cheers give way to pounding music, which pulses through the speakers thrashing my eardrums. I’m surprised you can’t see sound waves in the thick mist that hangs like humid air over a seaside beach. It’s like preparing for a night in a hostel with a loud snorer; “Gonna be a long one,” I think to myself.

“The Open Jam starts in 10 minutes,” the MC hollers over the sound system. 

I dash outside for free ice cream: Strawberry jam crumble in a cone. Ice cream before a competition, you say? I was prepared to do whatever it takes to win. Just kidding. Damn do I like ice cream.

Let the games begin. Photo by the author.


“Welcome to the first ever adidas Rockstars event here in New York City,” the MC declares without exclamation points. “We’re going to go over the rules then let you get to the fun.”

Logistics are confirmed, scoring clarified, and a count is given.

“3, 2, 1. Go!” 

Cheers amass and the mass disperses in the way a drop of soap slowly spreads across the top of a bowl of water.

Despite the sludgy speed, the stoke is high and volume higher.

A woman behind me starts on problem #6, a slightly more than vertical jug-haul on green holds. She makes a few moves, tentatively, trying various body positions, and falls.

Lines queue up quickly around low grades and where others already are. It was a peak into human psychology: People were attracted to the manageable and the masses.


I walk through the central corridor under the Brooklyn Bridge facsimile to the back left corner where there is a nook with easy problems. A booming speaker and the only meaningful fan in the place complement the space. 

Climbers cruise a slightly overhanging moderate comprised of downward facing pinches on sloping feet, pink holds. The feeling I always get in a new gym washes over me: “I wonder if I’m gonna eat shit on these?” As if all of a sudden I’ll forget how to climb and any technical ability beyond flopping will escape me.

After watching a train of people repeating the same refrain, I jump on and flash the problem in similar effect. “Okay, this is manageable,” I assure myself. 

The Cave. Photo by the author.


Turning away from the nook unveils the cave. It is comprised of an upward slanting roof covered in hard problems and a flowy jug-haul on an arete. The movements look fun so I wait in line for the yellow moderate.

There are big cheers for top outs and proud parents phone-filming their daughter. She starts strong but the transition out from under the roof proves difficult for her feet. She tries—fights once, twice, three times to kick her legs up—but falls in the end and returns to the line for round 2. 


Scoring is straight forwardish. Three levels of difficulty: Blue (easy), Red (moderate), Black (hard). Each problem equates to a total number of points between 100-400, with harder sets worth more. Points are divided by the total number of people who complete the problem. For example, if 2 people finish a black worth 400, they each get 200 points. If 100 people do the same blue worth 100 points, each person gets 1 point. Most points gets a trip to Stuttgart. There are 40 problems total. 

Thus proved one of the challenges of the event: 40 problems for 280 participants (or so the rumor went) meant a lot of waiting around.

“I didn’t know it was going to be this crowded,” demurred Victor He, who was supposed to be in the office until 4:30pm that day. He came down at the behest of his significant other, bicycling from Midtown.

“But I’m glad I came,” he says. “It’s a good environment to practice finding happiness in, which I’m being intentional about.”


I move towards the entrance to a cupcake shaped peninsula and try a harder piece, white holds.

The problem starts on crimps and is off-balance, with only the right leg on a sticky sloper. Then it goes into a falling lunge to a right hand pinch on a half moon while simultaneously latching on to a slippery football sized dihedral with the left. The next sequence was a left heel hook match to the left hand then a left hand reach up to an open palm crimp on the corner of a dihedral. Hold body tension and slowly bring your legs under, then right foot up and into the crescent, maintaining balance and grip on slippery hands the whole way. 

I didn’t get this one. “Interesting,” I thought to myself.

The problems were lavished with what Laurent Laporte, the head route setter of adidas Rockstars, described as “funny.” 

“What do you mean?,” I probe.

“We want people to smile while climbing,” he explains. “There are different styles, we try to incorporate some surprises, like no hands or unexpected movements.” 

We look around and see plenty of smiles.


“Americans love lining up,” an Aussie mused to me before boarding the bus in Boston. Her observation played out accurately as the respect for queues was strong at the comp. On the plus side, it gave you ample rest. 

A tricky bastard. Photo by the author.


After tiring of waiting for the white moderate, I proceeded to the back, returning near the fan and a problem that begins with a jump start, black holds.

Stepping up lands you on a peanut-sized undercling that you catch with your thumbs, holding tension on a right-footed pedestal and left-footed friction on a sloping dihedral. Steady yourself to officially start. The next moves were a traverse left on tricky slopers for feet to a downward angled dihedral you needed to match hands on. Leaning left and holding with your right hand,  jump around the corner to a deep-pocketed sloper that required keeping your right hand on for compression while cutting feet. 

“Fun setting today,” remarked Courtney Billig, who regularly climbs in New Jersey. “A lot of dynamic moves, which is not something I tend to try.” 


About 2 hours in a few crushers arrived and make quick work of the cave problems. This includes Ray Hansen (who won the comp) and Téo Genecand (who took third).

The green set in the cave was a strongman contest. The problem starts low on overhung pinches and moved to a dead point two-finger pocket. This was followed by a shallow jug then a series of Tarzan-like swings through 3 two-finger pockets that required rotating one’s body 180 degrees. Climbers hung and swung their whole weight on two fingers at a time. This led to a toe-hook out from under the roof, then a hand match, finishing up with technical face climbing on small crimps. The problem was #38 (out of 40), making it one of the most challenging of the lot. 

I tried working a pink in the mid-30s, what others called, “maybe a V9.” Not knowing the grades and in the light of competition, it was fun to jump on random problems that caught the eye.

“It’s a cool opportunity to see what comps are like,” noted Josh Greenwood, a coach at Brooklyn Boulders who was participating in the event. “What’s nice is it encourages people to try something new, different problems they might not normally do.”

Riley MacLeod, an editor at Kotaku, agreed. “I’ve only been climbing three months,” he starts. “But the woman who taught the intro class said ‘you should do it!,’ so I signed up. I almost turned around on the way here.” He continues, “I tend to wuss out near the top, but today, it only counts if you get to the top, so I’m going for it and completing the climb! This has definitely inspired me to push a little more.”

I came. I saw. I faltered. Photo by the author.


Nearing the end and with ears ringing like a steel drum, I call it a day.

My cheeks are sore and I realize I’ve been smiling the whole time. Seeing the participants enthusiastically try problems and cheer each other on lit me up, and is a reminder of how special the climbing community can be. 

Never turning down a free beer, I cash in my drink ticket for an ale and kick back to watch competitors attempt their last climbs. There’s back slapping and hand clapping, high fiving and laughing, all in the name of camaraderie and fun.

“I like to compete with myself,” says Victor, “not other people.” “Which means you can celebrate everyone else instead of rooting against them,” I add. “Right,” he says.

I can see what the hype is all about now.

Mikhail Martin of Brothers of Climbing (BOC) on Leading by Example and Community Building

Pieter Cooper strode into a downtown Brooklyn gym and saw something through the chalky haze that made him stop in his tracks.

He was alone, but emboldened. With locked eyes he walked across the room. 

“Oh you do this too?” he offered. David Glace reciprocated.

“It was like Black Guy No. 1, Black Guy No. 2. That was the joke,” Pieter says. But where were the other climbers of color?

“We should form a group to bring more awareness that we are out there doing it,” they mused.

Martin and BOC members. Photo source: BOC



Mikhail Martin is the fourth musketeer of the team behind Brothers of Climbing (BOC), along with Andrew Belletty. He comes across like the mastermind of the jig, a willing leader with a programmer’s articulation for simple clarity and a Caribbean easy-goingness. 

Our call opens and it sounds like Mikhail had a long day. He’s not grumpy, but weary. It was Friday at 6PM after all. His straight-shooting questioning softens with a bit of banter and the jokester bubbles in with a chuckle that unveils his characteristic upbeat vibrato.

If you attend a BOC meetup you’re likely to hear Mikhail belt out Bieber, but he doesn’t sing today. Instead we chatted about what it’s like to build a community, and how the role has evolved over the years.


In the REI mini-mentary on BOC, Cooper, who eventually wound up as the Manager at Brooklyn Boulders, relays a story that catalyzed why they needed to form BOC:

“I’ve had black kids say, ‘nah, we don’t do this, we don’t do [climbing].’ That made me go, man, this kid is saying that, what else does this kid think he can’t do just because he’s black or he has not seen a black person do [you name it]?” 

“This goes back to not being exposed to the outdoors. The problem is we’re telling ourselves that we can’t do it, and on the other end, there’s no one telling us that we can do it. So it’s a problem on both sides of the coin, and we have to attack it from both sides,” Martin says in an interview with Off the Strength.

The quartet wanted to show that, yes, people of color do climb. The hope was to encourage others to give the sport a try. 

Mikhail, Pieter, Andrew, and David decided to start simply, informally at first, just a group climbing in the gym. The impetus was to “have a good time, and to try to be as welcoming and personable as possible,” relays Martin. 

Word spread, more people came and the community of Brothers of Climbing developed. 


On Community Building:

Establish a culture of inclusivity

“We were hooked on the sport, and we wondered why more people of color weren’t. We found it came down to the expense of climbing at a gym, the established climbing culture, and a lack of outreach. We couldn’t really do much about the costs,” Martin says. “But we could make a difference with the culture and outreach,” he notes in an Outside Magazine article.

BOC wanted to be as welcoming as possible for first-timers. Many members of the group are newer to the sport, and at their yearly bouldering festival (which they co-organize with Brown Girls Climb), most attendees are climbing outside for the first time. The initial impression could be the difference between one-and-done and on-going interest.

At the meetups, the more experienced climbers help out the newbies and the organizers make sure to establish a fun, relaxed environment. Martin credits having a diversity of interests among the group as a way to connect with members, “not all discussions are about climbing, we talk about new music, movies, etc.,” he says. Even something as simple as playing their own music at the gym sets a different note. 

Karaoke time. Photo source: BOC



Localize the group to local needs

There are now meetups in Chicago, Philly, DC and Oakland. Each locale has its own feel, but the common denominator is that everyone is happy to find community and come together.

“You really have to read your community. What do they need?,” urges Martin. 

In NYC, goofy and outgoing is the MO, including spontaneous karaoke sessions. In other communities, a different style of leadership may be needed. Every city has a unique history, varied experiences, and specific needs. The final “product” has to factor in the particulars of the local scene.


Listen to the community

The group has evolved over the years as the founders themselves have matured. 

“We started when I was 23, now I’m 29. As you get older, you start to realize other issues, other things become more important,” says Martin. In order to be role models for the future, the founders incorporate the concerns of the members into the direction of the group and their personal actions.

For one, communication and mutual understanding is key: Ask if someone is comfortable with you spotting them; Ask what someone’s preferred gender pronoun is. If someone doesn’t feel welcome, the founders want to talk with them to figure out how to fix it.

Since BOC started back in 2013, climbing has changed, the political landscape has evolved, and bigger concerns around equality in employment and representation have taken on a larger focus for the group.


More About Brothers of Climbing

The conversation expanded into a foray on fair compensation, the bigger picture for BOC, and Martin’s goals for the year. Another late night in the books talking about something he cares about. 

“BOC’s mission is to increase involvement of minorities in the outdoors. Right now we’re starting with climbing,” says Martin. Seems like they’re on the right track to do a lot more.


If you’re interested in learning about Brothers of Climbing you can visit their website. If you want to join an upcoming meetup, check out their Facebook group for a list of events. Color the Crag, their yearly bouldering festival in Alabama (how’s that for audacious?), will be held from October 17-20 this year.


Feature photo credit: The Joy Trip Project

Climbing and the Art of Living

He threw his body to a pinch and latched on with demonstrable purpose: This is mine. I choose this.

Simple.

It was the most controlled power I’ve seen on a rock wall. Each movement maximized. It was composed, explosive, one touch and go, like how Barry Sanders used to detonate out of cuts, halt, reverse direction, spin and sliver up field with the force of a rocket. It tossed me through a loop. 

I forgot what aggressive climbing looked like, that it could be subsumed into your stylistic pattern. I’ve been modeling myself towards the restrained, emphasizing body position and feet placements, to conserve energy, to focus on form. Often when you see power in action it is jerky and ugly (in the lesser skilled) or it’s a thunderous holy-shit-I-could-never-do-that (Sharma or Ondra). Instead, this was Muhammad Ali butterfly and breakneck in one. And it seemed attainable.


We Choose How We Climb like We Choose How We Live

As I was watching, his climbing style reminded me that people have their own modes and fashion for living as well. Each person has a rhythm, reach, strengths and weaknesses, risk tolerance, and aspirations. Just like we get to choose how we climb we can choose how to live.

Deciding how to live is our greatest responsibility, Camus and the Existentialists argue. They believe the world has no inherent purpose, that it is random chance that we are here at all (stemming in part from Nietzche’s, “God is dead” observation). Yet here we are, and it is from this empty space that we begin. “Existence precedes essence,” as Satre says. 

(Ironically, you get to choose whether you believe these premises or not, which still makes it the most important decision. You decide which foundational belief systems to abide by).

This framework is a blessing and curse. We have the ultimate freedom, but choice and responsibility are one and the same. They are yours alone.

Photo by Igor Oliyarnik on Unsplash


This past Week I Didn’t Know What I Was Living for

It was difficult to sit down and do the work I needed to do. I felt drained of creative energy; tired, lethargic, uninterested. The homunculus was screaming avoidance. The internal compass was out of whack.

What was I working towards? Why was I doing this?

I pushed on, and felt worse. 

For one, I wanted to see if it was just a dip that I should soldier through (inertia can masquerade in many forms, or, the importance of doing the work). There were deliverables and deadlines, after all. But something was off.

I still haven’t quite figured it out. Partly, I lost sight of the big picture, felt stuck, stodgy, twisted. I was disconnected from myself. It was draining, and I had gotten to a point that Hemingway referred to as an emptying of the well, and I wasn’t letting the springs refill it. 

In this condition I find it challenging to make simple decisions about things like, do I want to climb today? 

The negotiation goes: I don’t really want to, but I should (it’s good for you). Where to go then? Framingham is feeling stale. I’ve wanted to try the Boston location. But then I have to drive in and that’s a long commute. What about Waltham? Is there a hang board there?…

I had stopped listening to myself, that deep down part. 


I Wanted More Money and a Title and the Ability to Work from Home…

We were by the pool and the conversation turned to a new job.

Someone was describing the two positions they were offered: one at a different company with a better commute but more responsibility and a smaller pay bump; The other at their current company, but with a new title, more money for less responsibility, and the flexibility to work from home. They expressed it in a way that it seemed like an obvious choice.

Still, they talked of it with unease, like it was between the lesser of two evils. They explained how they had stressed about the selection, “talked with a lot of people” and gave it considerable thought. They ultimately went with the obvious option. It didn’t seem like they were relieved with the decision. 

Perhaps, for them, it’s too early to tell if things will improve because many of the changes won’t occur for a few months. Circumstantially it’s much as it has been. And maybe their temperament is to be dour, pessimistic, with a topping of the droll.

I don’t really know the person so I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but I was surprised by their lack of enthusiasm or relief, or any emotional reaction other than “meh.”

I wondered, why did they seek a change at all? If there was a pressing desire to switch it up, are these factors fulfilled in the new role? What were the deal breakers? What compromises did they make? 

More so, what are they working towards and how does this new role bring them closer towards that? (More money for what? New title for what? Work from home, why?). 

I didn’t ask any of this, of course. The decision had already been made, and they seemed reluctant to disclose what they already had.


The Values We Live By

We make decisions everyday, often according to values we are unaware of, out of habit, or because of impulse. 

Many are unimportant. Some are an existential imperative.

For the important decisions, the key questions center around considerations like: What is important to you? What are you willing to struggle for? How do you want your days to look?

You can take stock of what is important to you, today, by looking at your actions. We all have idealized visions of ourselves, of what we’d like to be, but it is what we actually do that defines us. 

Photo by Kameron Kincade on Unsplash


On my end:

I do value climbing because I go 4-5x per week. I do it because it’s fun, and in the long-term I know being physically healthy now will pay off when I’m older. 

I do not value many relationships as evident by how I don’t make the effort to keep in touch with a lot of people. I do this because of a built up self-defense mechanism and also because the effort required for maintenance is not often equally shared, which I find incredibly fucking annoying.

I do value exploration and the opportunity to learn about the world because I am pursuing writing as a career. I do this because it will let me work from anywhere and one of my favorite aspects of the vocation is the ability to interview people.

I do not value money hence I manage it poorly and don’t have much of it. This is assuredly a thing I need to take more seriously with the long-term in mind.

I do value curiosity, nature, unrestricted movement, personal expression, introspection and self-understanding, being an attentive listener, thoughtfulness, alternative point of views, independence of mind.

I do not value being liked by everyone, the latest trends, watching Netflix/ HBO/ Amazon, following a standard script, a lot of material goods.

I feel I should value and take action towards more community oriented activities, prioritizing family, making a normal salary, living in a place for a longer period of time, among others.

Such as it is.


Living Is a Choice

There are as many ways to live it as there are people on the planet.

This isn’t about being right or wrong, good or bad, or other misguided dichotomies, it’s about knowing yourself and taking responsibility for how you choose to live.

The alternative is merely existing without vitality; it’s subsisting; it’s not pursuing what interests you; it’s kowtowing to other’s expectations and living outside yourself; it’s marching inevitably towards physical death. And of course, you can metaphorically die much sooner than that.

In the end, this matters to me because I value independence and freedom of choice (sometimes to a fault). You may value other things and will prioritize your life accordingly. I’m not here to judge, but I do encourage you to be considerate about how you live, because it’s the only life you have.


With that, what do you value?
Share in the comments below or message me. I’m curious to hear.


Feature photo by Dylan Siebelink on Unsplash

Training Journal – Really Just Gym Bouldering: 7/22/19 – 7/28/19

Wow. I didn’t sport climb at all this month. I spent one day trad climbing, and several days outside bouldering.

The past two weeks I’ve gone back to gym climbing because it’s just much more convenient. I need to figure out a balance between going outside and training indoors.

Monday
Gym bouldering at Worcester. Hangboard session with slopers, 2-pad crimps, 1.5 pad crimps, 3-fingers, etc.

Tuesday
Rest day (felt sick).

Wednesday
Rest day (felt sick).

Thursday
Rest day (felt sick).

Friday
Gym bouldering at Waltham. Emphasized climbing more aggressively (with bigger throws, less pauses to consider moves). This was a direct result of watching and talking with a strong climber (former comp climber, 16+ years experience).

I noticed that he was both aggressive and smoothish (not the most beautiful style, but controlled and dynamic). I’ve noticed that by going too controlled, I can waste momentum and tire out. Part of this is to figure out when to power through and when to rest.

Campus board: 1-4, 1-5, and seeing if I could touch rung 6 (1-6). A few hangboard sets.

Got a free beer! (For flashing the V5 boulder problem of the day).

Saturday
Gym bouldering at Boston. Focused on skipping holds, dynamic moves.

Sunday
Gym bouldering. Arms and fingers felt weak, so this was a lower volume, easier day.



El Penon de Ifac – Parque Natural de Penyal D’Ifach


What I’m working towards: My objective is to climb the Diedra UBSA in Costa Blanca, Spain in November, an 8 pitch, 5.10a PG13 mostly sport route. This trip and objective is sponsored in part by the American Alpine Club + The North Face’s Live Your Dream grant.

I first came across the Penon d’Ifach, the massive limestone block that emerges from the Balearic Sea, while researching climbing in Spain last year. The striking outcropping has stayed on my mind since.

The grant is designed to help you “level up” your skills in a specific and measurable way. For context, I started climbing more seriously in 2018, and had only done about 30 lead climbs (in the 5.10 range) when I applied. I chose this route because it combines skills I’m keen to develop: Multi-pitch climbing, traditional climbing, anchor building, and endurance (suggested time is 6-9 hours). The goal date allows for six months to incrementally develop my technique and know-how.

So far this year, I’ve: Begun leading on trad, increased time on rock (as opposed to the gym) bouldering/ sport/ trad, practiced anchor building, did one multi-pitch (albeit a short one) and practiced belaying from top.

The longer-term dream is to do big alpine climbs in the Wind River Range.


Goals for July:

  • Days outside: 15
  • Sport leads: 30
  • Trad leads: 10
  • Multi-pitch: 1
  • Grade aim: 5.10+/5.11- sport, 5.6-5.8+ trad, multi-pitch 5.8-5.9 range
  • Focus: Lead more routes, push grades (project a few 5.12s), easy multi-pitch routes, bouldering
  • Stretch goal: Send V6 outside

Progress on July Goals as of 7/28:

  • Days outside: 8
  • Sport leads: 0
  • Trad leads: 3
  • Multi-pitch: 1

Goals for 2019:

  • Lead 5.11c/5.11d comfortably (sport)
  • Send a 5.12a (sport)
  • Lead 5.8-5.9 trad comfortably
  • Send a V7 outside
  • 100 days of climbing outside
  • Lead 300 routes on real rock

Progress on Year Goals as of 7/28:

  • Lead 5.10+ comfortably (sport)
  • Lead 5.6-5.7 trad comfortably
  • Send V4/V5 outside
  • ~31/100 days of climbing outside
  • ~42/300 lead climbs on real rock



El Penon de Ifac photo source: La Marina Plaza
Feature photo source: centralrockgym.com

Gear Review: Boulder Denim 2.0 Men’s Athletic Fit Jeans

I gave up on jeans in 2011.

No thanks to Boulder Denim, I’m reneging on that position.

Why? Simply, they are the most comfortable pair of climbing pants I own, and the best jeans I’ve ever had. They are lightweight, ultra-stretchy, and make my butt look good (probably). What’s not to like?

Boulder Denim jeans. Great for climbing and just hanging out.


Overview

The company, Boulder Denim (BD), has helped popularize the climbing-specific jeans trend. The basic blues have long been a staple of pebble wrestling, from old painter’s pants and Levi’s to Prana’s yoga-centric styles. However, these options weren’t designed for climbing, they were good enough options for the job. In dirtbag parlance that pretty much means climb on, because they are pants, and they cost me $5 at Savers.

Climb people did, not realizing what they were missing out on.

BD was started to change the palette from pants that were palatable to downright delightful. They launched on Kickstarter back in 2016 to wild success (raising over $90k), then had a second campaign of wilder success for their updated 2.0s, in 2018 (raising over $267,000).

People dig them. And I wanted in.

So I reached out and asked if I could test a pair of the 2.0s, and Taz and Brad were kind enough to oblige.

Anywho, I’ve been wearing them non-stop for over a month, making up for lost time since the last jeans to grace these thighs was over 8 years ago.

They’ve been worn on Rumney schist, Lynn Woods granite, Hammond Pond puddingstone, Smuggler’s Notch gritty schist, shitty schist, switch foot schisty and other such New England varietals. The climbing has consisted of a lot of bouldering, some sport, and a little trad.



Performance

My #UnecessarilyHighHeelHooks are NBD in these. They stretch in a variety of ways, from aggressive step-ups and twisty drop knees to split-like stemming IF I have them rolled up to below my knees.

I experience some restriction in movement when the legs are full-length (two rolls at the cuff, they sit just above the ankle). My knee gets caught in the fabric on big movements–which doesn’t prevent the action–though it does slightly encumber the motion. This is not experienced when they are rolled up (same two rolls, pushed to knee). They have much greater stretch horizontally and diagonally (i.e., pulling the pant leg apart width-wise) than vertically (i.e., trying to stretch them down the length of the leg).

Bouldering near Bolton, VT, with the pant legs rolled down.


It is unclear if they need to be broken in more because I’ve primarily worn them pushed up in the summer heat.

With that said, they are surprisingly elastic. If I pinch and pull, the jeans have the same give and bounce-back as my running tights, except these look better and don’t hug my junk. 

The seams are reinforced and solid so far, whereas I popped some stitching on my Outdoor Research Ferrosi pants when doing squats. I would squat in these.



Fit and Look

They are stylish in a relaxed, I just woke up and grabbed these, rumpled, off the floor kind of way. And they look good.

I received the 2.0 Men’s Athletic Fit in Newmoon Blue, the darker of the blueish options, and they go well with my wardrobe which mostly consists of tank tops at the moment. Because summer.

When I can get away with it, I wear these all day, from town to crag and back again.

The 2.0s come in two sizes: Slim and Athletic fit.

Slim on the left, Athletic on the right. Original photos taken from boulderdenim.com


The Athletic cut provides a slightly roomier leg circumference, but still maintains a thinner, tapered look common these days.

BD recommends sizing down one to two inches from your normal waist measurement. I got a 29″ (normally a 30″ or 31″) and they fit perfectly, resting at the top of my hip bones. The inseam comes standard at 32″.

The original Kickstarter video claims the fabric has “a 92% stretch retainment, compared to an industry average of just 60%.” I’m curious if the waist will bag out over time, as it is quite stretchy.

One minor complaint is about the hidden zippered pocket (which sits inside the front left pocket). The extra fabric doesn’t lay completely flat–given the additional material and bartack–which was noticeable in an, oh this is a little niggly here isn’t it? manner. The zipper also feels a bit stiff as it pressed on the crease where my thigh inserts at the pelvis (the area of the pectineus muscle and adductor brevis; look it up if you feel inclined). I feel a trifle like the Princess and the Pea with this fussing, but maybe it’s just flat pockets or bust for me.

The jeans out in the wild. Photo source: @smellybagofdirt


Durability

So far so good. Though this will take time to really tell.

One downside of the stretch is that the jeans sometimes snag on sharp rock, such as when knee barring. After a climb at Rumney where my thigh scraped against the schist, a thread was pulled out from my quad area. I snipped it off, no big deal.

The fabric is about as thick as found on Prana Brions, though more breathable and with a more attractive cut.



Uses

All climbing, though especially bouldering.

Bouldering because they can keep your legs from getting torn up. Way back when two months ago, my ankles, shins and knees were ivy draped in scrapes and scratches because I would wear shorts while climbing. The leg feature of the pants has helped bring the number of dings and dents down dramatically.

When the weather cools, these will make excellent travel pants because they don’t seem to carry stink (unlike my synthetic pants) and they have stain resistance. Sometimes I drink and sometimes I spill, but that’s been no my problem at all in these. 

Hardly a scratch to be found.


Features

The following is pulled from the Boulder Denim website:

  • Proprietary 360° EDS technology (extreme diagonal stretch)
  • Memory-Shape Denim
  • Trap Pocket (hidden zipper pocket)
  • No-Gap Waistband
  • Vegan-Approved
  • Stain/Water Resistant
  • Reinforced stitching
  • More durable
  • Ethically-made
  • Pre-Shrunk



Recommended?

Yes. They are a bit pricy (MSRP is $109), but if you are investing in a functional, multi-use pair of pants that you only have to wash every so often, it’s hard to go wrong here.

Note: If you’re an American Alpine Club member you get 15% off. Also, BD will give you a 5% off coupon for signing up for their email list.

To learn more about the company or to order your own pair, visit boulderdenim.com.

Training Journal – Gym Bouldering: 7/15/19 – 7/21/19

I started my gym membership back up as it was getting annoying/ repetitive to have to drive to different bouldering spots.

With that, I’ve begun doing hangboard exercises (for finger strength), in conjunction with hanging on holds (to emulate hanging for trad).

Monday
Gym bouldering. I looked like a goober wearing harness and pro, but the point was to do mock placements and train hanging and finding good stances. Someone made an incredulous comment, but who cares. This is about emulating the positions and actions required for trad, because The Diagonal showed me my endurance/ hanging time can be improved upon.

Tuesday
Rest day.

Wednesday
Gym bouldering. Focused on endurance, doing up-and-downs, and repeats (2 up and 2 down, sometimes more). I ended with a few routes where I hung for 5 seconds at each move, going up-and-down. Finished on the hangboard.

Thursday
Gym bouldering (~ 2hrs.) + shoulder exercises and core.

Friday
Gym bouldering (~ 2hrs.).

Saturday
Rest day.

Sunday
Rest day.



El Penon de Ifac – Parque Natural de Penyal D’Ifach


What I’m working towards: My objective is to climb the Diedra UBSA in Costa Blanca, Spain in November, an 8 pitch, 5.10a PG13 mostly sport route. This trip and objective is sponsored in part by the American Alpine Club + The North Face’s Live Your Dream grant.

I first came across the Penon d’Ifach, the massive limestone block that emerges from the Balearic Sea, while researching climbing in Spain last year. The striking outcropping has stayed on my mind since.

The grant is designed to help you “level up” your skills in a specific and measurable way. For context, I started climbing more seriously in 2018, and had only done about 30 lead climbs (in the 5.10 range) when I applied. I chose this route because it combines skills I’m keen to develop: Multi-pitch climbing, traditional climbing, anchor building, and endurance (suggested time is 6-9 hours). The goal date allows for six months to incrementally develop my technique and know-how.

So far this year, I’ve: Begun leading on trad, increased time on rock (as opposed to the gym) bouldering/ sport/ trad, practiced anchor building, did one multi-pitch (albeit a short one) and practiced belaying from top.

The longer-term dream is to do big alpine climbs in the Wind River Range.


Goals for July:

  • Days outside: 15
  • Sport leads: 30
  • Trad leads: 10
  • Multi-pitch: 1
  • Grade aim: 5.10+/5.11- sport, 5.6-5.8+ trad, multi-pitch 5.8-5.9 range
  • Focus: Lead more routes, push grades (project a few 5.12s), easy multi-pitch routes, bouldering
  • Stretch goal: Send V6 outside

Progress on July Goals as of 7/21:

  • Days outside: 8
  • Sport leads: 0
  • Trad leads: 3
  • Multi-pitch: 1

Goals for 2019:

  • Lead 5.11c/5.11d comfortably (sport)
  • Send a 5.12a (sport)
  • Lead 5.8-5.9 trad comfortably
  • Send a V7 outside
  • 100 days of climbing outside
  • Lead 300 routes on real rock

Progress on Year Goals as of 7/21:

  • Lead 5.10+ comfortably (sport)
  • Lead 5.6-5.7 trad comfortably
  • Send V4/V5 outside
  • ~31/100 days of climbing outside
  • ~42/300 lead climbs on real rock



El Penon de Ifac photo source: La Marina Plaza
Feature photo source: centralrockgym.com

Climbing Access Is Not a Given: Tim McGivern on Starting SNECC and the Importance of Participation

The VW Passat barreled along the Pike, a last leg surge depressing the pedal. Tim McGivern, lanky, a quick-talker and antsy was careening back to his childhood home with his wife Syrah, and all their belongings in tow.

He wasn’t sure what to expect, it had been a few years since he left for California. But that was no more.

Tim had been counting down the miles since the Pacific, and adding up the road signs along the way: 90. 95 North. 128. 114 East. Then the familiar struck him: salt-tinged air wafted in through the open windows.

Some things don’t change much in your absence. Or they do imperceptibly like mountains; rocks might slough off but the general shape remains. Others turn course dramatically, like the development in up-and-coming North Shore towns near the Atlantic.

When Tim left, The Promised Land was one of the largest concentrations of boulders north of Boston. 500 problems, a gem, and his hometown crag. Now it was a bunch of townhouses. The subdivisions sprawled out like a swollen river after the spring thaw, submerging and washing away a once pristine boulder field. A permanent landscape alteration.


“I was incensed,” Tim says upon learning about The Promised Land.

“It bugged me. A lot of local crags around here, on the Eastern side of [Massachusetts], they didn’t receive much attention for clean up and care. I saw a void before I left, but didn’t do anything then,” he says. 

When he returned, the need for climbing area stewardship in Southeast New England became clear.  

“Advocacy doesn’t just happen.”

– Tim McGivern


Historically, the crags in the urban 95 loop around Boston were seen as a training ground for bigger objectives elsewhere. They were nice to haves and weren’t given the same oversight as better known places in Western Mass. and New Hampshire. Home spots like Quincy Quarries became tarnished and tagged with graffiti or remained underdeveloped like Lynn Woods.

Tim saw that if climbers weren’t paying attention the land that housed their beloved boulders and cliffs could get sold, fenced off, and even destroyed. 

So he took a stand. He wasn’t going to let what happened to The Promised Land occur again.

Spray paint at Quincy Quarries. Photo source: snecc.org


The Southeast New England Climbers Coalition (SNECC) was started by Tim and Dave Twardowski in 2017 with the mission to “preserve climbing areas for present and future generations of climbers.”

The group has grown to include Shannon McFarland, Ryan Bouldin, Courtney Cutler, Pete Sancianco and Patrick Montague on the Board of Directors, along with an active membership.

They are working towards efforts from land protection (The Promised Land, Quincy Quarries), to access, (Bartholomew Pond), to awareness (Lynn Woods Boulder Bash, New Englands first outdoor bouldering competition), and a Regional Stewardship Plan in order to effect change on a larger scale.

“Advocacy doesn’t just happen,” Tim says. “The more I talk with climbers the more I realize they don’t understand this.”

Regional territory under SNECC’s purview. Photo source: snecc.org


With the rise in popularity of climbing and ever greater attendance at outdoor crags, stewardship is more important than ever.

According to the Access Fund, “1 in 5 climbing areas in the United States is threatened by an access issue—whether its private land lost to development, public land managers over-regulating climbing, or climber impacts degrading the environment.”

The challenge comes down to one basic tenet: Climbing requires rock, which is often on private land and easy to lose. 

Tim advocates that protection requires participation, in being custodians to the areas we frequent, and supporting efforts like SNECC who work at a municipal and regulatory level for long-term solutions. Without engagement climbers have no voice and beloved climbing areas can be inalterably changed, like at The Promised Land.

Results of a hard day at Quincy Quarries. Photo source: snecc.org


Want to get involved, become a member, or learn more?
Visit snecc.org