Gear Review: E9 Matar Urban Climbing Trousers

I fancy myself a bit of a fancy pants about climbing pants. 

Not to be braggadocious, but I own three pairs of climbing pants that I’m quite chuffed about: Boulder Denim 2.0 Jeans, Foehn Brise Performance Pants, and now a pair of E9 Matar “Urban Climbing Trousers,” which I picked up a few weeks ago.

‘Trousers’ you say? You are fancy!

Indeed, Madame, indeed.

According to my network, most people own a pair, rounding up in integers. That’s a 3:1 ratio. At this measure, that gives me 3x the depth of understanding of the average climbing pants owner. We’ll have to check the math, but the back of the napkin calculation seems to suggest I’m an expert in this domain.

Read on for my review of the stellar E9 Matar “Urban Climbing Trousers.” In my expert opinion. 


Overview

E9 knows bouldering. 

The company was founded in 1998 by Mauro Calibani, the first ever Bouldering World Champion (2001). Calibani was part of a bouldering renaissance in Italy, sinking his chops into an newly developed bouldering mecca, Meschia, in the Province of Ascoli Piceno (near the “calf” of the country). In 2003, he established what he suggested was a V16 in the area, Tonino ’78. 

He was so all-in that he moved to Ascoli Piceno (the city) to be closer to the spot (uhh, the bouldering).

Calibani describes the setting as a “mesmering forest [sic]”, while others compare it to “your backyard garden” (meant as a compliment, I think). Unfortunately, due to disputes with the landowner, the bouldering area was shut down around 2002, but it appears there’s a “new” Meschia where climber’s are welcome (in part because the landowner has an airbnb for rent).

Bouldering at Meschia. On an iPhone!


All of this to say, Calibani was inspired to create a brand that combined his eclectic personality with the inspiration impressed upon him by the sandstone rocks of Meschia. He didn’t want to go far for climbing or business; E9 is designed around a “zero km concept” which means the totality of the production cycle takes place within a few km of their headquarters in Ascoli Piceno. 

Alas, I bought my pair of pants in Querétaro, Mexico, so mine are part of their special “10,427 km production + transport concept” line.

Handmade in Italy. Photo courtesy of E9.


Performance

These are a little like the MC Hammer pants of the bouldering world. Which in short code means: They are awesome!

They are a bit baggy (through the crotch, thigh, leg) yet never get in the way. By comparison, the Boulder Denim jeans and the Foehn Brise pants tend to catch in the knee when I’m doing big high-steps / bringing my knees close to my chest, which, maybe it’s my peculiar style, but it happens fairly often. The flexibility (high-steppability?) is supported by a Wicked Big Gusseted Crotch, like so BIG I can’t even…

And double articulated knees. If this is the power of double-articulation, I can’t wait to see the performance, precision, and lubrication of Fusion5x articulation (looking at you Gillette).

E9 says the material is denim. I would say it’s denim-like. You can see how the weave of the fabric looks similar to jeans, but it’s a thinner textile, lighter, and much stretchier, comprised of 75% Cotton, 22% Polyester, 3% Elastane. That’s a lot of words to say they are stretchy.

Look at that gusset! #norestrictions. Photo by the author.


Fit and Look

They have a relaxed fit and sit naturally at the hip. The waist has a stretchy band, kind of like yoga pants, which makes it easy to readjust on the fly. Internally the waistband includes cords which attach at the rear, and which you can pull tight and tie if you need to keep things extra secure.

I wore these around the city, and they appear more bohemian than your average trouser. I like the look, but it’s very casual, whereas I can wear the Boulder Denim jeans with a button down shirt and head to the bar.

The orange (just past-prime pumpkin?) is distinct.

Sit at the hip, dip at the… crotch. Photo by the author.


Durability

The material is on the thinner side, but is standing up after about three weeks of climbing.

The Boulder Denim jeans can snag on sharp edges, which pulls threads. I haven’t encountered such an incursion into these pantalones yet, so the verdict is still out. The weave appears tighter than on the BD jeans or the Brise pants, which may help prevent snagging.


Uses

I’d mainly use these for bouldering since I tend to do more aggressive moves when compared to sport or trad climbing. I’m not sure how well they’d hold up to knee bars or general jamming since they don’t have extra layers on high-wear areas.

Bunched, scrunched or straight out, they are all good. Photo by the author.


Features

  • 4-way stretch fabric
  • Breathable: Allows airflow in 60s-70s F, and warm enough down to 40s. I wouldn’t want to wear them in temps much higher
  • Adjustable cuffs
  • Double-articulated knees
  • Stretchy waist
  • Fabric: 75% Cotton, 22% Polyester, 3% Elastane


Recommended?

Hell yeah!

I really like E9’s quirky aesthetic, and I’m pleasantly satisfied with the quality of the product. It’s clear these have been designed with intention and simplicity in mind.

Bicolor and bold. Photo courtesy of E9.


To learn more about the company or to order your own pair, visit shope9.com.

Working Remotely or Remotely Working: Lessons Learned From a Work Week at a Climber's Hostel

The moon shines brightest at 4am. 

It had been slinking across the night sky—naturally—but something about the fourth hour causes it to sink into a puncture in the celestial curtain. And just sit there. 

The porcelain plate grows brighter, perhaps by fear, as if it’s hanging on by fingernails and knows it’s about to tumble through. The light is immense and the landscape is aglow—like a Murakami pixie dream, everything just twinkling—which means the hat pulled over my eyes simply doesn’t cut it. 

Cut to: Tossing. Sleeping bag tightening. Bivvy flap scratching. Under-breath cursing.

Such as it was each night of the past week.


Chichidho, a climber’s hostel behind La Peña de Bernal, was my home for the last seven days. It was a test to see if mixing work and play was doable, and if so, to what extent. 

Office space. Photo by the author.


Then the moon came. All bright enough to walk along at night without an extra light. That glow illuminated something else too: Ah, it reminded me that it was like this a month ago! 

When I first arrived. 

Funny enough, the dates change, time passes, but the cycle of the moon remains. It’s almost like you can live parallel lives by attaching new memories to a prominent environmental fixture that only occurs every 30 days: There are visits to Chichidho during full moons and without, no in betweens…

But I guess we’ll have to see if the rhythm continues next month too. 

(Umm, what about the subject of the article, though?)

Oh yea, this is a blog post about working for a week at a climber’s hostel. So how did it go?

Lessons learned from working remotely at a climber’s hostel

1) There was a break in period

Life in Querétaro has been routine, mostly by design. So far, I’ve been trying to keep a regular schedule, circulate among the same cafes, and generally maintain consistency (for the sake of efficiency!). The emphasis is on work, with weekends reserved for climbing.

I didn’t realize how much a change in environment would alter things. In a city, coffee shops open at specific times, stores are around every corner, and things like weather are mitigated to some extent.

No ergonomic swivel chairs here. Photo by the author.


At Chichidho I had to learn a whole new pattern, largely based around the sun, such as:

The big light doesn’t peek over the mountain until 9am (which means it’s cold(er) up to that point); paying attention to the position of the sun during the day as it dictates when and where to go for climbing breaks (and even where you can sit while working); and making sure to charge your laptop and phone before nightfall as the hostel’s solar-powered batteries tend to run low by the end of the day, which precipitates an annoying screech from some sort of electric-thingamajig which I would have liked to minimize as much as possible (to no avail).

You were basing your day around the solar scoundrel up above? How primitive!

Also, the daily ritual of showering for public presentation? Meh.

Takeaway: How does your environment shape your schedule?


2) I was much more vigilant of my mental state and energy levels

In the city, the only real focus is on the tasks that need to get done that day. I find I’m more prone to power through the work even if feeling less than inclined. There’s something about having the intention of “this is a work day” that keeps me “on track” according to more traditional 9-5 hours. This also tends to leave me feeling more drained come nightfall, like you’re “fighting through” to get the job done in a certain time frame.

At Chichidho, projects were still set each day, but the schedule was more variable. Maybe I would start work at 9am then take a break at 2pm to climb with Nathan (a fellow working guest). Maybe I wasn’t feeling it, and instead climb until Noon before starting work. Plus all sorts of other permutations.

We break for “Queso” not coffee. Photo by the author.


Interestingly (probably only to me), I got the same (if not more) work done each day. However, it was spread out and aligned with what felt to be natural “productive periods” (where it didn’t feel like having to overcome inertia: around 10am-2pm, 4-6pm, 8-10pm). I rarely felt depleted come sleepy time. 

With that said, I felt very unmotivated to do work today, so there’s something to just sitting down and doing it.

Takeaway: When do you feel most productive? Depleted?


3) The stoke for climbing was more even keel

Maybe the adage, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” applies here. 

When I can only climb outside for two days a week, I really look forward to those days. When the weekend comes, climbing is the only focus and the sessions are long.

But, when climbing is all around there is no longer a feeling of scarcity. We’d climb almost everyday but for shorter sessions, and that seemed to give me my fill.

It’s as if during a week in the city, the reservoirs run low and I need a full weekend of climbing to top it up. But at Chichidho, I only used a little gas each day, so the smaller sessions were enough. 

Takeaway: How do you recharge?


What about you? Have you worked while on climbing trips, or for extended stays at a climber’s hostel? How did it go for you? Any tips or lessons learned?

Share in the comments below!


Enjoy this post? Subscribe to receive more content like this each week!

Join 1,701 other followers

Analytic Bouldering in Bernal: Route-Reading and Project Progression

Since coming to Mexico, I’ve spent most weekends bouldering around the hostel and campground, Chichidho, in the town of Bernal.

There have been several projects that have caught the apple of my eye, including Naranja Mecánica, V6 (sent!), Tendón de Aquiles, V7 (WIP), and Psicosomático, V6, a tricky bastard, and the subject of this week’s video.

Speaking of which, this one is analytical in nature. The aim is to breakdown the problem (Psicosomático) in order to better understand the process of projecting, figure out the movements, and to improve my ability to read routes before I hop on them.

Special shoutout to Mani The Monkey whose analytical videos were an inspiration for what you’re about to watch.

Waiting for Amealco: My First Video!

Welp, one of my goals for 2020 was to start blogging. Wait. That was last year.

I meant, vlogging!

“V” as in video-blogging. Vide-logging. Vlogging.

Uhh, here you go…

Projecting into the Unknown: Sending My First V6

A few weeks ago I started projecting boulders outside. That means choosing one particular line on a boulder and working out the moves over several sessions (days). It’s a similar idea to practicing “YYZ” on Guitar Hero II until you nail it, or training for a half-marathon.

It’s a process, one that takes time to figure out the intricacies and/ or to build up the strength needed to climb the line. A project should be something a bit beyond your current abilities.

So far in climbing, it’s not something I’ve tried. Rather, a typical day at the crag would consist of jumping on a bunch of routes, and maybe re-trying one I’ve done before. I’ve rarely gone back to the same route, or wall or boulder over the past year.

Because I had only been attempting V4 and V5 boulder problems, grades I could reasonably get in one session, I firmly believed that was my level. I was “a V4/V5 boulderer.” I’d jump on an occasional V6 or V7 at the end of a session, make some progress, but never return.

After seeing a friend send a 5.12 sport route that he had worked over seven sessions, I wondered, “What could I send if I gave it seven days?”

So, three weeks ago I started going to Pawtuckaway with the intention of projecting V6 boulder problems. Specifically, Ride the Lightning, Terrorist, and Bulletproof.

A curious thing happened:

  1. I wasn’t sending them in one session.
  2. I was making progress each session.
  3. I felt like I belonged.

Reiterating point one, I didn’t send any that first day, but I was able to work many of the moves. I thought I might be able to get them the next week, when I was fresh.

V6 #2: Bulletproof. Photo by the author.


Turns out, that’s true. In week 2 I sent Terrorist (my first V6!) and in week 3 I sent Bulletproof (my second V6!).

I got me wondering: What might I be able to accomplish if it did take a full seven sessions?

A V7 or V8? Hell, there’s a V9 I’ve been eyeing at that looks doable. That’s way beyond what I would have considered for myself just four weeks ago.

From a different angle, have I been arbitrarily holding myself back because I didn’t think to work harder problems? Without consideration, I was constraining myself. Perhaps subconsciously I even thought these grades were “beyond me.”

In some sense, I don’t know what the boundaries are or what my limit is. This matters because growth happens at the edge. Food for thought as I continue my own climbing career.

Considering the bigger picture: What could you accomplish if you actually started projecting something at your limit?

You’ll probably be surprised.

The Enchanting Guide: Luke Buxton on Gibralter and the Magic of Climbing

Luke Buxton believes in magic. Or he at least looks for the enchanting in the everyday.

“I’m a bit of a romantic,” he says, describing the heart-twitch-awe which climbing evokes for him. “It’s the joy of intimacy you get to have with a beautiful natural element.”

Whether it’s the boulder strewn and timeworn coastline of Nova Scotia or the thundering Roc nest towers of Canmore, the natural world casts a spellbinding connection for Luke. 

The Skeena River. Photo credit: Sam Beebe

Perhaps it started in his childhood. He grew up in the Skeena Valley, surrounded by the coastal mountains of Terrace, British Columbia. Maybe it was learned; he was a deep observer who drew and created obsessively all throughout his childhood. For sure, the mythical aesthetic has been further cultivated through climbing.

“Yosemite feels like it could easily be the home of ancient Forest Giants and Squamish’s Grand Wall is so lush and beautiful you sense a Faerie Sprite under every fern patch and mushroom,” he encourages.

Luke eventually made his way to Halifax, Nova Scotia to pursue an education and career in animation. (He’s an accomplished art director, animator, and production designer, who has worked on short films for the likes of Willow and Jayden Smith, and nationally syndicated television shows). During his 12 years in the maritime province, he became involved in developing local crags, and eventually was put onto Gibralter, one of the many untapped expanses. 

“Jungle Falls.” Photo courtesy of Luke Buxton


“It’s a pretty forested area with easy public access,” he shares. “My roommate [Mark Maas] and I were inspired to put in long days developing new climbs.”

They had fun, crafted worthy lines, and wanted a way to share their uncovered treasure with the climbing community. So Luke decided to make a guidebook, with his own mystical twist, of course. 

I chatted with Luke to learn a bit more about the inspiration for the guide, and how he came to see the world through Tolkien-colored specs.



Aaron: What brought you to Nova Scotia?

Luke Buxton: I was raised in Terrace BC, and currently live in Vancouver, but Halifax formed a fairly large chunk of my life through my twenties. I was 22 at the time (I’m 37 now) and was living in a VW camper van with my cat traveling and climbing throughout Canada. 

Luke’s workspace. Photo courtesy of Luke Buxton

I worked odd jobs as I went and sold paintings. I had heard of the glacial erratic bouldering in the East Coast and Halifax seemed like a fun spot to stop for a while and find work as I knew there would be lots of people my age due to it having so many Colleges/Universities. I obviously had no clue it would suck me in for 12 years, or that I would find my career path and meet my wife there.    

How did you get involved with the local climbing scene? 

As I’m a bit older, I learned like most from my generation: outside and through a friend.  I followed him up a multi-pitch trad climb on my first introduction and fell in love with the intricacy and challenge of bouldering a short time later. 

I did a climbing trip in Europe with him which included helping a small crew develop some boulders in the Italian Alps, and then more climbing trips throughout the States cemented it as a personal passion I would keep for life. 

By the time I reached Halifax I was hungry to meet local developers and experience the unique granite. Halifax had at the time a fairly small but strong and passionate community of climbers so it didn’t take long to make friends and be a part of the scene.  

What does climbing mean to you?

Like many who are obsessed with climbing, it encompasses many things to me such as community, physical/mental fitness, and personal growth. If I was to narrow down one thing that makes climbing special to me it’s the joy of intimacy you get to have with a beautiful natural element. Taking a hike is one thing, but analyzing, scrubbing and being so aware of every crystal on a large stone in a forest is truly unique to climbing. 

When my cheek is brushing up against a warm stone on a delicate slab climb I feel the happiest I can possibly feel.   

What is the Gibralter guide?  

Some of the local developers had directed me towards Gibralter as one of the better untapped areas with plenty of potential for new climbs if you were willing to put in some heavy lifting scrubbing the rocks.  It’s a pretty forested area with easy public access and my roommate and I were inspired to put in long days developing new climbs and sharing them with our friends and the bouldering community. 

The Maasy Boulder. Photo source: Cnsmobeta.ca


Making a guide was the easiest way to share our year+ of development with everyone and I was excited to put something creative and fun together. My roommate and close friend Mark Maas put many hours excitedly scrubbing and exploring Gibralter with me and I even named the first boulder we scrubbed together after him (the Maasy boulder). 

Years later (2 years ago now) he lost his life to depression and accumulating chronic injuries that were robbing him of his ability to do the things he loved. Gibralter holds an even more special place in my heart now as a sort of memorial place, a space he loved and cherished. He is dearly missed by many. 

Map of Gibralter. Photo courtesy of Luke Buxton


Why imbue the guide with magical storytelling?

Being in the animation industry (I design the worlds in cartoons) definitely had a big impact on how I approached the guide. I don’t think I ever really thought it through so much as it just naturally became whimsical and was influenced by my creative influences. 

I wanted the map to feel like the map at the beginning of a Tolkien fantasy novel or something similar because when we explored those woods we felt that way; adventurers seeking out treasures buried under moss. Now looking at it I think it’s pretty amateur in delivery, but I’d like to think it has retained some charm.   

Was there any overlap between magic and climbing for you, before the guidebook?   

Sure, I think I interpret many aspects of my life with a rather fantastical or whimsical slant; I’m a bit of a romantic. 

I guess I always approached climbing with some element of child-like wonder. It’s pretty easy to do when the places that climbing takes you are often so magical and surreal to begin with; Yosemite feels like it could easily be the home of ancient Forest Giants and Squamish grand wall is so lush and beautiful you sense a Faerie Sprite under every fern patch and mushroom.  


How did the land itself play into the design of the guide?  

The forest in Gibralter feels more like the BC rainforests I was used to climbing in at home, in contrast to the rugged Atlantic coast where most of the bouldering had already been covered. It felt natural to give it that whimsical forest-fantasy look.   

Was there any outcome for the guidebook you were hoping for? 

Not really, I knew it would just be something shared among locals and friends.  It was a fun project on the side with no big expectations.  

Anything else you’d like to add? 

If anyone reading this can make an effort to visit Nova Scotia, they should! 

Go sample the amazing granite and super friendly and perpetually psyched community there. It really is a little known gem in North America.  

A year after Gibralter guide was released I wrote one for local developer Rich Lapaix’s “Jessie’s Diner” area (neighboring to Gibralter). Around that time the useful local digital guide, MoBeta, was in full swing and I felt it was less relevant to finish off my PDF guide and never got around to wrapping it up before we moved back out West. 

I’ve been approached by enough people in the community who want to see it that I decided to retroactively finish/fix it and release it to the community. It was done in the same style as Gibralter and acts in a sense as a Part 2 of Musquodobit bouldering

At the least, it can serve as an accurate historic documentation of the names and lines developed by Rich and a handful of others who paved the way for the growing climbing community of Nova Scotia.



You can see more of Luke’s work at his online portfolio, lukeandrewbuxton.com.

You can download the Gibralter guide from the Cnsmobeta library.

Feature image courtesy of Luke Buxton.

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.