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?
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
The following is pulled from the Boulder Denim website:
The sweat was mounting on Ryan Wichelns’ brow. His breath was labored, his hands tiring, his vision narrowed. Like his summit push to Mt. Brooks in Denali National Park in whiteout conditions, what lay ahead was unknown.
He talks calmly about it now, but he probably gulped a few times before sending. It being an email to the editors of Backpacker Magazine containing his first ever story pitch. He says he dashed the submission off for fun, an inconsequential story idea that he didn’t expect much of.
As happens with unexpected pursuits, that throwaway email changed the direction of his life.
I don’t buy his telling though. Ryan seems like the kind of meticulous person that would carefully analyze each word to make it sound just right; that plans week-long excursions to Alaska to undertake a “technical first that links five peaks in a remote part of Denali National Park.” He strikes me as a planner with an affinity for spreadsheets.
Either way, as with many of his climbs, he’d end up scaling this new trajectory with quick progression: He’s the editor of Eastern Mountain Sport’s goEast blog, has written for Outside Magazine, Backpacker, and Alpinist, and he’s fully supported himself through writing for over a year.
That’s not a normal course for a young freelancer.
It started with a trip to Arcadia… Rhode Island.
“Arcadia is probably the only place you can backpack in the state,” he chuckles. Rhode Island being all of 37 miles wide by 48 miles long.
Backpacker bit. Ryan was now a writer.
“It taught me a valuable lesson, that you should focus on a niche. Certainly, not a lot of people were writing about obscure trips in RI.” His idea stood out and they took a chance on him.
One small trip, one small act, one big life-altering outcome.
Ryan is at the dawn of his writing career but is already one of the rare species to make a full-time living off it.
As my editor at goEast, I was curious to learn more about his own path, and to see what advice I may be able to glean from someone a few years ahead of me on this journey. In our call he shared some tips for breaking into freelance writing.
Advice on How to Become a Freelance Writer
Find a niche:
“This might be the most important thing,” Ryan declares. “There’s a lot of competition and it’s not easy to dive in if you’re pitching yourself as just another writer,” he says.
Anyone can be just another writer. What makes you stand out? What can you write about better than most others? What special angle can you provide? Find your expertise and make yourself valuable with it.
A niche can often be identified by thinking creatively. Start by considering what you already possess, such as local knowledge (which tends to be overlooked), a combination of distinct perspectives (maybe via your upbringing or education), or a particular interest you have.
“For me, it was somewhat accidental and somewhat forced. My niche was in the Northeast. Backpacker didn’t have a ton of people writing about that, but they needed the content,” Ryan offers.
Know the publication you’re pitching to: You need to understand the publication in order to appeal to the editor.
How does the story you want to pitch fit into what they publish? What is the format or structure of their stories? Are there any gaps in their content? Familiarize yourself with their articles, try to understand the reader, and think like an editor.
Write about what interests you: Ryan studied journalism in college and was the editor of the school paper, yet it wasn’t until he started writing for Backpacker that he saw a future in the pursuit: “The thing is, I never enjoyed writing all through high school… and while it was rewarding to work on an investigative piece [at university], I had more fun writing about the outdoors,” he shares.
Now when he considers potential articles, he evaluates whether it is interesting to him personally. If he’s excited by an idea, it will likely come through in the pitch and the piece.
Relationships matter: “My first editor at Backpacker took a chance on me. I give her credit for a lot of my success,” Ryan says from the onset.
“After awhile she was giving me assignments, put me up for a job with the [Outdoor Retailer (OR)] Daily. She recommended me for all sorts of press trips.”
The relationship they developed, the trust, and Ryan’s ability to deliver led to an abundance of future opportunities.
Network. Or, go where the people are: In a digital world, face time (not the app) matters.
“Going to OR and working for the Daily was the best thing I did for my outdoor industry freelance career,” Ryan notes.
Outdoor Retailer is a beacon for the industry in the U.S., attracting gear companies, athletes, media, and others involved in the space. As a reporter for the daily paper that runs during the duration of the show, Ryan was able to meet editors and writers at other publications, gain leads for stories or pick up products to test, and receive invitations for press trips.
Pitching: The bread and butter of getting in the door of a publication is the pitch, an “elevator style” presentation of a story idea with the hopes that it intrigues an editor.
The aim for a first story is just that, get a story. Any story. Ryan suggests pitching something more formulaic, such as a a round up or a short interview—in a magazine, look to the beginning sections (often known as the “Departments”) and shy away from pitching a feature.
From an editor’s perspective, it’s easier to take a chance on a new writer with something simple. It’s uncommon for editors to accept a big feature idea from a new writer without a demonstrated history.
“Once I see someone can do [a simpler piece], it becomes far easier to take the reigns off and let them do something more from their own judgement,” Ryan shares. After you have established a relationship with the editor, try pitching a slightly larger idea, then build from there.
I’ve found Tim Neville’s, The Art of Travel Writing ebook from World Nomads, to be a wonderfully helpful beginner guide that features a detailed “how to pitch” section.
A long and bumpy road: Of course, a word of caution: This path takes time.
From most accounts I’ve read, years of dedication are required before freelance writers are able to fully support themselves from writing alone. Often this path begins as a part-time thing, they have savings, or there is a very supportive spouse.
But if you can make it work, you can achieve creative flexibility, get paid to go on trips, and work from wherever you have internet access (at least intermittently).
Ryan has earned his career, step by step, much like his increasingly technical climbs after years of training.
And where one person goes, another is likely to follow; seeing an example acts like a green light for others. If you are pursuing a freelance writing career, or thinking about it, good luck–and consider doing what Ryan did, just keep moving forward.
You can learn more about Ryan Wichelns and read his work at ryanclimbs.com.
Feature photo of Ryan on Mount Rainier, from his website.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking with new eyes.” -Marcel Proust*
The phone rang and went to voicemail. Our scheduled mindset consultation never got off the ground.
I wondered if something had come up, or she forgot. Maybe I’d gotten the date wrong. The thought flashed: Perhaps I’m just a low priority because of the nature of the call?
Dr. Christina “Chris” Heilman is a sports psychologist of the pros, having coached climbers such as Sam Elias, Joe Kinder, and Dan Mirsky. In nearly 20 years she’s worked with clients from olympic athletes to weekend warriors, and I was here for a free 20-minute consultation and angling to write a story, because… Well why not?
Chris had agreed to play along.
I dashed off an email and was surprised a few hours later with the reply, “I have us down for 11am MST…which is in 10-min. Are you available to chat?”
My grave mistake.Wyoming is two hours behind, my timezones had been twisted. The reaction I had says most of what you need to know. Maybe this call with a mindset coach would be helpful after all.
At 11am (MST), Chris and I saddled up on a call for what I was hoping would be part Gonzo journalism and part let’s-learn-about-me session.
“Hello! Good morning!,” a delighted effluence shot through the muffs of the headset.
“How are you? You’re based in Boston? Have you always lived there? Tell me about this call, you found something about this interesting, what was it that was interesting to you?,” she opened with a flurry.
I bandied back with a peppering of, “Are you originally from Kentucky? Your accent sounds like… How’s the climbing out there? Let’s talk about me.”
The plan was to act like a prospective client, to report on the experience, and find out what I could selfishly glean about how to improve my mindset in order to become a world-class climber—all within 30 minutes.
This quickly bowed to an infinitely more interesting subject, Chris.
So it goes.
Chris: The Mindset Coach
In high school, Chris’ world fell apart. She would have to rebuild, but how? She wasn’t sure she had the tools.
Chris was a competitive athlete when an injury derailed her strong body revealing a mind intrinsically linked to her self-definition of being physically fit. Without athletics what was she? Who was she?
As she recovered, she wanted to go beyond a return to a previous state, she wanted to be stronger. Through the process she realized a desire to help others become stronger as well. She would pursue athletic training as a career.
At South Dakota State University she found history rhymes when the athletes she was helping to rehabilitate became unraveled by injury. “They didn’t have the coping mechanisms,” Chris notes with a sorrowful tone.
It wasn’t a fundamentally physical issue.
“Everyone works on the physical,” she says. This arena of well-being is the most tangible and offers immediate feedback, “but we really need to look at your wellness as a whole, the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.”
The athletes weren’t getting the support they needed in these other arenas. She quickly learned that her gift wasn’t about physical recuperation, her talent lay in meeting the athletes where they were and helping them to return to the field of play mentally.
Chris would go on to receive a PhD in Sport and Exercise Psychology from the University of Utah then headed up to the Tetons with a husband, a gig in ski patrol, and the launch of a new psychology practice. Mindset was born.
What I Learned
1) Our brain doesn’t care about winning or doing exciting things, it cares about keeping you safe.
I can be a worrywart, which is not exactly revelatory, but it has been topical and principal of late. A friend had pointed out that I was spending a lot of time and energy on, let’s say non-life threatening decisions, exasperated by a ring-around-the-rosie repetition.
Chris pointed out that while fear and self-doubt are normal, we have to evaluate these responses against real world potential dangers. By considering the threats and pitfalls we can decide whether our responses is appropriately commensurate.
Worry is instinctual. If we don’t evaluate the worry we can be can be ruled by it.
2) Self-understanding is the real aim. Peak performance emanates from that. Outside appearances don’t often tell the full story. Chris talked about how the initial problem that clients come with ends up being but a trojan horse.
“I want to be able to focus better while climbing” may unwrap performance anxiety which might stem from unnamed expectations from another.
Identifying our fears, anxieties and challenges allows you to at least be aware of what you are experiencing, and possibly to work on them. Often we feel discomfort and fear when looking into “darker” recesses of ourselves, so having a trusted guide can help us even approach our deeper selves.
3) How do you get out of your own way?
The meat of the practice is self-awareness, which makes the potatoes the pathway towards improvement. Generally, the reaction towards change is inertia, or “I can’t do that,” which is a habituated train of thought.
Chris encourages taking action immediately by pursuing the simplest, easiest, and most concrete step you can do today. The purpose is to build momentum and train your mind to develop self-efficacy.
You are working to move to and beyond your edge, which implicitly means you are expanding your range of what’s possible. That is growth.
In the end I found Chris’ bubbly personality, constant swearing, and straight-shooter truthfulness refreshing. Of course, you cannot distill years of rapport, mutual understanding, and learnings into 30 minutes with someone you’ve never met before, but the call was helpful nonetheless (thanks for playing along, Chris!).
You can learn more about Chris by visiting her website, Mindset-Coach, or you can listen to her two interviews with Neely Quinn on The Training Beta podcast (episode 1, episode 2).
*Paraphrased from: “The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is.” – Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past
The lens cap wouldn’t go back on. I was fumbling by the greyscale schist, turning ‘round the plastic piece like a steering wheel.
“Uhh, what the fuck,” I mumbled, confusedly, to myself. The circular pissant had started on the lens, I was sure of that, those two pinchy prongs, when squeezed, clearly released the cover from the concave portal. Then why won’t it go back in? I tried jamming it, clomp, clomp, clack, into the hole.
Turns out the camera needed to be powered off in order for the lens to recede and the cap to fit in place.
“Ah, just first day blunders, it’ll all be easy sailing from here!,” I reassured myself.
I was recently commissioned to write about climbing at Rumney in New Hampshire, for—humbly—what is my first paid article, inreal dollars… potentially… because the check hasn’t been cut yet.
In order to complete the research and take photographs for the piece, I spent a few days on location. This article is about lessons learned, and mostly the mishaps, from my first climbing trip “on assignment.”
Rumney is the mecca of sport climbing in New England, a destination crag for rock scalers within a 5-hour drive radius. Québécoise? Sure thing. New Yorkers? No problem. Bostononians? Of course.
On good weather weekends the parking lots are stacked before the first Regular cup of Dunks and “crawlah” has been washed down by BPD.
Luckily, weekdays see lighter attendance, and less people to witness my flailing with the flagellating camera around my neck.
Lesson 1: Know How Your Equipment Works
No amount of editing was going to fix the blurred images.
Sitting at home the photo previewer showed one out of focus shot after another: A close up of rock here, faded climber in the background there; Censored cliff and a verdant tree wearing a liberal application of green blush; Oh this shot of my boot and dirt is crystal!
Eventually I figured out the settings and how to target the focus. I also learned plenty of settings not to use!
Lesson 2: Get off the Ground
The most interesting shots were ones from non-traditional vantage points, like “soloing” a slab slate to grab some setting sun or tying in to a first bolt on an adjacent route in order to capture a climber up close.
The difficulty in framing climbing shots, aside from knowing how to use the camera, came down to not losing the climber in the frame. A fellow photographer I met there remarked on how easy it is for the climber to get lost, whether from the scale of the wall, the muted colors they are wearing, or from poor lighting. Getting closer and properly structuring the shot made a world of difference.
Lesson 3: Plan out the Shoot and Know What You Want to Capture
The next day my thighs felt leaden. I haven’t done much hiking lately, but in reality I scaled a few thousand feet of vertical over those days, often on steep inclines heading up and down to the different cliffs along Rattlesnake Mountain. Some areas are more than half an hour from the parking lot.
Simply traveling to each locale took a few hours of the day, and time away from photographing.
At the wall, climbers can take a surprising amount of time “hanging out” on the cliff waiting for their next burn. While I took a few of these convalescent frames, they weren’t the epitome of an action shot. Add up travel time, stop and wheeze time, photographing (waiting around) and this became an all day excursion.
I planned the types of shots I needed—action shots, lifestyle, and ambiance—and I knew generally the order with which I would go to each location. This helped keep me on target and set a route for the day.
Lesson 4: Pretend to Be Friendly and Nice so People Talk to You and Let You Take Photos of Them
Photos of big hunks of rock can be quite boring, lack scale, and generally leave one uninspired if you don’t showcase people demonstrating what’s possible (on them).
So, I had to try talking to people *groans* to see if I could photograph them while they did interesting things on these big hunks of rock. In the end this was less awkward than sitting there taking pictures and leaving without a word.
Lesson 5: Don’t Listen to Someone When They Say Not to Pay for Parking
This one is self-explanatory. Support the local park.
Lesson 6: Shooting Is One Half the Battle, Editing Makes a World of Difference
Do you need to amplify the purple longsleeve of the climber to make her pop out against the wall? Coming right up, alongside the bleaching backlighting!
The editing process, thanks to a free online program, was instructive and useful. Turns out you can do quite a bit to manipulate a pic, from tinting people’s skin color to look like the Hulk to sandpapering away all the details to leave an image akin to squinting your eyes.
On the other hand, editing made too dark pictures turn out vibrantly, and things like cropping or manipulating contrast did wonders for highlighting the subject of the image.
Lesson 7: Beats Working in a Coffee Shop, or Library, or at Home
The main challenge was wanting to climb more, which is really a difficulty I have most days.
It was only due to my herculean grit and vast reservoirs of restraint that I was able to complete the assignment relatively on time. And with that, my first paid piece and on assignment trip are officially in the books with maybe a check in the mail as my reward.
In the end, it was fun, and it was work, and I’d like to do more of it.
“The most valuable thoughts which I entertain are anything but what I thought. Nature abhors a vacuum, and if I can only walk with sufficient carelessness I am sure to be filled.”
“You’re gonna fall…”
“You’re 31, what are you going to…”
Breathe. “She’s probably out enj…”
Fuck. “Kids??… Plans?… Your leg is shaking.”
Breathe in. Out. Stop thinking. Forearms pumped, bad hold. Right leg is jack hammering away on a small ledge.
“God damn it. Why is the crack wet? You’re going to fall…”
I throw the cam in. The placement is good enough and I grab for the leash, desperately, feeling weak-willed.
“Fuck!,” I screech, pissed at myself. The roar ricochets off the cliff walls and surprises me with its pitch. The singular growl is the first audible thing I’ve heard other than my heavy breathing and what sounded like sharp clattering about, a smashing of kitchen pots and pans, in my head.
This mental turn-around-whirling-this-way-and-that which creeps up on you and can overrun the thought train—is gnarly.
Some days I have my head on, fine tuned, ready to cope. This mostly looks like steady breathing and a present attentiveness. On other days it gets away from me and doubts from life seep into a domain they have no place being.
Yet, lately I think about leading sport and am met by a gut curling, that twisting up of intestines like the lead in to a break up or the pre-fessing to of a lie; Some Poltergeist worm niggling about in your pit eating it’s way to coring you out (that movie freaked the hell out of me when I was a kid).
It’s a bad association perhaps—like how I can’t do vodka—and I think it’s tied to the last time I did a lot of the sport in Turkey. The juju ain’t good.
There’s all these emotions wrapped up into the discipline that was our catalyst for the trip. Those days spent on a wall, our time buttressed by discomfort. It all seeped together like water coloring on too much wet; bleeding.
I guess what surprises me most is how visceral the aversion is, how much angst is there.
As a comparison: With writing, for example, I may avoid the work, brimming with inertia as I am, like a hook in my stomach weighted to the bottom of the sea. But when I sit down the anxiety doesn’t amplify, it actually recedes; I’m hauling the anchor up. It feels good, it’s fun.
When sport climbing it seems the discomfort can only be managed. I find myself being pushed into the disquiet more often than not, with the consolation being a reprieve from anxiety more than satisfaction of movement or achievement. Where’s the flow? Where’s the fun?
I know it’s not all memory-laden, there’s a fear of falling and the simple need for more experience; There are expectations.
Such as it is, something to explore. Something to give space to, something to let play out.
And as Thoreau says, maybe I’m being all too careFULL about it.
In 2015, Stanislav “Stas” Kleshnov took his place on the podium, waved to the crowd, and walked away from competition climbing as the Ukrainian champion.
For 25 years, this had been his life. The competitive spirit is marked in his sharp-features and stern look, which cracks with an occasional smirk or glint in his eye. His determined expression offers clues of the hard work it took to rise from the 10 year old kid who was inspired the first time he saw the limestone cliffs over the Black Sea.
He knew then the sport was his escape from a life of mining or metallurgy, the likely paths for those from Donetsk.
Climbing offered a way to see Europe after the dissolution of the USSR, and it exposed him to the training resources and gyms in other countries. For years Ukraine had a strong showing in international competition, from Olga Shalagina (1st, boulder), Olena Ryepko (1st, speed), and Maksym Styenkovyy (2nd place, speed), claiming medals as World Champions in 2005 to multiple podium placements across the three disciplines (speed, boulder, lead) through the early 2010s. Danyil Boldyrev remains one of the best in speed, but the country has seen its position passed in the other disciplines by the likes of Japan, Slovenia, China, and others.
In the end, Stas was proud of the national team’s accomplishments, but disappointed in the state of things and where they were headed.
“The government just hasn’t invested in the sport like other countries. They didn’t build any modern gyms. They thought professional sportsmen would grow up in the private sector [at commercial gyms], but those gyms [here] aren’t designed for that. Ukraine is falling behind,” Stas demurs.
When he decided to hang up his boots, he wanted to leave a legacy beyond his medals. He used what he learned from international competition to open the country’s most modern climbing gym, The Wall, in Lviv, and to welcome others into the sport.
Stas says, “Before the modern gyms, you could only start climbing in a sports institute or in school. There was no other way: Only children’s school or a sports school. We make climbing more open.”
The Wall is taking an innovative approach borne out of necessity, some luck, and a rise in accessibility to the sport, such as climbing gear being more easily available and rising wages.
Stas flashed a smile and greeted me in English, a language he hadn’t had to use in months.
“Добрий день (dobryj den, ‘hello’),” I offered, and he showed me around the gym.
Tucked into the side of an office building, The Wall offers a unique model that is perfectly suited for the small, but growing climbing community in Lviv. At 210 sq. meters (689 sq. ft.), it is tiny by conventional standards, but it suggests a viable “micro” gym for corporate and residential buildings as climbing continues to increase in popularity.
In Lviv, this size works just fine given the cost constraints (rent can be as expensive as in Germany), shifting cultural acceptance around paying for sport, and the gradual but developing interest in climbing in Ukraine. Still, The Wall welcomed over 1,200 unique climbers last year, most of whom tried the sport for the first time.
The gym itself is bathed in light with floor to ceiling windows on three sides. The place is cozy without feeling cramped, and amazingly, it packs in over 50 routes up to 14 meters high. Given the strength of the instructors (many have competed on the national team), the setting is high quality, catering to the moderate range. There is a bouldering area with plenty of features to keep it interesting, and a workout space that doubles as a yoga room.
I spent August, 2018 in Lviv and this was my first dedicated time to top-roping. The instructors were personable and friendly, and were quick to offer encouragement in the form of yelling “давай-давай (davai davai, something like ‘let’s go!’)” at me.
It was a fantastic place to learn the ropes.
Yoga, hang boards, plyometric boxes, personal instruction, instructors who will happily belay you, changing room.
About Lviv: Lviv is a fascinating city with a long and complicated history. It is on the western edge of Ukraine and is one of the cultural centers of the country. There is beautiful architecture from the Hapsburg days, vast parks throughout the city, and a lively tourist scene with many restaurants and bars.
Ya, ya. We all know about Fountainbleau, Frankenjura, RRG and the likes, but there are plenty of climbing areas that have a ton to offer without the hype and the crowds.
This here (hear ye, hear ye!) is a call to celebrate the lesser knowns, the under the radars, and the off the beaten tracks. They may be smaller, recently opened, just being developed, or harder to navigate (read: Adventurous!).
For the lucky few, these may be home crags, like Thacher State Park sitting 20 minutes from Albany; Or require a bit of self-reliance, like the bring all your food and potable water destination of Dover Island; Or even serious daring spirit to visit the unheralded yet prodigious country of Montenegro.
To round up this list, I called on a little help from my friends, from fellow bloggers to kind folks on Mountain Project. Read on for 10 destinations you probably haven’t heard of, but will be grateful for next time you’re looking at something under the radar.
Climbing type: Sport
Josh Cook puts up routes and bolts the Balkans to this list:
“What if I were to tell you that there is a European climbing area that overlooks a UNESCO World Heritage site, has tufa-filled limestone, boasts routes from 5.8 to 5.14, is well-bolted, only a ten minute walk from the Old Town tourist center, and never has anyone there?
‘Lies!’, you’d say.
Welcome to Montenegro.
Škaljari is a crag I recently bolted and, in the two years that I have been climbing there, I have seen a total of fifteen other climbers—most are ones I brought myself.
Too good to be true? Well, there is one con: a local paranoid schizophrenic thinks climbers (i.e., me and my climbing partner) are killing the goats that sometimes are up at the crag. So he blocks the trail with trash and yells at us occasionally for going up there. Also, you need to come with a climbing partner; there are almost no climbers in this country, so you won’t randomly find someone to belay you.
But glorious are the days climbing that limestone and looking out over Kotor Bay. Well worth a stop on your Balkan tour.”
Opened in 2017, this is the newest sport climbing area in the Northeast, and only the third NY State Forest to allow climbing (Minnewaska and Harriman being the others).
Located 20 minutes from Albany, Thacher sits between the Gunks, 75 miles south, and the Adirondacks, 120 miles north. And if you want to get audacious, it is 170 miles from Rumney, NH, the sport climbing mecca of New England. All of which is to say, climbers of NYC no longer have to drive 5.5 hours for stellar sport, they now have it in their, relative, backyard.
There are currently about 65 routes ranging from 5.6 to 5.12a, and they will appeal to gym enthusiasts as most climbs are roughly 50 feet high, with none longer than 90′. Thacher is special for its dark-gray limestone, which stands out against the granite of New England, the conglomerate of the Gunks, or the anorthosite of the ADKs.
Krista deMolitor makes the case for island bouldering off the coast of Nova Scotia:
“This secluded island with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean is home to arguably some of the best bouldering problems on the East Coast of Canada. The razor sharp granite makes for superb friction which is excellent for sending, but tortuous on the skin. Dover offers an array of problems falling in the easier to intermediate range, but is also notable for some of its harder classics such as White Trash V7, Blacksmith Dyno V9, Exciter (sit) V10, and Horizontal Matter V11. Visit www.cnsmobeta.ca for a list of all problems.
There are no amenities on the island, so one must bring camping gear and food. The island is very exposed on sunny days with zero tree cover so packing sunscreen and a generous amount of water is strongly advised. The easiest access to the island is by boat. Contact Rod at OceanSpray B&B to book a round trip boat ride for a fee but make sure to give him at least 3 days notice. Boulderfest is a huge event put on every August by Climb Nova Scotia and is a great opportunity to visit the island with lots of climbers who are equally psyched. A visit to the maritimes would not be complete without a trip to Dover Island.”
High-Clip tells you why you need to visit King’s Bluff next time you’re near Nashville:
“Perched up on a 40 foot climb with 2 bolts, I internally chastise myself for not checking out the bolt locations before climbing the route, but then tell myself it’s totally cool because it’s only a 5.5, and I’m the High-Clip. Easy peasy.
Except, routes at King’s Bluff are STOUT. The run-outs are pretty bad, especially given that the wall height ranges from 30-60 feet (most are around 45-55′). And rusty bolts/chains never make anyone feel any better, but at least most of these have newer protection placed adjacent to them. Other than that, this place is the bomb!
King’s Bluff is located in Clarksville, Tennessee, about 45 minutes from Nashville. Managed by the Southern Climbers Coalition (SCC), the area is very well labelled and approachable. The SCC keeps it gated, though you can ask for the code as a climber. There’s a short path and some stairs, on either side stretch the sick walls. Even more, the routes are labelled with their names and their grades. With Mountain Project, it’s almost too easy to find star routes, like “Touchy-Feely,” “Chimney Sweep,” and “Wired for Sound.”
While it is moderately scary climbing, it is rewarding. At the top of each route you’ll see a beautiful river running past. The walls extend far into the green abyss of trees on either side, and if you listen all you’ll hear is perhaps the light jangle of quickdraws against rock. Despite any fear you may feel while climbing, the peace at the tops of these climbs is unbeatable.”
Ryan Siacci sings praise about a lesser known crag in Peru from up high, 4000m up that is:
“When folks think about South American sport climbing, they think about Hatun Machay – the sacred rock forest of the Andes. But this famed crag has had problems in recent years, including the destruction of the refugio and chopping of many classic routes. Route developers from the nearby city of Huaraz have since abandoned the once celebrated crag, instead focusing attention on the ‘recently discovered’ Inka Waqanqa.
Although there are still fewer than 100 routes, Inka Waqanqa offers high quality climbing and oodles of potential. The orange-black ramparts have tons of room for development, with the volcanic rock forming pocketed, technical face climbs and thin, difficult slabs. If bouldering is more your scene, the scope for new problems is almost endless.
Still something of a hidden gem, climbing at Inka Waqanqa is nothing short of idyllic. The rolling green fields are dotted with wildflowers and the swirling Andean mists lend the scene a sense of grandeur. An excellent campsite can be found among the crumbling stone ruins, complete with running water and a remarkably clean pit toilet. Best of all, it’s free!
But remember, take some time to get acclimatised – sport climbing at 4000m sure ain’t easy!”
Massachusetts’ highest concentration of bouldering problems (over 1,100 listed on MP) is located, unexpectedly, in Lynn, Lynn the city of sin.
Only 10 miles from Boston, it should be frequented more often, but the woodsy terrain and vast expanse of the park–at 2,200 acres!–make finding the erratics a little challenging. Approaches can be up to 30 minutes of hiking. Ya know, because it’s a big place.
Don’t let that daunt you, Tim McGivern and Dave Twardowski, local climbers, put all the problems on the map. Literally. You can download it here to help you navigate around. You’ll be glad you came as there are plenty of classics from easy (try Bear Grease, V1) to moderate (Holly the Happy Heel Hooker, V3+) to oh damn that’s hard (Green Haze, V7+). There’s even some trad too. Nestled in an idyllic setting, the offering rivals the better known bouldering options in the area, Pawtuckaway and Lincoln Woods.
Wesley Payette proclaims wilderness climbing in southern Illinois. Who knew! Well, now you do:
“For those craving a bit of wilderness in their sport climbing experience, Jackson Falls in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois might be just the place. Ancient mossy boulders and chuckling streams create a peaceful and wild destination. Powerful crimps, shallow pockets, slopey topouts and technical vertical climbing give rise to unique movement and whacky beta.
While predominantly low- angle climbing, the canyon caters to all styles, from thuggy overhanging to heart-breaking slab. In addition, it’s fairly uncrowded even on the nicest days. Those used to waiting in line at the Red may find themselves alone on a four or five-star route. Despite having fewer routes than more popular sport climbing areas, Jackson Falls contains incredible quality and variety. Some of the most classic, unique and interesting routes include Groovy Marcia 5.9, Cheerio Bowl 5.10a, Group Therapy 5.10c, Wild at Heart 5.10d, Lasso the Vulture 5.11a, Who Needs Friends? 5.12a, Detox Mountain 5.12a, Butcher of Baghdad 5.13a, Red Corvette 5.13a, and East of East St. Louis 5.13c.
Jackson Falls is well off the beaten path, so make sure you prepare for wilderness camping if you want to hang about (primitive camping is located atop the cliffs).”
“The Dolomites in Northern Italy are one of the best places in the world for hiking or climbing. The Catinaccio Mountain offers one of the best views of the nearby mountains from its peak at nearly 3,000 meters above sea level.
The start of the climb can be reached via a 3-hour hike and via ferrata from the top of Kölner Hut chairlift. The climb itself starts at Santnerpass Hut consists of two two-hour legs with an elevation of 170 and 190 meters and a difficulty of 6 SL.
After enjoying the incredible views of the surrounding mountains, the descent brings you back to the Santnerpass Hut where you can have an amazing Tyrolean meal or a drink before heading back. If you are not leaving early in the morning, staying overnight at the hut is also an option.
This will also allow you to see the sunset and the sunrise from 2,700 meters above sea level.”
For the first time since 1990, Bolton Dome is being re-opened to the public. And to great fanfare. What used to be the area’s most popular cliff in the 70s and 80s, it was closed due to the private landowner’s concerns. Poof. Gone went the best climbing near Burlington, VT.
But not anymore, says CRAG-VT and the Access Fund! They purchased the land to the cool tune of $358,750 last year, proving the value (once again) of conservation orgs for keeping climbing areas open, accessible, and sustained.
Join the fun and celebrate the momentous occasion with the launch party on May 18. If you want all the beta, Travis Peckam’s Vermont climbing guide, Tough Schist, is your best bet. Or you can get them on the app version of the book in Rakkup.
Staunton State Park, Pine, CO, USA
Climbing type: Sport, Trad
Todd Rawls is boosting Staunton for the adventurist climber near Denver:
“Nestled amongst ponderosas and pines just fifteen minutes west of Conifer, CO and requiring a 45-minute approach for even the closest crags, Staunton State Park offers a secluded getaway for the adventurous sport-climber despite its relatively close proximity to the Denver metropolitan area.
Perhaps one of the finest features of the climbing here is the abundant offering of classic, steep hard climbs located just minutes from shorter, well-bolted moderates, making this an ideal spot for climbers of all abilities. There are also plenty of moderate trad lines and harder mixed stuff for those more inclined towards placing their own protection.
The Tan Corridor and The Dungeon are the crème of the crop, with the Tan Corridor offering numerous well-bolted and utterly classic 10s and 11s, and The Dungeon throwing in pump-a-thon routes all the way through mid-13. Reef On It! (10a), The Opportunist (11a), and If and Only If (13b) are all some of the best single-pitches of their grade in the state!
As of 2018 there is now camping available within the park as well, and free water to boot.”