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West Coast Settling

I never pictured myself living in California. But as my job search kept pointing west, the possibility became more concrete and I began to get excited about the Bay Area. In the last 10 weeks Lizz and I have settled in and gotten out to explore.

Sunset over the Bay as viewed from the Advanced Light Source in Berkeley

Check out some photos of our new diggs and a video of Spookey soloing an epic line.
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Tyler - Looks like a pretty cool place! I miss you guys. I’m saving my pennies, cutting coupons out of the Sunday paper, and keeping my beer drinking to only a few hundred per week so that I’ll be able to come out and visit soon.March 27, 2012 – 12:06 am

Tyler - That video is ridiculously awesome.March 27, 2012 – 12:09 am

Doug - That video kicks ass!!

Glad to hear most things are going well for you guys out in Cali. It’s definitely tough being away from all your friends that you used to see on a daily basis. Hopefully Annette and I can make it out there sometime soon.March 27, 2012 – 10:05 am

Andrew Kuklinski - It’s good to see that you guys are all settled in. I’m with Tyler, saving my my pennies and even the pocket lint in the hopes of coming out to visit. Things around here just are not the same with out you guys. Miss you!

Looks like your climbing abilities have rubbed off on Spooky!!March 27, 2012 – 11:15 am

Pam Oviatt - Thank you for sharing this with us – we’ll miss seeing you and all of the fun pictures of “happenings” in Colorado. Best of luck and good thoughts heading your way…March 27, 2012 – 12:17 pm

John Scheer - Like the pictures of your place, and it looks like spooky is real good at the 3-finger pull up! Check out the golf courses sometime. Maybe Liz should take that up, too. We’d love to come visit, but we’re traveling a lot already this year. Ireland in August for a week of golf on some of the world’s greatest courses. 2013 might be looking good!March 27, 2012 – 4:47 pm

Jon - I’ll go Andrew one better … I am selling clothing and apparel knit from my navel lint to get $$ to come out there.

One thing I must mention – just three hours north of the Bay Area is Beale AFB, where a squalling infant was thrust upon the world over 40 years ago. There is a shrine built there visible for hundreds of miles, but also found by following the lamentations of the women. As Lynne Cannon frequently points out, California is the Land of Fruits and Nuts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.March 27, 2012 – 8:27 pm

Joe - Love having you guys here!March 27, 2012 – 10:23 pm

Adam Scheer - My sources tell me that belly button lint is fetching high dollar on the black market these days – upwards of $0.03 per cubic tonne.

Thanks for the comments. It’s great to hear from everyone.

~AdamMarch 28, 2012 – 9:47 am

Tyler - Jon, navel lintl from your belly would have to be far too flammable for use as clothing. Why don’t you use package it as a fire starter, and sell it at REI? Or send it to Adam for thermal decomposition analysis – you could be growing the solution to nearly free energy in your belly button right now. Just think of it… a never-ending supply of powerfully explosive belly button lint. We’d have to get you on a steady diet of bacon, Schlitz and alfredo sauce, and you’d have to give up showering, but it’d be worth it. Assuming, of course, that the resulting release of toxic gases from the new diet wouldn’t scorch the sky, “Matrix” style.

Adam, you’re the expert in this field. Thoughts?March 29, 2012 – 12:35 pm

Adam Scheer - Stink factor too high.March 29, 2012 – 7:37 pm

Tommy O - We’re going to have to assemble a California Crew to pool together and trek out your way soon. Spooky is the shiznit. I wonder what the actual rating for that climb would be in pussy cat. Probably something like PC 17.C. Not her best, but damn impressive. Love you guys, and miss you both.April 24, 2012 – 9:24 pm

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Dirtbag Explained


Official Webster dictionary definition (INCORRECT):

  1. low, worthless person. 

Climber / Outdoor Enthusiast / Person Living the Dream definition (CORRECT):

  1. Any person who allows passion to infiltrate their lives
  2. Gives permission for the heart to dictate the actions of life
  3. Someone who can be truly happy doing what they love
  4. Does everything possible to maintain a lifestyle which allows them to follow the heart and live the dream

Looking out over Castle Valley

Nuzzling the side of my warm sleeping bag allowing the beer to gently rock my brain cells to sleep, I overhear a conversation in which the correct and incorrect definition of the term “dirtbag” was being discussed.  I had turned in for the night after a day of climbing the scariest 5.8 slab routes in the universe, playing in the Tuolumne River, drinking beer,  and swapping stories with good friends.   Kris Linstrom proceeded to educate the “other guy” in the conversation the true meaning of the term dirtbag.  Other guy was quite surprised at the contrasting definitions, but as far as I can remember (enter beer fuzziness) he understood.   At this point in my climbing career I proudly proclaim myself to be a dirtbag, having run the full gambit of being a wannabe dirtbag all the way to being a full fledged, living the dream dirtbag.

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lizzil - LTD!!!March 24, 2012 – 11:36 pm

Adam Scheer - Great post on dirtbaggery. I’d throw in one more definition:

5. If you own and haul with you a figure 8 belay device as is the case for the gentleman in picture 1.

Only four days for drawers? My knickers go much longer than that on a regular basis!

Ending this post by drawing attention to the subtle smile that had crept across my face was perfect. Nice work, Andrew.March 25, 2012 – 10:54 am

Andrew Kuklinski - Adam, not sure if you noticed but there seems to be a nice set of hex’s hanging at the ready as well. Besides, you never know when a figure 8 might come in handy! Thanks!March 25, 2012 – 6:17 pm

Tyler - Nice post! There are a number of times in my life that could have been better spent dirtbagging it up. Maybe I’ll try and buy a truck or van, just in case I need emergency shelter.March 25, 2012 – 10:35 pm

Kate - Shit- now I want to be a dirtbag! I had such high aspirations of ‘dirtbaggery’ in college… where did I go wrong?! Great post- thanks AndrewMarch 25, 2012 – 11:14 pm

Emily Knowles - Great post Andrew! I was left grinning and inspired to run out of my office, forget about the PhD, throw my climbing gear in my truck and just start driving. Maybe tomorrow…March 28, 2012 – 10:45 am

Ron James Propri - Great post! Adam, in all fairness, he did say that the same pair can be worn “in a clean state” for up to 4 days. Any real dirtbag knows that a clean state is just the beginning.March 28, 2012 – 12:06 pm

Adam Scheer - Ah yes, excellent point. I retract my previous statement and laud Andrew’s clandestine subtlety. Only a true linguist would internalize such a verbatim interpretation.

Bravo to you both.March 28, 2012 – 12:51 pm

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Joshua Tree in Style: Part 2

Perched atop a pile of granite rubble like a capsized boat waiting to sink, the Headstone is a characteristic Joshua Tree oddity begging to be climbed. Take your pick from the 5.6 Southwest corner on up to the 5.13b Northeast corner. By any account, the Headstone swells the roots of climbing inspiration. Any little kid walking by would give up their scrumptious Almond Joy chocolate nouget to scamper to the top of such a striking rock.

David and Lenny on the Southwest corner (5.6) of The Headstone

Fortunately for us, all the kids were copped up in their Majestic® campers playing checkers or whatever the hell it is kids do these days. Thus we had the Headstone to ourselves on a beautiful Saturday and we took advantage.
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Doug - Sounds like a memorable weekend, Adam. J-Tree is unquestionably a jewel.March 12, 2012 – 9:32 am

Adam Scheer - Doug, memorable is far too weak a word. I would choose ‘majestic.’March 12, 2012 – 10:41 am

David Osborn - Great write up, Adam. We got some great shots of climbing. Now it is time to fly into the South Lake Tahoe airport, have breakfast at Ernie’s, and head to Lover’s Leap!March 13, 2012 – 12:15 am

Tyler Scheer - Awesome stuff. If you guys head to Lover’s Leap and need another climber to make four, let me know and I’ll see if I can make it out too.March 13, 2012 – 8:20 pm

Andrew Kuklinski - J-Tree is an amazing place! I have been wanting to get back there for some time now! Looking out over the Joshua Tree from atop any of the formation is most certainly majestic.March 14, 2012 – 8:11 pm

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Joshua Tree in Style: Part 1

It was Christmas time in Nebraska and I was home helping my Dad brew his first batch of beer, a golden pale ale that would later be discovered as elegant yet bold with a whispy effervescence commingling with complex character only a true blue brewmaster can conjure from cascade hops. I loaded the car in freezing Nebraska style as a week’s worth of goodbyes beckoned in Boulder before beginning anew in California. Climbing was far from the forefront of my thoughts and Joshua Tree was more of a vague concept than a concrete place. So when I opened my email to find an invitation to join David and Lenny on a trip to Vedauoo’s big brother – by Cessna – I had to think for just over a nanosecond before sending a simple reply, “Hell yes.”

The desert landscape littered with Joshua Trees

Much has passed since that time in Nebraska, but through all the changes and stress of moving, I could look forward to visiting one of America’s landmark climbing destinations for the first time. Neither did traveling there in a 4-seat car with wings escape my anticipation.

The sun peeks over the runway as David and Lenny make sure everything is in order before takeoff.

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Doug - The Headstone! Love the exposure on that 5.6 route!March 8, 2012 – 11:11 pm

Tyler - Dang mang, those photos are amazing!March 9, 2012 – 12:21 am

Ron James Propri - Great post and photos Adam. Looks like a hell of a trip!March 9, 2012 – 1:05 am

Eli - Sweet!March 10, 2012 – 8:52 am

zach the cuz - Hi, Adam…….wonderful pictures and what a great bunch of memories you’re making! Thank you for sending them. How do you like CA??? Are you all settled in? Hi to Liz! Love ya, GmaSMarch 12, 2012 – 9:57 pm

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Lucky T-shirt

A couple of my favorite climbing shirts have *almost* reached their end-of-life. I’m a little superstitious, and these shirts have been with me on many of my favorite/ hardest/ scariest climbs. RIP….

Chris - Can we assume these are your photos? Making it into Patty and AF ads? If so, congratulations!March 5, 2012 – 1:37 pm

Eli - Chris- Sorry I should have been clearer. Yes, these are my photos. No they are no real ads- More like satire/ “spec”. I’ll edit the post tonight to reflect this.

EMarch 5, 2012 – 1:40 pm

Andrew - I have a pair of beat to crap shorts that would fit very nicely with the “well loved” attire you have posted here!March 7, 2012 – 12:26 pm

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Making The Grade

*Editor’s Note: This is a co-conspiracy by Chris Rolling and Adam Scheer

Recently a friend asked if there were a couple things that could help him break into 5.12. At first I had to fight back cynicism. Climbing is hard. The journey is arduous. There are no golden tickets aside from imported diet pills, steroids and habanero seeds in your underwear.

But 5.12 is often the grade to which many climbers aspire and most never reach. This is despite the fact that many, if not most, climbers have the physiological potential to send 5.12. So what is the best way to bridge the gap between promise and plateau?

Tools of training

What we detail below is not a “how-to” instruction pamphlet for climbing 5.12. Such one-size-fits-all remedies are about as useful as the directions on a box of pop-tarts. (You mean to tell me that you’re NOT supposed to eat the plastic wrapper!?) Instead, this article is a guide on staking your claim to climbing at the next level.

From our observations, we all face two common obstacles on our respective journeys. First, you won’t climb at your potential if you don’t pay attention to weaknesses and systematically eliminate them. Second, limited training time can make this process arduous, especially if it reduces the fun factor in your climbing sessions.

Yet each of us is used to these types of struggles. We devote countless hours to homework to achieve a degree and a better career. We bike or run to keep in shape. We practice an instrument to become a musician. We are constantly working in the trenches of our lives so that when we step out the sky will be all the bluer. Almost everything worth achieving requires sacrifice and effort. Climbing is no different. Just like playing guitar is more fun after tedium to stop flubbing that pesky F-chord, fighting through weaknesses in climbing will make the sport more rewarding.

Therefore, in our opinion, the right question is not, “How can I climb a 5.12?” It’s “How can I realize my potential?” If you approach climbing this way, it might take longer to send a 5.12, but in the end you will send more of them and have more fun. Though 5.12 is often seen as a benchmark grade, depending on natural potential, the same process will help the 5.9 climber and the 5.13 climber.

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Adam Mackintosh - This is by far the most down to earth and informative thing I have ever read about how to climb. It’s very refreshing, Thank you!March 1, 2012 – 1:15 pm

Sara Konecky - Coffee! Coffee helps sometimes, too. :) Seriously, though, this is a great piece! I have (reluctantly sometimes) been trying to face my weaknesses, all the while working on my strengths. I mentioned this to Adam over the weekend, but the biggest improvements for me have come from my mental outlook on climbing/training (for example, visualizing a move – If I cannot get a move, I visualize what it should look like, imagine how it should feel, and then try it. This helps tremendously.) Or I just tell myself to quit being a wimp. This piece makes me want to go work out. Thanks!March 4, 2012 – 11:57 pm

Tyler - This is a great article. Thanks, Chris and Adam.

I’ve found that when I route climb, my big weakness is endurance – but I also have found that my perceived level of endurance is also tightly tied to my focus on technique. If I can pull, say, ten 5.11 moves in a row before getting spit off a route, just from a purely enduro standpoint, then I can increase my high point on a route by getting my technique honed enough to pull some of those 5.11 moves down to 5.10.

To accomplish this, I train endurance by lapping easy routes as mentioned in the article – early on in the process, I train on really easy stuff (think 3-5 number grades easier than my target grade), up and down climbing routes for 15-20 minutes without stopping. Some people traverse boulder problems for this same amount of time, but I don’t think that is effective training because most of our climbing progress is vertical, not horizontal. We can use this endurance work to sharpen technique, and I prefer to practice vertical movement.

When I’m lapping routes, I’m focusing primarily on playing with footwork and body positioning. I’m trying to see what happens if, on my tenth pass over a particular section, I backstep onto that high foot, or crank my hips over this direction, etc. Sometimes it feels awkward. Awesome – I’ve just learned something. Sometimes it feels easier than expected. Awesome – I’ve just learned something. And that learning curve translates directly to difficult routes.

From a physiological and psychological perspective, we tend to revert to our most practiced movement patterns in times of stress. That means that when you’re on routes at your limit, you’re reinforcing movement patterns you’re already good at, which works just fine when you’re on a move to which those patterns are suited. If they don’t match up, you’re trying to push a square peg through a round hole, and making the move more difficult than necessary. The takeaway from this is that our best opportunity to learn new movement is on easy, easy routes, where the size of the holds, and the relative difficulty of the climbing gives you the opportunity to really play around with new movement. We can try new things on hard routes, but your brain literally will not wire the movement into its neural patterns as well. Hard routes are good testing grounds. Technical improvement happens on easy routes. This bears out in bouldering as well.

The other benefit of climbing long, easy (think never getting pumped in fifteen minutes kind of easy) is physical. This is where your body is best able to adapt to the training by increase mitochondrial production in the muscle cells and increased capillarity in the muscle fibers. This means your muscles effectively have bigger engines and a larger fuel line. That initial improvement is the base from which increased endurance on harder moves is built.

The biggest gains I’ve made as a climber since that initial learning curve flattened out have been in combined technique and endurance work as I’ve described above. It’s obviously not a cut-and-paste for everyone. As the article says, my weakness may not be your weakness. If, however you’re falling off of routes because the moves feel too hard, then you pull through each fall after resting for twenty seconds, you might be in the same boat as me.

Thanks again for the article. Great stuff.March 5, 2012 – 1:12 am

Emily Kilmer - Hold on, I need to go slap myself with moldy bologna. Okay, it will be 3 years of climbing for me in May. I remember the rapid success from 5.8s to 5.9s and then the plateau at 5.10s. When I got there I just decided to climb routes for endurance just to see what would happen. I was able to hold on longer and my mind was more at ease. Now, all the sudden, I feel like I have the potential to be leading 5.11s, but I think a lot of my improvement is mental and not so much physical. Something in my brain clicked and said, “Emily lead climbing isn’t that scary if you just pay attention, find rests, and break the route into sections”. I love this post because I thought all I needed to do was find routes that suited my strengths, but in the end that doesn’t help me. I need to work on my pinches, my abs, and my upper body strength. It is just hard to find a realistic work out to go along with nursing school and climbing. If you have any input for me I would appreciate it. I am definitely not to .12s, but my goal is to be there someday!March 5, 2012 – 11:55 am

Adam Scheer - Thanks for the feedback, everyone.

First I must say that Chris was the driving force behind this piece and thanks to him for letting me stick my nose in it! In the end, I very much enjoyed the process of writing a collaborative piece and I feel like the article is better because of the exchange of ideas.

Adam, thanks for the compliment. I’m glad we could strike a chord.

Sara, it was great seeing you this weekend! I’m really impressed with your climbing. You’ve always been good with crimpy, slabby lines, but to see you cranking away on JBMFP was inspiring! Whatever you’re doing in training has obviously paid off. Keep at it! Thanks for the note on visualization/motivation.

Tyler, thanks for breaking down your recommendations on endurance training. You’re a sprinter and will no doubt benifit from getting past that endurance barrier. As mentioned, I was the same way. Keep working at it! I’m really excited to see your continuing progression paying off – and to climb with you – this coming year!

Emily, bologna is a very special mix of like 17 different animals and lots of salt. As such it takes a long time to mold. I would suggest buying some soon so it has time to rot before the season really kicks in. Like many climbers, it sounds like you’re busy and just trying to squeeze in some climbing whenever possible. Sometimes life dictates that we neglect our passions for long term good. I would say that even if you can get to the gym once a week, you can maintain most of what you’ve built to this point. Sometimes it’s best to wait until life’s commitments aren’t quite so consuming to start zoning in on specific improvements.March 5, 2012 – 6:29 pm

Emily Kilmer - Thank you! I needed to read that it’s okay to make it in once a week for awhile and still stay about where I am at. You guys rock!March 5, 2012 – 6:42 pm

Andrew - Thanks for the article. I know Adam and I have talked about this in the past and what was suggested and reinforced here really helped. Focusing on the weaknesses really helps and maintaining the psych is crucial.

The one thing that was not touched on was rest. Everyone is human (well most of us) and you need rest. All the training the world won’t do you any good unless you give you body and mind time to recover. I have been climbing a lot lately and was starting to feel “done”. I would show up to the gym and just would not have the energy to do anything. I took 4 days off and came back feeling like I won the lottery and could do anything and those 12’s in the gym just didn’t feel that hard.March 7, 2012 – 12:24 pm

Janique - Thank you guys for taking the time to write this article, it is incredible and really puts some perspective into how to take on your climbing goals.
I re-learned a lot of things I think I and most people neglect along the way to their goal sends, and it’s good to have it reiterated.
Climbing 5’10s right now feels like right where I need to be, and when the time permits and my weaknesses and the kinks in my training are less I’ll be ready to crank out 5’11s and 12s for sure, because I can understand the fundamentals of getting there, especially after reading this great article!

Keep up the great work! And Climb on 😉January 9, 2013 – 10:53 am

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