The OR Show & Maple Canyon

My trip to Salt Lake City, August 6-10, started with the Outdoor Retailer show and ended with a day trip to Maple Canyon.  In the middle was the Psicobloc competition.   That was an "experience" that I had to describe in a separate blog.

THE OR SHOW

The OR show was packed wall-to-wall with outdoor business booths from around the country.  It was a little overwhelming when I first entered the main building.  After figuring out how to navigate through the action packed venue, it was pretty cool to meet some of the most influential people in the industry that are responsible for many of the products that we use. 

Photographer: Elodie Saracco

Photographer: Elodie Saracco

Photographer (for my pic): Elodie Saracco

Photographer (for my pic): Elodie Saracco

During my first day at the event I participated in a poster signing session at the Evolv booth with Chris Sharma, Alex Johnson and Ashima Shiraishi.  I had a lot of fun interacting and meeting so many new people that share my same addiction to climbing.  As a bonus for doing the poster signing session at the Evolv booth, Alex Johnson gave me an autographed poster.  The only thing was, it was my poster! And she had drawn Ashima's hair style on me and autographed her "artwork" as a present.   NO WAY I'm posting her "artwork" of Kai-shima!

Photographer: Eric Horst

Photographer: Eric Horst

The next day I participated in a “Young Gun” poster signing at the Maxim booth with Cameron and Jonathan Horst.  I had fun hanging out with them and other Maxim climbers, including their dad Eric Horst. We even got to take a neat “John Long pose” picture with Hans Florine. 

Before leaving the OR show, I also enjoyed hanging out with my Salewa representatives and prAna athletes at a team luncheon.  Once I left the venue, my stomach started bubbling up inside as I headed to the Psicobloc competition wall to test out the wall and take my first “Psycho Jump” from 50 feet, into the pool below!  See my PSICOBLOC blog post for details.

MAPLE CANYON

After recovering from my incredible “Psicobloc Experience”, Momentum Climbing gym team members agreed to take me to Maple Canyon the next day to climb at the Pipe Dream cave. 

The 30 minute, all uphill hike to the crag kind of killed my initial excitement; however, once I reached the cave, it was unlike anything (or place) I had ever seen. Maple Canyon has conglomerate cobblestone rock.  It looks like someone piled massive stacks of small rocks into one huge hill and then super glued it all together.  The cave was a super tall, very overhanging, and pretty amazing!  Quickly, the misery of the hike disappeared, and all excitement returned.  With climbing team friends and an amazing climbing cave, I was in paradise and ready to enjoy my usual half climb/ half hang out session at the crag :-)
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Photographer: Jonathan Vickers- Momentum Climbing Gym (Pipe Dream Cave)

Photographer: Jonathan Vickers- Momentum Climbing Gym (Pipe Dream Cave)

I was glad that my friend, Dru Mack, from the Red River Gorge area (and one of my favorite belayers, next to Mom of course) happened to be in the area and joined us at the cave.  He knows my climbing style and directed me to several climbs that he thought I would enjoy. 

I started off warming up on a slight overhanging  5.11c route.  I took my time climbing the route, trying to get used to the cobblestone textures.  Next, I had initially planned to climb The Diggler (5.13a); however, as I was approaching the anchors of that route, I felt really good and decided to continue and complete Mexican Rodeo (5.13d).  I was proud to have onsighted the route. 

Next, I moved on to preview (and climb) the classic Pipe Dream route (5.14a).  This is a really neat, extremely overhanging line.  After tying in, I headed up the route across the roof section, and started to get a little confused about the sequence.  I took a while to look over the section, and I tried several sequences to clear the lip of the route.  Someone then shouted out and asked if I wanted beta.  Normally I would say yes, especially since I still had a LONG way to go to the anchors and had already burned a lot of time on the route.  For some reason, I shouted out "No".  I wanted to figure it out on my own.  After a moment, I came up with another plan, committed, and pushed through that section of the route.  As I continued navigating through the climb, I encountered a few more sections that were not straight forward and I had to keep locking off to search for holds.  As I approached the anchors, then clipped, I was excited to tick off my first 5.14a onsight!

Photographer: Jonathan Vickers- Momentum Climbing Gym (Pipe Dream Cave)

Photographer: Jonathan Vickers- Momentum Climbing Gym (Pipe Dream Cave)

Photographer: Jonathan Vickers- Momentum Climbing Gym (Pipe Dream Cave)

Photographer: Jonathan Vickers- Momentum Climbing Gym (Pipe Dream Cave)

I rested a while and decided to take on the toughest route in the cave, Divine Fury (5.14b).  This is a LONG 20 bolt route, which starts in the back of the cave, continued through a long roof section, and then linked up with the final 4 bolts of Pipe Dream.  As I entered the roof section, I quickly got confused and even after asking for beta, I was unable to complete a tough kneebar sequence.  I decided to call take, beg someone to throw up knee pads, and dig in to find a sequence that worked for me.  I fumbled around on the roof for a LONG time trying to find an efficient sequence.   For me efficiency is mandatory on long sport routes.  After falling numerous times, and fumbling my way up to the anchors, I took my shoes off and went over to hang out, eat, and rest.

Photographer: Jonathan Vickers- Momentum Climbing Gym (Pipe Dream Cave)

Photographer: Jonathan Vickers- Momentum Climbing Gym (Pipe Dream Cave)

A while later, it was starting to get late, so I grabbed my shoes & chalk bag, and asked for one last belay before leaving.  They were surprised that I was going back up on the route.   Especially since I had called take so many times on my first attempt. No one realized that most of my takes were because I was searching for efficient sequences and conserving energy, since I had already blown my first attempt.   I had totally planned to get back on that route and try one more send attempt before leaving.  I was super excited when I climbed my way to the anchors and ascended the route!

Although I only ended up climbing 4 routes, I had a pretty productive and enjoyable day. Hanging out with friends, climbing at a new crag (and a different type of rock), and accomplishing a new milestone made it a perfect climbing day.  Luckily Momentum climbing gym sent their photographer, Jonathan Vickers, with us to capture the day through pictures.   I wish I had more days at the canyon, but I'm glad that I got to sneak one in.  I can't wait to return to Salt Lake City!  This was definitely one of my most adventurous trips!!

PSICOBLOC 2014

For some reason, I thought free climbing an overhanging wall, 50 feet above an Olympic sized swimming pool was a great idea.  That thought quickly disappeared after I arrived to the Psicobloc wall for a practice session.  After climbing 50 feet high on the climbing wall and realizing that there was only one way down, I found myself sitting on top off the wall with my feet dangling over the edge.  A variety of thoughts went through my mind.  There was a HUGE distance between me and the water!  It was too late to change my mind……….  After looking over the edge for a while, I finally stood up, shook my head, and I jumped off of the top of the wall.  I felt my stomach drop as I frantically stared at the water as it got closer and closer, until I finally hit.  The falling process itself was TERRIFYING, but hitting the water actually did not hurt at all.  I was glad to get the initial jump over!  Although I hung around and took 2 more jumps before leaving the pool for the day, I wasn’t completely convinced that my practice session had made me more comfortable with competing in the Psicobloc competition.

My first time on top of the Psicobloc wall

My first time on top of the Psicobloc wall

First time on top of Psicocomp wall- Close up (Yeah, I was a little scared)

First time on top of Psicocomp wall- Close up (Yeah, I was a little scared)

THE SEEDING ROUND

The next day was the seeding round of the competition.  We weren’t allowed to practice the route.  Climbers were randomly paired, and we had to climb up the route as fast as possible.  All climbers had two times to climb the route and the best of their two attempts (in terms of highest hold and time) was recorded. Ultimately the climber that got the highest on the route would receive the highest seed and time was used to break ties.   The male and female routes were both on the wall.  Basically the women had to climb the mens route with a lot of additional, positive holds as intermediates.  Without those holds, the route was significantly more dynamic! 

 

When it was my turn to climb, I started climbing up the route but when I got to the double dyno move (30 feet above the water), I was too terrified to aggressively commit to the move, so I fell and went spinning around like a helicopter until I hit the water.  Luckily I was able to stay controlled enough to enter feet first.  That fall was scary!!  Additionally, the temperature outside was in the 50s and the water was significantly colder!!

Although I was frightened and freezing cold, I knew I had one more attempt on the route, and I was committed to finishing what I started.  On my second attempt, I was determined to stick the double dyno move and progress up the route.  And I did!  After making this move, I continued climbing, one burly move after the next, up to the final moves on the route. 

Photographer: Jacob Boykin

Photographer: Jacob Boykin

 

As I went for the 2nd to last hold, I didn’t lock off enough to statically reach the hold, and I was afraid to aggressively commit to it (50 feet above the water).  As a result, I fell and took the 50 feet fall into the freezing water.  At this point, the temperature outside had dropped to 49°, but the water was so much colder.  I later found out that Jimmy Webb and I had reached the same high point, but he was much faster and had reached the same point on both attempts.  After both attempts on the route, I wasn’t completely comfortable with the whole “free climbing over the pool and falling 50 feet into the water” thing, however I had gotten more comfortable with making aggressive moves on the wall and controlling my fall into the pool.  I knew I could top the route and I was eager to conquer my fears in finals the next day and prove to myself that that I could handle climbing hard even when I am completely out of my comfort zone.  Mind over Matter.

                Jimmy Hulk

                Jimmy Hulk

FINALS

When I woke up the next morning, I realized they had paired me against Jimmy Hulk, I mean........ Jimmy Webb, in the first round.  I knew I could not out power him (funny thought, right), and power is definitely a factor when speed climbing difficult routes.  Instead I decided to focus on topping the route, let things play out, and enjoy the overall Psicobloc experience. 

The Final event started with the ladies.  I enjoyed cheering on my friends and watching some legendary women have fun and conquer their fears.  In the end, my fellow youth competitor (and US Team member) Claire Burhfeind walked away with the win, with Delaney Miller close behind!

Next up was the men.  I was scheduled as the 2nd match up.   When it was my turn to climb, I took a deep breathe, and was determined to conquer my fears, commit to all moves and finish the route.  When the clock started, I began to climb and Jimmy started flying up the route.  Had he been climbing any closer, I would have blown off the route from the smoke that he left behind!  At one point I stopped to rest and had hoped to catch a glance at him flying up the final section and topping out.  Unfortunately, I was on an overhang and had to miss the action :-).    Once he topped out, I was committed to finishing the route, enjoying my last climb of the comp, AND staying dry! 

Jimmy waited for me at the top of the route, cheering me on to finish, so that we could jump off together.   I was very proud of myself for finishing the route and enjoyed my moment, standing up on top of the wall with one of the world’s strongest climbers!

Photographer: Lori Buhrfeind Jimmy trying to convince me to jump with him :-)

Photographer: Lori Buhrfeind

Jimmy trying to convince me to jump with him :-)

As for the simultaneous jump........  I let him have the victory leap and I climbed down the back structure of the wall :-).  I stayed dry- MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!!   

The second round of the mens comp was the most exciting for me.  Jimmy Webb vs. 25 world cup podium champ, Sean McColl!   Those men flew up the 50+ feet, 5.13+ route in under 50 seconds!!!!!  Jimmy Webb was narrowly defeated by Sean McColl’s 42 second run! In the end, it was V15/5.15 climber Daniel Woods vs Sean McColl.   Although both guys were tired, wet, and cold, they still put on an awesome performance, with Sean narrowly defeating Daniel for the win!

Photo snapshot from ORSM2014 (Outdoor Retailer Facebook page)

Photo snapshot from ORSM2014 (Outdoor Retailer Facebook page)

Left to Right:  sara griffin, Meagan Martin, Ashima Shiraishi, JC Hunter, and Sasha Digiulian Photo snapshot from ORSM2014 (Outdoor Retailer Facebook page)

Left to Right:  sara griffin, Meagan Martin, Ashima Shiraishi, JC Hunter, and Sasha Digiulian

Photo snapshot from ORSM2014 (Outdoor Retailer Facebook page)

Next stop…..the Youth World Championship September 20-24.  WISH ME LUCK!

2014 SCS Youth National Championship

Pre-Nationals training

Pre-Nationals training

After 2 weeks of training in Europe, I was VERY eager to get back home and train for this year’s SCS Youth National Championship in Atlanta, GA. Two weeks before nationals, I always go to Atlanta to train at the competition venue, Stone Summit.   One of the best parts about climbing at Stone Summit before Nationals is seeing all my friends at the pre-national training camps held there annually. While there, my day consists of training really hard with competitors (that I technically compete against). Although in most sports competitors rival with one another, climbing is one of the rare sports where competitors actually cheer each other on.  Instead of rivalries between competitors, we actually have fun working together and helping each other improve on routes during the  pre-national training camp. As the camps came to an end, everyone started to get excited about competing at the most anticipated competition of the year to decide who would represent the United States at this year’s Youth World Championships.

Qualifiers

The qualifying round of the competition consisted of two separate routes: qualifier 1 (Q1) which is held the first day (Friday), and qualifier 2 (Q2) on the second day (Saturday).  Both routes were flash format.  Traditionally, Q1 is a really easy route that almost everyone completes.  However, after multiple falls from our forerunner during our route preview, that belief quickly disappeared.  Our forerunner helped to expose several tricky spots on the route which were not obvious from the ground.  Our Q1 route started out really easy, a lot of positive holds on an overhang, but at about the 70% mark, the route changed to more slabby sections with not-so-good holds up to the anchors. Out of 36 competitors, only 3 completed the route.

 

Our Q2 route started up an overhanging wall and quickly changed to about 30 feet of roof climbing (on really positive holds).  The last section of the route was all slab, with a lot of really balancey moves to the anchors.   After climbing an overhang and roof section, balancey moves are much more difficult when you’re tired.  As a result, only 4 climbers completed the route.  Our two qualifier scores were combined, and the top 16 climbers advanced to semifinals.  I entered the semifinals round in a two way tie for first.

 

Semifinals

While previewing our semifinals route I made a mental note about a sloper section mid route and the final move to the anchors.  The sloper section had a weird sequence that looked a little confusing, and the final hold on the route was a sidepull (turned in the opposite direction).

The route started by climbing on really positive holds, on an overhanging wall for about 40 feet.   Then the route changed to a slab section with the weird sloper sequence, followed by a few power moves up to a nice jug right below the lip to the final wall surface of the route.  Luckily while climbing the route, when I got to the sloper section, as I made each move, my body kind of fell into the next move and the sequence made a lot more sense than it did from the ground.  After clearing the sloper section and the power moves to the jug, I was glad to get a good rest before transitioning to the final section of the route. 

Photo by: Just Fab Photography   Semifinals route

Photo by: Just Fab Photography   Semifinals route

At this point in the route, I had climbed about 70 ft (and had just cleared a tough section), so routesetters had to know that climbers would be physically and mentally tired.  With this in mind, someone came up with the “brilliant” idea (note the sarcasm) to have us clear the lip of the wall by grabbing two crimps (one on the side of a volume) and drop cutting (our tired bodies) to a really good foot just over the lip.  If we managed to make that move, they knew we wouldn’t have much juice left in us.  After clearing this sequence, I made a few more moves up to the second to last hold.  At this point my arms were starting to get fatigued and I wasn’t sure if I could finish the route.  I got a good drop knee, to relieve my arms for a few seconds; I clipped the anchors, and then made the final move to the finish hold.  I managed to get a good grip on the finish hold, but it was slippery and shallow, so I slipped right off, falling short of completing the route.  Although I didn’t get the send, I had high point on the route.

Photo by: Just Fab Photography   Semifinals route

Photo by: Just Fab Photography   Semifinals route

Photo by: Just Fab Photography  Semifinals route...Popping off the final hold

Photo by: Just Fab Photography 

Semifinals route...Popping off the final hold

My semifinals climb was my favorite route of the comp- a variety of climbing styles and wall angles, they kept me thinking, and I had to fight for the finish.  It was definitely Type 2 fun :-)!

Finals

For our finals route, we were back on the roof!  This time we had a longer roof section to climb (at least 40 feet).  The route started on an overhang up to the roof section.  In order to clear the roof section, we had to balance on a series of three slopers, up to an even larger sloper where I was able to get a good shake out.   After the large sloper was a move to a big volume.  I later found out that another climber was able to get a REALLY good rest by wedging himself between one of the slopers below and the volume.  With my height that wasn’t going to happen, and luckily I wasn’t tired and didn’t need to rest.  After stopping for a few seconds at the volume, I made my final push through a series of “interesting movements” on crimps and slopers in order to get to the anchors. 

Photo by Andrew Havic

Photo by Andrew Havic

Photo by Andrew Havic

Photo by Andrew Havic

Photo by Andrew Havic

Photo by Andrew Havic

I was really excited to complete the route and cinch my 5th consecutive SCS championship title!   I was even more psyched to earn the opportunity to represent the USA at the Youth World Championships in New Caledonia in September!!  Before you raise an eybrow and ask “Where is New Caledonia?”  It’s an island off the coast of Australia :). 

This year’s Nationals was pretty awesome.  With the help of a lot of great volunteers, the staff (and owners) of Stone Summit Climbing gym, USA Climbing officials, and amazing routesetters, they put on an incredible event for hundreds of competitors to enjoy!!

 

Below is a picture of the US Team for the Male Youth B (14-15 yr old) category.  WISH US LUCK!!!

Photo by Sydney McNair ( Left-Right): Lucas Kepl, The Drew Ruana, Me, and Emmanuel Quintana

Photo by Sydney McNair ( Left-Right): Lucas Kepl, The Drew Ruana, Me, and Emmanuel Quintana

Next stop......Psicobloc

Dominion Riverrock 2014

Photo by Erin Barclay

Photo by Erin Barclay

At DRR, the boulder bash and speed bouldering competitions were held inside of a huge 25-30 foot tall metal cage structure.  Large volumes were attached to the metal beams, with climbing holds attached to the volumes.  Climbers started on the ground towards the back of the cage and had to maneuver from volume to volume following a steep path up to the finish hold--- 25 feet high.  Climbers that reach the finish hold can top out and take the stairs back down to the ground.  Everyone else had to take the big fall down to a 2 foot padding system below.  I can honestly say, that I fell so much last weekend that I could probably do a product review for the padding company!!

Boulder bash Qualifier Rounds

The first qualifier round was Friday evening.   Qualifier 1 was a short slopey boulder problem……not my favorite type.  Nonetheless, I came out and did my best trying to navigate some large, unfriendly slopers.  I ended the first qualifier route in 13th place.  I knew I had a tough fight ahead of me. 

Qualifier 2 - Photo by Travis

Qualifier 2 - Photo by Travis

The 2nd qualifier round was Saturday morning.  Qualifier 2 was a longer route type boulder problem.  I was much happier when I previewed this problem.  The beginning of the problem was weird.  It started on a slab and you were supposed to pressure your foot and throw for a crimp with your left hand.  I tried that move multiple times, but couldn’t make it.  I decided to change up a little and throw for the crimp with my right hand, instead of left, and I made it.  I had to match the crimp in order to get back in sequence.   I later found out that many people were unable to complete the starting move!  

After reaching the crimp, I had to quickly smear my hand on the next volume and balance my way over to a pair of positive slopers.  After a series of power technical moves, I worked my way up to the last volume on the problem.  The volume was positioned upside down and as I was climbing the volume (like a roof), I got confused trying to figure out where to put my feet, and I fell.

I was proud of myself when I found out I had the 3rd high point and combined with my Q1 score, I had moved up to 7th place going in to the semifinal round.

There was a two hour break between the end of Qualifier 2 and the beginning of the semifinals round. 

Boulder bash Semifinals

The semifinals problem was another long route type problem.  The route looked reasonable when I previewed it; however, when I actually climbed it, I quickly realized that the problem was much tougher than it looked.   The beginning of the route was very bouldery.  The first few moves had me eager to get to a resting spot.  I was happy when I finally reached a decent sized jug and got a little rest.  After a short rest, I continued through a few beta intensive moves, and then locked off to reach a really crappy side pull hold.   At this point, I flagged one of my feet, locked off and reached up to a pinch on the next volume above.  I had a firm grip on the pinch …………..….. and then I don’t know what happened!?!  My hand just opened up and let go.  I guess my muscles were tired?!?  I was only midway through the problem when I fell, so I wasn’t very confident that I had done enough to make it to finals.  I was really surprised when I found out that I was moving on to finals in 4th place.   

There was a two hour break between Semifinals and Finals.

Semifinals- Photo by Eva Kataros

Semifinals- Photo by Eva Kataros

Semifinals- Photo by Eva Kataros

Semifinals- Photo by Eva Kataros

Boulderbash Finals

Photo by Travis Wills

Photo by Travis Wills

The finals problem started very bouldery.  It began with a series of odd slopers, followed by a few powerful moves.  Overall, the problem didn’t look that bad, but the sloper start, had me a little worried.  When I came out to climb I began up the starting slopers, but could not figure out how to maneuver them.  I kept falling.  I tried several different methods, including a foot first sequence, but I could not figure out how to use the holds correctly.  I began to get frustrated with each failed attempt.  When I finally figured out the beta, which was much simpler than I was making it, I made a stupid foot mistake and fell.  My time was almost gone, and I was really disappointed that it took me so long to figure out the correct sequence.  I had slipped back to 8th place to end the competition.   Vasya Vorotnikov and Meagan Martin put on an awesome show and walked away with the win!

After a long day of competition rounds, I was glad to go back to the hotel and rest.

Speed Bouldering

The speed bouldering competition was on Sunday.  There were 2 qualifier routes that we were allowed to practice that morning.  As I practiced the qualifying problems, I realized I could reduce my time by campusing a few moves on the route.  We were told that we would climb each route twice and our lowest time would be recorded on each route.  The top 4 climbers with the lowest combined qualifying times would move on to finals.

My two runs on the first qualifier problems went as planned and my lowest time put me in 5th place going in to the 2nd qualifier problem.  As the guys began to climb the 2nd qualifier problem, I noticed that they decided to campus the entire 15-20 move roof problem!  They were flying through the air like Tarzan swinging through the jungle, making 360° campus dyno moves!  They were cutting their time significantly using this method. 

When my turn came up, I did the only thing that came to mind at the moment.  I jumped up on the problem and began doing my own Tarzan impersonation and campused the route, 360° moves and all! I was proud of myself for being able to pull off some of those moves.  When I came down off the route, my arms tingled a little as I returned to the line for my 2nd run.  My 2nd go, I took the same approach and cut my time even lower.  When I came off of the problem the 2nd time, my arms felt like they were on fire!!!!!!!!  At first I didn’t understand why, but as I thought about it, the reason was obvious.  I’m a sport climber.  I’ve been trained to use my feet efficiently and minimize pulling with my arms.  And although my Tarzan experience was FUN, I quickly realized that my arms weren’t as excited about my adventure.  They needed a few days to recover………..  I ended the speed competition in 6th place. Ultimately, Josh Levin, and Meagan Martin came out with the win!

I’ve competed in A LOT of climbing competitions, but Dominion River rock was unlike anything I have ever done before.  I had a blast competing this year, and I look forward to next year’s comp!

Next stop, Mountain film Festival in Telluride, CO next weekend………………..

2014 Ring of Fire Final Round

This year I had planned to attend the 1st and Finals round of The Ring of Fire competition series.  After the first round I was excited to return for the Finals event.  The routesetters had promised even harder routes and “fun” sequences.

Qualifiers

Qualifier 3 Route

Qualifier 3 Route

Friday, 5/2, was the qualification round for pro climbers.  The top 8 climbers from qualifiers, in addition to the winners from the first two rounds of the competition series, would all move on to compete in the Finals round the following day.  Since I did well at the 1st competition of the series in March, I had an automatic spot in finals and didn’t have to compete in the qualifier round.  Knowing my qualifying round wouldn’t count, because of my bye to finals, I decided to climb during the round anyway.  I couldn’t resist getting good competition training, on 3 well set routes.

The first route was pretty simple, a little balancey, but not very long, or steep.   It was a good warm up route to get you ready for the next two problems.  The second route was much longer and was on a slightly overhanging wall.  The last route was also long and was on a steeper overhanging section of the wall.  The route started with a neat jump start to pinches.  The coolest part of the route was the pocket section, with no feet.  They had three pockets lined up that you had to traverse, while campusing.  After reaching the last pocket, you had to bump up (still no feet) to a sloper on the side of a volume.  That route was pretty cool.

I had fun climbing during the qualifier round, but knew I had to get focused to climb a hard finals route.  With both Daniel Woods and Vasya Vorotnikov competing, I knew the setters had a hard route in store for us.

Finals

Our finals route looked long, bouldery, and featured an upside down double kneebar move towards the beginning of the climb.  When I returned to ISO, I discussed the route with several of my friends.  Despite their insisting that the double knee bar was the easiest way to go with the sequence, I quickly decided against it.  I had a bad experience in the past with my knee slipping during an upside down kneebar, resulting in a fall.  I came up with an alternate plan that involved bypassing the upside down sequence, reaching directly for the two finger pocket with my right hand, and crossing into the next hold with my left.  As I reviewed the entire route sequence in my mind, I knew I had a tough fight ahead of me.

Right Hand: Mono match pocket

Right Hand: Mono match pocket

When it was my turn to climb, I came out of ISO determined to do my best.  I started the route, made the first two clips, and then got into position to climb the intended kneebar section. As I began the sequence I had planned, I hit the two finger pocket with my right hand and realized that the next hold was too far away too cross in to!  I needed a backup plan.  The first thing that came to me was a middle finger mono match that I had done several times before at the gym.  I took a deep breathe, knowing I was going to get blasted for making the move, and completed the sequence.  After a series of crimps, and multiple bouldery moves, I was finally at a rest, where I could shake out, and regroup for the next section. 

The next section started with a big move to a crimp on the side of a volume, and was followed by a series of strength moves to crimps, until you cleared the lip of the steep section.  Once you cleared the lip there was a dynamic move to a crimp on the side of a round volume, followed by core intensive moves to crimps on a second round volume.  At this point there were three moves left in the route.  I made a big move to sloper, and quickly realized it was HORRIBLE!  I looked up at my next hold, and thought to myself, “my left hand hold is horrible, I’m tired, and the next hold is all the way up there.  This isn’t going to happen.”   I decided to go for useable surface on the next hold, and call it a day!

 After falling, I took a deep breathe, and was proud of myself for doing my best on the route.    When I hit the ground my mom had to tell me twice that I had high point on the route, before it actually soaked in. 

Finals Route

Finals Route

Showcasing our "Rings of Fire"

Showcasing our "Rings of Fire"

After getting fussed at by everyone for the mono match move, I was told to report back to the gym for “inverted double kneebar boot camp” in the morning.   Although morning boot camp didn’t sound fun, I eventually discovered that the move was actually pretty easy and it doesn’t bother me anymore. 

Working on our game faces, trying to get psyched before Finals

Working on our game faces, trying to get psyched before Finals

Overall the competition was incredibly exciting with amazing routes!  I am really glad that I was able to keep everything together and do well.  When I enter pro events, with insanely strong climbers, I know that I am going to see sequences that I have never seen (or done) before.  There are so many foreign things that I expect to face, that I can’t really have expectations.  I just tackle one thing at a time, try to mix in a little fun, and hope that things come together in the end.  Sometimes the result is me winning, other times the main result is me learning something new.  On a good day I get both :-)

What’s Next?

In two weeks I will compete at Dominion Riverrock.  At the beginning of the year, I had planned to compete in 3-4 pro competitions, since next year I will be eligible (by age) to compete in World Cup championships.  Since the age of 10, I set a goal to one day be a strong representative for the US at World competitions.  What better way to train than to compete in comps that physically and mentally push me to my limits?  I realize that although I may be physically strong enough to handle hard routes, there are many more factors at play (that I will have to learn) in order to handle the open world competition stage.  Several pro climbers have been very cool about helping me learn both physical and mental training skills that I will need to progress.  Daniel refers to it as “training the next generation.”  I guess not only is it helpful to me, but it kind of sets the stage for what I’ll be expected to do one day. 

Looking forward to a new set of challenges at Dominion Riverrock………..….wish me luck (and lots of fun)!

RRG 2014: Sending Lucifer

My April 2014 trip to the Red was my longest outdoor trip ever. My ten day trip was 50/50 climbing versus hanging out with my friends.  It was awesome! On this trip, I quickly became obsessed with the route Lucifer.  Despite the 20 minute hike to Purgatory, my friends Dru Mack and Dylan Barks, drove, hiked and belayed me every day until I sent the route. After quickly working out all of the moves, it got pretty frustrating at times trying to link them. Luckily, I had a great group of friends that kept me entertained and helped me deal with my frustration.

Couldn't stay frustrated too long with these two around

Couldn't stay frustrated too long with these two around

Hanging Out with friends

Hanging Out with friends

Lucifer is a slightly overhanging route filled with shallow (and razor sharp) pockets and crimps.  It’s very bouldery, with poor rests during the crux section. This route is very different from the usual types of routes that I enjoy climbing. In general, I love steeply overhanging, long routes, similar to those that can be found inside of a gym. Climbing a route that shreds your hands with each attempt, forcing you to learn how to climb with cut and bruised fingers (and limited skin), really pushed me outside of my comfort zone. At the same time, it intrigued me to push myself and expand my skill set.

Working out the beta with Dylan

Working out the beta with Dylan

Photo by Elodie Saracco

Photo by Elodie Saracco

By day two, I was able to link the moves all the way to the final crux hold. I kept falling trying to grip the jug that would have ended the hardest section of the route. A few days later (following a rest day) I was incredibly frustrated because I was unable to link the route through the first crux move. I felt like I was moving backwards.  I was eager to come back the next day (hopefully with a better mental game).  When I woke up the next morning snow was covering everything, despite the fact that it was 65 degrees the day before! I was really disappointed that I wasn’t able to try Lucifer that day; however I enjoyed spending the day at the movies with a bunch of my friends.

The following day, the snow had cleared up, and we headed back out to Purgatory so that I could climb Lucifer. That day, the sun was shining bright, yet ironically, the rock was freezing cold. On my first attempt of the day, I cleared the main crux move, but fell a few moves later after being blinded by the sun. I regrouped and got back up for my next attempt. As I approached the main crux move of the route, for some reason, I decided to go for a different hold and discovered it was a much better choice!  Then as I approached my final crux move, my body told me to change to a higher foot, drop knee, and reach (instead of dead pointing) to my hold using a different hand. It worked and I began to be excited! Reaching that hold ended the most difficult section of the route. The remainder of the route consisted of 13a climbing on really good crimps all the way to the chains. Just when I thought I was home free, I discovered a new problem… my hands were freezing (from the cold rock), my fingers were numb, and I could no longer feel the holds! I climbed the next section at a snail’s pace! I didn’t want to make a stupid mistake on the easiest section of the route. I kept stopping to warm my hands on the back of my neck. After almost slipping twice in the easier section, I finally reached the anchors. I was really excited!!

Photo by Elodie Saracco

Photo by Elodie Saracco

Seconds after untying, this was my response when asked how I felt about my send.

Seconds after untying, this was my response when asked how I felt about my send.

Although my hands were cut and bruised (with a layer of missing skin on my fingertips), reaching the anchors made it all worth it.  I tried to continue climbing the following days, but after 1-2 routes each day, my hands would start to hurt, and I quickly flipped to hanging out at the crags, opposed to climbing.  Overall, it was one of my most enjoyable outdoor trips ever! I had accomplished a goal and spent a lot of time hanging out with my awesome (and crazy) friends.

Next stop the 5Point Film festival in Carbondale, CO next weekend …………

Rock & Rave / Ring of Fire- Round 1

Rock & Rave 2014

Hundreds of people piled into Stone Summit Climbing Center to party hard, compete for awesome prizes, and most important- help raise money for a good cause.  The event raised over $24,000 which was split between the Access fund, Southeast Climbers Coalition, and the Carolina Climbers Coalition.  These nonprofit organizations work hard to keep our crags safe and accessible.

I had a blast competing in the Super Highball Bouldering challenge, Table Bouldering with Salewa, hanging out at the Evolv booth, and eating until my stomach hurt at Pranacopia.  I definitely had more desserts than healthy food, but it was for a good cause……right?  Last year I was sleep in the corner before all major events ended.  This year I lasted through all of the climbing events before my eyelids got heavy and I had to go to sleep (10:30 PM).  Next year, I’ll have to plan a long nap before the party begins!

Photo by Travis Wills

Photo by Travis Wills

The Ring of Fire- Round 1

This year the Ring of Fire was expanded to a three part series.  The first stop was Glastonbury, CT on March 15.  I competed in the Open division alongside a few strong, 5.14-5.15 climbers.  The qualifier round was scheduled to be flash format, with video recordings of the forerunner climbing the routes.  Before I talk about the actual competition rounds, I have to comment on the “female” forerunners in the videos………. Huge muscular guys, with a long black wig (and a headband).  That was a HILARIUOS way to get the competition started!!

Qualifier Round

The qualifier routes were pretty straightforward.  The first route was fun and wasn’t very difficult.  The second route was a little more interesting.  A few campus moves, a fun flow of movements, and a neat move that required a little power after clearing the lip.  The third route was a little technical, with a few slopers toward the top (just when climbers were starting to get a little tired).  Josh Levin and I topped all routes, and Matt Londrey had a heartbreaker, falling for the first time of the round, on the finish hold.  I moved on to finals tied for first place.

GKWANPHOTO

GKWANPHOTO

GKWANPHOTO

GKWANPHOTO

Finals/Superfinals

When I first turned around to see the finals route it looked pretty amazing.  A long route on an overhang with several unique stalactite features.  Although the stalactites looked cool, they also looked a little tricky to navigate.  When I finally climbed the route, it wasn’t very difficult for me; however, it was really fun!  I topped the route and was really excited.  Josh Levin and Vasya Vorotnikov had also topped the finals route, pushing Josh and I into a superfinals round. 

Apparently they proposed a superfinals format, in the event of a tie, back in ISO.  Unfortunately……. I missed that info, so after topping the route, when they announced the superfinals format, my mouth flew open.  We had to speed climb the Female Open finals route, onsight!  The format was very different, but that wasn’t the kicker that had me a little stunned.  Of all people to speed climb with, it was Josh!  Ten time National speed champion and former bronze medalist (in speed) from the Youth World championship!  For years I watched him fly up routes (with smoke in his path) and now I had to race him up a route in superfinals.  Probably because it was Josh, I instantly knew that I had to go lightning fast or I wouldn’t have had a chance.  I have never climbed that fast in my life!  I shocked everyone (especially myself) when I flew up the route and clipped the anchors in under 90 seconds.  I had won the superfinals challenge and the competition.   

GKWANPHOTO

GKWANPHOTO

GKWANPHOTO

GKWANPHOTO

I am really excited and looking forward to The Ring of Fire- Final Round in May!!  The routes should be more challenging with even more insanely strong climbers!!  If the goal is winning, why does a harder challenge excite me?  Easy answer ………it’s all about the training.  What better way to train than to compete with some of the strongest climbers in the world.  Can’t wait!!

Next stop….Real rock!  I’m ready to get back outside in a few weeks!!

2014 ABS Nationals

Shortly after arriving to Colorado Springs for ABS Nationals, I realized my trip was getting off to a great start.  I received a large box that prAna had overnighted to me with a coat, sweater, and a lot of warm clothing.  They wanted to make sure that I was warm and in style :-) Big thanks to prAna! Colorado was a little cold, compared to North Carolina.  It was also great that some of my friends were staying in the same hotel.

Qualification Round

The first competition day was qualifiers.  Four climbs, four minutes each.  The first and last climbs were on slab. They consisted of the usual slopers, crimps, technical, and balancey movements of classic slab climbs.  The second problem had a foot first sequence on a steep overhang.  If you misread the sequence, the problem was significantly harder.  The third climb was supposed to be the hardest.  It was relatively straightforward, but powerful, and on a slight overhang.  I ended the day flashing all problems and advancing to semifinals in 1st place.

On my way to Qualifiers (prAna)

On my way to Qualifiers (prAna)

Qualifier Problem 3 (Photo by Greenz Productions)

Qualifier Problem 3 (Photo by Greenz Productions)

Semifinal Round

Semis consisted of three problems, four minutes each.  The first problem was on the steep overhang.  My favorite part of that problem was the dyno to a two finger pocket (on the overhang).  The second problem was one of my favorite for the competition.  When I read the problem, I read a triple dyno sequence in the middle of the problem.  Although I believed I may have been able to statically reach the first hold of the dyno sequence (if I used the right feet), there was no way I was going to miss my chance to do one of the coolest moves I had watched in Open comp videos.  So I climbed up the problem and went for the move, but missed it on my first and second attempts.  Since the move wasn’t burning a lot of energy for me, I decided to try it again, before moving on to a more static approach.  On the third attempt, I missed the hold again, but I was certain that I could make the move (since I almost had it that time).  I tried it one more time, stuck it, and sailed through the rest of the problem!  The last climb was another slab route with tiny foot chips that we had to use as handholds.  For the finish, I had to stoop down on one foot (on the last hold) and reach down between my legs to control a tiny foot chip screwed on to the bottom part of the hold, which was marked as the finish box. That problem was fun and creative. I ended this round flashing two problems, but topping all three.  I moved on to finals in 1st place.

Semifinals Problem 1 (Photo by Greenz Productions)

Semifinals Problem 1 (Photo by Greenz Productions)

Semifinals Problem 2 (Photo by Greenz Productions)

Semifinals Problem 2 (Photo by Greenz Productions)

Finals

Finals consisted of three problems, four minutes each.  Before this competition, I secretly had two things I hated in problems/routes- climbing a lot of features and mantle moves.  Prior to ABS Nationals, I had given in to training regularly on features, but I held firm and avoided mantles.  When I turned around to see my first final problem, I shook my head and smiled inside.  It was like someone had revealed my secret to the setters.  The first hold was a huge feature which required a balancey mantle start (the one move I refused to train), and the entire problem was features!  It took me 8 attempts, just to get onto the start hold!  Eight attempts in under 90 seconds had to be some kind of record!  After getting on the start hold (on attempt 8) I cruised through the rest of the problem to the finish hold.  I WAS SOOOO RELIEVED to get that problem done!  (SIDE NOTE TO ROUTESETTERS:   Give me 2 weeks max and mantles will be my best friend :-)  )

Problem 2 was fun; an overhanging route with big moves, slopers, and a cool drop knee move.  The finish hold was a sloper that I had to match using a high toe hook.  Based upon the reaction of the crowd, I was almost sure I had won my division, by completing that problem.

Despite believing I had clinched the National title, I had one route left that I needed to climb.  This route was my favorite!  A steep overhang, with very powerful moves, and 10 out of the 14 holds were  volumes.  My first thought, “Volume climbing on an overhang?” Yup! And it was crazy cool! Nonstop, back to back, powerful moves.  And just when you think you are going to get a little relief at the second to last hold on the problem (since you finally reach a hold instead of a volume) you grip the hold, realize it’s horrible, but you have to commit to using it to bump up to the final volume/end box.   I powered through the problem on my first attempt and reached (but didn't control) the final hold.  By the reaction of the crowd, I was certain I had clinched the National title.

When I hit the ground, I turned and looked at the problem and my coaches words rang out in my head, "When you climb, always enjoy the journey".  With almost 3 minutes left I decided to go back at the problem.   For me it wasn't about a comp win, it was about enjoying the journey, all the way to the end!  I rested and jumped back on the problem, but fell low, when I slipped off a volume.  With less than 90 seconds left, I ran to my climbing bag to get some liquid chalk, chalked up really good, and jumped back on for my final attempt.  This time I made it to the top!!  I was super excited to conquer this challenge.   I had topped all 10 of my problems for the competition.

Finals Problem 1 (Photo by Travis Wills) "The 8th Time's a Charm"

Finals Problem 1 (Photo by Travis Wills)

"The 8th Time's a Charm"

Finals Problem 3 (Photo by Jennie Jariel)

Finals Problem 3 (Photo by Jennie Jariel)

The route setting at this comp was epic!! They challenged me in different ways, forced me to overcome my weakness, and made me rise to the challenges.   To top things off, I was selected to be a member of the 2014 The North Face Young Gun Rookie Team! 

An awesome start to my busy spring season!  Next stop, Rock & Rave- March 8 in Atlanta.     

2013 In Review

As 2013 comes to a close, I look back over the year, and begin planning for 2014.  I started the year with high goals of competing in my first youth world championship and climbing my first 5.14a route.  Looking back on this year, I realize I have so many reasons to be grateful for the experiences that I had, and hopeful for the year to come. 

Outdoor Climbing Adventures:  In addition to climbing my first 5.14 this year, I ended 2013 having sent 6 routes from 5.14a-5.14c.  This far exceeded my expectations.  Surprisingly, hard sends were only a small part of my amazing 2013 outdoor adventures.  Throughout the year, I had the pleasure of climbing with a host of people that volunteered to take really nice pictures/videos and/or teach me how to navigate and stay safe outdoors.  I’ve met people that live out of their cars near crags, work at local businesses, and donate half of their checks (and time) to replace bad bolts and draws at the crag so that we can stay safe when we climb.  Their generosity showed me how important it is for all of us to pitch in and help take care of our community.  I met a lot of people that have helped me get off to a good start as I continue to venture outside climbing more in the future.

Trebuchet, 5.14B, October 2013

Trebuchet, 5.14B, October 2013

Southern Smoke, 5.14C, April 2013

Southern Smoke, 5.14C, April 2013

Competing In My First Pro Comps:  This year, I was allowed to compete in my first Pro lead and bouldering competitions, Ring of Fire and Dark Horse.  During these competitions, I had the opportunity to climb alongside so many amazing climbers that I grew up watching.  Upon entering these competitions, I had to choose between competing in the Advanced division (where I would be more comfortable with the routes) or risk getting my butt kicked in the Open division with amazing competitors and tough routes.   I can never resist a challenge, so I took the 2nd option for both .  I made finals at both events, ending Ring of Fire in 8th place and Dark Horse in 4th place. After competing at both of these competitions, a lot of information was learned. I had to learn to adjust to difficult sequences in both a lead and bouldering setting.  Mentally and physically these competitions provided amazing training grounds.

RoF small.jpg
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Competing at My First Youth World Championship:  My experience in Victoria and becoming #4 in the world (for my age category) was amazing!   I met so many people from around the world and got really close to so many of my US teammates.  We became a family at US team camp.  I am really appreciative for all of the close friendships I developed and experiences that I had during this event.

Worlds photo.jpg

Gaining New Sponsors:  Evolv has supported me as an athlete for over 3 ½  years; first as a grassroots member, then as a National team member, and now as a member of their elite team.  They have always been great to me.  

During 2013, I have also had the pleasure of becoming a member of the Salewa and Tent & Trails teams. These are amazing companies that I am very proud and honored to represent. The Salewa brand is widely known throughout the international climbing community. It was an honor to be invited to become an ambassador for their products.  Tent and Trails is a New York based outdoor retail store that has quietly supported the climbing industry throughout the US for decades.   I am very fortunate that they saw my potential and decided to help give me the opportunity to continuing growing in the sport, through sponsorship.

I am very grateful to have sponsors that believe in me and want to help support my dreams!

evolv logo xs.jpg
Salewa small.png
T&T_Logo_small.jpg

I’m really pleased with my progress in 2013 and I look forward to pushing myself beyond my current limits and trying many new things next year.  I realize that when setting high goals, failure is inevitable.  Like most people, I hate to fail.  However, I really believe that if I keep working hard and pushing forward, success will ultimately come.  Thanks to everyone that helped to make 2013 an awesome year for me, and wish me luck as I venture into new territory in 2014!

2013 Youth Worlds Championship

I arrived in Victoria almost 2 weeks before the World Championships for the US team camp at the competition venue.  For 9 days, I trained hard during the day, and had a blast with my US teammates throughout the afternoon and evening.  I discovered that my teammates were not only talented climbers, but incredible and fun people.  Practical jokes, singing, dancing…… It was a perfect mix of hard work and fun.  The only downside was school work!  Since my school year began July 17, my teachers sent me work to complete each day.  I had 4 or 5 “drill sergeants” that stayed on me daily to make sure that I got everything done.  At the time, it wasn’t fun working while everyone else played, but it was worth it when I returned to school on track with my classmates.

us team pic.jpg

I had two qualification routes on day 1 and day 2 of the competition.  I fell on the finish hold of Q1 and flashed Q2.  I went into semifinals tied for 1st place with Swiss climber Sascha Lehmann.  Although I believed that I had entered the competition as prepared as possible, it was still hard to believe that I was actually strong enough to stand with the top climbers around the world. 

Day 3 was a rest day for me.  The speed competition took center stage this day.  US speed competitors were amazing!  John Brosler burned up the wall posting the lowest time for the Male Youth A category, 6.744 seconds!  In the end we walked away with 2 bronze medals, Kyra Condie and John Brosler, and 2 silver medals, Kayla Lieuw and Rita Marsanova. 

Buhrfeind

Buhrfeind

Semifinals and Finals were on the last day of the competition.  I entered semifinals extremely nervous, yet anxious to climb my best.  I was excited when I clipped the last anchor and was one of two competitors (in the entire competition) to flash my semifinals route, entering finals in first place.

Excitement and nervousness built up as I waited between my semifinals and finals climb.  I had dreamed about competing at the youth world championship since the age of 10.  It was hard to believe that I was actually there, and headed to finals.  The finals route was challenging, both mentally and physically.  I made it through some tough sequences up to the overhanging roof section of the route.  After a foot pop, I finally came down off the route, ending an amazing run of climbing at the world championship.  I later found out that positive movement was the difference between my 4th place finish and 2nd place!  At first I was incredibly upset and it took a minute for me to forgive myself and appreciate my overall performance at my first world championship.  Shortly after finals, Coach Shane spoke to me and said, “Sometimes you have to lose in order to learn to win.”  I wasn’t ready to hear that at the time. 

Now that it’s been a few days since the end of the competition, I have had time to reflect on the unbelievable events that I experienced.  I am really lucky to have awesome US team coaches (and teammates), private coaches (Emily and Shane), sponsors (Evolv and Salewa), family and friends that believe in and support me.  This competition allowed me to meet so many amazing people from all around the world.  I realize that I have dreams in this sport that go far beyond winning my category at worlds, and I have a lot hard work and learning to do to get there.  I’m starting to understand Coach Shane’s words.  This comp has made me really hungry to continue working hard and growing within the sport.  Two words that describe my feelings towards training for future events……..GAME ON!!!!

 

Tom Condie

Tom Condie