Six Steps for that Sexy Climber Hair

That climber hair. SHRN. Photo courtesy of Arthur Debowski
That climber hair. So hot right now. Photo courtesy of Arthur Debowski.

In the world of fashion, hair that looks artfully “mussed” is so hot right now. Consider the many “sexy bed hair” tutorials uncovered with a simple Google search, or the popular line of Bed Head haircare products available at pharmacies near you. The sort of windswept, salt-sprayed hairdos one finds perched atop the têtes of surfers and other beachgoers is also very much á la mode, enough to warrant a write-up in the New York Times.

But for those committed to the cutting edge, few groups sport wilder coiffures than road tripping climbers, confined as they are to tents or vans for months at a time with infrequent access to soap, combs, or running water. Luckily, there’s no need to be a dirtbag to have hair like one. Follow these six easy steps for a hairstyle equally at home at the crags or on the runway:

1. Stop showering – A key component to climber hair is the accumulation of sebum, a natural fatty acid produced in the scalp’s sebaceous glands. Washing hair regularly strips away sebum and leaves hair dry and boring. Therefore, the first step to cultivating that dirtbag climber look is to stop washing your hair with soap. Rinsing in the shower is OK, but if you want to go the authentic route (and I know you do), squeeze your head under the faucet of a gas station bathroom and then dry off with the provided paper towels. Your hair might feel a little too greasy at first, but give it some time. As my friend Nate used to say, “It’s like your hair starts cleaning itself after a while.”

2. Chalk up – The chalk we climbers use on our hands to increase friction ultimately ends up clinging to our oily, unwashed hair and providing texture and body. If you’re not planning on getting out on the rock any time soon, you can still buy a bag of powdered chalk at your local outdoor outfitter and sprinkle it over your head once or twice a day. As tempting as it may seem, avoid using liquid chalk in your hair—this alcohol and calcium carbonate blend, sometimes spiked with powdered pine resin, is smelly, overly drying, and probably flammable.

3. Sweat it out – A key component of beach hair is sea salt. Luckily, salt is also readily available in a substance that your body produces for you: sweat! For climbers, it’s easy to get sweaty. Just slog up a steep mountainside with a pack full of ropes and biners, then climb a few pitches of steep rock in the direct sun. A few hours of this, and your hair (and face and clothes) will be coated with a fine, salty film. If you’re not a climber, don’t worry: you can still sweat. Probably the easiest way would be to stand in your living room, put on all of your jackets at once, and turn on Braveheart. Every time someone gets killed, do one burpee.

4. Get some sun – The bleaching and drying effects of the sun are a perfect finisher for climber hair. If for some reason you don’t have regular access to the rays thrown off by this massive sphere of fusing hydrogen, consider picking up a sun lamp at your nearest health and beauty supplier. After getting good and sweaty, as mentioned above, pop your head under the lamp for an hour or two. Tanning salons are another alternative for this step (don’t forget your little goggle things!).

5. Wrap it up – For unknown reasons, many climbers wear knit beanies all the time, even if it’s not cold out. This turns that sebum, chalk, and sweat salt into a pungent hair tonic. Probably the most important time to wear your beanie is when you’re sleeping. As you roll around in your bed or back of your van or whatever, the hat will twist and shift, creating just the right amount of Derelicte messiness.

6. Let it loose – When you’re ready to go out, whip off your beanie and give your hair a good tousle. Run your fingers through it, shuffle it around, pull it down into goth spikes or up for that finger-in-a-light socket look—whatever. Just be sure to wash your hands and face to remove all the loose hairs, dirt, chalk, and oils that have accumulated. You’re good to go.

Post Picks from 2013

Image from top posts 2013

As Seth Godin wrote recently, “My most popular blog posts this year weren’t my best ones. … ‘best’ is rarely the same as ‘popular.'” It’s a worthwhile reminder, even though most of us intuitively sense the disconnect between popularity and quality. The problem is, the fast-flowing social Internet buoys up catchy, controversial, or otherwise, “sharable” content, while everything else sifts to the murky bottom. On the other hand, this means that for those hardy souls willing to dive for it, there is a fortune in buried treasure to be had.

For this reason, today I’m sharing not only The Stone Mind’s 10 most-viewed posts of 2013, but also a more personal list, comprised of posts that I’m particularly fond of. In keeping with Godin’s quote, only a few of the posts on the first list would have made the second.

If your favorite post didn’t make either list, consider posting a link in the comments. I’d love to hear what you enjoy reading (and why) and to make this post more valuable to others.

See you next year!

Top 10 Posts of 2013

  1. Thanks, Climbing… 
  2. Surviving A Honnold “Rest Day” 
  3. 10 Tips for Climbing on Opposite Day
  4. Everyday Climbing
  5. Put A Lid On It: Some Thoughts On Helmets In Sport Climbing
  6. 10 Rad Valentine’s Day Gifts for Climbers
  7. Fear, Fun, and Trying One More Time
  8. How to Make a Climbing Movie
  9. “The Sensei”
  10. The Professionals

10 Picks from the Author

  1. On Balance 
  2. Memento Mori
  3. The Art of (Almost) Letting Go
  4. Hueco Lessons
  5. The Importance of Respect
  6. Climbing Yourself
  7. Good Luck and Bad Luck
  8. Bouldering Alone 
  9. Running It Out
  10. The Mind/Body Problem

10 Gift Ideas for the Prehistoric Outdoorsperson

Ötzi's up for anything!
Ötzi’s up for anything! Photo: © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/A. Ochsenreiter

The outdoorsy lifestyle existed before synthetic base layers, REI, or even Fred Beckey. In fact, prehistoric humans spent pretty much all their time in nature, if you can believe that. Case in point: Ötzi, a 45-year-old dude whose preserved body was found in a jerky-like state high in the Alps more than five-thousand years after his death. The bearded, five-foot-two inch tall nature-boy made a habit of running up and down the mountains in what is today the border between Italy and Austria.

No ultimate roadtrip-mobile, Whole Foods, or Mountain Athlete Training for Ötzi. But just like the climbers, hunters, and thru-hikers of today, outdoorspeople of old loved their gear. Ötzi was found surrounded by all kinds of sweet kit for his time in the outdoors: a knife and an axe, a backpack, all-terrain footwear, even a bearskin cap. And since everyone else on the Internet has already compiled holiday buyer’s guides for the contemporary outdoor lifestyle, I thought I’d put one together for Ötzi and his kin.

1. Animal sinew – Shredded tendon fiber is super tough and, bonus, shrinks as it dries. It’s just the thing for binding a flint blade into an ash wood dagger handle. When paired with a bone awl, it’s the ideal way to mend broken seams in a pair of well-worn goat hide leggings.

2. Flint from the Lessini Mountains – For crafting into fresh knife blades or arrowheads, or for getting that fire going on a cold night under the stars, Lessini flint is the finest anywhere.

3. Grass and hay – Long strands of supple grass are good for binding stuff together—the wooden supports of a backpack frame or the ankle of your deerskin boots, for example. Meanwhile, grasses cut and dried into hay make an excellent insulating layer in boots. It’s a good idea to keep several handfuls of dry hay on hand at all times, to re-stuff your boots after a stream crossing or long hike through the high-mountain snows.

4. Copper polish – Sure, that copper axe can fell a yew tree in thirty minutes flat, but it’s also a status symbol worth keeping nice and shiny. For a good polish formula, trade with some low-landers for a grass pouch of citrus fruit, as the acidic juice makes quick work of oxidization. Bonus gift: a tab of beeswax. Applied after cleaning, it helps maintain the polish longer.

5. Animal fat – Like Michael Jackson in the 1980s, practically every piece of Ötzi’s wardrobe was made of animal hide, from hat to his loin cloth, from leggings to shoes. To keep everything supple, animal fat can be used to condition leather and hide.

6. Field horsetail – Any seasoned outdoorsperson wants gear that’s lightweight, easy to use, and versatile. Enter field horsetail: it’s abrasive enough to smooth and polish a yew tree bow, yet it can also be boiled in water to help ward off an assortment of maladies.

7. Shoots of viburnum sapwood – Two words: arrow shafts. Boom!

8. Dolomite marble disk – Any copper-age dude hiking around in the mountains with a bow and arrow is going to need a way to carry all the wildfowl he pots. A tassel of leather nooses is perfect for this purpose, but how to affix them to your person? A fine Dolomite marble disk, carved be the small-fingered youth of the region, is a great accessory. Simply thread a leather strap through the central hole of the disk and secure with a stopper knot. Then pass the disk beneath your leather utility belt and you’re all set. Attractive shape and color add an element of class to any ensemble.

9. Bracket fungi – You can never have too much of this Neolithic panacea. The fruiting body of the birch polypore fungus has long been known for its antibiotic and styptic effects, and the toxic oils it contains can ward off pesky intestinal parasites.

10. iPhone – If you were to give our friend Ötzi a bath and a shave, he’d fit right into twenty-first century society, and nothing says 2013 like an iPhone. GPS for way finding, high-res camera for capturing alpine sunsets, iMessaging to check in with the missus or village elders, and the Google app, to make sure those berries weren’t poisonous.

 

More on Ötzi

#ORPlaidIsRad: The Outdoor Retailer Plaidstagram Bingo Challenge

34_shades_of_plaid-4

If you’re reading this, chances are you own a plaid shirt, probably several. Popular across many demographics, plaid is de rigueur for us outdoorsy types. After attending more than a dozen Outdoor Retailer shows in Salt Lake City and noting the abundance of plaid shirts on display, I started to explore this curious fashion trend, first with a photo gallery and later with a video report.

To continue the colorful adventure, this year I’ve teamed up with Outdoor Research to bring you the Outdoor Retailer Plaidstagram Bingo Challenge, a photo contest that asks attendees of the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013 to see with fresh eyes the plaid-patterned universe that surrounds them, and to share that universe with the outside world.

If you’re going to the OR show this year, pick up bingo card and play along for a chance to win! So stoked to see all that plaid…

(Tip: During the show, a plaid-clad Semi-Rad [real name: Brendan Leonard] will be strolling the carpet of the convention center as one of the powerful corner squares on your bingo card. Look for him, most likely in proximity to the coffee bar at the Royal Robbins booth.) 

How It Works

For those attending ORSM13, on Day 2 (Thursday, August 1) of the show, do the following:

  1. Pick up a bingo card from Outdoor Research (booth #26015), or download at thestonemind.com/plaidisrad.
  2. Snap an Instagram photo of the rad plaid content identified in one of the bingo squares.
  3. Follow @thestonemind @outdoorresearch and @semi_rad on Instagram.
  4. Tag the picture with #ORPlaidIsRad @thestonemind @outdoorresearch and @semi_rad.
  5. Once you have 5 squares in a row (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal), return to the Outdoor Research booth to claim your plaid prize! (Bring your phone; all squares must be accompanied photographic evidence!)
  6. Don’t forget to read the RULES below…

The Prize

The first 12 people to bring evidence of a completed line on their bingo cards to the Outdoor Research booth will win a sweet plaid shirt and trucker hat from Outdoor Research a Petzl headlamp.

Where You Can See All Those Rad Plaid Photos

Click on over to thestonemind.com/plaidisrad to see a feed of the plaid photos tagged #ORPlaidIsRad. (Alternatively, you could search for the hashtag #ORPlaidIsRad in your Instagram app.)

Rules

  • Contest will run for one day only, Thursday, August 1, 2013, from 9am to 6pm Mountain Time. All images must be uploaded during this timeframe.
  • All images must be uploaded to Instagram and must include #plaidisrad, @outdoorresearch, @thestonemind and @semi-rad in the caption or comments section.
  • To claim your prize, you must swing by the Outdoor Research booth (#26015) by 6pm on Wednesday, July 31, 2013.
  • The first 12 people to complete their cards and bring photographic evidence to the booth will receive a prize.

Questions or comments? Please leave them below so others can see.

Animals that climb

Baby squirrel climbing concrete wall

We humans sure like to make a big deal out of our climbing feats. But anyone who’s spent much time on the rocks knows that nature has produced all manner of creature that excel at high-angle maneuverings in a way we clumsy Homo sapiens sapiens could only dream. Here’s a collection of 11 such variations from Mother Nature’s menagerie, all of which utilize unique and often strange modes of vertical locomotion.

Bears

This video of climbing bears started making the rounds in April, 2014, and really caught fire—probably because the climbing bears look so much like climbing humans when they move. According to the YouTube description, these “Endangered Mexican Black Bears” are scaling the walls of Santa Elena Canyon. The videographer spotted the momma and her cubs while kayaking and whipped out the ol’ camera, just in time to make an Internet sensation.

Baboons

Like most primates, baboons are excellent tree climbers. But did you know they also climb rocks? And because they’re built a lot like humans, they look like us when they climb, too. Aside from a killer strength-to-weight ratio, baboons benefit from long tails they can fling around for balance, and prehensile toes that can grasp the rock as ably as fingers. Baboons dig congregating on sheer cliff faces because it keeps them pretty well beyond the reach of natural predators, like leopards and cheetahs.

Geckos

These radass lizards have been the subject of endless scientific study due to their ability to calmly stroll up even the smoothest surfaces — glass, for example. They achieve this sweet trick thanks to their hairy feet. Not quite as gross as it sounds, geckos use superfine hairs called setae to adhere via van der Waals forces (which attract molecules to each other) to pretty much any surface. Adhesives have since been created that steal a page from the gecko’s playbook, and we will no doubt soon have climbing shoes coated with setae. Which would be totally cheating.

Sloths

Sure, they’re a little pokey, but what the sloth lacks in speed, it makes up for in efficiency. Sloths have long hook-like claws they use to dangle from the tree branches they call home. If you were to ask a sloth for climbing advice, he would probably say, “Simple. Don’t let go.” That’s advice these shaggy, muppet-looking creatures really take to heart — so tenacious is their grip, they’ve been observed to remain suspended in a tree even after they die.

Squirrels

We’ve all seen squirrels blast up a tree at warp speed, but did you know they can also climb a blank concrete wall? I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself, when a baby squirrel in Colorado fell from a tree and then scampered for the nearest wall to climb away from danger. Squirrels’ sharp, hook-like claws, coupled with a highly mobile ankle that allows them to rotate their rear feet around backwards, lets them hang from and climb a variety of surfaces. In the case of the baby squirrel I saw, tiny air-bubble pockets in the concrete were just right for claw placements.

Snakes

Like squirrels, the fact that snakes can climb trees is no big deal. But, troublingly, they can also climb other vertical surfaces — brick walls, for example. Researchers have found that snakes use what’s called a “concertina” mode of locomotion, in which some regions of the body stop and grip while others extend forward, to climb. Snakes not only have amazing flexibility (due to their hundreds of vertebrae) and muscle control, but they can also extend tough scales on their underside for increased grip.

Mountain Goats

Perhaps you’ve seen this photo, showing a bunch of goats (mountain ibex, specifically) chillin’ on the wall of a dam in Italy like it’s a nice place for a nap. Aside from a Honnoldian head for free soloing, many goats also have feet custom-made for vertical exploits. This passage from Douglass Chadwick’s book, A Beast the Color of Winter, describes the mountain goat’s special climbing footwear: “The sides of a mountain goat’s toes consist of the same hard keratin found on the hoof of a horse or deer. Each of the two wrap around toenails can be used to catch and hold to a crack or tiny knob of rock…The mountain goat is shod with a special traction pad which protrudes slightly past the nail. This pad has a rough textured surface that provides a considerable amount of extra friction on smooth rock and ice.” The list of all-terrain features goes on…  Five Ten take note…

Crabs

Wait. What? That’s right, crabs can climb — or at least one kind can: the coconut crab, which is an arthropod related to the hermit crab and is found across the islands of the Indian Ocean and parts of the Pacific. (FYI, the coconut crab can grow to be almost ten pounds and three feet across.) These fruit- and vegetable-loving critters will actually climb trees using their long, spiny legs and grab coconuts, which they then smash open using their powerful claws and eat.

Cats

As we all know, cat videos are the heart and soul of the Internet, so it was easy to find videos of cats climbing things. Still, it’s impressive that cats have so thoroughly honed their face and arête climbing techniques. Cats big and small rely on tactics similar to that of the squirrel — i.e., sharp claws and an awesome kinetic sense — to scale trees and manmade structures alike. I’d bet a can of Fancy Feast maneuvers like those shown in this video are the root of the term “cat burglar.”

Spiders

Like geckos, spiders legs are studded with microscopic hairs which, scientists postulate, allows them to stick to walls via electrostatic attraction (the afore-mentioned van der Waals forces). Spiders and most insects also sport tiny tarsal claws that can grip the minute texture of surfaces that, to our eyes, appear smooth. Hence their ability to hang upside-down on the ceiling and then drop on you. Which is totally creepy. In fact, I think I feel a tickle on my neck right now…

Snails

Lubricated with a mucus layer secreted by a gland near the mouth, snails are able to glide, albeit slowly, on a layer of slime. This terrestrial gastropod mollusk’s flat underside undulates in a wave-like motion to propel it forward. Its slimy excretions, combined with a smooth, flat base, creates a powerful suction, allowing snails to climb walls, trees, etc. This method of climbing, although effective, is undoubtedly the grossest method, and it really louses things up for other creatures who might want to climb afterward, like that super sweaty guy in the gym.

How to Make a Climbing Movie

make_a_climbing_movie

Video is all the rage these days, and thanks to increasingly affordable and powerful cameras, not to mention social media and the mobile web, the barrier to filmmaking stardom is thinner than at any time in the history of planet Earth. If you like climbing and you have a DSLR, there really is no good reason to wait. All you need is a subject (a strong-ish climber and a good route or problem), an afternoon, and a laptop with a pirated copy of Final Cut. That, coupled with the following 10-step structure will help you make a hot vid that’ll get you rich, 100% guaranteed.*

1. Set the scene… – Slider footy of beautiful natural places surrounding the climbing area. (“Footy” is slang for “footage,” if you’re not in the know.)  If you can’t afford a slider, a simple pan will suffice, I guess… but you should really get a slider.Bonus footy: Grab a time-lapse of sunrise, clouds zooming over crag. 

2. Hi, my name is…  – Sit your subject(s) down in front of idyllic landscape or at least a nice-looking tree. Have them say the following: “Hi, my name is [name], I’m from [location], and I’ve been climbing for [number of years]. Cut interview footage with shots of your climber getting geared up: pulling on shoes, tying in, brushing holds, etc. Pro tip: Be sure to bring your sticks (aka tripod) for rock-solid talking-head shots.

Bonus footy: Have your climber tell the story of how he / she started climbing at a friend’s climbing gym birthday party, or whatever.

3. Introduce the area – Show images of the crag — shallow depth of field always a plus — and splice in close-ups of running water, birds in trees, common insects, and / or grass blowing in a field (this is called B-roll in the biz… hey, you got that slider, right?). Have your climber endorse the area: “[Area X] is one of my favorite places. I’ve been climbing here for [number of seasons], and the routes / problems are as good as anything else I’ve seen. [Something positive about the rock and / or local culture].

Bonus footy: Throw focus (i.e., make the image blurry and then sharp) a bunch.

4. Introduce super rad route / problem – Have your climber say something along these lines: “This one route / problem in particular really caught my attention — it’s called [route / problem name] and it’s about [grade]. It follows a super aesthetic line. It’s really classic…” Etc.

Bonus footy: Have your climber drop some knowledge about the route / problem history: the original route developer / first ascentionist / funny story behind the climb’s name.

5. Capture the struggle – Show your climber trying and failing on the route / problem over and over again. You almost can’t show too much failure, as it simply builds the suspense (“Will he / she send?!”). In a bouldering video, it is good to show the climber falling on every move of the problem two or three times. Have your climber show the camera his / her chalky, calloused, possibly bloody fingers as proof of dedication.

Bonus footy: Show us a real-life wobbler — a fully grown man / woman screaming obscenities, kicking a wall of solid stone, or whipping his / her chalk bag, all because he / she was unable to climb up a rock.

6. Show progress – Show the climber linking sections of the climb, but make sure he / she still repeatedly falls at the crux. We need to taste the excitement of a possible send before it actually happens. At this point, the climber should describe the crux section or sections: “The crux is really tricky and powerful — it involves a [shallow mono-pocket / skeezy knee bar / all-points-off slab dyno to double fist jams]. After that, you get a quick shake and then have to [fight the barn door / make a blind toss to a razor-sharp undercling / execute a full bat hang]. The finishing jug is guarded by [the world’s smallest crimper / a below-the-waist lock-off on a completely natural five-mono “bowling ball” hold / a rabid Chihuahua].”

Bonus footy: In the middle of this section, show your climber breaking off a key hold and then shouting, “Shit!” [dramatic pause] “[Sigh…] I don’t know if it even goes any more.” Fade to black…

7. Build the dramatic arc higher – Show your climber triumphantly working through the crux against all odds. If you got the broken-hold money shot in the previous step, make sure to show your climber working out a new-and-improved sequence. A glimmer of hope when everything seems darkest.

Bonus footy: Candid shot of your climber sitting alone, eyes closed in meditative silence, methodically rubbing chalk into his / her fingers.

8. Witness the fitness – Cut to your climber setting out on the route / problem from the beginning, but this time be sure to up the volume on the music track (hip hop or electronic, preferably), to signal something sick is about to go down. Multiple angles (from above, from the side, from the ground) will allow the audience to experience the movement in a sort of 3-D hyper-reality. Close-ups of fingers and toes grasping tiny edges and pockets are key to show the viewer that, No, those are not jugs. Tight shot on the climber’s face as he / she grasps the finishing hold and hoots or yodels in victory.

Bonus footy: Get creative — super-slow-mo or GoPro POV footage add “depth” to your “story.”

9. Coming back down – All that training and paleo dieting paid off, so be sure to nail a shot of relieved joy on your climber’s face as he / she is lowered to the ground / stands atop the boulder with arms raised in victory. Interview footage here would include phrases like, “I’m so psyched to be able to climb this [awesome route / rad problem]; it really filled the aching void in my soul,” “That was pretty sick, for sure, but I’m a badass so I never really doubted it would go down. In fact, I’m surprised it took as long as it did,” or, “I’m glad that’s done; now I can eat a burrito.”

Bonus footy: Fist bumps for everyone.

10. And… scene – A few good cuts of everyone packing up their gear and cracking brewskis. Grab that time-lapse footage of the sun coming up and just flip it to create a sunset / feeling of closure. The climber should offer some heart-warming nugget of wisdom like, “You know, sending felt really good, but just spending a day out with good friends is the best part. It’s really special…” Classic heroic journey drama set in nature. It’s in the bag.

Bonus footy: If your video has any sponsors, now’s a good time to put their logos on screen. Go ahead and thank mom and dad for getting you your camera, while you’re at it…

–––––

*Not guaranteed.

 

“First” Ascents for Everyone!

Ethan Pringle on the FSOA of Lost in Translation (5.13; four pitches). The Great Arch, Getu, China. Photo: © John Evans
Ethan Pringle on the FSOA of Lost in Translation (5.13; four pitches). The Great Arch, Getu, China. Photo: © John Evans

The world of climbing is all about firsts. First climb of the grade, first free ascent, first female ascent, first ascent in winter… . To do a thing before anyone else is to become a glorious human bullet point in the history books — or history blogs, as the case may be today.

But damn, being first is hard! Not everyone can be first — that’s why it’s called “first.” After that, well, the scrap heap of history is full of unmemorable people who did things second, third, fourth, or seventy-sixth. As Ricky Bobby said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

This state of affairs is all well and good for the Sharmas and DiGiulians, the Messners and the Hills of the world, but where does that leave the rest of us, who dwell unexceptionally in the middle of the bell curve? Nowhere special, that’s for sure.

Luckily, with a little creative thinking, there is hope for us all.

First, consider what makes you wonderful and unique, like a snowflake. Consider your physiology, your skill sets and perspectives, the clothes you wear to climb, your cultural background, etc. Therefore, it should be no great challenge to find a way in which your ascent can be the first of its kind — a qualified FA, if you will. Below are just a few examples. Can you think of any others?

FCA (First Costumed Ascent) – You might recall a scene in the old Cooper Roberts climbing flick Sessions in which Ana Burgos climbs some boulder in Hueco Tanks while wearing a rabbit costume. This was almost certainly the problem’s FBSA (First Bunny Suit Ascent). Similarly, the late Kurt Albert made the FLCA (First Lederhosen Clad Ascent) of Devil’s Crack, in the Frakenjura, and Ethan Pringle made the FSOA (First Spiderman Outfit Ascent) of Lost in Translation (5.13), a limestone multi-pitch on the Great Arch in Getu, China. Thousands of FCAs (not to mention their opposite, First Nude Ascents) await. In fact, I know a friend who has a banana suit you can borrow if you’re interested…

FTFSA (First Tripping Free Solo Ascent) – The late Major League Baseball player Dock Phillip Ellis, Jr., claims to have pitched a perfect game while under the influence of LSD. Along similar lines, legend holds that a certain Gunks climber showed up at the Lost City area tripping his balls off and proceeded to free solo Survival of the Fittest, a powerful 5.13 with a jumble of big pointy rocks for a landing. Although not recommended for a whole slew of legal, ethical, and safety reasons, many FTFSAs remain to be claimed the world over. On the other hand, FSAs — First Stoned Ascents — have pretty much all been ticked at this point (sorry, dudes).

FMURA (First Most Undesirable Route Ascent) – In the Tao de Ching, Lao Tzu writes: “True goodness is like water. … It goes right to the low loathsome places, and so finds the way.” So can the crafty FA-hunter find what he or she is looking for by going straight to the lowest, chossiest, most tick-and-spider-infested pile in an area and proceeding to climb. Enjoy!

FSTAA (First Shorter Than Average Ascent) – Shorter than average climbers (≤5′ 9″ for men and ≤5′ 4″ for women) will often use height as an excuse for failure on a route. Such excuses rarely hold water, as many of the world’s best climbers fall into this category and most rock climbs offer a variety of holds for short- and tall-person beta alike. However, it is true that certain climbs are known for their “reachy” nature. A prime example is Dogleg, in the Red River Gorge. For those six feet or taller, it is appropriately graded at 5.12a. But for the 5′ 5″ Mike Doyle, who made the FA of Lucifer, the Red’s first 5.14c, Dogleg‘s reach-crux was a serious challenge. After sending, he logged it on sendage.com with the note, “1000th attempt, finally stuck the dyno. Some people say 6c-/7a+, I say 8c+ :)” With typical Canadian modesty, Doyle suggests his ascent might not be the FSTAA: “For all I know, Lynn Hill and Katie Brown tag teamed flash ascents of this beast.”

FNCSA (First Non-Climbing Shoe Ascent) – Before 1980 and the invention of sticky rubber climbing shoes, pretty much everything was a FNCSA. But in the modern era of climbing, the undeniable advantages of skin-tight footwear with super-sticky soles means that few new routes or problems get done in sneakers, flip-flops, unshod feet, etc. The world is your oyster here, but first a tip: train on a campus board and pull-up bar to prepare for those footloose moments when your painted wooden kletterclogs refuse to stick.

FPPA and FGA (First Pre-Pubescent and First Geriatric Ascent) – For the very young and very old among us, simply doing a climb at whatever age you happen to be might qualify as an FA of sorts. But don’t count on it — the roster of wee tikes and old farts getting after it grows longer every day.

F[Insert Your Ailment Here]A – Erik Weihenmayer, Hugh Herr, Craig DeMartino, Ronnie Dickson — all guys who climb harder than you despite facing challenges like blindness or missing limbs. Their FAAs (Fist Adaptive Ascents) are the stuff of legend and not for the average climber I’m addressing here. For folks like us, there are far-more accessible FAs for the taking, such as the FEDA (First Explosive Diarrhea Ascent), the FAUA (First Alopecia Universalis Ascent), or the FNAA (First Nut Allergic Ascent). Are you one of the 6.974 billion people on planet Earth who suffer from a physiological or psychological ailment, impediment, or challenge? Then there is a qualified FA out there waiting for you. To quote Brad Pitt in Troy: “Take it; it’s yours!”

Toe Shoes: A Solution

Web

Much venom has been spewed about the “toe-shoe” since its début almost a decade ago. With separate pockets for each toe, they take on the shape of the human foot… or perhaps more accurately the shape of a large, brightly colored hobbit’s foot.

In a world full of shoes with unified toe boxes, the toe shoe is disconcerting, vaguely nauseating for reasons difficult to pin down. As such, the millions of disembodied voices of the Internet have leveled their collective judgement on toe shoes, mocking and berating them as a fashion faux pas, eyesores, and indicators of shoddy character, lackluster intelligence, or worse.

Of course, those who wear toe shoes vehemently disagree. They point to the fact that evolution sculpted the foot to carry us ably and comfortably wherever we might go. Our toes were never meant to be bound up and treated as a single unit, they cry, but as individuals, strong and spirited and each with its own job to do!

Perhaps you’ve heard of The Barefoot Running Book or Born to Run? Unless you make your bed beneath a boulder (and maybe even if you do), you’ve read about the various benefits of “minimalist” running and the attending footwear sub-industry that has sprung up around it. It is doubtful that millions of toe-shoe acolytes are entirely wrong…

Whether you’re for or against toe shoes is a matter of personal preference, but what’s not up for debate is the pain and suffering they can cause the friends, families, and significant others of those who wear and love them.

A trip to the store takes on a darker cast when you feel the judgment of your fellow patrons burning a hole in your Vibram Five Fingers. A night at the movies starts off on the wrong toe when your date looks down and thinks, “Oh god, does he have to wear them tonight?” Your teenage son cancels those plans for a jog the day after you show off your new, reptile-green Fila Skeletoes.

There is a certain irony that a shoe designed to maximize comfort could be the source of such friction. Marriages have crumbled over less.

Luckily, there’s a solution to the toe-shoe problem. Built on the modern spat platform, the Toe BeGone toe shoe cover slides over the top of your foot and and secures with a handy velcro strap under the bottom. The upper, available in a variety of water-resistant colors and designs (from sporty sneaker to casual loafer), creates the illusion that you’re wearing a “normal” shoe, while allowing you the toe-tal comfort and freedom of movement of a toe shoe.

Never have to explain your footwear again. With the Toe BeGone, you can have the best of both worlds.

Kickstarter coming soon.

10 Tips for Climbing on Opposite Day

Illustration of person climbing perfectly... on opposite day

Remember Opposite Day? That special time when we were kids where everything we said was magically inverted to mean the contrary? Such power we wielded! I recently discovered that January 25th is the pseudo-official date of this imaginary “holiday.” But in my opinion, the best thing about Opposite Day is that it can be invoked at any time — a sort of floating Shangri-La of sarcasm that materializes when called.

With that in mind, I have compiled the following 10 tips for how to climb on Opposite Day, for total beginners and experienced rock wrastlers alike. Follow these tips carefully to become a great climber… Not!

1. Hold your breath – Science has shown that only through holding your breath can you create the proper body tension required to climb. To prepare for vertical voluntary apnea, practice not breathing in a safe place close to the ground. That way, when you pass out, you won’t have far to fall. Recommended breath-holding practice locations include a sofa, bed, or crashpad. To be avoided: hot tubs, the high limbs of trees, a closed room containing a pack of hungry pugs.

2. Care about looking cool – Few things are more important to a real climber than appearance. Favorite skinny jeans and striped tank top in the washer? Better to stay home than to head to the crag. Feeling a little bland at the gym? Try getting an arm-sleeve tattoo, capping your matted crop of dreadlocks with an ill-fitting trucker hat, or growing an ironic mustache. The self-confidence you gain from your new appearance will be all you need to power you up the wall.

3. Carry as little water and food as possible – The only edible thing Clint Eastwood brought up the Totem Pole in the cult classic The Eiger Sanction was beer. And he didn’t even mean to bring that — his good-for-nothin’ partner slipped it in his pack. The takeaway here is that hydration and nutrition are for sissies. A good rule of thumb before a long multi-pitch day in the desert is: one tall glass of water before you leave in the morning and, if you feel you need it, another when you get back to your van. As for that gobbledygook about “bonking”? Go sit in an empty chair — Clint will tell you what you can do with your Camelbak and Clif Bars.

4. Use you arms – Can you do 10 pull-ups? Then you can do at least 10 climbing moves. It is commonly known that the best rock climbers have spindly little legs, and that’s because their lower limbs, like the human appendix, are borderline vestigial, used only for transporting their powerful upper bodies to the base of the climb.

5. Wing it – As it’s Opposite Day, I won’t hesitate to let you in on a little secret: belaying requires neither information nor practice. I mean, you pull the rope through the doohickey and then when your climber falls, you grab tight and hold on for the ride. It doesn’t matter how far the climber falls as long as he stops short of the ground. Or at least slows significantly before impact. And to answer your question: Yes, those rope burns on your palms are normal.

6. Throw your helmet in the trash – You probably have one of those friends who swears that it’s safer to drive without a seatbelt because, in the event of an accident, he’s likely to be thrown from the car and safely into a soft pile of dried leaves. Turns out your friend is right. And a similar logic applies to helmets. For example, if you’re struck by lightning, today’s modern foam-and-plastic brain buckets would almost certainly be fused to your head. Not worth the risk!

7. If you can’t climb it, chip it – There is more than enough rock in the world for everyone to climb. Therefore, if you’re trying to do something that’s just too hard, or maybe tweaks your shoulder a little bit, grab a hammer and a chisel and make like Michelangelo. No one will notice, and even if they do, they’ll probably thank you for transforming nature’s half-assed rocks into king lines. Boom goes the dynamite!

8. Freak out – No one ever climbed anything worthwhile with a level head. When you realize that you don’t have enough cams to protect the rest of the crack you’re trying to tackle, do the following very important steps: 1) contract all the muscles in your body. 2) Start hyperventilating. 3) Babble hysterically to yourself, the wall, and your belayer. 4) Start unclipping the remaining gear from your harness and flinging it into space. 5) Disrobe as much as possible. 6) Give up on life and climb as high as you can above your last piece of gear. Good luck!

9. Pump up the volume – Birds singing, a babbling brook, the whistling whisper of wind between the trees and boulders… Eff that ish! Time to bust out the iPod and portable speakers and blast some dubstep. How else are you going to get psyched?! Of course, once you’re up on the rock, breaking the rad barrier to the unrelenting, grinding pulse of Deadmau5, you’re also going to want to cut loose with some Ondra roars and unedited expletive explosions. How else will people know you’re not just out climbing some rock like all these other n00bs?

10. ABC (Always Be Climbing) – Any fast food chain owner will tell you: success isn’t about quality, it’s a matter of sheer volume. Climbing every day or even multiple times per day, is the quickest way to get stupid strong. Tendon pain? Partially dislocated shoulder? Exhaustion-induced illness? Meer bumps in the road to glory. Now get back on that wall and give me 20 laps.

[Video] Why Plaid? A closer look at the unofficial uniform of Outdoor Retailer

Last August I wrote a post called 50 Shades of Plaid, featuring a photo gallery of the many plaid shirts that attendees of the Outdoor Retailer Show wore. The post garnered an inordinate amount of attention and, as Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013 approached, several people asked what I was planning for a follow-up. This video, shot entirely on an iPhone 5, is the answer — a closer look into plaid, the unofficial uniform of the Outdoor Retailer Show and the outdoor industry.

From Chalk to Salve: Crap Climbers Put on Their Hands

You might have noticed that rock climbers are obsessed with their hands. Hang out at any crag, and you’ll observe people constantly examining the epidermis of their hands for damage, tamping their tips with the end of the thumb to test the skin’s resilience, trimming nails, filing calluses, taping sore digits, and otherwise tending to wounds that might impede progress on future climbs. It is a scene from some depraved, chalk and dirt coated, self-serve manicure salon.

Little surprise, then, that in pursuit of ideal skin conditions, climbers also apply a wide array of substances to their battered mitts. There is a veritable medicine cabinet worth of crap we dab and slather on our hands so we might climb better, climb longer, climb more often. Below, an abridged list in three sections: drying agents; salves, balms, and oils; and moisturizers. If I’ve left out anything, which I almost certainly have, please add in the comments.

DRYING AGENTS

In climbing, moisture is friction’s enemy. Sweaty fingers or humid air can reduce your ability to crank by up to 32% (I just made that up). Accordingly, we climbers are constantly looking for ways to dry out our skin and maximize our ability to stick to small, sloping, or otherwise shitty holds. Below are several specific brands of drying agent, for illustrative purposes, but keep in mind that many companies make chalk, liquid chalk, resin powder, and even scented chalk.

Gym Chalk (aka, the classic)

Claims: Helps absorb moisture, non-toxic
Ingredients:
Magnesium carbonate
Downside: Leaves unsightly white marks on the rock and your clothes.
(Link: amazon.com)

 

 

Herbal Chalk 

Claims: “Calm your mind and ignite your power to make the move with this spice powered herbal chalk” and “Sooth your sore finger tips, worn thin from days of throwing yourself at a rock, so the last pitch is as fun as the first!”
Ingredients:
 Magnesium carbonate, organic extracts, natural sources of menthol.
Downside: Um…
(Pictured: Joshua Tree Fire Herbal Chalk)

Colored Chalk

Claims: “Selected to match common rock colors. The result is a chalk that provides performance climbers demand but does not leave behind unsightly white stains. Rock Chalk is all natural, nontoxic and washable.”
Ingredients:
Magnesium carbonate blend with all natural pigments.
Downside: Requires a separate chalk bag for each rock type you tackle.
(Pictured: Terra Rock Colored Chalk)

Liquid Chalk

Claims: “solves the issue of keeping your skin coated with chalk on long boulder problems or intense routes were it is impossible, or too strenuous, to take a hand off for a dip in the chalk bag” and “And then there are the environmental benefits – use liquid chalk and the normal trail of white paw marks will be greatly reduced.”
Ingredients
: Alcohol, magnesium carbonate, magnesium hydroxide, colphonium, hydroxypropylcellulosum, styrax bezoin.
Downside: Alcohol component can over-dry. Some liquid chalk contains resin (rosin; see below).
(Pictured: DMM Liquid Chalk)

Rosin (or Resin)

Claims: Improves grip (couldn’t find any claims with this particular product, but that’s the long and short of it).
Ingredients:
Powdered pine resin (colophane), often with additional fillers.
Downside: Creates a glassy (read: frictionless), black coating where used (Fontainebleau, anyone?) . Over time makes the rock almost unclimbable unless you continue to use rosin.
(Pictured: 8c Plus Colophane) 

Antihydral Cream

Claims: “One little dab of the cream, rub it into your hands and your hands will stay bone dry for hours or days” (from foosdirect-store.com). “Methenamine is a condensation product of formaldehyde and ammonia and in solution it releases formaldehyde at a rate depending on the acidity of the medium. The resultant anhidrosis is essentially the result of precipitated protein plugs in the sweat duct” (from a scientific study found here). “This stuff has been a game changer by helping me keep my largest organ in better nick” (from Andrew Bisharat’s review on eveningsends.com).
(Active) Ingredients:
Methenamine.
Downside: Danger of extreme cracking and splitting due to over-dryness. Unless you live in Germany, you’ll have to mail order from shady foosball e-commerce site.
(Link: foosdirect-store.com)

SALVES, BALMS, OILS

While drying agents help you perform on the rock, climbers turn to this class of hand schmutz to help their poor, battered hands heal. Split tips, bloody flappers, and weeping tips? No problem! Just rub on some herbal compound, and you’ll be cranking like it never happened! Truth is, the only cure for truly damaged skin is time, but these various treatments might speed the process a bit…

Joshua Tree Climbing Salve

Claims: “Effective in treating dry, chapped skin, chafing, abrasions, scrapes and cuts” and “moisturizes and promotes healing without softening calluses that the body produces for protection.”
Ingredients:
 Beeswax, sunflower oil, jojoba, lavender and tea tree oil, freshly brewed extracts of calendula, echinacea, chaparral, comfrey, myrrh, and benzoin gum.
Downside: Oily consistency leaves anything you touch with a sheen for the first 10-15 minutes after applying.
(Link: jtreelife.com)

Tip Juice

Claims: “It soothes. It calms. It nourishes. It relieves. It promotes skin renewal. It keeps you climbing.”
Ingredients: Unlisted on the website, but is made by hand with “no machines, just pots and pans. Using only the finest natural and vegan ingredients”
Downside: You just put something called “tip juice” on your hands. It was made in some British dude’s “pots and pans.” And you paid to do it.
(Link: tipjuice.co.uk)

Metolius Climber’s Hand Repair Balm

Claims: “Antiseptic blend speeds healing and promotes new skin growth.”
Ingredients:
Beeswax, almond oil, apricot oil, Shea butter, cocoa butter, mango butter, St. John’s wort, calendula, chamomile, chickweed, plantain, comfrey leaf, olive oil, aloe vera, jojoba, wheat germ, and a blend of tea tree and lavender essential oils.
Downside: Like Joshua Tree Climbing Salve, can be oily.
(Link: metolius.com)

Climb On! Bar

Claims: “This one product can soothe burns, cuts, scrapes, rashes, cracked cuticles and heels, tissue nose, road rash, diaper rash, abrasions, poison ivy…any skin issue that needs deep moisturizing and nourishing.”
Ingredients:
Yellow beeswax, apricot kernel oil, grapeseed oil, wheatgerm oil, essential ois of Citrus vulgaris, lavender, lemon, vitamin E.
Downside: Potent herbal scent.
(Link: climbonproducts.com) 

Crimp Oil

Claims: “Produced especially for climbers who are healing injuries” and “will keep your fingers in good form and less susceptible to tweak when applied after each session” and “quickly eases pain from sore tendons, joints and muscles and supports the daily abuse of hard climbing and solid crimping” and “It can be very effective in case of sprains for example for boosting micro-circulation in addition to cryotherapy” and “Crimp Oil is also very effective in cases of migraine.”
Ingredients:
Helichrysum italicum, peppermint, lemon eucalyptos, lavindin super, wintergreen, geranium, equisetum arvense.
Downside: Extreme hippyfication.
(Link: crimpoil.com)

MOISTURIZERS

Common climbing wisdom has it that lotions can soften the skin, leaving you more prone to damage in future outings. Personally, cold weather and constant chalk application make my hands so dry, I’d be cracked and bleeding if I didn’t apply some sort of lotion routinely throughout the fall and winter. I’m not alone. Many climbers have found a use for moisturizers in their arsenal of skin-case treatments. Since dry skin is by no means limited to the vertically minded, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of acceptable lotions out there. Here are a few that I like or that have been recommended to me by other climbers:

Mane and Tail Hoofmaker

Claims: “Originally developed for horses to moisturize dry, cracked, brittle hooves. Since applied to the hoof by human hands, over time many of those using Hoofmaker on their horses noticed dramatic improvement in the condition of their hands and nails.”
Ingredients:
 Water, distearyldimonium chloride, cetearyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, glycerin, stearamidopropyl dimethylamine lactate, cocos nucifer oil, cetyl alcohol, Polysorbate 60, Steareth 20, Glycine soya oil, DMDM, hydantoin fragrance, methylparaben lanolin, PEG-150, stearate propylparaben, hydrolyzed collegen, PEG-25, castor oil, sodium chloride,  allantoin, olea europaea fruit oil, benzyl sallcylate, citronellol, geraniol, hexyl cinnamal, butylphenyl, methylpropional, limonene, linalool, hydroxyisohexyl-3-Cyxlohexene, Carboxaldehyde, Yellow 5 (C1 19140), Yellow 6 (C1 15985).
Downside: Look at that ingredient list! May lead to uncontrollable snorting, neighing, and desire to run wild through the hills.
(Link: manentail.com)

Eucerin Intensive Repair Extra Enriched Hand Creme

Claims: “Repairs and gently exfoliates dry, cracked skin on the hands and fingers.”
Ingredients: 
Water, glycerin, urea, glyceryl stearate, stearyl alcohol, dicaprylyl ether, sodium lactate, dimethicone, PEG-40 stearate, cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane, aluminum starch octenylsuccinate, lactic acid, xanthan gum, phenoxyethanol, methylparaben, propylparaben.
Downside: “Contains alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), which may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, and particularly the possibility of sunburn.”
(Link: eucerinus.com)

Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve

Claims: “Allows skin to actually draw and absorb water from the air, forming a “glove–like” protective barrier against moisture loss” and “helps protect against and repair the appearance of severe dryness caused by heavy industrial work, manual labor, neglect, or exposure to harsh elements.”
Ingredients:
“A blend of botanical oils including avocado, eucalyptus, and sesame seed, as well as a natural wax derived from olive oil.”
Downside: Super greasy. Super expensive.
(Link: kiehls.com)

How to Spot a Climber in the Wild

As a budding young climber from Ohio in the early ’90s, I was eager to define myself as more than just another Midwestern suburbanite who bled scarlet and grey. Perhaps to feel more like a member of the tribe, I took pride in identifying climbers on the street, Sherlock Holmes style, based on telltale aspects of their appearance — chalky hands, a prAna T-shirt, a rope-worn biner for a keychain. There was something affirming in just knowing… and maybe getting a curt nod from a fellow climber who’d just performed the same analysis on me.

Two decades later, I no longer care whether other people climb or know that I climb. Nonetheless,  I’ve refined my aptitude for picking out one of my own from a crowd. Below and in no particular order, a list of climber traits you can use to profile folks based on looks alone when they’re nowhere near a crag or a gym. Spot the Climber can be a fun game to play while people watching, or a good way to strike up a convo at a boring social event with someone who shares your love of the vertical. But take heed! One must exercise caution when making assumptions, as all of these traits on their own have crossover with other activities, making them “false tells.” And, of course it’s always important to remember that our generalizations are easily shredded by those folks who don’t particularly look like climbers (too tall and lanky, too short and stocky, too much fat, not enough muscle, “wrong” clothes, etc.), but who will teach you a lesson when it comes to moving over stone and ice.

Obviously, this is an abridged list. What are some of the traits you use to identify a climber in the wild?

Battle-Damaged Hands  

The hands are the most critical body part in climbing, and they get used and abused to no end. Climbers are constantly gripping sharp or highly textured rock surfaces, leading to all manner of scrapes and flappers. Climbers’ digits often grow thicker and more knuckly with age, until they take on the appearance of overstuffed sausages and are so bound up with scar tissue and tendonitis they can barely sign the credit card receipt for a new hang board. Crack climbers’ hands are perhaps the most unsightly, with patches of raspberry-textured scabbing from getting squeezed and screwed between two immovable planes of sandpapery stone. Climbing in cold weather, plus the use of drying agents like chalk, liquid chalk, and antihydral, can lead to cracked and split skin. Finally, holding the rope while belaying transfers dirt and fine metal particles onto a climber’s hands, leading to black streaks across the middle of the palms. Oy vey!

False tell: mechanic, construction worker, craftsman

How does that saying go? The hands are a window to a climber’s soul…

Wears Approach Shoes

In order to sure-footedly scramble over rock slabs, teeter across talus fields, and even edge up sections of moderate fifth-class, climbers purchase a special sort of sneaker. From the outside, many of these “approach shoes” look no different from trail runners or even skate shoes, but a true climber knows how to spot the brands (Five Ten, La Sportiva, Scarpa, Evolv, Mad Rock, etc.) that make real approach shoes, and the gluey black rubber (with names like Vibram and Stealth) that give them their secret sticking powers.

False tell: Non-climbing outdoorsy types who shop indiscriminately at the REI sale rack, parkour practitioners

Chalky Clothes & Face

First used by gymnasts for grip on various apparati (pommel horse, rings, and bars), chalk, aka magnesium carbonate, serves as a drying agent on sweaty hands. Little surprise, then, that John Gill, godfather of modern bouldering, adopted chalk for climbing way back in 1954. Over the years, chalk has become ubiquitous enough that pretty much every climber at a crag or in a gym carries his or her own bag full of the stuff. Now every popular route and problem has a heathy trail of the stuff leading to the top, and every climber has chalk compacted beneath his fingernails, dusting his hair, forming ghostly hand prints on his clothing, and rattling around in his alveoli (“I think I’m getting the white lung, pop!” *cough cough*). One friend of mine has a funny habit of chalking up immediately before putting the rope in his teeth to make a clip, leaving him with a chalky lip that screams, “I plundered the powdered donut jar.”

False tell: Baker, cocaine addict, gymnast

The tell-tale chalk prints of recently active climber.

Carabiners on Person

The climbing carabiner as we know it today was devised by a guy named Otto around the turn of the 20th century. Originally used to connect to anchors, biners have come into popular favor and are now put to use connecting any two things that need connecting. Many climbers use retired biners to clip a leash to their dog’s collar or hold their keys. Less experienced climbers (or non-climbers) can often be seen using large, heavy, and expensive locking biners for such non-intended uses. A common sight on college campuses, for example, is a $20 locking carabiner dangling from the faux daisy chain running down the side of a The North Face backpack… you know, just in case.

False tell: Pretty much anybody

Careful there, that biner’s only rated to 22kN! (Oh, and your gate’s open…)

Lives In Boulder

The small college / mountain town of Boulder, Colorado, is one of the most climber-dense regions in the world. If someone says they are from Boulder, it is a pretty safe bet that they have a “project” at the “crag,” know how to sharpen an ice screw, or are preparing for an “objective” in the mountains.

False tell: Cyclist, endurance runner, perma-stoned college student, super-wealthy bleeding-heart liberal

F*#$ed-Up Feet

For maximum performance, rock climbers typically downsize their rock shoes. In extreme cases, this crushingly tight, down-turned footwear amounts to little more than a form self-inflected foot binding. But even when climbing shoes aren’t tight, climbing itself is a foot-intensive pursuit. Multiple pitches of tiptoeing up granite edges or torquing toes into splitter cracks will take its toll. The result is bruised, missing, or fungus-infected nails, swollen toe-knuckles, and skin discolored by the climbing shoes’ dye. Alpinists and ice climbers subject their “dogs” to a different form of abuse: frostbite. In extreme cases, this can leave toes black and necrotic, resulting in permanent damage or even amputation.

False tell: ballet dancerendurance runner, dogsled racer 

The medical term for this condition is “Climbers Foot.”

Ripped Back, Lats, and Shoulders

Under the constant strain of a rock climber’s pulling motion, shoulders, back, and latissimus dorsi muscles often tend to grow large — especially in those who boulder or sport climb. Due to this powerful upper-body physique, climber dudes are incredibly prone to removing their shirts, even when it’s cold enough for them to wear a knit beanie. Likewise, climber gals will opt for open-backed dresses or even underwear masquerading as, uh, overwear (see: Verve).

False tell: Gymnast, rower, fitness fanatic, Bruce Lee

Popeye Forearms

It is common knowledge that rock climbing’s constant grip-release motion results in overdevelopment of anterior flexor muscles of the forearm. The result is a large, veiny “Popeye” forearm  that makes it difficult to roll up one’s shirtsleeves. Big forearms, though in many cases genetic, are taken as a point of personal pride amongst the climber set, as they are emblematic of the all-important grip strength.

False tell: ice-cream scooper, professional arm wrestler, body builder

Drives a Subaru

For their generous internal capacity (think: room for packs crammed with gear, crashpads, beer coolers, and all your bros and brosephinas), off-road capabilities, high reliability marks, and relatively good fuel economy, Subaru wagons have become the chariot of choice among climbers nationwide. An informal survey suggests that “Subies” account for a full 67% vehicles in the parking lot of the Boulder Whole Foods. (Toyota pick-up trucks, Honda Elements, Audis, and fixed-gear bicycles make up the remaining 33%).

False tell: Tree hugger, liberal

 

 

 

50 Shades of Plaid: The Unofficial Uniform of Outdoor Retailer

The Outdoor Retailer Summer Market (ORSM) is, according to the website, “the world’s largest outdoor sports industry gathering.” For this much-lauded trade show, thousands of brands, athletes, non-profits, retail store buyers, media outfits, and so forth gather at the sprawling Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City every summer to do business of one sort or another.

Whatever the reason a person attends the OR Show, almost everyone – every male, at least – will at some point don the “OR uniform”: a plaid shirt, probably short-sleeved, with khakis or jeans, and either approach shoes or flip-flops.

After years of administering lighthearted ribbings to my friends and co-workers for their unconscious adherence to the OR dress code, I decided to pick up my camera and document just a few of the tartan-clad attendees walking the red-carpeted walkways of the Salt Palace, which, one busy year, an event goer referred to as looking “like a table cloth.”

If you look carefully, you’ll find 50 different plaid (or near-plaid) shirts pictured in the gallery below. These I photographed with a modest effort – maybe 15 minutes over the course of Sunday, the final and slowest day.

With this, I hope to draw attention to a curious fashion phenomenon for which I can conjure no reasonable explanation. I have also included an image of myself, pre-show, in a plaid shirt — proof that an awareness of the plaid plague offers no immunity.

Seven Deadly Sprays

7 deadly sprays

spray n, v : Self-aggrandizing logorrhea (n). To “elevate” one’s standing in the community by prattling on loudly about one’s skills, connections, and accomplishments (v).
— from Climbing Dictionary: Mountaineering Slang, Terms, Neologisms, and Lingoby Matt Samet

As a form of pride, “spray” is a good old-fashioned Biblical sin. In fact, spray is the worst kind of pride: the blowhard, boasting kind. Still, I seek not to condemn ye, for I, too, have sinned. I believe there is nary a climber among us who has not, at some time or other, sprayed about him or herself. The urge to spray is so ingrained in our egos that even when we attempt to consciously restrain ourselves, we still end up spraying in some roundabout way. A little spray squirts out between the cracks in our resolve, as it were, and lingers in the air like a bit of swamp gas that everyone smells, but no one wants to mention.

Spray, you see, appeals to the weakest self. The self that cannot bear to let it go unmentioned how good it is at something, even when it is perfectly clear that no one cares. In that, it is a most natural human transgression. To care about climbing and not spray is, indeed, a rare thing. In fact, to achieve a truly sprayless state, in which one does not even feel troubled by the urge to spray, one must achieve some level of enlightenment. Likely, much meditation and a monastic lifestyle are required.

So do you mean to say that every time I mention a grade, I’m spraying? you might ask. No, I would answer. Don’t be fatuous. Talking about grades is fine if you are genuinely trying to get or give useful information. For example, if someone were to ask you, “What are some good, mellow 5.8s at that crag,” that would not be spray. And if you were to respond, “Well, there’s a really sweet 5.9 called Anemone of the State, but I think it’s soft for the grade, and it eats up gear,” you would not be spraying. But if you then went on to describe the rad crux of your 5.12+ project at the same crag, miming each and every move, you would be spraying, as you would then be serving only your ego-master, and not the needs of the good-natured climber looking for a fun 5.8.

If you have ever described yourself as a climber, you have probably committed the sin of spraying. If you don’t believe me, read through the following list of Seven Deadly Sprays and then reevaluate. If, in the end, you do count yourself a sinner, say a 10 “Hail Mary”s and a “How’s your father” and call me in the morning.

1. Simple Spray – When you are up front about your spraying, you can either seem more honest or more clueless, depending on the circumstance. Most people know that spray is inherently crass, so they try to cover it up or lessen its severity. Simple Sprayers will come right out and start talking grades with strangers and not see anything wrong with it. “How hard do you climb, man?” they might ask, unprompted, across the table at Miguel’s Pizza. Or they might walk up to you at Rifle and simply blurt out, “I did that climb. It wasn’t too hard.” It’s a strange thing when this happens, as you can’t help but wonder if the person is being ironic, like a hipster telling you that he painted a mustache on his fixie before anyone else in Williamsburg. Still, there are those certain persons who haven’t yet understood, or by dint of neurological disorder are unable to understand, that spray is nothing to be upfront about.

2. Self-Effacing Spray – This deceptive “anti-spray” operates on the principles of reverse psychology. The Self-Effacing Sprayer downplays his own accomplishments to a fault, but somehow manages to slip in the spray anyway. “It took me forever to send that route! I’m such a fatass,” he’ll say of some 5.14 crimps-on-a-roof nightmare that no one you know can even hangdog to the anchors. Then he’ll proclaim he’s “so weak” because he “hasn’t been climbing at all, lately,” and then proceed to burn you off your project (see No. 6, below). To add insult to injury, he’ll play down his success with some meaningless platitude like, “Oh man, that was a tough one! I only sent it because it was my style.” OK, thanks. Dick.

3. Off-Hand Spray – This stealthy spray is slipped in as an aside but almost never goes unnoticed. Most climbers are so attuned to the scent of spray that even the merest droplet of the stuff emits an odor like a wombat in heat. An example of Offhand Spray might be, “My shoulder didn’t bother me too much, but I wasn’t climbing anything harder than V8, so I wasn’t really putting too much strain on it…” Or when two people are discussing a particular crag, one Off-Hand Sprayer might mention a notoriously hard route there and say something like, “When I climbed [insert notoriously hard route name here], it felt a little soft. But whatever the grade, it’s a classic!” No bigs… just making conversation.

4. Spray by Association – This is a form of name dropping. The implication of SbA is that you climb with hard-ass mofos, so you must be a hard-ass mofo, too. “Tommy and me were out bouldering in RMNP… I did this one problem that he fell off of! It was a total fluke, totally my style, but still, it was pretty sick.” By Tommy, this sprayer means Tommy Caldwell, all-around super-badass. And by demonstrating his ability to climb something that Caldwell did not, the sprayer is implying that he is a real-deal rock climber. Of course, this Sprayer by Association probably failed to mention that Caldwell had just cut off his index finger and was climbing with a hangover while wearing bedroom slippers. But hey, a send’s a send.

5. Serious Spray – This is the type of spray that two unabashed sprayers engage in when they’ve both decided that spray is fine because they’re just saying what everyone else is thinking, anyway. “So did you think that route was really 5.13?” one guy would say. “No way man, that was a 5.12 — I warmed up on that shit… and I usually have to give 5.13 a couple of tries,” the other would say. Serious stuff.

6. Physical Spray – Also known as giving “the burn off,” Physical Spray requires no words. Instead, a Physical Sprayer watches another climber putting serious effort into a route or problem the sprayer already has wired, waits until the flailing climber is done, and immediately hops on and cruises the route. Campusing someone’s project while they watch or sending it in your Five Tennies are particularly egregious forms of this classic jerk move. To add insult to injury, after engaging in Physical Spray, the sprayer can then proffer unrequested beta (Spray-ta) to the sprayee: “You see what I did there at the third bolt? I don’t cross like you do; I bump. It’s way easier that way. Try that and you’ll get it next time, dood, for shizzle.”

7. Spray Lording – The Spray Lord is like a Serious-Sprayer on meth. He not only doesn’t see what’s wrong with spray, but he also fails understand why he shouldn’t psychologically dominate the crag or gym with his loud, opinionated spray-down sessions, in which he gives people unsolicited beta, name drops, downgrades classic routes, and generally makes sure everyone around him knows how hard he climbs and what he thinks of all the other punters he’s ever met. A Spray Lord is easily capable of ruining your day at the crag, and lives a life of misguided elitism, completely missing the point that the strongest rock climber in the world is still just a rock climber.

There are surely other types of spray. Feel free to add the sprays you’ve observed or perpetrated in the comments below.

— The Blockhead Lord

Master of Movement or: Why Bear Grylls Is Running Through the Desert

Oh, now I see why he was running...
Oh, now I see why he was running…

A friend pointed me to an awesome video of Bear Grylls “rock climbing” in southern Utah. It’s a commercial for Degree antiperspirant, though I reckon pit sweat is not a man’s biggest concern when he’s hundreds of feet off the deck jamming in a sandy crack.  

UK Climbing has a nice post on the video, in which they identify the route as Rigor Mortis (5.9 C2), on the Tombstone.

If you watch closely, you’ll notice that Grylls himself is never actually shown climbing, only jumping around and vigorously slapping areas of the rock where there appear to be no holds.

Two ropes, no gear, and a big old stem on a blank wall.

We can only assume that the climbing was done by a stunt double. My question is, who was this masked man? Any climbers involved in the making of the video have a duty to come forth and tell us how hilarious it was working with Bear Grylls… unless of course you are contractually obligated not to do so.

A few more burning questions I have after watching this video: Why was Grylls running through the desert (see opening image — after examining the footage closer, I believe I have found the answer)? Why was he climbing in a pair of old, ill-fitting approach shoes? Why was he tied in to a toprope and a lead line? Where was his belayer? Why was he doing the splits and on a blank wall wearing approach shoes? And, most importantly, what type of antiperspirant could a man wear to stay dry on such a daunting adventure? At least we know the answer to the last question. 

Couch Crushers to Widgeteers: 10 Climbing Personality Types Identified

Society has long applied the blanket label “climber” to a motley assortment of vertically inclined souls. Indeed, “climbers” have been so often lumped together, despite deep and obvious differences, that it’s easy to forget just how many types and subtypes there really are.

There are the obvious categories, of course — alpinists, sport climbers, trad daddies, blocanistas, and so forth. But if you climb long enough, you will start to notice another layer of divisions beneath these divisions — personality profiles that cut across climbing-style lines.

Here, an abridged and alphabetical list of ten common climber personality profiles. Pay attention, as you will encounter these personalities at the crag or the gym, at the coffee shop and the campground. They will mystify and amuse you. You might even recognize yourself in one or a couple of these groupings. In the end, they are loose categories certainly in need of refinement. If you have noticed some personality types not listed here, please help make this a living document and add them in the comments.

Couch crusher
The Couch Crusher can hardly be bothered to get up… unless it’s time to take a dump on your project.

Couch Crushers (aka Naturals) — This rare breed’s strength and skill are unaffected by a lack of practice, fitness, or sound diet. No one is more envied than the Couch Crusher, who can often send the Self-Worther’s project after a six-month break from climbing during which the Self-Worther cross-trained, lived off of kale and unsweetened yogurt, and took expensive dietary supplements of dubious origin. Perhaps because it comes all too easily for the Couch Crusher, this type is easily distracted from climbing by career developments, romantic relationships, drugs, or even other sports.

Elites — Elites focus their efforts on the hardest climbs and rarely deign to interact with other types at the crag or gym. Though they pretend otherwise, Elite’s believe in the inherent value of their status and view the climbing world as a meritocracy centered around finger strength. They band together and share stories of hard climbs, secret areas, and the injuries that keep them from reaching their full potential. If complemented on their performance on a difficult climb by a non-Elite, an Elite will downplay their own achievement in a show of false modesty while secretly feeling a sense of validation, powerful fuel for the Elite climber’s ego fire.

High Rollers — High Rollers are middle-of-the-road climbers with high-end incomes. Their interest in climbing is genuine, but they often seek shortcuts to improvement, such as paying exorbitant fees to Elites for private climbing lessons. Because their careers, relationships, and other interests keep their calendars well inked, they rarely stick to a climbing schedule long enough to truly excel. They are often sought after as investors for start-up rock gyms, climbing apparel companies, or climbing magazines. They can be found in luxurious accommodations near popular climbing areas with Elite climbers as their guests. One interesting subset of the High Roller group is the Industry Maven — the owner or head of a successful climbing company — who is, perhaps, the highest ranking character in the perceived hierarchy.

IKEs — An acronym for “I Know Everything”, IKEs can recite move-by-move Beta for every route you’ve ever climbed, thought about climbing, or read about in a magazine. They are supremely self-confident in their grasp of training techniques, performance diets, as well as climbing history and gossip. Strangely, IKEs themselves are rarely accomplished climbers and tend to spend much of their crag time hanging out on the ground and proffering unsolicited factoids to anyone within earshot.

Original Climbing Gangsta
You can’t pull one over on the Original Climbing Gangsta! Chalk hadn’t been invented when he started climbing. They used dirt, and they liked it that way.

Original Climbing Gangstas (OCGs) — OCGs are climbers who take great pride in their long climbing careers, the inordinate length of time they’ve been able to maintain dirtbag status, and their (often apocryphal) connections to well-known climbers of bygone eras. They can be heard declaring that “new” routes or problems in their local areas were actually done years ago, without the aid of chalk, sticky rubber, or boar’s hair brushes. Many OCGs, despite their relatively advanced age, enjoy pontificating on Internet forums on topics such as “The Decline Of Climbing’s Moral Fibre In The Age Of Gyms,” “The Dangers Of Locking Assisted Belay Devices And Other Spawns Of Laziness,” and “Barbarians At The Gate: Roustabout Youths Are Ruining My Crag.” They also enjoy posting grainy, scanned black-and-white photos of themselves in proximity to real-deal OG climbers, i.e., Fred Beckey, Henry Barber, Jim Bridwell, etc.

Purists — With upturned nose, Purists look down on some types of climbing (typically sport climbing, gym climbing, and bouldering), while holding up certain other types as high expressions of the sport (light-and-fast alpinism, bold traditional climbing, ground-up new-routing with a hand drill, rack of nuts, and hobnailed boots). Purists, however, come in many forms. Less common variants include sport climbing Purists, who eschew the use of stick clips or knee pads, and even chop bolts or remove “permadraws” when they deem them unnecessary. Bouldering purists believe that short, un-roped, exceedingly difficult climbs are the most direct means to experience climbing. Habitual free-soloists are, de facto, Purists, and come in three forms: 1) Zen-like in their acceptance of death, 2) compulsively drawn to the brink of self-annihilation, or 3) willfully ignorant of the deadly stakes of their activity.

Self-Worthers — These climbers base their personal worth on their prowess on the rocks or in the mountains. The result: severe frustration when faced with a climb that “isn’t their style,” competitiveness when encountering a climber of similar skill level, dismissiveness upon hearing of other strong climbers, and depression when injured or otherwise unable to climb. Self-Worthers, basically climbing addicts, are unable to experience more than fleeting moments of joy when climbing. It has been observed that Self-Worthers are incapable of holding anything more than a passing conversation without identifying, by number grade, how hard they have climbed. When under-performing in public, the Self-Worther will compulsively generate excuses, such as, “This is my fifth day on,” “I’m still recovering from a blown tendon,” or “I ate a cookie yesterday and I feel fat.” On bad days, they will share these excuses before climbing. These “prescuses” help relieve the pressure they feel at climbing in front of others. Another close relative of the Self-Worther is the climbing addict, who may or may not base their happiness on climbing, but nonetheless cannot moderate the impulse to climb. The end result is typically injury, career suicide, and relationship meltdown.

Soul Climbers (aka Unicorns) — Like the hover board from Back To The Future, everyone wants to believe that Soul Climbers are real. Alas, little hard evidence exists to support this belief. Several reported sightings have later been revealed to be climbing addicts with outwardly mellow demeanors and dreadlocks.

The Trainer in action
The Trainer, seen here getting “ripped” for “climbing”.

Trainers — These muscle-bound souls can be seen obsessively pushing their physical limits at the gym or the crag, climbing with weight vests, pumping iron, campusing, and strapping in to semi-legal electrical muscle stimulation devices imported through Eastern Europe’s grey market. They drink protein shakes and pop glucosamine chondroitin, vita-packs, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to keep their bodies going past the point of exhaustion. Trainers ostensibly train in order to climb harder, but can lose sight of climbing and become obsessed with the cleansing act of self-mortification through extreme physical activity. This subtype is common amongst mountaineers and alpinists, as masochistic tendencies is integral to these types of climbing.

Widgeteers — Obsessed with the gear of climbing as much, or more, than with climbing itself, the Widgeteer will routinely divert the majority of his or her paycheck to the purchase of draws, cams, stickclips, Big Bros, prismatic belay glasses, Ball Nuts, grip strengthening devices, crampons, rope bags, and so on. Ironically, though Widgeteers are well-versed in the intricacies of load distribution, impact force, and lobe geometry, they rarely have as keen a grasp of the physiological techniques of climbing itself.


Bullshit Lowball Choss: Climbing Irony from East to West

You Did a Rock Climb - A Decision Tree from Bass For Your Face
You Did a Rock Climb – A Decision Tree from the funny East Coast jerks at Bass For Your Face

This is a post about a blog called Bass For Your Face. But before I say anything about this blog, which strikes a perfect, zine-like balance between awesome and stupid, I have a question for you: If you’ve climbed in both the Eastern and Western United States, you might have noticed that many climbers in the West are lacking something. Do you know what it is?

No?

OK, I’ll tell you.

It’s a sense of irony. In other words, a deep love of sarcasm. A shit-talking streak that will make you feel like a total moron while at the same time letting you know that, even though you probably are a moron, your climbing buddies love you anyway. Having lived in Ohio, New York, Colorado, and now Utah, I’ve gotten a good sense of this difference. Often, when talking to a climber from the Western states, I’ll make a snarky East Coast comment, like shouting “Dab!” as a climber enters the crux of a climb. Or suggesting we go climb choss at Little Cottonwood Canyon. “What? I didn’t dab!” They’ll say, totally missing the point. Or, “LCC isn’t chossy! It’s, like, bullet granite, dude!” C’mon, son!

I don’t know what it is about New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and the rest of those frozen, Blair Witch-looking little states packed together in the Northeastern corner of the country, but the people out there just have an edgy, self-deprecating sense of humor that the people in the West tend to lack. Maybe it’s because the population density in the East is so much higher, or the weather is so much more hateful. Or maybe the vast, open spaces of the West just make the human brain go slack.

And maybe it’s related, but Western climbers also tend to take their exploits on the rocks more seriously. In the East, you can’t even start to spray about your accomplishments without getting smacked down by your “friends”. It’s like the scene in Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where big paddles shoot up out of the earth and whack the protagonists in the face every time they have an idea. In the East, you’ll just have to learn how to turn off your ego and have fun. In the West, when some dude throws a wobbler because he fell of his project again, his girlfriend and two other dudes will run over and start rubbing his back and telling him how strong he looked. Jet fuel for the narcissistic ego fire.

B4YFers climbing rad boulders
B4YFers climbing rad East Coast boulders

Now before you go getting your sarcasmically challenged panties in a bunch, Westerners, I know this doesn’t apply to all of you. And I know there are plenty of insufferable tool bags on the East Coast, too. But it’s something I’ve noticed and I just felt the need to finally get it out.

Ahhh… much better.

Back on track: If you’d like a taste of the New York climbing vibe, raw and uncut, I recommend checking out bassforyourface.com. In the “About” section of their site you’ll find this little tiddlybit of language: “Not satisfied with Louder Than Eleven (inches)? Bass For Your Face will make you cry for FIFTEEN.” This gives a pretty good sense of the kind of content contained therein. B4YF is run by a hyper-ironic band of rowdy hipster rock climbers constantly working to put up (or just repeat, as the case may be) new boulder problems in the Gunks. In a climbing area widely regarded to be picked cleaner than a turkey carcass at Joey Chestnut’s Thanksgiving dinner, the B4YF crew, along with Ivan Greene and some other enterprising bloc-jockeys, have been adding instant classics left and right. For example check out all the V4+ goodness in this professionally shot and edited YouTube masterwork:

Finally, if you want to see an East Coast, off-topic snarkfest to end all snarkfests, don’t miss out on boldering.com, a message board centered on the depraved lives of Internet nerds who climb up little rocks for fun. This board was starting by at least one East Coaster so intensely sarcastic he’s almost impossible to talk to. You keep asking yourself, “Is he being serious, or is he making fun of me?” (Or at least, I do.)

On this post, as will all my posts, if you don’t like what I write, you can tell me to STFU in the comments.

Bros on A Rope and Other Swingers

There has been some controversy around the “World’s Largest Rope Swing” video, posted on YouTube by the videographer Devin Graham, aka “devinsupertramp.” The video, filmed at the Corona Arch in Moab, Utah, shows a group of adventurous, smartly-dressed youths cavorting about in an orgy of sun, fun, and death-defying stunts. It is easy to imagine the few minor tweaks that would render the video a perfect Mountain Dew commercial. (Might we expect to see a Red Bull Rope Swing Freestyle competition in the near future? I would watch that…)

The above-mentioned controversy centers around the rope swing’s safety rigging and possible impact on a natural arch. In both cases, it seems like the crew is in the clear, however, as the Arch is on relatively unrestrictive BLM land, on which climbing and other activities are technically kosher. (A local guiding concession even runs tours that include rappelling off of Corona Arch.) Also worth noting, the viedo crew did not place the bolted anchors used for these rappels. The safety issue is also less than clear. The swing looks to have been relatively well rigged, with rope protectors used where the rope would rub against the stone during the pendulum swing. And to my eye, all the biners in the video were locked.

This is NOT a rope swing
This is NOT a rope swing. Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, UT. Photo: © Justin Roth

More dangerous than the act portrayed in the video is the suggestive influence it and the other devinsupertramp videos might have on the squishy, unformed brains of the world’s impressionable youth. Like the Jackass movies, in which highly sketchy stunts are elevated to the level of commercial art, the World’s Largest Rope Swing video glorifies a stunt that requires serious rigging know-how. Watching the video, a gullible crew of local college students might get the impression that the Corona Arch rope swing is a great afternoon activity, and a good way to impress a harem of female onlookers. Heck, how complicated can setting up some ropes be?  In short, the video’s glib attitude, played up in shot after shot of laughing and dancing bros and brodettes, is more problematic than the actual stunt performed.

And more problematic still is the inaccurate title of the video, smartly selected to maximize Web traffic. In fact, many much larger rope swings have been performed. Below are just two examples, though admittedly the production quality of World’s Largest Rope swing is much, much higher than either.

Dan Osman, aka the Phantom Lord, was one of climbing’s most polarizing celebrities. His speed free-soloing segment in Dean Fidelman’s Masters of Stone was hard to see as anything else than a balletic death wish set to a heavy metal soundtrack. He was irresponsible, a bad example, a slo-mo train wreck… and of course, the world never failed to watch his exploits with morbid fascination. Osman tied into ropes and  jumped out of tall trees, swung through sandstone arches, and hurtled through the air in what he called “controlled free-falling.” Eventually, on a thousand-foot leap in Yosemite Valley, his luck ran out and his rigging failed. He was 35 at the time of his death in 1998.

On a happier note, there’s “Sketchy Andy” Lewis, who gained a little fame via the recent Reel Rock Film Tour DVD and then a LOT of fame with his toga-clad slack line performance in Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show. In the above video, you can see Andy do all kinds of crazy stuff, including a two-person rope swing, at the 3:25 mark, that appears to be several hundred feet long.

In the end, the best thing about the “World’s Largest Rope Swing” video is the cinematography. Graham used DSLRs  and GoPros artfully to create an energetic, visually engaging video that has been watched three and a half million times, in a matter of days, on YouTube alone. Though one needn’t be a total stick in the mud to wonder if this success may not be a great thing for everyone in the end. As one poster on Mountain Project commented, “Video was REALLY well done! Which is why this will not end well for the access to Corona Arch, methinks.” Is that the smell of a Dean Potter/Delicate Arch controversy in the making? Only time will tell. Until then. hats off to Mr. Graham and his gang. I’m not sure I’d want to hang out with them, but I’ll certainly spend a few minutes watching their videos.

In Case You Missed It: Guy on a Buffalo

Buffalo Rider movie poster
Note the awesomeness written on this poster: “Before the Indian would starve or the buffalo disappear, he thundered across the plains… 2,000 pounds of stampeding revenge!”

The Guy on a Buffalo series on YouTube is a viral masterpiece that took what was the cinematic equivalent of driftwood and carved it into four hilarious pieces of handicraft.

The original source for these musical shorts is the 1978 “classic” film Buffalo Rider. A movie that would certainly have been lost in the dusty celluloid vaults of cinema history, had an Austin, Texas, band called The Possum Posse not re-invigorated it with their own music and lyrics.

Placing these shorts into the YouTube jungle was, perhaps, one of the finest marketing maneuvers ever executed. No Manhattan firm could have dreamed up a campaign with more  return on investment (5.5 million views and counting for what one can only assume was a small cash outlay). The result is sure to inspire you to take up a rifle and find a baby buffalo to raise until it’s old enough to carry you on its back on a mission of revenge and survival.

And what of the Possum Posse’s “normal” musical stylings? I’m no country music critic (or fan, for that matter), but lyrics like “The only time you call me back is when you pocket dial,” and songs like “What’s Going On With Grandpa,” about a country grandpa coming out of the closet with his “new best friend,” have already started to win me over. Now stop pretending to work and watch these videos: