Climbing Vedauwoo: The most fun you’ll have not sending

I was climbing at a famous off-width crag in Wyoming by the name of Vedauwoo (Ever heard of it? You should, I wrote about climbing in Vedauwoo with Pamela Shanti Pack last year.), and something bizarre happened. I only sent two routes all weekend, and it was arguably some of the most fun I’ve ever had at a crag.

What you need to know about me is that I hate failing on a route (that is, not reaching the top of the climb). I don’t really believe in projecting, and my happiness/amount of fun I have climbing is largely dependent on my ability to send. You may or may not agree with that, but that’s the way it is and I’m ok with it.

Momma’s Got a Sqeeze Box

Vedauwoo Momma's got a squeeze boxThere were some people warming up on Worm drive, a 5.11 off-width, and Shay decided to put up some 5.9 hand crack. I looked at Derek and said, “welp, I guess we better go set that squeeze chimney.” We had no idea what it went at, but Danny, a fellow Team Evolv climber, said, “oh that one’s fun!” It didn’t look so bad from the ground, and hell, we all know what they say about chimneys, right? You can’t fall out of them. (Once we got back to civilization, I looked up that route. It was Momma’s Got a Sqeeze Box, 5.10a.)

We were both excited and not excited to lead it, but it was bolted and Derek stepped up. He made the first two bolts seem pretty easy as it is a lot wider down at the bottom. It was a little tighter, and not quite as effortless up to the 3rd bolt. Above the 3rd bolt, the squeeze chimney turns into a legit off-width. This was Derek’s first time off-width’ing, and he wasn’t quite ready to step out on lead. Queue me…

I have climbed exactly two (2) more off-widths in my life than Derek. I guess that made me the more experienced one of the two, and I offered to finish the route. What I would soon find out is that the the first two bolts were not easy, even on top rope. The size of the crack between bolts 2 and 3 was perfect for me for a bomber chicken wing. And then I was leading an off-width.

Climbing Momma's Got a Squeeze Box
Photo Courtesy: Skin Poetry (Shay)

My chicken wing was a little less secure because it kept getting tighter, but still too big for a comfy leg bar or a heel-toe. If it weren’t for the still mostly great chicken wing, the remembrance of the palm down technique, and the hope my Evolv Trax rubber was going to stick, I don’t think I would have made it. Emphasis on trusting my rubber.

Once I got to bolt #4, I found a much needed rest. I hung out a bit, looked up, and noticed it didn’t get any easier. The crack was now too small for a chicken wing, and even though I could get a decent arm bar, there was absolutely nothing else for my left hand or either feet. That was, until…I saw some crimps. Crimps? On the face of an off-width? That felt like razor blades biting into my frozen fingers (it was only about 55 degrees outside)? I tried everything I thought I knew, but a lead fall at this point would be pretty disastrous. You’d end up business side first right into the corner of the crack. Plus, I was so intimate with that crack at this point, I didn’t want to leave. You can’t fall out of a chimney, but you can lead fall off a face climb. My head wasn’t in it, I was pretty physically cashed, and my fingers were much too cold for those razor-edged crimps. FACK!!!!! Queue Shay…

At this point, Shay had already led a route and flailed her way up Worm Drive. But if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s guilting Shay. She deserves it. And that’s all you need to know. Getting back to the story – she also makes her way up to the 4th bolt. Then, with a little hesitation and a lot of nervous breathing, she pulls the crimps, steps out of the crack, and makes it to the anchors. Ugh. Now I have to do it on top rope. Later. After I steal her little creature. (Click for higher res)

5.9 Hand Crack

This climb isn’t on Mountain Project, and Danny said it was a 5.9 so I’m just going with it.

There wasn’t much to say about this climb. Other than the fact it was the most physical 5.9 crack I’ve ever climbed. I had pretty solid hands and fists the entire way up, but where there wasn’t, there was a corresponding lack of foot holds as well. And this crack was on an inside corner so it wasn’t always possible to get both feet in.

I’m not the greatest crack climber out there so I’m sure this didn’t have to be as physical as it was, but for me, it felt like I just went a couple rounds with my teenage nephews (plural). Shay also said it was a brute of a climb and we agreed it’s somewhere in the low 2-star range. That made me feel slightly more justified in my struggle.

Crag dog in Vedauwoo

Back to Momma’s

I’ll save all the details and just pick up where I left off. Now that I knew the crimps were the key to success, and I didn’t have the fear of a lead fall, I kinda made that crux my b*tch. Don’t worry, the razor crimps still got me, and I immediately hated myself for not finishing the lead.

By this time, the rope was off Worm Drive, and I never had a chance to flail or see if I could get off the ground (the crux of the climb). After my 2.625 climbs for the day, I was absolutely DONE so it didn’t hurt my feelings I didn’t get a chance to climb the hardest route of the day.

Day 2: I’m bouldering?

Vedauwoo Crag Dog
This is how *I* feel about bouldering

David’s Climbing Axiom #2: I don’t boulder.

However, just about every single muscle in my body was sore, not to mention the contact bruises that come with inserting yourself into granite cracks. So when Danny invited us to boulder with him, I was at a crossroads. On one hand, I don’t boulder (much less off-width boulder). On the other, flailing and struggling for 100′ is a lot more work than flailing and struggling for 15′. I chose….bouldering. It seemed physically less horrible.

First up was Life Without Parole, a V4 requiring an inversion, which I’ve never done before either. I cannot explain to you the mind-f*ck you go through the first time you trust cammed feet in an off-width crack and cut your hands loose, leaving your head to hit first should your feet fail. Thank goodness we were only 8″ off the ground.

The ever popular face smear
The ever popular face smear

I was just really happy I could invert on my first try. The next couple were spent trying to get my feet deeper and higher into the crack. Then pulling out and switching my right foot to cam the other direction. And the final foot trick once I could switch my right foot, was pulling my left foot out and changing it to a toe-hook at the back of the crack. After all of that (which actually doesn’t take long if you’re good at it), you have to do one MASSIVE sit-up to get a stacked fist near your right foot. I got to this point one times but couldn’t pull the move. It was so much fun though!

After Life Without Parole, we went deeper into The Dungeon for Escape Tunnel, V5. Once again, this climb starts only about 2.5′ off the ground and requires an inversion. I got that the first time again and cleared my head (which is the first mini-crux). And that was as far as I made it on that climb. To be fair, it was starting to get dark and stormy, other people wanted to try, and there was still one more tortuous problem left.

The Warden, V9. Funnest. Climb. Ever!!

The Warden Inversion in VedauwooIt starts with a squeeze chimney that is just the right amount of awkward to make you question how to get off the ground. Once you get up high enough, you hit a solid, vertical chicken wing and then start your inversion. This was very heady as your….head….is about 3′ off the ground and there’s not really any space to tuck and roll should you fall out. There’s not really much space for your spotter(s) to do any good either. (P.S. 3′, head first, feels more like 10′.)

Now, the trick of this part is to do a controlled lower via double-inverted chicken wing and wriggle your way out of the crack (horizontally). I made it this far, but after being upside down for what felt like 5 min., I kinda gave up. I think I could have made it out to the pivot at least, but that seemed like too much effort.

The thing about Off-Widths

So that was that. After The Warden, the skies opened up, lightning was striking, thunder was rolling, and we headed into Laramie for burgers and beers. All in all, I completed 2.625 routes the entire weekend and attempted 6. Here’s the thing about off-widths…

They suck.

But they suck in a good way.

And no one expects you to be good at them. Ever.

Stuck in an off-width in VedauwooIf you flash, red point, pink point, brown point, on-site, (I don’t even know what all of those things mean, I just hear climbers saying them sometimes) or just ‘send’ an off-width, everyone is completely stoked for you. But it doesn’t appear to be the norm.

The Norm

The norm appears to be more like, “well, shit, I guess I have to go climb this. I want to, but I really don’t, but I guess I will.” Flailing, aiding, top-roping, swearing, insults, and talking sh*t are all encouraged. Laughing at your own pain and suffering (or others’) is what gets you through the climb. No one seems to mind if you can only do 2 or 3 climbs in a day. There seems to be a lot less judgement if you decide you don’t want to climb at all the day after.

The climbs are generally slower which leads to more downtime for you and your belayer to joke around (safety first!). If there’s an audience, there tends to be a little back and forth with some small encouragement mixed in.

Crag beer and crag whiskey are almost required. I think it’s to numb the pain you’re about to put yourself through and/or forget the pain you just felt.

All in all, off-width climbing feels a lot like a bonding over misery. But with the right people, it’s incredibly fun. No expectations. No disappointments. Just a lot of joking around, smiling faces, a little bit of climbing, lots of fear, and whiskey.

Friends in Vedauwoo
Photo Courtesy: Skin Poetry (Shay)

For more (and MUCH better) photos, check out Shay’s post from this weekend.

Featured Product Review: Climb On! Bar for Men

Willy and Poll, erm, I mean, Will and Polly, social media magician and creator (respectively) of Climb On!, foolishly put out a public tweet asking for volunteers to try their Climb On! Bar for Men, one of their new products. Little did they know that I am monitoring my timeline for freebies at all hours of the day. So of course I volunteered.

CO! founder Polly & professional climber Jonathan Siegrist - Photo courtesy of CO!
CO! founder Polly & professional climber Jonathan Siegrist – Photo courtesy of CO!

I’ve never been much for hand creams, lotions, bars, and goos, even back in my powerlifting days. Heck, for the first year of my climbing career, I didn’t rely much on more than just Cetaphil hand lotion on really bad days. But, when they asked for volunteers, I was at the peak of my climbing and training frequency. I was abusing my hands about 5 days per week either climbing or lifting weights, and I was seriously starting to explore the world of hand care.

Thank goodness they tweeted.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the small, tin container was the fragrance. It wasn’t girly. It wasn’t really “manly”, even though it’s designed for men, either. It absolutely wasn’t chemical-ly since it’s manufactured with 100% food grade materials. It just smelled “good”. Like when you walk into a Pier 1 or Bed Bath and Beyond. Not too strong, but strong enough to know it’s there. I really liked it.

Photo courtesy of CO!
Photo courtesy of CO!

Then, when I took the bar out of the container, I expected it to be the consistency of Chapstick. Nope. It was more firm, but still rubbed off on my hands easily.

How much to apply to your hands is really an exercise in experimentation. How damaged your skin is, the moisture of your skin when you apply, the moisture of the air…it all plays a part. Too much and it will leave your hands quite waxy for longer than you’d probably want. Too little and it doesn’t do much of anything (obv). However, just the right amount will leave your hands tacky for about 3-5 minutes and then fully absorb into your skin. It’s a glorious feeling.

My hands were quite beat up, and no, I don’t have pics, but just imagine dry, cracked skin, a guy that picks and tears his calluses when he’s bored, and daily abuse. Yes, that bad. Within a week, all but the deepest cracks were gone. The edges created from tearing calluses were softened, and even Anh could hardly tell I had “climber’s hands” anymore.

I now find myself putting it on my hands even when I don’t need it, just because it feels and smells so good. I liked it so much that I bought my dad Climb On! Bar for Men as a Christmas present. When my sample is finally gone, which it will be soon, I’ll be buying more for myself. Trust me, if I’m buying it, it’s worth the money…cuz I’m cheap ‘n stuff.



Climbing Competition: Passion for Flashin’ 2012

More than several weeks ago, I competed in my first climbing competition, Passion For Flashin’, at Vertical Endeavors in St. Paul, MN. Let me tell you, I learned some things.

Since this was my first competition, I really didn’t know what to expect. I tried asking some of the employees at Vertical Endeavors how the competition worked and about the rules or anything else I needed to know. Turns out, the two I asked didn’t really know how to explain it either. Awesome. Guess I’m showing up to the competition blind. That didn’t bother me too much; I was pretty confident in my skills, at least enough to not be embarrassed.

Speaking of skills, I have only been climbing for a little over a year. At the time of the Passion for Flashin’ competition, I had only been for a year, almost to the day. Within that time, I progressed to the point where I was competing in the Advanced category, grades 5.10b to 5.11b. I can almost assure Adam Ondra has heard of me.


I show up an hour prior to the official start. I can’t remember why. It was probably the best idea ever at the time. This did give me a chance to look at all the routes and try plan my strategy since you only have a set amount of time to climb as many routes as possible in your category. As I was looking at routes, I wasn’t overly confident that I could get any of them! Even the easiest routes on the card looked hard from the ground. Yikes! I went and looked at the boulder problems and at least the easy one’s there looked really easy. Phew! At least I can get some warm-ups in.

Did I mention how nervous I was? WOW! I’m no stranger to competition. In my previous lives, I was a 3-sport athlete in high school. I was “ok” enough at football to play at a small, Division 3 college. After college I have competed in numerous lifting competitions. Here’s the thing: if I actually care about my placement or the outcome of the “game”, I get super nervous. Not debilitating, can’t function, screw-up all over the place nervous, just heart-bursting, bowel emptying nerves. I was a wreck in hich school before a football game, but as soon as I’d step on the field for warm-ups, they disappeared. I was hoping that would happen here after the first route. Nuh-uh! The nerves didn’t completely go away until I was climbing my last few routes. Guess I cared about the outcome more than I thought.


I warmed up with a super easy, juggy boulder problem. It incorporated some gratuitous heel hooks, but I experienced after the competition, when there were no judges involved, the whole route was easily campused. Then I went to the next, only slightly less juggy boulder problem. After that, I got some beta from Youth Female ABS Bouldering Champion Kyra Kondie on the boulder problems in the other area. She said the hardest one was pretty easy. Yeah. Easy. To the bouldering champion of the U.S.

I guess she was right. All-in-all, I flashed the first 4 boulder problems I attempted, which also happened to be the 4 most difficult on my card. It was nothing but super duper easy boulder problems after that, but I wasn’t going to waste my energy on those. I had some walls to climb!

Just as I was getting the nerves out of my system, they came back with a vengeance. I watched several people climb on several different routes before I finally chose my first route. It looked to be a pretty easy 5.10 (though, none of the route’s ratings were displayed) with one crux move, which was nothing more than having strong enough hands to support yourself on open handed pinches. I got this!

Then it was on to the passion route. Or maybe it was called the heart route. I don’t know. I literally made up both of those names as I typed them. There was a big-ass heart in the middle of the wall so I’ll let you come up with your own name. That route was a stemmy, scrunchy, Philly-fakeout, sloper kinda thing with a direct roof pull nonetheless. It was probably my favorite, much like smiling.

The route after that was on a completely angled wall with a traverse dyno right at the beginning. I made the dyno the first time, no problem because my calves get angry, but then I screwed up my sequence shortly thereafter. This was the first route I didn’t flash. No worries. I got it on my second try.

I’m not going to go through every route, but they were a lot of fun. My favorite was one that started out in a cave that put me completely inverted for the first 3 moves. After that, I campused my way down, almost back to the ground, where the route “restarted” on the climb up. There were some really fun moves and strong pulls over a small roof I had to make. In my opinion, a perfect balance of technique and strength.

Postgame Recap

All in all, I flashed all but 3 of the routes I attempted, and I flashed all of the boulder problems. Surely that will get me in the finals, right? Not true. The key word being “attempted”. Because I wasn’t completely aware of the strategery of this event, I ran out of time. I took some poorly placed breaks between some of my climbs. I didn’t realize that those breaks in addition to having to wait in line for routes really add up. I got 5 out of the 8 hardest top-ropes, maybe 4 or 5 more intermediate routes, and ended up skipping all of the super easy ones. And by “skip”, I mean “ran out of time”. DAMNIT!

I finished 18th out of 43. I’ve no doubts that could have been higher. Who knows, I may have gotten to the finals. But, if I had, I can damn near guarantee that I’d be too pumped out to accomplish anything good. This was by far the most routes I’ve climbed in a single day. I was sore for a week after. You can imagine my stupidity of trying to climb the very next day. Which was also humbling because I saw 8 of the 12 finalists in the gym that very same day climbing like it was any other day of the week. Guess that’s why they were finalists and winners.

Can’t wait for the next competition!

PICTURES OF ME (the best kind, right?)!!!1!!1

Trip Report: Climbing in Red Rocks, NV

About a month and a hafl ago (already?!?!), Anh and I took an extended weekend trip to go sport climbing at Red Rocks just outside Las Vegas. We left on a Thursday and came back on a Monday. I already wrote about our flying experience and getting 4 bags of climbing gear through TSA security without being checked. That was probably the coolest part of the whole trip. Errrr, maybe not. But still pretty cool. No one likes baggage fees.

Red Rocks is the Perfect Place for N00bs

Well, we’re not completely noobs. We’ve both been climbing for over a year, and have spent more than several days climbing outdoors in the Black Hills, Devil’s Lake in Baraboo, WI, Barn Bluff in Red Wing, MN, and Taylors Falls, MN. However, we are pretty noobish when it comes to sport climbing outdoors. Barn Bluff is really the only bolted sport crag within driving distance for us. It’s also so heavily used that the sandstone is polished to a fine gloss and on busy days, you may end up waiting for routes. There’s another sport crag just across the border from Minneapolis/St. Paul near Hudson, WI called Willow River, but all of the routes there are rated 5.11 – 5.14 and are extremely overhanging. I do not belong there. Yet.

When it comes to sport climbing indoors, well, it’s indoors. If you’re strictly a gym climber or just starting out and have never climbed outdoors, you may not know this, but there is a glaring difference between a marked route in the gym and real rock. Until you get used to climbing on real rock, don’t get your panties in a bunch if your climbing grade is reduced by 2 whole grades when heading outdoors the first couple times. I lead 5.11’s in the gym, but since I don’t get much practice, there was no way I’m warming up with a 5.10 outdoors.

Which brings me back to why Red Rocks is great for noobs.

Red Rocks is great for people that aren’t up to trad lead climbing yet. It’s great for people that can sport climb but are limited by their ability. It’s great because you can throw a rock just about anywhere and find a bolted route. If that doesn’t work, just walk along a trail and look for other people or a bolt gleaming in the sunlight. You can find just about any route rating you need, from scrambles to 5.6’s to 5.14’s to projects. You can look for super frictiony vertical sandstone or routes with more overhang than I’d know what to do with. It has something for the first time outdoor climber or uber-famous, professional climbers like Alex Hannold (whom left Red Rocks the week prior to us showing up; probably cuz I mentioned something creepy about stalking his van in the Whole Foods parking lot on his Facebook Fan Page.).

Red Rocks is a great spot for anyone, but especially new people that want to test the sport climbing waters with very nicely bolted and protected routes.

Climbing Red Rocks

Being that I’m somewhat of a cheap-a$$, I didn’t really want to by a guide book just for a 3-day trip and no immediate plans to return. So, I decided that I’d find all the routes we’d need with my Mountain Project app, henceforth abbreviated as “MP”. We managed ok, but it definitely made finding specific climbing areas a little more challenging than it needed to be. Also, our trip was actually 60% climbing based and 40% Vegas based. So, when you read the daily summaries, keep in mind we weren’t out there from sun up to sun down.

Day 1

On Day 1, we headed for the Panty Wall. It had a good mix of 5.7’s and 5.8’s, perfect for reintroducing myself to leading on real rock. It was also visible from the parking lot, making getting there a lot easier. But, just because you can see a crag at red rock, doesn’t mean it’s intuitively obvious getting there. MP said it’s a short 15 min. hike…if you know where you’re going. It took us 30 min. or more without a guidebook. That’s ok though. We got there early, it was a gorgeous day out, and we were still full of piss and vinegar.

Once we got to the wall, choosing routes was a little confusing. In guidebooks, they typically show a picture of the wall and draw a line where the route is and reference it by a number. On MP, you just get a list of routes, maybe sorted from left to right, and if you’re lucky, someone will sketch the routes on a picture. Not the case here. So, we guessed which routes were which. We played it safe by choosing a 5.7 that had another 5.7 and 5.8 to its right and left. I led the first two routes and it was glorious. I managed without too many nerves or Elvis leg. I set the top rope anchors and let Anh have her way with the rock.

After the first climb, we met local climber “Kentucky Pete”. I’d link to his Facebook, but he doesn’t have a simple permalink established….that I can tell. He taught us some interesting new climbing techniques and totally threw off my mojo. As the kids say, LoL. But that’s a good thing. I’ve never been “taught” how to climb. I just watch videos and mimic the pros. Though, people tell me that will only take me so far. AnyHways, he told us of a newer area to check out called Civilization Wall that him and a buddy had just recently bolted up. It had some really nice 5.10’s he said. I was interested.

I led a couple more 5.8’s and ended up the day onsighting four 5.7’s or 5.8’s. Where’s my sponsorship, La Sportiva?

Day 2

On Day 2 we headed straight for Civilization Wall. Just like the first day, we could see it from the first pullout parking lot but could tell it was s longer, more convoluted walk. Again, a 25 min. walk turned into an hour. lolz. This place was kind of cool. Part of the wall was actually in a mini canyon. And just like the first day, it was hard to determine which routes were which. On the open faced side of the wall, there was anything from 5.7 to 5.10, but no row of intermediate grades that would allow us to guess wrong. On the canyon side of the wall, there was one 5.7 listed and then a row of 5.10’s.

I fgured, “well, I know the one furthest to the left is a 5.7; that’s a good warm-up to get rid of the nerves, and then we can do the 5.10’s if I feel up to it.” As I got about halfway up the first route, I started to get stuck. I thought to myself, “WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?!?! THIS IS ONLY A 5.7!!” I was seriously doubting my abilities, especially since I utterly dominated the 5.8’s yesterday. I managed to finish the route without any falls or “takes”, but as soon as I got down, I stuck my nose into MP. As it turns out, my 5.7 warm-up was actually a 5.10b named Byzantium. Well! Good for me! I just warmed up with the hardest outdoor lead that I’ve ever done! Onsight, nonetheless! HOT!!

I set anchors for Anh and she made the rock her bitch.

After that, I led the two 5.10’s next to Byzantium. Those were also onsight victories for me. The funnest route on that particular wall was Mongol Hoarde, which Pete called “Mongoloid Whore”….something having to do with a recent break-up. On the 3rd 5.10 of that wall, I belayed Anh from the top as she cleaned the route so that we could sit on top of the wall and admire the view together. This is where I took the coolest picture of my life. See?

Ming Dynasty - Civilization Wall

Once we got down, I convinced Anh that she needed to lead a route and try overcome her fears. We finally found the 5.7 I thought I was warming up with and she thought she’d be able to handle that after top roping the 5.10’s. Turns out, fear is a bitch named The Sun Never Sets. I was proud of her for trying. She made it 3 out of the 4 or 5 bolts, but just couldn’t make it the rest of the way. The previous climbs had taken it out of her and coupled with fear, it wasn’t going to happen that day. No big deal. I led it, just for more practice, and we left The Civ for lunch.

Lunch was actually about 3pm. After eating, we wanted to go to another wall that was “just a short walk from the parking lot”. Not for us. By the time we got there, the sun was already setting. After we found a 5.10 for me to lead, I made it to the first bolt and then ran out of holds. This wall was very slabby and relied on friction. My nerves weren’t up for that and after a more strenuous than we wanted hike, I bailed on that route. Luckily the first bolt was low enough that I could safely down climb and collect my draw. We walked back to the car eating our Banh Mi sandwiches.

I ended up onsighting 4 routes, 3 of which were 5.10’s. It was a good day.

Day 3

Our third and final day. Unlike the previous 2 days that weren’t spent at the First Pullout, we wanted a different area. Wait for it…..the Second Pullout, specifically The Gallery. This was a pretty cool area because all of the routes went from shortest to tallest and 5.6 to 5.13 from left to right. I started with a 5.8 called Sport Climbing is Neither and worked my way down the wall to a 5.10b Pump First, Pay Later. The 5.10b was the only route the entire trip that I didn’t onsight. That made me a sad panda.

On this wall, we hooked up with a group from the Illinois chapter of Vertical Endeavors as well as some people from California. That was kinda cool to see fellow Midwesterner’s. As we were leaving, the CA peeps were doing the route to our right, which was a 5.10c called Running Amuck, and I really wanted to try it. But, after 3 days of climbing and a couple nights on the strip, we were beat. We called it a trip and went back to sit by the pool.

"How can I get those things *over* here and *in* my belly?"

Return to Red Rocks

All in all, I onsighted 11 out of the 12 climbs we did. The weather was gorgeous. We met some really cool people, AND WE SAW WILD BURROS!! I think we will definitely be coming back.

Just as we were leaving Vegas, it was announced that Spirit Airlines will be coming to our local airport, MSP. They offer flights that are something silly like $60 one-way, or something like that; I can’t remember exactly. This trip wasn’t really all that expensive to begin with and it just got cheaper if we could grab that deal. On top of that, my cousin lives in Vegas, and I volunteerd him to pick us up at the airport and drop us off at the park. I think if we were to come back, we’d probably bring some bivy’s and just sleep out on the rocks, foregoing the hotel room and rental car. Please, just don’t tell the park ranger that.


It wouldn’t be a complete trip review if Anh didn’t take at least a hundred pictures.

Flying With Rock Climbing Gear

Several months ago when Anh and I decided that we’d like to go rock climbing in Spain on our trip to Europe this spring, one of the first things I thought of was, “hmmm, I wonder if it’s safe to fly on an airplane with rock climbing gear?” After some internet sleuthing, I figured out that all of our gear should be fine as long as it’s checked.

Fast forward (or rewind, depending on which frame of time we’re in….or maybe we’re in both….I don’t know; ask Schrodinger’s cat) a couple of weeks and all of a sudden we were planning a semi-impromptu rock climbing trip to Red Rocks outside of Vegas over a long weekend. At that point, my question was, “hmmmm, I wonder what rock climbing gear is safe to put in our carry-ons vs. being checked?”

What Gear will get through TSA Security?

You can see a small sampling of the gear, all of which made it through TSA.

After looking over the TSA regulations for prohibited items, I decided that the only gear that we may have trouble getting through would be a nut tool and climbing chalk. Of course, a bunch of ropes and metal carabiners should always be assumed to raise an eyebrow or two (probably).

** Side note: I wasn’t sure about cams, but we had already decided we wouldn’t be bringing cams so it didn’t matter. **

Anh sent a picture of all of our climbing gear to her friend that works for TSA, and she said that it should all be fine…except for maybe the nut tool.

That still didn’t put my worries to rest. The TSA seems like an organization where one person might say something is “ok”, and then once you get to the airport, the person that actually checks your carry-on might say “no way, Jose; you can’t fly with that” depending on their mood that day.

My worries didn’t really matter though. We weren’t going to pay the ridiculous baggage fees. To mitigate the risk of getting too much of our gear split up if we were forced to check something, we packed all of high-risk items in one bag: chalk, biners, draws, nuts, and belay tools. All of the webbing, slings, and both of our ropes went in my rope bag. We decided to leave the nut tool at home.

TSA Likes Rock Climbers and Their Gear

Anh was so confident that all of this would pass through TSA security that we even planted a “test” in our bag. We had a bag of brand new, sealed climbing chalk and a plain ‘ol Ziploc sandwich bag with some chalk I just had laying around. We wanted to see which, if any, would be confiscated. (For this reason, we got to the airport 2 hours early, assuming we’d probably be searched quite thoroughly.)

As it turns out, Anh was right about everything. We made it through security with all of our rock climbing gear with absolutely no problems. We fit 2 ropes, assorted webbing and slings, 2 sets of nuts, lots ‘o biners, 18 draws, 2 bags of chalk, 2 helmets, 2 pairs of shoes, and enough clothes to climb and go out on The Strip for 3 days and 4 nights into 4 carry-on bags.

I’m not saying your experience will be the same as ours. I’m not saying every TSA checkpoint will approve of all of these items all of the time. All I’m saying is that if you’re looking for an experience of flying with rock climbing gear, here’s a successful one for you. We made it safely, our gear made it safely, and we didn’t have any problems with TSA security (in either direction).

Hopefully that calms some of your worries about flying with rock climbing gear. Now that Spirit Airlines is flying out of MSP to LAS for $28, I think we’ll be flying with climbing gear a couple times a year!

Climbers: How did you learn your technique/movement skills?

I’m simply just interested in other people’s experiences. I don’t think one way is better than another as long as it works for you in reaching your goals in the most timely fashion possible.

Some people can learn by reading. Others just need to watch others. Most people probably need a mix of visual plus explanation. And of course, there’s the less athletically inclined that need one-on-one, hands-on instruction.

Personally, I’ve always been very good at mimicking. Anything. I’ve been climbing less than a year, and I have gotten very very little instruction from other [more experienced] climbers. Almost all of my movement/technique has been learned by watching dvd’s and other climbers in the gym. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a better than average athlete in most sports either. Lucky me, eh?

What’s your story?

Rock Climbing in Red Wing, MN at Barn Bluff


Climbing Motivation: Magnus Midtboe

Holy crap!! I know a lot of you don’t follow climbing…..wait, let me rephrase that…..I know you don’t know anything about climbing, other than it looks really scary, but you have GOT to check out this video (sent to me by long time e-friend, noogles)!


This video is a perfect example of why I think bodyweight training is whack. There is a time and place for everything, but for the people that do nothing but strictly bodyweight workouts, you will never be able to do that kind of stuff. Also, for any climber reading this, notice that he’s doing contra-specific movements as well? By that, I mean, shoulder presses and horizontal presses (1-armed push ups). That is absolutely crucial to keeping your shoulders happy and healthy. You can’t just climb and focus on your back day in and day out. In fact, I’ll boldly say that you would make more progress if you took a day off from the climbing gym once a week and focused on traditional, full body workouts. Of course, there’s a bit of an assumption that you would be doing those workouts properly.

And just in case you’re wondering, the guy can actually climb too. Chris Sharma (a good climber guy that you’ve never heard of) may be the most famous, and in all fairness, the best, rock climber in the world right now, but he’s not the only one that can climb 9.a+/5.15’s. Ca-razy!! I might have a new role model.