Friday, March 22, 2013

How a Climbing Rope is Made

A new rope is such a beautiful sight!

I recently got a brand new Sterling Evolution 9.8mm rope for my birthday.  As I got home and took the rope out of the bag, cradled it, smelled it (is this normal?), and imagined all the great adventures I would go on with it, I started to wonder how it was made and how much weight it could hold.  I mean, I want to know how this lightweight and narrow rope is keeping me from being a pile of abstract art at the bottom of the crag.

Looks nice, but how is it made?

So, I went on an internet hunt for a video of the process and came across an awesome video by Sterling Rope athlete Joe Kinder and his factory tour of Sterling.  This video shows just how complicated it is to make something so strong.  The process of making a rope has been perfected with the help of machines that perform high speed intricate tasks and spit out a beautifully crafted rope.  The ropes also undergo some fierce testing of its tensile strength, as seen in the video (looks like my dream job!).  Check it out:

I came across the impact force measurement of the rope as well and saw that it had a value of 8.8 kN.  8.8 kN?  This number doesn't help out much unless explained.  I had to dig back to my college physics days on this matter.  kN stands for kilonewton (or 1000 Newton), which is the measurement of the force of an object (in this case a falling object).

The impact force measurement of a rope is the force that is transferred to the end of the rope.  For a climbing rope this force would be the climber.  The UIAA has a specific set of standards for a climbing rope. According to UIAA standards a dynamic rope is tested with a fall factor of 1.77 (maximum fall factor is 2 Fall factors explained here).  For a full rope a weight of 80 kg (attached to the end of the rope) is dropped 2.3 meters above a "clipping" point and the force generated is measured.  For a single rope, the peak force during the first drop must be less than or equal to 12 kN (using an 80 kg weight) and less than or equal to 8 kN for a half rope (using a 55kg weight).  Basically, you would want to have a rope that had a low kN number since this will be the force that is put onto your body during a fall and you would want the rope to absorb most of that force.  You definitely want this force to be as small as possible.  For more details on these tests check out the sites below:

Impact Forces

Rope Ratings and Definitions

So, the next time you head out to the crag with your rope, just think about all the science and technology that is put into the nylon threading that keeps you from going splat.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Best Climbers in the World: Recent Ascents

Reblogged From Denali Post

Anyone who climbs on a regular basis and is in tune with rock climbing media has heard the reverberations of the event that unfolded on February 7, 2013: Adam Ondra (20 years old) sent one of the most difficult sport climbing routes in the world: La Dura Dura (translation: The Hard Hard...definitely sounds better in Spanish) in Oliana, Spain which is graded at 5.15c.  For the non-savvy at climbing grades, a 5.15c difficulty rating could probably be compared to a normal person climbing up a brick wall upside down.  The La Dura Dura line was originally bolted by the legendary Chris Sharma, however, Ondra was the one who claimed the first ascent.  A "rivalry" type situation was started over this route and was made popular in the latest Reel Rock film tour.

Chris Sharma on Witness the Fitness v15 (only a brief excerpt from Sharma's climbing career and one of my favorite videos!)

Adam Ondra on Chilam Balam 5.15b 

Even though Sharma didn't get the FA (first ascent), he still was able to get the first ascent on the day prior on a route called Stoking the Fire (Santa Linya ,Spain) which goes down at 5.15b.  5.15b at 31!!  Not that 31 is old but to keep putting up insanely hard routes for more than 15 years, is absolutely amazing!  However, male climbers aren't the only ones putting down hard routes.  

Recently named the best female climber in the world (UK Daily Mail), Sasha DiGiulian (19 years old) is known for her ascents of some of the most difficult climbing routes in the world.  Sasha DiGiulian made it into climbing history by being the first female to climb a 5.14d (Pure Imagination at Kentucky's Red River Gorge) in 2011!  I had the honor of meeting Sasha DiGiulian at a couple of bouldering competitions and signing her scorecard during the preliminary rounds (I should have had her sign my scorecard instead!).  Climbing this hard doesn't come cheap, however.  Sasha trains for 2-3 hrs/day, 5 times/week.  I normally climb 3 days a week with a day off in between to re-grow skin and for my joints to quit hurting.  If I climbed 5 days per week I think my fingers would either fall off or become permanently disfigured due to tendon and ligament damage.  Below is a video journey of Sasha's ascent of Pure Imagination at Red River Gorge:

Sasha DiGiulian on Pure Imagination (An amazing ascent!)

Let's not stop there with the superhuman like abilities of these world class climbers.  They get even younger! Brooke Raboutou is 11 years old and she is shattering records like a bull in glass shop!  At, 11, Brooke is the youngest and shortest person to ever climb 5.14b.  At 9, she completed her first v10 boulder problem and v11 boulder problem when she was 10.  Here is a video about Brookes achievments:

Video Story of Brooke Raboutou

Another 11 year old climbing prodigy, Ashima Shiraishi, has been tearing it up at the crags lately.  Late last year Ashima sent two 5.14c routes at Red River Gorge (Lucifer on Purgatory and Southern Smoke at Bob Marley crag).  Not only can she send extremely difficult sport climbing routes she can also toss down v13 at the boulder field.  Mid year of 2012 she sent the v13 "Crown of Aragorn" down in Hueco Tanks.  When I was 11, I spent most of my time milking the calluses on my thumbs from playing Nintendo 64 with my friends.  Looks like these kids are much more ambitious than I was at that age!  

Ashima on Crown of Aragorn (Tiny, yet fierce this young one is!)

Most people ask, "How are these climbers able to do such difficult things?"  This question can easily be answered.  It's the sheer will and determination to succeed.  That and a few beneficial genes in their DNA that lets them develop superhuman strength!  But for the most part, it is their dedication to the sport of climbing.  It doesn't come easy for them and many sacrifices are made for training and travelling to climbing destinations to achieve their goals.  I am no where near the skill of these climbers, however I find that when I want to elevate my skills and climb harder routes and problems, I have to devote more time for training and hard climbing.

I could write and write about climbing and what someone needs to know or do to be able to climb hard but I read a blog post from Rock and Ice Magazine editor Andrew Bisharat (Blog Link to Evening Sends Article) that sums up this subject better than I could explain!  This is a must read article for all climbers who want to get an in depth look at the sport in which they participate.  If you are a serious climber looking for the mental push to get past your boundaries in the really hard routes here is another article that you should read by the same author (How to Climb 5.14).

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Campus Board Training: Advanced Movement

Last year's extremely mild winter spoiled us climbers into thinking this winter would be the same and we would all be climbing in low to mid 40 degree temperatures.  Little did we know we would be dealing with more than 4 feet of snow throughout this winter.  So, I decided to use this time to focus on what I wanted to improve with my climbing so I could keep my psyche up for new projects when the snow cleared.  I trained in the gym (Prime Climb) and trained hard for the projects that I have planned for this year.  Some areas I wanted to improve upon was my power/power endurance, crimp/finger strength, and contact strength.  I have worked on several routines while training but the main area I focused on was the campus rungs.

After working on campus rungs for a while (previous video of Campus Board Training Sessions), I started to hit a plateau and needed to revamp my workout.  I worked on a few different movements and started to work more on the smallest (difficult) of rungs.  I also added a warm up workout (Moon fingerboard dynamic movement among holds) before the campus rungs and an intense workout after on the Atomik Holds (Bombs and Cannon Bomb).

Moon Fingerboard

The workout routine is as follows (after warming up climbing for approx. 1hr before routine):

1.) Start on various spots of Moonboard and start doing dynamic movements and end in a pull-up lock-off.  I keep the movements going for about 20 seconds and do 5 sets of these.

2.) Campus workout 1st: Power skip that consists of skipping 2 rungs (2 to 5 double arm). (4 sets)

3.) Campus workout 2nd: Off-set skip.  This builds balance and puts more workload on the lead arm. (4 sets)

4.) Campus workout 3rd: 1,3,6,8 movement.  This is a similar to the 1,3,6,7 movement except the second move involves a stronger lock-off and movement of one arm from the 3 position to the 8 position (5 rungs).  (4 sets)

5.) Campus workout 4th: Random movement on most difficult rungs.  I do this to get my fingers used to the small, painful rungs. (2 sets)

6.) Campus workout 5th: 2,3,6 movement on difficult rungs.  I feel this gave me better contact strength with smaller crimps. (3 sets)

7.) Atomik Bomb workout: Bicep negatives.  I start pulled up on both arms locked and then release 1 arm and as slowly as possible lower myself down.  This workout is definitely painful but I feel like I am getting a good workout here. (2 sets, 1 per arm)

8.) Atomik Cannon Bomb: Compression dead hang: This workout gets me used to the compression.  I hold the dead hangs for 5 seconds.  (4 sets)

8.) Atomik Cannon Bomb: Compression pull-ups.  (5 sets of 5 pull ups).

9.) Cool down climb on the bouldering wall, while focusing on slow locking movements.

Large bomb hold on left, cannon bomb on right.

Each of these workouts had a resting period of 3-5 minutes depending on recovery.  I only perform this once per week since I am getting outside more often and due to the intensity of the routine.  I know that most don't like to perform negative movements on campus rungs or other holds due to the intensity and dangers involved.  However, I feel this gives me more strength gains when performing these.  Campus training can be dangerous, especially the advanced movements listed here so take caution if pain is occurring during the workouts.  I hope this routine can be used by others to build more power and strength in their climbing.