Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Workbag: The Dirtbag Evolved

Cedar Wright's "The Wright Stuff: Death of Dirtbagging" really got me thinking about the dirtbag lifestyle and how it is diminishing.  But one thing that is hanging up in my mind is that dirtbagging isn't dying, it is actually evolving.  Like any species, over a period of time, it can undergo an adaptive change to environmental stressors.  Rock climbing, as well, has also undergone changes in the past century, with most of those changes happening in the past 20 or so years.  So if we are to consider rock climbing as the dirtbag's environment, we must assume that the dirtbag has to evolve as well.  That evolution has lead to the "workbag".

A workbag, by my definition, is a person who works the typical 40 hour work week for the main purpose of getting to the next rock climbing destination.  Workbags understand that they will never be the mega famous rock climbers of the world (ie Chris Sharma) and will have to sacrifice their time at the crag to raise enough dough to support other things in their lives (health/car insurance, fuel, utilities, food, family, travel, etc.).  Wages are not going up as fast as the prices of the aforementioned obligations, so finding a steady career/job is the only way to keep up. 

One of the biggest stressors that caused the evolution to the workbag was probably the rise of social media.  Professional rock climbers such as Cedar Wright, Jimmy Webb, Paul Robinson, Chris Sharma, etc., etc., started discovering and showcasing amazing climbing destinations throughout the world. Climbers had the desire to also visit these places but were limited in mobility due to the high costs of fuel, hotel/camping arrangements/hostels, and not to mention the highest cost of all: CLIMBING GEAR!  Dreams and fantasies of traveling the world to these surreal climbing destinations disappear in a cloud of chalk dust when the total cost to get to these places is revealed.  Not all climbers can be sponsored and given a free ticket to explore the world's hidden crags.  Some have to work more and sacrifice the time that could be spent climbing.

Workbags have become plentiful and are easily spotted.  They can be found training in the gyms on weeknights between the hours of 6 and 9 pm and are usually dressed like your traditional dirtbag.  But on days (or summers if they are a teacher) off they can only be found outside at their nearest crag or boulder field.  If we keep with the theme of biological classification, the genus this species (workbag) can be found under the genus title, Weekend Warriors.

But this doesn't mean these workbags aren't dedicated and passionate climbers.  It only means times have changed and so must the general population of climbers.  So if you're a workbag, or even a dirtbag, it doesn't define your passion for climbing, it only defines your amount of time you have to dedicate to the sport.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Power Struggle Season 9 Promo

The Power Struggle returns at Prime Climb in Wallingford, CT on January 10, 2015 for its 9th season!  This is one of the most challenging and exciting comps that I have ever competed in.  Every year it seems more and more talent rises through the ranks to challenge for one of the coveted plywood plaques to claim domination over the event.  There are tons of awesome sponsors this year that are helping make this one of the most badass comps in New England!  The Spray Down will be back again to film for highlights of this year's event.  Come check it out to compete or even to just stop by and watch an intense finals showdown!  Take a quick look at the promo for this season's event below!

Monday, November 24, 2014

2014 Climber's Christmas Wishlist

It's that time of year again where people have to really start thinking about what to get their rock climbing addicts for Christmas.  Sure, you could go the easy route and get a gift card OR you could be the Holiday Hero by getting them something really awesome.  That's why I want to make it a little easier for the gift givers and suggest a few items, in no particular order, that I think would be a big hit for Christmas this year.

Outdoor Research Deadpoint Pants

These are an amazing pair of pants to have for some cool weather rock climbing.  Not only are they durable but they are very comfortable as well.  The stretchy fabric allows for ease of movement on technical routes or problem. The lower cuff of the pants only need to be folded once and stay that way to keep you from stepping on your pant leg and losing your focus on your ascent.  Go for comfort and style with these climbing specific pants!

Asana Climbing PRism Bouldering Crash Pad

I've had a lot of experience with Asana Climbing's bouldering crash pads.  They are (IMO) one of the most durable pads on the market.  The foam padding retains the stiffness for years (KJ link) and it's the pad I trust the most.  This new line they have out are based on the bouldering legend Paul Robinson's designs inspired by his trips around the world.  This might not fit under your Christmas tree but it will make a great fit for the boulderer you're shopping for!

Arc'teryx S-220 LT Sport Climbing Harness

I got to try on this new harness from Arc'teryx at the Squamish Mountain Festival earlier this year and I wanted to buy it right then!  The harness is designed for the sport climber with a minimalist attitude.  The two belt loops on the right and left side keeps everything you need for a sport route at close reach.  The leg loops, while thinner than others, are designed to breathable with the Vapor Technology that is used in its construction.  Have a sport climber on your list?  Hook them up with this harness, they won't be disappointed!

Arc'teryx Aperture Chalk Bag

Keeping with the trend of Arc'teryx gear, up next is the Aperture Chalk bag.  The most prominent aspect of this chalk bag is its ability to compact and seal to prevent chalk bomb explosions and spillage inside your pack.  Any climber would be happy to find this under the tree or in their stocking since it can shrink to such a small size!

Trango Rock Prodigy Training Board

This is one of the most revolutionized training hangboards out on the market.  The hangboard design is based on years of experimentation and refinement.  The two halves can be rotated and/or spaced apart at the rock climber's will.  Get them the gift of constant and fast progression.  An added bonus for the Trango training board is that you can make it TWO gifts!

Lapis Boar's Hair Brush

Why the Lapis Boar's hair brush?  Because it's the best one on the market.  The long thin head makes brushing everything from slopers to incut crimps very easy and efficient.  .  This would gift would be great as a stocking stuffer.

Petzl Elios Helmet

What better way to say, "I care about your dome" than with a climbing helmet.  There are a staggering number of climbers these days that don't wear a helmet while climbing.  This is the equivalent of driving a car without a seatbelt!  I've worn this helmet for the past year and it hasn't impeded my climbing ability at all.  Get your climber this helmet and don't let them go to the crag without it!

Sterling Rope Fusion Ion2 9.4 mm Rope

Have you ever heard the saying "This is in"?  Well, it is these days for climbing ropes and Sterling has the reputation for making the best types.  The ideas behind a thinner rope is lighter weight and easier clipping into anchors.  This rope still gives a similar impact rating as well the same number of falls rating.  Help your climber send there sport or trad projects and get them a lighter rope!

Smartwool Hiking Socks

Yeah, I know what you're thinking.  Socks aren't always the best gift to get for Christmas, but these aren't just any ordinary socks.  They're Smartwool.  They are one of the best hiking socks out on the market.  They'll keep your feet warm on the coldest of hikes while not making them sweaty.  I wear these while hiking to the boulder fields during the New England winters.  Nothing compares to a pair of these and your climber will be grateful for socks under the tree this year.

Access Fund Membership

It's the gift that keeps on giving year round.  It's the gift of climbing.  The Access Fund keeps the crags open, clean, and accessible.  Without this advocacy group, we wouldn't be able to have our fun and get our adrenaline fix.  There are also a number of benefits such as discounts on clothing (Prana) and climbing magazine subscriptions (Rock and Ice and Climbing Mag).  Get them the gift that keeps them climbing.  Go for the Access Fund Membership!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Skunky Start to a Perfect Rumney Weekend

I'd like to say that the past Rumney adventure started when I got to the campsite along Baker River...but it didn't.  It started at 11:30 PM the previous night.  Exhausted from toiling on the computer for a work presentation, I decided to unplug for the night and take my dog Bailey outside for her nightly ritual of finding the perfect spot to do her business.  Only this night was different.  The dimly lit backyard highlighted the most terrifying creature you could find in your backyard: a skunk.  As soon as I saw it, Bailey took off like a lightning bolt after the white and black fluff ball.  Moments later she came back wreaking of burnt erasers and rotten eggs.  It was one of the worst things that could have happened right before a perfect weather weekend to Rumney.

I thought I could just leave her at home for the weekend, but I knew it wouldn't be the same without her there.  I always share my adventures with my pup.  She is a huge part of my life and I couldn't leave her behind.  I decided to cash out a little extra vacation time and get some skunk odor remover from the pet store.  Luckily, 4 washes later and only a faint smell lingered.  I could handle a little stink from her.  My own odor from 2 days of climbing and no shower would even out the smells anyway.

Finally, all clean!!

The trip was back on track and we hit the road with all the gear. The weekend brought some great fall weather with cool temps and dry conditions.  We ate and drank (moderately) like kings the night before our first day on the boulders.  The sunrises while camping were our alarm clocks along with the rustling and unzipping from our tents.  Breakfast was surrounded by chatter about climbing plans and aspirations for the day while checking the guide book.  For the most part everyone was just anxious to leave the campsite to head to the crags and boulder areas. 

Bill warming up on the Umbrella Traverse (v2)

Getting ready to warm up is always a cause for anxiety.  The first climb of the day can, in most cases, be an indicator of the rest of the day's performance.  But this time, warming up provided a lot of confidence for the progression to the harder boulders.  The best part of the trip was revisiting a boulder problem that embarrassingly shut me down the last time I was out at Rumney 4 years ago.  I couldn't even make the first move of the problem and just had to walk away in shame.  I trained and worked hard to progress the last 4 years and it paid off with the send of the problem (Pyramid Power, v7) on that day.  Finding a new project wasn't on the agenda but it seemed like a new project found everyone.  Satan in a Half Shell (v10) has given me the perfect excuse to plan another trip to try for the send. 

Pyramid Power v7

The boulders at Rumney are quite sharp, making the end of the day climbs very swear worthy.  The end of the day brought excitement for the heading back to camp to get the camp fire going.  After about 8 hours of climbing, brews were calling our names along with some flat iron steaks.  Our fuel cells were craving calories after working on projects and peeling off of sharp crimps for so many hours.  The time spent around the campfire was much shorter that night due to the exhaustion but everyone slept like they were at the 4 Seasons with the thoughts of the next day's adventure before the long road home.

New project Satan in a Half Shell (v10)

In some ways, the 2nd day of a trip always seems less stressful.  There is no stress of finding a new project or trying to get a send.  It was about exploring to find something fun to climb on, since our fingertips were shredded from the day before.  This is what climbing should be about anyway: having fun and exploring new areas to re-invigorate the soul.  One of the best things about Rumney is that there is something new to climb there every time I visit.   I will always have a longing to get back there whenever I get the chance.  But until then, I plan on keeping the problems and routes on my mind and keeping myself strong for the next trip.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

#ORInsightLab: Men's Ferrosi 3/4 Pant Review

The Ferrosi 3/4 pants

When I got to try out the Outdoor Research Men's Ferrosi 3/4 pants, I immediately dubbed them the "barely there" pants.  The Ferrosi 3/4 pants were so light weight that it almost felt like I wasn't even wearing them.  As light as they felt, they were very durable and had an ideal amount of stretch to them.  The pockets were very low profile, which I liked since there wouldn't be a lot of bulging areas like cargo shorts or pants.  I decided the best testing ground for these were some awkward-leg-positioning, overhanging boulders at Lincoln Woods, RI.

The stretch is in all the right places!

I was worried that the pant leg would get caught on my knee when making a high leg move or heel hook and become uncomfortable or restricting in movement. What I found was that when the pant leg caught my knee, it provided enough stretch to allow my leg to move with little resistance and was comfortable.  Another big worry I had about the Ferrosi 3/4 pant was the material allowing for the dreaded "backside" sweat to show through.  Warm summers and humidity mixed with light colored, thin material clothing tend to be problematic in this area.  However, the pants were surprisingly ventilated and breathable, with no sweat problems.  Whew, embarrassment avoided!

I was never a fan of 3/4 pants for men, but after wearing the Ferrosi style I have changed my mind on not wanting to wear them.  One thing I would want added to these pants is the option to cuff them up (with latch, velcro, or button system) to become shorts to provide extra coolness on really hot days.  I plan to take these up to the sport climbing crags in Rumney, NH since they performed so well on steep boulder problems. At 8.5 oz., these pants will be easily packed with me on all my spring and summertime climbing trips.

*This concludes the #ORInsightLab reviews.  The products reviewed in this program were given to me by Outdoor Research in exchange for honest reviews and feedback.  Any and all positive opinions presented by me in the program are my own and were not required to receive products.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

#ORInsightLab: Dirtbag RV Tech Tee Review

I know what you are thinking, "It's a t-shirt, how can you possibly have anything to review about it??"  On the surface the Dirtbag RV Tech Tee, by Outdoor Research, looks exactly what any t-shirt would look like.  But once I slipped it over my head and slid my arms through the sleeves, I noticed it had quite a different feel than most t-shirts.  It was very light-weight, soft, and had a ventilating feel to it.  I knew this shirt would be a great to try out while sport climbing and bouldering.

RV Tech Tee keeping me cool through the roof move!

What better test area for this shirt than one of the most prized crags of the Northeast: Rumney, NH.  Temps were forecast to be in the low 80s F (27 C) and I wanted to get a feel of how well it kept me cool and dry since that is its purpose.  After climbing for about 7 hours my shirt remained dry and I was staying quite cool.  However, the dark blue color absorbed a lot of the suns heat, making me quite warm.  It was fortunate for me that the moisture wicking of this material was excellent.  My shirt would be wet for about 5 minutes before being completely dry.  The performance while climbing was amazing as well.  The shirt is stretchy and elastic and also did not restrict the dynamic throws on the tough routes at Rumney.  The shirt performed so well that I wanted to wear it while bouldering the following weekend.

The only thing I would like to see different about this shirt is lighter colors to help reduce the absorbency of the sun's heat.  Overall, though, I am impressed with the Tech Tee and will continue to wear it while I climb and hang out with friends around the campfires.

Up next for the final review for #ORInsightLab are the Men's Ferrosi 3/4 Pants:

The products reviewed in this program were given to me by Outdoor Research in exchange for honest reviews and feedback.  Any and all positive opinions presented by me in the program are my own and were not required to receive products.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

#ORInsightLab: Handbrake Gloves Review

(photo from OutdoorResearch.com)

The Handbrake Gloves, by Outdoor Research, is the product from the #ORInsightLab program I have had the most experience with this summer.  I have been out sport climbing almost every weekend this spring and summer.  These gloves have been through many trials in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Squamish, BC.  I am a huge fan of sport climbing, and I love everything about it except for belaying.  Having the rope directly rubbing back and forth on my hand, wearing away small bits of skin into a "rug burn" is very irritating.  My hands already get enough abuse from the rock and chalk, so minimizing hand damage in any way is always a plus.

Luckily, Outdoor Research wanted our opinion for the #ORInsightLab program!  When I first examined the gloves I thought they might also be used for mixed martial arts cage fighting.  Seriously, these things have some stacked knuckle padding!  The glove consists of very durable cow leather (sorry vegans!) and provides a nice, snug fit.  It allows for a smooth belay descent of the climber while leaving my hands unscathed.  I assumed these gloves would be pretty well worn after using them for about 100 belays, but they still look new with very minimal wear.  I have never worn belay gloves before, but now I have been spoiled and can no longer go back to bare-handing the rope while belaying.

While these Handbrake gloves are rough and tough and can protect my hands during a half-hour hang dog ascent, there is one thing that could make them better.  An improved ventilation system would make them more comfortable on the mid summer climbing sessions.  My hands felt like they were in a sauna and had quite the sweat fest.  But I would rather have sweaty palms instead of torn and destroyed ones, so this was definitely not a deal breaker.

These gloves go with me wherever I take my rope.  They are also about to hit their 4th climbing location this weekend up at Rumney, NH for a great rope-burn free weekend of some sport climbing.  Invest in your hands!  Get the Handbrake Gloves by Outdoor Research.  They are worth it!

Next up for review, the Outdoor Research Dirtbag RV Tech Tee:

The products reviewed in this program were given to me by Outdoor Research in exchange for honest reviews and feedback.  Any and all positive opinions presented by me in the program are my own and were not required to receive products.