Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Review: Clif Bar Organics Trail Mix Bar

Photo from

As climbers, we are the "bring only the essentials along type of folk".  Why?  Because all of the crap we carry with us is pretty damn heavy.  Minimalists by nature I guess, but we still have to eat to sustain ourselves through the long runouts, epic highballs, and grueling hikes to get on that one true line that calls our name.  There are a lot of foods that we'd like to carry with us (sandwiches, bananas, pizzas, etc.), but that just isn't going to work out without a possible mess in the backpack and space consumption.  So, what food is it that climbers can't get enough of at the crag?  Easy enough, snack bars.  They're easy to carry, various flavors, and are generally pretty healthy for you.

A lot of work gets put into the rock.  A lot of energy is needed to sustain all day climbing.

I always carry tons of different snack bars out with me to the crag and I go to the crag often.  I am always on the lookout for different flavors.  One of my favorite go to brands for snack bars is Clif Bar and Company.  I was intrigued when their new Clif's Organics snack bar line came onto the market.  Clif Bar has always been a favorite for climbers, mostly due to the nutritional value and helping them stay primed for the next route or boulder.

Clif Bar was kind enough to send out a selection of the Organics products for me to try.  I took them out on my climbing trips to find out if they had the taste and the ability to keep me energized throughout the day. The samples included the dark chocolate peanut butter, dark chocolate pomegranate raspberry, and coconut almond peanut.

Photo from

All of them had a great taste and the consistency was what you would expect of something made with natural ingredients.  The Organics line also has the visual deliciousness element, in that you can see the ingredients you are eating and makes it more appealing.  The one that stood out the most for me was the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter.  The taste and texture were perfect. I also found that these bars packed enough punch in them to sustain me through the day while bouldering/rock climbing.

I hope everyone enjoyed the spray about the Clif Bar Organics.  Check them out at your local grocer and make sure to bring them along on your next adventure!

Disclosure:  Clif Bar provided me samples of the Organic line in exchange for an honest review on this website.  The opinions expressed are my own and are in no way influenced by receiving of such samples.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

#ORInsightLab: Men's Airbrake Gloves Review

Alas, the final review for this year's Outdoor Research #ORInsightLab program: the Men's Airbrake Gloves!  I've been crag hopping with these gloves all over the place, from the west coast in British Columbia to the northeast crags of New England.  Apart from feeling like Ironman while wearing these gloves, they did what belay gloves should do and that is to protect your hands from burning out from all day belaying.

Some of the features that I really dug were the gel padded palm area where the majority of rope abrasion occurs.  The other part I like is the leather supplement on the backside of the glove over the index and little finger to prevent rope rollover during belaying or catching a whipper.  The backside of the gloves are thin and flexible to allow for a very comfortable fit.

Great coverage of the sensitive areas during belaying

While I liked the gloves a ton, I did not find the ventilation adequate enough in warmer climbing temps.  But I had with me the Outdoor Research Men's Handbrake Gloves that have a lot more ventilation (no fingertips!).  But ever since the temps cooled, the Airbrake gloves have been great. They have been keeping my hands at a perfect temp to keep me ready for the next ascent.  I highly recommend the Airbrake gloves(and Handbrake gloves!), especially for this time of year!  Belay away!

Disclosure: Outdoor Research provided me with the Airbrake Gloves in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own and are not influenced by any third party.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

#ORInsightLab Gear Review: Ferrosi Hoody

Welcome to the first #ORInsightLab gear review of 2015!  As mentioned in a previous post, #ORInsightLab is a program set up by Outdoor Research to get feedback on some of their gear.  They choose a handful of awesome outdoorsy people and give them some gear in exchange for an honest review.  This allows them to improve upon their product lines if needed.  The first piece of gear on the review block is the Ferrosi Hoody, the close family relative of the Ferrosi pants line.

I took this jacket to one of my favorite local spots in Connecticut for some bouldering.  I climbed all morning wearing the Ferrosi Hooody as I cruised through some of the classics.  When I took a break on my crash pad I started to think about what I really liked about the jacket.  As I ran my hand over the light weight fabric feeling the slightly coarse texture of each sleeve I came to the conclusion that what I like most about it were the same as what I like about rock climbing: the balance and flow.

The jacket was well balanced in that it kept my body in equilibrium with the surrounding environment.  The hoody allowed for heat to easily escape while also letting moisture evaporate through the breathability of the material.  The jacket fabric was very fluid and felt like it flowed well with tougher movements.  The cloth contoured perfectly and was unrestricted during many different types of movement.  There was also a distinct advantage to its durabiltiy: mosquito proof.  Only the exposed areas were the dining spots for the little bloodsuckers!  When the day got warmer the jacket stuffs down to the size of a softball, which made for easy storage.

The Ferrosi Hoody is going to be a favorite of mine due to the lightweight, easy storage, and amazing comfort while wearing.  The only thing I did not like about the jacket was the hood.  The hood works functionally but just felt uncomfortably loose while wearing.  This isn't a deal breaker though since the rest of the jacket performs so amazingly well.  At the end of the day, I gave this jacket 4.5 sprays out of 5.

Up next for review:  Men's Air Brake Gloves

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Low Start to Fotowa 8a (v11) Project Sent!

My two season project, the low start to Fotowa 8A (v11, FA by Dave Theriault), has finally been accomplished.  I had a trip planned for the Red River Gorge and knew I had to get it sent before I put a solid week of sport climbing under my belt.  With that amount of time on endurance routes at the Red, I knew it would cut into my bouldering performance.  It was also a race against the onslaught of the spring weather conditions and I knew I would have only a few opportunities to get the send.

Winter taking over Great Barrington

Before the 4 month long winter freeze that forced my bouldering aspirations westward into Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas, I made decent progress on Fotowa.  I could make it from the low start to the thin rail crimp almost every time, but I couldn't pull the trigger on the v9 power move to the slot.  My left hand would blow off the crimp and take a chunk out of my knuckles each time.  There wasn't enough tape to keep the blood from flowing at times.  After countless trips and failed attempts, it was too late for the send in 2014; the Northeast was at the mercy of one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record.

Defeated and disheartened, I took to the indoors to train and to train hard.  Through my failed attempts, I learned my weaknesses.  I focused my energy on core training and explosive power development on thin holds.  For this, I utilized my favorite training regimen: the small campus rungs (training video to come soon).  The core training was more basic such as scissor kicks, leg lifts, and tons of crunches.

Back to training out the weaknesses.

Fast forward through 4 months of training, I was about 1 week away from my trip to the Red River Gorge.  A perfect opportunity came along for me to get out of work and head up to Great Barrington, Fotowa's home.  A few warm-ups in and it was go time for the day's purpose.  It didn't take long for my muscles to remember the sequence.  After about a dozen tries and some mental frustration I told myself only a few more attempts before I would move on for the day.  I told myself that if I get to the v9 rail crimp move that I would put everything I had into it and "leave it all on the table" so that I could at least accept failure knowing I put my all into it.  Except the last go was the best go and there was no more failure. 

It's such a great feeling to unlock a sequence and finally be able to let go of something that has become a borderline obsession.  There is an emotional attachment to something you have spent so much time an energy into working on.  Slowly but surely another route or problem will come my way that I will obsess over until accomplished.  I will keep doing this season after season until my body gives up.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Julbo USA Visionaries Team Ambassador

Sporting the Julbo Dolgan shades out at Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV

It's my privilege to get to announce I get to be an ambassador for Julbo USA, the sickest, baddest performance eye wear makers out there!  I am teaming up with them on their Julbo Visionaries team for 2015.  Luckily for me, I got on board just in time for my trip to Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas where the sun was abundant and hot.

With all the time I spend outdoors, I need good quality eye wear to protect my eyes.  Being a rock climber tends to have your vantage point always looking upward and sometimes right into direct sunlight.  But sunglasses aren't just about protecting your eyes, they're also about having comfort and style.  And Julbo has some of the best styles I've ever seen!

Stay tuned to The Spray Down to find out what adventures my Julbos embark on with me this season!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Daniel Woods Wins 1st Place at ABS 16...If it Were the 2013 Rules Though

(Screen grab from video on LT11 YouTube channel)

This post is not meant to take any glory away from the champions at ABS 16 National Championships.  It is only an observation made of the scoring rule changes for this year's event.

If anyone was watching the ABS 16 National Championships last night, they might have noticed the rather displeased Daniel Woods.  Yes he was National Champion for the 9th time, but with that designation comes a caveat.  He was the National Champion because Mohammad Jafari Mahmodabadi, who came in first, could not be crowned due to the rules that don't allow foreign nationals to hold the ABS title.

This, however was not what left Mr. Woods peeved.  It was the change in the scoring system.  If this competition had occurred under the USA Climbing Rule Book from 2013 the order of the top three male finishers would look much different (women's podium did not change for either scoring system).  It would have been Woods for 1st place, O'Rourke for 2nd place, and Mahmodabadi coming in 3rd place.  How did I come to this completely different outcome?  Let me break it down for you according to the 2013 rule book.

First you rank by highest number of tops (finishes), in which there was a 3 way tie among Mahmodabadi, O'Rourke, and Woods.  The rule book states that with a tie at total tops then you rank by total number of controlled holds (1.0 point/hold).  According to the chart below: Woods-41 points, O'Rourke-33 points, and Mahmodabadi-31 points.  So, there you have it!  The final order would have been Woods, O'Rourke, then Mahmodabadi....if it were last year of course!  This is not meant to take anything away from Mohammad though, he was absolutely spectacular while competing and it would be great to see more of him in upcoming competitions.  It all comes down to the new scoring system being complex and not easily determined in real time by the competitors or spectators.  Below is the final score determined by the new scoring system:

I can assume that everyone who looked at the final scores couldn't make heads or tails of it without looking at how they calculated it in the rule book.  Here is the link to how it was scored according to the new scoring rules (ABS 16 Scoring Explained).  Get your calculator ready and make sure it has a square root button, you'll be hitting that one often to check the final scores for yourself.  I have no clue why it is calculated this way but I am sure there is a good explanation.  Spectators and viewers of the finals seemed very confused on the scoring as well (ClimbingNarc site) and thought Woods would have been the outright winner.

Regardless of the scoring system, the competitors put on one hell of a show with Alex Puccio and Daniel Woods retaining their titles as Champions for the 9th time.  Also putting on a great show were the production crew at Louder Than 11, and the announcers Pete Ward and Brian Runnels.  Watch the finals round below.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Climbing Shoes Too Tight?

We, as climbers have been told for years that your climbing shoes need to be painfully tight for the perfect fit so that we can be awesome at rock climbing.  A well form fitted climbing shoe may improve one's climbing but a overly tight painful fit can cause problems long term.  This could actually be harming your feet more than you think especially if you have already pre-existing conditions.  Here are some of the conditions that can be caused by wearing too tight of footwear:

Hammertoes: a contraction or bending of the joints on one or multiple toes.  Hammertoes can form if the toes are too long and are forced into a cramped position when a tight shoe is worn.  While hammertoes are flexible and can be treated but if left untreated can lead to a surgical situation.


Bunions: I used to only think old people (no offense!) got these, but they can happen to young and old alike.  A bunion is when your big toe joint becomes enlarged an crowds against your other toes.  The force from your big toe then forces the bone outward as shown in the photo.  A bunion can develops from the pressure on the foot when force into tight narrow pointed shoes, which is basically what climbing shoes do.

Calluses:  One of the most common toe ailment of climbers and is often referred to as "climber's toe". These calluses are hard small patches of thickened dead skin with a hard center.  These are caused by the rubbing of the skin in a very tight fitted shoe.

Ingrown toenails: These are one of the most gruesome and possibly dangerous of toe problems.  An ingrown toenail can be caused by constant pressure placed on the toenail, which then causes it to dig and cut into the skin.  Many times this can lead to a puss filled infection that can pop like a stepped on Boston Creme doughnut!

The next time you jam your little piggies into your overly tight climbing shoe, remember you can be causing your feet more problems than the number of sends that day.  While wearing your climbing shoes, keep your feet snug, pain free, and give 'em a break between tries.  And for the sake of everyone's nostrils, keep your feet clean and stink free!

Some images used from:

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

On The Rocks: Great Barrington Bouldering

This post is about a brief excerpt of some of Great Barrington's awesome boulder problems.  The winter can be one of the best time for sends or the worst if the temp drops too far below freezing.  In this clip I am able to catch these sends at the perfect temps.  Stay tuned to The Spray Down for more videos coming soon!