Steep Wall Reset

I thought I should inform you all that a couple weeks ago I completely stripped the Steep Wall. At Rob's request the Micky Mouse remains, but nothing else. Sadly yes Organic, Petzl and Epic are no more. This change was motivated by myself however, the Steep Wall at CATS is my favorite wall anywhere. Because of it's width, and lack of attention in terms of getting a constant supply of new holds, it was approaching the point of being stale. So I stayed in CATS until 1:30am on a Friday night and stripped the entire thing. The re-setting took a bit longer but all the holds that are going to be up are now up. There will still be some fine tuning over the next few weeks, as Danielson may make some adjustments and as some problems are set set, but the steep is completely fresh now and ready to go.

The main wall has been getting a very steady supply of new amazing holds including some yet-to-be-on-the-market very purist slopes which are actually a reshape of a BEAUTIFUL old E-Grips set. CATS is really starting to get pretty well done in terms of holds, we will continue to get more, but the Main Wall for instance is essentially devoid of holds that are not fantastic. Because of this I have started improving the Ramp Wall and even the Cave Entrance Overhang. So there are a variety of completely new lines emerging in areas previously unclimbed.

I would like to start posting more, but on November 3rd I defend my Thesis so I should be pretty busy until then.

Bubble Wrap

This was the most infamous project in CATS if not Colorado. This was a series of holds that Chris Danielson put up a few years ago hoping that it would be quite a testpiece however I do not think anyone predicted that it would be unsent for as long as it was. Just off the top of my head I know Daniel Woods, Carlo Traversi, Paul Robinson, Seth Allred, Kyle Owen, Garret Gregor, Alex Puccio, and Andre DeFelice have all tried it. Carlo has said he has spent at least 15 days on the problem, and coming off of his recent 5 day ascent of the Game this holds some meaning.

A fantastic testpeice full of power, contact strength and tension.

Finally put to rest January 29th 2013 by Daniel Woods.

Footage here:

Brown Disc 2.0

The second, shorter, more intense climb I recently set revolving around a thin disc like E-Grips Ian's Tribal crimp. If you want something short and powerful and do not hate crimps this would be the climb to try. I find the climb to be very straightforward yet actually interesting and unique. I think this is mostly due to the actual nature of the line and the direction in which it climbs. Very much a typical boulder problem in design; a few somewhat difficult moves to a very difficult crux, to a desperate finish move. Video is here.

Sustained Watermelon

What I hope will become a newer classic. When I sent this boulder, for me personally, it was perfectly sustained with a crux. Others have mentioned that the crux is actually very likely the first move. Regardless I am quite happy with this climb, there is a good variety of movement, power and controlled climbing, with the possibility of falling on any number of moves. But once again if you fall on the first move repeatedly do not be discouraged. Here is the video where you can hopefully observe the nature of the climb.

High Step

This is an excellent climb if you enjoy crimps, lockoffs and can bring your foot high. The climbing is not terribly dynamic as long as you can commit to a throw to the lip off a slopey edge. This climb is relatively sustained; there are very few truely easy moves. The only easy moves on the entire climb is probably the first move and the third. The cruxes are probably the high step and getting out of it, and then shortly afterwards a very long lockoff to a very slopey edge. But I am happy to say that it is not very height dependant as it has seen ascents from 5'3" to 5'9".

Here is the video.

The Barndoor Boulder

A standard V9 with a tendancy towards edges but certainly not something I would call crimpy. A line mostly inspired by the desire to link as many of my new ETCH Watermelon holds as possible. Watermelon because they are from different sets but came in the same color. This would be suggested to someone wanting to break into a solid V9 without a very paticular style, not overly crimpy, powerful or tension based. It is some suspense moves, a hard barndoor move and then a touch of spice to the top. You do a few nice intro moves with a touch of power and tension, then you swing your feet far left onto a good jib and execute a difficult barndoor move to a flat red 2tex edge. From there you stand to the Teknik Creamsicle, pull into a bad undercling pinch then grab a flat edge and jump to the top.

Here is the video.

Grip A and Grip B

This is a very important post about what I believe far too many coaches and climbers neglect; grip positions. To simply state my thesis up front; I firmly believe that one should grip edges in only one of two ways; Grip position A or Grip position B.

Here we have grip position A.

This is the most powerful way to hold an edge.

One should keep in mind that whenever you are setting up for a powerful move or a hard lockoff, or really some sort of movement that is near your limit, the hand that you are moving off of should generally be in Grip position A.

Here we have Grip position B.

This is a very versatile grip which serves a number of functions, one of which is to prevent people who think Grip A is too stressful on the fingers from bitching at me.

Essentially the main purpose of this grip is increased tension and to a smaller extent some energy savings. This grip should be much more commonly used on steep walls and on very poor edges, or those where the danger of dry firing may be high.

The basic logic behind Grip B is to address the weaknesses of Grip A. Grip A requires more energy, pulls in one direction, and one cannot really do a move pre-Gripped A. Grip B is really the more dynamic grip. On dynamic moves and deadpoints one should hit edges in Grip B.

First off it is easy to hit a hold immediately into Grip B. On this note it is easy to explain some of the tension element. So on a dynamic move on the steep, you move up at the hold, your fingers connect on the hold and your body then starts to move away from the wall, right as you hit the hold your thumb should engage into Grip B, which then resists the outwards sag of your body. I think it is pretty easy to see and most people would agree it is pretty absurd to hit a hold in Grip A, if you have a video of someone going for a hold with their thumb over their fingers before on the hold please share. It is possible I suppose but completely loony.

Most people then of course hit holds open handed or half crimped without the thumb; like when climbing on campus rungs. Hitting holds without the thumb is of course very easy to do but is neglecting a very strong digit and a very high force generating grip. When actively using the thumb you have a greater chance of staying on the wall. This also will help keep your feet on as it prevents your body from moving away from the wall.

The other important and even more neglected use for Grip B is as the lower hand when the upper hand starts to connect with the next hold. In this case it is used for the same general reason; increased tension in the outwards dimension. So this is the very crucial to the steep A to B Flip. You power off a hold in Grip A and as your upper hand starts to connect on the next hold your lower hand should flip to B to help it, and your body stay on the wall. This is even more relevant if your feet cut as in this situation the lower hand will be doing next to nothing if it is not in Grip B.

And as a detail alluded to earlier, Grip B is superior on holds that you may be afraid of dry firing off of, or very poor side pulling edges. When you are in Grip A on a very poor edge you may be applying too much force in general and certainly too much force straight down. Grip B will force you to spread your weight over a slightly larger surface area on your fingers and will be applying pressure to the bottom of the hold with your thumb. This is even more relevant to very poor side pulls where if one attempts to straight A them there is too much downwards force for your hand to stay securely.

In this video you can see the B-A-B flip. Although in this particular shoot my hand cuts, but you get the idea.

And here you see a better example of hitting something with more speed in B and then flipping to A. The third to last move to the pale blue, but there are some good flips on the bottom as well but they are harder to see.

I believe that this is a very large part of training that is very neglected. I am not perfect and I am sure if you go through my videos you can find some poor grip positions. But I try to climb on edges using only these two grips. Essentially the two biggest problem most people have climbing this way is that they either overuse Grip A, or they climb half-crimped but neglect the thumb. There is no advantage to climbing without the thumb pinching the bottom of the hold (Grip B). I am aware there is some argument that training with the thumb over the finger(Grip A) is bad because it is simply a crutch for your fingers. I would say that you should train in a way that you climb and that if you never train Grip A then you will be unprepared for it outdoors. But climbing without using the thumb at all is a waste and not superior in any way that I can think of.

Grip A delivers maximum strength on a hold. Grip B is for energy savings and increased tension.

If your look at a lot of the really strong climbers like Daniel, and I think the biggest exponent of Grip A and B; Jon Cardwell (Lots of fantastic A B action between 1:10 - 1:40). You see that they do not frequently half-crimp without the thumb. That is a lazy grip.

I think keeping in mind these two grips and using them as exclusively as possible will certainly make you a stronger better climber. It is one of my most important pieces of advice for those who are looking for some.

None of this applies to route climbers.

Red Hornytoad

The long, physical, feature testpiece. I had originally done the Boss encouter with an amazing Floating Iron Cross move, but sadly feet first seems to work. Daniel recieved the FA very shortly before putting up the Game in Boulder Canyon.

FA: Daniel Woods

Other Ascents: Paul Robinson

Best and Worst Hold of the Week 2

Old Comfy Crimp and Lippy Crimp

This week I will review two very basic looking positive crimps, one shaped very well and the other not so well.

First up for our Best Hold of the Week we have this black, well aged, E-Grips Comfy Crimp. The E-Grips line of Comfy Crimps is an old school classic that is still very much in production and is essential to any overhung wall. Throughout E-Grips' history, I, personally, am aware of three generations of texture: Old Exfoliating, Old Glass, and Modern. Between the Glass and Exfoliating textures I am not actually sure which is older, the Exfoliating generation is however much more common in CATS compared to the Glass generation. The Comfy Crimp that is featured here is a member of my favorite generation of the three; the mythical glass generation. Having a hard glassy surface has a number of advantages. Because the surface of the hold is not very porous it does not get shoe rubber or chalk embedded in it, the hold can get chalk stuck onto the surface, but with a proper brushing it is as good as new. I will not restate all of my texture points made in the previous post, but it is also great to be able to pull hard on these holds for hours and days without any wear to your skin. I am not even entirely sure why holds are not this texture now, perhaps they chip easier.

Now onto the shape. Once again I apologize for not having posted a Grip A and Grip B blog post yet. For now just know Grip A is full closed and Grip B is what is pictured to the left. It is very easy to shape a hold which feels fine for a full closed crimp, it takes much more subtlety to shape a good Grip B. But this crimp does a great job. Sometimes Grip B works well simply because there is enough texture for the skin to grip the bottom of the hold well. But it is much cooler and more motivating if there is actually micro-features that you are pinching. Micro-features here are quite crucial as mentioned earlier this hold has very little texture. So the subtle little divots in the hold actually play an important feature in making the hold a pinchable edge. The simplest reason though perhaps that I like this hold is simply the way the actual grab of the hold is shaped. This may be somewhat subjective, but I really love gently rounded incuts. I am known for loving razors and such but really my favorite holds are rounded edges with a very small incut in the back. In the case of this hold the incut is quite large, but it is the same idea. These holds allow you to hit the edge with quite a lot of speed without hurting your fingers, there is no edge to catch on your pad, there is no texture to grate your skin. In addition the sides of the hold are in effect "open" which make the hold much more versatile as a side-pull of gaston, I will discuss how some holds fail to take this into account shortly within this post. In summary this is very positive friendly hold that is great on the steep and can be used anywhere from V4 to V11 or to VGodKnowsWhat if turned aggressively enough.

Now we move onto the worst hold of the week. An overly lippy, close sided, oddly lengthed crimp. First I will address a very obvious issue when you grab it. It is not really 4 fingers but feels odd to use 3. Because this hold was for some reason designed like a watering trough, if you put only 3 fingers in, your fingers sort of slosh around in the hold, there is not something in the back where you can bite into to hold your fingers in place. On the previous hold, if you decide to crimp for 3 fingers for the hell of it, you are fine as you can crimp down into the back of the hold. But this hold is designed completely differently. Like I just said, seriously this crimp is like a watering trough, there is a flat surface on the inside and a big lip surrounding it. You can technically fit 4 fingers in the hold, but it is not comfortable as your fingers start to want to break free of the stupid cramped urethane walls imprisoning them. If the hold was not close sided it can sometimes be ok to scrunch 4 fingers on a small hold as the pinkie may just barely wrap around the side of the hold or something along those lines, but with this design that is not possible. There are even more problems with this close sided design. It makes this hold extra uncomfortable if used as a gaston or side pull. This is because, lets say the hold is turned 55 degrees clock wise and is intended to be a left hand gaston, what ends up happening is that your pointer finger will be smooshed down onto the side lip that this hold has. So you will actually be pulling down onto the side of your finger, the same thing happens as a sidepull except with your pinkie. This is dumb for a few reasons. First this is very uncomfortable on your fingers. Secondly, thank God, there are not too many problems with down pulling slot crimps. This is what that type of pulling is replicating. I am not saying they are not out there, my first V9 revolved around a downpulling vertical slot/seam. But let me tell you they suck, massive blood blister on the side of my left ring finger for the exact reason I was discussing above; you are pulling down onto the side of your finger. Even for use as a foothold this closed design is useless and inferior. When the hold is rotated you either have to turn your foot oddly to toe into the good part of just edge on the stupid lip. I am not saying having bad feet is bad but I rather it be an actual bad foot not this weird standing on the side of a lip business. So we have now established that these holds are quite poor for sidepulls or gastons. But is it good for downpulling if you have either really small or really fat fingers? The answer still, impressively, is no.
Here is a slightly out of focus shot of the hold with my fingers on/in it. The pointer is dropped for a better view. It would be better if I had more photographs but I was having trouble shooting this hold. But one of the problems you should be able to see here. When you are established and pulling on the hold there is excessive contact from the lip of the hold onto random parts of your finger. I say random because where the lip is contacting your finger is not where you want to or can really pull from. This makes pulling on the hold actually quite painful as much of your weight hits low on your finger near your crease. An additional problem with using this hold even in a down pulling position is when you think about hitting the hold at speed. Basically you painfully catch that stupid huge lip on the crease of your finger. This causes not only stupid pain, but also potentially injury related pain as you can actually bruise your tendon/pulley, at least in my experience.

In summary big lips cause comfort problems, potentially will lead to more injuries and suck even harder if it is a huge closed lip. Rounded glass textured incuts are very versatile and can be trained on quite easily for a variety of moves and difficulties.

I will not post a Hold of the Week this coming week, but I will make a Blog post.

Best and Worst Hold of the Week 1

The Dolphin Pinch and the Duck Pinch

To start things off with this series I decided to pick two holds which I have a fair bit to say about and that contrast well together. This is also a good example of an ancient CATS style hold, a Straight Up, beating a modern Teknik hold.

First, above, we have the Best, the Dolphin Pinch, dubbed by Ryan Silven, as it looks like a Dolphin. More importantly to this disscusion as I am not holding this hold superior due to the superiority of dolphins over ducks, is the fact that it is textured like a dolphin. One of my least favorite things about climbing at the Spot and Movement, is the fact that my skin may often give out before my fingers. It gives you the standard "gym skin" that you get from almost all gyms, the textured holds eat away your skin(and shoes), and climbing on it for multiple days leaves your fingers pink and purple and out of shape for anything outdoors. Also, quite importantly, it is better to grip a hold than have a hold grip you. Textured holds are not as good for training on multiple levels; bad for your skin and requires less crushing strength. The shape of this hold is also quite pure and versatile. As you can see the hold is in a position for the right hand, in this position the finger side is the smaller side, a way that I frequently like it, which emphasizes the pinching crushing nature of pinches. If I want to train fingers I will climb on crimps. But at the same time if you want, this hold can be rotated around to be used as a left as more of a slopey edge with a smaller thumb catch.

In summary this is a great hold as it has perfect texture and is thin in a sense which makes it hard but also slopey not a thin edge like pinch. It has been recently used to make "The Dolphin Pinch Problem" which I will feature soon.

And here, to the left, we have not "the" but "a" Duck pinch. Duck pinches are a title that I came up with to describe this stupid style of slopey pinch that hold makers continue to make for some reason. I hate pockets, but I understand that strangely some people want to climb routes, and then stranger still; routes with pockets. So I get that they are a specific grip that some people would like to be strong at. The Duck pinch grip however has no such rationale. They are not a specific type of grip ever encountered outside and do not make you stronger in any way. Training Duck pinches does not even necessarily make you stronger at Duck pinches. Essentially one can train edges, slopers and pinches(and I guess pockets). But if you take someone who trains on slopers and pinches and someone who trains Duck pinches and then have some sort of hideous duck pinch competition, the Duck Pincher will lose. But now perhaps I have gone to far without illustrating the Duck Pinch Grip.

Here you can see my hand gripping the hold.

My hand looks like a duck. As if my hand is saying "quack quack"

This is a Duck pinch.

You can detect Duck pinches at your home gym by simply squeezing a questionable pinch. If your hand looks like a duck, it is a Duck pinch and should be removed with the greatest of haste.

Duck pinches are stupid as you can not really utilize your thumb to pinch it but at the same time you cannot just hold it like sloper. Yes they can be meat wraped but lets not even go there.

But you may also be asking "Hey what if you just pinch it like a normal skinny pinch? The same way you hold the Dolphin pinch."

Well here is a picture of the grip in question. I can explain why this doesn't work slightly but you may have to go and try this at home to fully understand. As you can see there is a great deal of plastic between the point of contact and the edge of the hold. This means through that due to the terrible duck slope of the hold that if you try to actually crush and pull off of the hold this way two things may happen: one your hand will slide off the hold, or two your hand will collapse into the above Duck pinch position. Gripping it properly simply does not work well. It is like if you take a proper sloper like the ETCH Egg or something worse would be an even better example, like the slopey side of the ETCH Breastplate, and try to crimp it, it does not really work; it either feels like shit(the Egg) or literally does not work(the Breastplate).

Hopefully now you may understand why I hate Duck pinches, and why slopey non-textured pinches emphasizing thumbs are excellent.

This is my first post of the series so please let me know what you like and do not like.

It's Alive

Well instead of an update telling you that there will not be updates, I have good news that I am going to start trying to put some time into the site again. I am still working through some ideas, but I will first off start posting videos and problems again, although I am not sure about the picture guides. Secondly I am going to start a blog series "Best and Worst Hold of the Week", where I feature two holds and explain why I love and hate them. I can promise some other blog posts as well regarding grip positions, holds vs. movement, and others. I of course cannot fill you in on all the news that occured but I will just start things off again with what has been happening recently.

For some news in a slightly familiar vein for those who visited the site previously, my friend Sasha Diguilian made a very impressive flash ascent of LaSportiva, this is the first female flash, something along the lines of 3rd female ascent and a rare flash for either gender. Adding to the difficulty was the fact that she had never been in CATS before and could not even make out the stickers so I actually had to point it out as she went.

Outside of the steep we definitely have a newest hardest climb usurping Keen Extension and Red HornyToad. It was set by myself and Ryan Silven and lacks a good name, not that we ever have "good" names in CATS. I suppose it will just be refered to as the V15/16, or perhaps in true CATS form; OrangeRedYellow as that is the crux sequence. Enough holds have changed since my old photo database that I cannot highlight the holds, I can take new pictures but I no longer have access to the quality camera that I did. But given that this is the first or second hardest climb in CATS I will take pictures next week to put up in the guide section. I will try hard to get footage of Daniel doing it, but not sure when he will be around and it took him three days so it is not on the circuit yet.

That is all of the news for now. But I will start updating again. So tell your friends and check in for new posts here, in the blog, and on the Vimeo Channel.