Metolius ambassador Beth Rodden is working with us to share her years of climbing experience and knowledge in a series of blog posts. She will cover a whole host of topics such as training, diet, lifestyle, technique, gear and much more, so check back often and stay tuned for her upcoming video series. Also visit Beth's blog for more climbing insights and product reviews.
Beth and Peter Croft interview each other
When I first started climbing, the local climbing gym offered some clinics from the "pros." As an over psyched youngster, I was always game to take each and every one of them, I figured the more I learned the better I would become. At that time, I was pretty much a gym rat and competition climber, due to my lack of transportation. I would go outside if one of the guys that worked at the gym would drag me along, but I wasn't a seasoned granite pro. So, when a crack climbing clinic from THE Peter Croft opened up, I jumped on it. I know that I would never use the techniques that he told us in my next comp, but I was always hopeful one day I could put them to use. Add onto that the fact that he is an incredible climber and super person, and it was a no brainer. To this day each time I get a jam, I can hear in the back of my head Peter's voice, "Thumbs up is always better." It's actually made me switch my jam on many occasions.
A few years later he was kind enough to drag me up the iconic Joshua Tree route "Figures On A Landscape" as I bumbled my way through learning how to mulit pitch climb.
When I asked him if he would be so kind as to do an interview with me, he agreed as long as I answered his questions as well :-) So, below is a two for one special! Hope you enjoy hearing from one of my long time climbing heroes!
Beth: Can you tell me how you started climbing?
I never wanted to climb. I'd seen stuff in movies and magazines and it looked out of my league, totally alien. But then a friend urged me to read a book by Chris Bonington called I Chose to Climb. After the last page I knew I had to try it and after my first climb I knew I had found my thing.
Peter: Your turn - How did you start and was it love at first climb?
My dad had taken me on a few pitches in the Sierras when I was really young, but it wasn't until he took me to the local climbing gym that I fell in love. The fact that I could do the activity on my own, just bike down to the gym and climb whenever I wanted really opened the door for me.
Beth: How did you decide to make your home in Bishop?
After growing up and learning to climb in the rainy northwest (BC) Yosemite and sunny California became the goal. Once I found Bishop and the east side of the Sierra with my wife Karine, however, it fleshed out my world from valley bottom to mountain top - and I'm still close to Yosemite. I still visit Canada but Bishop is home.
Peter: How about you: where do you consider home and what climbing area holds your heart?
Hmmm, good question. I consider Yosemite my home. Whenever I return from traveling or spending time in the bay area, it just feels like medicine for my soul, so I figure that's a good place to put down roots. And it just so happens to be my favorite climbing area as well - a bonus! However, it can be quite isolating in the winter and teaming with tourists in the summer, which gives good time to travel.
Beth: What are some of your most memorable ascents and why?
I'd say one of my favorite ascents was climbing the Nose and Half Dome in a day with John Bachar. Linking those two was great (and really opened my eyes to what else might be possible) but sharing the adventure with my hero blew me away. We finished up climbing through a thunderstorm on Half Dome and summited to a double rainbow. At that moment it felt like the universe was made just for us.
Peter: So what are some of yours and what do you feel is the real you - the one pitch cragger or long router?
I think I'm both! And I need to add in there bouldering (although I'm pretty terrible at it) and a gym rat. I really love climbing on my home wall, something about it really suits me. And I love bouldering because it is so freaking hard for me! As far as some of my most memorable, I'd definitely have to rank my first time up the Nose with Hans Florine when I was 18 or something. I vowed I would never touch El Cap again because I felt like it was too hard for me! :) Shows you how good my short term memory is! And I'd probably have to put in Meltdown in Yosemite, purely because it took me so much effort and determination. I wanted to give up so many times over the 4 or 5 months I worked on it. I'm glad that it had a happy ending!
Beth: If you could go climbing anywhere (whether you've been there before or not) where would it be and why?
The unknown has that mystical attraction but, Boy, I'd love to go back to the Charakusa valley in Pakistan. It's like Yosemite walls topped by ice faces with needle sharp summits. Most crazy beautiful mountains I've been to.
Peter: Where is you dream area?
Ever since being kidnapped in Kyrgyzstan, those far off places have totally lost their appeal. It's funny to look back when I was a teenager, before Kyrgyzstan, a whole host of areas topped my list, but now my list is somewhat tame and boring. I truly love Norway, and can't wait to get back there. As well as South Africa. I've never been to Australia or New Zealand, so those are on my list as well. We'll see how traveling with a little one goes and how mobile we actually will be!
Beth: Tell me a little about your history with Yosemite? How and when did you start climbing there? What was the scene like then? What was a "typical" Valley day for you?
My first day climbing in Yosemite was right after a spring storm and one pitch cragging at the base of El Cap seemed just ticket. Never mind the top half of the wall was cased in ice - hell, it was a nice sunny day. In no time, however, huge sheets cartwheeled off the cliff like window panes along with chunks the size of oranges and canaloupes. We all got hit but we thought that was just what you had to put up with if you were going to the Valley. Typical Valley day? Climb until dark, then throw down my bag in Camp 4, get up before dawn (and the ranger patrol) and climb again. That saying about the early bird getting the worm - well, it also gets you a free campsite in Yosemite.
Beth: If you've seen Valley Uprising, what was your impression having climbed during the Stone Master time?
No I haven't seen Valley Uprising but on a flight to Europe last week I saw Man of Steel - the latest Superman and the best, by far.
Peter: And you, what's your take on the Stonemasters - dirty hippies or rock stars? Heroes or messed up misfits?
Ha! I definitely think they were pretty visionary taking hard free climbing to Yosemite. I still go back and try to repeat Bachar and Kauk routes and am in awe that they were established so long ago!
Beth: You are one of the most inspiring climbers out there (in my humble opinion), what are your thoughts on the climbers of today? Are you inspired by anyone/anything in particular?
Of course I'm impressed by a lot of climbers and climbing today. Chris Sharma, in particular, has such an incredible body of work - the way he's reinvented himself and climbing. That he's also such a good guy makes him inspirational all the way around.
For women you're the one I admire the most (and no, I'm not just sucking up). There's the ideal in climbing that's very rare in top performers: the Climbers' Climber - she's the one who is in it for the pure love of it. No blowing smoke, no tooting your own horn - just getting after it for all the right reasons.
Some years ago I saw a climbing mag with most of a page describing someone projecting Cosmic Debris over the course of a week. Same issue, I think, I saw a single line mentioning you on sighting the Phoenix. Same grade - different story. I'm not trying to make you out as some moral authority but you are someone I point out as the real deal.
Peter: You? What are the key ingredients you hold most important in climbing and climbers?
I'm definitely completely turned off by ego. There are so many strong climbers out there, but a lot of them come with an ego, which doesn't inspire me in the least bit. I'm inspired by the climber who is out there because they love climbing for climbing, not for any other reason. Climbers that have always topped my list: You (yup, it's true, I totally had the poster of you soloing the Rostrum hanging in my room growing up!), Lynn (the fact that she was so ahead of her time in her ascents, really opened my eyes to what could be done as a woman). Tommy (he was so instrumental in my climbing, and has the psyched and work ethic that most people dream about.) As far as younger women climbers I really am impressed by Hazel Findlay and Emily Harrington. They're both ladies who are out there because they love it. Alex Honnold, psyched and inspiring.
Beth: What are some of your passions outside of climbing?
Passions outside of climbing? For starters climbing to me means everything from bouldering to big peaks - well maybe not dealing with haul bags and slow aid climbing. Watching movies and writing are two things I've always loved. I can just lose myself in either one.
Peter: So, Beth, you're a mom now and you've got brand new responsibilities. Have you got a plan on how to balance being Mom and your connection to the outdoors, to climbing? And speaking of movies, what is your latest favorite? And do you think, like I do, that the first Thor movie was superior to the second? As well, have you heard that in the next one they're going to make Thor a woman? I like to think that I'm enlightened but I don't think I'll be able to handle that.
Yes! Definitely trying to figure out the balance of being a mom to Theo and still getting out and doing what I love. As well as trying to show him all the things I love about the mountains and climbing. If he takes to it, great. If not, then hopefully he can find a passion of his own. I really love cooking, it occupies majority of my time outside of hanging with Theo and climbing. I've really gotten into good food and using good ingredients. Funny how people can be so passionate about things!
I also really love writing, but find it a tremendous challenge, which is good for me. Although I'm finding that it's hard to find the time to write now with the little man around.
I love movies, hard for me to pick a favorite. And I agree that the first Thor was much better :)
Beth: What are your favorite pieces of Metolius gear?
My favorite gear is probably my Safe Tech Trad harness. Very comfy, really like having the two low profile belay loops and the bomber gear loops. Favorite harness ever.
Beth shows us how to tie a Super 8 knot.
Beth shares her system for how to rack for long trad routes
Beth interviews Jonathan Siegrist a.k.a. J-Star
I first met Jonathan Siegrist in the Boulder Rock Club in Colorado. He was a kid route setting during his time off, and had psyche oozing out of him. Since then, he has gone on to become one of the most accomplished climbers out there today. Not only is he pushing the limits of sport climbing, with his recent ascent of the famed Realization (5.15a in Ceuse, France) and his rare repeat of Kryptonite (5.14d in Colorado). But he continues to transfer that to trad climbing and big walls as well, having climbed numerous 5.13 and 5.14 routes.
One of the best things about Jonathan is his super-humble and even-keeled attitude. You would never know that he was one of the best out there as he never boasts about any of his accomplishments.
He also has one of the best climbing blogs around (http://www.jstarinorbit.com/). He was kind enough to do an interview with me after his amazing ascent of Realization. Hope you enjoy!
Tell me a little about your climbing history. I know you grew up in Colorado and spent a ton of time in the mountains. How did that influence your climbing?
Yes, as I was growing up, my family and I actually moved quite a bit before settling in Boulder when I was in Middle School, but we made a summer trip to Estes Park every year my whole life. My parents would both drag me up hikes and my dad would bring me up lumpy ridge 5.5’s and easy climbing several times a year. It’s funny to imagine me ‘belaying’ my Dad back then, but he had confidence in me I guess! I was around climber culture and climbers essentially my whole life but although I loved the mountains and being active in them, I didn’t actually take to climbing at any serious stoke level until I was 18.
How has climbing with your dad had an impact on you and your climbing?
I think in large part it was a way for me to come up with a sense of respect for history and also just a general knowledge of how to conduct yourself in the outdoors, which I feel many new climbers now lack. He was always very adamant about safety and teaching me both how to be smart but also how to be respectful and what not to do in the mountains, etc. Moreover, he has just been an extremely supportive and reliable climbing partner and mentor. Most people will never have a partner as supportive and excited about their success as my dad has been in mine.
Tell me a little about your journey to send Realization. What were the highs and lows?
The journey definitely started in December of 2013 when I set the goal to climb into the next grade and more specifically to hopefully climb this route. I began working with a trainer for the first time in my climbing - Mark Anderson - and he really helped me to break out of some bad habits and helped to hone my psyche. By the time I arrived in France I knew that I had improved as a climber, I was confident of this, but I had no idea if I had improved enough. So I just took it day by day, reminding myself that regardless of progress or not, that I had worked my ass off for months to be there and I was not willing to give up, even if it meant that I would walk away 2.5 months later empty handed. There were ups and downs because of weather and skin and partners and progress of course...sall part of the process. And it was all worth it for sure.
You are very well rounded in your climbing, including sport and trad. What are some of your plans for the future with regard to both?
Well that’s an enormous compliment coming from you Beth! So thanks. I am heading back to Colorado in a few weeks to do some climbing in the alpine there. And otherwise I generally would like to slowly adapt my sport climbing experience more and more to walls, and especially new routing. This is where I would like to see my whole climbing thing end up.
You are a full time climber. How do you plan out your year?
Well, I love to plan. So I’m always thinking ahead, hearing suggestions, taking tips for new places and also building on my experience from years past. Obviously I plan hugely based on the climate and seasons. There are certain places I want to generally be at certain times of the year, but also there are certain times when I know I can perform better. Early summer seems to be a really good time for me because I’ve likely been training more through the winter for instance. I’m usually about 8 months to a year planned out, with a few variables, but I also try to stay flexible if something rad comes up.
If you could have your ideal day, in your ideal place with your ideal partner, what would it be?
Exploring for new stone with my dog Zeke in some rad new spot, listening to good music, friends nearby and a campfire waiting! Or poolside at the Wynn in Vegas, mojito in hand. That would work too.
What are your 3 favorite pieces of Metolius gear?
I love the Bravo Quickdraw. For me it’s the perfect combination of usability and weight.
The grey Ultralight TCU because it means I’m getting into some gnarly sh*t!
And lastly the dog leash because it means I’m hanging with my dog Zeke and I miss the hell out of him right now!
Beth interviews Matt Segal
I first met Matt when I was living in Colorado in the early 2000's. An uber-psyched climber from the flatlands of Florida, Matt was psyched to climb anything and everything. At the time he was crushing the competition scene, but soon his love for the outdoors took over and he honed his trad climbing skills. With countless 5.13's under his belt, he went on to establish the first ascent of Iron Monkey (5.14) in Eldorado Canyon, and has free climbed El Cap via the Freerider route.
Nowadays, Matt travels the globe most of the year. As a North Face athlete, he can be found in far off countries establishing new routes and having great adventures. He is also working on a beautiful mega project in Canada with fellow Metolius athlete Will Stanhope. Stay tuned for an interview with the boys after their trip up there this summer!
You just got done with an amazing trip to the Verdon Gorge, how did you decide to take a trip there?
I've heard about the Verdon for years and how it pretty much was the birthplace of modern sport climbing and I had to make the trip. Over the years I've been fascinated with historical climbing destinations and the Verdon has always been high on that list. I teamed up with The North Face, National Geographic and 3 Strings Media for the trip an attempt to tell the Verdon's rich history and along with my climbing partner Emily Harrington to document the journey.
It's such an iconic and historical place, why do you think it has fallen out of fashion?
I think it has fallen out of fashion mostly because of the style. A lot of the routes in the gorge are extremely technical and slabby. I think there's been a push in the last 10 years to climb more overhanging rock. But what's crazy is there's a ton of that in the Verdon that not many people know about. Plus the technical climbing there is soooo fun!!!!
It seems you travel a good part of each year, can you tell me a little about how you plan out your year in terms of climbing and travel?
It's always a tough balance. The last few years I've revolved my schedule around being fit for the summer climbing season. So I'd give myself most of May and June to be home training. July and August have been spent on summer alpine rock climbing adventures. In recent years I've been focused on freeing a new line on Snowpatch Spire in the Bugaboos with Will Stanhope. Besides that, I try and go on 1 or 2 adventure trips a year. I just love exploring new areas and putting up first ascents.
I know your background is like mine, and you started climbing in the gym. How much time do you spend training or in the gym these days?
I still spend a good amount of time in the gym. Before I head out on a big trip I'm usually in the gym at least 2 days a week. It's just what I'm used to and somewhere deep down inside I think I actually enjoy training!
How do you find that plays into your fitness for your climbing goals?
I always try to balance time in the gym and time climbing outside. At the end of the day I enjoy climbing outside so much more, but I do find training in the gym helps me get fit for climbing outside.
Can you tell me a little about the mega proj with Will?
Oh man! Where to begin...It's the coolest, most amazing project I've ever had! Don't even think about stealing it :). Will and I both saw the line years ago and finally rallied to try it in 2012. It took us a whole season swinging around, "bandalooping" as we like to call it, to unleash the face climbing sequence which allows entrance into the amazing finger splitter. The splitter pitches make the whole effort worthwhile, and it's been an effort! In July we'll hike back in for the 3rd year in a row to attempt to finish it up. We've spent over 50 days on the wall and close to 4 months at Applebee Campground. BUT we're more psyched than ever!
If you could set up your perfect day, in the perfect location, with the perfect partner, (climbing or not climbing) what would it be?
Oh man! That's a hard one! Not sure but I'm usually satisfied with good friends and good stone!
Favorite 3 pieces of Metolius gear?
Super Chalk! - Best chalk in the world.
Purple Master Cam! - Saves my life all the time, especially on the Tom Egan...
The Gizmo Ledge - I've given mine the name Sugar, cause it's so sweet!
Beth interviews Will Stanhope
I first met Will Stanhope when I visited Squamish in 2003. I was there trying to free the Grand Wall in the heat of the summer. Will was strong, psyched, and like all Canadians amazingly friendly and happy. Since my first meeting with him he has become one of the best trad/adventure climbers of his generation. With free ascents of The Cobra Crack, El Cap, and the coveted third ascent of Southern Belle on Half Dome, Will has put himself in the top tier of climbers around the world.
Seems like you make at least one trip per year to Yosemite, when did you start coming to the Valley?
I first came to the Valley when I was 18 with Jason Kruk. For as long as I've been climbing Yosemite has been "The Promised Land." We got totally kicked around on basically everything we tried- got stuck in chimneys, tried to jumar with a single jumar and a GriGri the whole way up the Nose (not recommended), and got busted for Out of Bounds Camping. The Rangers thought we had run away from home. But, when all was said and done, we had learned loads, and despite the ass-kicking, I loved the place.
What are some of your "must do" routes in Yosemite? Are there any routes you do each time you are there?
I really love Separate Reality, Midnight Lightning, the Nose, and the Nabisco Wall to name a few. I love those climbs are so steeped in history.
What are some routes (can be classics or projects) that are on your "to do" list in Yosemite?
So many! I guess the biggest goal is someday finding a new free line on El Cap, which may or may not come to fruition. But the dangling around and searching is a gift in itself.
You base out of Squamish, how do you find Yosemite and Squamish correlate?
The are quite similar. The big difference is that Yosemite's walls are much bigger and the granite is much slicker. One needs to exert more force on the jams in Yosemite. I've slipped off on really easy terrain in Yosemite a few times because I was treating the rock as if I was in Squamish.
I know you had a big adventure in South America this year, how are bigger trips to more remote places taking a role in your climbing schedule?
I've got some pipe-dream trips that I'd love to make happen. Classic spots like Baffin Island and Pakistan. There's a lifetime of remote walls in BC alone that are basically unexplored. Those kinds of trips are eye-opening and a welcome respite from grinding away at a specific project. You tend to lose fitness and finger strength on those remote alpine trips but gain so much in other regards.
A lot of top climbers have a very regimented training routine, how do you stay fit for your climbing?
I try to always keep it fun. I remember a few years ago Sonnie Trotter and I were trying Leo Houlding's route The Prophet on El Cap. Deep in the season, it started to feel like work, and I was peppering Leo with questions about beta over email. He response email concluded with something along the lines of "Enjoy that valley, man." A good point. But easy to forget deep in the grit-your-teeth, gotto-do-this-thing pressure.
Tell me a little about the mega proj with Matt - how many seasons have you guys been working on it? How did you find it?
We are working on a route called the Tom Egan Memorial Route on the East Face of Snowpatch Spire in the Bugaboos. It's a stunning crack line, the wildest I'd ever laid eyes on. I first rapped it in 2010 with Brit Hazel Findlay. Matt Segal and I have spent two summers and (over 50 days on the wall) trying to free it. It has definitely been a battle. But trying such an awe inspiring route in such a wild location, with a best friend, is extremely rewarding.
If you could set up your ideal day, in your ideal location, with your ideal partner, what would it be (climbing or not climbing)?
Some of my most perfect days don't involve desperate climbing.
How about this? Some strong coffee in the predawn in Squamish, followed by a 15 pitch solo circuit on Squamish's most perfect, locker finger cracks. Then a long route on the Chief like Freeway or Northern Lights with my girlfriend Jo. Then a jump in the lake. Then a BBQ on the porch of our place with a frosty beverage, staring straight at the Chief in the evening light, thinking, "what will we do tomorrow?" Hard to beat that!
Three favorite pieces of Gear:
Master cams of all sizes. Light, smooth action, fierce holding power. Best cam I've ever used.
Curve nuts: easy to place, so secure.
Gizmo mini portaledge: Perfect accessory for working big wall free climbs. Makes those uncomfortable, marginal stances dreamy.
Shoulder exercises - Part 1
Throughout my pregnancy, my joints have been getting progressively looser and looser. One thing that I've been trying (emphasis on the word trying ;) to do several times per week are shoulder exercises. These exercises are designed to strengthen and keep the shoulder joint tight. I've always had bad shoulders, and if I keep these exercises up, it makes a huge difference in my shoulder stability and health. The great thing about these is all you need are bands, so they can be done on the road as well!
Front shoulder raises:
These are key if you have really loose shoulders as it isolates the very tiny muscles and doesn't allow for much cheating because they are such controlled exercises.
90 degree inside press - Place a towel between your elbow (bent at 90 degrees) and your side. Place your palm on the inside of a door frame or side of a building. Press your palm into the surface and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 reps.
90 degree outside press - Place a towel between your elbow (bent at 90 degrees) and your side. Place the back of your hand on the outside of a door frame or side of a building. Press the outside of your hand into the surface and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 reps.
90 degree raised inside press - Place a towel between your elbow (bent at 90 degrees) and the outside of a doorjamb or side of a building. Place your palm on the surface and press inwards for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 reps.
90 degree raised outside press - Place a towel between the outside of your elbow (bent at 90 degrees) and the inside of a doorjamb or side of a building. Place the backside of your hand on the surface and press outwards for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 reps.
90 degree raised downward press - Place a towel between the inside of your elbow and the side of a building or inside of a doorjamb. Your arm should be in line with your torso. Your elbow should be even with your shoulder and forearm at 90 degrees upwards from your elbow. Without letting the towel fall down, press your palm into the surface as if you were rotating your hand downwards while keeping your position.
As always, I am not a doctor or physical therapist. These have helped me, but I can't guarantee that they will help you. If any of these exercises hurt, you should definitely stop. And if you have serious shoulder injuries, it's always great to see a trusted orthopedic doctor or physical therapist. These are exercises that have worked to stabilize my joints in the past, and I certainly hope that they help you as well.
Shoulder Exercises - Part 2
I heard from a lot of you about the first set of shoulder exercises and wanting more...so you got it! Here are 4 more exercises that I do on a regular basis that really help my shoulder stability. I'll have more to show you once I am not pregnant anymore, but hopefully these will get you through the next couple of months...enjoy!
Drawing the Sword: