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 interviews Liv Sansoz
I first met Liv Sansoz in Laval, France in 1995. We were both competing in the Junior World Championships. It was my first time competing internationally and I felt as if I was in the presence of giants. Liv was in the next age category above me, and watching her left my jaw gaping open. She had amazing fluid movement, commanded the routes, and never seemed to get tired. It was like watching a master at work.
Over the years Liv went on to become a multi-year World Cup Champion. It seemed like any competition photo I saw, Liv was standing on top of the podium. She also climbed some of the hardest sport routes in the world. After an unfortunate climbing accident left her recovering for a few years, Liv came back with a new found love for adventuring in the mountains. Now, she is one of the most talented all-around female climbers and athletes out there. Her Instagram account showcases her home life in Chamonix and her far off expeditions around the world.(list Instagram name)
She was kind enough to answer some of my questions. I hope you are inspired as I am!
You are one of the most accomplished female climbers out there; tell me a little about your history in climbing.
Liv: I was born in the north Alps and grew up in the mountains. I was skiing at 2, and I starting to do some ski touring and alpine climbing at the age of 10. At 14 I discovered climbing for itself, not just climbing a few steps to reach a summit. I loved it and got really into it. At 15, I asked my parents to build a personal climbing wall at home so I could climb more. I got involved in the national team at 16 and did all the world cup and other competitions for 8 years. It was a great time and I learned a lot.
What did your path away from comp and sport climbing look like?
Liv: My competition career ended due to an accident caused by a bad belay. It was not how I wanted but I could not choose. Someone made a mistake and got me injured. Such things can happen. It took me a few years to recover. But the envy and the pleasure for climbing came back. At the same time I felt the need for some change and for learning new things. I wanted to learn about big wall climbing, so I did. I also realized I was missing being the mountains a lot. So I got into alpine climbing more and more.
What inspired you to start adventuring in the mountains?
Liv: Since I grew up in the mountains and had also heard or read stories about ascents I had always been interested in it. I climbed Mont Blanc in Chamonix when I was 15 and if I had not competed at the same time I would have done much more alpine climbing. It was just a question of timing. I chose competitions first and won a lot of world cups and world championships. And now I'm older, not has strong at sport climbing but I have new skills, better endurance and another mindset.
Who have been some of the biggest mentors and heroes in your life?
Liv: During the competing years, I really admired François Legrand and Robyn Erbesfield. They were the 2 best climbers at the time. When I started they gave me really good tips, took me on training or climbing trips which made me grow fast in my competing career. Nowadays there are quite a few men and women who I realize are or were "big things" and who inspire me.
How do you dream up your adventures? Is it purely the fun and experience aspect? Or is it travel with friends as well?
Liv: I think the most important thing for me is not what I/we will climb/ski/fly but with who I'm going to do it with. What I share with my friends is more important than the pure performance aspect. Of course, if I can go for something a bit serious with Nils or a really good friend and we live the experience fully in a pure and true friendship, it's the icing on the cake ;)
What does a typical day look like for you in your home of Chamonix?
Liv: Ah! There is not one day like another here. It could be a small day in the mountains, for instance, getting up to the glacier first thing, climbing a moderate mixed line and flying down back home with the paraglider by 11 am. Then I would work. It could be a big day in the mountains, like a long and technical climb that takes you two days. It could be a morning skiing a great line, an afternoon flying from the Midi lift and an evening training at the gym. In Chamonix everything is so close that in one day you can ski, climb, fly or ski, climb, run. "Multi-activity" is for sure a prevalent thing for me.
What does a typical year look like for you in terms of time at home versus travel versus big trips?
Liv: I really like my life here in Chamonix, the community, the rhythm of the season and the amazing and endless playground 5 minutes away from my house. So I'm very happy to spend as much time here as possible. But I enjoy traveling too, meeting new people and understanding other cultures. I try to do at least one expedition a year (max two) and then some shorter trips. I would say now it's 75% of my time at home and 25% away. I think it's a good ratio and I also like the fact I'm driving less and taking fewer planes. It's better for the planet and it's better for us humans.
You take part in so many great sports, do you have a favorite?
Liv: I love climbing, skiing, running and paragliding but I my favorite one is climbing.
Lastly, what are your 3 favorite pieces of Metolius gear?
Metolius does a lot of cool things! The Fat Cams are awesome in Indian Creek and some other places of the same type of terrain. I really like using the Ultralight TCU. And I have spent some of my best nights on a Metolius portaledge.
Beth interviews ledgendary French climber Marc LeMenestrel
I first met Marc LeMenestrel in the Hueco Tanks campground when I was 16 or 17 years old. I was on a bouldering trip with Katie Brown, her family, and Chris Sharma and his dad. We were all scrawny, psyched teenagers having the time of our lives in a bouldering mecca. Marc LeMenestrel was a bouldering icon at the time, establishing some of the most prestigious and proud lines out there. However, the personality trait that came out more than anything was his boyish exuberance for climbing. It just seemed liked he loved climbing and the lifestyle surrounding it more than anything else.
I've recently been in the beautiful Fontainebleau forest where Marc is somewhat of a legend, having established some of the forest's most beautiful test-pieces. He was kind enough to answer some questions below. I hope you enjoy a look into his world as much as I do!
I've now heard that you are back into sport climbing again, can you tell me what led to that?
Marc: I am not back because I always have been a climber. For some time, I climbed less because I put energy elsewhere, but still at least once a week and often twice on average. The last years, I have been climbing much it is true! Living in Catalonia, I can't help it!
I'm currently in Fontainebleau right now with my family. This place has such a rich history and it is neat to see what a huge part you played in that. How does it feel to you when you return to the forest? Are there certain problems that stand out to you and why?
Marc: I have been spending so many weekends of the first part of life in the forest of Fontainebleau that it represents roots to me. Its beauty is unique and going back to it, like getting lost into the big ferns in search of new boulders, means coming home. I also have a special relation with sandstone. It is a texture where I feel I can really let go of myself and actually let my hands be taken by the rock itself. It is marvelous to experience this sensation.
Has your perspective in the role you played here changed from when you were immersed in it to now?
Marc: I now like to think of it from the point of view of the boulders themselves. Imagine what they have seen! And it is not finished!
It seems that you have a great balance between climbing and the other parts of your life, for instance you have your PhD from INSEAD. What instilled in you the desire to have both?
Marc: Climbing and thinking have been with me always. They are two main pillars upon which I have been developing myself.
Was there a time that you considered pouring all of your energy into one or the other?
Marc: Not really.
What was it like to live in Fontainebleau? Did it help you to live so close to the area that you were developing? How was it for you when you moved away?
Marc: We left Fontainebleau because we had the intuition that we had something to explore elsewhere too. But we have kept a house there.
Tell me a little about climbing and your family? I know that your father climbed and so did your brother. Do your kids? How have you balance family life with climbing?
Marc: My father has played a major role in my passion for climbing, and also for thinking. I have not totally reproduced the pattern of my father though. Although both of my daughters climb, only one is "compulsive" about it. It is an achievement somehow! More space for surprise and learning!
For a good part of the past five years I've suffered from injuries that have forced me to take time off of climbing. Was there a time in climbing that was especially hard for you? If so, describe it and how did you deal with it?
Marc: I am very grateful to my body. I wish I had fully realized earlier how much it is not the whole truth to think that I have a body. I am also my body, who has a mind. The conversation between the mind and the body constitutes an important part of being. Injuries can be seen as an ultimate way for the body to tell something to the mind, who sometimes doesn't listen. I am convinced that suffering is an invitation, sometimes harsh, for the mind to let go.
What are the greatest challenges you have faced as a climber?
Marc: The fear of myself.
Who are some climbers that have played a significant role in your life? Why?
Marc: I think all the climbers I went climbing with. Climbing is a social activity for me. The friendship that I experience around climbing is certainly part of the meaning of climbing. With nature and sport, friendship is one of the 3 equally important dimensions of climbing.
Who are some of the younger climbers that inspire you? Why?
Marc: These days, I have been learning a lot from Nina Caprez, Chris Sharma and my daughter. I wish I could be more feminine in my climbing and I try gently! It is also great to see how Chris releases energy. Ok, I know what you mean, but they are young to me you know...
Beth recalls her accent of To Bolt or Not To Be back in 1999
It's always interesting to look back and find turning points in my life. Points that really helped pivot my direction. For me, one of those points came in the spring of 1999 in Oregon. I was taking a semester off of school to try and redpoint a big project of mine, To Bolt or Not To Be, in Smith Rock, OR. Smith had quickly become my favorite climbing area over my high school years. It was a seven hour drive from my home, making it my destination of choice for any three day weekend or school vacation.
For whatever reason, the climbing at Smith really suited me. I love the technical nature of the climbing, the balancey moves, and the history behind the routes. To Bolt, in particular, always seemed like a fantasy climb. On my first trip to Smith, I remember staring up at the route, seeing chalked spots on the wall that were supposedly "holds." However, they were no more distinguishable than the blank face next to them. One of my climbing heroes, Ron Kauk, had recently done the climb and I just remember thinking "only heroes can climb this climb, not mere mortals like me."
Over the course of two years, I made a handful of trips up to Smith, slowly learning the climbing and becoming more familiar and comfortable with the area. I was far from a local, but a few less butterflies occupied my stomach when I started up each climb. During this time in my life, the primary focus in my climbing was competing and onsight climbing. I rarely tried things more than a few times, often feeling that my first try up something was my best try.
After several seasons at Smith I wanted to try something a bit more in depth. I had never projected anything longer than a few days, and thought that the next step in my climbing would be to learn how to redpoint something. I thought the worst thing that could happen is I get to spend time in one of my favorite places and come away with a better understanding on how to work a route. Unfortunately, the best time to try To Bolt was in the fall or the spring. I had just started my first year at college, leaving only summers to go on climbing trips. I vacillated back and forth on what to do and eventually told my parents that I was going to take off a semester of college to try this route. I swore to them that if I could do the climb I would get the climbing bug out of my system and then focus totally on school…..little did I know what was going to happen.
I spent a month up at Smith, from mid March to mid April working on To Bolt Or Not to Be. My first day on the route I could hardly do any of the moves. I remember thinking how pointless the month was going to be, I almost gave up to try something easier. I told myself that if I didn't notice any improvements the next day, I would give up. The next day went slightly better. I managed to do a few more moves on the 140 foot climb. I swung back and forth from feeling depressed to encouraged. I could only do 20 or 30 moves out of the entire route. The optimistic side of me was excited by my progress each day, and the pessimistic side was worried at how far I had to go. However, I suppose that's why I was there - to learn how to redpoint a hard route.
In the beginning, I was mainly climbing on it with my good friend Brittany Griffith. We set up a top rope and started sussing out short sections of the climb. It was satisfying to try moves that were at my limit and then eventually unlock them. Each day I hoped to see progress, even if it was small. Brittany headed out on some trips, giving me the chance to climb with different partners the rest of the time. Dave Graham came into town, quickly dispatching of most of Smith's hard climbs. It was incredible to see him climb To Bolt in a few days, compared to my several weeks. He didn't even have a sequence completely dialed; his fingers were strong enough to spare him a few extra seconds to figure out a sequence while on the redpoint go.
He gave me enough inspiration to make a lot of progress on the route. As he jetted out of town I started working on it with my friend and local hard woman Jeanne Young. I learned patience and a better understanding of projecting a route from Jeanne. She was a seasoned veteran of Smith's techy, involved climbs. She knew how to balance her way from dime edge to dime edge, and taught me how to take my time with the climb. Unfortunately, by mid April, the warm weather was threatening to descend onto the park. One disadvantage to trying the route in the spring was the encroaching weather. Luckily, I had managed to make enough progress on the route and was ready to start to try and redpoint the climb. The route faces east, leaving the best temperatures at the end of the day. Tying in below the climb on my first redpoint attempt brought back all those nervous butterflies that I had on my first trips to Smith. I had spent so much time on this piece of rock, more than any other climb in my career. I had come from being able to do five moves, to every move. An amazing journey.
On my first redpoint attempt, I fell at the fifth bolt crux. A part of me was devastated, hoping that I would have just done it that try. However, another part of me knew that it was going to take everything I had to do the route. A few days of redpoint attempts and I was starting to get higher and higher on the climb. The excitement built, and I was hoping that I would be lucky enough to finish the climb before it got too hot to hold onto the micro edges. Unfortunately skin issues sidelined me for a few days. As the temps rose, so did my anxiety that I might not have the opportunity to finish this climb that I had dedicated a month of my life to. However, it was probably a blessing in disguise, forcing me to rest and fully recover for my next attempts.
Around that time, the famous Lynn Hill lived very close to Smith Rock. She was hardly ever in town as her profession took her to all corners of the world. I lucked out, and she happened to be home near the end of my trip. I had met Lynn very briefly at trade shows and the X-Games in previous years, but I wasn't sure she even knew my name. The climbing community is very small, and back then it was even smaller. Her climbing partners at Smith were also my climbing partners, allowing us to climb and hang out together. The first few days I climbed with her, I was so nervous I didn't say a proactive word to her. I would politely respond if she asked me a question, but couldn't budge any words out otherwise. I did notice it helped my climbing, making me try harder in the company of one of my idols.
After a few days of rest and a lot of neosporin on my skin, I threw myself back at the route, knowing that I only had a few days left on the route before summer's heat set in. Lynn had climbed the route a year earlier, offering informative short person beta. She also offered to take pictures of me on the route as I tried it. I nervously accepted, how could I turn down one of my climbing idols helping me with beta and taking pictures of me? I felt an internal sense of pressure. I also wanted to climb as well as possible in front of Lynn. I had a few good tries the next day, but was still falling at the ninth bolt crux.
During my time at Smith, I was fortunate enough to stay in the home of another climbing idol, Jim Karn. He was more than gracious to allow a scrawny teenager stay at his house. In return for a roof over my head, I would bake cookies, crumbles, pies, brownies, and anything else I could find in a cookbook that included sugar and butter. It was nice to have my rest days to bake. I always love the creative outlet of climbing, and now had rest days to be creative in another way - a tasty one! It was a great trade. Jim had transitioned from climbing full time to biking, but would occasionally come out to the crag with me. However, this whole trip to Smith I had yet to convince him to come out.
Near the end of April, I finally lured him out. I felt so psyched and fortunate to have both Jim and Lynn there supporting me, but also a incredibly nervous - I couldn't bumble the climb in front of two legends! It was the warmest day yet, and I felt like that my chances were probably slim to none, but I had to try in the present company. I tied in and started up the climb. The holds felt smaller and my skin felt wetter. I had to bear down on the dime edges a little harder. My forearms became pumped at the fifth bolt crux. "Crap." I thought to myself. "This is it, probably my last day on the route and I'm already tired and it's hot." I almost let go because of the pain in my fingers. My skin hurt, I was pumped, and it was hot. I tried just a little harder thinking I should at least have my last try on the route be a valiant one.
I surprised myself and made it through the lower crux. I slowly tick-tacked my way up to the ninth bolt crux. I camped out on the full pad edge right before the crux. I tried to calm my nerves. I blew on my finger tips trying to dry them out. I chalked incessantly and furiously, hoping for better friction. I could hear Jim below giving words of encouragement. After a couple of minutes I was as rested as I was going to be and started into the crux. The holds seemed smaller and my skin was still wet, but I crimped hard. I crimped from edge to edge balancing my way through the crux. I tried to remember how Jeanne did it, I tried to channel her grace. After a few moves, my left hand grabbed a good edge. My feet danced their way underneath me, and I was through the crux! My legs started shaking with excitement and fear. I was through the hardest part of the route to my high point. It should be over by now. However, I made a rookie mistake the entire month I was trying the route. I only went to the chains once or twice before, even though it was a solid 30 feet of 5.12 climbing to the top. What the heck was I thinking?! I calmed myself down and tried to remember how I was capable of climbing 5.12. I knew I had the ability, but was unsure if I could do it after climbing my hardest section of rock to date. I took deep breaths and quested upwards. Slowly but surely I made my way by each bolt. As I traversed out to the arete and the chains. The butterflies returned to my stomach and a smile plastered across my face. I couldn't believe I had finally done it.
As I clipped the chains, I took a second to remember my first day looking at To Bolt, thinking there was no way that I could ever climb something like it. It was amazing to think how far I had come in those few years as a climber. I then thought to my month here, and how I learned about redpointing a route and the long journey it required.
When I got down I gave Jim a hug and Lynn congratulated me. I knew that without them there, I probably wouldn't have tried so hard that day, I probably wouldn't have done it. We packed up our bags and hiked out of the Park, a smile graced my face the entire time. That night we had celebratory pizza at Lynn's house. It was just a handful of us, but I felt like the luckiest person in the world. Friends surrounded me and I had just accomplished a goal I thought impossible.
As we were finishing up dinner, Lynn casually mentioned that she was going to Madagascar the following month with Nancy Feagin and Kath Pyke for a first ascent expedition. At that time I didn't even fully comprehend what that meant, I just knew I'd probably read about it in a magazine a few months later. She just as casually inquired "do you want to come?" I looked behind me thinking she surely was asking someone else. I had never in my life trad climbed or traveled out of the country without my parents. To my surprise there was no one behind me. When I looked back at her she was clearly looking at me. "Um yes." I replied sheepishly. I didn't know how else to respond, clearly I couldn't turn down a trip with THE Lynn Hill. I had zero idea of what I was agreeing to. I didn't even really know which island Madagascar was. On top of that, I had to sign up for college classes by the end of the next day. But, I figured that could always be pushed back again :)
And so began my life and attempt at being a full-time professional climber. I went to Madagascar, a complete gumby, with an all star group. I learned more than I ever thought, more than any classroom could ever teach me. It gave me the courage try at my dream of climbing full time. Thanks mom and dad for understanding and allowing me to keep postponing college. And thanks Lynn for giving a totally newbie the shot at climbing and learning from the best.
Beth interviews Jimmy Webb
I first met Jimmy a handful of years ago in the Southeast. I had heard of all of his amazing accomplishments through the climbing world, but as always, it was great to put a face to a name. What struck me about him was how approachable and humble he was. He is definitely one of the most accomplished boulders in the world, yet if you didn't have prior knowledge of that, he would be the last person to tell you.
I ran into Jimmy again this past summer while we were in Squamish and he had been dispatching of most of Squamish's test pieces and putting up a few of his own. It was less than ideal climbing conditions during the heat of summer, but that didn't seem to stop him.
He was kind enough to answer my questions below. I hope you enjoy and continue to follow along as he is continually crushing it! Jimmy Webb
You lived in Boulder and now are back in the Southeast, what were the plusses and minuses of each? What precipitated each move?
JW: Well, when I first decided to make the move to Colorado, I was mainly just psyched to have so many hard climbs to try. CO has probably the highest concentration of hard boulders in the world and I wanted to be able to focus on each of them without having to travel across the country to them. After a year or so though I realized that where I truly want to live is in Chattanooga. For me, my happiness is so much more based around my sense of home and the community of friends who surround me. Personally, the South is just my style and we love it! Not to mention the rock is pretty damn good too!
Who are climbers past and present that you look up to or had a big influence on you? Why?
JW: For past climbers it is definitely Fred Nicole. He has always been a huge inspiration to me not only for his climbing ability, but the way he approaches climbing, development, and life in general. He's a real legend. For present climbers I would have to say my good pal Daniel Woods. He's stupid strong, literally, but the thing that impresses me the most about ddubs is his fight. He never backs down, never makes excuses, and will always come out on top no matter how long it takes. I honestly doubted his mental ability to take down The Process in Bishop, CA. I was there on his first round of attempts last year and I could see, for him this one was going to be all mental. In the end, he overcame and stood on top. That's inspiring!
Both Chattanooga and Boulder are climbing centers, what is the difference in attitudes in the communities? And towards bouldering?
JW: Yeah, both are very large centers for sure but I think the thing that separates the two is that Chatty doesn't feel like the center for anything. It's a decently large city but still holds that small town feel. Most everyone here is either from here or from a nearby city. Also, unlike Boulder, most everyone here holds a full time job. Haha. When it comes to climbing I'd say the biggest difference is that people here are more punctual. People work hard for a living here, and when they have a window to go climb, they're there, at the meeting spot, at 8 AM ready, to go.
What do you look for or dream about in finding a new line?
JW: Simply something tall, pure, and hard. The rock can be anything. The holds can be slopers, pinches, or crimps; it doesn't matter. I just dream of the line itself. Something that inspires me and keeps me awake at night.
You have flashed more hard problems than a lot of hard boulderers combined, do you do anything to prepare yourself mentally for that? How do you rise to the occasion?
JW: I'm definitely a bit obsessive when it comes to bouldering so maybe that has something to do with it. Often times when I want to try and climb a boulder I just obsess over it completely. I think about it all the time. I don't always get really psyched on the idea of flashing the bloc, I just want to simply climb it. Though when the obsession is in high gear I often times feel as if I've already climbed it, and I haven't even seen it.
What does a typical week or month look like for you? Do you train a lot? Do you primarily climb outside? Cross train at all?
JW: Well recently that has changed a lot. Normally I'm outside about 90% of the time and training very little. Although, the past 2 months since I've been injured I've been spending a ton of time trying to just stay in shape. Since I can't climb I'm mostly doing core, pushups, and hiking a ton.
What is your current injury and how are you dealing with it? Have you many had injuries in the past?
JW: So I injured my A2 Pulley on my ring finger. I'm not 100% on the severity of it but I think it was close to a full rupture. It's most definitely the worst injury I've ever had. Today is exactly 10 weeks off and the swelling is still there with mild pain. I'm slowly starting to incorporate very light climbing back into my routine but I'd say it'll be May till I'm 100% back. In the grand scheme of things though, it is a small amount of time. I spend so much of my life focusing on climbing and pushing my personal limits that this time off is actually quite nice. It's given me time to focus on other aspects of my life and get things in order here in Chattanooga. Of course, I can't wait to start climbing again but for now I'm not too worried about it.
What do you think your best strengths in climbing are? Did you do anything to develop them or did they come naturally?
JW: I'm just a very gymnastic climber. It's just something that feels most natural when I'm on the wall. I think it really has something to do with where I started climbing. The style in the Southeast is typically slopey and powerful so eventually my body just became accustom to this.
You are known as an incredible boulderer, is this your main passion? Or do you have other types of climbing that you gravitate towards as well?
JW: Yeah I would say my main passion is for bouldering but I really enjoy every type of climbing. Motivation comes and goes for certain things and you never know where it'll take you next. For me it's the New River Gorge, so much potential there for every type of climbing.
Describe your ideal day, climbing or otherwise.
JW: Wake up around 8. Coffee like my life depended on it. Climbing till the sun goes down. Dinner and beers with a crew of rad people!
What are your 3 favorite pieces of Metolius gear and why?
J: 1. Super Chalk because it's the best on the market!
2. Grip Saver Plus. It comes in handy so much right now but I also use it as a preventative measure!
3. Waldo Harness. Best bolting harness I've ever used. I could sit in this thing for a month and never get uncomfortable.
Photo: Cameron Maier - bearcammedia.com
Beth shares some tips for placing cams
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: