Since the Beast pic was put on 8a.nu and published in their best pics of October article, it's floated on to the Global front page. 8a.nu are now getting roughly 30,000 unique visits per week.

Urban Climber

Urban Climber's weekly dose hit my inbox last night and I was surprised to see... a picture of me!

They're doing a feature on the photography of my good mate Marty Blumen and have a bunch of his choicest (I can say that, he's in NZ) pics featured on their site, eh bro? Marty won the prestigious Grand Prize at the 2008 Banff Mountain Photography Competition for this artistic shot of Rim Lit Climber - taken at Ceuse, France.

Incidentally, the pic above is of me sending Blocage Violent 7b+ (26) at Ceuse. This perfect endurance route is in my all-time top 3.

For more of Marty's work, check out www.martyblumen.com and if you're in NZ and are a keen photog, check out his Outdoor Photography Workshops.

Hawkesbury Houseboat Climbing Trip Announcement

Smooth water. Orange sandstone. Soak a line while breakfast cooks.

"Which cliff to steer the boat to this morning?"

You may have heard about the last Upskill Climbing trip to Kalymnos in Greece (trip reports here). Well, it rocked, we're back, and we're planning the next one. A little closer to home this time...

The Hawkesbury River, just north of Sydney cuts a meandering path through a hell of a lot of beautiful sandstone, much of which is virtually inaccessible, except by boat. It's quite a unique phenomenon: where else is there such a quantity of rock, so close to a major capital city, which is so untouched? So in March 2009, we're going to board a luxury houseboat and spend a week exploring a host of hidden gems which are scattered along the river. Everything will be taken care of, and all you'll need to concentrate on is the climbing.

The climbing itself will be quite varied. Sport climbing, new routing, adventure tradding, bouldering and deep water soloing (see Crafty's pics for a taste) will all be available, based on our collective appetites. And, like all Upskill trips, there'll be a coaching/learning component so you come away with lots of learnings to improve your climbing.

So, if you think you might be keen on coming and want to be notified when the planning is complete and cost is known, send me a quick email -- upskillclimbing AT gmail.com and I'll pop you on the mailing list.


PS: For more pics, check the Hawkesbury River and Central Coast Climbers photo pool on flickr.

New projects

It's always tough settling back into normality after returning from a great climbing trip.

We've been back a couple of weeks now, and hasn't the weather changed in the month we've been gone? We enjoyed superb weather in Kalymnos, while Queensland got hammered with storms and flooding. And now, summer has pounced and dug in its claws. On the drive up to Tibro yesterday it was 35°C. Thankfully we had a little breeze up in the Summit Cave to keep things slightly sane.

Before we left, you may remember I did the second ascent of The Beast From The East (29) in the Summit Cave and began establishing a new, harder line nearby. Well, I've now been back twice in the last few days to smash myself on it. It climbs out a roof for five bolts, then goes up a radically overhung wall to link in with the top two bolts of an existing 26. It's hard!

The view on this pic is pretty dodgy, so my apologies about that. But it gives you an idea of the terrain.

Me on my new project. Please excuse the view. © N Fewtrell 2008

I'm looking forward to sending this thing, but it's a long way off yet!

Kalymnos 2008 - Trip Report 5 (final)

Well, all good things must come to an end and so it is with the Upskill 2008 Climbing Coaching Holiday and Training Camp in beautiful Kalymnos.

The day before flying out, we hit up Arhi in the morning where Dave and Ruth tore up the slabs before I prodded Dave onto Mofeta, a wickedly technical and sequency gritstone-like flowstone wall. It was the perfect route to demonstrate that a strong upper body will only get you so far (keep up that footwork focus Dave!) Ben said later "On a packed day a week ago, I saw every route at this crag with climbers on it...except that one. It was free all day!"

Susy on Kastor 6c+/7a (c) L Cujes 2008

Susy wanted to get on something hard and steep, so Kastor 6c+/7a was on the agenda. No cigar after two shots on this beastie, so as the sun started baking us, we raced off in the car to Syblegades Rocks, a shady cleft high above Panormos. Never having been here before, we were stunned to find superb quality routes in a unique, cold, wind-gully setting. Definitely one for a hot summer's day. Susy and I sunk our teeth into the primo Homo Sapiens 6c, a perfect blunt arete composed of super hard marble (see pic) while Ruth onsighted the four star Phineas 5c - yep, it gets the musical note in the guide (better than ***). Sam proclaimed Climber's Nest as the second best 6a of all time.

Susy on Homo Sapiens 6c (c) L Cujes 2008

The next day (our last), Susy was champing at the bit to clean up her old Odyssey project Ciao Vecio 6c and managed to do it first try! The burly Itaca 6c+ remains for next time *snap*. With chalk still on or hands, we punched it for the airport and the beginning of the journey home.

Farewell from Team Kalymnos 2008: Dave, Ruth, Susy and Lee.

So what did we get out of this trip? Besides climbing on some of the best rock on the planet, our team each went beyond their comfort zones to climb more effectively than ever before. There were some personal best ticks, and there was a lot of knowledge shared and lessons learnt. Perhaps most importantly, each member knows what they now need to focus on to break through the plateau and fast-track their improvement.

If you're feeling like you missed out, perhaps you want to join us on the next one? Whether it's the Kalymnos 2009 trip or any of our other climbing coaching holidays in Australia or overseas, check out the offerings and get in touch. The trips page will be regularly updated.

Thanks to everyone for their kind words of support and for following us along on our adventures.

Kalymnos 2008 - Trip Report 4

It's been a ripper coupla days. Best of the trip so far I think in terms of adventure, scenery and achievement.

Three days ago was a rest day when we decided to explore two of the island's speleological wonders. The first was Skalia Cave which we entered through a small hole and a series of ladders which eventually opened out into a huge ballroom which our headtorches couldn't reach across.

Ruth inside the ballroom of Skalia Cave - amazing formations! (c) L Cujes 2008

The next stop on the so called rest day was the unbelievable Sikati Cave, which is one of the most unique climbing locations on the planet. We began the one hour walk in at 3:00pm which was ambitious, but we were just keen to see it. Neither words nor pictures really do it justice. Imagine an enormous sinkhole, 100m deep, overhanging walls, covered in stalactites and tufas. We're talking single pitch routes are 80m long. My rope isn't even that long! Forget lowering off! It seriously felt like being on another planet. I was lucky enough to borrow some gear from some climbers in there and do a long, steep runout 7a called Lolita. Amazing stuff.

Ruth approaches Sikati Cave (c) D Reeve 2008

Lee on Lolita in Sikati Cave 7a (c) S Goldner 2008

The next day was our wedding anniversary. Where better to celebrate than the Grande Grotta, the most famous crag on Kalymnos? Susy had been psyching up for the cover-route Trella which is 35-40m of severely overhanging craziness at the grade of 7a or 23. The grade has gone up a notch since last year when someone fell and took a giant stalactite with them. She put in an absolute mega prizefight on the onsight, and took a slip high on the route and flipped upside down with the rope behind her leg. Oh no! you're thinking! Hey, neoprene kneebar pads - no problem!

Susy on Trella 7a (c) L Cujes 2008

Another highlight was Priapos. I had been psyching myself up for this route all trip, and warmed up well in the shade in the morning, and when I was ready to go, a French dude started up on it about 45 minutes before the route was going to go into the sun. And he took AGES on it. Now, I don't do sun. But I was too psyched and had to try anyway, so I sweated my butt off the whole way up and somehow managed my first 7c or 27 onsight. You can't compare this route to anything else anywhere really. It's not like regular climbing, more like a weird form of caving. Check the picture.

Lee hanging around on Priapos 7c (c) D Reeve 2008

Yesterday we had a real adventure with our expedition via boat across to the island of Telendos. We checked out three different sectors and were delighted to find some really different rock compared to Kalymnos. Really varied. At Irox Sector, Ruth & Dave dominated, doing about seven routes up to 6b+, an onsight spree. I was very happy to tick an uber-classic at Pescatore Sector called Amores Perros 7c+. The guidebook describes this as "one of the best in Kalymnos" and I concur - it was super and fit my preferred style perfectly. Gently overhung with small tufas leads into a smooth blank face of marble with compression edges to a super dyno, then more tufa action culminating in a super delicate tufa climb which feels like climbing a palm tree cut lengthwise and glued to a smooth wall. I fell off the very top of the palm tree on my second try. Amazingly I had enough energy to come away with the tick on the third try at the end of the day.

Today was a rest day, and we partook of a yoga session thanks to Cat, an aussie instructor who is here climbing with her husband Ben Hargreaves. Me? Yoga? What's going on!

Kalymnos 2008 - Trip Report 3

Just a quick update because we're about to go cave-exploring on our rest day.

Two days ago: Early start, Ghost Kitchen. The most amazing features on a redonc, overhanging wall. Amazing photos of Suzy's redpoint of Daphne 6c+, see below. Dave onsighted Resistor 6c+! What the? He's on fire! Sam sent her equal hardest route on lead (6b) third shot. Persistance on a slab, go girl. I ticked a nails 7b on the third try (gah! it was hard) and onsighted 7a+.

Yesterday was Ruth's day! She redpointed a stiff and steep 6a at Odyssey. A personal best. I fell off Marci Marc again (high point), but did my proudest onsight of The Beast, a crazy 7a+ tech slab, way harder than the 7b+s! Mad! You know when you're climbing past bail slings on the bolts you're in trouble. I was off the whole way but somehow kept going up...

Like wrestling a buck deer! Susy deep in the three dimensional crazy world that is Dafni 6c+, Ghost Kitchen.

"Holy crap!!!" Susy is gobsmacked on Dafni 6c+, Ghost Kitchen.

Ruth enjoying the flash of Parasitos 6a+, her hardest lead to date. Ghost Kitchen.

Tibro in the spotlight

The Summit Cave on Tibro is getting some serious publicity with 8a.nu publishing its article on the most inspiring pictures of October. Beast From The East is up in lights with thousands of views so far ;)

Kalymnos 2008 - Trip Report 2

It's been a stonking couple of days, and we're all in need of our rest day today.

Two days ago it was Odyessey Sector. Susy put in some serious effort on a nice steep route - four shots, true redpointing tactics. Dave almost flashed a steepo 6c, and ticked everything else first try. Ruth was on the sharp end on the classic Laertes 5c, and Sam spent time projecting a steepo 6b+ which will be her hardest lead when she ticks. I onsighted a bunch of 7a things (I've nearly onsighted the whole right side of the cliff now) and put two more shots into Marci Marc 7c+ which is exploiting my current lack of focus on endurance! Hehe! :)

Lee burning on the supreme enduro pumpfest of Marci Marc 7c+ (28), Odyssey Sector. (c) Sam Cujes 2008.

Sam rehearses the sequence of her project at Odyssey.

Yesterday it was one of my favourite sectors - Spartacus! A shady, breezy, overhung bowl. It was a tip top day - Susy projected and sent the super long tufa line of the cliff, Les Amazones 6c. Ruth gave an awesome display, dispatching the 37m long Tales Of Greek Heroes 6b+, grades harder than her previous best. You only just make it down on the stretch of a 70m rope on this sucka! We did a rope clipping workshop to smarten up some sketchy clips for us all and practice some good techniques. Dave did everything first try, and I flashed the namesake of the crag, Spartacus 7b+ (26) and was staring directly at the anchors on the onsight of Tatziki 7c (27). No clipping hold! And the most exciting chapter of the day involved Sam who was punching it on the hard, pumpy overhung-ish Harikari and was well out from her last bolt and decided to throw to a big hold above the next clip, peeled, squealed and took a monster fall on vertical terrain - 6m+. This was a huge mental breakthrough. The whole crag let out a big "OOHHHH!" She's going hard.

Ruth ticking Tales Of Greek Heroes 6b+ (21), Spartacus Sector. (c) Lee Cujes 2008.

Some well deserved drinks as the sun sets for Team Kalymnos.

Kalymnos 2008 - Trip Report 1

The whole crew have arrived and we've had our first two days of introductory climbing on a variety of sectors. The weather has just gotten unseasonaly warm and instead of getting around in down jackets and beanies, we're chasing the shade and climbing in T-shirts, with 30 degree temperatures instead of 18. The Euros think it's great, but I would prefer the cold for a contrast to Queensland.

We've hooked into some awesome routes already in the 5 - 6c (15 - 22) range , even on the lower angle slabs and vertical walls, with superb limestone in all varieties. Here's some nice pics from yesterday...

Dave onsighting the superb Pillar Of The Sea 6a (19), Kastelli North Wall

Sam flashing the double thumbs up mega classic Ammohostos Vasilevousa 6a (18), Summertime Sector.

Susy onsighting Ammohostos Vasilevousa 6a (18), Summertime Sector.

Lee's Manifesto for Progressing Oz Climbing! (or 'Why Southerners Are So Strong!')

Based on some qurank discussions on ego and new routing, I've worked on this little comment piece over the last couple of weeks as the ideas have rolled around in my brain. See what you think...

If you read the news in CRUX or ROCK magazine and it always seems that the crew from NSW are cranking so much harder than the rest of the country -- well, you aren't imagining it! The graph below tells the story...

New South Wales currently has six times the amount of hard routes than Queensland, and is less than half the size! One surprise was that Tassie beats out Queensland, which is largely attributable to the recent(ish) development of the amazing Star Factory.

One immutable climbing law is "hard begets harder". The more hard routes there are, the more likely people will get on them, get stronger and get inspired. As this happens, they get keen to put up their own routes, climb even harder, and the whole thing snowballs.

On the other side of the coin, if the hard routes aren't there to climb, it's a lot more difficult for the standard of the climbing community to progress - it's like a glass ceiling. To get an appreciation of what 'harder' feels like they have no option but to travel (and it's hard to do hard routes on a trip due to the time factor) or establish new routes (perhaps less than 5% of climbers actually establish new routes). There's also some pressure (whether conscious or implied) on the new router to not grade a route higher than what already exists in the local area.

Remove the glass ceiling. Help each State have equal opportunity to 'compete' in the difficulty stakes.


  1. Establish hard routes
    People often only bolt what they think they can climb. Instead, use the European Model and if the line is good but ridiculously hard, establish it anyway and leave it as an open project. It will get done eventually and be a source of inspiration. Also, don't assume that all new hard routes are going to be completely amazing, independent King Lines. Seek out difficulty. Examine where it may be possible to link up cruxes of several side-by-side routes. Or climb up part of an existing line, then bust out into brave new territory. For example, let's look at the hardest routes in Oz (all 8c+ or 34) -- Mechanical Animals is squeezed between two existing routes, Sneaky Old Fox is a link-up and White Ladder is an extension.

  2. Kudos to the equipper
    To facilitate the establishment of more hard routes, we need to start giving credit to the equipper of routes in our guidebooks, topos, and news reports. The equipper had the vision and deserves as much or more credit than the person who does the first ascent.

  3. Open projects
    New projects are a source of inspiration and motivation for the climber who equips and tries to send them. We should all respect 'closed projects' that are being actively worked on. However, if you honestly have no realistic shot in a season or so of completing some beast of a new line, just leave it open for anyone to try. It helps the whole community a hell of a lot more to have people getting on and climbing at a high level, regardless of who eventually sends it.

  4. Online register of open projects
    We need an easy online listing of open super projects. This will provide some nice motivation for climbers to travel and send. An obvious place for this to live is the Australian Climbers Association website.

  5. Welcome cross-pollination
    Invite out-of-state hardmen and hardwomen to your state (and if you're a hardperson - travel!). Host them and guide them around. Suggest the hardest routes and open projects for them to try. This serves several purposes. It helps to validate and bed down the grades at local areas, and the crushers can either establish other hard lines, or suggest new routes and link-ups that could be done by locals. A fresh pair of eyes often have the clearest vision.
As always I invite any and all comments.

Lee Cujes

The Beast Goes Down

Ticked The Beast From The East 29 yesterday for its second ascent. Another great route from Adam Donoghue. It was a great day up in Mt Tibrogargan's Summit Caves; as always - breezy and cool.

I put the gear on, and then fired it off the next try, but I was really gritting my teeth. Nine shots all up - three of those putting gear on the climb. It's a really interesting route in that even though it's not very long (only about 15m) it's a cumulative fatigue issue. None of the moves feel super hard hanging on the rope, but linking them all together really takes it out of you.

JJ and I even started working on a new project there as well. Ohhh!

© Phil Box 2008

Selected topo showing just a handful of the 30+ routes on offer in the Summit Caves.
Photos © Phil Box and Dave Reeve 2008

How to build a campus board

If you search the web, you'll end up with a whole bunch of different sites claiming to tell you how to build a campus board. The problem is, the whole point of having a campus board is to eventually be able to pull 1-5-9, at which point your body will turn into pure energy and you will become immortal. And you can't say you've done 1-5-9 unless your board is built to standard specifications.

The standard we should all be working to is the School Room Campus Board in the UK (pictured left).

Campus Board Standard Specifications

  • Board angle: 12.5 degrees.
  • Rung spacing: 22cm from top of rung, to top of rung.
  • Rung depth/size: Anywhere from about 1cm to 3.5cm. Some wide boards have several different sizes on them. As a general rule, 6c - 7c climbers should choose a larger rung and 7c+ climbers should choose a smaller rung (about a pad depth).
  • Rung incut: No! Purists say - perpendicular to the board! Unless you're going to buy something like the ready-made Metolius Campus Rungs which have a very slight incut.
  • Degree of rung-edge smoothing: This is variable. Ensure enough to avoid undue pain, but not so much so as to decrease the effective flat contact surface.
  • Rung friction: This is a variable based on wood type, smoothness, temperature, humidity.
    Fun facts about 1-5-9 on the Moon Board
    • 22cm spacing
    • First movement of 88cm, second movement of 88cm*
    • Total travel of 176cm
    • *This does not take into account the fact of the shorter distance between rungs 8 and 9 on the School Room Board.
      Things to watch out for

      • Don't build your board all the way to the floor. It has to be suspended. Ideally, the first rung should be around eye level. If you build it to the floor you can't hang freely
      • Pre-drill through your rungs to avoid them splitting when you mount them
      • Drive your screws all the way through the rung, board, and into the supports behind, and finish each screw by hand
      • Don't overtrain. First sign of pain = stop

      Left: The original Wolfgang Gullich board in Germany

      Keywords: campus board plans, campus board regulations, campusboard, campussing, training finger strength, training power, training contact strength

      2010 edit:
      This is the most popular article on my site. This saddens me :) So, now you know how to build one, here's why you shouldn't.


      After the fun day we had up there a week ago, I went up for my second day on the Beast From The East 29 with Duncan today. Phil was in the area, so he set up for photos for the afternoon and I think he got some great ones, we'll see. Edit: He's quick with the mobile internet in his truck. These were on flickr mere hours after the shoot. Nice one Phil :)

      Long story short - no tick! The actual moves are not the issue, but cumulatively, they really add up and there's a certain move (pictured) that really torches your left hand. After putting the gear on, I had three more shots without success, dang! Good training though.

      I'll be back for you, Beast.

      Time comparison grading theory

      Grading. Always a hilarious subject. Once bandied around the campfire, now bandied around the virtual campfire, i.e. internet forums :)

      Jens Larson (8a.nu webmaster) recently posted a controversial grading proposal dubbed the Time Comparison Grading Theory.

      Jens wrote:

      "Climbing grading is based on how difficult it is to do a climb, measured by the time and effort, that has to be invested. A climb that take 2 days should be graded harder than another climb that takes 2 hours. The grading scale has very wide steps. On an average, a climber that can do an 8A (8a) on 2:Go should be able to do 8A+ in two hours (8a+ in 1 day), 8B in two days and 8B+ in 20 days and maybe 8C in 200 days. The above Time Comparison is a speculation and 8a do not have the truth. However, it is based on the 8a grading theory. Feel free to comment!"
      This led to tons of people bagging Jens and calling him an idiot. There's currently over 54 comments on the post, so he's stirred the pot, that's for sure.

      I thought I would weigh in with my 2c, based on the data I have about my own climbing. My view is that it is useful, but only at an individual level.

      "The time comparison grading theory is useful, but not universally as Jens is suggesting. The only way it would be able to be universally applied is if all other factors were equal. As we know, they are not.

      However, it is not without merit. It's useful at the level of the individual climber, particularly when it comes to suggesting the grade of FAs. I can graph the grade of my ascents with the number of tries, and I get a very predictable curve - an exponential curve (like that shown at bottom).

      This provides the individual climber with a model of sorts, which predicts an 'expected' grade range for a route based on number of tries. But of course, there will always be influencing factors.

      I would also suggest this theory would work more successfully for routes than boulders. As Sharma has noted, routes are generally more predictable, whereas boulders are more likely to have weird moves which expose advantages or disadvantages based on climber physiology and body type.

      --Lee Cujes

      What do you reckon?

      Kalymnos Teaser

      Shots from the 2007 trip...

      SE Queensland Route Progressions

      Every area has its route progressions. If you were in the Blue Mountains and asked around for a good 25 to do, many people would point you at Madge McDonald at Centennial Glen. If you were successful on Madge you might step it up to its companion route Trix Roughly 26.

      What follows is a little diagram which details a couple of route progressions for climbs in Queensland. These aren't necessarily benchmark routes at the grade. Some might be easy or hard for the money. But they are good progress routes. Meaning that completing one of them stands you in good stead for being able to progress to the next level in the same genre.

      Notice the steep route genre focuses solely around Mt Coolum and Mt Tibrogargan in the Glasshouses, while in the face genre, we have routes from Kangaroo Point, Tibro, The Pulpit and Frog Buttress.

      This also doesn't take into account the idea of consolidation, or building a solid base of ticks at a given grade before moving on, which is obviously important to do, and something we put a big focus on at Upskill.

      You'll undoubtedly have your own ideas about possible progressions, and if you're not from Queensland, you might give some thought about how this idea relates to your local crags. Post up a comment if you're keen to share your ideas.

      QLD climbing: The Search For Shade!

      Well, the weather is warming up. We've had a hell of a winter season, it's been fantastic. Cool, even cold conditions for many months, and the rain was largely content to hit the weekdays, leaving weekends in prime condition for weekend warriors such as myself. But now with the temperatures rising into the mid to high twenties, we have to say goodbye to the crags that have sustained us over the winter, and look to locations that offer the two vital components which are vital to sane QLD summer climbing: shade and breeze.

      So with that in mind, Aaron and I headed up into the Tibro Summit Caves on Saturday. I'm always impressed with how breezy and exposed the cliff is. Another bonus is that because the east facing cliff goes into shade around lunch time, you can have a lazy start. For aspect, imagine the Coolum cave, perched 150m above the ground. Peregrin falcons check you out as they cruise past with little animals in their talons - it's wild.

      I've done a bunch of the routes in the sector but this time I was keen to check out The Beast From The East, a very overhanging 29 established by Adam Donoghue last year. It's currently the hardest route in the Glasshouses, and didn't dissapoint offering some burly climbing, only one rest, as well as a couple of really slick and hard-to-hold grips. I put in three shots and actually came pretty close on the second try. The grade seems about right to me (maybe it's lower end 29) - regardless - it's refreshing to feel the difference in difficulty between this route and Shadenfreude. It's certainly one I'll be popping back to try to nab before we head to Kalymnos in a few weeks for the Upskill Coaching training camp.

      Below is a short video of our novel descent from the route - a 10m swing into space off the route's anchor.


      Made the journey up to Brooyar on the weekend and established a new line on the same piece of wall as The Great Devoid at Point Pure. This is one of the best bits of steep rock at Brooyar. Pipeline 24 climbs up the L side of the cool pipe feature with some burly, underclingy, body tensiony type stuff to a hanging toe-hook at the lip. Good fun!

      First ascent of Pipeline 24, Point Pure. © E Smits 2008

      Photo Comp Winner

      Cool news, I just won the Pimpin' and Crimpin' climbing photo competition. I sent them a few and this one was declared the winner...

      It's Cass Crane on Walk The Plank 24 at Point Perpendicular. This is one of the sweetest seaside walls around.

      I think I've won an F-Stop notebook bag. Kewl.

      Resting is hard

      Since my climbing highlight a little over a week ago, I have decided to enforce a two-week rest period on myself. I've already broken it with a little bouldering yesterday but that doesn't count. Pfft - bouldering!

      In the month leading up to my FA of Shadenfreude, I did 17 days either on the rock, or training. For me, that's a lot of volume. Perhaps the most I've ever done. So it makes sense that after such a buildup and great peak, I should take some time to rest.

      Resting is often overlooked but is a vital part of the training process. It allows the body recover from the demands of training, micro-injuries to heal, and energy levels to cycle down and then back up again in preparation for the next phase.

      I am a firm believer in "if you're feeling good, go for it" and the opposite is also true. If you're tired and feel out of sorts, a nice solid rest is likely exactly what you need to recharge the batteries.

      It's never exactly fun though.

      Rest day in camp in the Blue Mountains © E Smits 2004

      Queensland's new hardest sport route (for now!)

      Hell yeah! It's done!

      47 tries, 17 days, four months over the year.

      Shadenfreude had its first ascent today. Grade 31. It required twice the time & effort I put into Evil Wears No Pants.

      This is certainly by far my hardest climb, and by far the hardest I've worked on a route.

      I am one veeeeery happy chappy and am psyched for others to get on and enjoy it =)

      (c) D Steel

      Schadenfreude project progress

      After sending Evil Wears No Pants (30) about eight weeks ago, my gaze immediately swiveled back to my project at the Pulpit, tentatively dubbed Schadenfreude.

      (IPA: [ˈʃaːdənˌfʁɔʏ̯də] Audio (German) is enjoyment taken from the misfortune of someone else. The word referring to this emotion has been borrowed from German by the English language[1] and is sometimes also used as a loanword by other languages.

      Philosopher and sociologist Theodor Adorno defined schadenfreude as “largely unanticipated delight in the suffering of another which is cognized as trivial and/or appropriate.”[2]

      I've been working on this 14 metre piece of rock since September 2007. I sunk eight days over two months into it last season, and since switching focus back to it in July this year, have put in another eight days. The turnstile at the base of the route currently reads '43'.

      The route climbs the first half of an existing 26, before breaking right onto a smooth, 30 degree overhung headwall. Once you move onto the headwall via a crazy heelhook, the next 10 moves are so hard you can't chalk up or clip.

      I've had to alter my training specifically for the route. Hangboarding and campussing on small rungs has built my finger strength, and setting two simulation problems on my wall has allowed me to engrain the unusual movement transitions and develop the brute undercling power I need to succeed.

      It's testing me to my limits, but the great thing is that I'm making progress almost every day I go out. As you approach your limit though, 'progress' starts to become measured in smaller and smaller increments. "I made it to the same high point, but I held the hold slightly longer!" You have to take these small wins though, lest you become demotivated. And someone really pushing their limits needs to cultivate the skill of finding success and positivity in each day spent on a long-term project, even if it only comes in the form of 'learning something new' or simply getting 'route fit'.

      After falling from the final hard move on the route yesterday, I know that it will go. The only uncertainty is the 'when'.

      © D Steel 2007

      The mental aspects of hard climbing

      I asked Upskill climber Susy G to pen her thoughts about the process of climbing her latest conquest, Future Tense at Frog Buttress. This is an all trad route, grade 26 (7b+ or 5.12c). Here's what she had to say...

      "Future Tense is a 40 metre route at Frog that branches out from Blood, Sweat and Tears, and also finishes on that route. The section that is uniquely Future Tense is about 18 metres long, and the other 20 or so metres above and below that, are the start and finish of B, S and T. The holds are an eclectic mix of jugs, side-pulls, fingerlocks, incuts, a micro-crack and just a couple of hand-jams, and it’s elegant, stylish climbing for sure.

      I took me 12 shots over about 6 weeks to lead it clean on pre-placed gear, and during that projecting process, I got more awareness of the pressures that I bring to bear on myself whilst projecting, and formed opinions about which of those were useful, and which were not.

      One pressure was “the timeline”. The timeline was an arbitrary expectation around how long, as in how many days or shots, it would probably take me to achieve my outcome of sending the route. After the first 3 shots, “will probably” somehow shape-shifted of its own volition into “should”. “I should tick after x more goes.” Somehow, it became important to me that I did tick it in that many goes. This was not a helpful pressure to put on myself. When I missed that milestone, I experienced frustration and disappointment. Interestingly, I didn’t have a timeline for the outcome before I started the route; it was after a few shots that I began to measure where I thought I was on the journey and compare how far I’d come to how far I had to go. I will not do that again.

      The timeline pressure was brought about to some extent by my telling friends about my project. Naturally, friends will check in with you: “how’s it going with your project”. After a few weeks I felt a sense of embarrassment when I said I was still working on it. How stupid! Luckily, I was able to become aware that this was what I was thinking and feeling, and realised that I was creating a rubbish reality. I switched into the reality that I climb for me and not for anyone else, and my friends support me, not judge me. That change was very helpful, and I am sure enabled me to concentrate more effectively on the next shot.

      The other pressure that I brought to bear on myself was also a time pressure, however it was compelling in a positive way. As I pulled through the crux, feeling a mega-pump creep up on me, it was the knowing in the back of my mind that this was my third and last shot of the day, (and having previously decided that I was not going to spend any more days on Future Tense) that gave me the mental and physical roar to slap the final jug.

      That particular timeline pressure was a motivator, yet the other was a distraction. Curious, hey.

      Future Tense is a beautiful climb. The process of projecting it was character building, and I really enjoyed being at Frog in the company of my friends Steve, young Gareth, Antoine, Mario and Rich."

      -- Susy G

      If you have any thoughts of insights along this line, please post up a comment.

      Beard strokers beware!

      My new toy, discovered buried in the bowels of a Mitre 10 store. Dynalink 24v Rotary Hammer Drill. I already have one of these puppies which is still going strong after about one and half years of use. Now I have two. Which means two batteries - finally! And the best part? How much would you expect to pay for this fine looking specimen? Not $1000, not $500, today only, all you'll pay is $99. Considering back in the day, I paid $750 for my Ramset drill, that's gold! Hell, I paid more than that to get my fricken Ramset battery re-packed!

      Kalymnos climbing holiday - you're invited!

      Thinking about a Kalymnos climbing holiday this year?

      This is an invite to come along with us this November (2008) on the Upskill Climbing Coaching Holiday to the Greek Isle of Kalymnos, home of some of the finest sport climbing in the world.

      Who would this trip be ideal for?

      1. You're keen but have never been to Kalymnos before...
        We've sorted everything out for the climbing group. Deluxe accommodation on Kalymnos right near the climbing areas, all food and transport on the island is included. We know all the areas and will get you on the best routes.

      2. You would like to climb in a group...
        This trip will be a group of 10 people. All experienced lead climbers keen to push themselves, learn, explore, get better and have fun. Climbing in a social group is great - there's always something fun to watch while you're de-pumping!

      3. You don't have a climbing partner sorted...
        If you need someone to climb with, this would be a perfect choice. We'll be mixing and matching climbing partners as we go.

      4. You want to improve your climbing...
        There will be a coaching component to the trip (yep, I'm a climbing coach!). I'll be on hand each day to poke, prod, jab, encourage, cheer, ropegun, point, yell beta, and generally run around like a chook with my head cut off to ensure everyone is pushing themselves and improving.
      Sound interesting? Got some more questions? Firstly check out the trip website and send me an email - the details are on the site.

      This invite is open to any keen climber anywhere in the world.

      Keywords: Climbing Kalymnos holiday, Kalymnos accommodation, Kalymnos coaching, Kalymnos guide, Kalymnos guided climbing, Kalymnos holiday, Kalymnos guidebook, climbing coaching, climbing guide, climbing guidebook, rock climbing, guided climbing, rock guide, climbing coach, training camp

      What do I need to train? And how?!

      What do I need to train?

      Close your eyes. Think back. Why did you fall off your last hard climb?
      1. You couldn’t physically do the moves; even after a sit on the rope ==> you need to work on power and strength
      2. You could make the distances between the holds (do the moves), but you couldn't stick them ==> you need to work on finger strength and recruitment
      3. You fell off after the crux, towards the top, because you were pumped and exhausted ==> you need to work on endurance
      4. You could do all the moves, perhaps in a couple of sections, but you couldn’t string them all together ==> you need to work on your power endurance
      And how?!

      Power training options

      • Exercises that emphasise strength with speed, such as clap pullups.
      • Campussing [see moon training article]
      • Hard, short, dynamic boulder problems
      Strength training options
      Finger strength training options
      • Campussing
      • Maximum effort short power problems (1-4 moves)
      • Eccentrics (lowering with big weight) [see my video - #2]
      Endurance (Continuity) training options
      • Low intensity climbing
      • Go for milage, avoiding massive burn where possible. 40% - 70% of ability.
      • 60-90 minutes continuous climbing
      Power Endurance training options
      • Standard route climbing
      • Circuits (short and long resistance) [see my video]
      • Noshakes bouldering with failure in 5 minutes. 60 - 95% of your maximum ability. 15 min break.
      • Horst pullup intervals (5 pullups in 60 sec, repeat x10) [see Horst blog]
      Core strength - the forgotten X factor!
      • I will have more on this in an upcoming blog, suffice to say that the one area every single climber I have coached can call a weakness is their core strength. You can always be better. L-sits, bicycles, one or two-legged front levers, bridge holds, swiss ball exercises, sit-ups and crunches, one arm presses with weights, the list goes on.
      So now you've got a way to analyse your performance, and the options on how to train each element. The important thing is actually making a start. Get to it!

      Using circuits to train power endurance

      Circuits. The training tool of champions. There's not many top climbers I know of that don't use this technique, or something very similar. This is the cornerstone of my training, and the foundation of my Upskill Climbing Coaching regime. So what are circuits?

      - 25 moves of hard climbing (60 seconds to complete)
      - 3 minutes rest
      - repeat (the exact same series of moves) x10

      The difficulty should be pitched so you're failing right at the end of the last lap. That's perfect. Not only will you be building your power endurance, you'll also have a great benchmarking tool to see how you're progressing over time.

      This image has some notes which explain how you might set up a circuit on a small home wall.

      Let your climbing out of its box

      A thought from Sonnie Trotter, responsible for Cobra Crack, one of the hardest trad lines around. This was posted today on his blog...

      "Boulderers tend to make quick work of hard sport climbs, sport climbers make quick work of hard trad lines, hard trad climbers make quick work of big wall free climbs, (I.E. Tommy Caldwell) and Big Wall free climbers make short work of Patagonian Alpine climbs. And strong Alpine Climbers are nothing short of a GOD. Ever notice Rolo's feet never touch the ground? He hovers yo. I'm serious."

      It's something to really think about (he's 100% right by the way, except the hovering part). So often we try to catagorise ourselves and put our climbing in a little box. "I'm a trad climber". "I'm a moderate sport climber". "I just boulder". "I don't do comps". "I'm good at doing this but not that." This kind of thinking is just another way we sabotage our true potential, sticking to the familiar, doing the same old thing. You don't know what you're truly capable of until you try, and the truth is, being proficient in one discipline in climbing is often the perfect foundation and stepping stone to move into another discipline.

      So why not try something new? Climbing is supposed to be an adventure.

      Training for a climbing trip

      So the Upskill Kalymnos trip has three spots left(!), and some of the team have been thinking about training and how they can best prepare to be in "peak fitness" for the trip. I've been sending them various articles and bits and pieces, including this nice FAQ from Dave McLeod...

      Es asked - I'd quite like to know about what you can do in quite a short space of time to get the most out of a climbing holiday.

      If it's a bouldering trip then you have to remind the body how to pull really hard (in sports science speak - improve neuromuscular recruitment). This is all you can do in a few weeks off the couch. If its short (up to 25m) sport climbs then get straight down to the wall and run laps on a 30-40 move steep bouldering circuit that is hard enough that you are breathing hard, getting pumped but can complete 6-8 laps before your arms die. Repeat at least 3 times a week and the endurance will come remarkably quickly. If the routes are long then mix up the anaerobic laps with some aerobic ones; up, down and back up a steep leading wall route. Don't mess about with this type of training - you need to work yourself hard or nothing will happen. Hard breathing, bulging eyeballs and hot forearms are the symptoms of a good endurance session.

      So in response to that, one of my team members emailed me the following couple of questions, and I outline my answers below.

      Q: "Reading the Dave McLeod piece above, our Upskill sessions actually seem positive for both short and longer climbs, yeah? But they are less Aerobic and more Anaerobic based, yeah?"

      A: "Correct. A few reasons for this. If you can climb even 25 hard moves (10 metres of climbing) and then recover in a few minutes on a rest, and then do the same again, you can do quite hard and long 'endurance' routes if they are broken by one or more rests, as most are, particularly in Kalymnos (stalactites, kneebars, arm wraps). This is exactly what we do with our [25 move] circuits and why they are such a useful tool. This is anaerobic endurance training. True 100% endurance routes (with zero rests) are very hard to find (and much sought after). Usually you can wrangle a rest somehow.

      Pure endurance training doesn't really need to be addressed via our Upskill training sessions because you get this with your weekend outdoor sessions at the crag i.e. easier climbing for longer periods of time. Other ways to train pure endurance is doing 60 - 90 minutes of continuous climbing (laps or bouldering)."

      Q: "How could we best gear two Upskill sessions per week, to have me in the optimum shape for Kaly climbing?"

      A: "As discussed, suggest that we continue the good work we're doing with circuits on Wednesdays and then use the extra session on Monday to target your weaknesses. At the moment, front-on power. We'll do this via hard bouldering, hangboarding, campussing, and strength exercises.

      In order to be your best, you have to come to the party too by training your mental toughness. This is belief in yourself at the cliff, trying hard routes, going for the onsight, taking the falls and working hard. Pushing yourself. You are already making headway in this area but don't stop!"

      I'll have more in coming posts about how best to schedule your training in the lead-up to a big trip.


      Some thoughts on beta

      One characteristic of my latest climb, the first ascent of Evil Wears No Pants (30) at Mt Coolum was that I didn’t have any beta (information) on the climb, and had to work out all of the moves myself. I hadn’t seen anyone on the climb, and the only pointers I had was some telltale chalk on some of the holds.

      The majority of hard routes I have done in the past few years have been climbed in tandem, with another climber also trying the route. You work as a pair, sharing beta, watch the other person climbing and generally feed off each other’s energy and experience. Moves get refined and the easiest sequence is solved much more quickly than working alone.

      Sport climbing cliffs with dedicated locals and regular traffic often lend themselves to the beta feed phenomenon. The cave at Mt Coolum is a case in point. The contributing factors are a limited selection of routes, few easy climbs, highly specialised and abstract moves required & enthusiastic locals keen to share their knowledge.

      There is no doubt that having the beta fed to you as you climb makes the process of sending a route much easier. Fewer shots are required. This is great on a roadtrip when you have limited energy to expend, and want to return home with a bulging scorecard of ticks. But what does this do to grades?

      We can roughly equate Mt Coolum’s development to that of Rifle Mountain Park, America’s preeminent limestone sportclimbing area. During the 1990s, as increasing amounts of kneescums, kneebars and other “trick” techniques were brought to bare on the routes, the grades across the board began to be “condensed”. This has occurred at Coolum with routes such as Wholly Calamity (27) and Grazed Anatomy (28) each having a grade knocked off recently.

      So do we grade for the onsight, or the worked redpoint? And more topically, do we grade for the seasoned local, or for the new, unfamiliar climber? My impression would be that routes up to grade 25 (7b or 5.12a) are graded for the onsight by the new, unfamiliar climber. And routes 26 (7b+ or 5.12b) and up seem to be graded for the worked redpoint by a person with some experience at the cliff.

      So what does all this mean? Well, routes are easier with beta. That being the case, you cannot compare the first ascent to a beta-riddled repeat of the same route. The circumstances are entirely different, and the former far eclipses the latter in difficulty. Some cliffs provide more onsightable routes than others, particularly those with easy to read, generic, gym-like pulling. The more unusual the climbing, the more chance of downgrades by savvy locals. And if you’re climbing at Mt Coolum, it’s de rigueur that you’ll switch your brain off and plug in to the beta stream.

      Evil - my hardest route yet

      So, for those that hadn't picked up the hints on qurank, or seen it on CragTV Ep. 2, I just wanted to confirm that on Sunday I completed my longest-running project yet, being Evil Wears No Pants at Mt Coolum. Adam Donoghue was the visionary behind this amazing route, and working from the top-down, climbed 95% of the severely overhanging 20m line cleanly before he moved interstate to Tassie earlier this year. I simply worked to unlock the boulder problem start and link it with Adam's existing line to give a 'from the ground to the top' climb -- the 'new' Evil Wears No Pants at grade 30.

      And it's awesome. In my mind, right now, I truly think it is the best climb in Queensland.

      In order to complete this project, I drove 2430km and spent $467 on fuel. I injured my shoulder, neck and groin and spent $117 on massages. I hit the ground once, and swore many times. I shipped in new shoes from the States for the heelhooks. My 60m rope needed to be chopped four times, leaving me with a 43m rope. I went through a roll of sports tape, three belayers, half a kilo of chalk, 10 Red Bull's and two packets of sour snakes.

      It is my hardest climb, and I loved it. Clipping the anchors was bittersweet as it closed the book on this particular journey. Thanks to everyone who has supported me, given some encouragement, or sent some positive energy my way - it really makes a difference.

      © Chris Fox 2008

      Reverse Psychology (27), Brooyar first ascent

      So I'd been looking at the big blank overhanging wall at Point Pure for years. In fact, in the original guidebook I published online in 1997, I wrote "Past the black juggy wall is another lighter coloured wall which is big, overhung and blank. There are no climbs on the first portion of this because Queensland climbers are weak."

      I guess I was sticking it to myself and others to get cracking and get some lines on this impressive wall. Craig Pohlman was the first to manage it in 2004 with his route Pebbles (25) which finds a line up the right side of the wall. Last weekend, despite the bad weather I managed to make my own addition just left of centre on the wall.

      The rock is so damn soft and sandy at Point Pure. The rain didn't make things any easier, and the whole top section was wet and muddy. I didn't think there was any chance of climbing the route cleanly this trip, so I launched up on my second attempt with no expectations. You climb off the starting ledge into a two-finger, to the hilt, undercling pocket, and then launch up at full extension to a good edge, which seems to have a tendency to crumble a bit. This move will be harder for shorties!

      From here you launch out to the leaning arete and slap your way up on very open slopers, before encountering a tricky transition move (the crux for me) into a final pocketed section which leads to a big break. This break was waterlogged and filled with mud. In the dry I would have been able to clean this properly, however being muddy, there was only so much I could do. I hung on the muddy break for several minutes, chalking up, getting muddy, chalking up, getting muddy, etc. I ended up getting my chalk ball out and whacking the break as much as I could to try to soak up some of the spoodge.

      Heelhooking this break leads into a sandy finishing crack with some natural gear and a bolt. The side wall was wet and smeared with mud. Once cleaned this will be great, but on the first ascent it was a nightmare! I came to the final move to clip the anchors and I simply could not manage it due to the mud. I thought I was off for sure, but then I managed to do a super stretch and slam a quickdraw on the anchor and clip. Amazing. Given the history, and my moaning on the ascent, the name Reverse Psychology seemed appropriate.

      * Reverse Psychology 15m 27
      Walk along ledge to access. Stickclip the high first UB, but best to belay from ground. A tough move off two-finger undercling gives second bolt, followed by gritstone-slapping weirdness (RB) to break. Crack takes #3 camalot and/or your biggest wire. Final sandy crack past last RB leads to rap station. Was first climbed in the wet, so the top still needs a thorough cleaning.
      Lee Cujes 8/6/08

      Latching the muddy break on the first ascent (c) C Gibson

      Spoodgy muddy horrible - but a classic in the making, honest! (c) C Gibson

      I also finished bolting another line at Point Pure which will no doubt be much more popular. So named because of the beehive in the nearby tree and the fact that at the grade of 19 and fully bolted, the queue on a Saturday may stretch back to the Gympie bakery.

      * Unleash the Swarm 15m 19
      Starting on little platform, up into awkward corner and sandy ear past a couple of U-bolts to shield. Resist temptation to escape R to no-man's land. Balance L and up. Breaching final slab involves a tricky little move. Five UB's.
      Lee & Sam Cujes, Chris Gibson, Alice Fletcher, JJ O'Brien 8/6/08

      It's funny, I spend so much of my time establishing routes near the limit of my ability and it's been a long time since I have established a more moderate route. It felt really good seeing everyone get on it and have an enjoyable (and otherwise!) time on a route I bolted.

      I spent the rest of my time undertaking Safer Cliffs work, such as rebolting, and removing old hardware and patching holes. I try to do a bit of this work every time I go.

      Upskill: Kalymnos 2008 Trip announcement

      Hey guys

      If you've been reading this blog for a while you might be thinking about training, and improving your own climbing. This could be something that is right up your alley.

      I'm running a climbing and coaching climbing holiday to Kalymnos, Greece in November this year. I have some initial information up on the website here...

      Plus there is a flyer on the site with more detailed information as well.

      The coaching component of the trip will be as much or as little as desired for each person. The focus will be on climbing the best routes, maybe getting some personal bests under our harnesses, and having a great time as a group.

      Obviously, there's still lots of detail to work out including exact cost and the precise dates, but that's the way all good trips start. If you think this could be something you (and your partner, or climbing partner) could be up for - get back to me and let me know so I can pencil you in.

      Even if you think this isn't your thing, you may have some ideas as to great people who could be interested. Please go ahead and forward this to them. Group dynamics are extremely important on a trip like this, so I'm looking for fun, happy, competent people who are PSYCHED on climbing and getting better. If any of you can think of people, let's talk!

      We only live once. Let's do it. image

      First ascent of Carnivore (28)

      Got up to Brooyar on the weekend and sent Neil's old open project, Carnivore at Wolf's Lair. Can you believe it's been 11 years since it was bolted? I'd been on it back in 2004 but wasn't up to it then.

      Here's a pic from back in '04...

      So after one memorable mega fall from the top of the route, past the belayer (hi Sam!) into the trees below, I sent it on the second morning. Very short, but punchy and fun. After sending it, I rebolted it with four rings so it's ready to go for hassle-free repeats. I'm suggesting grade 28, see what you think. (See old qurank post about Carnivore here).

      I onsighted Graham's Little Wednesday at Black Stump. which I think he's been struggling to grade. So, Graham - I reckon it's 25! :) Fun little route. Same story for Rocky's Pebbles at Point Pure. This had a slash 24/25 grade in the guide, now simply 25. Congrats to Rocky on the bolting of this, really nicely done. An intricate and enjoyable route but still needs miles more cleaning.

      Lastly, I eliminated the aid from Tight as a Drum (22 A1) at Point Pure, taking a big fall on the first attempt. Someone may have done this before, who knows. Regardless, it's a hell of a move out to the arete. Let's call it 24.

      A Kneebar Too Far (29)

      On Sunday I made the third ascent of A Kneebar Too Far (29) at Coolum. First climbed by local Matt Eaton last year and repeated by Adam Donoghue, the route climbs out one of the steepest and most 'cavey' bits of the Coolum cave. I tried the route for the first time one week prior, putting in two good shots. Even though the line is very steep, there's surprisingly not too much very overhung climbing, because the section of rock you climb is mostly perpendicular to the ground, and you simply traverse from left to right. I think I counted 27 moves. I love routes which traverse, because my training wall at home is so short, I end up doing a lot of traversing, so it's great when a route actually matches up with what you're training. Nevertheless, I was really sore after trying it due to its burly moves.

      My second day was on Thursday and I put in three good shots, coming very close to sending it on the second try, falling off right towards the end. I was very surprised and happy, and was feeling very positive about the next day. So after two days of rest I was back. On the long drive up to Coolum, Neil Fewtrell and I were talking about how cool it would be to have stand lights to light up the recesses of the cave for photos. Neil pointed at the generator in the back of the ute and said "Whatdaya reckon?" After a quick stop at Super Cheap Auto we had our lights and were ready for the easy-walk-in-turned-epic with a 35kg generator and light-kit.

      When, drenched in sweat, we emerged at the cliff, photographer Phil Box could only point and laugh. Then it was out turn to point and laugh as we watched Phil desperately aiding amongst savage bees with the use of the four metre pool cleaning pole, hooking his rope over horns and gingerly jugging upwards to get into the primo spot for shooting.

      Phil in position (c) N Fewtrell

      After warming up on other routes, my plan was for my first attempt to be the 'photo lap' where I would hang on bolts as necessary to get some photos, and complete my warm up. But as I launched out into the business, I felt pretty good so just kept going, despite cutting loose on a few sections ("bad feet!"). Once making it past the route's signature inverted kneebar, you're pretty much home and hosed as there is a very restful double kneebar right before the anchors. As I sat in the double kneebar, I had a headspin from lack of calm, even breathing. My whole body had been held taut to maintain the right tension through the lower moves. I reached out and clipped the anchors, and then climbed out past them to satisfy the shortie Matt who couldn't make the clip from where I did. Didn't want him to say I hadn't done it properly! Psyched!

      Under the belly of the beast! (c) P Box

      Phil was keen to get another angle on the route, so I agreed to have one more burn on it for him and was on such a sendage high, that I managed to do it cleanly a second time. Cool! It's now a lap route! Well maybe not quite =)

      Exiting the signature kneebar for the final section. (c) P Box

      It might be a long drive, but there's no doubt that Coolum is a place you can get both humbled and strong. Usually in that order. Plus, where else can you climb in the pouring rain?