Video: Keller Rinaudo - China Climb 5.14b

A couple of days ago I was at White Mountain in Yangshuo, China. Apart from it being a great climbing day for me with a personal quickest 8a+/30 ascent (Gin & Tonic 2nd go), I had the opportunity to shoot and film some climbers on their projects. One of these climbers was Keller Rinaudo (USA) and he had been working China Climb 8c/33. This fantastic route was originally equipped by Australian Logan Barber (nice work dude!) and was first climbed by Yangshuo local Abond. Here's a short film we knocked together. Note that Keller's piece to camera was one take with no preparation. Someone give this guy a job on TV! :)

Play it here, or (better) open it up BIG on Vimeo.

Here's some behind the scenes stills from the shoot...

"Damn, you Aussies are resourceful!" -- Ethan Pringle
My bosun's chair for the shoot: 3 pieces of bamboo held together with finger tape.

Beginning the big jugging mission to get in position
In position! Lights camera action!

Me and Keller - a job well done!

Many thanks to Keller, Ethan Pringle and John O'Brien.

Ethan Pringle - Spicy Dumpling 5.14d Photoshoot

I've just this minute returned to Hong Kong after a whirlwind four day trip to Yangshou, China. John O'Brien (JJ) and I headed here with our crew to just get a taste of the limestone on offer. We weren't dissapointed.

We were also pleased to have the opportunity to shoot pics of Ethan Pringle cleaning up an old Chris Sharma project (Dumpling of all Evil) at White Mountain which has now been dubbed Spicy Dumpling. At 5.14d, 9a, 35 whatever you want to call it, it's haaard and impressive, and clocks in as China's hardest climb.

After watching Ethan break a hold two moves from success two days earlier (see the falling shot below), I knew thre route was going to be in the bag. The best shots we've reserved for print, but here's some of the B-roll shots from JJ and I...

Tiny holds and very steep

Huge moves

A broken hold two moves from success

Hanging from one foot for a rest - nice!

The one foot hang

So far, the news of Ethan's ascent is out on:
I also shot a stack of HD video of Keller Rinuado battling the wicked China Climb 8c and clocking up some serious airtime! Seriously! The edit of this will be out soon [edit: it's here!].

Paul Robinson hangboard workout

American Paul Robinson is one of the world's best boulderers right now being only one of two people to have climbed proposed V16, and he's posted up on his blog one of his typical hangboard workouts. Obviously this is going to be more advanced that most people can handle, but it might give you a few ideas on exercises you can perform on the board. Have fun, and watch those elbows!

 P-Rob's Workout
A few people have inquired about what I do on the hang board for my workouts. It pretty simple considering there is not too many extreme workouts you can perform on a hang board; use the picture below for reference. So here is a single workout I do (sometimes times a day). I start each workout by hanging on the upper jugs of the hang board for maybe 10-15 seconds or so. To continue the warm up I do 10 pullups on the lowest of pinches (very positive and not tweaky on the fingers at all).

Next it is one arm lock offs on the same pinches. I start with both hands on the pinches do a pull up and let go with my right hand first holding with my left arm in a locked off position for 10 seconds. I then do this with the right hand for 10 second and then again with the left for 10 seconds and then one last time with the right for 10 seconds. Without coming off I campus to the upper jugs do a pullup and bring my knees up into an L hang. I hold that for 10 seconds and then lower my arms to a 90 degree angle and hold for another 10 seconds before finally dropping off.

Next it is more L hangs. I grab the slopers directly below the jugs do a pull up, hold an L hang for 10 seconds, bring my arms to 90 degrees hold it for ten seconds, and then repeat this 3 more times without leaving the L hang position or letting go of the slopers.

Then it is 10 pull ups on the smallest two finger pockets followed by 10 pullups on the bad pinches on either side of the board. Then I go to my other board and do 10 pullups on the smallest crimps, 10 pull ups on the biggest crimps, and 10 pullups in the middle slopers.

After this it is back to the blue board again. This is the most difficult part to explain so bear with me. I start with both hands on the good pinches down low. I campus first with my right hand to the crimp rail on the middle of the board then with my left hand to the jug at the top. Then right hand to the jug. Hang, then bring left hand to same crimp rail, campus back down into the pinches with both hands and repeat this 3 more times switching which hand goes to the crimp rail first. And then finally I do 10 pullups on the first good pinch and then campus to the jug and do 10 more pullups and by that time am pretty exhausted and can barely crutch back into the house!

If you have any questions regarding this or are completely confused feel free to comment and ill try and answer you the best I can.

New partnership with boulders+nuts

I've said for a long time that there is a huge gap in the market for good, stylish climbing clothing. Stuff that you could wear to the crag or gym, or equally wear to the movies or just chilling with friends without looking like a damn North Farce clone.

Therefore, I'm super pleased to announce a new partnership with boulders+nuts.

b+n are a small but growing climbing clothing and accessories label out of Germany. They kicked off in 2006 and I gotta say, they're producing the most stylish climbing clothing available right now. Check out a random sample of some of their wares below and see if you're as impressed as me...

So they make good product - no doubt. You know what else I like? They're small. They're passionate. They're actually climbers themselves. Just like Upskill. I really try to support companies where it's evident the passion is still there, it's not just about making a buck.

Up until this point, the b+n athlete team is has been exclusively European, so I'm pretty psyched to be the first international member of the team, representing for Oz.

Their site is a bit quirky, but all the products are there and they ship everywhere. Have a squizz.

ROCK Magazine - Ask The Coach column

The good people over at ROCK magazine have asked me to contribute in the form of a regular column - Ask The Coach.  The issue with my first installment is out now (issue #84) and should be of interest to those climbers who are wrestling with the decision: Am I just climbing, or should I start training to climb?  And if so - where the hell should I start?

I hope you'll enjoy reading my perspective on these training-related topics.  It comes from compulsively reading everything I can on the subject over the last 10+ years, using myself as a crash test dummy and - over the last few years - having the opportunity to coach a lot of climbers of various body types and abilities.

Click to enlarge and read.
Pic is me on the FA of My Way or The Railway (8a/29), Butterfly Valley,
Cat Ba Island, Vietnam (c) Jason Piper.

Let me know what you think.

Thanks to those who submitted questions on Facebook a while ago, and I'll be chasing more questions to answer for upcoming issues in the coming months.

What have we been talking about?

Wordle - nice tool for creating these word clouds.

Fiesta De Los Biceps

I've been thinking about and wanting to do this route for about 10 years! It must rank as one of the world's most famous multipitches. Located in Mallos de Riglos in Spain, Fiesta De Los Biceps 7a (23) is breathtaking.

It's primarily known for its super overhanging climbing featuring some of the biggest holds on any climb, anywhere.

And yesterday with our two other friends Alex and Magali, Sam and I completed this ~300m high route. I was not dissapointed. Wow wow wow!

I onsighted all the pitches, which was really nice to do, but it was a truly amazing effort for Sam. Sam ordinarily climbs around the 6b (20) level, with a harder pitch now and then. She often prefers the lower angle, more technical climbing rather that steep, thuggy routes. So if we take our climbing levels into account, for Sam to get up a route like this is probably the equivalent of me trying to climb a multipitch of 7c+, 8a, 8b+, 8a+, 8a+, 8a+, 8a, 7c+. I would be annihilated.  Of course, following me up the route was an 'any means necessary' affair. Grab the quickdraws, rest, do whatever you can do to keep moving quickly. Speed climbing tactics. Sam rates it as "the hardest thing I've physically done in my life". I'm super proud :)

I'll let the pictures do the talking...

Los Fiesta Del Biceps topo
It's about 5 degrees when we arrive, the wind is howling, and Sam is looking dubious!
The route climbs the tower in the sun on the far right.
It looks quite tropical here. I assure you it's not.
I am wearing every piece of clothing I had. My feet are frozen blocks of flesh.
The first belay (left) is not inspiring on this megaclassic. I presume most people skip it.
Assorted other bits of historical interest (right). Thankfully, the gear got better higher up.
Sam follows the highly traversing second pitch.
The village of Riglos from high on the wall

Sam and I at one of the belays. © Alexandre Lemieux
Me on the crux 7a pitch. Quite technical and delicate. Easy to fall off.
© Alexandre Lemieux
Me on the crux 7a pitch. © Alexandre Lemieux
Me on the crux 7a pitch. © Alexandre Lemieux
Still smiling!

Our friends Alex and Magali finish off the crux pitch
Sam follows
Lee and Magali share a belay.
Spot the line of climbing!
Sam seconds one of the very overhung pitches while the German team climbs below.
Looking across to another team on a different route on the wall.
A sense of scale. A German party of three in the background.

Sam tries to dislodge a giant cobble!
Photo of the day! Alex cuts loose on the final overhanging pitch. AWESOME!
© Magali Lequient
Success! Sam, Magali and Alex celebrate a successful climb. To the bar!
Sunset on the towering walls of Riglos

Chris Sharma's Finestra project at Margalef

How's that for name dropping?

Sam and I were fortunate enough to catch up with Chris Sharma and Daila Ojeda at Finestra sector in Margalef where Chris was attempting a new project.

The steep wall at Finestra must be one of the most futuristic pieces of rock I have seen anywhere. It must be roughly 60 degree overhanging 20-30m long (just to the lip!) and with basically no rests that I could see anywhere. No tricky kneebars. Just lots of tiny, sharp pockets. There's nowhere to hide on this wall.

Chris' project climbs the insane wall in the background. © Lee Cujes 2010
There are about six or so routes on the wall including undone projects. I think the easiest route is 8c or 8c+ (!!)

Chris' project climbs an existing route to a bad, sloping "rest" about ten metres or so below the lip. It's 8c+ just to this rest! Then several bolts worth of new hard climbing to the lip encounter. The holds to turn the lip are so poor and sloping, I didn't see Chris link these moves even once on one of his working burns.

Needless to say, the route is going to be hell hard, and very impressive.

Chris attacks the lip on his project. © Lee Cujes 2010
Chris and Dalia were both super friendly - true climbing ambassadors.

The photo we couldn't leave Spain without. Thanks for being such a good sport Chris :)

Video: Upskill Climbing Camp 2010 - Rodellar

Play it here, or (better) open it up BIG on Vimeo.

Rodellar 2010 - Trip Report 5 (Bikini, Pince Sans Rire, El Delfin)

On the rest day it was decided that the other celebrated Rodellar pasttime should be engaged in - namely, canyoning. Best described as "a huge waterpark made by nature", I'll let the pics do the talking.

Canyoning in Rodellar comes highly recommended by the Upskill crash test dummies!
And then all too soon the final day of climbing was upon us. And with it the realisation that, hell, there's a bunch of routes the guys did not want to leave Rodellar without bagging. It happens every camp. The final day is a day of madness, desperation, flappers. I call it project clean-up day.

After yesterday's canyoning adventure, I might have been forgiven for thinking that the team would be smashed, but for perhaps the first time, everyone was awake and at breakfast before me. Coffee was on, they were keen.

First point of call was Bikini sector for some obligatory warm-ups. You might take it as a measure of someone's level of tiredness, that they tied in like this... (can you spot the error?)

Surely you've seen it. If not, read on for the answer *
In this case, not a life-threatening error, however, a perfect demonstration as to why we do our cross checks and verbalisation! Safety first, people! We're in climbing for a good time and a long time!  
* Answer: Rope not fed through leg loops!

Warm-up's done, let's jet. Projects were looming at Pince Sane Rire (translation: tongue-in-cheek) so we blitzed up the scree before the Saturday crowds arrived. I got all three projects drawed up in minutes, and it was go time. May on Ciao Bambino 6b (20), Kirsty on Los Hermanos Peruanos 6b+ (21) and Kirill on Esclava Laboral 6c+ (22/23). Results from the matches below:

May Pang vs Ciao Bambino
Round 1: Huge fall from the final mantle move. So close.
Round 2: Fall at half height.
Ciao Bambino declared winner of this bout.

Kirsty Kitto vs Los Hermanos Peruanos
Round 1: Fall after the last bolt.
Round 2: Fall after the last bolt.
Round 3: Fall after the last bolt.
Los Hermanos Peruanos declared winner of this bout.

Kirill Talanine vs Esclava Laboral 6c+
Round 1: Shock! Esclava Laboral is knocked out!
Kirill Talanine declared winner!

And for his redpoint of Esclava Laboral, Kirill receives this...
...and a championship belt.
Ordinarily after an afternoon of projecting, we might shuffle off home. But noooooo! This was project clean-up day and there was more cleaning to be done. So off to El Delfin it was.

By this stage, Kirsty had decided that the only thing that would keep her together was tape.
Kirsty had unfinished business with the 6b+ (21) Tú Aquí No Has Venido a Escalar. And even with the assistance of tape and three valiant attempts, it was not to be. Bugger! One to come back for!

Tú Aquí No Has Venido a Escalar 6b+ (21)
Kirill was already glorying in his hardest lead to date earlier in the day, so anything now was icing. As it turned out, he ended up one hanging the fiercely overhanging Bis a Bis 7a (23) on lead. A pretty big improvement from the guy who was projecting 6a+ (19) on the first day!

And May. What can we say? The project was the unnamed 6a+ (19) on the left side of the arch which she'd been on before on two different days. This route had a particularly long and balancy reach move crux, with runout climbing above. On her first burn, she slumped off the crux and things weren't looking good for a takedown. On the second try however, she climbed well up to the crux, set up for the long reach, static-ed up most of the way to the rail, then unleashed a small pop, stuck the finger edge with one hand and began to barndoor off. Immediately the ground crew went into action yelling "Hold on! Hold on! Venga Venga! A Muerte (to the death!)!!!" Somehow she managed to edge a couple of fingers deeper, and reel back her body into position. She ticked. Glorious battle, sweet victory. While technically not her hardest tick of the trip, it was the biggest battle. And to finish it up as the light was fading on the final day - perfection.

Well, all good things must come to an end, and we have just dropped the crew back to their hotels in Barcelona where they'll be variously heading home, or continuing their climbing adventures.

Thank you, dear reader, for joining us on our Rodellar adventure. I hope this might have provided a bit of psyche and motivation for you to go out and attack your climbing goals.  Go try something really hard. It's good for the soul.

16 years on, and still loving climbing with a passion. Seriously, how good is this sport?

--Lee Cujes