Kendall Cliffs Climbing Gym

There are a lot of important things to learn about a new town, but there is one obviously preeminent priority: finding the local climbing gym. In Akron, OH, that gym is Kendall Cliffs Climbing Gym.

Kendall Cliffs is a modest-sized gym attached to the back of Appalachian Outfitters. It offers Top Rope, Lead, and Bouldering, with 35-foot walls and a separate bouldering cave. A large archway near the front of the climbing area offers a chance at some overhung lead climbing. The walls are of Nicros design, and the bouldering cave as well as a section of the route wall are “synthetic rock” while the remaining climbing faces are textured plywood.

Day passes are reasonably priced at $15.00 for a full day, considering that there are specials literally every weeknight, including discounts for students, those on active duty, and anyone at all who comes on Thursday. Gear rental prices are a bit higher than I’ve typically encountered, but this is not a big problem for regular climbers who usually have their own equipment. The $85.00 monthly membership seemed a little high considering the limited facilities and amenities (no exercise equipment save a pull-up bar and no general fitness classes) but since it’s the only non-university gym in the area, there’s not much to do about it. The alternative to the monthly membership is to get a 5 or 10 visit punch-pass, which has no expiration but can only be used by the purchaser.

The staff is small and friendly, and the community of climbers that frequent the gym are tight-knit, but welcoming and very friendly.

The floor of the climbing area is protected by a moderately deep layer of shredded rubber. It’s a bit uncomfortable to walk around in and will temporarily turn your feet black, not to mention that the scraps of rubber have a nasty habit of winding up in your shoes (and then your car, your living room, your bedroom, your bed, your bathtub, your friends’ houses, etc.). Overall, it is also slightly unsatisfying as fall protection, even supplemented by the moveable bouldering mats lying around (there are only 3 or 4 medium-sized pads).

The amount of bouldering is limited to a single cave of Nicros design, and a small section of the high walls in the back of the gym. The quality of the problems is generally high on the non-Nicros wall, but the cave leaves a lot to be desired. The natural features are slick and awkward, and their shape limits the variety of holds which can be set.

The quality of the routes varies; those set by the less-experienced setters are sometimes awkward or uninteresting. Alternatively, the more-experienced setters put up some fantastic lines, both for top-rope and lead. The ropes and clips are all well-maintained and clean, so the routes are all as safe as your belayer. Having said that, I’ve noticed a few people belaying who have no business doing so, which seems to go pretty un-noticed by the staff. At least 2 people have decked since my first visit to the gym in January 2013.

Overall, Kendall Cliffs is a decent gym. If nothing else, it’s a great place to connect with a bunch of other local climbers and to get your fix when the weather isn’t good enough to head outside.

Ramblin’ On

Four years ago I started my journey as a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech. As a student, I was confident and optimistic. As a climber, I was inexperienced but eager to improve.

The end of my time at Tech means I’m leaving Atlanta for the north, where I’ll be working in Ohio. I’m trying to stay positive about the future this means for my climbing. I’ll just have to make some slightly longer drives to get to the crag.

I’ll miss the Southeast and the incredible quality and density of climbing it offers. My hands have been spoiled by the sandstone! More importantly, I’ll miss all of my amazing friends and teammates at Tech. To all of you who have climbed with me and kept my psych high, thank you. It’s been phenomenal knowing you all and climbing with you.

Dallas, thanks for keeping me modest and always challenging me to try harder. Jeremy, I swear I climb stronger when you’re around. Ben, climbing with you always makes me want to get stronger. Jonathan and Ally, thanks for putting up with me until I stopped climbing like an idiot! Marina, your perpetual cheer is always the best medicine for high gravity days. Get Sinsar climbing again! Carlin, I wish we could have climbed more so I could absorb some of your technique. Baranak, heal up that shoulder and get back to crushing! Perry, thanks for being an awesome friend and a great climbing partner. Silva, Swinney, Denney, Kirt, and all you other young’uns: get strong and keep the club alive! You’re getting some strong freshmen next year, so get strong and climb hard! Thanks to Brannen too, I guess…

Thanks guys.

The Georgia Tech 2012 Climbing Team

Free Organic Slider Pad on the way!

After brutally crushing (by 20 points) my rival, Dallas Dean at the Georgia Southern Univ. Southern Sendfest comp this season, I took 3rd place in men’s advanced! Unfortunately, I had to take off immediately after climbing so I missed the awards.

However, my awesome teammates snagged a redemption code for a free Organic Slider Pad along with a $50 gift card to Dolomite! I emailed in today with my order for the pad, and I’m placing an order later today for a Dolomite Boulder Bag.

Many thanks to Josh Helke at Organic Climbing and to the crew at Dolomite Climbing Bags for their awesome donations!

Shoe Swap – How I lost my Testarossas

Any one of my climbing amigos can tell you how I’m kind of (really) a La Sportiva fanboy. So of course, when I recently lost my La Sportiva Testarossas, I was seriously bummed.

Some time last week while at Stone Summit Climbing Gym, somebody must have accidentally grabbed my shoes, leaving their own pair behind. The next time I was at the gym, I noticed that the pair of Testarossas now in my gearpack were a size smaller, significantly older, and lacked the pretty obvious sharpied-in initials on the toe.

I went to the front desk but nobody had turned in my shoes or left any message about the swap. I gave them the details, and then posted about what happened on Stone Summit’s Facebook Page, and on /r/climbing on Reddit. Sadly, no replies in almost a week.

Somebody out there must have my shoes, and must have noticed the “JHC” written on the toes. I sure wish they’d contact me!

GT Ramblin’ Rock Comp

Because I never dedicated a post to this super fun comp, here are a few pictures from the advanced division heat. Congratulations to everyone! Mad props to Jonathan Hung and everyone else who helped organize the comp.

Suck it, Dallas – LRC March 11, 2012

This past weekend I finally put a real session on the LRC V7, Red House. On the same boulder as the super-classic Super Mario V4, this was the first V7 for a lot of my friends. Last year I spent a lot of time looking at it/considering it, but never really put a real session on it. However, after my rival, Dallas Dean sent it a few months ago, I decided that when I got back to LRC, I’d have to try and send it.

I went up to Soddy-Daisy, TN with Carlin and Marina. We warmed up and played around a bit on a V4 called Mane Event. Marina was struggling with one of the moves which is a bit of an extension for her, but I think once she gets her weight a little bit more under the next hold she’ll be able to get it with no trouble. Carlin hurt his fingers on I Think I Can V9 and thought he was going to have to take the rest of the day off.

However, after we moved back deeper into the crag, Carlin taped up and took some Ibuprofen and was good to go. I gave a few burns on Grimace V8, but was only able to nail a few moves. Carlin and I went down to work Castaway V7 while Marina worked on Sternum V5. I didn’t make any progress on Castaway (a big dyno off a nasty crimp to a sloper, with crappy feet), but Carlin came very close.

Carlin almost gets Castaway V7 (Photo Credit: James H Conces)

Meanwhile, Marina was busy sending her long-time project, Sternum V5. She was super psyched! Unfortunately, there are no pictures of the send. Marina then worked for a while on A Face in the Crowd V7, which was my 3rd or 4th V7. She was looking really strong on the first couple moves, but struggled a bit near one of the reachier moves.

Marina on A Face in the Crowd V7 (Photo Credit: James H Conces)

We moved back to Red House, and I got to work. The crux is very certainly the first move, which is a low percentage funky sit start with a heel-toe cam, from two underclings to a sloper/slot just above. I dialed in all the moves after the first move, so that as soon as I stuck the first move, I could breeze through the rest.

the first move of Red House V7 (Photo Credit: Marina Musicus)

Other than the first move, the move which gave me the most trouble was going out of the finger slot with my left hand, bumping up to the first move where Red House intersects Super Mario. I finally dialed it in by keeping my feet low and just powering up to it.

Me on Red House V7, bumping from finger slot (Photo Credit: Marina Musicus)

I did finally stick the first move, and managed to make it the rest of the way through the problem, just as planned! My top-out was a bit desperate, but I wasn’t about to give up the send for anything. Now that I’ve sent Red House, I have officially sent all (and more) of the V7s Dallas has done. Booyah!

Me near the end of Red House V7 (Photo Credit: Marina Musicus)

Next week is my spring break, and the plan for now is to make another 2 or 3 day trip to Rocktown early in the week.

Clemson Orange Point 2012 – March 3, 2012

All I could think about on the drive up to Clemson was how amazing the weather was, and how absolutely stupid I was for going to an indoor comp instead of going outdoors. But I did want to earn points for the GT Team for CCS, so I got psyched up and ready to climb some plastic.

GT had a good turnout at the comp (around 11 climbers), and a presence in most divisions. A couple of the beginners on the team tagged along (and did really well).

The format of the comp was pretty… funky. It was mixed format (ropes and bouldering) which I inherently don’t like, but you were required to climb one route and one boulder, and then 3 of anything you wanted. Personally, I thought this made it really vulnerable to issues with grading, since it’s hard to rate boulder problems against routes. But on the plus side, this meant I only had to climb one route, unlike the UAB comp a few weeks back which required 2 (I’m ridiculously out of shape on routes haha). The other oddity was that we had FOUR HOURS to climb… a lot of climbers started getting worried about being able to pace themselves for that amount of time. It turned out to be a good thing though, because most of the good boulders were set in the same small area, meaning there were 20 minute lines just to get on the wall. It was tough to keep warm while waiting around that long.

I started off with a mid-point range route (felt like a 5.8) and moved on to my boulders. The scores for boulders ranged from 700 points to 1360 points. There was a high density of problems worth 1200-1275 points, which was the range most of the advanced climbers were working on. I flashed a 1200-point problem thick with finger pockets, which felt like a good start. I have to admit, I started eyeing the prize table. It was mostly populated with chalk, water bottles and shirts, but there was a Cryptochild Iron Palm hangboard, and holy crap did I want it.

I had a 1000-point route and 1200-point boulder problem under my belt, and had the option of 3 more boulders or 3 more routes. No surprise, I picked boulders. Carlin Kersch pointed me to a 1275-point boulder with a big move start to a press/pinch on a small chip, then a pretty trivial cross to a jug. I sent it in a few attempts and moved back to a 1250-point boulder I’d been eyeing earlier.

The 1250-pointer was completely sick. Off of a peanut shaped start, there’s a match on a great sloper feature then a right hand move out to a crimp. Bearing down on the crimp, there’s a high left pinch to get, and then super high feet on the sloper.

High feet on the 1250-point problem (Photo Credit: Sean Green)

As you can see in the picture, I had to almost mantle on the crimp to get solid on the pinch enough to make the feet useful. Fully locked off on the pinch, I was able to move static to the finish.

1250-point problem finish (Photo Credit: Sean Green)

That problem left me feeling very psyched. I moved on and put down another 1250-point problem on an arête and a 1225-point problem that used the same sloper as the first 1250-point problem. Meanwhile, Carlin, Jeremy Savor and Ben Tsui were crushing the upper 1200-point problems along with a few other really strong climbers.

I felt solid with my boulders, so I decided to go back and try to send a harder route. The highest point route was 1225, and loaded with crimps and balance-y moves, but there was a 1200-point route that was only a few moves with a dyno between slopers. I used Carlin’s super-secret beta though (undercling the sloper and go static rather than dyno) and sent it on my third go.

While the Clemsonites tallied the scores, a dyno comp was held, in which I made it to the final round, along with Jeremy, Ben, Carlin and Chris Broecker. Carlin won the dyno comp, and came out on top of men’s advanced division too (there was no open division). I listened to the announcement of scores, psyched for my teammates who all did well, but sad to see the Cryptochild hangboard get taken by the winner of Men’s Intermediate division. I ended up coming in 6th in Men’s Advanced, right behind Jeremy Savor. Considering how many strong dudes were climbing that day, I was very psyched with how I did.

So despite the weird format, it turned out to be a really worthwhile comp. Great job, everybody!


Two Days at Rocktown – Day 2

After a chilly night of good rest and a healthy breakfast of tortillas, bananas and nutella, I was ready to get back on the rock. Everyone in our group was pretty tired and our tips weren’t in the greatest shape, but psych was high. We broke down camp and rolled out to the crag by about 9:00am.

 Perry, Drew, Silva, and I started off the day in the back area, mostly to get on the Rocktown classic V3, The Scoop.What a cool problem! The whole problem forces you to trust your feet on slabby moves while you slap some slopers up top and utilize a shallow mono pocket. Carlin Kersch and Marina Musicus met up with us and worked on it with us.

Me on The Scoop V3 (Photo Credit: Marina Musicus)

Marina and Drew didn’t quite send, sadly. Drew was really close, but Marina was finding that her height was stopping her from getting to the good handholds.

Marina Musicus on The Scoop V3 (Photo Credit: James H Conces)

We did some exploring in the area around the Scoop (our topo had gone missing) and stumbled across a line of three great problems which we later discovered were The Hobbit V5, a V6 I forgot the name of, and a V7 (maybe?). The Hobbit and the V6 were both very cool problems with super sketchy topouts.
After a few goes at those problems, I was warmed up and ready to spend the rest of the day focusing on The Orb. Once everyone was ready, we packed up and moved into the front corridor. Temps were a bit higher than the day before, so the slopers in the end half of the Orb greased up quick. There was a lot of brushing involved. While Carlin, Perry, and I worked on the Orb, Drew took a crag nap, and Marina and Silva headed down to Turkish Resin.
For me, the biggest success of the day was nailing down the topout for the Orb. I’m managing to make the match (arguably the crux) but I’m struggling to get my feet into a good position from there to move into the slot right before the topout. I may have to change my beta for the match in order to get my feet in a better place and stop myself from swinging off. For comparison, the pictures below show where my feet are for the match after I drop the right toe hook, versus how Carlin was approaching it.

Me matching on the Orb V8 (Photo Credit: Perry Ellis)

Carlin Kersch about to match on the Orb V8 (Photo Credit: James H Conces)

I discovered shortly after finishing up the day’s work on the problem that there is a small foot jib under the boulder a little closer in, which allows for a good leg press between the sloper where Carlin’s toe is in the picture. That press might be what it takes to stop myself from spinning off while trying to use that right foot to make the match. I’m really psyched to get out there again and try it out. I really feel like The Orb is within my grasp!
Carlin and Marina stayed longer, but the rest of us called it an early day and left the crag in the early afternoon to take care of some errands/homework back home. I can’t wait for my next trip there! I may mix it up a bit and try to go to LRC first though. I still have high psych for getting on Deception V7 and Brotherhood V8. I’d also like to try Grimace V8 and definitely put down Red House V7.