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The Ontario Alliance of Climbers Virtual Town Hall

On April 28, The Ontario Alliance of Climbers hosted their first Virtual Town Hall. The event was designed to address the growing number of questions regarding access to outdoor crags and the future development of climbing after isolation.

The Town Hall:

The Town Hall was composed of a multi-director board, headed by Ontario’s Kacy Wilson. Wilson has long been a member of the Ontario climbing community. Wilson is an experienced climber that has participated in competition, community and crag-work for years. This experience makes her an ideal person to bring together Ontario’s climbing community.

The event featured 139 participants, each listening in over Zoom. Participants were asked to submit questions in an effort to shape the discussion around the interests of the community. Over the course of the event, a variety of topics were discussed. The panel began with a description of climbing in Ontario and a summarization of COVID-19 provincial mandates.

The discussion grew from this platform to address key points. the first topic addressed related to land closures. All land closures that have been in effect, are still in effect. For Ontario Provincial Parks, these closures will remain until May 30th at the earliest. That said, it is important to stay informed by the Government for this developing situation.

Regulations established, the panel moved into a discussion of outdoor climbing during and after isolation. The OAC maintained that climbers should stay away from outdoor crags for numerous reasons. It is important to prevent the spread of the virus generally, and all people should limit themselves to essential travel. Climbing is not an example of essential travel.

Kai Malcolm on Hugh Jackman at the Niagara Glen – photo by Cisco Juanes

Staying Home:

Another reason for climbers to stay home is to preserve access to Ontario’s crags. For crags like the Niagara Glen, for example, there is not a climbing-specific ban but a ban on all recreational activities that are defined by anything other than passively walking through the park. To this end, the Ontario and Niagara climbing communities has done well to respect the land, removing themselves from the Glen before it was mandated by the park system. This is exceptional behaviour as its continuation will help preserve climbing access in the future. A climbing-specific ban has the capacity to eliminate crag access forever and should be approached with perfect abstinence as a result.

Community Management:

To this end, the question of climbers policing other climbers was addressed. Though a majority of the community remains at home, there is the possibility that some people are still going out to climb. The question of how this situation should be managed was raised. Wilson said, “We have a responsibility to keep each other informed about what the best practices are.” In the same way that a climber might respectfully point out a dangerous hold to an unexperienced climber, it is important to respectfully point out the reasons for social distancing from crags. The word to note here is “respectfully.”

The OAC is not an organization that governs climbers, but an alliance of volunteers that wish to better climbing over the province. It is not the OAC or the community’s job to police other people through social shaming, but instead to educate and inform those climbers of the dangers extenuating from their actions. If a climber is educated about their impacts, they will not make dangerous decisions.

Jack Szumilas on Zozobra Sit – photo by Cisco Juanes

As far as climbing after isolation is concerned, the Town Hall worked to begin the conversation. The “Q and A” portion of the event served to address many of the concerns regarding climbing going forward. Many of these concerns were related to crag overcrowding following the end of isolation. As crags will probably open before gyms, future safe climbing is likely to change from past ethics.

Community:

It is important that Ontario climbers seek to participate in these discussions as the strength of community effort is defined by the community’s participation. Even though there are climbers that do not wish to participate in the community, it is important to follow best practices so that we do not make a bad name for the community. Said Wilson, “We don’t want to make a name for climbers in the public eye.” If anything, we should refrain from any practice that allows climbers to be identified as a community opposed to distancing guidelines.

Finally, the OAC discussed what it meant to act as a community outside of government-based restrictions. Said Wilson, “We have to think about our role as community members and look beyond what is technically allowed. Though crags may open, it is important to keep an ear turned towards community discussion. For example, an influx of climbers to a crag after the restriction-lift could cause a crag to close due to the detrimental effect a large number of people can have on an environment. We must remember that climbing is a privilege, a stewardship that depends upon the community’s love and respect for the land we climb on.

Going Forward

As the situation develops, there will likely be additional Virtual Town Halls. Wilson discussed that the next town hall could focus on what climbing might look like in a post-restrictions’ world. Additionally, there will be additional content from this past Town Hall coming out over the next few days. You may access this information via this article, the OAC website, or their Facebook page as this information becomes available.

This is a difficult time for everyone, but it is made better knowing that each climber has the support of another. If you have any questions or concerns, you are welcome to direct them toward the OAC. Asking questions is essential to better understanding any unfamiliar situation.

Featured photo by the OAC.

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Building an Adjustable Home Climbing Wall During Isolation

Some people are rigging hangboards and some are building home walls. “We’ve been planning on building a home climbing wall for a long time, we even had most of the supplies just stored around, but hadn’t got around to it,” noted the folks at Send Story.

“Covid-19 and it was the perfect motivator to finally get our butts moving on this freestanding wall. This isn’t a how-ro video, but more of a ‘what we did’ video. We are happy to be able to boulder again and have climbing back in our lives.”

Home Wall

 

 

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Ueli Steck Died Three Years Ago Today

Ueli Steck died at age 40 in an accident on Nuptse in the Himalayas, he was one of the finest alpinists ever. The “Swiss machine” had a focus unlike many climbers that helped him break speed records on some of the biggest challenges in the Alps, most famously the original route on the north face of the Eiger. He set the speed record in November 2015 at two hours, 22 minutes and 55 seconds. Steck once said, “Speed is nothing new, but the times are.”

In 2007, on his first expedition to Annapurna, a falling rock knocked him out and he fell 300 metres to a glacier. He awoke with a concussion and was found by a team member who spotted him. The following year, trying the same objective, he became involved in a heroic attempt to save the Spanish climber Iñaki Ochoa. In borrowed boots, climbing alone and wading at times through chest-deep snow, Steck managed to reach the Spaniard, who had suffered a stroke high on the mountain, and inject him with steroids. Despite Steck’s best efforts, Ochoa died the following day.

His target for spring 2017 was the traverse of Everest and Lhotse, he died on a training day. He once climbed Shishapangma, the world’s 14th highest mountain, in only 20 hours. Steck started his working life as a carpenter, but was in demand as a public speaker. He was one of the first alpinists to embrace social media and rose to the top with big sponsors and continuous trips.

He used an Olympic coach and focused on training as much as climbing. Steck’s ascent of a new route on the south face of Annapurna in October 2013 drew criticism from his peers because he climbed alone, doing the hardest section at night, but also lost his camera and failed to keep a GPS track. Two Sherpas witnessed seeing his headlamp above all difficulties and his account was enough to satisfy the jury of the influential Piolet d’Or, which gave him his second such award. His achievement was hailed as a landmark in mountaineering history.

In the summer of 2015, Steck, with various partners, climbed all 82 peaks in the Alps over 4,000 m, cycling, running and even paragliding between each mountain, in only 62 days.

In Memory Film

Steck climbed Everest without bottled oxygen in 2012 and found himself at the centre of a confrontation with Sherpas the following spring, while preparing for the same traverse of Everest and Lhotse that he was planning to attempt in 2017. The event went viral and Steck, wholly blameless in the affair, became severely depressed.

Steck was also an accomplished big wall free climber. In 2009, Steck fell only once on an onsight bid on the free big wall Golden Gate VI 5.13b on El Capitan. He slipped on the 5.11 crack off El Cap Spire while on his honeymoon with his wife, Nicole, because the crack was wet. He met Nicole at an ice-climbing competition and climbed the north face of the Eiger with her.

In Canada, he would often visit the Canadian Rockies during winter. In 2007, Steck stormed the scene and established a number of bold and still unrepeated routes, as well as repeated other classics. First, he and Simon Anthamatten climbed the 800-metre Polarity VI WI6 and added a 50-metre serac pitch; then they climbed Riptide VI WI6/7 225 m; then made the first ascent of Rocketbaby VI M8+ WI5+X; he then soloed Sacre Bleu WI5+ and Ten Years After WI5+ M5; then with Anthamatten climbed the new Not Flying is Not Trying M8 WI6 on all natural gear; before finishing their trip with the first ascent of Cockfight M9+ WI5+.

About the still unrepeated Rocketbaby, Steck said, “After pitch three there is a WI5+X pitch. This pitch is 59 metres long and there is no real protection. You have to just keep climbing and trust your ice tools. We topped out around 5 p.m. and we finished a perfect day at 7:30 p.m. in Lake Louise by having a coffee. Another great day in the Canadian Rockies.”

Steck was one of the greatest alpinists of all time. His Instagram page is still up and people continue to leave messages on his posts (see below). We’ll end this with a quote by Steck: “I like to be alone. I am focused on what I am doing. I feel the nature and I feel my body. It’s so simple.”

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Fundraiser for Top Squamish Climber After House Fire

On April 15, a Squamish Valley wildfire, B.C.’s first of the year which is still burning out of control, claimed the home of top Squamish climber and guidebook author Andrew Boyd and his partner Amanda Morris. There is now a fundraiser for the two as they lost everything in the fire. Visit here to donate.

Boyd has been at the leading edge of difficult Squamish climbing for the past few decades. His Leviticus Crag, across the highway from Murrin Park, has three classic hard lines by Boyd: Leviticus 5.12d, Sixty-nine 5.13b and Shadows 5.12c. In 1998, he freed the three-pitch The Opal 5.13, which has become a must-try test-piece for serious Squamish climbers. He’s also built a number of trails, including reasure Trail and Pleasure Trail.

Amanda,is the owner of Squamish Gymnastics, an institution that has seen almost two decades of Squamish’s youth pass through its programs. “Amanda and Andrew are lucky to be part of such of an amazing community as we have here in Squamish, and we are even more lucky to have them with us,” said climber Chris Weldon, who organized the fundraiser. “They both love this place dearly and it shows. Now it is our turn to give back to them.”

 

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Canmore Climber, Guide and Loving Father, Husband and Son in ICU

Climbing guide Benjamin Paradis has been intubated and is on a ventilator in an Alberta hospital ICU. Benjamin is a loving father, husband and son and is a much-respected member of the Canmore climbing community and Association of Canadian Mountain Guides.

He earned his master’s in political science and spent time in China as a language student before settling in Canmore to pursue a guiding career. He’s a highly accomplished climber who’s climbed classics in Patagonia, Morocco, French Alps, Greece, Mexico, Rockies, Switzerland and more.

His wife, Jocelyn, wants everyone to know how special he is and the struggle that lies ahead. The two have a two-year-old son, Théo. “I would like people to send him positive and healing thoughts,” said Jocelyn who cannot visit the hospital, as no one is allowed to be next to a patient’s bedside during the pandemic. Benjamin’s parents are Raymond Paradis and Diane Blouin, they are based in Terrebonne, Quebec

Benjamin Paradis in Patagonia

Benjamin has had six negative covid-19 tests, so it’s highly unlikely that he has covid-19. “The doctors are perplexed by what he could have,” said Jocelyn. “They have run many tests and they’ve all come back negative so far. The doctors are looking to all sorts of other possibilities from rare things to redoing tests that came back negative.”

If anyone that has been in contact with Benjamin and has suffered from any unusual symptoms such as respiratory problems or covid-19, please contact brandon@gripped.com to inform Jocelyn.

“It’s breaking me to not be able to hold his hand and talk to him,” said Jocelyn. “That being said the doctors, nurses and support staff (minus the peace officers that tried to get us to leave while we just sat outside his window) are being incredibly gracious and hardworking in these unusual circumstances.”

Keep Benjamin and his family in your thoughts during these tough times. “I love him so much and know he’ll come out of this because he is healthy, fit, well-loved and tenacious,” said Jocelyn.

Jocelyn and Ben in 2016

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The Power Cycle: Stay-At-Home Routine Day 13

Though we are far from seeing the other side of this pandemic, discussions regarding the crag openings have begun. The Ontario Alliance of Climbers will host a Virtual Town Hall at 7:00 pm on April 28, to begin such talks in the province. Maintaining discourse with these climbing access groups will become pivotal for the safe access to climbing areas. It is important to respect that regulations maintained by access groups and the government to keep people safe and to reduce the risk of losing climbing access to our favourite crags.

Though this is exciting, we are not out of the woods yet and our training plan is still two weeks from completion. For Day 13, we will hangboard and follow those isometric exercises with which we have become familiar. Tomorrow we will complete Day 14 of our power training routine before taking two-rest days as a small recovery period before we move into the third and fourth weeks of our power training. Be sure to eat well, remain hydrated, and approach the exercises with precision, seeking absolute stability.

Warm Up:

  • Warming up will likely differ between people, but these are a few good warm ups.
    • Shoulder rolls
    • Rotations: hold arms out perpendicular to the length of your body. Your arms should be parallel to the floor. Begin by rotating your wrists clockwise while your arms are straight. Then increase the rotation from the shoulders, maintain g your straight arms. Steadily increase the radius of rotation until your arms are wind milling, then reverse the direction.
    • Hang on a bar and retract and relax your shoulders
      • Complete a number of pull ups that would warm you up but not tire you out

Hangboard:

These hangboard exercises listed below are simple and easy to follow. The training is still exceptionally difficult, and that thought should remain present at all times. When pulling onto a board, you should constantly consider the safety of your fingers.

Step 1:

Know the hand positions.

  • Open-hand is defined by a straightened pointer finger, a 90 degree bend in the middle two, and a relatively straight pinky finger.
  • Half-crimp is defined by the pointer, middle and ring fingers bent to 90 degrees, with a semi-straight pinky finger
  • Full-crimp: we will not train.
  • Watch Dave MacLeod’s video on hangboarding for alternative hand-positions for more advanced climbers and general tips and tricks

Step 2:

Warm up the fingers.

  • Warm up your fingers by hanging on progressively smaller holds for increasing amounts of time.
  • Pull on various edge sizes while retaining contact with the ground. This is known as the “French Traverse”.
  • After your fingers are warm, a process which should take at least as long as it takes to warm your fingers up on easy climbs in the gym (10-30 minutes), begin training.

Step 3:

Training

  • For those doing two handed hangs:
    • 3 sets of four-finger open-hand for 7-10 seconds
    • 6 sets of four-finger half-crimp for 7-10 seconds
    • Rest for 2-5 minutes between each hang.
  • For those completing one handed hangs:
    • Place on hand on edge, on hand on a static rope to the side of the edge
    • Hang on the edge with one hand, and pull on the rope to counterbalance the weight that your edge-hanging hand cannot sustain.
      • Hold the rope as low as possible and aim to lower that hand between sessions so that you can increase the weight on the engaged hand.
    • Complete 9 sets of 7-10 second hangs on a large edge (15mm-35mm) on both sides.
      • If you fall part way through the hang, move your hand higher up the rope so to ensure that you complete the set on the set.

Agonist muscles:

Once your biceps and shoulders are fully warm, or so warm that you could pull as hard as you would want, begin offset pull-ups.

Lock-Offs:

Once your offsets are complete, rest for five-minutes and begin your lock-offs.

Try and hold a lock-off with one arm bent at 90-degrees. If this is too challenging, complete the exercise in a full lock-off on one arm. If this is too difficult, complete ten negatives.

  • Negatives: Hold a full lock-off with two arms at the top of the bar. Let one arm go and try and resist gravity with the other arm. You will either hold the lock-off or slowly descend to a straight arm position. The goal of a negative is to increase the time it takes to descend.
    • Complete ten one-arm negatives on each side
  • Lock Offs:
    • If you are able to complete the lock-off, then…
    • Aim to hold lock for 10 seconds. 3 sets a side.

Rest for ten minutes, warm into pull ups, then move into offsets.

Offset pull ups:

Offsets are designed to help you build one-arm power. Though we completed a few of these over the course of our conditioning period, we will adjust them for maximum output. For Day 13, hang a rope from your pull-up bar. Place your hand as low as you can on that rope. Either knot it or tape the rope so that you know your maximum offset distance between days.

  • Complete 4 sets of 3 repetitions on each arm
    • Rest for two to five minutes between each set, even between arms
      • Be careful of your wrists during this period.
    • If you are already capable of completing a one-arm pull up, then strive to complete between 6 and 10 one-arm pull ups, a side, separated by two-minutes rest.

Core:

Front Levers:

To complete this exercise, hang from a bar and strive to pull into a front-lever-like position. A front lever is primarily defined by straight arms, a straight body, and the plane of that body as parallel to the floor. Remaining parallel to the floor is the most difficult part of the lever, so to train it we will pull into as “high” a lever as we are capable, and then we will hold it as hard as we can.

  • Ideally, another person will hold the timer for you so that you can close your eyes and try super-hard. With an exercises like this, trying hard is essential.
    • If you are unable to come anywhere close to maintain a lever, strive to do this exercise with a leg retracted
  • Complete 6 front levers at 10 seconds a lever.
    • Rest 3 minutes between each lever

Antagonist Muscles:

Push-ups: High Intensity

Complete 5, 7, or 10 repetitions depending on your skill level per exercise on Day 13. Once that is established…

Complete the following exercises three times in a row for a total of nine sets. Your total push-up count for the day will be either 45, 63, or 90 repetitions.

  • elbows-back push-ups: complete 5-10 then rest 30 seconds
  • diamond push-ups: complete 5-10 then rest 30 seconds
  • archer push-ups: complete 5-10 then rest 30 seconds

Flexibility:

Day 13: Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds:

  • Straddle Splits: This stretch is important to climbing as it increases a climber’s lateral flexibility for moves like stemming in a corner.
  • Hamstring: keep your legs straight and bend down to your feet. Keep your back flat for an alternate version of this stretch.
  • Hip-flexor: Flexible hip-flexors allow a climber to high-step.
  • Quadricep: preventative against injury
  • Triceps stretch: preventative against injury
  • Shoulder stretch: increases mobility
  • Calf stretch: increased heel-hooking mobility

Featured photo by Stefano Ghisolfi.

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Watch Kaddi Lehmann Send Kryptos V15

For Kaddi Lehmann, climbing a V15 all started with fixing the gears on her old mountain bike. But those accumulated miles she pedaled uphill to Kryptos, an aesthetic limestone seam in the Swiss Jura, paled in comparison to the internal journey she endured to reach the top of that boulder.

“In middle of May 2018 I could climb the boulder Kryptos graded [8C],” German climber Kaddi Lehmann reported on Instagram. Kryptos was established by Franz Widmer in 2009, and Fred Nicole snagged a repeat later that year. Lehmann’s is the third overall ascent, and she is now the second woman in history to send V15; the first being Ashima Shiraishi.

Kryptos

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Watch Sonnie Trotter Solo Squamish 5.12 and Send 5.13R

Sonnie Trotter is one of Canada’s most accomplished rock climbers and a few years ago Cedar Wright caught him on some hard Squamish routes. Read Wright’s flattering write-up below.

“Sonnie Trotter is one of the most handsome men in Canada, and has climbed A LOT of 5.14 trad. He’s put up first ascents on El Cap. He’s a proud dad. And… Sidekick Alex Honnold gets starry eyed when he talks about him.

“Please enjoy Captain Canada, a fun little bio I shot on Sonnie for Black Diamond when I was up in Squamish climbing some 10 years ago. It features him soloing a 5.12 crack, Final Cut, and a dicey 5.13R called Lake of Fire with no warm-up.”

Sonnie Trotter

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Watch Kaddi Lehmann climb Kryptos 8C/V15

On May 14, 2018, Kaddi Lehmann made history as the first woman to climb the Swiss test-piece Kryptos 8C /V15. Lehmann’s ascent makes her the second woman to climb at such a difficulty after Ashima Shiraishi’s ascents of Japan’s Horizon and Australia’s Sleepy Rave. The German climber spent over ten sessions working the problem originally put up by Franz Widmer back in 2009.

Lehmann said, “At the end of 2017, I had the idea of seeing this boulder as the ultimate goal with all other climbs like small steps towards that goal.” Though the release of this video comes at a time when many climbers are locked inside, it serves as inspiration for all athletes to push themselves to their limits and to not feel threatened by those challenges resulting from the unknown.

Lehmann’s ascent and story is a classic tale of bouldering and definitely worth watching in Black Diamond’s exclusive release.

Featured photo by Michael Steimle of Kaddi Lehmann.

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Squamish Access Society Updates Climbers During Covid-19

Editor’s note: The following is a press release on social media from Squamish Access Society (SAS).

Dear Squamish Climbers, We at SAS are hard at work trying to stay informed on the current situation with Covid-19. This is a process that unfolds daily and can be incredibly difficult to interpret.

As provincial guidelines replace the emergency measures we will be considering strategies, in consultation with our local land managers, to reach consensus on how we will approach an eventual return to climbing.

What was initially a response to minimize the impact on our local healthcare systems has evolved into a broader discussion that includes the health and safety of park staff as well as the additional pressures that recreational tourism can put on smaller communities.

For some, this is a time of grief. For others, it is a time for reflection. In either case, this is a time of great challenge and requires us to continually adapt our behaviours within a rapidly changing environment.

We at SAS are grateful to have the opportunity to carry the conversation forward in these times and to continue advocating for the stewardship of our climbing areas. We would like to recognize the community for your consideration of others, and for your continued support.

We really hope to see you out on the rocks in the coming months!