Climbing WOD: the CRACK series

As a student, I am lucky enough to get free access to the climbing wall on campus. The wall was designed and built by local climbing guru Murray Toft back in the mid 80’s.  It was one of the first indoor walls in North America, and has changed little since it’s initial construction. The wall is a series of concrete slabs with features carved in, and limestone boulders strewn periodically across the faces. The cracks in between the slabs are designed to mimic off widths, chimneys, hand and finger cracks. The faces feature various cracks and pockets, and in recent years, some plastic holds have also been added.

This wall differs from most commercial gyms, as it attempts to more closely mimic real rock. It’s a great learning facility, but it’s not the best wall for pushing grades and there are very few taped routes. That said, with a little creativity, there are some really killer WOD’s that one can put together to build up to summer strength.

One thing that this wall offers is a wide array of cracks to work with. As someone who intends on doing a lot of crack climbing this summer, the indoor cracks are an indespensible tool. My partners and I came up with a series of crack workouts that will be guaranteed to burn you out no matter your crack climbing skill.

The crack workouts are as follows. Each crack sequence is done as many times as possible.

The Crack Baby:

  • Layback crack to failure, rest, Layback to failure again

The Crack Joke:

  • layback crack until failure
  • Easy finger crack until failure
  • Layback crack until failure

The Crack Addict:

  • Layback crack to failure
  • hand crack
  • Finger crack
  • Repeat hand/finger crack to failure
  • Layback crack to failure

The Crack Whore:

  • Layback crack to failure
  • Corner crack to S-crack
  • Hand crack
  • Finger crack
  • Narrow off width
  • Repeat 4 above to failure
  • Layback crack to failure

Yesterday I completed a Crack Addict, two lands of the hand crack/finger crack with three laps of Laybacking on either end. The day ended with significantly less skin on my hands. Tape is going to be my best friend for a while.

All of this crack practice is great. I’m heading on a week long season opener climbing trip at the end of the month, and hopefully I’ll be able to work some higher grade cracks this season.


Pulleys and Prussiks: Rope rescue practice day at the Uni.

Yesterday was rope rescue practice day at the University climbing wall. I’ve done a rope rescue course in the past, but rescue systems are one of those things you need to practice at. The individual aspects of a rescue system aren’t overly complex, but it’s the sort of thing that needs to be done with a careful order and the rescuer needs to remain methodical under stress. Having time in a controlled setting to go over the process of setting up systems, transferring loads and working through various scenarios is very helpful.

We did a bit of work with pulleys to start, and my friend Mara was patient enough to let me haul her up the wall. It’s been years since I’ve last set up a pulley system, so it took a rather long time to find the more effective way to begin hauling.  In the end, I found that the 5:1 was too slow, and little vertical gain was made for each pull. I ended up using a 3:1 with a Petzl Oscillante. Being a fairly light person, I attached a prussic from my harness to the pull end and used my body weight to pull the rope through the system. Once I figured out the 3:1 with the body weight prussic, it worked pretty well.

This was the first time I’ve ever used a commercially made pulley, and I was surprised at what a difference it made over a simple carabineer pulley. I bought my over pulley today at MEC (Cheap-y McCheaperson’s $10 Stubai pulley) which will be coming with me on all further alpine adventures.

We also did some practice tandem rappelling. The biggest problem I had with tandem rappelling was escaping the belay at the top. The mental process of working through transferring the load off the ATC, moving it to a prussik, and finally counter weighting the system with your own body weight took a while but I eventually worked it out.  While I was able to do it unassisted and without having to look up the sequence, it took quite a bit of hard thinking to work through the steps. Load transfer is definitely something I will be spending more time on in the future.

None of this stuff is particularly complex on it’s own, it’s just a matter of working through it slowly and carefully. With more practice, I know it will come along smoother and quicker.  There are tentative plans to do some more rope work in the coming weeks, so I should be able to get in a decent amount of practice before the outdoor season kicks off.

I’ve also realized that almost half of my locking biners have gone missing, and I do not have nearly as many slings as I thought I did. the MEC trip ended with a small mountain of new biners, slings and various other small bits of gear. If nothing else, I have enough gear to rescue a small village, and I suppose that’s some sort of accomplishment.

My life is so hard: Round One

Now that my weekend job of cross country ski instructing has wrapped up for the season, I’m doing my best to spend as much time as humanly possible in the backcountry.

Last weekend 6 of us packed up hellishly early and drove out to Bow Summit. Bow Summit is along the Ice-field parkway, and although it’s a fair distance from Calgary, skiers from the city are still drawn out there. There are a few reasons for this as far as I could tell. First off, there is essentially zero approach. If your descent is properly planned, it’s pretty easy to descend all the way to the parking lot without having to re-skin. Second, Bow summit pretty well always has good weather, and this weekend was no exception. Despite looming clouds on the drive out, we had clear skies all day, and with the exception of a bit of wind slab at the top, the snow was fantastic. There is also a great deal of good skiing below tree line, so even if the avi conditions are less than favourable, skiing isn’t completely ruled out.

We managed to get 3 laps in, and despite my super ancient 200cm skis, I managed to get in a fair number of turns. I mean, there was a fair bit of face planting as well, but my telemark guru has told me that if I’m falling on my face, at least I’m in the right position. I’m definitely feeling a dire need for a gear upgrade, backcountry skis just popped up to the top of the gear priority list.

After listening to so many of my friends go on and on about how awesome ice climbing is, I finally had the chance to get out for myself. My usual climbing partner and our mutual friend drove out to King Creek, which has three falls pretty close together, about 20 mins from the trailhead. They’re graded at WI 2/3+, so it was nothing particularly difficult, but it was so much fun!

I have a fair bit of climbing experience, but ice climbing is a totally different ball game. It’s sort of novel to be able to get a massive jug hold wherever you want it. It took a little while to get used to the crampons, and I had to consciously not try to smear my feet (shocking I know, but smearing on ice really doesn’t work.) I definitely have intentions of getting out again. Soon.

Shiny Things: Sport Rack

The very least that I can say is that my family knows me pretty well. Most of the pictured gear (and a 60 m 10.2 maxim dry rope) were christmas gifts. I finally spent the time to mark it all. I got the rope out for the first time ice climbing last weekend, but I can’t wait to scuff up the rest of the gear…It’s all way to shiny for a respectable climber to be carrying.

Reading Week backcountry skiing

Well, It’s been a pretty busy few weeks for backcountry adventures…

I went up to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park over reading break and spend 3 nights at the Naisset huts with some friends.  This was the first proper back country trip I’ve had the chance to do, and it solidified my desire to get out more.

The ski in is 28 km, starting at Mount Shark provincial park, heading into BC over Assiniboine pass. Normally there would have been the option of staying at the Byrant creek shelter, about 14 km from the trailhead, but the shelter was fully booked for the day we were heading in. Instead, we got up extra early and trekked in the full distance.

Assiniboine lodge is closed this season while the lease for the land is being renegotiated, but the rustic Naisset huts, and the Wonder Lodge cook shelter are still open.

The second day we headed up towards Eli’s dome, but had to turn back about 3/4 of the way up. the light was so flat it was hard to tell what was happening. I managed to get in a few good turns on the way back, which made up for the lack of vista.

The light was still really flat on the third day, and according to the other people up there, the snow up high was pretty gross and slabby. We opted to stay a bit lower and did laps on the Niblet. The Tele skis I am currently using belong to my mother, back from the days before children when she and my father did a lot of backcountry stuff. They’re about a foot too long, have basically no side cut, and there is no heel lift for hill climbing. So it was a bit of a challenge, but I still managed to pull of some pretty good turns.

It wasn’t until the morning we left that we actually had a view of Assiniboine. Spurred on by the cold and wind, we made our way back to Mount Shark and down into Canmore for nachos and beer.

We made pretty good time, 10 hours in, 8 hours out and the trip went off without incident. (A good thing considering we lost the group’s SPOT device somewhere between Bryant creek and Assiniboine pass.) Backcountry skiing is making me reconsider why I spend so much money at resorts. This is far more rewarding.

Night Riding

Thanks to the unseasonable warmth that Calgary has been experiencing recently, I’ve been able to get out riding  a lot more. Despite the spring temperatures, we’re still living in a winter solar cycle, so it gets dark a lot earlier than it gets cold. As nice as it is to see so many people out enjoying the trails, there are a few things that drive me absolutely up the wall when it comes to night cycling.

1. Get an appropriate front light. Your 100 lumen headlamp set on strobe mode isn’t doing anyone any favors. Not only have you blinded oncoming traffic, you’re destroying your own night vision.I should be able to see you from a reasonable distance, but I don’t need to be able to see you from Mars.

2. Red Blinky goes on the back. Once again with the ultrabright rear blinky. Not necessary, and almost more of a hazard than a help. Think of it like a car. White light up front, red light in the rear.

3.Get a bell and use it. Not only are you legally required to have a noise maker of some variety, it decreases your chances of some surprised biker or pedestrian swerving into you.

4.  Stay on the right hand side. This goes for pedestrians as well. Treat the trail like a road. Stay on your own side.

5. Dogs. Keep them on a leash! walk them on the outside of the trail. Put yourself between your dog and people trying to pass. I get that you have the right to walk your dog or whatever, but for god’s sake don’t compromise everyone else’s safety for it.

It’s not difficult to get along and share the trail as long as we don’t ride like idiots. Lets stay safe and stay happy.

2011 Ski supplement

After too many late nights and hours spend organizing and editing, The 2011 Gauntlet ski supplement is out (ok, it was out a couple weeks ago…i’m a little behind)I helped edit last year’s supplement, and I picked it up again this year.

Despite the amount of work, it’s a lot of fun, with the added bonus of copping some free ski days. I got out to fernie on comped tickets this year.

Ski Supp is one of teh few opportunities I get to use really big photos, so my inner photo nerd really enjoys making the photos the focus of the page. Words are great, but when it comes right down to it, I’m a pictures sort of person. Even though I was given most of the colour pages in the paper, I still had an unfortunate amount of Black and white. Nevertheless, I think it looks pretty good.

I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. It would have been nice to get a few more pages of content, but when you have to rely on volunteers, I’ll take what I can get. The supp pdf can be found here. Enjoy! A lot of people put a lot of time and effort into this.