Throwback Thursday - Winter Bouldering

All this snow got me thinking about shoveling off some projects and that reminded me of an old article I wrote for NEB.  It's been a while but here's a Throwback Thursday from the archives of NEB.

Winter Bouldering, how cold is too cold?
by Joe McLoughlin

The author enjoying his favorite time of the year.

The author enjoying his favorite time of the year.

Winter bouldering is not for everyone; your feet and hands can get cold, your fingers can hurt like hell, and the melting snow can make everything soaking wet. That being said, I personally much prefer bouldering in the winter over any other time of year. The friction is perfect in the lower temperatures, the sun is low in the sky and sharp, and there is almost no need for chalk. The inherent nature of bouldering, short routes, frequent attempts, and quick returns to the ground, allow for climbing in colder temperatures than sport climbing or trad climbing. Noone wants to stand around stomping your feet while you partner works a move or endure a freezing cold belay on a wind swept ledge (unless you are into ice climbing, which is a whole different level of suffering).

If you haven't clicked to another page by now, winter bouldering may be for you. The following tips will help you better enjoy a cold, crisp day of winter bouldering:

1. Keep your feet warm!
The  single most important thing to do is to make sure your feet stay warm. Your feet are the hardest to get warm once they get cold. Therefore, how you start out is key. As you are driving to the boulders, place your climbing shoes on the dashboard or on the floor near a heating vent, and crank the heat up. Get your shoes toasty warm. The only drawback to this is if your shoes stink, so will your car. Once you get to the boulders, place your shoes inside your jacket whenever you are not wearing them. This will keep them warm at all times.

2. Invest in microfleece
The most important pieces of clothing are microfleece pants and a microfleece shirt. These items will keep you nice and warm, and will not let you get cold if you work up a sweat.

3. Wear a really warm jacket
This may seem obvious, but err on the side of caution here: wear the warmest jacket you own, preferably down. This is to keep you warm between problems and to keep your shoes warm as described above.

4. Bring a thermos of hot tea, coffee, or cocoa
This serves two purposes: 1. there is nothing better than a nice hot drink on a cold day, and 2. the hot liquid works wonders for warming up frozen hands. Pour a cup of the hot beverage, and just hold the cup (drinking it is optional).

5. Find a south facing boulder or a boulder out of the wind
This again may seem obvious, but it is very important. The south faces of boulders are always sunny. There can be a 10 degree difference between the north and south faces of a boulder. This benefit really becomes apparent while bouldering. When sport or trad climbing, most cliffs only face one direction. With bouldering, you can usually climb on any side of a boulder, and can find the sunny and/or sheltered side.

6. Bring a tarp
This only applies if there is snow on the ground. A good 8'x10' tarp can provide a nice dry area to shoe up and spot, keeping your shoes ready for sending. We sometimes will clear the snow off of the tops of south-facing boulders and around the landings, to allow for climbing on sunny days.

7. Place a handwarmer in your chalkbag
This can make the difference for some people, and definitely increases the comforting factor of working your hands into the chalkbag.

Brett Myers "warming" up for a winter bouldering session. 

Brett Myers "warming" up for a winter bouldering session. 

If all this sounds like a little too much, then head to your local gym. I won't be there to crowd it up. However, if you are still interested in winter bouldering, try these tips and don't be afraid to make some modifications. These tips have all been gained through painful experience and trial and error. If you come up with something that works for you, send us an e-mail and we will add it to the list.

 

 

 

 

Viewer Comments
We have received many comments and suggestions about making winter bouldering more enjoyable. An obvious omission on our part, someone wrote in, "like your mom always said...put on your hat. You probably didn't feel the need to mention this because it is a fact that every boulderer wears a hat any time they are wearing underwear. For example, in a 105 degree gym with no shirt on."  The oddest (but perhaps most effective) recommendation we received, "chili peppers....not the hot new shoes, but the real thing.. habeneros, locotos, jalepenos and ceyenne really do the trick. Eat them, rub dry ceyenne into sock, into shoes, wherever the skin hits the cold air. The deal is the increase in circulation. Eating peppers before going out will help with circulation throughout the body for several hours. I would avoid chilis in the chalkbag, however, they add nothing to the friction and if the fine dust gets in your eyes you are S.O.L." Finally, one local boulderer wrote in that he uses toe heaters in his climbing shoes; however, he wrote back a few days later that they actually made his feet too hot.

Mad Rock Redline Shoe Review

Back in the heart of the bouldering boom, there was no one that was more enthusiastic or tried harder than Obe Carrion.  The yin to Chris Sharma’s yang, Obe took the bouldering world by storm with his personality and hard sends.  Who can forget Obe yelling at himself to not let go (Don’t you let go) in the Big Up classic Free Hueco?  Unfortunately, Obe burned out and left the climbing scene for a while.  Fortunately, Obe is back and has put his enthusiasm into coaching (heard of Ashima?) and designing gear for Mad Rock. 

Obe hooked us up with a pair of his new Mad Rock shoes, the Redline to test drive.  Here’s our take on the “game-changing climbing shoe that pushes you through the redline for the send.”

  • First impression out of the box, these shoes are well designed, well made, and look good! 

  • The sizing was right in line with my street shoes, which I thought would be too big.  However, these shoes aren’t designed to stretch and the fit was perfect from the start.

  • The elastic support bands that keep the tongue in place are genius.  There is no way for the tongue to be anywhere than where it should be.

  • Can you say aggressive?!?  The concave sole and Arch Flex Technology creates a super aggressive fit that works on the steepest of boulder problems.  One thing is for sure, this ain’t no slab climbing shoe!

Overall, these shoes get a higher rating as the angle of your projects gets steeper.  The aggressive fit focuses the power on the toe and for steep climbs; you won’t find a better shoe.  If you are into slabs or lower angle climbs, this shoe is not the one for you.  All of us here at newenglandbouldering.com are glad that Obe is back, the bouldering scene always needs more enthusiasm and definitely less letting go!

 

Obscure New England Bouldering

A secret area in Rhode Island.

A secret area in Rhode Island.

Given the geologic history of the Northeast, there are scattered pockets of climbable rock throughout the area.  A lot of these are on private land and have, over the years, led to locals having their own secret areas.  You may or may not agree with the concept of "secret" areas, but due to access issues, some areas are destined to remain "secret."  Some, like the Ayer boulders, have legal access, a few amazing problem, and can be shared with everyone.  Some will never be accessible to the public.  Kai Webler has compiled a bonus video to his Northeast series showing a slew of these problems in Western Mass.  If you want to check these problems out, I suggest hunting Kai down and begging him for the goods....

Happy New Year

2014 has been a big year for NewEnglandBouldering.com.  We made our triumphant return and saw many big sends all around the Northeast.  Our NE's Hardest and Best features seemed to be big hits, and we look forward to adding to the Hardest list in 2015 (get out there and send some hard problems!).  We look to add to our momentum in 2015 by continuing to work with some of the great media producers in the area like Back Mattress Media, Kai Webler, and Chris Motta.  We are always looking for new contributions, so if you have something you think might go well on this site, please e-mail us at joev9@newenglandbouldering.com

Thanks for the support and Happy New Year!

New England Bouldering's Enigma?

e·nig·ma
noun: enigma; plural noun: enigmas
1. a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand.

If any bouldering area in New England qualifies as an enigma, it has to be Lynn Woods. I see photos and videos (like the one below) and think, wow, this place looks great.  There seems to be tons of boulders there (see Mountain Project's page here) with problems of all grades, yet whenever I talk to someone who's been there, I generally get a less than enthusiastic description.  So what is the real story with this place????

Font at Night

There is talk (complaints) all over the interwebs about how bouldering videos are all the same: gangsta rap music, shirtless dudes with beanies, and lots of yelling.  Well, Sandstone Media Productions has taken the traditional bouldering video format and tossed it in the dumpster.   If you can get past the fact that it is a big Adidas ad, you will either love or hate or this video.  Paris La Nuit is an artistic masterpiece that has broken the mold and created a new way to look at bouldering.

Northeast's Best - Final Call for Votes

Just updated the results to date on the voting for the best boulder problems (V1 through V12+) in the Northeast.  Click here to check out the results and cast your vote!   We are going to keep the voting open until November 15.  Here is a summary of the results so far:

V1: Zig Zag Crack at Rumney, 80 votes (64% of the votes), Cream at Pawtuckaway, 20 votes

V2: TIED! The Wave at Lincoln Woods, 34 votes and The Whip at Pawtuckaway, 34 votes

V3: Hobbit Hole at Pawtuckaway, 50 votes (40% of the votes), The Pond Cave Traverse at Lincoln Woods, 24 votes

V4: Overlooked at Pawtuckaway, 52 votes (29% of the votes), Heart of Glass at Lincoln Woods, 46 votes

V5: Sleeping Giant at Happy Valley, 30 votes (29% of the votes), Snooze Button at Great Barrington, 15 votes

V6: Ride the Lightning at Pawtuckaway, 41 votes (46% of the votes), The Wave at Farley, 15 votes

V7: Homefront Arete in Central CT, 24 votes (19%),  The Buddha at the Gunks, 15 votes

V8: Appetite for Destruction at Farley, 43 votes (41% of the votes), Dopeman at Pawtuckaway, 14 votes

V9: Pipe Dreams at Farley, 42 votes (65% of the votes), Barbed Wire at Lincoln Woods, 10 votes

V10: Speed of Life at Farley, 26 votes (47% of the votes), Sterogram at Farley, 14 votes

V11: Suspect Device in Central CT, 28 votes (42% of the votes), Pretty Bloc Swag at Pawtuckaway, 13 votes

V12+: Roses and Bluejays at Great Barrington, 28 votes (75% of the votes), Touching the Sky at Smuggler's Notch, 5 votes

The V2 grade is currently tied between The Whip at Pawtuckaway and The Wave at Lincoln Woods.  Let's get some more votes to decide this one.   Voting will reamin open until November 15, so these results can still change.

The classic Overlooked at Pawtuckaway.

The classic Overlooked at Pawtuckaway.

The Northeast 3 - Part 1

Screenshot of a big fall from Oceans of Air, V8, at Great Barrington.

Screenshot of a big fall from Oceans of Air, V8, at Great Barrington.

Kai Webler is on a mission, a mission to get high quality video of every boulder problem in the Northeast.  Well, maybe not, but definitely all the best ones.  His latest series, The Northeast 3, starts with killer footage of the best of the best at Great Barrington in Massachusetts and McKenzie Pond in New York.  Check it out:

Number one. Great Barrington and McKenzie Pond bouldering.

Adam Ondra - 2014

Check out this amazing video put out by Black Diamond on Adam Ondra's year so far.  Everyone knows who Adam is and what he can do, but what I think amazes me the most is his ability to objectively break down his climbing strengths and weaknesses.  His matter-of-fact discussion of his redpoint of Realization is something that is rare to see, an athlete who can analyze himself as if he were a coach discussing one of his players.  The other thing that makes Adam standout is his ability to excel at all types of climbing, at the same time.  Sharma dominated bouldering when he focused on it, but then switched his focus and was the top sport climber for years.  Adam is doing that all at the same time.  Can't wait to see what the next year brings from him.

Northeast's Best Voting Update

Just updated the results to date on the voting for the best boulder problems (V1 through V12+) in the Northeast.  Click here to check out the results and cast your vote!   Here is a summary of the results so far:

V1: Zig Zag Crack at Rumney, 77 votes (62% of the votes), Cream at Pawtuckaway, 19 votes

V2: The Wave at Lincoln Woods, 33 votes (26% of the votes), The Whip at Pawtuckaway, 31 votes

V3: Hobbit Hole at Pawtuckaway, 47 votes (39% of the votes), The Pond Cave Traverse at Lincoln Woods, 24 votes

V4: Overlooked at Pawtuckaway, 47 votes (28% of the votes), Heart of Glass at Lincoln Woods, 44 votes

V5: Sleeping Giant at Happy Valley, 26 votes (28% of the votes), Snooze Button at Great Barrington, 15 votes

V6: Ride the Lightning at Pawtuckaway, 37 votes (46% of the votes), Coitus, Snow Mountain, 14 votes

V7: Homefront Arete in Central CT, 18 votes (16%),  The Buddha at the Gunks, 15 votes

V8: Appetite for Destruction at Farley, 40 votes (40% of the votes), Dopeman at Pawtuckaway, 13 votes

V9: Pipe Dreams at Farley, 34 votes (62% of the votes), Barbed Wire at Lincoln Woods, 9 votes

V10: Speed of Life at Farley, 24 votes (47% of the votes), Babies with Rabies at Farley, 8 votes

V11: Suspect Device in Central CT, 16 votes (34% of the votes), Pretty Bloc Swag at Pawtuckaway, 10 votes

V12+: Roses and Bluejays at Great Barrington, 15 votes (65% of the votes), Touching the Sky at Smuggler's Notch, 4 votes

The V7 grade is definitely the most competitive grade with Roses and Bluejays having the largest percentage of votes.  Pawtuckaway seems to be the place for the easier grades with top problems at V1, V2, V3, V4, and  V6, while Farley seems to be the place for the harder grades with top problems at V8, V9, and V10.  Overall, Pawtuckaway has garnered the most total votes with 251, with Lincoln Woods second at 165 total votes, and Farley third at 156 total votes.  Voting is still open, so these results can still change.

Anne Skidmore nearing the topout of The Wave, at Lincoln Woods, RI.  Photograph by Joe McLoughlin.

Anne Skidmore nearing the topout of The Wave, at Lincoln Woods, RI.  Photograph by Joe McLoughlin.

Blog of the Week - The Rock Climber's Training Manual

Bouldering season is fast approaching, so to prepare you for sending your projects our blog of the week is one of the best training websites out there: The Rock Climber’s Training Manual.  The Anderson brothers, Mike and Mark, have taken their years of rock climbing training experience and research and produced one of the best training books available.  This book builds upon the work of Goddard, Neumann, and Horst, to name a few, to provide clear and concise information on why and how to train for climbing your best.  Best of all, the Anderson’s maintain their website and post regularly at mountainproject.com providing opportunity for questions and feedback on your own personal training program.

One of my complaints over the years about many training books was that bouldering was always part of the training programs but it was rare that there would be a specific program FOR bouldering.  The Anderson’s have included programs and training exercises specifically for improving at bouldering (in addition to great programs for sport climbing).  Although the differences in training should be obvious, it is nice to see the training needs for bouldering specifically addressed in a sensible manner.  At a minimum, the Anderson’s hang board workouts are worth the price of admission.  Check them out here.

Previous favorites:

Bass for your Face

Climbing Narc

Rock Climbing Life

Crux Crush

Joe Kinder

The Power Company

Paul Robinson

 

Northeast's Best Update

Just updated the results to date on the voting for the best boulder problems (V1 through V8) in the Northeast.  Click here to check out the results and cast your vote!  We will be adding V9 through V11 next week.  Here is a summary of the results so far:

V1: Zig Zag Crack at Rumney, 71 votes (63% of the votes), Cream at Pawtuckaway, 17 votes

V2: The Whip at Pawtuckaway, 31 votes (26% of the votes), The Wave at Lincoln Woods, 28 votes

V3: Hobbit Hole at Pawtuckaway, 45 votes (39% of the votes), The Pond Cave Traverse at Lincoln Woods, 25 votes

V4: Overlooked at Pawtuckaway, 42 votes (27% of the votes), Heart of Glass at Lincoln Woods, 41 votes

V5: Sleeping Giant at Happy Valley, 22 votes (24% of the votes), Snooze Button at Great Barrington, 15 votes

V6: Ride the Lightning at Pawtuckaway, 34 votes (46% of the votes), Coitus, Snow Mountain, 10 votes

V7: Up in Smoke, Pawtuckaway, 13 votes (14% of the votes), The Buddha at the Gunks, 7 votes

V8: Appetite for Destruction at Farley, 34 votes (37% of the votes), Dopeman at Pawtuckaway, each with 11 votes

The V7 grade is the most competitive with a tie for first and the next problem (Homefront Arete) only one vote from the top.  Voting is still open, so these results can still change.  Pawtuckaway is definitely the most popular bouldering area in New England with 5 of the 8 top problems in the Northeast!

Zig Zag Crack at Rumney, the top vote getter across all grades!

Zig Zag Crack at Rumney, the top vote getter across all grades!

Back Mattress Media - Podcast #7

Back Mattress Media, one of our Media Spotlight team, has released their seventh podcast, an interview with Big Pete Ward, prolific New England FA'er and promoter of some of the biggest comps in the country.  Click below to hear the interview and the previous Climb Time Podcasts.

Podcast #7 - Pete Ward

Podcast #6 - Crux Crush

Podcast #5 - Josh Levin

Podcast #4 - Meaghan Martin

Podcast #3 - Vasya Vorotnikov

Podcast #2 - Angie Payne

Podcast #1 - Delaney Miller

Pete Ward getting close on the first ascent of Big, V8, at Farley Ledge.  Photograph by Joe McLoughlin.

Pete Ward getting close on the first ascent of Big, V8, at Farley Ledge.  Photograph by Joe McLoughlin.

Western Mass Rendezvous

On September 19-21, 2014, the Western Massachusetts Climbers Coalition will hold their 5th annual Western Mass Rendezvous, part fundraiser, part festival, part climbing comp, at Farley Ledge in Erving, Massachusetts.  According to the WMCC, "The WMCC Rendezvous, presented by Millet is our annual fundraiser to help build cohesive relationships with advocacy groups, state and local governments, landowners, and conservation groups and to keep climbing areas open and conserve the climbing environment in Western Massachusetts."

This year's event includes a bouldering and roped climbing "friendly" competition, a screening of Reel Rock's latest film "Valley Uprising," and an Adopt-a-Crag event.  Check out WMCC's website, climbgneiss.org for more info and to register.

Back Mattress Media - Podcast #6

Back Mattress Media, one of our Media Spotlight team, has released their sixth podcast, an interview with the ladies from Crux Crush.  Crux Crush is one of our favorite blogs on the internets as we previously profiled them in our Blog of the Week feature.  Click below to hear the interview and the previous Climb Time Podcasts.

Podcast #6 - Crux Crush

Podcast #5 - Josh Levin

Podcast #4 - Meaghan Martin

Podcast #3 - Vasya Vorotnikov

Podcast #2 - Angie Payne

Podcast #1 - Delaney Miller

The Northeast Videos

Kai Webler, one of our Media Spotlight producers, has been putting together a series of videos on bouldering in the northeast.  He has finished up "The Northeast 2" which features bouldering at Farley, Rumney, Great Barrington, Pawtuckaway, Central CT and other areas.  What these videos lack in production or extraneous footage, they more than make up for with excellent beta footage.  Many classic problems are shown at areas all around the Northeast.  Here is the last installment of the 5 part series (see below for links to the first 4 videos).