Author Archives: Drew

7 Steps to Become a More Sustainable Climber

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Photo credit @lenadrapella

“To do good, you actually have to do something,” Yvon Chouinard said (ironically, in an American Express commercial. But hey, it’s a mad inspirational commercial!).

Start with these simple actions to limit your impact.

(1) Practice Leave No Trace (LNT).

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Climbers might argue the ethics of ground-up versus rap-bolting ad nauseam, but in general, being an ethical, sustainable climber is not excessively complicated. It starts with practicing Leave No Trace (LNT).

LNT is a set of guiding principles that limits our human impact on natural spaces. You can read the seven principles here, and the specific rock climbing ones here. They include guidelines such as stay on the trail, pack out your trash, minimize chalk use, extinguish campfires properly and respect wildlife. Simple but crucial stuff. 

Remember that every place you climb has different conservation issues. In many desert locales like Red Rocks and Moab, for example, you have to pack out your poop because it will not decompose naturally, even if you dig an appropriate hole. It’s a pain, for sure, but do you want to step in some dude’s poo while walking through the desert? No, no, no.

Disobeying LNT can get you in other kinds of deep shit, too. The Cold Springs fire in Boulder County this past July – which destroyed several homes, evacuated over 2,000 people and dispatched hundreds of firefighters – began when two men failed to extinguish a campfire properly. They were charged with fourth-degree arson and will likely serve 2-6 years in prison. One thing’s for sure: there’s no rock climbing in prison.

Practice LNT. Be a steward for the places you love.

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Your Best Cup of Crag Coffee

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Me, manically hand-grinding coffee beans in Lovell Canyon, NV, at dawn.

Coffee & climbing! If you’re like me, you really can’t have one without the other. Let’s be honest: for some of us, climbing without being properly caffeinated is effectively a safety hazard. (Sure, Alex Honnold purportedly does not consume caffeine, but… we all know he’s some kind of robot/behemoth/super-human).

Over the years, I’ve experimented with many different methods of making coffee while in the wilds, with various tools at my disposal. In my search for caffeine while backpacking in New Zealand, I once even drank cold, instant coffee made with iodine water (spoiler alert: it was terrible). Here are my expert opinions on everything I’ve tried, so that you may make your best cup of crag coffee yet.

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Tips to Trad: A Beginner’s Guide

When I began trad climbing earlier this spring, I was entirely perplexed about where to start. I kind of felt like…

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And though I’d like to say trad isn’t complicated, that’s not really true.

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The sheer amount of gear alone is overwhelming! Don’t worry, you probably won’t need this much. Photo by Weigh My Rack

The fact is, trad requires an added level of technical expertise and gear than sport climbing – there’s no avoiding that. But when you boil it down, these are essentially the two things you need: skills and gear. Here I’ll walk through elements of each, and provide tips for your first lead. This is by no means comprehensive, but will hopefully give some ideas and a good starting place.

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How to Conquer Roof Climbing

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Dani Andrada climbs the Great Arch in Getu Valley, China. Photo credit: Sam Bié.

Roof routes can be a lot of fun and more importantly, they make you look super cool. But for many of us, they are confusing, difficult and intimidating. We’re left cursing our weenie arms. Climbing roofs, however, may be more simple than you think! You might not even need those beefy biceps. Here are three tips to help you conquer the upside-down world:

1.  Practice. I used to fall the minute I started a roof. Embarrassed, I avoided them entirely. The result was that I couldn’t climb roofs! Make sure you’ve got a cushy pad below you and don’t fret about falling. If you’re embarrassed, go to the gym at a less busy time when there are fewer bodies and eyes. Roof climbing requires unique movement, endurance and technique. Increasing your core and arm strength will certainly help, but the best way to familiarize yourself with this type of movement and build these skills is to just do it.

Recognize that climbing upside down may also bump your grade down. Start with easier routes. These will have bigger hand holds, and allow you to log time on the roof, which is the goal. If roof routes are too challenging in general, begin with steeper routes and overhangs, and work towards the full 90-degree roof.

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