The Dark Side...

Skiing on Mt. Goode in the North Cascades

With some ski boots (liners) baking in my oven alongside a batch of muffins, I am wondering if my boots will smell like pumpkin or my muffins will taste like boot? Either way, I am getting excited for some skiing!

I have an idea for a multi-sport 'Rado outdoors day, involving biking, fly fishing, rock climbing, ice climbing, mountain skiing, and XC skiing, all in one day. Potentially with no car between activities. It could be doable in Clear Creek Canyon, ten miles from my house. If I do it, it will be on my trusty Alpine Touring Skis. I chose A/T skis over Telemark skis because the setup is more climber-friendly and easier to learn, but I do have a twinge of jealousy when I see a really smooth and graceful Tele skier heading down the hill. On that note, here is a HILLARIOUS video expressing some of those same sentiments. The music starting at 1:38 goes out to a certain friend. Enjoy Bro!


Why Are Climbing Ropes Like Apples?

They both go well with Saucy Tarts.

Actually, they are both basically commodities. Homogeneous, interchangeable products with little difference between the item from one apple orchard (or rope weaver) to the next. Anyone who tells you that a certain climbing rope is "the best" or far superior (or inferior) to others is probably obligated to have that viewpoint by dint of employment for a rope company, or free ropes provided by a given company. And as ropes are both expensive and expendable, they make up a pretty significant cost for climbers.

The veteran climbers I know think a rope is a rope is a rope. Determine what length and width you want, and buy the cheapest one you can find. Has there ever been a route or peak that was climbed because the rope was a 9.4mm Bluewater, not a 9.4mm PMI? Sure Chris sent with a Sterling, and said it made a difference, but I have my doubts. One could make the same case about jackets, gloves, carabiners, etc but the difference among equally-sized ropes is far less than any other type of equipment. I've used ropes from just about all the mainstream manufacturers, and can't really notice any overall differences in handling or durability. If the labels were removed and I was belaying blindly, I have NO confidence that I would be able to tell one from the other or would consistently prefer the ropes of a single manufacturer. And just like I've never had one fuji apple that was much worse (or better) than any other, I've never used a 10.2mm climbing rope that felt, or lasted, much differently than the others. Do all these companies use the same rope-weaving machines in the first place?

Ignoring brands is not to say that different rope types don't matter. If I'm eating a snack and want to cover my apple slices in peanut butter, I'm going to choose a different type of apple than I would for making a pie. In this way, I'd choose a different length and width of rope (or different rope system) for a climb depending on its length, ice vs rock, descent, number of climbers, approach, etc. But once I settle on which length and width I'll need, I'm basically interested in price.

There are a few other small differences, but none which I think are worth paying a whole lot more for:

  • Dry coatings are somewhat helpful, but don't bother paying for one if just using your rope for rock climbing during nice weather. That's probably 90% of users. Likewise, no dry coating is going to keep your rope from getting saturated in this kind of rappel.

  • Light-colored ropes show up well in photos and maintain a sharper contrast to their middle mark.
  • Middle marks are very useful. But if that on-sale rope doesn't have one, then use a sharpie or sew dental floss through the sheath rather than paying an extra $20.
  • Bi-Pattern ropes (changing color at the halfway point) are handy if you want to tie into both ends and use a single rope with half-rope technique, however...
  • Finding the middle point (color change location) on a Bi-Pattern rope piled on a belay ledge or rope tarp is a huge pain, and actually takes way longer than finding the middle point when this spot is marked on a one-pattern rope.
  • If you're about to make multiple rappels on a rope with a bad middle mark, grab a band-aid, a piece of tape, or some chalk, and mark the middle. These will last through a surprising number of rappels.
  • Metolius/Monster ropes sew two pieces of orange floss through the rope's middle, and one 10m from each end. You can see and feel these. Smart...
  • Some folks want a low impact force in order to minimize the potential for marginal gear pulling from the rock/ice. I've never paid much attention to these, maybe just because I'm not brave enough to climb routes with high fall-factor potential on very dicey gear. If in these situations, I think using a screamer and having an attentive/dynamic belayer would help just as much as using a rope with a lower impact force.
I'm curious if anyone really does think certain ropes brands are better or worse than others. As for now, I'll stick with whatever is on sale. And remember, the best rope to use is always your partner's. Happy rope buying!


Ice Capades

Sunny days and quick approaches. This is winter in the 'rado.

I've had a great few days around Denver, enjoying rock and ice climbing, and starting work at an Italian restaurant only 7 blocks from home.

Last week I teamed up with Justin Selmanson who works at Trango, and we climbed "The Naked Edge" in Eldorado Canyon.

The route follows the sun/shade line, up the center of the photo.

I lead 6 of the 7 pitches and had a great time watching the party below us, which included a blind climber. Yep, Eric Weihenmayer and 2 others did the Naked Edge right behind us, and moved very fast. Their climb was filmed from several locations around the park, and Cedar Wright had fixed ropes for some close-up footage. I think the video may end up with other clips here. If you scroll down that site a bit, you'll see a video Cedar edited from our route on Mt. Stuart in July. On the walk off we ran into Malcolm Daly, also of Trango, who had us pose and look scared. It was pretty natural for me.

On the weekend I made my second trip to Thunder Ridge, a hidden area of beautiful granite face climbing. I was with Canadian Gordon Mcarthur, and we had a good time on the massively-overhanging "G-Route" and the only slightly overhanging "Reptile Tears".

Reptile Tears is 100' of overhung patina edges and flakes, is rated 5.10+ and protects with one set of stoppers. Amazing route.

Yesterday, my friend Jason Killgore roped me into ice climbing at Lincoln Falls, an area near Breckenridge. We had a good time on a half-dozen easy pitches of fat ice, and a bit of mixed terrain, leaving at noon so I could start work that afternoon.

During cold snaps, ice is reputed to form in Clear Creek Canyon, with would make for a 15-minute drive from my front door. I hope it happens this year.



You could be here, for free...

Want to visit Joshua Tree for New Years rock climbing? How about Canmore to get on some ice? Maybe you're more organized than me, and already getting a week lined up to climb in Red Rocks in the spring... Want to do it for free?

Plane tickets are surprisingly easy to get for free, allowing even the dirtbaggiest of climbers and adventurers to sneak off for a bit of fun. Here are two very simple ways to fly anywhere you want to...

Chase Banks are currently offering anyone the chance to have 25,000 frequent flyer miles on Continental Aiirlines. Here's how it works:
  • Open up a Continental Frequent Flyer Account (Called OnePass) - This is free
  • Go to any Chase Bank Branch and open a Chase Checking Account (free) and get a Chase Continental Debit Card to go with it. Give the employee your frequent flyer number.
  • You'll be given 10,000 frequent flyer miles for opening the account, and another 15,000 when you use your debit card 5 times (you have to use it like a credit card -ie sign for your transactions, don't enter your PIN.) Even if you are buying packs of gum or 1 gallon of gasoline each time, 5 purchases gets you 15,000 more miles and you never have to use your card again.
  • Use your 25,000 miles to fly round trip anywhere in the USA!
  • After 2 months, Chase will charge you an annual fee of $25. If you already have your miles, or have bought your plane ticket, then close the account before this time.
You can repeat the process and gain 25,000 MORE miles by opening a Chase "business" checking account and repeating all the steps. You can be the sole proprietor of any cottage-industry you want! (I'm going to be an online-bargain consultant)

Option #2

Credit or debit cards will often give you 1 frequent flyer mile for every 1 dollar you spend. The Chase Debit Cards do this, and all of these cards. Many will also give you quite a few miles for signing up with the card. But how does a struggling climber going to spend the necessary 10, 15, or 20 thousand dollars to earn enough miles for a free flight? By purchasing money, of course.

The US Mint is selling $1 presidential coins, for $1 each. My favorite? Martin Van Buren.

They come in boxes of 250 coins! Shipping is also free. You can buy a box of money and take it to the bank to deposit it, instantly paying off your credit card purchase, but still earning a mile for every dollar. In the process, you'll be improving your credit score and getting a LOT of frequent flyer miles. Fly wherever you want and have fun!