Category Archives: climbing

Weekend of Adventure

Hello good readers! This past weekend was rife with adventure. Friday night, Shaun, Pete, and I headed out to Wallkill, NY to spend some time with Tony and Paulette and enjoy the beautiful topography of the Mohonk Reserve. The plan was for Shaun, Tony, and Paulette to do some hiking on Saturday while Pete and I did some climbing at the gunks – and oh what a perfect weekend for the outdoor activities.

Pete and I started early, arriving at the gunks around ~7am-ish. Pete started leading DisneyLand (5.6). I must admit, for a gunks climb, this one really didn’t do it for me. It’s even considered somewhat of a classic at the gunks – the trouble for me was the traversing*. I think it’s safe to say that I loathe traversing – for me, traversing seems to exaggerate the feeling of being strung out (being far away from the last piece of gear). As a result, it’s pretty scary. This was exaggerated by some unusual rope dynamics – we were using two ropes, and one had seeeerious rope drag**.

After DisneyLand, Pete led a 5.7, and I followed up by leading the first pitch of Gelsa (5.4). Despite the rating, this climb was pretty extreme. It is a quintessential gunks climb: big holds, overhanging roofs, and long pitches. The first pitch was lengthy and traversey. I found myself pretty wigged out on this 5.4 (despite a generous peppering of gear) with long steps of faith, and calf shaking maneuvers around slopey aretes***. Pete finished the route, which drove straight vertical through an exciting jagged corner.

Pete, setting up the rappel

Adding to the fun was a breathtaking hands only rappel between routes. Halfway down the rappel, the rope draped off a fierce overhang… so a hundred feet in the air you had to hang in open space and mindfully lower yourself down the rope. It’s enough to make the casual climber (a title I would assign myself) hold tightly to his or her nerves.

Post climbing, I returned to Tony and Paulette’s place for an epic BBQ and great times.

An amazing Saturday!

Tune in tomorrow for a Roller Derby recap!!

*Traversing is when a climber goes sideways instead of up
**Rope drag is when a rope is pulled through such a sharply angled collection of gear that the friction makes it extremely hard to pull the rope

Two. Quick.

Shamus sent me an exciting link this past weekend after having seen Jesse and me on TV. Sure enough, we were in a panning shot at the climbing gym. You’ll have to pay attention, it’s only for a fleeting moment. I’m wearing a yellowish shirt and belaying Jesse on the wall. I have now officially used up 3 of my 15 seconds of fame.

Shaun L. exhibited an exquisite display of Ninja reflexes this weekend. He stood in the Kitchen of Rock holding a raw egg, soon to be placed into a pot of boiling water on the stove. Somehow, the egg was dropped. Now, if I were in this situation, I would most certainly cut my losses, leap backwards, and let the egg explode. But not Shaun L. No. Shaun instead performed a masterful display of delicacy and power. As the egg fell, Shaun somehow managed to catch the egg between his leg and the cabinet. The egg survived with only the most minor of cracks. It was a remarkable feat.

Climbing pics!

Just a few quick pictures from Sunday’s climbing adventure at Ragged Mnt.

Pete cleaning up his anchor

Pete leading the climb Knight's Move (over Wetwall)

Trad climbing works by placing gear into the rock as you climb. Here’s a nut Pete placed halfway up the climb above.

If Pete were to fall, the nut would jam itself into the rock and act as an anchor.

We did three quick routes. I had to convince Pete not to bother with Carey Corner – which is a nasty off width. UGH. I hate off widths.

Looking down on Wishbone (My favorite route at Ragged)

Pete’s considering heading out to Red Rocks next season. Perhaps I’ll join him. It’s a different league of climbing.

Bouldering Comp

The Bouldering Competition video has gone through!

I must say, I did a poor job with the file management and the movie ended up losing quality through compression. I’m going to have to figure out a new system of editing and saving movies so that they retain their super-crisp feel. All that aside, here’s the winner of the 2010 men’s bouldering competition at Prime Climb.

Bouldering Competition from mikedidonato on Vimeo.

Bouldering Competition

On Saturday, Sander, Shaun, Vivienne, Darcy, and I went to Prime Climb’s bouldering competition to watch the climbers in all their glory. It was a perfect way to get pumped about rock climbing. We arrived just in time for the finals. The finals consisted of three bouldering problems which each of three competitors would attempt to vanquish.

The ladies were up first.

Karen competing.

Karen competing in the Women's final

Each competitor was given five minutes to take on each problem. Each time you fell, it would be noted on the scorecard. Whoever gets the furthest in the climb wins, if two people reach the same point than he or she who did it with fewer falls wins.

Jackie on problem 3

Jackie working through problem three.

The challengers are not allowed to watch each other climb. That way they won’t learn anything important about the route before their turn.

Christine (first place)

Christine, just a few moves from the top

I recognized two of the three women competing. The same was not the case with the men climbers. While one of the men in the finals is a student at local college Wesleyan, I believe the other two are sponsored climbers from out of state.

Mens first competitor

Men's final: Problem number two.

The top men climbers were ripped to an unholy degree. Their backs were extremely defined.

Ridiculous back


I’m currently putting together a video (hopefully to be posted tomorrow) that shows the true ridiculousness of the third male climber (first place winner) cleaning the final route in the competition.

Stay tuned.

Quality Climbing

I’ve been very pleased with my gym climbing over the last week. Last night I was trying hard to keep things smooth and calculated on the walls. I find it much easier to run through a route desperately than to try and plan and perform the moves statically. For me, getting a route so it’s graceful is nearly as rewarding as finally sending a project I’ve been working on for weeks.

It’s funny, when there are a few minutes of break at the gym I’ll often take a seat on the couches there and flip through a climbing magazine. Usually there’s some 5.14 junkie talking about climbing and how there’s some natural (or super-natural) spiritual bond between man and rock, or how climbing is purification for the soul.

While I appreciate how strong their passion is for climbing, I can’t help but also think that talk of zen and feeling at one with the rock is a bit pretentious. I think it’s easy to confuse spirituality and just general relaxation. That said…

I think I’ve mentioned on this blog before how John Gill, the father of modern bouldering, once talked about how deep training in climbing could, as Jon Krakauer describes in his book Eiger Dreams, “induce a telekinetic ability to levitate, if only slightly.” Krakauer continues: “Many of those climbers [who were listening] might ordinarily be inclined to scoff when talk turns to telekinesis and the like, but when Gill talks about levitation they listen very, very carefully.”

Lamentation Mountain

This weekend saw some tennis, some board games, and some kung fu – but the real fun was a Sunday afternoon trip out to Lamentation Mountain. It turns out that there’s a beautiful part of Meriden that I hadn’t visited before. There’s a park and a ton of trails in addition to a little remote climbing crag. The cliff is nothing that’s overwhelmingly amazing, – maybe 20-25 climbs, at 50 or so feet tall – but I think it has potential. The climbs are comfortably despite their simplicity and tendency to be overgrown with greenery.

Since this was our first trip there, Jesse, Joel, and I had to hike the bottom of the crag to find out the best spot for our rope. It was a bit of a harrowing trip down a gully of leaves and loose rock, but the immediate base of the cliff face was pretty clean. There were a few other really steep cliffs at the park, but I think a few of them might be quarries, or extremely hard to get to. We climbed a 5.8 while there. It was enjoyable, though I think it’d be wise to heed the advice of the book and only consider this location in the early spring or late fall when there’s less heavy foliage. Overall though, a successful trip!


Last night I had a bit of a scheduling screw up that resulted in my going climbing instead of to Kung Fu. The night was not wasted however, as I tried a bunch of new climbs. The highlight was a 5.12 that, though a bit reachy, had some really exciting desperate moves within its sequence. Not desperate like consistent huge dynos – though there is one of those – but more like difficult to the point where you can begin to feel holding-failure within your fingers.

I think my favorite part of climbing is managing to stick a hold right at the cusp of defeat. Or struggling through a series of brutal slopers to snag the monster jug at the end. Yes, it’s flirting with the edge of collapse that makes me appreciate climbing the most.