Gym Design- Earth Treks Climbing Center – Golden, Colorado

Last year I was hired to design the new Earth Treks Climbing Center in Golden Colorado. I started working with Earth Treks back in Columbia, Maryland in 1998 as there head route setter, and helped design along with Ben Montgomery their Timonium facility, and had some input on there Rockville expansion. This time I was psyched for something completely different. I shapes holds all the time, but desiging an entire gym has always been a dream of mine. I started work in January and had weekly meetings with Earth Treks staff- Ward Byrum, Keith Dickey, Matt Bosley, Scot Heidtman and Earth Treks owner Chris Warner. It was an interesting process and it was cool to see the walls evolve over time from weird mushroom boulders and spiraling walls to what it is today.

 photo ScreenShot2013-10-15at10941PM_zps664cb1eb.png A screen grab from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

Some preliminary image inspiration included cathedrals, long bending metal sculptures, spiraling staircases and archways where it is just as important what you see through the arch throughout different points in the gym. I thought that it was important that this gym was not only functional but visually stunning and purposeful. photo ETVisual_zpsa56f4a6e.jpg

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 The walls are around 45 feet tall at the highest point with overhanging routes up to 65 feet. The Spine is one of the more exposed features taking the king line up the right arete. The Main Arch and Hurricane Wall make for a interesting transition from steep to slab where the center pentagon sinks back into the wall. The pentagon is a reoccur theme and can be seen throughout the gym. photo ETVisual_3127-C01_zps3ac0989a.jpg

The Death Star(below) at the end of the main lead wall is the only 3-D feature for the rope climbing and makes for a nice finish to longest routes in the gym. The roof of the Hatchett in the foreground is overhung past horizontal which occurs in only one other spot in the bouldering under The Pentagon. We wanted as many different angles as possible, with stand out feature and aretes to give the climbing more of and outdoor feel than just climbing on a flat plane.

 photo ETVisual_3127-C04_zpse99b6e3f.jpg
 photo ET_Visual_Boulder_3127-C13_zpsf9bf9ec7.jpgThere are several 3-d walls in the bouldering including the entire Top Out Boulder. Most of the walls are 16ft tall, with some shorter spots in the easy terrain. The Mega Roll and Pentagon on the left make for some of the longest and steepest bouldering in the gym. The Blade, The Wave and Ships prow in the back are all 3-D stand out features and are massive in size. With The Blade I really wanted to give the climber the feeling there on the edge of a massive boulder. The Coffin Prow(below) is too big to span across and creates 3 separate aretes on this one feature.
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This has been one of the coolest projects to work on and I’m grateful to be part of the Earth Treks team. I think the climbing will be interesting and thought provoking for all level. I’m psyched to see the project full circle, from design to setting and then then fun part- CLIMBING!!

Hope to see you at the gym!

Enjoy a virtual walk through the facility.I hope you enjoy it!

2012/13 Hueco Wrap Up (year of east mountain)

Just in time for this years Hueco season, here is last seasons wrap up-

The Year of the East Mountain

For the past couple of winters I have been making my annual pilgrimage to Hueco Tanks, Texas to climb on some of the best rock in the US. This year was the same, only a little different. In the two previous seasons I had finished up big projects that I had my eyes on for years, The Seventh Circle(video here) and Count to Six and Die(video here). Two mega lines that took a lot of effort over years, physically but also mentally.

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This year the difference was I didn’t know what to try, I had seen some cool undone lines out there, but nothing I could remember really caught my attention. I thought there was something on East near the Dragons Den, but upon further inspection I realized it would not yield. So I went back to finish up some old Hueco classics, while still trying to keeping and eye out for new lines.

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Ashima Shiraishi came down again this year to brush up some of her old projects. Among them were Full Service which she dispatched easily in a couple tries. She had issues with it last year but this year she was able to figure it out. Ashima had a great time as usual, she is always a fun and motivated climber to go out with. We will be releasing a video about her trip soon entitle Ashima Shiriashi’s Perfect Day.
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So far I hadn’t found any really proud lines, that was until one day when I was hanging out with Chris Schulte at Brittany in a Blender, and we decided to take a stroll around the corner to check a out a known project near Mangum, but we went a slightly different way and ran in to this beautiful arete (the ladder is a little over 10ft tall). We could hardly believe our eyes and we were confused as to how we never noticed it before, especially since there is another known project to the right of it on the same wall. It looked amazing though, just the perfect height and on perfect rock. I love this stage of a first ascent. Another day I came back and rapped down, cleaned it and visualized the moves, everything was there and it was ready to go!
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Working through the first crux on The Hand of Time.

Steep arete climbing on super solid Hueco rock! I basically fell my way up this one while working it. I would stick the next move and fall to test the landing as I figured it out, get back on and stick the following move and so on. There is that wall behind you on the right which really feels a lot closer than it is. This one changed my perspective, and I remembered there is still so much to do out there, if your paying attention.
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The Wooden Mushroom is a cool problem on ground level and on bullet stone. Very hard first move into difficult compression and a juggy top out. I was attracted to this one because of the perfect rail and it made for a fun addition to the park.
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Crimping down on Undead Monkey to the left of The Tall Cool Red One, this problem starts on a cool surfboard rail under the roof and goes directly up the face, I was first drawn to it because of the line that would finish left, which is still undone.
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Handa Yuta on the second ascent of the ominous Night Owl, a nice compression problem in the Snake Charmer zone on East Mt. This is one of those problems thats in a main area and you never notice it because the climbing isn’t obvious but makes for a good compression sequence thats not over till its over.
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Going for it on The O Face, which isn’t actually a face at all.  This was the last problem I put up for the season, there could be a lower start back in the cave, I just started on the jug and it is in the East Spur near Johnny Mop.

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In non climbing related news, I believe I found a hidden room. I cannot speak of its location at the moment, but I tried to enter it twice without any luck. The first time I was by myself and got halfway through this narrow squeeze slot but I had to turn back because of fear. I could see it went even farther, so I came back with a posse and one volunteer to try and go deeper, this was the slender Jay Bone, who made it several feet past my “high point”, but he too had to retreat because of fear, and he saw something moving back there with eyes.
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Committing to the final crux move on the One Eyed Monster.

I always wanted to climb this tall streaked face just because of its shear beauty. I always put it off because it is so high, but a friend Gustavo dropped a rope down it last year and said it would yield. It was also on the way up the hill to my other project The End(below) so I would walk by it for over a month, enticing me every time. A nice rolling wall that starts at slab and ends slightly overhanging. Its a technical climb with the crux below the main seam and glory jugs to the top make this climb a fun and relatively safe highball.

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Taking the big swing out of the toe hooks on The End.

I named this problem The End for many reasons. It was the end of the season, the redpoint crux is at the end, and you never know if the end is right around the corner… I found this one while trying to explore an entirely different side of East Mtn, I went over behind the The Trickster and followed that gully all the way to the summit finding nothing new. Then at the summit I walked in through the back side of this cave, and saw the huge roof above me that lead to a gigantic hueco in the roof. There were holds but it was definitely going to be a puzzle trying to get between them and out this massive roof. When I walked out the other side of the cave I realized I was at an area I knew fairly well and was facing the old John Sherman problem Wanking Dreams. Another example of something being right in front of your face and never seeing it. Maybe I did see it, or I thought it was too high with a weird landing. Whatever it was it wasn’t present to me at the time, but now it is exactly what I was looking for.

Check out the video of these last two problems in Dead Point Mag’s the STASH        Not a member? Now its FREE join today.

 photo Sunset_zps72bd7e81.jpgThe Hueco season was amazing and the longest one to date. There is so much out there to climb and explore and Im sure most of it will remain hidden for many years to come. Someone just needs to come along with the right eye to see it.

Rumble in the Jungle: Martina Mali

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Last season I stayed in Hueco longer that I ever have before, from November all the way till May. Towards the end I had a bit of a tweaked finger, and already sent my big projects for the season so climbing wasn’t my top priority. My special lady friend Martina had a different agenda though. She had sets her sight on Rumble in the Jungle, a classic Chris Sharma V12 roof problem. It had caught her eye earlier in the season but didn’t think she had a chance. After a couple sessions on the rig I could tell she was in love with the movement and the puzzle, and I mentioned how anything was possible if you really want it.
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Its interesting being with someone during the whole process of working a hard boulder problem. From the outside its easier to see the mistakes in form and in thought, but it is also hard to communicate that and also believe it. I remember many times myself falling off problems and thinking I would never do them, and thats just what you have to get over and commit to the problem. I always say that if I can learn one thing in a session its progress. Just one thing. It could be the turn of a knee or finding a different thumb catch. These may seem small but they are all apart of the process and having the patience to enjoy that will eventually get you to the top. photo Rumble1_zps48575c49.png

Here is Martina in mid crux, with the most insecure knee bar in the problem, I think she only got it to work a handful of times. Once she was able to get through this section, she was usually guaranteed to make it to the lip, but the transition on to the face is also difficult. Towards the end it was getting a lot warmer, but the cave seamed to hold the cold air from the night until the sun came around 11am, so we were slowly running out of time.
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 It’s cool watching someone stick with something all the way to the very end. I knew she could do it, but at times I wondered if it will happen on this trip. Thats the whole trick to this game, you gotta give yourself the chance by first believing in yourself.

Here is a video I put together of  Martina climbing Rumble in the Jungle and the Maiden in Hueco Tanks. Enjoy!

Click on the image below to read the whole article on Dead Point Magazine.        Article by Jackie Hueftle and photos by Sam Davis- check out his other images here.

Martina Mali Article

Protect Whats Holy


                               In recent news, one of my favorite areas in the midwest The Holy Boulders went up for sale. With fears that it would be purchased by non climbers and be lost forever the Access Fund stepped in to save the day. Now they are asking for your help to put the area into climber friendly hands forever.

Read the blog I wrote for the Access Fund about my first experiences at the Holy Boulders.


The New Climb So iLL Gym

        In September I took a fourteen hour drive from Boulder, CO to St Louis, MO with no air conditioning through scorching heat and humidity to check out the coolest new gym in the US. My friends Dave and Dan Chancellor(owners of So iLL Holds) just opened the new Climb So iLL Gym which I had been hearing a lot of good things about. So, I decided to check it out for myself.Photobucket

I was not disappointed, the gym was awesome! I had seen the videos and images online, but it was nothing like seeing it live. The bouldering wall was huge, and I prefer highballs and I still thought it was pretty big… but the padding is great and I even was able to test them out when I pitched off the last move of the problem I was setting. The campus board covered with my Iron Palm Hangboards is also a cool addition to the gym.

While I was at the gym I also gave two clinics entitled “Climbing Tricks and Unorthodox Techniques”. The idea of the clinics was to show climbers basic simple moves that most people dont use or think of normally. Ive been climbing for over twenty years and one of the most important things I have learned is: You have to keep an open mind. Most of the time we fail its because we are too afraid to try something different.

Another cool thing about the Climb So iLL gym was that since they also produce climbing holds there hold selection is vast and was made up of many of my own designs. Its always fun to take something full circle, from designing the hold all the way to setting the final problem.

I finished of the trip with a evening of videos I shared with everyone and I even got a chance to meet another Jason Kehl, marking the second one I have met, other than myself.

You can check out the video here at the Climb So iLL site.


REEL ROCK 7- High Altitude Fitness, Lake Tahoe

The REEL ROCK Tour 7 is just getting underway and this years films look to be even better than the last. I was able to get a sneak peak at some of the films during the pre-screening at this summers Outdoor Retailer Show. Here is a run down of the films included. Check out the trailer if you want to get really psyched!

I will be hosting the REEL ROCK event in Lake Tahoe this year at the High Altitude Fitness Gym. This should be a great event and I am psyched to check out the rest of the films.


Before the REEL ROCK films start, I will be giving a short slideshow to kick things off. I will be showing some short videos from Hueco Tanks, including the World Premiere of a new video I have been working on of Ashima Shiraishi, the 11 year old bouldering prodigy.

Last year Ashima Shiraishi shocked the world by becoming the youngest climber to send a V12 boulder problem, Right Martini in Hueco Tanks, Texas. This year she came back to see if she can take it to the next level.

World Premiere: September 20th, 7:30pm
High Altitude Fitness
Incline Village, NV

Full web release following the premiere.

An exerpt from last years REEL ROCK: Obe and Ashima, from Big Up Productions.

City of Squampton


This summer I decided to take a short trip up to Squamish BC. Ive been to Squamish a couple of times in the past, but I  havent gone back in the last five years.  I drove all the way from the El Paso, TX, where it was 109 degrees in mid June and too hot to really do much of anything and made my way north of Vancouver to the only place in the continent that really seemed cool enough to climb.

I remember the granite being good and a quick stop in Yosemite on my way up, made for a good comparison. Once I made my way into the forest and touched the stone below the Grand Wall, I was positive, that this is some of the best granite out there.

Before I arrived I was a little uncertain what I was going to try, but I guess you never know until you see it. I was pleasantly surprised on my first tour of the forest. I thought I had seen most of the problems and I even knew of a bunch of projects, but after a five year hiatus so much more has been developed, which was super nice when revisiting one of my favorite areas.

The Black Council (above) was one problem that I immediately took an intrest in, even though the beta I heard involved rubber knee-bar pads. I’ve got nothing against them or people using them, I just dont prefer them; they stop the motion of the climb and I always feel a bit awkward wearing them. So, I was super psyched to figure out this crazy-double-kung fu-toe hooks-above-the-head beta. Which worked perfectly and made for some interesting bouldering.


The next problem that really intrigued me was The Method, and interestingly enough everyone I asked about the beta seemed to have a different method. I knew trying this problem was a bit risky in the not so sticky summer conditions, but I love the technicalities of granite and this was a perfect example of that.

So that ment geting up early to beat the heat. It would usually be to warm by 11 and each consecutive day I would get up a little earlier to buy some more time. By the last day of the trip I thought I had figured out “the method”, now all I had to do was not mess it up in the amount of tries I have left. After a couple of failed attempts, while watching the sun creep closer and closer, I was able to pull it out, not screw it up, and stick the final sloper just in the nick of time. The pressure of trying to do something with limited time left always seems to help me get focused and sometimes thats just the push I need.

I had a great time climbing in Squamish once again, tried a lot of new problems and found a couple more projects that I hadn’t seen in the past. Its great to go back to an area and have a completely new experience even though nothing has really changed.


ROAD Trippin’


The last couple months have been a whirllwind of travel, I ended my season(6months) in Hueco at the start of April. After a good season of first ascents, friends, mexican food and exploring, I spent the last month guiding and filming Ashima and Obe in conditions that were way too hot for me, but didn’t seem to affect the 10 year old Lil’ Ninja. Once that was over it was definitely time to move on.
After a quick stop in Colorado to check my PO Box, see some friends and escape the Hueco heat in the High alpine of Mt Evans, I headed to Utah for a month to stop at one of my favorite sandstone areas in the US, Joes Valley.Photobucket

Joe’s was awesome, considering I havent been in at least five years. Its always cool to go back to an area after some time away and be blown away by the development that has been going on. The black streaked walls amazing formations and free camping all make this place one of the best climbing areas in America. I was a little late for the season though and it was beginning to get a little warm for my liking, and in a unlucky turn of events I ended up tweaking my pinky finger ending the trip early.

With a busted finger and no climbing to be had, I decided to head back to Boulder, Co and get some work done during my down time. I set up shop at the new Revolution shop that recently moved there from Salt Lake City, Utah. While in town for a couple of weeks I cranked out about 80 holds for Revolution and finished a set of 10 bubble like holds for CryptoChild/SoiLL that I have been working on for months now. This set took forever because of the tiny detail work in each and every bubble, and probably one of the most difficult small sets I have shaped.


After a month of rest my finger still wasn’t any better, so I decided to hit the road. After all, I think the best medicine is just getting out there and easing yourself back into it.
With a quick stop in Flagstaff, AZ to climb at the Priest Draw for a day, then Vegas for a night to test my luck.   Still no luck…

After Vegas I did the long drive all the way through California, I stopping in Bishop and even though it was too hot to climb, it was nice to walk around the boulders and reminisce about old times.


Then a week long stop in Lake Tahoe during the 4th of July celebrations, where I was able to check out some of the amazing granite that place has to offer, with a great local crew. This place is on my list for places to go back to for sure!

… and finally I made it to Vancouver, Canada to escape the heat and climb in Squamish for the rest of July. Psyched to get on some perfect granite and nurse this lil pinky back to full strength!Photobucket

Ashima returns to Hueco

        Last year I stuck around Hueco extra long for my good friend Obe Carrion. He said he was bringing down the 9 year old bouldering prodigy Ashima Shiraishi, who he had been coaching for the last couple years. I had seen the headlines the previous year “Fetus sends v10 in Hueco Tanks”, so I had to stick around to see what this was all about.


Ashima comparing hand size with her physical opposite Alex Johnson.

            It was worth it for sure! Last year I got to climb and get to know one of the youngest, coolest and happiest hard boulderers in the world.  Not to mention witnessing the first female ascent of one of Hueco’s most notorious V12’s “Right Martini“. This year, not only was she psyched to return, she has a little more advantage. She grew a couple of inches!


Ashima is a ninja “Barefoot on Sacred Ground“.

               Last year, I think she was still learning the subtleties of climbing in Hueco by doing as many problems as she could. This year she knew exactly what she wanted: To push her limits and try and do a V13 on her two week trip. So the first day we headed straight to the East Spur Maze so she could try her luck on “Crown of Aragorn” which is know for its big crux move on tiny crimpers. I was surprised she wanted to try this problem, but even more surprised when she figured out all the moves on her first day. After seeing that Obe and I knew it was just a matter of time.

In the crux of her proudest send to date “Crown of Aragorn“.

        The thing thats crazy about watching a 10 year old work out the moves on a V14 is that she is still growing and learning her own climbing style. If Ashima is climbing at such a high level this early in her climbing career, what will the future hold for hard bouldering and even grades for that matter? I also enjoy watching her climb for that reason too. I personally think grades are meaningless, a rough estimate. Ashima has proven this by taking everything we thought they new about grades and throwing it out the window. Its all about your perspective not about a number someone labeled the rock with.

Making new holds apear on “Terre de Sienne V14“.

One thing that goes hand and hand with trying hard project is failure and being able to deal with it, so you can go back out there the next day with a positive attitude and give it your all. For a lot of us this is something we learn over time as we progress slowly. For me I get angry and agressive, trying to use that fuel to send the project. I tried to teach this method to Ashima with no avail. How do you get a kid pissed? Stealing her cookies were the only thing that kinda worked.


Ashima cutting loose on one of the hardest V10’s out there “Full Service“.

              This year I had a great time in Hueco, hanging out with old friends, trying hard projects and I even learned a little more about climbing from one of the most unlikely people: A ten year old Warrior Ninja Rock Assassin Princess.

Buggin out with the Crew.

Hueco Update

               I’ve been in Hueco since November, this is my second season guiding down here and it keeps getting better. I recently moved out of my apartment in Colorado and back into my van and psyched for “The Year of the Renegade” vol II.


            This season in Hueco has been great. I’ve been spending my time exploring, putting up new lines and trying to get fit. Which seems like a never ending process to prolong the decay. I think the rock is a much better apparatus then gym climbing, especially when your at an amazing place like Hueco.

           Overall this season feels a bit less crowded than last. People are always complaining about the rules and regulations. I understand where they are coming from, but looking back over the years I think it is actually a good thing. I’ve heard the horror stories of Bishop and similar popular areas becoming more overcrowded because of the growing popularity of climbing. Hueco is a good example of how restrictions can actually be a good thing.
It’s March now and its starting to get warm. I will be hear for the rest of the month guiding my good friends Obe Carrion and Ashima Shiraishi (aka the Lil Ninja). You can still find good conditions deep in the canyons and caves. So I will keep you posted on the rest of my trip. I’m super psyched for the next stop which will be Joe’s Valley. I havent climbed there in like five years and its one of my favorite places in the US foo sho!


Here are a couple of videos I put together this season. enjoy!

This is a new problem that was put up by Daniel Woods last year in the popular area the Gunks, further proving the potential Hueco still has to offer.

Above is a short video I made of my good friend Jay Bone. I started climbing with him back in 2005 in Hueco. He was a guide, so I was always going on tours with him and he was always filming. This time the roles have been reversed. Watch as Jay Bone tries to complete the mythical “Mark of the Beast”.

Rest days are key in Hueco. My theory is: The more you rest,the more you will send. Check out this fun video of a perfect rest day on West Mountain.