Monday, November 30, 2015

Treasure of the 1970's

Finding treasures in a thrift shop is always fun! My girlfriend especially loves searching for the one thing that everyone believes has no value. This one day my girlfriend was truly eager to show me what she found. It was an old but spotless copy of a 1974 National Geographic Magazine. On the front cover was a picture of an old school climber managing a hard-looking traverse on Half Dome in the Yosemite Valley! She had paid a mere 50 cents for the issue. As we were both born in the late 80’s / early 90’s we felt overwhelmed to open the more than a 40 year-old issue of Nat Geo.

The ads for the first Polaroid camera, the vintage cars, a wooden rocking chair and a very old slide-projector got our eyes hungry for more. That fifty-cent piece of junk was now our open-door to the 1970’s. We would soon discover about the forgotten bad-asses of the Yosemite Valley.

The article brings you back in time. Back to the first ascent of half-dome without pitons. ‘’A piton is a steel support that is hammered into a crack until it rings like a railroad spike. Big climbs had been considered impossible without such aids as pitons and expansion bolts’’ says Rowell. The team of three, Dennis Hennek, Galen Rowell & Doug Robinson, brought nothing but a rack of aluminum nuts. It was at that time, the longest and most difficult rock-climb ever accomplished in North America. As Galen Rowell recounts their epic ascent, he mentions Robinson’s feelings towards Pitons. This common practice in the day made routes unattractive. Pitons would scar the mountains and gave them a bit of a Frankenstein look. They didn’t even bother bringing them ‘’just in case’’.  Doug Robinson made it clear he wanted to do it ‘’clean’’.

I have so much respect for these guys. They proved to the world that you can climb and ‘’leave no trace’’ on the hardest of climbs. To me this was a strong message to the climbing community about ethics. Obviously today, there is a lot of talk on what is acceptable and what isn’t. The principles of climbing today have changed a lot. One thing is for sure, I don’t know anyone who could comment negatively about this ascent. It took them 3 days and two nights to climb.

As I look at the pictures in the article I can’t help myself but shake my head in awe. This is still today an impressive exploit. They didn’t have fancy shoes nor did they have camming devices. They didn’t have half the technology we have today and they didn’t need it. They did it the hard way! That for me is passion and dedication. This article apparently motivated a fair amount of readers (climbers or not) to hit the crags back then. Forty years later and 50 cents poorer, I feel the same. The big walls are calling!

Author : Vincent Kneeshaw
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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Metanoia (Jeff Lowe)

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to see Jeff Lowe’s projection of Metanoia in Montreal.

Metanoia is the story of a climber ahead of his time, a man who changed visions of what was possible. He contributed to thousands of new routes be they ice, mixed or rock climbs, be they aid climbs or burly free solo ascents. It’s also a story of a man’s ability to face his own mortality through a disease. From achieving the most insane climbs to the struggle of getting in and out of his wheelchair Jeff Lowe teaches us a lesson of humility.

One of the most moving climbing films I’ve seen in a while! Apparently they’d been working on it since 2007. No wonder it was such a masterpiece. I felt like we saw a fair amount of good clear footage for an old school climber. I was impressed with all the material that they’d dug up for Metanoia. Jeff Lowe’s last project was to make this movie and to share it with as many people as possible. I believe they have done an amazing job.

The film kicks off with an overview of Jeff’s childhood and his passion for Skiing and Climbing. Very soon he starts climbing things that most people thought impossible. As the movie describes Jeff’s first wedding and the arrival of his daughter we also explore one of Jeff’s most remarkable ascents, Ama Dablam. Jeff was invited to climb Ama Dablam in Nepal, for a film by ABC. He was in charge of a team including his father and brother. Together the team reached the summit. But Jeff wasn’t satisfied. The next day he went back without the crew for the first ascent, solo, of the south face of Ama Dablam.

We later learn about Jeff’s expedition to reach the summit of Latok 1 in Pakistan. This, for him, was a more memorable route since it was an ascent he made with three of his good friends. As the team recounts the story we can feel the nostalgia. At this point we get more insight into Jeff’s life as a person. His life wasn’t as glorious as one might think. His attempt at running a business was a complete failure. His daughter feeling abandoned by her father and his affair with a famous French climber that destroyed his marriage pushed Jeff beyond his ability to cope. Jeff was on the edge.

Not knowing what to do in this situation. Jeff turned to what he always did. He chose to climb the North face of Eiger. He was to attempt something that had never been done before. He did this by himself on a 13 day fight to the top. Jeff did things few climbers would do on this ascent. He ended up leaving his rope and pack on the face. Jeff had to free solo the last part of the climb, but he reached the summit. The route was named Metanoia which is a transliteration of the Greek. It means, having a sudden change of mind. Metanoia has never been repeated until today.

Jeff Lowe started seeing signs of weakness in 2000.  Years later he was diagnosed with ALS. Most people die around 1 to 3 years after diagnosis, but as his wife Connie says: ‘’he’s always defied the odds and he’ll keep on doing it’’! It is heartbreaking to see the evolution of Jeff as his disease settles in. He accepts it and respects the difficulties of living with ALS. He appreciates all he was capable of doing in his life and sees this as just another step in life. Jeff is not only an inspiration to climbers but to all human beings.

Jeff Lowe today /
Right after the screening of Metanoia, we were lucky enough to get a hold of Jeff and his wife Connie through Skype.

Here are a few questions we got to ask him:

Q: In your movie, we notice that you give a lot of importance to names that are given to routes. What are some of your favourite titles?

Jeff: The first thing that comes up to my mind is seamstress corner. This route reminds me of my ex-wife. It’s a really stressful climb (laughs)

Connie: I really like, Get a job asshole! This route is located in the Adirondacks. The story about this route is pretty funny. When Jeff was walking alongside the road to the cliff, a trucker drove by screaming ‘’Get a job Asshole’’! Jeff yelled back ‘’I have a job you Asshole’’!

Q: How did you come up with the name Metanoia?

Jeff: Well, I read a lot. I remember reading this word and it’s meaning for the Greeks. I liked it. Then, as I was lying there in that snow cave on Eiger it came to me!

Q: As a seasoned alpinist you’ve spent many days of your life sitting in a tent, waiting. What did you do to pass the time?

Jeff: We told lots of jokes. Oh and we had these little screens that were called bivy TV’s. It was a plastic red box no larger than a deck of cards that shuffled through photographs.
Connie: Mostly pictures of young women wearing bathing suits I think? (Laughs)

Q: In the name of injured climbers, how do go back to climbing after an injury? What are the tricks to stay positive?

Connie: To be honest, Jeff rarely got injured. He was always adjusting to the present moment and making quick decisions, like when he decided to jump and take a forty foot plunge on Eiger. I think he was pretty lucky in his career.
Jeff getting ready to solo Ama Dablam /

Jeff: I did get hurt once while rappelling with a friend and I dislocated my hip but it’s true, I didn’t get hurt often. What keeps you going though is the love. The love of climbing!

Q: As we know you were the first climber to come up with the figure-4 move. It is now used by various other ice climbers around the world. When and where did you first come up with this funky move?

Jeff: I was climbing Octopussy (mixed climb named in honour of the James Bond movie) in Vail, Colorado. The first time I tried the route, I fell. When I went back I decided to try something new. That is when the move naturally happened. I hadn’t thought about it previously. It just happened.

Jeff Lowe and Connie Self live together in Colorado. Connie helped translate Jeff’s answers as he spoke through a machine. He still released a warm and positive energy. His sense of humour hasn’t changed and he’s got an amazing wife.

For more info about Jeff Lowe, visit his website:

Article: Vincent Kneeshaw

Monday, November 23, 2015

Ten commandments

Meatgrinder is a sustained 5.9 climb. The first pitch features a mixture of hand and chimney moves that provide a preview of challenges to come. The second pitch has the two characteristics of a classic Yosemite crack pitch: burly and sustained. This pitch involves a variety of strenuous stems and jams with wide protection. The last pitch is rarely climbed.

This block was discovered when it was dislodged and fell out of the route back in 2011. Various hands have jammed this block. This was actually one of the few thank god bucket holds along the route.

Here are the ten commandments!

Thou shalt not put any other sport before climbing.

Thou shalt not bolt cracks, chip, glue or enhance the stone unto thee.

Thou shalt not take thy safety in vain.

Remember thy days are fleeting, to spend them climbing.

Honour thy elders and stone masters.

Thou shalt not severe thy rope.

Thou shalt not bail nor flake on thy partners.

Thou shalt not booty that which is ''not'' booyt.

Thou shalt not bear witness against thy own accomplishments.

Thou shalt not covet thy fellow climbers gear, abilitys nor failures.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Getting rid of foot odor

I was at the gym with my buddy yesterday when we had a chat about how smelly his feet were. Yes they stink! It’s not so bad outside but when you’re in the gym… not so fun!
There’s got to be a solution right?

Here are a few tips for you:

1.      First and foremost wash your feet! Some smell more than others but hey it’ll make a big difference.

2.      You can use Drysol (Aluminum Chloride Solution) or Doctor Scholls Odor-X powder in the shoe it may help. Even chalking up your feet will keep sweat away.

3.      A guy I met while traveling told me he sprayed deodorant on his feet a few hours before his climbs

4.      Wash your shoes once in a while; make sure you dry them in an aerated place, not located in the sun.
6.      When buying shoes ask for something that won’t change shape too much when wet. Some materials distort more than others.

7.      Have an indoor and an outdoor pair if possible. (I don’t, but it helps keep the indoor one cleaner).

8.      Again, don’t let them sit in your backpack or in the trunk of your car, try to hang’em up somewhere cool and dry.

9.      Stuffing dryer sheets into them while you are not climbing can also help.

While you’re at it, my recommendation would be to stay away from evolve shoes. They make amazing shoes but I find they smell more than other brands. Evolve uses synthetic materials where others use leather. But then again this is just my personal opinion.

Do you have any other creative suggestions?
Make sure you share them in the comment box bellow.

Vincent K  -

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Angels Crest

A classic amongst classics!

I had never climbed the chief before, nor had I even seen it. It was my first time in Squamish.  I had no idea what 600 meters worth of granite would look like. As a Canadian climber I had climbed quite a fair share of crags around the world but never had I experienced what I had in my own backyard. A few days prior to arriving in Squamish my friend Phil hooked me up with this crazy-fun philosopher called Ben. He had the gear and the guts to climb the chief. He told me he’d been wanting to climb Angel’s Crest for a while. He was waiting for a climber who could hold up his end of the bargain and share leads through 13 pitches of fun.  It’s graded 5.10b-c, but let me give you one word of advice. Pulling 5.11’s in the gym doesn’t necessarily get you ready for the crest.

The next morning, the alarm clock went off at 5:30 am. Coffees down, we were racking up and ready to go as the sun appeared. Rock, Paper, Scissors. Ben wins for pitch 1.  A strong move through a few wet holds but he makes it look like a piece of cake. Personally, I found that first pitch to be super heavy with the full backpack. So I made it my mission to drink a lot of water early in the day.

Pitch 2 was the ‘’Angel Crack‘’ a beautiful piece of the puzzle. I got to go first this time. I might have over protected it a bit but what was sure, was that I wanted more! The crack felt smooth and solid with a powerful move near the end for a tiny ledge.

Pitch 3.  Ben’s lead on a short but burly pitch.
Pitch 8

Pitch 4 & 5, my go. An easy section leads to an intimidating roof.  I managed the roof which felt easier than it looked but still let out a few grunts.

Pitch 6 & 7. Ben did his magic through a long and dirty section that led us to a quick scramble at the base of pitch 8.

Pitch 8. When you get there, an amazing off width crack glares at you! Shit! We only brought cams up to N.4’s and this guy needs N.7’s said Ben. So I ended up climbing to the right, in a less appealing but thinner crack that led to the base of the Acrophobes.

Now people say pitch 9… It’s actually pitches 9 or more commonly referred to as ‘’the Acrophobes‘’. This is where the adventure happens so put your Indiana Jones hat on! It’s the easiest pitch, but very exposed. You climb up and down these sharp towers. It feels like your scaling a sharks jaw. Ben did an awesome job running across the towers, literally! AHHH Look at the tiny cars down there… Its guaranteed fun!
Pitch 9 (the acrophobes)
I was only supposed to climb pitch 10 but ended climbing number 11 with it. The first bit climbs up to a fairly exposed position, the base of the ‘’whale back’’ pitch. The whaleback is this slabby arĂȘte were you hump your way up using barely any protection at all. I wouldn’t want to do this pitch when wet or raining!

Pitch 12 mmmmh felt like the hardest pitch to us. Luckily for me, Ben did this push as a good rock warrior would. It’s a beautiful power crack. But after a long day of climbing and stamina getting low it sure felt harder than what it really is.

Finally, the last push. Instructions were: Crawl into a big chimney and worm your way up to the summit. We reached the top just in time for sunset. Lucky as I am, this is the tale of my first climb up the Chief.  It was a gorgeous and exhausting climb. Where else do you get to climb this many pitches with awesome exposure and such a dramatic background! Squamish, I love you!

Left: Vincent. Right: Ben
Author: Vincent Kneeshaw

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dani Andrada sends Chilam Balam 5.15b (9b)

Dani Andrada, whom if I had to choose, would be my first pick as a belayer in my personal climbing trips. 
Why? Because, before being a rad climber, he is a rad supporter! He is always up to help with other people's adventures. He gets psyched about your projects as much as he is about his own stuff! This is, I believe, what makes him such a great climber.

Our Spanish hero, born in 1975, is famous for climbing Heaps of 9+ / 5.15+ graded routes. He started climbing at age 13 and on his first day he managed to pull off a 5.11d (7a) which makes him a rare breed.

Andrada, the Maquina (the machine), has just bagged the 4th ascent of Chilam Balam, 5.15b (9b). His redpoint ascent came after after Fernandez (2003), Adam Ondra (2011) and Seb Bouin (2015).

Credit: Desnivel
It seems Andrada and Edu Marin had been working the route for ages and it was just a matter of time before they put all the pieces together. On his last attempt before the send, Dani broke a tufa off and got a gnarly cut just above his right eye. I guess the pain got him focused on getting back on the route and making it to the chains of this 80 meter route. Interestingly according to he got 25 hands off, knee bar rests. That’s ridiculous!

Edu Marin is still trying the route and he is very close. I believe he could be getting the 5th ascent anytime soon! We wish you good luck brother!

Seb Bouin on Chilam Balam 5.15b

Author : Vincent Kneeshaw