Mirko Caballero: The Makings of a Champion
Mar10

Mirko Caballero: The Makings of a Champion

Sitting on the ground, I struggle to keep my clothing from getting covered in soft red sand as I Velcro up my tight-fitting climbing shoes. I am about to try a climb in Red Rocks, Nevada that intimidates me beyond imagination, and lacks the typical holds one expects and desires when climbing a boulder outside. Approaching my nemesis slowly, I turn to my left to notice a tanned and lanky kid with black hair and three crash pads attached to his back. I recognize him from various climbing news websites (he has his own series on EpicTV), Instagram and Facebook, and instantly know his name: Mirko Caballero. Mirko is only 13 years-old, but I’d already heard his name circulating throughout the industry for years. He came into the climbing scene with a bang, and soon, photos were surfacing throughout the media of him ascending ropes and free-climbing boulders at famous outdoor spots around the world. His name also became synonymous with the title of Bouldering Youth Nationals Champion, as he has won most of the competitions he entered. Despite knowing him by appearance and reputation, this was my first run-in with the young phenom. Regardless that he’d been climbing grades of more difficulty, fear, and height at 13 than I could at 26, he slowly approached me, got to talking, and soon was putting on his shoes to join me in my fight up the wall. Again and again I fell off various points of the rock; defeated, out of breath, and exhausted. After observing me in my desperate, flailing state, Mirko calmly walked up to the boulder, dipped his hands in his chalk bag, and completed the climb on his first try. Shortly after, we were approached by a man and woman carrying five pads between them (they each weigh about 12 pounds and are worn as backpacks, but are extremely bulky, off-balance, and uncomfortable), and a dog. These were Mirko’s family members, and his support crew. They told me they always travel with multiple pads and are quite happy to get the exercise to keep Mirko safe when he climbs; moreover, they enjoy camping and road trips, and going a climbing trip every weekend of the year. Weather and commitment permitting, they travel to local spots like Castle Rock, California, or even farther to spots like Red Rocks, Nevada. Extremely impressed with his skill and strength, intrigued by his personality and maturity, and joyous over his incredibly supportive family, I made an attempt to get to know Mirko and his family. Based in Los Gatos, California, Mirko was born into an extremely athletic, adventurous, and international family....

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Climbing-Community-Conservation
Mar05

Climbing-Community-Conservation

2014 marks the third consecutive year of the Access Fund’s Jeep Conservation Team, a pair picked to travel by Jeep Cherokee for ten months to a set list of climbing destinations, to encourage climbing communities to give back to their local areas. The Access Fund works behind the scenes to make sure there is a place for climbers to go outside. They pick the locations for the climbing team in advance, either upon request by the land managers of the areas; or, they are chosen based upon their need for maintenance and construction, professional and technical skills, or cleanup and preservation. The team, chosen by submitting an application and undergoing an interview process, travels to a different location almost every week, staying between three days and a fortnight depending on the level of need. This year, the team is a married couple, Mike Morin and Amanda Peterson, who share an enthusiasm for climbing and stewardship. When the team arrives, the Access Fund sets up a stewardship program with the land managers, site managers, and volunteers, with the overall goal of long-lasting improvement to the climbing area. Trails might be built or rebuilt, staircases might be constructed, and group trash pick-ups might be organized — whatever the particular need of the area might be. During each stop, the Conservation Team either camps, stays with the board members or members of the local climbing organization, or is granted lodging by the land managers. As a part of each stop, the team visits the local gym to address the needs of the local area, hoping to enlighten and inspire that climbing community. The goal is to recruit volunteers to assist in the building or cleaning work, so the local community can be involved in the revitalization efforts. One of the main programs of the Access Fund is Adopt-a-Crag, and the Conservation Team helps to facilitate and grow the program as a part of their job while on the road. Adopt-a-Crag consists of a few volunteer days at the local climbing area, which is run by the local climbing gym and Access Fund. In the past, volunteers have been involved in graffiti removal, clean up, and trail building; it gives the climbers a chance to give back to their local climbing community. During the ten-month journey, the Conservation Team drives a 2014 Jeep Cherokee — courtesy of their generous sponsor Jeep — and visits outdoor areas to run Adopt-a-Crag weekends, and indoor gyms, to speak about awareness and environmental conservation. Each year, the Conservation Team visits different locations during their exhausting, yet satisfying, journey around the USA. In 2014, the team will began...

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The Road to Penoles
Feb01

The Road to Penoles

As the sun’s rays peek over the mountains, almost all of Penoles, Mexico is illuminated in a blanket of warmth. The pigeons begin their morning coos, the climbers rustle in their sleeping bags. The large granite mountains dominate my view, but once removed from the rocky masses, I see that Penoles is an anomaly. Small, rock-free hills, cat’s-claw bushes, and cacti spread out in all directions of this Mexican ranch land. The roads are made of dirt; a car is rarely seen. In every direction from my campsite, massive granite rocks in shapes of eggs, blocks and cylinders surround me. Some can be easily hiked up, while others are larger than office buildings and require a rope to be safely ascended. Beautiful turquoise rocks are littered throughout the area, and distinct rock art is found painted on various boulder faces. The only people you see are climbers, and the only animals you encounter are cows. As though a different planet, Penoles provides a beautiful oasis with a peaceful, quiet seclusion that is difficult to come by these days. I traveled to this remote area in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico for a three-week climbing trip, where I am filming a six-episode series for epictv.com. Unlike my usual climbing trips, which are equally divided into climbing and filming my fiancé for his climbing sponsors, this trip was a work assignment: to film five climbers every day, throughout the day, for three weeks. I am used to carrying film equipment through the talus fields of Colorado and the sandy paths of the southwestern desert states, but Penoles is new territory: mostly unexplored, and rarely seen by human eyes. Trails are scarce; cow patties, sticker bushes and breaking rock is plentiful. There are two ways to maneuver through the area: up and over the rocks, or through the desert. Traveling over the rocks is difficult, with crumbling pieces and intimidating scrambling, while traveling by ground is just as hard, with dangers like cactus, cat’s-claw, rattle snakes and scorpions. Shade is rare and the direct sun brings swarms of bees, flies and wasps. There is no water source except for a nice local woman’s hose in the small village, four miles away by dirt road. The only shower is also at this woman’s house, where she charges $1.50 for a warm shower in a dark shed, which has been slow-heated through a wood burning stove connected to water pipes. The showering process is tedious, so the average climber goes without bathing for the trip’s entirety, or uses wet wipes on their body. There is no way to refrigerate food, meaning that most food must...

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Oahu: Land of Outdoor Adventure
Dec14

Oahu: Land of Outdoor Adventure

Many of you might be surprised to find that Oahu, Hawaii boasts an enthusiastic culture of rock climbers. These diehards climb wet, slippery, and painfully sharp boulders in miserably hot and humid conditions because they love the sport, and well, they have no other option! Oahu is home to two of the smallest climbing gyms I have ever witnessed; one must be extremely passionate and dedicated to get strong around here. The island’s inhabitants regularly watch great surfers compete for serious titles in their backyard breaks — so do they enjoy watching rock climbing. The people of Oahu view surfing and climbing as spectator sports, watching and participating in equal measure. It seemed bizarre to me, coming from Colorado where everyone around you is constantly in training for some athletic feat. But I got used to it, and began to love the supportive and enthusiastic climbing community of Oahu. I was somewhat amazed to see how strong the climbers in Hawaii were, as many of them practice their craft sporadically. As a dedicated climber, I tend to practice five or six days a week. I found myself wondering how much stronger they could be if they climbed more often, and had decent gym facilities in which to train. It was inspiring to be with a group of people so motivated to try their hardest. The women would jump, swing, and take terrifying falls, and the men would put on their own macho-man contests and attempt the most difficult climbs — all equally thrilled to be part of the action. Whether we were climbing outside or having a rainy day session in the gym, the locals were having a blast. There are a variety of climbing areas spread out around Oahu. For such a small island, it’s not quick to get around: there is only one main road that travels along the coast, and some of the climbing areas can only be reached through difficult, long hikes, or with a high-clearance SUV. Two small zones that have gained a lot of popularity are located in the westernmost tip of Oahu, at Kaena Point. The Arch and Future Cave boast some of the hardest-rated climbs, as well as some of the highest climbs with the worst landings. There is another bouldering area in the famous Waimea Bay. These boulders sit right on the beach, providing a soft, sandy landing and eliminating the need for extra padding. The climbs are not as difficult, and tend to be crowded with tourists who notice the chalk from afar and decide to have a gander. Nonetheless, it’s a two-minute walk from the parking lot, and makes for...

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Paul Robinson’s Quest to be The Best
Nov21

Paul Robinson’s Quest to be The Best

The leaves have changed from shades of green to a potent array of red, yellow, and orange. Although they fall in heaps that cover the grass, many still cling to the branches with desperation, not quite ready for winter. It’s fall in Rumney, New Hampshire, and as far as I can tell, there are not many places in the world that rival the beauty seen here at this time of year. Rumney also happens to be the epicenter for East Coast sport climbing, which is the reason I am here. Sport climbing is a style of rope climbing, in which you hook yourself into protection drilled into rock. Rumney is home to one of the three hardest sport climbs in the whole of the United States: Jaws II. The climb is every bit a perfect, classic line as one can imagine, set up on the schist rock cliff known as Waimea. I am here with a well-known boulderer, Paul Robinson, who previously tried Jaws II in hot, late-summer conditions, two years prior. Now, he has returned for the crisp New England fall with a winning objective in mind. Paul is not by any means known for his rope climbing abilities. In fact, he has climbed fewer than a dozen times outside, and rarely pushes himself in this field. Hailing from Moorestown, New Jersey, Paul has been climbing for almost 15 years. Within that time period, he has accelerated to elite levels. “Being an elite-level athlete means to have a positive influence within the climbing community, and be able to live exclusively off a salary made from the sport,” Paul says. Paul made his mark on the climbing world with his accomplishments as a boulderer — climbing without ropes, but stopping around 20 feet above the ground. As many boulderers fear the potentially large falls associated with rope climbing, I asked Paul whether he felt the scare. “I’m scared of big falls, injuries, and not achieving all I want to do in such a small amount of time,” he responds. Regardless of his fears, Paul decided to cast away his stereotypical image, and shock the climbing population by attempting (and hopefully completing) one of the hardest climbs in the world. He traveled to Rumney for a two-week trip, where his only goal was to ascend his hardest rope climb to date. Many of the climbs in Rumney, be they classic or not, have death-defying landings — meaning the ground is littered with jagged rocks that could seriously injure, or even kill, climbers, should they fall. Jaws II, and the five climbs around it, have some of the only rock-free landings in...

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