Thursday, 24 March 2016

Which is better? Ontario or the rest of the world?
In this blog I'll be talking about traveling to the States, Spain, and the First Ascents I've obtained in Ontario. Maybe I answer the title's question or maybe you will still be pondering when does Joe work? No one knows!

The start of many adventures with Tyler and I!
After my last death trip with my father I decided to go on a 4 week trip with my boy Tyler! A trip with Tyler will always be filled with adventure, laughter, spontaneous moments, probably no near death experiences or maybe just one, Boy Talk, and Cookies!! This trip did not lack any of these! We started our trip by hitting up Rumney and I had the dream of trying the 5.14c (Living Astro), but the hot/humid weather had other plans for us. The plus 40C weather was making the hike to the cliff dreadful and we wanted to rent a donkey to carry our bags. Since Tyler refused to carry my bag to the cliff, I was dead by the time I started climbing. I tried the 5.14c and was surprised that I was able to do the crux in this weather, but for some reason Tyler and I were just not having fun sweating buckets. We woke up on day 3 and randomly decided "Let's call John Shen and he will tell us where we won't sweat to death". John gave us the great idea of hitting up Shagg Crag! Shagg Crag not only has the best quality rock I've ever climbed on, but on the hike back you have the choice of swimming in the most beautiful setting ever!

The swimming and jumping area at Shagg Crag
I must warn you there is a rock to jump into the water, which feels like 20 feet high, but 99% of the world would say 4 feet high... Yes... It took me days to build up the courage to jump off this 20 foot( maybe 4 foot) boulder into the water... If you want to see this brave jump and hear me roar like a Lion, then check out this link (which also has more videos of Tyler and I's adventures!)

The rain did not stop for the next 2 weeks, but luckily Shagg Crag stays dry and we completed 95% of the climbs there! After completing Shagg crag Tyler and I hit up Wild River , I got my first 5.13 onsight! This 70 foot 5.13 really meant a lot to me because I suffered from tunnel vision on some of the holds and probably could have found an easier way to do it if I had more time to read it. Instead, like many onsight attempts, you sometimes become fixated on only using certain holds in a certain way and you become blind to other techniques that may make the climb easier. However, this is part of the battle I love. Sometimes you only have mere seconds to make a decision that is going to either make or break the entire climb. Lucky and unluckily for me this 5.13  took me over 20 minutes to send because I milked every rest and had a open mind during crux. At the end of the day I got lucky and sent a very crimpy 5.13, which helps because I tend to like crimps.

Shagg Crag

Some key non-climbing parts of the adventure included surfing in Portland, being rudely woken by a moose, and  then we continued to Quebec for yummy ice cream and knee bar climbing. We ended up camping at a 5 star parking lot of a ski hill for 3 days and failed to learn how to knee bar for the next 3 days of climbing.
Our next destination was our last, but you know what they say, save the best for last! We met up with my childhood hero Zach Treanor in an unknown location by Thousand Islands. Zach has a nose for smelling out Ontario's best cliffs and this time was no different. He's developing a whole cliff side by himself! Zach's determination for developing is one of many reasons why I look up to Zach. This new cliff called "The Wall" was no disappointment. The 3 of us went right to work and bolted 6 new routes.

The victory ice cream after Onsighting my first 5.13
One of the first climbs I bolted was a  5.10d and it is an experience I will never forget. The main ledge was filled with 3 feet of thick dirt and the only tools I had for removing it were my two bare hands and my wire brush. I felt like a dog digging a hole for a bone. The best part was the route is less then vertical under the ledge, which means all the dirt I cleaned off the ledge was covering the rest of the route.  After half a day of work the route was completely cleaned and bolted! Probably the best 5.10 I've ever bolted.
 Afterwards we sent a few more 5.12's and I failed to FA one of the coolest 5.13's I've ever touched!! This 5.13 had crazy lock offs, dyno’s, and a classic mental run out on slab climbing! Where I might or might not have cried for a few minutes before doing the run out to the anchors. But really I just needed those tears to clean off the dirty holds that Zach forgot to clean for me. Zach's new area will be a classic destination for sure! Sadly this trip had to come to an end, but this trip was a classic Joe and Tyler adventure!
The hike to Wild River Crag! I'll never forget this beautiful hike =)

What is better than a Joe and Tyler trip? Clearly nothing, but a Joe and Justin Ticknor trip can match that! Now what can Justin provide in a trip? Justin is charming, the best chef around, funny, and is just down to have a good time.  Did I say he is single ladies? Probably not for long after everyone finds out he sent his first 5.11 on lead in Spain!
Justin and I decided to hit up Spain for a few weeks, but this trip was more about trying out new food, visiting family, and adventuring to Rodellar for climbing! We started off the trip by spending a few days with my family that lives in Barcelona. We had a great time enjoying Justin's meals and spending time on an empty beach. Yes, I said empty and not because the beach was a private beach, but because plus 25C is apparently too cold for the Spanish. People could not understand that Justin and I were swimming and tanning in plus 25, while the locals were walking around in their winter coats. 

Spain-->Rodellar Crag

After sweating too much at the beach Justin and I adventured to a small village called Rodellar, which is a world class destination for sport climbing. This area is equipped with tufa packed 45M long routes,  5-6 restaurants , 4-5 different hostels/hotels,  and a cliff side that does not seem to stop. Rodellar probably has over 1000 climbs, but 80% of the routes were wet. Our first day 90mm of rain decided to come down and even if we had perfect weather afterwards the walls continued to cry with water, or, maybe that was me crying again? Justin and I tracked down every dry climb we could find and went to work! Justin impressively climbed 3-4 routes a day. He sent a 5.11 that was powerful and full of throws! He was also a champ about belaying me for the rest of the day.  Justin would belay me until I finished a whole crag. I would climb one route, rest 5-7mins and move on to the next route. My best day of climbing was onsighting seven 5.12s and onsighting one 5.13! My endurance was on point, but sadly I was just not strong enough to climb the wet hard climbs.

A little dip before our Bromance Picnic 
A romantic first kiss in this stone heart shape ;)
My girlfriend was a bit jealous, but who can resist
Jt when he goes in for the kiss
 We couldn’t leave Rodellar without one day of exploring the massive valley. The last few days we took one rest day, where Justin and I didn’t know where we were going, but we just kept exploring the valley. We would be jumping over the freezing cold water by jumping boulder to boulder. We found a romantic place by the waterfalls and had a bromance picnic in the sun. We kept exploring until the daylight was gone and the danger level of jumping off boulder to boulder became a little bit too dangerous. Of course we would of continued if we had travel insurance, but I tend to keep “forgetting” to buy that.This was the end of our Spain trip, but I foresee many more trips with this SINGLE (easy on the eyes too, if I may say so myself. Ladies?) friend of mine! This picture proves Justin knows how to kiss too. Don't worry ladies, I just used him for his spectacular cooking abilities. His purity is still intact. 


Back to Ontario climbing! This Ontario season was unreal for me! I was lucky enough to send the 15+ year old project at Crag X, Mark’s project at Devil’s Glen, and sent another open project at RW. The one route I want to go into detail is the 15 year old project I called “Team Choss”. Now, I'm not  saying there is nothing special about the other two routes, but this route needed more than my crimp strength. The support of my friends and family helped to encourage me, figure out the beta, and basically keep me on the wall long enough to finally send this project.

Ontario Climbing -->Wild Fire at Devil's Glen
I tried Team Choss back in the day. After sending my first 5.14 and I childishly thought I could send anything. I was obviously wrong and failed miserably because I did not have an open mind and climbed with tunnel vision. This is where the help of Max, Jared, Elli, Chris, and my father came in. This route took 3 days just to figure out the first 20 feet of climbing. Every time I would fail or say this move is impossible my friends would yell out beta like “Use a Knee bar? Heel hook? Huge cross over? Dyno, oh wait, Joe can’t dyno”. Instead of failing over and over again on the same move I would try out beta that didn’t even make sense, but the crazy beta would work! I would only get one move further, but that was all the motivation I would need to continue the battle.
Not only did I have to fight through difficult movements, but the Canadian weather was becoming colder and colder. One might say, winter is coming. Each day my hands were getting closer and closer to getting frostbite and I was slowly losing all my climbing partners. But what happens when the young and reckless cannot climb in the cold? You bag the old and even more reckless! 
My dad and I trying to keep warm by the stove.
Karl, my 70 year old dad belayed me in the freezing cold. It's probably good for people of his age, no? The cold weather is probably good for their heart or blood pressure? Either way, my dad never once complained about the cold temperature and although he almost made me hit the ground once, we got the job done! This is why I decided to name the route Team Choss based on holds breaking on me and the team effort it took for the send. 
Why is Ontario climbing my favourite place to climb? I can climb at world class cliffs and at the end of the day I can still see my best friends and family. As much as I love travelling the world and climbing at new areas, after a few weeks I always get home sick. Sometimes people forget the whole picture. The whole picture for me is climbing, family, friends, and cookies. Take one of these factors out and I will always feel like something is not right. Live life to the fullest and enjoy every moment as it was your last!

Joe Skopec

Thank you Boreal, Maxim Ropes, and Grand River Rocks for helping me enjoy the life I want to live!

Friday, 18 March 2016

Boreal Mutant Shoe Review


First time it's been comfy - elastic slipper for tightness but not restrictive
Great rubber - super sticky
Used it on vertical, overhang, bouldering, routes, slab
Aggressive toe
Rubber for toe hooks - zenith - durable (1 month no wear)
Velcro super fast
Strong heel
GREAT overall shoe

Thinking of being a shoe model?

Today I am reviewing the new Boreal Mutant Climbing Shoe, and I will start off by saying, WOW, this is a good looking shoe. Not just the colour, not just the shape, but absolutely everything is aesthetically pleasing, to the point that people are noticing the shoes while I'm climbing. Outside of the aesthetics, it's truly the first comfortable climbing shoe I have ever had the opportunity to wear. It has an elastic slipper to keep the shoe tight to your foot, while not putting any unneeded pressure, or pain on the foot itself. Even with a single quick close Velcro strap, I have no trust issues with smearing and small foot holds. I know when my foot cranks down, the Mutant will remain tight, secure, and in place. The Mutant also has new Zenith rubber which is super sticky and great for heel hooks. It has a strong heel, and with the ultra thin rubber zone over the aggressive toe, I really love these shoes. I have used these shoes on vertical slab, overhang, bouldering and pretty much any application in climbing. I use these shoes both indoor and outdoor and it really stands up to the elements.  After 1 month of hard use, I am seeing no wear on the edging of the shoe. The Mutants really are amazing shoes, I cannot recommend these shoes enough. Great overall shoe, great for any application. 

Also, here is a good review for Boreal's Lynx Shoe, another personal favourite.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Warning- This blog contains near death stories, typical Joe injury stories, and a happy ending ;)

Warning- This blog contains near death stories, typical Joe injury stories, and a happy ending ;)

My body fell apart yet again on January 10th, 2015. That's right. I know the date. Never a good sign.
On that day I came very close to completely tearing my A4 tendon in my middle finger, which, I've been told, is a bad thing. I had just finished an eight week training program a few days prior to my injury. I felt that I was in the best shape of my life. I should of taken a week off after this training program, but I promised my best friend Tyler I would go to the Tour de Bloc with him (I  don't really like competition climbing, but I promised Tyler I would support him that day).
Due to copious nocturnal beverages Tyler was incapacitated the day of the competition. I prepaid. I was going.
Second boulder problem into the competition and everyone around me heard a "POP" noise.
Now, such a noise is challenging to understand at first. You can't really tell what or where was the origin of this sound.
Did I break the hold?
Did I slip off a foot and kick the wall?
Is someone breaking out the champagne for a feat of excellence that a fellow climber just achieved?
To those lucky climbers that have not experienced such a sound in their climbing lives, I commend you and wish you all the best. For those unlucky climbers, the following is probably similar to what you have sadly experienced.
From the time it took my auditory sense to hear the sound and make the true connection to its source my middle finger was twice the size of my other fingers. Literally. My right hand could not close.


Back to level one.

After an injury of this magnitude, and a climbing trip on the horizon I had to rethink life and decide, "what now?" 

Option 1- Cancel my upcoming one month climbing trip with my father and just work for the next 5-6 months?
Option 2- Work on my weakness' for the next 5 months - Core/Stretching and still go on the one month climbing trip with my father, but do easy/gross/puke/scary/someonesaveme TRAD routes?

Weird enough I ended up picking Option 2! I got the job done with training on my core/stretching for 3 months, but I never did get the same "stoke" feeling as training for climbing or touching real rock.
The start of our adventure

Now, a climbing trip with Karel Skopec (My good luck charm father of mine) is never complete without a few near death experiences. Day one we drove 14 hours away from the -40C weather of Ontario to T-wall in Tennessee and arrived with a welcoming gun shot from the famous Tennessee inhabitants. 
Admittedly we were a little lost, and I suppose looked a little suspicious as we kept circling around the same neighborhoods looking for our destination. Apparently the locals thought my father and I were robbers, so like any concerned citizen would do, they kindly shot at us first and asked questions later. Luckily, they called the cops too which ended up in our favor as the police eventually explained to them that we were just lost Canadians looking for some rocks to climb.

Day Two- First off I should preface this story by stating my father only gave me 6 different camalots and one full set of nuts to trad climb with for the whole climbing trip.
Holding two out of the six Camelots 
Also, if any climbing guide book says “Use a runner" (A runner is a super long sling to reduce rope drag (Rope drag occurs when the friction generated from the rope running through the quickdraws and over the rock builds to the point where the climber noticeably feels the drag and potentially cannot climb any higher)), you USE A RUNNER.

Well day two of our trip is where I found out the hard way what a runner entails and why using a DMM Revolver (used to reduce rope drag on sport routes and help extend the life of your rope)  just doesn't cut it. 
I started climbing up a 5.7 that was around 90 feet long. Once I got to the roof I placed a cam with my lucky Revolver and continued to traverse 10 feet left. Usually, this climb is suppose to be 5.7, but the sloppy ledge where people mantle onto was covered with MUD and I just couldn't hold onto the ledge. I only had one option, which was traverse another 5 feet left and crimp my way up and back onto the big MUDDY ledge.
I felt myself slipping off the big muddy ledge more and more and at this point I couldn't place anymore gear. I tried climbing higher, but the rope drag was so bad that I literally couldn't climb any higher. My feet were barely on at this point, and the amount of mud under my fingers far outweighed the amount of rock.
Joe: “If I fall, I'll be falling 30 feet and pendulum into the wall and might not walk away from this event.”
Karel: “It's good Joe, it's good!”
There was a tree a few feet away from me and I immediately knew what I had to do. I yelled down to my dad "I'm jumping for the tree Dad!!!”
Luckily enough I caught the tree!! I wrapped both of my legs around the tree (thank you precious stretching regime!) and had to use both of my sap and mud ridden hands to pull up enough slack to climb up to the anchors.

After one week of trad climbing, I knew I was slowly running out of lives and drove down to the Obed for some juggy sport climbing.

First off, Obed sport climbing is unreal! The Obed is mostly known for bolted routes which consist of a style akin to a gorilla jumping from jug to jug. One would think I would be safe with all this sport climbing, but I kinda forgot to mention there were many refrigerator sized death-cicles falling from 100 feet above me.
I got to the anchors and was washed over with joy. Finally. No one else around, just me and my dad having fun climbing. My feet hit the ground and I started walking towards Karel. Then the massive death-cicle hit the ground two feet behind. Directly in the spot I was standing when I was first lowered. The icicle exploded and ice chunks exploded off the ground and hit my cringing body.
I can't believe how lucky I was. Had I not walked towards my dad before untying my knot who knows what would have happened.  I nervously laughed it off which worked to hide the fear tears.
I hoped this was my last near death experience, but oh no, the day was not over. Our exit led us up a hill. A very steep hill. A very steep hill covered in ice.
My Honda Fit began to go backwards 3/4 up the hill leaving me with no control of the car. On my left side there was just a normal ditch and on my right there was an unpleasant tumble. Again, the Skopec luck kicked in and my car decided to slide over and get stuck in the ditch.  Karel used his Czech Republic army skills (I'm not exactly sure what he did since he said I had to look away because I apparently am not “ready” to learn his ancient arts. All I can say is that I heard what sounded like the roar of a bear mixed with the majestic call of an eagle amidst a ruckus of metal being hammered (presumably by his bare hands)) to get the poor Honda fit out of the ditch.
My dad "Were sitting on this heater
like chickens".
I'm happy to say we spent our last two weeks in Red River gorge where we continued to have good old son and father climbing fun without the presence of death or danger at our back.

Fast forward 6 months after my injury, and I'm currently 90% recovered! Lately I've been still training 6 times a week, Repeating old routes I've done before, and still loving life! I'm slowly creeping back to where I was with sending 5.13+ in a few tries, but I'm still staying away from very crimpy routes.  My goal this season is to send a few more 5.14's and bolt routes at Lion's Head, Ontario not just for myself, but to bolt from 5.5 to 5.14.

A quick slightly kinda serious note. I know. Bear with me :)
Mono Training
I just wanted to say that experience can only get so you far when it comes to safety. Gear is not 100%, but it is a heck of a lot better than nothing at all. You can't bring everything up the face, but guidebooks and recommendations are out there. Use them both to your advantage. Like me, there are a good many of my experienced friends that could have made some dangerous situations a little or lot safer if they had the right gear or did a little more research. Whether you're new to climbing or you've been at it for awhile, take a little extra time to check out that guidebook, read that blog or listen to a local. Have fun out there!

Finally, I would like to give a shout out to my sponsors who have helped me to achieve my past goals and step toward my future dreams.

Maxim Rope- You honestly cannot go wrong with any of Maxim ropes. I prefer the Pinnacle 9.4

Boreal Shoes- Boreal provides every shoe for every style of climbing

ChossPile Hand Repair-  If you find your skin needs a repair from crimping too hard, then try out Chosspile Hand Repair

Grand River Rocks Climbing Gym- This gym has support me with everything I need to get strong in climbing and they even allow me to set boulder problems to mimic my projects outside. 

Petzl- Not really my sponsors, But Matt from Petzl hooked me up with a brand new petzl harness, which has supported me with comfortable falls.

If you made it this far through the blog then I'm surprised and happy you didn't get bored ;)

Thank you for reading another one of my adventures!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


Alberta Adventure 
     Where should I start? I still want to do a write up on my Wyoming/Alberta trip and how Maxim Ropes hooked me up with a new 9.5mm rope called "Pinnacle" (hands down the best projecting rope I've ever had), but lately all my time has gone into a project I just sent. Expect a post about the Alberta experience in the future. For now I hope you enjoy my short post about my latest route adventure I called, "Bromance."
Maxim Ropes hooking me up huge!!

     I bolted this epic route back in March of this year and by the end almost regretted ever starting. I was cursed since day one. When Tyler and I first repelled down to check the line and begin the bolting process the drill bit snapped in half on the second hole. No spare bits meant no more drilling.


It took another full day to finish bolting, clean off (most of) the choss, and build a belay station. When it came to working out the sequences,  I would spend 2 hours hang dogging trying to figure out beta. When I did unlock the sequence a hold would break making the beta useless. This happened 3 or 4 times before all the choss was gone leaving a sloping 3 foot rail.

     The route was so alluring in its challenge that it brought me back relentlessly. However, it was starting to cost me sleep and money. The hospital would call me if I wanted to work the next day, but before agreeing to anything I would preface my answer with, "Let me check the weather first." This led the staff to start calling me a "Fairweather worker." If I did have to work I had a three stage process to projecting this route :

Stage 1) Work 7pm-7am

Stage 2)  Sleep 3 hours and go straight to projecting (Often heavily assisted by caffeine. And cookies. And tea. And, do you happen to have more cookies?)
Main crux of "Bromance" 

Stage 3) Work 7pm-7am

     This route clocks in at 65 feet long, which breaks down to a technical crimpy start, to huge thuggy throws, to a shoulder breaking crux move on a very bad sloper hold, to yet again big throws on good holds that goes around 5.12+ to anchors. There is only one real rest at the second bolt, but after that you're racing to the anchors with barely anytime  or any place to rest.

True Bromance with TVR ;)

Yesterday I went out with my buddy Tyler, who brought with him a secret weapon – the Rosary. I’ve only kissed the rosary once before, right before I sent my old project Nostalgia. Now, I'm not a religious person, so I refused to kiss it on my first attempt on this new route and I failed miserably. On my next attempt, I kissed the Rosary and sent the project! I still have a hard time believing in this lucky charm, but I must say this Rosary is two-for-two! As for the grade I'm unsure, but feel this route is more difficult than my previous route Déjà Vu, which I graded 5.14a. That grade could be soft since it was an open project for over 12 years and climbers who have worked it said the grade is 5.14b/c. I ended up naming this new route "Bromance" due to my love of projecting with my good friend TVR! Also the moment you share with your belayer after you send. We had a bit of a Bromance after my send today ;)
Using the powers of the Rosary before my send ;)

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Battle of the Spiders...

Enjoying my chill mini trip to Lions Head

             What have I been up to the last 3-4 months? Well, I pulled a classic Joe 2 or 3 months ago and injured my pulley yet again (10th time? But, who's counting here?). I was truly sad about this injury because I was in the best shape of my life. I trained so hard to get to that level and you lose it all in one second. I hate myself for it, but I never take time off after a injury. I took 2 or 3 days off and then went back to light climbing.
            Forcing myself to do light climbs let me enjoyed climbs I never would of jumped on before because my mind is too focused on PROJECTING. One two months ago I decided to go on a 9 day trip to Lions Head with my buddy JT. The trip was epic! We did climbs from 5.7-5.11+ the first 3 days! I have to give a shout out to a route called "Main line"; a 5.10-, which is a must do. This route has no anchors with one fun run out, which JT and I found out the hard way, but luckily after I topped out the climb I found a few friends at the top, which made a anchor for us.
Our rest days were full of playing tennis with the locals and cooking our famous chili. To this point of the trip it has been very relaxing, but I just had a itch that I needed to scratch.  The only solution was touching some classic hard climbs.
            My finger was still very tender to touch, but I decided to jump on Golden hour and Grey Matter, which are 5.13b and C. I fought through the pain and ended up completing both climbs. I was surprised I could do both in one day since I thought I would have lost both strength and endurance as a result of my injury.
            Where did these secret powers come from...? Travis? God? Tommy? One of them for sure. 
            For the most part I never told JT how hard I was climbing because I didn't want him stopping me from jumping on climbs. After I came down from both of those climbs JT said, " Those 5.12's seem easy eh?". I just laughed and said they were not 5.12's Jt... At the end of the Trip JT sent a route called "Lord of the Flies" 5.11+! It is always amazing seeing a friend go from struggling on a route, to doing every move to perfection! Great Job Jt!
            Near the end of the trip I tried a route called "Titan" 5.14a. This route is broken down to two sections. First half is very powerful  overhang/crimpy route(5.13D), which leads into slab(5.13-). Yet again, to my surprise I did 3/4 of the route on my second go. I ended up working this route for two days. I fell twice at the last slab crux, which I want to blame my half size too big shoes for. If am allowed to do that, (Editor's Note: No, you are not) then yes, it was my shoes fault.
Now back to some local climbing at the "Hood". I bolted a route at the Hood during the winter and was surprised that I found a gem under all that choss. Due to the very long and cold winter I only had a chance to try this route just before my injury. I figured out 3/4 of the route, but came to a point of the climb where holds repeatedly broke off. This was extremely frustrating as I  would put hours into working out a sequence, only to have the hold break off in the end.  I deemed the route to be too hard for myself and found new beta that leads into another route called "Deep Six"  just left of the project after the 5th bolt.

The Open Project at the Hood- 5.14+

This is where the battle of the 8 eyed monster's comes in. Tommy and I arrive at the hood  yesterday and noticed something is just not right and why are there no bugs at this swampy area? Oh right! The Spiders ate them all and have become Giants!  The open project had no spiders on the climb, but poor Tommy had 10 mammoth spiders on his route. The good friend that I am (Editor's Note: Questionable), I decided to go up the project and lower off onto Tommy's route to kill all the Spiders.
            Honestly, I'm not that scared of spiders, but I was up against giants and was horrified. When I knocked these gross monsters into the stream of running water, we thought they had to be dead, right? Well, we guessed wrong. Tommy shall regale us with this terror that besieged us.
There slowly taking over the Hood...
One of the Small ones...

         "The sun was shining, birds were singing, perfect harmony was about to be reached. It was about that time a chasm opened in the face of the cliff and out crawled one million spiders, each bigger then the last. And the first one was pretty big. So, that's saying something. Truly this was a menace that had to be encountered with courage and moxy. Fortunately, I'm full of the stuff and Joe happened to pick up some moxy that morning at the market. 
            As Joe previously explained he rapped off of “Deep Six” in order to cleanse it for me. Cleanse is a broad term as it should generally calm and appease those that are in need of aid. When one decides to bombard his climbing partner with eight legged bombs from the sky it is easy to find out why our relationship is now less then amicable. Fortunately I was able to evade the parachuting devils and watch them fall into their watery abyss.
            Truly though, these things were out of a horror story. The biggest I've seen from the area and they were on every crimp and tucked into every pocket. Had they had venom my body would   have been coursing with it had Joe not saved the day.
            High fives, champagne, and medals of honour were all passed around when Joe finally reached the ground. We exchanged our war stories and individual battles, and soon I was ready to climb. Or, so we thought...
            We could not feel it.
            We could not smell it.
            This beast, was a silent killer.

            Surely the biggest of them all. Where all others had eight legs, it had 27. Fangs fell from its mandibles and dragged along the earth. The scratches leaving an eternal reminder for all those that may pass that death does indeed exist and it rules this land. Web stickier then any climbing shoe, and eyes that peered into your soul.
            Just as I took my first step towards the rock face the sky fell black as we were eclipsed by the giant spider, now referred to as, Arachnacanus Rex, as he made his way up from underneath the crash pad towards us.
            It must have knowingly watched its brothers and sisters fall in sacrifice for their great plight. Now it was time. Time for revenge. Revenge time. Oh, yes.
            Two things screamed very loudly (it must have been the native Red Tailed Screaming Swallow mating season) while Joe and I held our tempered composure without question.
            27 legs are great. They allow for agility, fancy tap dancing, and abject terror. I however have feet on my legs (FACT – Spiders don't have feet. Or toes. Pretty sure.).
            My feet were a feat that could not be reckoned with that day. After a courageous act of obliterating my enemy to smithereens (as one is want to do when 50 times as big as your enemy and has vast resources and technology -such as feet- that your enemy could never retain or understand) a calming air was about us. The sun shone once more, and the only memory of the great ordeal was found on the bottom of my shoe. "

            After this killing spree I jumped on the link up project and sent the open project! I named the route "First Love" 5.13+, but took another look at the straight up variation. I figured out new beta for the straight up variation and will be gunning for that first ascent and would love to call this one "True love" 5.14+
I'm glad to be back in the game and writing about my climbing adventures.

Thank you for reading Tom's and my near death experience =)

Joe Skopec/Tommy Nestman

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Route Training / Projecting

            For my first training blog post I want to address the philosophy I use for training my route endurance, as well as the methodology I use to prepare for an upcoming project.  These are not new training techniques, rather, they are the ones I have discovered which are the most effective for myself.
            Before we get started, it is important to remember that motivation is key. I won't lie and say that training is more fun than climbing on real rock, but with the right elements training can be just as gratifying as climbing.
            For most people training is a bi-product of climbing that can seem more like work then fun. To keep a positive and progressive atmosphere here are a few items that I find help a great deal to keep you motivated while training:
                     Having a good music playlist
                     Tracking your progress by keeping a journal of your training and training goals
                     Having a like-minded training partner
                     Scheduling training times and dates
These items can take the "labour" out of training and help make it through those challenging sessions.


            Admittedly, my training methods are greedy. At least in the sense one will be climbing 1-4 routes/boulder problems continuously without sharing that part of the gym. With this in mind, I have a few tips to respect other members climbing.
·         Climb at hours that are not known to be busy
·         Ask the other members climbing around you, if they mind you doing your training program
·         Don't ask/ cut off another climber because your 20 minute rest is done. Wait until the other climbers are done their route and ask if you can start your training program again.
·         Know when to pick your battles. If the gym is too busy one night, try doing another style of training, or, just don't train that night.

Pure Endurance

                     Climbing partner
                     Climbing rope (preferably a short rope, to save time with pulling the rope down between climbs)
                     Harness, shoes, chalk bag
                     IPod / headphones
                     Three different routes ( Preferably close together to save time running route to route) and I will be explaining how to pick these routes later in the blog
                     Your A game ;)

You're going to hate me during your session and love me after this session. Or, maybe hate before and after.
            Before you go into a crazy training mode please remember you should not do any of these training methods more than twice a week. Most of these training methods are very strenuous and taxing on your body. Specifically, your finger tendons.
Endurance training is about pushing through that fatigue/uncomfortable zone to see how many moves you can really go after thinking, "I'm letting go." All your body wants after going through maximum torture, is a great rest day (aka enjoying tea and cookies in bed served by your loving sister). Rest days might sound lazy, but are highly recommended for tendon and muscle to recover and build. If you don't take rest days your muscle and tendon's may tear due to the high strain and lead to serious injury.

Just a typical rest day/tea date with my Lovely Grandmother ;) 

Example of my week during training season:

·         Day One - Boulder/Route climb at max level
·         Day Two - 4x4's/ Light endurance session 
·         Day Three - Rest day- Make playlist
·         Day Four- Pure endurance and maybe Campus board
·         Day Five- Boulder/route Climb at max level
·         Day Six - Rest day- Steal my mom's dark chocolate
·         Day Seven - Pure endurance/ 4x4's

Training Breakdown
1)          Warm up!
2)                   Three sets of lead climbing three routes back to back.
3)                   Take a 20 minute break between each set. Meaning, one set would entail climbing
a route up and down, without any rest between the three routes (To help save time between the climbs, the acting belayer will pull down the rope end attached to the climber, so the climber does not need to untie and retie the knot).
            The difficult part for this training is finding three grades that work best for you (try to pick routes that are the tallest in the gym). Also be sure to pick your routes before you begin each set so it is a quick transition to the next climb thereby minimizing your down time.
            Always pick the hardest route as your last climb to mimic the crux at the top of a climb. For example I climb my routes in this order-
·         Set One -5.11 - 5.11 - 5.12.
·         Set Two- 5.10 - 5.11 – 5.12 (Feel free to make any set easier or harder due to how pumped you are).
·         Set Three - 5.10 - 5.11 - .5.12. If you are repeatedly falling while climbing a route up or down, try turning it down a notch.
For example: when I'm at the top of a 5.12 and I know I won't have the energy to down climb the 5.12, I'll down climb whatever route is easier left or right of the 5.12.
Please keep safety in mind while down climbing right or left of a route. Climbing too far left or right could cause a huge swing, which could cause a injury to yourself or other members climbing around you!
Finding the perfect set might take a session or two. One last thing! If you fall, take a maximum rest of five seconds or set your own time, so you don't overdue your rests. Have fun =)

Power endurance

For Ontario climbing, power endurance is a must! Ontario routes tend to follow this equation:

Boulder problem + No hands rest or a juggy rest + Boulder problem + Rest + Boulder problem

4x4 Training

·         Stop watch
·         Chalk bag
·         Climbing shoes
·         Four different boulder problems (Preferably close together to save time running route to route)

            A great way to mimic this style of climbing is 4x4 training. 4x4 training consists of
four sets of climbing four boulder problems back to back (one would only need to touch the last hold and jump down, chalk up and run to your next problem. There is no rest between problems).             The rest between each set is determined on how long it took you to complete all four problems. An example would be:
                     Climbed 4 Problems in 2 minutes and 20 seconds
                     Rest 2 minutes and 20 second 
                     Return to climbing and repeat this process until you have done four sets

            During a set if you fall off a boulder problem and you can still reach the holds that you fell from, get back on from where you fell. However, if you can't reach the holds then go onto the next problem. The general rule of thumb is that you want to complete all four problems in your first three sets and only falling on your last set. If you don't feel "dead" at the end of your fourth set, change one problem to a higher grade. Keep changing your sets until you have found the perfect 4x4's or until the setters rudely take away your problems ;)

4x4 Breakdown
·         Set one- v6( blue tape, if your climbing at grand river rocks), v4-v5( pink tape), and one orange(v3).
·         Set Two, Three, and Four - Repeat set number one
·         If you don't feel "dead" at the end of your fourth set, change one problem to a higher grade. Keep changing your sets until you have found the perfect 4x4's or until the setters rudely take away your problems ;)


            Projecting is attempting a route/boulder problem over a few sessions or many sessions. Or one could say I'm working a project, which is a route that no one has ever sent (Sent is a climbing term meaning that a climb was completed from ground to top, without any falls or tension from the rope). But in this case I will be talking about how to work a route over a long period of time. Projecting might sound like a simple thing, but I feel there are many tricks to perfecting this process.

            Step One- Pick a route that you know you won't send your first attempt. I usually pick a route three or four letter grades higher then what I can onsight (onsight is sending a route on your first try without knowing any information about the route). An example would be, if I know I can onsight up to 5.12d/13aish, three or four letter grades higher would be 5.13d/5.14a. But again, this style suits me and everyone needs to find out what they are comfortable projecting. But try to look for a route that looks pleasing because you might be spending your next 2 or 1,019,272 sessions on this route ;)

            Step Two- Since I know I won't send the route on my first attempt, I climb bolt to bolt.
This way I won't get pumped out and it gives me the chance to sit at each bolt to see if I missed any holds or key beta. At any point where you feel that you have come across a crux move (some routes only have one, most have several), then practice doing the crux move a few times to gain the muscle memory and confidence. This may mean that a whole day of working your project may actually translate to climbing a 5 foot section of a 50 foot route just to get the beta down for  a crux move. It is important to note that chocolate and delicious beverages are excellent ways to bribe your friends to belay you during these tedious times :)
            Step Three- Resting/Recovering. Finding holds where you can shake your arms and chalk up is key!! Shaking out is to have one hand holding onto a suitable hold that allows the other arm to rest; often by shaking back and forth and chalking up your hand. During your “shake out” try to focus on not over gripping your one arm that is holding on. Don't grip the hold with 100% power, but instead try to hold with 30% of your power. Knowing how to control your grip strength is something that comes with time and experience. Also try to direct pressure on your feet/heel/knee during this time. Get creative and find a knee-bar, but those are gross and hurt too much ;)

Proper way of extending a draw( not sure why the picture keeps rotating side ways)
            Step Four - Clipping- In some cases clipping a crux bolt can be very difficult. To help with this problem you could extend the draw by putting one or two draws together. Sometimes I have to find a better stance to clip the draw, which sucks, but always better then skipping a draw for me ;) Then there is the option of skipping a draw. Only skip a draw if you know you won't hit the ground while you're climbing past the bolt! However, if deemed safe, skipping a draw can save you a great deal of energy that can be used where it is most effective.

            Step Four- Ticking holds- I find it helpful to tick holds where they're the most positive (I mostly do this for the crux, where saving energy is most critical or when foot holds are hard to see). This will save time/energy from adjusting on a hold. A trick I found is ticking a
hold that your index finger will hit. This will keep it consistent on where you need to hit every hold. Please brush off the tick marks after you sent the route or if you won't be coming back to the route anytime soon (this will help keep the route looking clean and beautiful).

            Step Five- Fighting through all the emotions and nerves during your
send!!! Keep your mind focused and you will send!!
Fighting through the Emotions/Nerves/Pain during a Project :)

I hoped everyone enjoyed my training and projecting blog. Feel free to ask any questions on my training style. Any constructive feedback would be much appreciated.


Joe Skopec