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

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

            Ah, the first (of many hopefully!) beautiful spring days of the year. Nine degrees and nothing but sun! I spent the day at to Devil's Glen with Jared and Justin.
            I had one route in mind: The Project. A line I bolted last year during the winter and have been dreaming of the moves ever since.
            Step One: Get to the crag. Let the epic hike begin!.
Not sure if Jared got out or not. Every men for themselves during this epic hike
            The hike began down the busy road, where cars are speeding by every second. Luckily, one of those speeding cars was a friendly officer that offered to give us a ride. It must of been the strangest sight for any person speeding by and witnessing one man with a shovel, another with a painting pole, and one innocent Spanish man getting into the cop car. The officer dropped us off  at the head of the trail where we gave our thanks to the officer. Then the four  feet of snow started. Due to Jared's unquestionable bravery he broke trail for the team. Jared's third step resulted in half of his body disappearing beneath the white blanket. We all laughed and made a game of who could take the most steps before falling into the hip high snow. 
            The project is on a wall called, "The Sun wall", which, depending on your wants and needs, is perfect for tanning and climbing. . Once we got to the cliff line I rappelled over the project at which point I hung all the draws.It was during that time I sadly realized there was a waterfall running down 90% of the route. Although the sun wall provided an enjoyable temperature, it was also slowly taking away my chance at getting on the project. I decided to jump on whatever part was dry so I could at least touch the project that day.
            The project is around 40 feet high and maybe goes around 5.14c (a rough approximation). It starts off with a crimpy v7ish compression problem, which then leads into a v10 crux. The v10 crux is off a big slopey hold to a micro crimp. The feet are small and you're throwing your full body length to this micro crimp. Once you hit this crimp you have to heel up and hit a mono, bump off this mono, hit an awful slopey side pull and quickly turn your right hand to a side pull to prevent the barn door. Then comes the real crux. The one move I still have yet to pull off. Two juggy side pulls await you for what has now become your personal choose your own adventure situation.

The throw to the micro crimp
            Adventure A: If you choose the straight up variation, you have picked the mono adventure. Which entails hiking your feet really high and throwing to a mono, lock off that mono to hit another mono, hit a micro crimp and dyno to a jug ( I put one session last year with this beta and could not complete the lock off move.) 
I feel Going left of the juggy side -pulls is the easier adventure.
Adventure B: This adventure entails going left to a slopey crimp, hike your right foot up, lock off that slopey crimp and hit a nothing hold (I would love to say micro crimp again, but that is giving this hold too much credit) and hit a good crimp, followed by the same dyno as the mono adventure. This way sounds easy, but still goes at v12+ or maybe harder.
At the end of your delightful adventure you finish off with some lovely 5.12+ climbing to the anchors =)

The Gully
            The days adventure did not end with the rock climbing. I would of loved for the adventure to be over at this point because I was ready for a nap, but apparently the most challenging route of the day was to be our climb out. We squeezed through a frozen gully and climbed up the icy exit. After a few slippery steps we realized this would need a team effort. I (begrudgingly) pushed Jared and JT up the start and they employed the use of a stick (my saviour) to help me out of the final slippery crux.
            This journey led to another Project of mine being soaked. Although this is frustrating it has at least provided with me with a reason to head back to the gym. Which, all in all, is not a bad thing as I learned I need to work on my lock off skills if I want to complete this DG project. Well, I'm off to Kentucky with my dad for 9 days. Hopefully, my passport comes in this week or I'll be swimming across the border.
The things I do for rock climbing :)
The top of the icy exit
Joe Skopec