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.