Wednesday, June 18, 2014

State of the Onion: June

Just a quick update: I am actually still working on my wall. Weekends I'm trying to get out as much as possible and climb on Real Rock or at least Real Indoor Rock, but weeknights are all sawdust, all the time. I've started a real training regimen on the wall, too, which I'll detail later.

Here's the State of the Wall as of June 19th:

Not much has changed on the main section, save for the addition of some new holds. Holds density is starting to get decent, and the most frequently used ones are getting that nice chalky look. In the lower left of this picture, you can see that the corner has mostly been filled; even with no holds, this provides a nice area for smearing. The hole was awkward.

The arete is complete, and that is su-weet. Lots of interesting moves and problems can be made in this area. I still want to put up a few more holds here, especially for heel-hooks and corner pinches from the right.

The biggest change over the last month is the flat section:

It just keeps growing! I originally didn't plan for a very big vertical section, reasoning that the limited height of the wall would make it less useful. As I built, though, I came to realize a few points in favor of this sort of traversing area:

  • It lets me use a lot of holds that would be nearly impossible to use on the steeper sections, at least for me
  • It lets me practice more technical movement on bad holds, something I'm weak at.
  • It gives the kids and beginners something to do when they lack the power to use the steeper areas, even with good holds
So I've built out, and a bit up. The highest point of the flat wall I can barely reach from the ground, so with careful setting I can make problems that take several moves to get to the top. Traverses are good, too. I'll probably build this out with one more half-length panel (each of these is roughly 450 cm in width)

I've also made the garage a more appealing place to be, with better lighting and music. And a heater, which I should't have to use until fall. You hear that, Hokkaido? I shouldn't have to use it. I should not be using a heater in June. Ahem. Anyhow, that's it for the update. Stay tuned for another Fantasy Gym coming soon, and a profile of a non-Fantasy Gym, aka a real gym, the one I go to most often. Cheers!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Fantasy Gym: Rock Hard

Hello, and welcome to another edition of Fantasy Gyms, the blog segment in which I kill downtime at work messing around with Sketchup present new and exciting ideas for theoretical gyms! Previous fantasy gyms have included The Rock Box and The Starwhal. Check them out if you haven't!

For today's project, I started with building dimensions, creating a 10 x 15 meter building with a maximum roof height of 8 meters. Despite the Fantasy Gyms tag, this gym was designed with realism in mind- this is the sort of thing that one person could reasonably build, in a building of a sort that can be found all over Hokkaido, where I live. One of these days I'll do something really wild.

In addition to keeping things to a reasonable level of feasibility, I tried to focus on a couple of other guidelines in the design:

  • The gym should provide an interesting variety of climbing surfaces and situations, obviously
  • The gym should include space to rest and relax while not climbing
  • The gym should lend itself to local competitions, which is to say that people should comfortably be able to watch the climbers. The two gyms I spend most of my time at are quite different in this regard, something I'll write a future blog post about
  • The gym should contain as many totally sweet posters as possible. I did a pretty good job here but I think there's room for improvement.

Presenting: Rock Hard!

Sited in a completely vacant grassy field (apparently), Rock Hard used to be a, uh, we'll say storehouse for chain-link fence. 

Welcome! Here you see the front desk, made from plywood. Everything is made from plywood, because I love plywood. It's what drew me to climbing in the first place! But you didn't come for the check-in desk, as beautiful as it may be- turn left and you'll see the climbing area!

Enter the climbing area. Let the scent of chalk and sweat embrace you like a warm and very athletic grandmother.

The In n' Out

On the north side of the building we have the first segment of climbing wall, the In n' Out. The In n' Out is based around the Out, a 40-degree overhang with a 45-degree slab top for mantle problems. I'm a big fan of these kinds of mantle areas, and include them in most of my designs. The right side of the Out begins as a much shallower 20 degree overhang before transitioning to the 40 degree. The left side is the In, a cave with a 10-degree back wall that transitions into a 75-degree near-horizontal roof. This section, too, includes a mantle out; the top section is a 20 degree slab, making for a difficult transition from the roof. The left side of the Out, as you can see, pushes into the cave for a steep arete. Topout height of this section is just over 3 meters, and the section is 7 and a half meters long.

Another view of the In n' Out

Moving to the left of the cave area is a short transition section of vertical wall:

This transitional segment consists of three vertical walls of around 1.25 meters in width each. The corners are wide angles- I tried to avoid just having 90-degree transitions between walls, and add more interesting transitions. The corner leads into the back wall, a wide and flat 15-degree overhang. It's 4.5 meters off the ground, which means falling from up here will be exciting.

The back wall meets with this big overhang-thing, which I don't have a clever name for. The Pain Train? The Tickler? The Big Overhang Cave Thing? Your guess is as good as mine. The bottom area is 85 degrees of full-time fun, transitioning into a 45 degree area and finally a vertical finishing area.

I kind of like the name "The Pulverizer"

The side of this feature is slightly more than vertical, transitioning into vertical. Lately I like these sorts of roof-into-flat transition areas; I think they offer a lot of interesting moves. Like the back wall, this thing is over 4 meters tall, which is certainly enough to make me wet myself.

Moving on from the... uh, the big thing... is the last segment of wall. The centerpiece here is a big projecting prow, 30 degrees steepening to 50 degrees and only a meter across at the top. The theme here is arete moves, possibly on two aretes at a time. I'd probably call it Mr. Hugs.

To the left is another 15-degree wall that cuts back into a large crevice before joining the prow. This crevice has an inner angle of less than 90 degrees, and provides a good area for stemming moves and the like. Not strictly necessary, but I liked putting it there better than transitioning straight into the prow. The left side is a flat wall, and probably the best area for beginners. A 15 degree slab finishes out the wall.

On to the non-climbing stuff! Past the slab we see the raised deck, which if you haven't noticed is something I really like putting in. Climbers love hanging out in high places, right?

This area is strictly for Chilling. Chilling is an important and underrated part of a well-balanced climbing schedule. Really garish sofas, too. Of course the deck provides a good vantage for watching competitions and climbing events, too, but the chilling is the main point.

Gosh, these girders are fascinating!

Finishing out a mantle problem on the In n' Out takes one up to the deck, as I think having room to actually top out and walk out is cool. There's a ladder available for those who are too lame to go up this way or who don't want to navigate a boulder problem while holding a six-pack of beer (losers).

Below the deck, of course, is the important stuff. Don't mix up which of these areas is which, please!

And that about covers it! Let me know if you have any feedback- would this be fun to climb on? Boring? Interesting? Unrealistic? I have no idea what I'm doing, obviously, but I like thinking up designs for climbing gyms and you can't stop me.

As a preview of our next stop, I'm going to turn this decommissioned Mr. Donuts-

-into a sweet-ass gym! Maybe! It might still smell like donuts though.

Until next time!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Event Report: 36 Whiskeys 2014 First Round

On Sunday, June 1st, after a long day of cycling and uh, drinking, Charles and Jordan and I headed to Sapporo for the first 36 Whiskeys competition of the year at Whippersnapper. Writing this makes me realize that I haven't ever posted about Whippersnapper, which I'll have to do some time. For now, say that Whippersnapper is one of several gyms in Sapporo, and is my favorite. That's the storefront and the manager, above. Several times a year, they hold climbing events called 36 Whiskeys. This is their story.

This event was the biggest yet, with more than 70 climbers registered. Whippersnapper isn't a big place, so this can get a little crowded, but the event was well-managed and ran smoothly.

Climbers were split into two groups, creatively named A Group and B Group. A Group had an hour and a half to climb, followed right away by B Group. Then they repeated, so that each group had three total hours, split in half. This was, I think, a great way to run the competition. It allowed a huge number of climbers to compete, and to have a long rest midway through; I was gassed by the end of the first round, but got my second wind watching the other climbers and refueling during my down time.

Same overhang as before, from the other side

As for the competition itself, it worked like this. 36 problems were set on the wall, ranging from very easy yellow-tape problems to ball-crushing black problems. In theory, the hardest problems were around 1-2 dan, or V8-V9.

These volumes were new to the wall, and added a lot (of suffering)

In their two 1.5 hour sessions, each climber could climb whatever problem they wished, as many times as they wanted- but only one climber at a time on each of the four sections of the wall. Average waiting time to get back on the wall was only around three or four minutes, but knowing that you couldn't just hop back on the problem if you fell did add some pressure. That, and the other climbers watching and cheering.

Each climber had a card, and would get a mark for any problem they successfully climbed. Different difficulties were worth different points, but this really only mattered for the top-tier climbers gunning for a place in the final round at the end of the year; mortals like me just set personal goals and try to climb hard.

It's me!

In the first half of the competition, I managed all of the pink problems, which were pegged at 7-6kyu, which is maybe V2. I tried each of the problems of the next grade up, and while I didn't send any of them I was able to decide which ones to attack in my second half. That's one of them, up above.

Charles tries the technical volume problem

In my second half, I had two 6kyu problems picked out that I thought I had a good chance of sending. One was a slightly overhanging technical problem on a number of volumes, with bad holds and tricky feet, and the other was a fairly straightforward problem with a blobby, difficult-to-match hold in the center that I had trouble surpassing. I was able to get the first of the two on my first shot after the break; success! And the power of rest! I'm usually far too impatient to take long rests during a session, but this enforced break showed me the real value of getting refocused.

Thanks for the pic, Charles!

The second of the two problems I'd picked out was tougher to crack. That's me flogging away at it above. The crux was moving past the hold I'm matched on and getting to a slopey pinch that doesn't offer much relief. I worked through this position enough times to end up with a pretty gnarly abrasion on my left forearm where it rubbed against the hold. No good, though; I wasn't able to get the send, and I felt my strength going on each try. I felt I gave it a good effort, though, and I'm glad I stuck with it to the end.

In addition to getting to climb on some sweet problems in an intense environment, the competition also allowed us to watch some real talented climbers push themselves hard. The climbers here may not be world-class, but this competition does draw the best athletes from in and around Sapporo and was really inspiring. At the top level, I think we saw four or five total sends of black-tape problems, with a round of applause every time it happened.

In any case, a good time was had by all. I wish I had taken the opportunity to take more pictures, but I was too focused on climbing! Charles and Jordan kindly took some shots of me climbing; I wish I had returned the favor.

Looking forward to next time, and to getting out on some real boulders and a sport crag this weekend! Also look forward to an update on the home wall soon. Until then!

(all pictures courtesy of Whippersnapper Gym except where noted)