Posts Tagged ‘extreme rock climbing’


Another rock climbing mecca – Clark Mountain near Vegas

July 3, 2009

I’m on a roll…

Here’s another climbing site admirably suited to our extreme sports blog, Clark Mountain, 40 miles south of Las Vegas and 235 miles from downtown Los Angeles. The climbing here is about 300-500 feet high and about a mile long.

Clark Mountain is the high point of Mojave National Preserve and is a refreshing climb out of the desert. It is sport climbing in an alpine environment.

Geologically speaking, Clark is part of a long chain of limestone outcroppings that stretch through the Great Basin from Nevada and Utah into Wyoming and Montana.

Third tier...AMAZING....

This is Third Tier – “the most amazing wall in the USA” says Joey Kinder. Sheer white limestone for hundreds of feet, but it is hardly developed. Third Tier, also known as The Monastery,  has 34 routes including Jumbo Pumping Hate and Tusk. It is some of the best limestone in the country.

Randy Leavitt originally opened up this area having scoped it for years from the highway. It took him, with help from Jorge Vissar, Ed Worsman, and Glen Svenson, 4 years to establish over 80 routes in the four areas of Clark Mountain all the while keeping their activities quiet so they could enjoy the solitude and the magnificent climbs before others moved in.

Jumbo Pumping Hate, a Randy Leavitt route, is a 5.14a climb. It’s  long, involved and really exposed with juggy sequences and dynos.

Chris Sharma on Jumbo Love F9b, 97 kb
Chris Sharma on Jumbo Pumping Love F9b
UKC Articles, Dec 2008
© Boone Speed / Aurora Photos

As Randy Leavitt says: The finest limestone on the planet can be found here. You’ll have to work to get to it though.” However, he continues, “the quality of rock more than repays your effort. Expect your legs to gain muscle weight from the hike in, but get ready for the most spectacular sport climbing this side of the Mississippi.”

The rock quality is exceptional. Features are not limited to one type. You’ll find it all — pockets, edges, slopers, pinches, underclings, and cracks. The climbing is always interesting. Each route is distinctive. The climbing doesn’t get repetitive or boring. But be careful – help is a long way away.

The climbing of Clark Mountain began in 1992 and Hole In The Wall was the first route established on the First Tier. Read My Lips was the first route on the 2nd Tier and Religious Man on the Third Tier or The Monastery.

Randy Leavitt and Mike Booth on Jumbo Pumping Hate 5.13d (8b) at the Monastery., 67 kbRandy Leavitt and Mike Booth on Jumbo Pumping Hate 5.13d (8b) at the Monastery.
UKC News
© Jorge Visser

The climbing area is 9 miles off Interstate 15 and 5 miles south of the Nevada border.

Most of the climbing is on the East Face of Clark Mountain. There is also one developed crag on the South Face known as the Baily Road Crag.

This is sport climbing bar none…

clark local, 72 kb


Record breaking times on El Caps ‘The Nose’

April 6, 2009

“Pick a goal and do it. Find a big goal… something that’s fun so you can keep doing it a lot!” Hans Florine

Every serious climber knows El Capitan. It is as extreme as rock faces come and has long been considered ‘a classic’ around the world.

A sheer granite face rises 2,900 feet straight up.  A fall means certain death. It is one of the most hair-raising and arduous vertical climbs in the world and is arguably the single biggest rock climbing challenge.

Once considered impossible to climb it now sets the standard for big-wall climbing. The most popular and historically famous route is The Nose, which follows the massive prow between the south west and south east faces.

The Nose was first climbed in 1958 by a team of 3 who took 47 days using      ‘seige’ tactics to conquer it. They climbed in expeditionary style using ropes along the whole length of the route, establishing camps along the way. They relied heavily on aid climbing – using rope, pitons and expansion bolts to make it to the summit.

The next ascent, in 1960, took just 6 days by a team of 4. This was the first continuous climb of the route without siege tactics.

The first solo climb of The Nose was done by Tom Bauman in 1969, and the first single day ascent was accomplished in 1975 by John Long, Jim Bridwell and Billy Westbay.

Today The Nose attracts climbers of various experience and ability levels, and, with a success rate of around 60%, typically takes fit climbers 2-3 days of full climbing.

The Nose was first free-climbed in 1993 by Lynn Hill. On her second attempt she reached the summit after 4 days climbing. A year later, she returned to free climb it in a day, this time reaching the summit in just 23 hours and setting a new standard for free climbing on “El Cap.”

And then came speed climbing…

First up were Hans Florine,  who grew up in Moraga, California, and Yuji Hirayama,  of Hidaka, Japan who set the record at just under 3 hours. Then along came the  Huber brothers, from Germany, who, on the 17th October 2007, took 3 minutes off that time and set a new record at 2 hours, 48 minutes, and 35 seconds.

Florine was not new to the face. He first set The Nose speed record with Steve Schneider in 1991, reaching the top in 8 hours and 6 minutes. It was broken a week later. It has since been broken nine times, Florine repeatedly reclaiming the fastest time. World renowned climber Dean Potter and he traded The Nose record several times starting in 2001, prompting one magazine to run a photo illustration of them glaring at each other.

Having had their record broken by the Huber brothers, Florine, now 44, and Hirayama, 39, were determined to get it back and on July 2nd, 2008 they pulled themselves over the top of the immense slab of granite and touched the tree that serves as the finish line in just 2 hours, 43 minutes and 33 seconds – meaning they averaged about 17.7 feet per minute. It was 2 minutes and 12 seconds faster than the Huber brother’s record breaking climb. At one point, the pair were 10 minutes ahead of the record pace, but mistakes and exhaustion slowed the climbers down.

Speed climbers Hans Florine (left), of Lafayette, and Yuj... (Michael Maloney / The Chronicle)

2008 was the 50th anniversary of that first ascent, which was, remember, accomplished in 47 days. Tom Frost, a 72-year-old Yosemite legend who, along with Royal Robbins and two other partners, pulled off the second ascent of the Nose back in 1960, in six days, couldn’t have said it better:

“This is cutting edge, traditional Yosemite climbing, the best it gets. I joke with Hans” he said “about how we knocked five weeks off the record compared to, what, just a few minutes?”

Thirteen climbers have been killed in nine separate accidents on the route since 1973, when Michael Blake, 19, of Santa Monica fell 2,800 feet after his body weight yanked a bolt out of the wall and severed his rope. Twenty-four people have died on El Capitan since 1905, sometimes because they forgot to do something as simple as tying a knot.

Speed climbing is even more risky – forcing climbers to scale large sections of the route virtually unprotected – but it has become an integral part of the history of Yosemite.

If you’re trying to get your head around that record-breaking time – 2 hours 43 minutes and 33 seconds, here are some amusing facts to compare it with:


  • That’s a minute faster than the average length of a major-league baseball game in 1986 (but those have generally gotten longer since then).
  • It’s the same length as the epic 2004 Brad Pitt-Orlando Bloom film “Troy.”
  • And it’s two minutes shorter than the time it took for the Titanic to sink below the surface after its iceberg collision on April 14, 1912.

Enjoy this excerpt of their climb, with thanks to 1stonemaster for posting it.


Dean Potter Does It Again…

September 6, 2008

Dean Potter does it again. I think he outdoes everyone in his search for the most extreme conditions for whatever he does.

Last month (August) he successfully free soloed the route Deep Blue Sea on the North Face of the Eiger. It’s a 600ft gently overhanging limestone slope – difficulty rating is 5.12+, which if you don’t know what that means go check out my blog on climbing grades done yesterday (5th September). If this is a 5.12 grade I HATE to think what a 5.15a looks like!

As you can imagine there is a huge risk of falling.

Being Dean Potter means you aniticipate the unimaginable – he wore his super-lite BASE rig to give him an outside chance of survival if he fell. However, as with his baselining, he would have to fall ‘right’ to be able to use the ‘chute – needless to say, the ‘chute wasn’t used.

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Congratulations to Dean Potter for once again astounding us all and my thanks to for this wonderful photograph.


10 Rock Faces to Climb in North America

September 5, 2008

This is by no means a definitive list of the top ten climbs, nor are they necessarily the most extreme rock climbs out there, but if you’re looking for a fun day (or two) out with a challenging rock face infront of you, and you’re in the area… well try one of these.

El Capitan, California Nose Route VI 5.11 A3 and Salathe Wall VI 5.10 A3

Fondly known as ‘El Cap’, this huge lump of granite – a 3,000ft (910m) vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park was once considered impossible to climb, but is now the standard for big-wall climbing. “El Cap” has two main faces, the Southwest (on the left when looking directly at the wall) and the Southeast. Between the two faces juts a massive prow. While today there are numerous established routes on both faces, the most popular and historically famous route is The Nose, which follows the massive prow. however, there are more than a dozen routes up the granite face, all of which are lengthy and complicated.

Half Dome Northwest Face VI 5.9 A3 or 5.11

Also in Yosemite National Park this is another imposing lump of granite and is possibly Yosemite’s most recognised site. It rises more than 4,737 ft (1,444 m) above the valley floor. You can actually hike to the top of The Dome using a trail and cable route that was erected in 1919, but I imagine you rock climbing enthusiasts out there would consider this a poor sort of way to spend a day. So for the serious rock climbers there are over a dozen rock climbing routes leading from the valley up Half Dome’s vertical northwest face. Other routes ascend the south face and the west shoulder. Bear in mind that the Regular north West Face is a 5-day climb!

Tahquitz Rock, California

This massive 1,000ft rock face is sometimes known as Lily Rock. It is located on the high western slope of the San Jacinto mountain range in southern California and is above the mountain town of Idyllwild. It has a steep approach hike (approximately 800ft elevation in a half mile) which makes it both a popular hiking destination and rock climbing area. More than a dozen routes have been established ranging well into the 5.10 territory. It is also where the Yosemite Decimal grading system was developed. It is considered one of the best free climbs in southern California.

A view of Tahquitz from Suicide Rock, showing both the rock outcrop and the peak

Moab, Utah

Considered the Mecca for desert climbing, Moab has a great variety of climbs on the sandstone towers of the Colorado Plateau. It can get crowded, but the wide selection for beginners, moderate climbers, and bouldering is unparalleled. Delicate Arch as seen below is CLOSED to climbers.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park near Moab

Smith Rock, Oregon

The birthplace of modern sport/rock climbing has more than a 1,000 different routes, many of the most challenging on the planet, that have been climbed by some of the best in the sport. They are considered cutting-edge even by today’s standards. Its sheer cliffs of tuff and basalt are ideal for rock climbing of all difficulty levels.

A scenic view of Smith Rock, central Oregon.

Stone Mountain, North Carolina

Stone Mountain has some of the best friction climbing anywhere – a 600ft (183m) granite dome. Although there are some moderate routes, climbing here can be intimidating due to the featureless nature of the rock and the exposure. A rebolting project in the late 90s by the Carolina Climbers Coalition and the state Park Service replaced all the original bolts and established solid rap stations on most routes.

Rocky Mountain National Park offers a lifetime’s worth of spires, snow couloirs, ice smears and ski descents.

Longs Peak

This peak has long been of interest to climbers. The easiest route is not “technical” during the summer season (mid July to early September), and was probably first used by American Indians collecting eagle feathers, but the East Face of the mountain is quite steep, and is topped by a gigantic sheer cliff known as “The Diamond”. There is also the popular Keyhole Route which is open all year but is upgraded out-of-season to “technical” as treacherous ice formation and snow fall necessitates the use of specialized climbing equipment including, at a minimum, crampons and an ice axe.

Flatirons, Boulder, Colorado

And then there are the spectacular Flatirons, rising like thousand-foot spikes out of the base of the Rockies, with climbing at grades accessible to almost everyone. Yvon Chouinard called the East Face of the Third Flatiron, 1,300 feet long and rated 5.4, “The finest beginner’s climb in the country.” As a bonus, these amazing formations are within walking distance to the downtown pubs.

View of the first through fifth Flatirons (right to left, north to south) from Chautauqua Park on a winter morning

Devil’s Tower, Wyoming

In recent years, climbing Devils Tower National Monument has increased in popularity. Today hundreds of climbers scale the sheer rock walls of Devils Tower each summer. These climbers ascend climbing routes on every side, climbing up the various vertical cracks and columns of the rock. The difficulty of these routes vary greatly, ranging from relatively easy to some of the hardest in the world.

Devils Tower National Monument

Cathedral Ledge, New Hampshire 5.6 – 5.11

Because of its easy access and routes of all grades and styles, Cathedral has been deservedly popular for decades. Though new route potential exists, the classic lines receive most of the attention. Routes like Thin Air (5.6), Recompense (5.9), and The Prow (5.11) may see many ascents each weekend. Cathedral has something for everyone as the cliff offers long multi pitch routes, face climbs, splitter cracks, and even a few dubious quality sport routes. From short practice climbs at the North End to the soaring Yosemite-style aid routes of the Central Wall, everyone can be happy at Cathedral Ledge. Some might say that Cathedral Ledge is now a bit out of fashion – but how can a rock which offers something for everyone, and a brilliant climb at that, ever be out of fashion?

Thank you to for this picture. I am sure if you get onto his website he will have many more beautiful photographs. I scoured the web for a good photo of Cathedral Ledge, but this was definitely the best…

Panoramic of Cathedral Ledge. Consists of 3 digital images stitched together.

The Pro’s and Con’s Of Rock Climbing

July 31, 2008

I picked up these helpful hints from


Develops mental agility and toughness

Sometimes described as ‘vertical chess’, rock climbing entails problem solving, planning ahead and keeping your nerve. Researchers at Texas A&M University found climbing could reduce stress, improve self-confidence and encourage positive thinking.

Gives you a firm handshake

Hand and arm strength was far superior in experienced female climbers compared with that of novices in a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Works the abs

Climbing builds a strong core (back and abdominal region). Your abs work particularly hard when you are holding your body weight against gravity, such as on an overhang.

Makes you bendy

Climbing improves your flexibility all over, as you are constantly reaching and stretching, but particularly around the hips, thanks to the frequently adopted ‘frog position’ in which the hips are open.

Builds steely thighs!

Of course, rock climbing builds strength and definition in the back, shoulders and arms, but the legs – particularly the quads and calves – also develop muscular endurance and strength in order to support you for extended periods and propel you upwards.


Risk factor

Well, if you’re a rock climber, you will fully understand the risks involved.

All that gear!

You can’t just get up and go climbing on a whim, it’ll take you ages to get dressed and ‘rack up’.

What goes up must come down

Abseiling has caused more fatalities than any other mountaineering activity, according to the British Mountaineering Council.

Climber’s finger

A tendon injury caused by trying to support your body weight with one or two fingers.


But don’t let the con’s put you off – it is still an exhilarating extreme sport, particularly if you are out there in the great outdoors, with fresh air, wide landscapes and a great challenge ahead of you.


Some More Stuff You Might Like to Know About Rock Climbing

July 24, 2008

Rock climbing is an extreme sport, and a sport where you pit yourself against yourself. Of course you can pit yourself against others too, but really it is your own spirit that you are pushing to its extreme, your own courage that you are challenging.

I came across some very good information that was printed in The Guardian about 2 years ago which I thought was worth reprinting The content comes from information given to Sam Murphy by the current British climbing champion  – Lucy Creamer. She is also a member of the British Climbing Team.She is without doubt the most accomplished female climber in Britain and has achieved more “firsts” than any other climber. She is just at home on the sea cliffs of Pembroke as she is on the ice of Colorado or the international competition arena.
She is currently seven times British champion – 1997/98, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007!


Who better to get some really good advice from? So listen up everyone, here it is:


Don’t overuse the arms.

Relying on upper-body strength to pull yourself up is a common beginners’ mistake. Pushing with the legs conserves energy. But don’t push up through the whole sole of the foot – stand only on the area around the big toe. This helps you gain height and, as this part of the foot is more sensitive, it gives you better awareness of your grip.

Go bouldering.

Bouldering (a form of climbing without ropes on small rocks and boulders) is a good way of practising hard things at a low level. Don’t worry if things go wrong, as a crash mat is placed where you’re likely to fall. Bouldering improves your technique, strength and problem-solving skills. Many climbing walls offer bouldering, but the bouldering mecca is Fountainbleu in France.

Calm yourself.

If you get nervous or feel panic welling up when you’re on the crag, take a few deep breaths – in through the nose and out through the mouth. This relaxes you physiologically and psychologically. Looking down can cause you to lose focus and panic, so keep your eyes on the rock in front of you and slightly above.

Get knotted.

Learning how to tie a few knots is pretty important for a beginner. You aren’t going to be climbing anywhere without them! The figure-of-eight is probably the most common knot used in climbing, and is used to attach the rope to your harness. It’s a good idea to practise tying knots at home until they become second nature.

Be prepared.

With the adrenaline buzzing, there can be a tendency to plunge straight into a climb, but preparation is everything. Stand at the bottom of the wall or crag and plan your route. Work out where the hard bits are and try to determine a rest point before you get to them, so you can shake your arms out and take a breather. Also, familiarise yourself with your gear and make sure it is properly ‘racked’ on your harness, so you can locate what you need quickly when you need it.

Climb outside.

A climbing wall is a great place to start – a nice, controlled, comfortable environment – but to restrict yourself to indoor climbing would be a shame. It’s like only ever running on a treadmill. Climbing outdoors is much more varied and unpredictable – no two routes are ever the same. It’s more rewarding physically, mentally and spiritually.

What Gear to Wear:

Comfortable clothing that’s not too tight to restrict movement, nor too baggy to get caught up. If you’re climbing outside, wear layers of breathable, sweat-wicking clothing rather than one bulky item.

As for footwear, trainers will do at first, but once you get into it you’ll want climbing shoes. Popular footwear brands include Scarpa, Five Ten, Red Chili and La Sportiva.