Snatches and CJs

Adding to the list of things I suck at: Weightlifting. I used to think the Bench Press was complex. It’s not. Pick any joint in my body. Any joint, pick one. That joint can’t figure out how to Snatch or Clean & Jerk. Even if my brain knew how to tell it what to do it physically could not be made to go into that position. What joint did you pick? Ankle: no. Knee: no. Hip, scapula, shoulder, elbow, wrist? No, no, no, no, no.

I’ve been trying though. I’ve been going to the local CrossFit, whose owner both oddly and thankfully agrees with me that CrossFit has an image problem. She’s also a USA Weightlifting certified instructor and former gymnast so I forgive her. We agree that my “technique” super sucks. She’ll stand there and say stuff like, “Use your legs.” That’s where I’m at. I’m the special needs guy over in the corner trying to row the fricking bar up like an upside down and inverted pull-up. My legs are fully turned off. One day last week I walked over and did a one-arm on the pull-up bar just to recoup some dignity. She was like, “That’s crazy.” No. What’s crazy is my max deadlift is ~95lbs.

I feel it now in my climbing. Not one neutron is wasted contemplating anything below my wist. I guess I look for where to put my feet but that’s the end of the story. When I’m tired my whole thought process is like, “Where’s my elbow? How’s my breathing? Core is tight?” Lately I do force myself to think, “Where’s my knee? Where’s my hip?” If I’m asking the answer is usually, “Not where it should be.” That’s too bad because, if I’m asking, my arms are probably blasted and my legs sure could help out. I’m hoping weightlifting can get these old bones to start talking to each other.

The Olympic lifts are crazy complex. I love it.

The Olympic Lifts captured by HookGrip

77kg/170lb Mohamed Ehab Yousseff snatching 165kg/364lb for an international competition PR:

94kg/207lb Adam Maligov snatching 172kg/379lb, 178kg/392lb and 181kg/399lb at the 2016 Russian Championships in Vladikavkaz:

85kg/187lb Aleksandr Pielieshenko clean and jerking 210kg/463lb:

85kg/187lb Artem Okulov clean and jerking 215kg/474lb:


Locomotion is important to the outdoor athlete. One should move efficiently in varied environs. I’m not transporting myself around outside very efficiently these days and I know that if I can’t keep up with the cool kids I’m going to miss out on fun stuff. There are two mediums I regularly contend with: ocean and mountains. Consider my use of the term “mountains” pretty loose – mostly this means I’m scrambling around in chaparral between sport climbing crags. Regardless, I’m getting my ass kicked out there, mostly due to this past year’s leg surgeries. But all that’s behind me now. I’m ready to kick my locomotion up a few notches and I know the best way to get better at a thing is to do the damn thang.

Let me confine my thinking here a bit. Think of the outdoor activities I pursue as actual sports. Because they are. This is not survivalist training or an otherwise immeasurable forest hobby. The form of climbing I practice is quantifiable by sport route rating. My ocean travel is by Stand Up Paddle Board, an ancient paddling method contested today at a variety of distances from 2 to 16 miles and more. Furthermore, my focus is always to progress my abilities in whichever activity. I want to make a distinction between this and the casual pastime. I’m obsessed with and committed to my athletic pursuits. It just so happens they are performed outside, rather than in a gym or pool or stadium (thankfully). I make this point because it took me a long time to recognize these types of sports as being on the same level as traditional sports. I realize now they are just as challenging, though not as evolved as traditional sports, and the athletes are just as driven.

So we’re talking about developing athletic pursuits. Actually, we’re talking about moving to and from locations where the actual pursuits are performed. In the case of sport climbing we’re talking about hiking. In the ocean, SUP is the method of transport but we could suppose this is to move between, say, different surf breaks. This distinction helps me zero in on a goal. Consider hiking: the purpose is not to push the limits of trail mobility but simply to move efficiently between car and cliff. Look at the disparate physiques of hikers and climbers. Hikers have big legs and climbers would rather have unhealthily small legs. It would be nice to be the world’s most capable hiker if I didn’t then have to climb a hard route once I got to my destination, where my giant calves would be a hindrance. So I’m not just saying I don’t need to be a great hiker but that I purposely should avoid being very good. I’m shooting for a hiking ability between painfully bad and grossly adapted.

Paddling is a little different because it’s not strictly the means to an end. It can be the end itself in that there may not be a destination where the real work happens. This is how SUP races are contested. If I’m being honest with myself I need to concede that my ambitions in SUP are minor compared to my climbing goals. Originally I started paddling as cardio training for climbing. I can say that paddling has grabbed me and I want to integrate it permanently into my life but there is not the 20+ years of commitment I bring to climbing. So again, I’m talking about pursuing paddling to a degree that does not hinder my climbing. For this reason I choose to categorize it alongside hiking – important, but not the point. For simplicity’s sake lets presume paddling is the in-between thing on the way to the real thing – say surfing a far-off break – and we want to be better but not obsessed with it.

Let’s not re-invent the wheel. Neither hiking nor paddling are new things. There exist resources out in the world for these sports. I am not trying to be the best the world has ever seen so I can be confident following in a more advanced practitioner’s footsteps. At no point should I need to break off on my own to push the known limits of hiking or paddling. Include in this conversation that I have a job and that this job is not to train all day. Basically my job is to sit in this chair for ~9 hours. The conversation is now sufficiently constrained that we can Google our faces off.

Imagine searching the internet for advice on becoming a better hiker/paddler. Approach from a different angle: parameterize the search from the perspective of an athlete in order to separate useful results from those pandering to the neophyte/survivalist/insane crowd. I’m looking for strategies to develop my athleticism holistically. Rather than go straight for hiking/paddling methodologies I’m looking to fill in the gaps in an otherwise developed athletic repertoire. In other words, consider what I’m missing and forego developing the strengths I already have. I can do a lot of pull-ups, for instance, but I can barely bend over to put on socks. Everything is connected, sure, but I feel I don’t need to train classic back/arm pulling nearly as much as I need to develop power through my legs and trunk.

One thing I definitely don’t have is technique.

Stand Up Paddle Technique

Four-time Olympic Canoeist and founder of Quickblade paddles Jim Terrell knows paddling.

Jim Terrell: SUP Stroke Analysis

Larry Cain also knows paddling. For one, he’s Canadian. He’s also competed in three Olympic Games to win both Gold and Silver medals in Sprint Canoe, and stuff.

Larry Cain:
#1 Improving Technique with Drills
#2 Entry Drill
#3 Gathering Drill
#4 Catch Drill
#5 Applying the Catch Drill
#6 The Middle of the Stroke
#7 Exit Drill
#8 Achieving Maximum Results

Olympic weightlifting via CrossFit

There’s a lot I don’t like about CrossFit. Like a lot. However, I appreciate that this is the perspective of an outsider observing a cult fitness trend. It actually sounds better to describe it that way. But I can forgive the nuts kipping/burpee videos if I tell myself this is a popularized version of a time honored weightlifting tradition. And I’ve always wanted to develop the Olympic lifts. CrossFit, I believe, can get me there. And if a person can clean/snatch big weight then hiking/scrambling should be no problem – I think.

A good introduction (as if I would know) to Olympic Weightlifting is probably the Bergener Warm-Up:

Kendrick Farris moves a lot of weight:


Things can look weird when context is taken away. Forget for a moment that we’re looking at a boulderer trying really hard on a project and imagine this person is simply standing in the forest yelling at a rock to “Fugg off and die!”.  Climbing’s great:

Courtesy of The World’s Angriest Boulderer.

No Star Saturday

Last weekend ushered in the inaugural Steve Edwards Memorial Hurt, aka. the Grandeur Ten. No expectation could have even partially resembled the reality of this day long scramble-athon. It was, in a word, Steve-ish. It was mad Steve-ish and it hurt all over, body and soul. My goal was to, A: not be (re)injured and, B: do it. I did do it – kinda – and am, as far as I can tell, not permanently hurt. All nervous function has not returned to my lower half so we’ll have to see but I’m confident enough to declare me not critically affected in the physical sense. In all other respects it was perfect. It was awesome to be with Steve’s closest friends as we honored Steve with our suffering. It was exactly as I imagine Steve would have wanted, organically disorganized and fraternally collaborative.

“I don’t want it if it’s that easy.”
— Tupac Shakur

The Hike

Ostensibly we are to trace the Grandeur Fun Run while accessing 10 distinct cliffs. To say Steve sandbaggs us in this respect is a bit gracious. While the official Grandeur Fun Run covers ~10 miles we hike more like 14, sections of which are not “civilized” (as Steve would say). The hiking wrecks me.

Wherever the Fun Run proper is supposed to start, Steve’s vision digresses from this point. Our route starts and finishes in the Edwards backyard, technically in the hot tub but that’s been removed.

The Climbs

We are challenged to climb one route at each of 10 crags along the main trail. No climb should be easier than 5.10a and no single grade should be climbed more than once, meaning we will climb one of each grade between 5.10a and 5.12b. This does not happen. For me, it looks like this:

  1. departure, Steve’s backyard – 7:00AM Saturday, September 17, 2016
    Feeling good. Ha. I pounded 6 liters of water the night before, two this morning and I’ve got four liters packed. There’s also a stash of water 2/3 in.
  2. Grandeur Peak, Quarry, Roof Route 5.10
    The diminutive Quarry crag is a short walk from Steve’s backyard, though not altogether easy to find. I flash the Roof Route through the ~4ft overhang on the right side of the cliff, after Hans put draws on. It is cold and early, the rock is fractured and unnerving, and I have no coffee. It feels about 5.13X.
  3. Grandeur Peak, Reef, Leviathan 5.12a
    I project this with Ben despite the ridicule of everyone questioning our decision to insert a 5.12 on route #2 of what would be a long day (The day would in fact be way longer than we could imagine and our plan is insane). It takes three tries to put a redpoint on it. It’s great. Ben is an animal and I’ll follow him to the loony bin any day.
  4. Grandeur Peak, Rocket Reef, Riding the Rocket 5.9 PG13
    This thing makes my feet hurt just looking at it. Actually climbing it is excruciating. I brought one pair of new Scarpa Boostics I just bought for overhanging Tor routes. Of course this rig is ~130ft of limestone slab. Micah puts draws on, I follow, on a 50m rope that is ~90ft too short, making for a crux descent. There’s like 30ft runouts here too. Brilliant limestone though, with a fantastic view of the Great Salt Lake basin.
  5. Grandeur Peak, Upper Reef – [skip]
    I think this crag is a triangular formation further up the same cliff band as the previous two crags. It’s way off the main trail, in gnarly bush, and we are running late so it gets skipped. It looks like really good limestone.
  6. Grandeur Peak proper
    Here we transfer Steve from Folgers can to the Heavens following a gorgeous ceremony by Steve’s wife Lisa. Corresponding with Steve’s unique and contagious brand of humor his ceremony mirrors The Dude and Walter’s tribute to Donny from The Big Lebowski. Let my friends know I want similar treatment.

    The Grandeur is a surprisingly popular peak accessed by a ridegline path. Its popularity is a surprise because if you put a two mile trail in Santa Barbara, starting at 4,000ft and ending at 8,000ft, install heat lamps and outlaw switchbacks, people will pass the fugg out. Here, I’m passed by several dogs, children, a retired person, a guy with a bike on his shoulder, and a lady with an infant on her back – twice.
  7. Millcreek Canyon, Code Blue Wall, Phil’s Rig 5.11c
    This is the wall Steve suckered Phil and me into bolting a couple seasons ago. Over two full November days we each put ~18 bolts into two projects up the prominent prow of the Code Blue Wall. Those routes are not on the agenda today. On the far left is a 5.11c Phil put up, FA’d by Dale Goddard, last year. After three earlier crags and the hike from Hell I have to dig a bit to flash this one. At this point I’m fairly cooked so I want to rest before the next crag. Rather, I redpoint it a second time to get Micah’s stupid draws after he bails halfway up.
  8. Millcreek Canyon, Church Fork Wall, The Dark Chrystal 5.12b
    Now I’m super not refreshed. Spencer flashes this route on the far left and, being that I have a less than zero percent chance of doing the same, I also try to flash. Before reaching the left of the wall one walks past a few 5.10 routes – clearly too easy – so I bolt-to-bolt flail to chains at 30ft up Steve’s old project.
    Steve on The Dark Chrystal for his Birthday Challenge:

    It’s about to get dark. Bob says we’re ~8 miles in. No way there’s 2 miles remaining (there’s much more than that). The group splits up. I’m with Ben, Micah and Natalie.
  9. Millcreek Canyon, Grandeur Slander Wall – [skip]
    My body is fully blasted and it’s dark.
  10. Millcreek Canyon, Jug Haul Wall – [skip]
    Too blasted.
  11. Millcreek Canyon, Sensei Spire – [skip]
    Too blasted.
  12. Millcreek Canyon, The Stitches Wall – [skip]
    Meltdown. It’s been dark a couple hours. Lisa left arrows marking the final few miles of trail back to the house. We’ve found a couple.
    There’s No Trespassing signs next to water towers, people (Police?) approach with flashlights, we take off. Probably not the trail. Gnarly cliffs on the left. Ben took off down the trail. Hopefully he’s not dead.
    My knees are pissed. Good, my surgeon was worried about ankles. The left knee, formerly the good one, started hurting before the peak. That was ~10 miles ago. We hear Ben yelling something. Not dead.
    Crawl down a slope to a random neighborhood.
    Fucking Steve.
  13. arrival, Steve’s backyard – 10:00PM Saturday, September 17, 2016
    My body is crazy wrecked. I eat like half a pizza and go to sleep. It should be noted I do not drink a single beer. I’m sure I’ve never been THIS tired before.

young bloods

These Aussies make rad videos: Young Bloods Spearfishing. Free diving and spearfishing and surfing and shredding around the tropics are awesome activities that, oddly, rarely transfer to video in any sort of entertaining way. Watching these guys’ videos is like replaying what happens in my mind when I’m stuck at the office. The visuals at least. My mind plays different music.

Grandeur Ten

The Grandeur Ten is Steve’s challenge for us. Truth be told, Steve Edwards has left me enough challenges to fill the remainder of my life. Since cancer took him away this year the vacuum he left is filling with inspired feats to honor his legacy. For those of us he affected the objective is personal, endless and simple: do rad stuff. Something like that. Steve left us one specific challenge that is communal, the Grandeur Ten. It’s something to do with hiking and climbing and it is guaranteed to wipe me out. Those are the available details. So to train for the climbing bits, I’m doing this on the Beastmaker 2000:

G10 Trainer

As of last Thursday I was going through this routine at body weight. It is pumpy, milking the small crimps and 35° slopers exclusively.

There is hiking involved in the G10 proper. That’s going to be tough. I went over my options with the surgeon a few days ago, considering I’m ~1 week officially out of the boot (may it burn in hell),  and we agreed it will be interesting. I’ll be in Salt Lake City next week to give it a go.

Ite, new drank: one part Alizé, one part Cristal.

Routes with monos require a specific kind of conditioning. The 1-finger kind (duh). Hangboards were made for this. The projects I’ve been working on for what seems like eternity each have monos. Here’s my latest mono programming:

Sets of Standard Mono No. 001 every four to five days like this:
session #1:
1 set @ -75lbs (weight off with pulley)
2-3 sets @ -50lbs
session #2:
1 set @ -75lbs
1 set @ -50lbs
2 sets @ -40lbs
session #3:
1 set @ -75lbs
1 set @ -55lbs
1 set @ -45lbs
1 set @ -35lbs
session #4:
1 set @ -75lbs
1 set @ -50lbs
1 set @ -35lbs
1 set @ -25lbs
Session #5+
still thinking about it…

Lately I’ve been all about variety on mono days. After a few months of bi-weekly maximum mono pull tests I predictably hit a hopeless plateau. Mindless pulling made my monos sore and sore monos cannot pull hard. Recently I’ve mixed in slopers, two-fingers, ring and middle finger pockets all throughout the sets. Most sets I’m already fairly tired before the mono pulls even start, by which point I’m working with weights well below my maximum. Only once every several sessions I’ll actually go for a couple maximum effort pulls and not before I’m plenty confident.

People get injured training monos. Many wallow in mediocrity before developing a productive formula. Intuition is important here. If it’s not feeling good I need to make myself make a change.


I will try to document something great. Andree. She is uncomfortably great. I will say ‘she’ but know that traditional gender definitions do little to describe ‘her’. In fact, to experience Andree is to question your own identity.

Ask yourself: Is this photo blurry? Or is my mind having trouble focusing?
Ask yourself: Is this photo blurry? Or is my mind having trouble focusing?

About a decade ago I was bouldering at Pine Mountain with some folks I can’t remember when someone unremarkable whispers, “Is that Andree?”. I knew just about everyone in the small Santa Barbara climbing community so I looked up expecting either a familiar face or someone to re-file under forgettable. Rather, I was introduced to my life’s epoch. I said nothing. I think she was wearing Army fatigues and a tank top. Who knows. There was a look on her face that is to this day difficult to explain. It was not happiness. She looked mildly annoyed or a bit underwhelmed with Earth. I don’t really remember what happened after that.

Dre came over to train, of course, one-arms in my garage this evening. It was, of course, awesome. Imagine Prince strolling into your local gym to pound out several plates on the bench press. It is an awkward sensation to have someone simultaneously redefine your understanding of physical power and sensual desire. It is to experience, in a word, Andree.

Standard 1-Arm No. 001

So I’ve been goofing with this one-arm set on the  Beastmaker 2000:

Standard 1-Arm No. 001

At best, I can go through it a couple times taking ~50lbs off with the pulley. For variation I’ll either alternate arms when I switch holds are just hammer on one side for the duration of the set then go through it again on the other side. The first few reps are easier so I might hit those closer to body-weight then put some more on the pulley for the last few reps.

Half off: twice the fun for half the arms!

Given how much regular pull-ups suck it is a bit surprising how good one-arm pull-ups feel. Babes dig ’em, they’re super fun, everybody wins. My friend Andre, who is both into babes and a babe herself, is all about one-arms. Coincidence?

Andre isn't always in her underoos, but when she is, she does one-arms.
Andre isn’t always in her underoos, but when she is, she cranks one-arms.

Barbells For Boobs

One-arms and babes are a natural segue into barbells and boobs. On the complete opposite end of the awesome spectrum is cancer. I found out about shortly after my friend Steve (Stainless) Edwards was cut down in his prime. If you’re talking barbells, boobs, and punching cancer in the face, you are definitely speaking my language.

Whitney Bozzer’s story: