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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Norway Video

I'm here in Colorado with only two days left for Wolverine Land before the road is closed for the winter. I've been doing a lot of editing lately and I finally finished a 30 min video from our Norway trip this summer. It's filmed at three famous bouldering areas in Norway: Harbak, Vingsand and Lofoten islands and features a lot of classic boulder problems and some first ascent like The Diamond 8B and Rough Gem 8B.

Bouldering in Norway from Boulderkeskus on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wolverine Land - Season Finale

Here's a video we filmed yesterday at Wolverine Land. The season is winding down with only nine days left before the road to Lincoln lake closes. Conditions are prime and the psyche is high.

Wolverine Land - Season Finale, part I from ZeroSkillz on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Colorado

The conditions are getting prime in Colorado right now, so here I am. I got here three days ago and we've been to the new area Lincoln Lake / Wolverine Land twice now. I must say it's looking very promising. There seems to be a lot of potential for new lines and a lot of the established lines look really good. I still haven't fully gotten used to the altitude, because the area is at about 12,000 ft.


We probably have about 2-3 weeks time at this area, before the snow comes and the road gets closed. After that RMNP should be good and we're also planning on going to Idaho to try Warpath, an unrepeated V15 from James Litz.


This just happened today, so I may have to stay off crimpy problems for a few days, but I'm still psyched to get out there and go find some cool projects!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Norway video teaser

I've been editing a short bouldering film for quite a while now. All the footage is from our last trip to Norway and features three of some of the best bouldering areas in Norway: Harbak, Vingsand and Lofoten Islands. It's been hard to find time for editing, but most of the work is already done. It's out when it's out. That's all I can say at this point.

Meanwhile, here's a little clip from the movie. It's the first ascent of a famous project in the Lofoten Islands in Norway, which I later named Rough Gem, 8B. This video was shot June 10th at about 2.30 A.M. when the sun did not set at all.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Norway Update

It's been a while since my last blog post so here's a few photos from my latest trip to Norway. I'm back home now and pretty busy editing footage from the trip. We're putting together a short film again. Hopefully we can finish the edit soon.

We spent most of this trip near Trondheim, in Harbak and Vingsand, and last stop was the Lofoten Islands as soon as it stopped snowing up there. Harbak and Vingsand were definitely worth the trip, but Lofoten didn't quite match my expectations. While the weather turned out to be really good around Trondheim, in Lofoten the weather was more unstable than I could even imagine. We basically had to take advantage of every moment it didn't rain. The weather seemed to be more calm at night, so we started climbing at night, not that it really mattered when you climb since the sun did not set at all.

We spent most of the time filming so there aren't that many photos, but here are some from all of the areas we visited.


First ascent of Outlook            
      
I heard about this boulder from a friend of mine who discovered it last year. It's very high quality sandstone with a small lighthouse on top of boulder. We put up a few really good problems here.

 First Ascent of Outlook           
        
I felt like I got in a really good shape this trip. I managed to flash two 8A+ boulders: Fokus in Harbak and Talib in Vingsand. Flashing Talib was very effortless, but I was convinced by my friends that it is indeed 8A+. On top of that I got the first ascents of two well known projects in Norway: The Diamond 8B in Vingsand and Rough Gem 8B in Lofoten, both of which are very proud and beautiful lines. Another first ascent worth mentioning is Straight Outta Hellvika 8A+ which climbs the biggest and most obvious line out of the Hellvika cave. I also got really close to sending a hard roof project in Vingsand that I called the Greg Valentino project, because of the very bicep-intensive crux move.

Video frame, FA of Rough Gem 8B in Lofoten at 3 A.M.          


Harbak view            

Video frame of me flashing Fokus 8A+ in Harbak           

The highlight of the trip was without a doubt grabbing the first ascent of the Diamanten project in Vingsand. I had seen photos of this amazing diamond shaped boulder already two years ago. Just seeing the photos got me syked to go there and hearing that both Fred Nicole and Bernd Zangerl have tried it was sort of a conformation that it has to be pretty good. People who had worked on it speculated that it must be 8B+. Later an important hold broke off making it even harder.

First Ascent of The Diamond            

I managed to do the first ascent in one day and that's why I didn't think it was quite hard enough to be 8B+, so I gave it 8B. We'll see what other people think of the grade. Regardless of the grade The Diamond is an amazing problem. It must be one of the best boulders I've climbed in Europe. The photo above unfortunately doesn't do justice for the problem. I'll try to get better photo from someone and we also have video footage of the send.

      First Ascent of Where's the Paradise?           

Eventually we got tired of the Lofoten weather and left a couple days early. I might be going back again soon possibly to try to finish the Greg Valentino project and try to find a new area. On the drive back home we made a couple quick stops and I ticked Lada Miestä Kuljettaa Assis 8A+ and Paddington which I think deserves a downgrade to 8A after I climbed it 3 times in a row.

Slartibartfast in Lofoten            

Sømp 8A in Harbak            

Midnight Sun 7C+ in Lofoten            

Here's my ticklist from this trip:

The Diamond 8B   First Ascent
Rough Gem 8B     First Ascent
Trouble 8A+
Fokus 8A+     FLASH
Talib 8A+       FLASH
Origins 8A+
Straight Outta Hellvika 8A+        First Ascent
Lada Miestä Kuljettaa Assis 8A+
Cool Hand Luke 8A
Sømp 8A
Lynx 8A
Torstein problem 8A
Full Battery 8A         First Ascent
Paddington 8A
Hurtigruttan 7C+
Strong Youth 7C+
Neptune 7C+
Akkurat Der 7C+
Midnight Sun 7C+
Tare Baby 7C+
Nesten der 7C+
Midnight Madness ?      First Ascent


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Norway


I'm finally leaving to Norway tomorrow. I have to wake up in 6 hours (5am, early start) so I'm not going to make this very long. First stop is Trondheim (Harbak, Vingsand) and later we will continue further up north to Gjerdalen ja fianlly the Lofoten islands

I don't like checking the weather forecast for Norway, because it always looks bad, but I'm sure the weather will turn out to be fine (yeah right!)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Puumala

My last weeks boulder hunt went well. The weather could not have been better and I spent every day running around the woods looking for new boulders and making first ascents.

Puumala area     
  
I found a lot of boulders, big ones, but not that many lines for some reason. The rock quality wasn't the best in some places. I put a few nice problems, but overall this area wasn't quite as good as I thought it might be. Oh well, that's the way it goes sometimes.

Puumala       

Here's a little clip I filmed while I was there. I didn't have much time to put into editing it, but the footage isn't that great anyway so whatever. It shows two new problems I put up: Milestone and Laiskuus Palkitaan.





On Monday I'm leaving to Norway. I haven't spent much time there climbing, but I've seen enough to know that the potential for new bouldering is huge there. The last few days it's been really hot in Finland, so hopefully we'll find better conditions in northern Norway. If not, you can always do night sessions. Soon you wont even need headlamps because the sun doesn't set that far up north in the summer!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New boulders

Not many people would drive 8 hours back and forth on a Friday to go run around the woods for nine hours while it's raining.

That's how I spent my Friday. After hours on the computer scrolling trough maps and aerial images, I was headed towards a remote area about 4 hours drive North east of Helsinki. Maps are an essential tool for finding boulders in Finland, because there are thick forest everywhere so the visibility is often really bad and the boulders are usually scattered around. You never really get a good view from the road, so you really need to go look at each boulder individually. So, after several exhausting hours of non-stop boulder hunting, I did find some really cool projects and not just individual boulders, but potentially actual areas.

 Some of the small roads were in bad shape               

The weather forecast for the this week looks a bit dubious, but whatever. I'm psyched to go out there and make some first ascents and brush some cool projects. If it's going to rain the whole time, at least I'll have a change to go look for some new boulders around.

I'm driving out there in the morning and I was just packing some of my stuff and once again realized how much gear I actually bring on a bouldering trip. Often people say that bouldering is nice because you don't need a lot of gear. I would say quite the opposite. When I was sport climbing in Spain, I often realized how nice it was that you didn't have to carry a lot of gear.

I'll be out for a few days if the weather allows and hopefully come back with some photos and video.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Happy Up Here

Yesterday I put up a really nice new boulder in Sipoo. I tried this scary highball a little bit last spring and after falling from the last move a couple times I never went back. This year I finished it off on my first try after warming up on the bottom part. Happy Up Here has a technical start which leads to a bit steeper climbing with a committing move at the top. There are two ways to do the very top section, either a big dyno or two long lockoffs. I did it both ways and they feel about the same difficulty, depending on what your good at.

A video still of  Happy Up Here     

We got it on film, but I'm not sure yet when it's going to be out. I just started a new film project and I don't know whether I will release several smaller clips or make a longer flick like Could Be Worse.

I've spent a lot of time training for and working on the Sisu project, but I can't really say that there has been any progress lately. I'm planning to stay in Finland for about a month trying it, as long as the conditions are still good. After that the plan is to go to northern Norway and explore the endless potential for hard bouldering there. Alright, I'm off to try Sisu again!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sisu Project

The prime bouldering season is now really kicking in here in Finland and I've been taking full advantage of the good temps. I've spent four sessions on what I named Sisu project. All I can say at this point is that it is the hardest boulder problem I have ever tried in my entire life. It's still difficult to say if it actually goes or not.

So far, after four sessions on it, I've managed to do one single move, not counting the five last exit moves that I did on a rope (which are also hard). In total, this problem would be around 16 moves long and about 7 meters tall. Also, that one move that I've been able to do is the first move and most likely the easiest one. I've had my spotters push me into different places on the wall and at best I've been able to hold a positions of them for a split second, not even feeling remotely close to being able to move any part of my body.

To put things in a perspective, I've seen, climbed and tried several boulders graded 8C or 8C+ around the globe and this line seems to be on a completely different level of difficulty. I've done the all moves to several 8C boulders in a session or two. I climbed Jade in 2 days of effort, The Island took me 4 days. After spending 4 days on this project, I've been able to do 1 move, the easiest one.

Sisu project                        

I can't tell you how psyched I am, that I found a boulder this perfect and difficult near my home. It's still unsure if it actually goes, but no matter what, this has already been a dream come true for me. Even if I wouldn't ever be able to climb this line, at least I'll have an amazing project to work on for the next twenty years. It's a huge source of motivation for me and I've already started training like crazy to get fit enough to do a little better on it. I even built a training "simulator" of a couple of the bottom moves at my gym. I just canceled my trip to Switzerland, because the weather is just getting prime here and I don't want to miss a day of the perfect weather to try it.


I'm not expecting to climb this line any time soon, although that would be amazing and I am training harder than ever, now that I'm super motivated on this project. Most likely, climbing this line will take years and years of hard work and maybe it will still remain unclimbed. Time will tell, but I know I will enjoy every moment of trying it, no matter what the outcome is. Hopefully I can convince some other climbers to come and try it. We're also filming it and the footage will be released eventually in a climbing film, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it to come out. For those who can't wait to see some video, I'll probably upload a short clip of me trying it/failing miserably, at some point.

Oh, and then there's the sitstart project, which adds a four move ∼ 8B+ into the the obvious stand start...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Finland update

I left Spain a few days ago and now I'm back in Finland for a couple weeks. I had enough of sport climbing for a long time and am very psyched to boulder again! A few months ago I heard about a cool project near Helsinki and now that I'm back in Finland, I finally got a chance to go check it out. Today we went to go look at it, but the weather and record amount of snow turned our trip into an epic expedition.


Moving around in the snow was hard and really slow, but eventually we found what we were looking for and it was absolutely amazing! About 6-7 meters tall, steep, rounded feature with a Fontainebleau-esque top-out. The project is on bulletproof granite with small crimps that are far apart. Here's a few photos. The wall is frosted and the holds look better than they are, but you get the idea.


It's hard to tell how difficult it is yet,  but it definitely seems like it could be very, very hard or even impossible. And then there's the sitstart... Either way, I'm very satisfied with this project. I've been searching for a hard project near my home for a long time now and here it finally is; an incredible line that will be a huge challenge.



We shoveled all the snow off the top, so that it won't seep when all the snow starts melting. I'm very psyched to start trying this as soon as possible, hopefully within the next couple weeks. It's about time for the weather to get better. I hope I get to try this before I leave for Switzerland in a couple weeks. If so, I will post some updates.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bouldering grades: Everything is average nowadays

I decided to write down some of my thoughts on bouldering grades, since a lot has been happening during the last years in the bouldering world. This sort of conversation still seems to be some sort of a taboo in the climbing community, so I am prepared to receive a lot of negative reactions, but I feel like this is a really important topic to discuss.

I'm going to start from the beginning of this whole mess. In the year 2000, 8C (V15) grade first got introduced to bouldering, when Fred Nicole did the first ascent of Dreamtime and proposed a never before seen grade of 8C for it. Soon it became known as the standard for 8C in the climbing media. That was 10 years ago. Still to this date, most of the cutting-edge boulders being put up are 8C. To most, this means that a decade passed and we have not progressed at all.

Sometimes things are not how seem. There has been huge progression difficulty-wise in bouldering. What happened is deflation in the grading scale. Dreamtime being set as the 8C standard (by the media), other hard problems are being put up and since Dreamtime is the 8C standard (and the only problem of that grade in the world) they get graded based on Dreamtime. New Base Line gets it's first ascent and marks the upper end of 8C. Time goes by, more hard problems get put up and  graded based on these standards. And then, BOOOM! After Dreamtime gets enough repeats, turns out it is actually not 8C, but only 8B+. Same thing with New Base Line, which marked the upper end of 8C, it turns out to be 8B+ also. This is were it all started to go wrong.

 Dreamtime, the problem that started it all.

In 2005 Dave Graham makes the first ascent of The Story Of Two Worlds and decides to call it the new standard for 8C, even though he could have proposed 8C+ as it was harder for him than anything else at the time. Instead, Dave chose to use it as the 8C standard and make some sense to the chaotic grading scale. Today, there is a lot of variety in the upper-scale grades, simply based on these double standards, because some problems are still graded based on the old standard, while other problems are more reliant on Dave's standard.

Story of Two Worlds, in Cresciano, Switzerland

I have repeated at least five boulder problems that were originally graded 8C or even 8C+, and have now been downgraded by a grade or two. And the list goes on. Actually, most of the proposed 8C's or 8C+'s have been downgraded and many of the ones that have not, are still unconfirmed. The issue here is that a few people (like me and Dave Graham for instance) are still trying to define the 8C grade (which I personally think is still the cutting edge) while rest of the climbers do not necessarily realize the the grade deflation, that has been going on for some years now.

Here are a few examples:

- Dreamtime downgraded from 8C to 8B+
- New Base Line 8C (hard), downgraded to 8B+
- The Never-ending Story in Magic Wood was originally called 8C+, now downgraded to 8B+
- El Techo de los Tres B's, downgraded from 8C to 8B
- Banshousha, supposedly the hardest slab in the world - downgraded from 8C to 8B
- Memento, downgraded from 8C+ to 8B+ (and according to many still deserves a downgrade)
- Amandla, downgraded from 8C+ to 8B+
- Terremer in Hueco Tanks, downgraded from 8C+ to (soft?) 8C
- Ode to the modern man, downgraded from 8C to soft 8B+
- Kheops assis, downgraded from 8C to 8B+

and the list goes on...

I see this trend repeating itself year after year and there seems to be no end to it. Why do so many problems keep getting downgraded? Why are so many problems overgraded in the first place? The media is adding pressure for professional climbers to strive for new grades, since bouldering grades have been stalling or even on the decline for years. An 8C first ascent is not necessarily that newsworthy anymore, after all that grade was climbed already 10 years ago.

Last June I did the first ascent of Livin' Large in South Africa. It is by far the hardest boulder I've climbed so far, a lot harder than any 8C that I have climbed in the past. Does that mean that it is 8C+? Maybe, just maybe. Does that mean that I should grade it 8C+? I don't think so. Why do we always have to shoot high first and then wait for the downgrade. Why is it never the other way around? I graded it 8C because I feel certain that it is at least 8C. If other people feel like it's harder, they can upgrade it. Why do people always choose the egotistical approach to these things instead of "playing it safe"? Furthermore, I think Livin' Large equals in difficulty with The Story of Two Worlds, the stiff standard set by Dave Graham back in 2005, defining the standard further.

The previous standards failed us and sent the highest grades to a down-ward spiral. This time we tried to set standards that are very likely to hold their grade. A solid foundation for the grade is what we need to correct the situation and that also means lots of downgrades. This is where it gets hard, because often people can take it personal, when their biggest pride gets downrated. The few people who actually put themselves on the line and try to make a change for better, get a bad name for criticising other people's ascents or more precisely the grades. Grading climbs based on the new-school standard can mean getting "left behind" so to speak. In the world of professional climbing, that can be a big risk to take.

It is too easy to keep quiet and go with the flow, but where will this lead us in a few years?  Already, the grading scale is so chaotic in the upper end, that sometimes I'm not sure if it's even salvageable anymore, especially if we start basing an entirely new grade on the "standard" set right now.

Like I said before, there are not many people out there trying to fix the current situation, before jumping to a new grade. If others do not approve on this standard that we are trying to set and grade things based on a slightly different scale, that's totally fine with me, but in that case our problems need to be potentially re-graded. Who sets the grading scale, is the question here. I totally agree, that we need to move up on the scale soon, but I'm not sure if the necessary (big) step has been reached yet and further do we want to base a new grade on such a chaotic "foundation".

The fact is, that there is still no clear standard for 8C. We can all be throwingout big grades and flashy numbers and get on magazine covers, get better sponsorship and then a few months later watch our problem getting downgraded. The irony here is that a downgrade rarely makes the news and one would not necessarily get discredited for what he claims to have done.

I see lists of the hardest boulders in the world and in reality there is a three grades alternation between different problems, all categorized under the same grade. This almost makes me want to start a new grading scale. Another important thing is, that grades should be openly discussed, not kept quiet. Although, most grade related conversations on internet forums are usually quite pointless, I think there are people who are in certain situations qualified to state their opinion about a grade, without necessarily completing a climb.

In conclusion, grades are only estimates, personal opinions of the difficulty of a climb. People make mistakes, that is how it will always be. But how does it happen that 99 percent of the time, the mistake happens to be giving a HIGHER grade, very very rarely lower. Especially with upper-scale boulder problems, comes a fair amount of responsibility with the grading, because when the problem becomes a standard of some sort, a test-piece, it can and will affect the grading of many other climbs.

Grades are only a very small and quite unimportant part of climbing, but why do we even bother with the grades, if they really mean nothing?
 
  sreen grabs: www.8a.nu

Monday, March 1, 2010

CORE Trailer


This is the trailer for our upcoming feature-length climbing film CORE.

From the director of PURE...

CORE goes to the heart of climbing. Join an international cast of the sport's most dedicated athletes as they stick it when it matters most. Shot in 35mm Ultra High Definition, get ready to see every detail of some of the nastiest pieces of rock ever climbed.

A close examination of each character offers perspective beyond just their achievements on the stone. From Helsinki to Hueco, Africa to Italy, the enclosed forests of Tuscany to the vast open space of the American West, this film is a study in the landscapes and lifestyles that define our sport.

Be there, in the moment, as a 5.14 traditional route gets its first ascent. See the mind-bending footage from Livin Large, Nalle Hukkataival's monster 8C. Watch as Fred Nicole polishes off his multi-year project in Switzerland – his hardest ever. All these achievements and more are brought to you here in Chuck Fryberger's followup to the hit bouldering flick PURE. These are the moments and the athletes that define our sport, documented here with a unique style that invites the viewer to be part of the experience.


Featured Athletes:
Nalle Hukkataival
Matt Wilder
Fred Nicole
Kilian Fischhuber
Kevin Jorgeson
BJ Tilden
Lucas Preti
Cody Roth
Michele Caminati
Jamie Emerson
Sarah and Steph Marvez
Berni Fiedler
And Many More.

On Location in:
Lander, Wyoming
Colorado, USA
Hueco Tanks, USA
Helsinki Finland
Switzerland
Tuscany, Italy
Rocklands, South Africa

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Spain and CORE

Not much has been going on lately. I've been trying to get some endurance by climbing some easier routes around 8a+ - 8b. I feel like my endurance has finally improved enough to start trying the hard routes. We've been climbing mainly in Oliana lately, where all the routes are extremely long, but also a little bit in Margalef where all routes are much shorter. I've been syked on the long routes that are really hard for me, instead of getting on the short ones that I know I can do.

Since there's not much to report right now, here's a bunch of photos instead:

 
Margalef

 Oliana

Humildes pa casa

 
Humildes pa casa, the best tufa in Spain!

Oliana

Dave checking out a boulder project

 
Lleida

Les Avellanes

Lleida

 Oliana



On another topic, Chuck Fryberger's new film CORE is coming out soon. I'll let the trailer speak for itself. Check it out here soon:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cataluña

I've been sport climbing here in Catalonia, Spain for over a week now and it's been really fun. The bad weather all over Europe made me change my plans and I decided to come here to hang out with the crew. Overall the weather has been pretty good here, but Margalef is still wet for the most part, so we've been climbing a lot in Oliana.


Boira in Les Avillanes

Oliana is an amazing cliff with very long hard routes. Most of the routes are between 8b and 9a+. For a boulderer like me, climbing in Oliana has been very effective endurance training. I actually feel like I've gained a lot endurance in just a week and soon I can seriously start trying some hard routes. I can't wait for Margalef to dry up so we get to try some shorter routes also.


Dave on Fish eye, Oliana

Yesterday I actually managed to climb something by doing the first repeat of Duele la realidad, 8c+ in Oliana. To the right of Duele la realidad is a really hard project, that Chris bolted a few days ago. It has a very hard bouldery start. I managed to do all the moves of the first part yesterday, but linking them is going to be a challenge.


 Jon Cardwell using his Mexican ninja beta on Duele la realidad

We have spent our restdays looking for boulders. From what I understand, not many people boulder here and even fewer actually go looking for boulders, so there's a lot of bouldering to be discovered.






 Nalle Hukkataival trying Identifacation y placas, 8c


Chad filming in Oliana