Timewave Zero, Simul Speed: 2:34

What do you think? Comments and questions welcome below.
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On February 12th 2018, Bicho and I climbed Timewave Zero (23 pitches, 5.12a/b) for a timed ascent of 2:34. 

Bicho had the idea, and at first, I thought it was silly – the last time I’d tried TWZ took 19 hours.

Then I thought, maybe it’s worth a try. Not to mention that this was an opportunity for our friends at Monkey Hands, Exposure Industria and Mad Rock Climbing to give us gear that would benefit the local North Mexico youth climbing program that I work with, Climbing Borders.

Also, given the name, I also think it’s fitting that climbers go for a speed ascent!

With some research at the Buho Cafe, we found that Honnold has a 1:45 solo ascent. One simul team also marked 2:51 on 8a.nu. The next day, I heard that Mexico legend Carlos Mac claimed an impressive 1:30 on simul, soon after the route first went up. For realsies?  By pure chance I caught Carlos Mac in El Salto that weekend, a few days before Bicho and I planned the timed ascent. A bit of background: Carlos Mac has many first ascents of his own lines, including the monster El Gigante at 30 pitches, 5.13, so his achievements are nothing to sneeze at. When I asked Carlos about Time Wave Zero, he said: “We climbed like crazy! We started at 4pm and arrived above at like, I don’t know, around 5.30. We had 50 draws!”


Bicho / José David M on the rap of Timewave Zero, 23 pitches 5.12a/b


Carlos Mac, possible 1:30 time record on TWZ.

Well shit, I thought.

Carlos’ 1:30 on Time Wave Zero is hard to believe: years warp our memories, and stories inevitably exaggerate with each re-telling. Time also moves very strangely when you’re in the flow. As Einstein says, “When you sit with a nice girl for two hours you think it’s only a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove for a minute you think it’s two hours. That’s relativity.”

When we run up TWZ in 2:34, it felt like 30 minutes, and when I give a belay for 30 minutes, it feels like 2 hours.

In my mind Carlos (and his partner) hold a record – it just wasn’t important enough to time, since he’s climbed so many badass adventure routes that require more than knowing how to clip bolts.

I also want to believe this OG Mexico climber’s could kick any millennial, Generation X/Y climber’s nerveless ass – including ours.

Bicho’s Simul Plan

In theory, with a ‘quick clip’, simul can be as fast or faster than soloing. The only issue is  when the top climber runs out of draws to protect with – plus the extra weight of draws –  plus the seconds wasted to place each draw. My friends at Mad Rock Climbing provided 30 ultralight draws that weigh 2.58 oz each which would be donated after; Bicho never had to stop, except to wait for a party; and he skipped almost 200 bolts to move more quickly.

The Go

At 2:35pm on Monday, Bicho had 20 draws and carabiners on him to get him to the pitch 8 ledge, where he grabbed the 30 Mad Rock ultralights for the remaining 15 pitches. I followed the whole way – which isn’t quite as interesting as leading, admittedly, but it was just as important that I didn’t fall and pull Bicho off a run-out.

Just below the summit, we actually lost ~15 to 20 minutes to a party that was doggedly trying the crux. When they spied Bicho’s head popping up at the small ledge under the pitch (21), the leader gave a final successful effort, and the team let us pass. Bicho impressively climbed through the crux without pause, stopping only when he reached the top to wait for me as I scrambled on belay up the ridge. And when punched the clock: 2:34, 4 minutes over our goal. We had mixed feelings. We were fast. We knew also that we could go faster.

Our cozy pitch 12 bivy, for our third TWZ lap in 6 days

About Timewave Zero, 23 pitches, 5.12a

Time Wave Zero (23 pitches, 5.12a) is said to be one of the longest routes in North America – whether this is true, I don’t know, but the line is in my backyard near Monterrey. Mexico. The longest is said to be El Gigante, a monstering 30-pitch 5.13 located in cannabis fields of northern Mexico, and rumored to be accessible by one guide. My friend Maria Fernanda Rodriguez is one of Mexico’s strongest female sport climbers and summited El Gigante with a female partner in 2014 in spite of twisting her knee on the two-day hike in to the base. (She persistently jumar-ed her way to the top, and was in physical therapy for months after.)

The route is named for a crazy theory on time by Terrance McKennan, an ethnobotanist obsessed with a pattern in major events in the last 50 years and who coincidence his theory of the end of the world with the Mayan calendar. Fittingly, Bicho and I talked about Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and another perspective of seeing time: as a mountain range much like the Rockies stretching endlessly in both directions. On the wall, we agreed that as humans we forget how small we are in the big scheme of things. That the record is be significant, and the act itself of speed climbing was a way for us to be in the present, in the flow.

If you’re going to speed climb a sport route, Time Wave Zero would be the one: the line sits 15 minutes from the car, 20 minutes from a hot coffee and stack of waffles at the climber’s charity Búho Cafe, and an hour’s drive from the third largest and by far most Westernized city in Mexico. A visible white streak running down from the summit like a thin cascade, it pours into an area at the base called the Surf Bowl, and because of TWZ’s popularity, the line is relatively clean until the toothy summit – a fourth-class pitch – and easy to follow. TWZ is a classic hotcake stack of easy climbing, mostly 5.9s, with a few moves of .11a and .10d and topped with a tiny dollop of 5.12a.

According to Magic Ed in one of the original and most popular guidebooks, TWZ was originally bolted to the large ledge (pitch 8) in 2000 by Magic Ed and Dave Benton, and known as “Jambo Bwana”, until the following team pushed the line to the top: Dane Bass, Jimmy Carse, Paul Irby, Will Meinen, Jonathan Robinson, Magic Ed, and Tami.

Getting down

A few rappels are exactly 30m, so our 65m rope was just enough. We made sure to tie knots in the end of the rope. For double rope raps,  the toothy rock, lechuguillas and palm trees can grab the rope, so on the few traverse raps it’s worth coiling and bringing the rope on the way down. On a separate descent, my friends watched from below as I wrestled with a palm tree.


Manu, Jair, Bicho y yo


Why simul for speed, when there’s more risk?

Good question, put forth by a friend in El Búho Café.

I actually had an internal conflict doing something considered dangerous, while I mentor with youth.

In short, we’re taking a calculated risk that is minimalized by our experience, and simplify the factors as much as possible to the point that we almost always know what the other is thinking, or should be thinking. Climbers have died and taken trips to the hospital simul-ing in El Potrero Chico, and Bicho skipped 180+ bolts with the same potential consequence, but with more awareness and care. Bicho is technically a stronger grade climber, but we are pretty evenly matched – I’ve climbed 5.13c, competed in world championships for speed, sport and bouldering, and in total have been climbing non-stop for 20 years. Only because of our extensive experience did I accept Bicho’s invitation to try simul-ing for speed. I was even skeptical we would go fast, until our planned two-day test run.

On the test run, we checked the weather, talked logistics and prepared for the worst – rain, dehydration, darkness, other parties. Capable friends knew where we were.

We simul-ed up with heavy packs to the ledge, pitched camp, read a bit, napped about an hour, and watched the clouds pass. Then since the weather looked good, we decide to check out the rest of the route, and topped our two-day test run in 5 hours.

About Our Youth Program “Climbing Borders

We received some old gear of Magic Ed’s youth climbing efforts as a donation to our youth program Climbing Borders, a kind of passing of the torch: three ancient helmets and seven left climbing shoes. Granted, the gear wasn’t very useful, but the gesture was a nice one, and the gesture motivated our youth leaders to come to Potrero Chico. Like everyone before them, regardless of country and economic class, they are always awestruck at the lines, and explore the walls’ features ravenous eyes.


Thanks to Mad Rock Climbing for donating 30 draws to Climbing Borders!


Send me any questions on FB, IG or below.




Wall-E The Rock Van: Pt.1 A Very Safe Road Trip

The poorer the adventurer, the richer the adventure.

(Photo above from old trip into Mexico.)

I walk into the small dingy office, and tell the very large man in the chair that after $260 in parts I only had $100 for labor for taking out and installing the new part, and what did he think about that.

He pointed behind him. There was, above his head, a sign that said in big red letters “$125 per hour (2 hour minimum), No Exception”. A machete was stuck into the wall next to the sign. The machete, says the mechanic shop owner, is for people who didn’t want to pay. I tell him I had one too, but that it’s for plants, and not really sharp anyway.

He pulls out his pocket knife. He gives me some pointers on sharpening. I somehow manage to steer the conversation in the direction of my volunteer work with kids. When someone opens the door to ask about a new client, he says not to worry, his boys would do the installation for $100 dollars. People can tell right away that I can’t lie to save my life – and boy, when I’m nervous, words just spill like oil from a BP ship.

We also look like a female punk rock band, piling out of a van with our Mexican tans wearing glasses, bright shorts and all the attitude of coyotes who’ve just breezed through the border their first time.

My registered life in Colorado is on the brink of a disorganized mess after living in Mexico for almost 2 years, so I’ve decided to take a small 6-month break and idle from Mexico back over to the Rocky Mountains. And that there would be the slightest 32-hour driving detour through Yosemite Valley, California, abusing the straight line to our final destination and making it more of a banged-up closed parabolic bell curve of driving hell, through long stretches of no-where Texas and the southwest.

I feel like breaking down out there, on the road, alone, would be the end of me. I’ve had one-too-many panic attacks while being stranded in my van in the south – I imagine that if I did break down, some months later I would be found crawling across the Colorado border like the child found on a raft on that Florida beach, who came all the way from Haiti; I’d be barely recognizable, having been adopted by a pack of dingoes and surviving by dumpster-diving fried food behind southern KFCs; I’d be full of stories about desert storms and ghost towns, of lizard-looking dragons and the odd human friend that maybe existed, or no.

No, better not to break down alone in the south, I think.

Besides, Yosemite is a long-ass drive, and belting Matt and Kim Lightening in the car for 10 hours can’t be repeated with the same enthusiasm twice.

A gas station attendant in the tiniest town before San Antonio, Texas ask if we’re a band, so after a brief pow-wow, we decide to go along with it. Our spontaneous rock troupe would include ex-punk Francesca on lead vocals, mellow Xelo on cello, dependable Jen on bass, and yours truly on cowbell.

Here’s a bit more history on my new fellow band members.

Francesca Cesario, OG outdoor badass who recently ascended Aconcagua, just finished her International Alpine Rescue course, and most impressively (to me) is losing her large toenail to frost-nip (a whipping cold -15C volcano summit in the southern Mexican state of Puebla).

Xelo, a magical and happy human being, has the darkest sense of humor this side of the moon, and would crush you in a Cards Against Humanity game, and her heeler puppy Suni.

Jen, the youngest of our troupe who jumped at the chance to have an adventure in California before her visa expired.

There was a disclaimer with these three: I had explained to my fellow female adventures, and the community on Facebook, how the spirit of the road trip was pure adventure: “Hey, anyone want to go to join us on any part of a trip to Yosemite-Zion-The Diamond to help with diesel, driving or to give a belay?” And everyone wanted to go.

There was one thing: the van could lose power at any time.

“There’ll be an element of surprise to this trip,” I told people.

The cost of driving to Yosemite with 4 people would be like a very cheap bus ride, I said, just more mysterious and unexpected because of looming mechanical/electrical problems. Wall-E is the perfect adventure vehicle – a 2005 Sprinter van with 5 cylinders (a whopping three working without a hitch), two cup holders, standing room for a young adult African elephant or three-and-a-half camels, first-class leg room (if you don’t mind the dog herd coming with us) plus 5 functioning seat-belts for human beings, and a luxurious hammock that swings excitingly with every turn. All Wall-E needed was new brakes, an emergency hand brake, turbo, a windshield, and small engine overhaul for two faulty cylinders. So WallE got an oil change for the trip.

So far, so good, the little Mercedes engine lasted to the middle-of-nowhere outside of Ft. Stockton, Texas, where we swapped out the battery with a spare I happened to have, until that failed too, and we hailed a passing truck to jump-start Wall-E awake. Now we’re in exciting Ft. Stockton, which is a fantastic pueblo full of elusive road runners and tiny horned dragons that look like lizards. We found there’s a leak into the alternator, and by happy coincidence the replacement is exactly what I have in the bank.

We’re waiting for the piece, drinking tea and maté in the vansion’s parlor, and trying to figure out where to print the car insurance card that went missing on day 1. Best case scenario, we’re playing spoons for a cheering crowd at a pub in El Paso, an upturned hat on stage with us. Worst case scenario, we arrive at Yosemite without any trouble.


It’s Pronounced Másadventure, Not ‘Misadventure’

This happened last Friday, when we had a ‘misadventure’:

“Okay, look. Who’s gonna be my girlfriend? Where are you guys from? Look, I’m handsome, fast and furious. Hey. Who’s that sonofabitch behind us? Tailgating me, huh? I’ll show him. I’m fast and furious. Fast and-”

“Curve,” the girl in the passenger seat calls, interrupting the monologue.

“Obviously.” The wheel jerks.

The monologue came from a driver who had offered us a lift back to the city. We now realize he is absurdly intoxicated, and driving as if the road lines were squiggly instead of straight. I’m panicked.

The driver’s friends seem unworried, though. He had behaved much more sober than the other locals we had bumped into or been passed by that night, and he had really insisted on giving us a ride. Pretty soon though, he’s acting like a gangster straight out of the narco film “Los Jefes”. Which was, I think, coincidentally filmed just outside the entrance of this canyon.


There’s three of us, sitting squished in the back seat as the car weaves and is corrected, and we’re getting more and more nervous. A sense of self-preservation paces and fidgets in the back of our minds. Our hypothalamus is poised for flight or fight.

Obvio obvio obvio. Hey, who does this dude think he is? Orale tu pinche maricon joto.”

This is what happens when you go ‘adventuring’. Things go awry. A designated return ride was supposed to meet us at 10:30pm, if we hadn’t looped back to the entrance by 10, and we had continued to the the dam, coasting the whole ten miles until the road dead-ended. At this moment we still didn’t know where our return ride was, and the canyon after the midpoint had no signal.

We had actually turned down several rides, offered by drivers in even worst shape that this guy. Twice before we’d hitched rides, once with the local police when they made their usual rounds, and the second time that I had jumped into a car, it had promptly reversed a back wheel over the 30-meter cliff. This third ride is stretching my luck.

At least this guy stayed on the road, and all-in-all his friends seemed unworried.


The wheel jerks right.

Still, worrisome though.


Suddenly, the driver gets fed up with the guy behind him, maybe picking up on our discomfort of being in a car sailing left and right like it was tacking to catch the wind.

“I’m f*cking fast and FURIOUS!” He speeds up.

We had enjoyed the journey into the canyon in traditional style: one on a bike – one on skates – myself, running – and now found ourselves hurtling back towards the canyon’s sharp turn on the small windy road that had been so peaceful. But it was frequently crossed by passing mules, cattle, and stray dogs and we’re rapidly approaching 100 kilometers an hour in pitch darkness, hurtling too fast towards a fishhook turn…

“Curve. Curve!” the girl pouts emphatically. We begin all shouting: “CURVE! CURVE! SLOW DOWN! -”

For a few seconds, his foot stays on the pedal. Then he brakes hard and bouncing careens off the road into the pebble dirt that lines the backcountry highway.

“Okay, we’re getting out now,” says the fastest-acting one of us. Claudia, you’re a goddess.

Now halfway in we immediately get another ride in the back of a truck and an hour later we find our friend. Exhausted, but too excited on account of being alive to let the adventure end just quite yet, we talk about that ride while we eat at my house. Then I drop the others off at each of theirs. At 5am, I face plant in bed.

Adventure? Well, mission achieved, though that ride is not something we ever necessarily want to repeat. In the spirit of tradition, we’re going back on Friday to do the same 10 mile route in the canyon again.

This time I’m parking my van at the finish line. But as they say… Adventure begins when plans end.

My Ideal Auto-Responder: ¨Taking Time be a Kid, Will Be Back in Office Whenever I Feel Like It.¨

Taking time to just be a kid right now, so for any urgent matters just send an email to the poor guy in the office. I´ll be back at some point, at some indefinite point of time in the future. Mostly likely the 8th, late that night – or, around that then, if I feel like coming back at all, or if I don’t feel like just taking an extra day off to spend quality time with my kid/old friend forge important friendships/create lasting memories/catching frogs/laughing until our faces hurt.

Cheers, T.¨

The Fundamentals of Living for the Young (At Heart) And Restless


  1. Own a camera, sometimes. Sometimes use it.
  2. Give hugs and kisses (and receive them). If this sounds easier said than done, maybe you’re feeling very alone? In that case, you must not own a dog.
  3. Get a dog. You can call it “Dog”, or any animal not related to dogs at all: like “Moose” or “Elephant”, or something big and entirely un-doglike.
  4. Live simply.
  5. Love deeply.
  6. Learn other languages, and remember it gets much easier after the second.
  7. Get overly excited about the little things, so you can roll with the big things.
  8. Travel, then open your home to other travelers.
  9. Always remember these wise words when you’re not having fun: “Adversity is adventure.” – Tommy Caldwell
  10. Breathe through your nose.(It really does help when you need to focus, like when you’re saving lives in the mountains, navigating icy channels, or just under pressure to order pizza.)

How to Always Stay a Kid


Suggestions To Make Your Own Mid-life Crisis!


Things You Can do to Enjoy Just Being A Human Being, For a Moment, Until Reality Hits, and You Need to Pay the Bills.

  1. Mix traditional sports in wonderful, unconventional, unique ways: skyaking, sandboarding, snowskating , skatebiking, bhiking (in which you sometimes have to get off your bike, and laborously hike).

    Here’s Pee Wee demonstrating proper form of being a kid. Teens, though at times tempted to act like adults, are definitively experts in the field of being a kid.


  2. Set arbitrary and perhaps impractical goals¨just for the hell of it¨; act as though it´s of life-or-death importance.

    They are, in a way  – who knows, that floor  REALLY COULD be lava! AHH! Dog, what are you doing in the lava?! Get out!! Now! Hoof it! Nooooooo – !

  3. Forgo responsibilities to take time to be outdoors or with people who make you feel happy, especially when you feel the urge to relieve stress unhealthily.What is making you stressed is not really that important in the big scheme of things: remember, we’re 26,000 light years from the center of even our own galaxy. Close your eyes. Breathe. See the ocean, mountains, snow. Imagine you´re out there for a minute. We´re a small blue dot. Gray, to a dog.
  4. Practice being playful, even when you have nothing.Example: When you see your shadow is projected on a wall and near a group of friends or strangers that can´t immediately see you, immediately break out in dance. This is especially great for the deaf and mute, if you run across or know anyone deaf and mute.
  5. Put something (like this) in your vacation auto-responder:
    ¨Out of the office. Taking time to just be a kid right now. For any urgent matters, send an email to person.responsably.sitting.at.desk@companyname.com.I´ll be back in the office at some indefinite point of time in the future, mostly likely the 8th. If I feel like it, because, you know, I might want to take an extra day to go spend quality time with friends/my kid/fur child or drive out to say hi to mom/dad/random person to make lasting memories/catch frogs/laugh until our faces hurt. If I re-think my life and decide it´s time to move forward with my life, you´ll probably continue communication with [official title of responsable guy sitting at desk] and we´ll never talk, unless we´re friends on Facebook, or actually know each other outside of the office.When/if I am back in the office, I will get back to your inqueries as soon as emotionally possible.

    Cheers, [here enter your nickname, or your real name – maybe a new nickname, that you like and hope might stick, like: Jimbo, or El Jefe, if you´re the boss and they won´t take it the wrong way, or ¨One Happy Camper¨ if you work in the outdoor industry, or anywhere really that people appreciate vacation, and camping, which they should. Or the first letter of your name, which I like – informal, short´n´sweet and to the point].¨)

Get Girls Stoked

Photo by Galen Peterson (See his Flickr)

She’s gorgeous: baby teeth awry, dirt-covered, and with an insatiable obsession with phones. Meet V, age seven, sister to three brothers and a toddling two-year-old.


There’s a situation revolving V’s family that, for the sake of respecting her privacy, keeps this post from going too into detail about her case. But the story is a hard one: our founder works more closely with the mothers than I do and hears more of the brutality and the abusive relationships that cause cycles of violence in the community, but sometimes, from what we see and hear in the broad daylight, I just want to go up to the perpetrators and land a solid knuckle sandwich right on their drug-addict, jailbird ugly mug.

This photo was taken by Galen Peterson, who, along with Joslynn Corredor, visited us for two weeks to pitch a hand in with Escalando Fronteras, our youth program based in Mexico taking kids climbing outdoors to prevent continuing cycles of drug abuse and crime.


Joslynn and Galen helped us out a ton: Galen was your typical engineer, so he bustled around brainstorming ideas to help us build something for the program, and abruptly one day we made shelves for our hosh-posh splat of gear in the corner of the house. Another day, Joslynn brought beanies made by her grandmother, and we delivered a bag of hats with handful of ponchos for the rain so the kids could go to school.

Jos and I may have yoinked a malnourished puppy from the hood, fed him, and touted him around with us for a day, too. The next day we did the same with a kitten. Volunteer life. So rough.


Galen and Jos being climbers they lent us a hand with developing local boulders in our backyard as the closest collection of boulders to the city. With a serious killer donated kit of wire and plastic brushes, Jos and I, Ramon and Galen scrubbed off the silt from a previous rainy winter, printed a hand-made topo, and encouraged more climbers.

Rompe Picos is 40 minutes crossing the city, 15 from our climber refugio. The closest boulders otherwise are 8 to 12 hours away: a new area Piedritas in Coahuila, famous Peñoles to the northwest, and Hueco Tanks. The area is under a dam, with boulders, slab, highballs, lowballs and up to V8 projects.



By the way, this oddly-positioned absolutely MASSIVE dam above the bouldering was constructed to prevent hurricane disasters…yes, in the desert. 6 years ago, when the whole canyon system funneled hurricane rain into the city and a system of slopes lead uncountable water drops to a wide flood plain inhabited by 5-7 million human beings, all hell broke loose. The hard-packed, intolerant desert ground resists water absorption, causing serious damage from whirling, flooding, air-born weather monsters.

Rompe Picos has hidden overhangs invisible from the outside, sun-baked area.


Last weekend, we took the kids to the new bouldering zone with US freelance photographer, climber and journalist Sasha Turrentine – who stood atop boulders with her lens aimed dirtward, and captured the chaos of 20 kids crawling over their new boulders for just the second outing.

A few from the roll:

So HEY – thanks for reading. Glad you got this far, and hope you get to see this canyon system close to Potrero Chico and El Salto.

– – Thanks also to Mad Rock Climbing, NiteIze, and our supporters for making climbing accessible to youth living in inner urban labyrinths and without access to the outdoors.

If you support climbing brands supporting youth outdoors, buy their stuff.
We use the Mad Rock R3, kid’s shoes, and harnesses for our outdoor adventures and highly recommend them for outdoor climbing adventures.

– Keep the soul awake, and the dream alive –

Tiffany Hensley

Why I Have a Strong Need to Gaze at Mountains

I set off for the second morning working with the kids gazing at the mountains, as I effing, effing love to do every day.

That day, like almost every day in the 5-million-human-dense industrial capital of Mexico, a haze of pollution clouded the steep slopes on all sides. Their heart-machine-pulse shapes, occasionally brilliant clear and peacefully pristine between the advent of a rainfall, were just phantoms of themselves, shadows made by  3am quarry explosions and poor traffic flow, both dumping a veil of lime dust and Co2 in the valley. But somehow, I still couldn’t stop gazing at those mountains.

Sparkling clear with the air of plant farts, the mountains offer cost-free therapy, endless self-reflection and golden-ratio type inspiration for the masses milling below them, and sucking wind on them: mountains make us feel small; they are immovable, timeless, all-generational landmarks orientation in our lives; they remind us to stop pussy-footing and start Sisyphus-ing; and are the only thing aside from a beautiful human figure or a vast, lapping tide-oscillating ocean that can fill a thousand-mile stare. A mountain’s endless lines of detail and four-dimension shape – which I can attest for since to me a mountain never looks the same when I see it, especially if my tiny, relatively frail human matter is on top of it (or if I go through Google images) – captures the eye and engages the human yen of incurable curiosity.

When that veil is dropped by the mines and mufflers obscuring that vision, millions citizens, and the day’s IG sunrises, are robbed of something.

The heat of a Mexican summer, bustle of industry, and a big city and bright lights makes far and distant that feeling of coziness given to pea-soup foggy days.

Instead, a resident working inside their office and looking for an answer to a fax malfunction, sales call, or life, might glance out to see the mountains shrouded from view and feel trapped inside Plato’s cave. In this case, the most elite might be content with a view of the traffic below or of clean interior white walls, and just quietly losing it while they finished pending items and faxed forms. Those walls were probably plastered and built with the same materials contracted to put finishing touches on the local mental institution’s newest ward, which has a great view of the forest behind it the board had insisted it was valuable for the mind. At any rate, an under-paid construction worker who lives in extreme poverty – his family put up in a roofless breeze-block box with a dirt ground – would also probably look up at the skyline hoping for a break from his thoughts about the lack of safety equipment required on site, and his wife’s new baby. With only the ghost of a mountain to entertain his rooftop work, he would not feel any better for stopping.

Yeah, I mean… We’re not all suddenly jubilant when small palm trees and neon strip club signs become visible from across the valley. It sure gives you something to look at, though, right? Maybe that palm tree will make us think of Hawaii, and a happy place not in an office or sun-scorched roof-top.

My point is, both demographic extremes in the largest wealth gap in Latin America spend time in Plato’s cave, and with just a small opening: a screen that can be as small as a flounder or as big as a Maui Maui. That window has the incredible capability to feed the hungry mind with any information at all, but mostly is feeds us the past and only offers glances at the present, small moments of our friends’ lives on Facebook, and some perhaps disorienting marketing messages.

Mountains are pretty sweet advertisements, though.

Case in point, the mountains are the reflections of ourselves, and when we are trapped in our own minds with blurry outlines, the image is only a upside-down flipped silhouette – the sky has fallen, and the peaks deceivingly far above and out of reach like the surface of a world apart hanging suspended above us.

On the importance of gazing at mountain ranges, we can do what we can. E.g., IG: Instagram is full of mountains towering above gorgeous lakes, and if you follow Ozturk, NatGeo and sherpa cinema like I do, these are great substitutes for the real world in those moments you can’t be in the woods or on the trail, like when you sit on the ceramic bowl at work and it may be shocking to other humans if you choose to poop outdoors with a view, say, off the roof, or in the yard.
The way I can explain the importance of gazing at mountains is a part of Vonnegut’s book Slaughter-house Five, which came to mind every time I drove to Boulder for work in 2012. The best part of my day was seeing the sun set on the expansive Rockies range, and I felt small, grateful for the outdoors, and empowered to take shit from non-one: like an Tralmafadorian, two-feet-high, green, and shaped like a plumber’s friend.

“The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.

I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is.”

Chris Sharma: Wanderlust Interview

You may not know the interesting path that led Chris Sharma to where he is now.

Here’s a bit from the interview you can find in full at Wanderlust.

By chance, a friend had mentioned an opportunity to interview Chris, and as I’d grown up in the same town and stayed at his house in Spain a few days, though I was far too shy to talk to him both as a kid, and as a lost and hitchhiking 19-year-old teenager in Barcelona, I figured, well, here’s chance to talk to him and ask him about his past – and not hurt myself. (Out of nervousness I once actually dislocated a spinal disk while trying a hard move in front of him. When I say that I was a shy kid, I mean it.)

Some digging online found, comically, another interview with Playboy Italy, posted by Climbing. 

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Interview with Chris Sharma

To the audience of mass media, Chris Sharma is a fearless athlete who defies gravity with the strength of just his fingers on cliffs, high (very high!) above a dark crashing sea; though if you ask rock climbers who’ve followed his progress the past 15 years, what they will note is that the man who carries the monk-bestowed named Sharma has conquered some of the hardest physical landmarks in the sport with incredible modesty and playfulness. Under these layers, you’ll find a story going back to when Sharma was just 17 and suffered a major knee injury that opened the question: why am I doing this?

You undertook Japan’s Buddhist pilgrimage, the Shikoku, walking over 750 miles to 88 Buddhist temples. What was the inspiration for that?

When I was 20, I had all this success in my climbing career, and had done pretty much everything I had dreamed of doing. I’d even climbed the first ascent of Realization. [At the time, the sport’s hardest line outdoors in the world, 5.15.] Between when I was 17 to 22, I was having a difficult time. On top of that, I had some serious injuries, and was questioning everything that I was doing. So growing up not only in Santa Cruz, but in a household that was Buddhist, where that was our tradition… that was my way of trying to get to the bottom of it all. So I took a trip to India, and on one of my first trips to India, I met this Japanese guy, and he told me about this pilgrimage. It sounded amazing. Right after I had done Realization, I went to Japan and…I did it. It took me about 6 weeks, and was a really powerful experience. For a week I was shown the rituals that you do, the whole process, then I did it by myself for 5 weeks.

Those kind of experiences I fall back on when I’m having a hard time, you know, to figure things out. All of that had a big impact on who I am.

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Read the full interview here at Wanderlust.

Athlete Interview: Mar Álvarez

Below, the interview in Spanish.
For english speakers, here’s her interview in English on Rock & Ice

Some backstory. You can skip down to the interview if you’d like.

I wrote her in English and translated her responses from Spanish to English for R&I. The reason I approached Mar was because she’s the fifth woman to ever do 9a, I’d never heard of her before – and she had no sponsors, which resounded a part of my childhood. She’s also vegetarian, which is a surprise. Many of us can appreciate Mar’s focus, overcoming a lack of resources and sacrificing everything to pursue her passion. She has gone to great lengths to train better while keeping a job. Not many people can climb full-time without rich parents or moving their life into a car.

In summary, Mar’s vegetarian eating is great for sport climbing, where it is a benefit to be lighter. Her job also revolves around fitness, which as Udo Neumann once said is the basis to all climbing – it just depends what you do with it. If you listen to a lot of climbers’ interviews, you’ll see a common trend in training that focuses first on fitness. Then they add shoulder power and finger strength and the life. To conclude, if  you lift and move all day, hike mountains, and eat well, this sounds like work – but it’s great for fitness.

On a side note, very little climbing literature exists in Spanish compared to English. This seems to seriously blunt the growth of the sport in training circles in countries that don’t primarily speak English and in Mexico I continually find myself wishing Eric Horst was born in Spain.

Other links:
Crux Crush
Mar Alvarez Blog
Namuss Films on EpicTV: How to Climb 9a and Hold Down a Job



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Interview with Mar Alvarez

What city do you train in? Did you design your training area?

Entreno en el mismo pueblo donde vivo, en Estadilla (Huesca). Cuando me vine a vivir aquí con David, hace 4 años, no había ningún tablón ni rocódromo cerca, por lo que para poder entrenar teníamos que desplazarnos bastantes kilómetros y, por tanto, perder bastante tiempo en los desplazamientos. Teniendo unos horarios laborables que cumplir, se nos hacía imposible ir más de 2 o 3 veces por semana. Además, se trataba de tablones pequeños en los que, para nuestro gusto, faltaban ciertos elementos importantes para poder entrenar bien. Por todo ello, decidimos hacernos un tablón particular lo más cerca posible de donde vivíamos, lo que nos permitía a la vez hacerlo y diseñarlo a nuestro gusto.

What specific antagonist exercises do you do most?

Intento trabajar los antagonistas de los músculos que más influyen en la escalada, como pueden ser los extensores de dedos, manguitos rotadores del hombro, tríceps y pectoral. Los ejercicios los hago con gomas elásticas y con pesas. 

What is your training for finger strength?

Haciendo suspensiones. Son muy aburridas pero es lo que mejor me va para eso. La forma de hacerlas va variando en función del ciclo de entreno en que esté y de cómo voy progresando. En este aspecto me ayuda Pedro Bergua (escalador, entrenador y amigo), quien está metido de lleno en el estudio de cómo optimizar y hacer más eficientes los entrenos. 

How many hours a week do you train?

Según el ciclo en el que esté, entreno más o menos horas. Los ciclos más suaves pueden estar entre las 15-20 horas semanales, mientras que los más duros pueden rondar las 25 horas. A eso habría que sumarle el par de días a la semana que salgo a correr y los ratos que dedico a los estiramientos. 
Esto es lo que intento hacer y cómo me lo planifico, aunque luego no siempre lo puedo cumplir porque el trabajo no me lo permite.

What do you often eat for protein? Are you vegetarian?

Procuro cuidar la alimentación pero no hasta el punto de planificar la frecuencia con la que como unos u otros alimentos. Las semanas en las que más duro entreno o escalo sí que procuro comer más proteína, pero no es algo que calcule o planifique. 

Sí que soy vegetariana, De hecho lo soy desde casi siempre, ya que mis padres lo son. Es algo que ellos me inculcaron (nunca me obligaron, de hecho de pequeña comía carne en el colegio pero fui yo quien decidí no seguir haciéndolo), y como me ha ido siempre muy bien, he seguido siéndolo. Además de ser vegetariana, intento comer lo más natural y ecológico posible.

What education do you have?

Estudié la carrera de Administración y Dirección de Empresas y también  el curso de Auditoría de Cuentas. Durante unos años ejercí como tal, pero no acababa de llenarme del todo, así que lo dejé todo y me preparé para ser bombero (durante este tiempo de preparación, 3 años, tuve que dejar completamente de escalar). Y ahora trabajo como bombero.

Van, Life, Food: Coco PB Quinoa Bars

I fundraised, started, and promptly stopped talking about a climbing vanlife food recipe book last year just before August. At that time, I took on Move Mountains, a 3-month slideshow and gear-collecting road trip that increased the testing and experimenting of recipes while traveling with various friends in Squamish, Leavenworth, Smith Rock, Castle Rock, American Fork, the Rockies, El Salto, and Potrero Chico – to name a few crags – and squatting the climbing gym parking lots en route and between these areas in 8 states.

Here’s a new recipe made with just a stove and GSI Outdoors pan.

Coco PB Quinoa Bars
WallE’s trusty GSI pan

Coco PB Quinoa Energy Bars

It’s vegan, almost paleo, and easily varied for all you special types of foodivores. I’m lactose intolerant, gluten reactive, and transitioning vegan to paleo, but it doesn’t stop me from eating buttery cookies and adding milk to coffee.

I highly recommend having coconut oil and coconut butter in your kitchen, even if you love dairy and olive oil.

  • Toast Quinoa and Seeds on your van’s Coleman/Whisper/mini-kitchen in a dry pan.
    (Not gluten-free? Add oats.) Set aside.
  • Mix 2 spoonfuls of coconut oil with 1 spoon each of coconut butter (and/or real butter), honey/agave/maple syrup, pb/almond butter, and seeds –> chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame.
  • And add a pinch of salt.
  • Top off the wet mix with any whimful combination of the following: ground flax, cocao, cinnamon, bee pollen, vanilla extract.
  • Toss in toasted ingredients, mix.
  • Sneak into the cooler/fresh snow outside/your solar-powered mini-fridge/ or a friend’s refrigerator to set for about 1 hour.

Turning Injury Into Motivation

This is a common case:

Athlete hits a plateau in their many years of climbing and tries to push through it by doing pretty much more of the same thing. First, an injury significantly decreases their climbing capacity, and they take a little bit of time off. After returning to climbing again, and doing the same thing as before without physical therapy, they begin to experience subsequent injuries as a result of muscle imbalance and compensation. This leads to a host of chronic issues, a very long time off the horse, and in this time, the athlete spends hours scouring blogs, articles, and YouTube channels to beef up on injury prevention. They train with a plan, using their downtime to raise motivation, and train intelligently to come back stronger.

This is me.

I was a talented, bull-headed youth competitor in California who was proud not to have a coach. In 2008, much to my surprise, I won the 2008 North American Climbing Championship in sport climbing ahead of Paige Claassen and Emily Harrington, placed 4th in my first Bouldering World Cup, and went to the World Games in Taiwan. I trained, sure – but without any research, just guesswork and experimentation with workouts and diets. In 2009, I wandered abroad in Europe and climbed 8a+ in France, felt good about myself, and in 2010 I left California to live in Colorado and train with the best. Everything was going generally well, with just a few injury hiccups here and there.

In spite of being a decently strong female climber, making all the right steps getting a job at a gym and dropping out of college (twice), I stopped progressing. I couldn’t keep up with the other ladies, and the barrier was becoming something different.

Mistakenly, I thought 10+ years of climbing had taught me pretty much everything about the physical side of training. Six years later, I was making the effort to break what I thought was a mental plateau through trad climbing, when instead I broke my ankle.

Learning about injuries, I realized the problem was definitely mental, but it wasn’t fear.
My plateau was out of ignorance.

They say things don’t leave us in life until they teach us all they know. I made all the classic mistakes with the ankle break, and the path to recovery became much longer and more painful than it should have been – I had a lot to learn from the great teacher Injury.

I ran, like I used to – the ankle hurt worse, the knee and hips couldn’t handle it.
I climbed, compensating with my shoulders – a rotator cuff got inflamed.
I continued pushing through – the other shoulder began to hurt.
I finally strengthened antagonists – and sent 3 V9s in the gym.

I started reading more voraciously.

When I moved from Colorado to Mexico, from US’s competitive climbing hub to a country where climbing training material was not nearly as abundant in Spanish, I felt like a fountain of information. Only then did I realize all my answers were based on anecdotal evidence rather than research about climbing training and injuries; they were also asking a lot of questions I’d never thought to ask myself.

Sure, I’d read Dave McLeod’s extensively detailed books, and taken some wisdom from blogs, but they were not concreted in my memory and I had no technical sports training. I couldn’t even tell you the pulleys in the fingers.

Only then did I realize how diverse and specialized were the parts to a long and successful training career, and how much information there is.

This is fairly late in the game, since I started climbing 17 years ago, but it’s never too late to start climbing smarter. I’m proud to say that a month ago I sent a 5.13b third try, close to the personal record of 5.13c and V10.

I’m going to share some of my training findings here.

Thanks all for listening to my story.

Train hard, and \m/ on.