Friday, October 10, 2014


Quiet afternoon at the Dojo

Working on getting some shots that show the best features of the Dojo.  Need to figure out a better lighting option, though lighting is always tricky to arrange in a bouldering room.  This next shot is fun, but a little bit dim.

This one is even darker, but shows the missing corner of the room from the perspective of the other shots.

Anna working on the "Mercy the Pabst" traverse, above and below.

Sydney cruising around on the 55 degree wall. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

eGrips: Sandstone Chips

Best Holds in the Dojo:  Sandstone Chips

Subtle complexity, varied sweet spot location, technique enhancing

In Spring 2014 I set ordered a bunch of hold sets from e-Grips.  Some of the best holds were the smallest ones, the Sandstone Chips which are screw-in jibs.  A home wall can never have too many footchips and these are some of the most interesting and technical footchips I have encountered.

The photo above shows the starting hold:  the Sandstone Chip with blue tape on lower right.  "Blues Clues" is one of the most challenging room traverses in the dojo, and also the most unusual.  The route follows limited feet (blue footchips with tick marks, of which you can see see three in this photo).   The hands are open-- you can use any handhold as long as it is not a handlebar jug or the finishing rail on the edge of the wall.   The footholds on the route are almost entirely from the Sandstone Chips set (there are three Atomik chips and one Vision chip on the route as well).

Because of the Sandstone Chips, the Blues Clues problem creates decision making and route reading challenges as well as forcing close attention to technical feet.

The chip above illustrates the complexity in the holds in this set.  As you approach this hold from the right, with your left foot, the top right hand side presents the best location for your foot.  But, after you pass the hold, the best surface for the right foot is on the lower left.   This level of detail is good preparation for outdoor routes and problems with technical feet.

The chip above is on a 50 degree wall.  It is nicely incut and allows you to match feet, but the small size demands precise placement and body tension to use it effectively.   The fact that it is a screw in allows me to fill spaces between larger holds with the chips, rounding out the array of holds in the dense areas of the wall.  

These two chips illustrate something I love about these footholds-- they are incredibly sensitive to the angle you place them.  Here both holds present their best edges to the side, while the right hand chip offers a technical smear when approached head on.   This means that if you load the hold from the proper direction, with the right type of pressure it is a good hold, but if you don't your foot will skate off the hold.  

Summary:  The eGrips Sandstone Chips are the best foothold chips in the Dojo.  They are subtly complex, which means that climbers who pay close attention to the shape and angle will get much better purchase and leverage on these holds.  Many of them have foot and angle specific sweet spots, which really highlights technical ability.  And finally climbers who work with these footholds will be much better prepared to climb and boulder outdoors where such complex footholds are the norm.  Like all jibs these are compact, but like all best jibs they are screw-ins, which allows me to add them wherever they are needed.  I will certainly get more when I make my next eGrip order.  

Full disclosure:   In 1993/94 I managed the climbing wall program at Miami University, Ohio.  I hired a promising young climber and route setter named Chris Danielson. (what is the deal with me hiring route setters?) Since then, I recently got in touch again with Chris because I was stopping through Boulder.   I ordered all of my sets of eGrips at a slight discount.  We did not discuss the fact that I might be writing hold reviews for the Dojo.   

Monday, October 6, 2014

Kilter Grips: Winter M3 and Teagan M1

The Dojo recently added two sets of grips from Kilter: Teagan Medium #1 (purple) and Winter Medium #3 (green).  Jackie Hueftle suggested these based on the layout of our Dojo, mostly 30 degrees and steeper, but with some near vert sections as well.

Kilter grips overall:    These designs are compact, clean and articulate.  Form follows function and these particular holds are the sorts of directionals that route setters love to find, and hide in their personal bucket so they can be sure to use them on their own routes.  There is no wasted material but there is plenty behind the washer and over the radius of the pulling surfaces.  These holds are excellent for home walls because they are both positive and compact.  I found I could work these low profile holds into small areas between existing holds and not block access to other holds.

Both sets are primarily directional edges that generally offer one nicely formed positive face.  They are versatile in the sense that, as directionals, they will allow you to set sidepull, undercling or gaston movements. In fact, most of these holds feel like they are best positioned as something other than a horizontal.  However, some of the longer Teagans can make very interesting matching edges, should you use them that way.

Winter Medium 3:   These are slightly asymmetrical classic directionals.  They are efficient, low profile, with varied angles on the primary pulling surface.  While I have one or two placed on the steeps most of the others are on 30 degree or less steep walls.  They are best used as sidepull / gastons or underclings.  They are also good as slightly angled edges, as pictured above.  The pulling edges are nicely rounded but with a tighter angle than the Teagans, and the Winter's also present a much more sleek and challenging surface as footholds whenever the pulling surface is not up.  The great strength of the Winter set is their clarity of design, compact efficiency, and ergonomics.  Their value for price is good, but their compact size is even more valuable to me as I run out of wall space.  

Both of the Winter and Teagan sets are great for gym route setting, but it is the Teagans that really excel in the dojo because of their greater distinctiveness and versatility.    

Best Holds in the Dojo:  

The "Best Holds in the Dojo" is a label that I give to particular holds that I identify as having the best combination of attributes for a home training wall.  I have holds from about 8 different manufacturers and I am working to identify the best individual holds or best sets that I use from each of them.  My main focus is to explain how I use the particular holds and why they are so valuable.  Finally, whenever possible, I will try to identify ways that aspects of these holds could be extended and built upon in future designs.

Best Holds in the Dojo:  Teagan Medium Set 1

Nuanced grip positions, comfortable radius, versatile terrain

The Teagan Medium 1's are some of the best holds in the dojo and they inspired me to order several more sets of Kilter holds, including two of the other Teagan sets.  This particular hold from the Teagan M1 set is a star in many of my workouts and it exemplifies the best features of this set.  I placed it on the main path of of my ARC traverse, and I have integrated it into my power-endurance problem.  The distinctive and most valuable dimension illustrated in this grip comes from the combination of the "coral-horn" feature, the comfortable radius and the depth of the space behind the pulling surface of the hold.  As you can see from my hand position you can grab the hold in two ways:  (1) a typical semi-crimp with thumb activated which is standard to any incut directional with a thumb catch (2) a partial open-hand wrap of the index finger with a slightly more relaxed hand position.

These two illustrate the same potential for a partial index finger wrap and slightly relaxed grip.  This shape is innovative because most incut directionals are either clearly better for a crimp grip or an open hand grip.  These, by offering a nuanced combination of both allow careful and attentive climbers to take advantage of either grip that is most advantageous for the given movement.

The left hand image of the two illustrates one way that the design principles behind this set could be extended to make an even more valuable set of holds in the future.   I put three washers as shims behind the left hand hold because it increased the usable space behind the loading surface of the hold.  This makes the hold feel noticeably more positive and my fingertips are less crowded.

Back in the 1990's Pusher would sometimes make special "short pours" of classic holds to allow route setters to vary quality from the expected jug to a shallow surprise.   It would be great if shapes like those in Teagan Medium 1 could have both shallow and "deep pours" varying the depth at which your fingers can get behind the pulling surface.

With plus and minus versions of each of the holds in the Teagan M1 series route setters could really dial in the difficulty while keeping the other attributes of the hold the same (matchability, availability for hand foot matches, etc).  This strategy would work very well with this set because the slightly concave pulling surface is clearly defined on all of these holds, and they they have extremely comfortable wide radius edges.

More Kilter Grips on the way!

I recently payed for an order for 4 more sets from Kilter, including the Teagan Medium 2 and Large 2; and one each from the Noah and Sandstone series.  I am really looking forward to the arrival of those holds!

Full disclosure:  Jackie gave me the two sets review above because she and Ian wanted to get my feedback on them.  Way back in the late 1990's I managed Rock Sport in Reno, Nevada where I hired a promising young climber (Jackie).  I moved to grad school in Seattle, but we have gotten back in touch since then.  This summer my family and I stopped by the Spot for to visit with Jackie, and we got to meet Ian who generously showed us his shaping shop and let us play around with some foam.