Saturday, October 22, 2011

Injury Update

A little over a week ago, I sustained a season ending ankle injury while climbing on pitch 15 of the Dawn Wall project on El Cap. There's not much more to say than that. I'm extremely disappointed to not be on the wall right now, pursuing this dream project and supporting Tommy.

The injury occurred while attempting the 8 foot sideways dyno on pitch 15. On my first attempt of the season, I threw with everything I had, hoping to stick the move with the muscle memory from last year. I made good contact with the hold and began to hold the swing. Usually, the left foot slides down the wall, stopping when it hits the corner and halting the swing. Instead of sliding, my foot stuck upon first contact, and rolled. It then continued to slide down the wall until it hit the corner and rolled again. I instantly knew something was wrong, but a combination of shock and denial clouded the pain enough for me to try a few more times, until I stuck the dyno.

Upon lowering to the belay, I knew something was terribly wrong. I called my amazing physio Vicki Chung from the wall and made an appointment for the next day. Less than 24 hours later, I was in her office getting checked out. An X-Ray revealed that it wasn't broken. Three appointments later, the swelling had gone down and we were able to get a good assessment of the damage: bruised bones and a combination of stretched and compressed ligaments. I should recover fully with time, but for now, any kind of inversion or eversion of the ankle is still painful with the joint itself feeling quite unstable thanks to the stretched ligaments. 4 weeks of no climbing.

Seeing Tommy's updates from the wall is surreal. I feel out of place without the exposure under my toes, chalk on my hands, the sounds of gear being clipped, the pain of those sharp holds under my fingers, and the monumental task at hand that we've been working for so long. Tommy of course is charging ahead, now with the support of his amazing wife Becca. Since October 2009, this has been a team effort. To be a member of a team is to act with selflessness in the name of success. If Tommy sends without me, I will be happy to have helped push this project to completion. If not, we will be back.

Go get it Tommy. Eye of the Tiger!

- KJ aka Hector

Monday, September 5, 2011

Reel Rock Film Tour Trailer!!

The 2011 Reel Rock Film Tour Trailer is here!! Be sure to check it out and find a show near you!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

What is PCI?

Here is a video about the non-profit I have been working on for the past two years. This video hardly captures everything we are doing, but it gives you an idea. For more information, visit our website:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pro Cycling from the view of a Pro Climber

On May 18, I was invited as a guest of Team Radioshack to watch the exciting finish to Stage 4 of the Tour of California in San Jose, CA. Having missed the Tour of California coming through my home town of Santa Rosa for the past few years, I was stoked to go check it out, especially from a booth right next to the finish line!

Through my work with PCI, I am constantly comparing climbing to other sports in respect to their events, presentation, organization, fans, sponsors, athletes, and history. This day gave me a great glimpse into the world of professional cycling.

We arrived a few hours before the riders were anticipated to finish the stage and I was happy to see the area in total chaos. Sponsor banners still had to be hung, the finish line had to be erected, booths needed to be set up and cameras still had to get into place. The reason I was happy to see this was because I've been there. This time last year, together with The Spot, we produced The Battle in the Bubble. Event production is no joke. Talk about a logistical nightmare. However, it all seems to come together in the end, and it came together with hours to spare at the top of Sierra Road.

From the RadioShack booth, we were able to watch the race coming in live via satellite on a flat screen TV. It was great to talk with some of the families of the riders on Team RadioShack and hear what they were like as kids. We exchanged hospital visit stories in what turned out to be very similar childhoods filled with adventure and passion. The parents I talked to reminded me of my parents in a lot of ways as they described watching their child scrape their knees, break some bones, and pursue their passion to the fullest. Very cool.

From an event production standpoint, all I can say is "WOW." Consider the footprint of a bouldering event versus a pro cycling event. We are talking about the difference between covering the action that can fit in the corner of a small football field (bouldering) and one that needs to be followed by helicopter. Stage 4 of the Tour was the shortest stage at 81 miles in length between Livermore and San Jose. At any given time, the field of riders is spread across several miles of road, traveling between 10 and 60 miles per hour, and across who knows how many different jurisdictions. I counted no less than 3 helicopters following the action up the road.

Despite the scope of the event and all the media coverage, it was also interesting to hear a very similar conversation to what we hear with climbing: "growth," "going mainstream," "popularity," and "big sponsors." I've always said that PCI isn't trying to do anything new, just new for climbing. Attending this event really drove this point home for me. I heard the commentators talk about enhancing the quality of the media coverage over the years, slowly growing the fan base, slowly attracting and retaining new sponsors, and growing the number of athletes who attend each year. This is coming from a sport with 40 million participants in the United States alone. Compare this to the Sport/Indoor/Bouldering segment of "Climbing" which has 4.3 million participants and you start to get the picture of where climbing is on its potential growth curve.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

National Geographic

The May issue of National Geographic is on news stands and it features a great article on Yosemite climbing by Mark Jenkins with photography by Jimmy Chin. This past fall, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk of Camp4Collective joined Tommy and I up on the wall for a week. The product of their talent and hard work is featured on the pages of Nat Geo and in several amazing videos available on the Nat Geo website.

If you don't have a physical copy, you can view scan of it thanks to Black Diamond via this link:

At the National Geographic website, you can see some exclusive videos, view the enlarged photos from the article, and read the full article (more easily than in the scan) via this link:


Friday, April 8, 2011

As part of PCI's newly launched event booking service, I am happy to announce that I will be traveling to Dallas, TX from May 7-9th for three days of private lessons and a slideshow! We will be raffling off some great prizes, including a pair of Five Ten shoes and some apparel, so if you are in the area, come check this event out.

The slideshow I'm going to give is titled "If at first you don't succeed..." and is about something all climbers can relate to: failure. Progression cannot happen without failure. For over two years, Tommy Caldwell and I have battled bad weather, hard climbing and big wall logistics in our effort to free climb the hardest route on El Capitan, and one of the hardest in the world, The Dawn Wall. I'll be sharing what its like to dedicate years to a project and remain committed in the face of failure (and potential success!). With never before seen images from the upcoming issue of National Geographic, a teaser from Big UP Productions shoot of the Fall 2010 attempt, and awe inspiring photos from climbing's best photographers, you are guaranteed to be inspired.

When I'm not climbing, another one of my passions is teaching. I have been teaching technique and movement for the past 5 years and have worked with over 200 climbers of all abilities. My teaching style is one of efficiency and mechanics over strength and power. As both a veteran competitor and rock climber, I bring 14 years of experience to each and every lesson I teach. I love watching a climber's progression over the course of two hours. There's little more satisfying than sharing your experience with another person in a way that influences them in a positive way. VERY rewarding. If you're interested in taking a private lesson at Dallas Rocks between May 7 - 9th, go to the front desk for more information. I hope to see you all there!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Transporter Room 2nd Ascent

It is a well known fact that the Buttermilks of Bishop, CA are known for their highballs. It only takes one visit, or one glance at a photograph, to realize how big the granite boulders are and how unique the geology is. However, had it not been for the events of the mid to late 1980's, and a climb called Transporter Room, the Buttermilks may be known for the country's shortest sport climbs instead.

From the history update to the latest edition of the Bishop Bouldering guidebook, Wills Young describes the scene at Buttermilks in the late 1980's and early 1990's:

"The Grandpa Peabody is a massive boulder by any standards and its east face is its most unrelenting. Sure, there are bigger free standing boulders in the world...but not many. The well-featured, steadily overhanging east face of this monster was once a top-rope project that Tom (formerly Tommy) Herbert had been working back in the early 1990's. Recognizing its beauty, he even named the line Ambrosia, food of the immortals, fitting with the Buttermilk theme. Herbert wrestled with the idea of bolting the face, knowing it would make a fine sport route. However, he had already set a precedent for the area: he had removed bolts once placed on the neighboring Transporter Room (5.12), as a point of protest against the sport-bolting of Buttermilk climbs. Bolting was not an option. Moreover, the Buttermilks was a lonely, surreal backwater at the time. No place to be seen. Or unseen. Consequently, Herbert moved on to cliffs elsewhere. He left the spectacular wall chalked but unclimbed. In a sense then, we have Herbert to thank for steering the Buttermilks to its current path, one that left the great unclimbed lines for future generations, sparing these climbs the humiliation of a one-way trip to rap-bolted obscurity. "

Dale Bard first explored Transporter Room as a boulder problem by bouldering up to an obvious flake at the 20 foot height before down climbing. In 19878/88, having never fully climbed Transporter Room, Dale bolted the climb for his girlfriend at the time, Bobbi Bensman (PS thanks for this background info/history Bobbi!). While Dale was sinking 5, 3/8" bolts in, there were two kids in the parking lot watching. When Dale got down, they started to give Dale a hard time, saying they were "going to tell Tommy (Tommy Herbert)," who was a staunch opponent to rap bolting. After listening to all this, Dale walked back up the hill, booted up, and soloed the first ascent of Transporter Room. Back at the parking lot, Dale apparently tells the kids, "There! Now it's a boulder problem!" and walked away. A few days later, Tommy chopped it and Transporter Room sunk into Buttermilks history as the first mega-highball of the area.

In 2007, I first rappelled off the top of Grandpa Peabody looking for Transporter Room. I was keen to see this piece of Buttermilk history and try my hand at it. Unknowingly, I rapped off the wrong anchors and down the face of what would become, a few years later, Ambrosia:

Photo by Jim Thornburg.
By the way, if you have not seen his book, Stone Mountains, you are missing out:

Fast forward to last week, I'm at the Buttermilks and wondering what to try. I remember Transporter Room and, knowing the correct line this time, rappel off to check it out. After a good scrub on rappel to wipe off almost 25 years of neglect, I was psyched to follow in Dale's footsteps.

The climbing is straightforward, yet interesting. After 20 feet of fun 5.12, you get to two BIG sloping hueco's in the middle of the wall. These features mark the edge of the steep climbing and the friction slab. After a balancy and finger intensive sequence, you are standing in the two hueco's and are able to look up at 30 feet of 5.10 granite friction! In the photo below, I am finishing the mantle off of the flake that Dale (presumably) down climbed from before deciding to bolt the climb.

Second Ascent of Transporter Room, 5.12/v5 X

In classic Buttermilk style, the climbing at the top is not terribly difficult, but demanding of your composure and footwork. Over 5 minutes after leaving the ground, I was elated to have made the second ascent of the original Buttermilks highball.

Honestly, I'm a little ashamed it's taken me this long to repeat Transporter Room! I don't mean that in a pretentious way either. I'm honestly disappointed in myself! It is a right of passage to complete the testpieces of the past...a nod of the hat if you will to the visionaries before us. Every time we (climbers under 30) start to think we are the shit, let us not forget: we stand (humbly and gratefully) on the shoulders of the climbers before us. Without their vision and balls, we would be nowhere near where we are today.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Project!

For some reason, it takes me a long time to accept a new project. In a purgatory of non-committment, an idea for a new line will sit for weeks, months, even years. Then, one day, a switch flips. I become obsessed. Usually this happens when I come to the realization that the project is possible. This is exactly what happened yesterday with a line I have been looking at for LONG time. It's right under our noses, just right of the quintessential highball, Evilution.

The Grandpa Peabody

Several seasons ago, Matt Birch made the first ascent of Social Distortion, a wicked hard 4 move v13 on the right side of the wall that drops off at an obvious flake. Anthony Chertudi repeated the feat, perhaps unknowing of Matt's ascent, naming it Blood Meridian and confirming the grade. Above the "heart" flake lies three moves that are just as hard, if not harder, to gain the lip. From here, a crazy sequence involving a heel hook above your head at the 20 foot level gets you to the last crux: 2 full length lock-offs with your feet above the lip. The first is a long left arm pull off of a half pad knob to a credit card razor. The next is taking the razor and pulling it down to your arm pit to gain a good edge, which you mantle to safety.

Dan Beall on Social Distortion, v13

Yesterday afternoon, I had a great session on the project, climbing through Social Distortion for the first time and falling on the first move off of the "heart" flake, which is a huge left hand move to an incut gaston. After getting boosted through Social Distortion, I was able to stick the next left hand move and fall after making the scrunchy hand-foot match. I think a little stretching is in order....

After focusing on the Dawn Wall for the last few years, it feels great to have a good 'ol bouldering project to sink my teeth into. The temperatures are warming up here in Bishop, but the evenings remain nice, so we'll see how it goes! Tonight, I'm going to keep working the upper half of the project, getting from the "heart" flake to the lip. If these moves go, then it's time to round out at least 16 pads (we had 12 yesterday and it wasn't even close to enough) and go for it!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Red Rock Rendezvous!!!

Hey All! I'm very excited to be attending the Red Rock Rendezvous on behalf of Black Diamond next weekend! I've never been to the event before, but I've heard nothing but great things. I'll be teaching several bouldering clinics throughout the weekend, so if you're interested, be sure to sign up. I'll also be doing a slideshow to benefit the Access Fund and Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Counsel at Desert Rock Sports on Thursday, March 17th at 8pm. There will be a BBQ before hand and a raffle after the show, so be sure to come grab a bite to eat, enjoy the show, support the community, and maybe even win some sweet gear!

Hope to see you there!