Gear Review - Mammut Parinaco Jacket

I love jackets. I am a jacket connoiseur and whether it is a light wind shirt or a heavy duty down parka I love trying on jackets, feeling the fabrics fit and cut and seeing all the features. I really can't get enough of them and now that every outdoor company is throwing in outrageous colors it is even better!

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Gear Review - Black Diamond Mission 50 Backpack

This is the mother of all technical backpacks. I would describe this pack as comfortable, versatile and feature rich. Heavy loads are no problem, stripping weight is no problem, carrying a rope, ice tools, crampons and all the usual alpine/ice gear is no problem and even skis can be carried by the Black Diamond Mission 50.

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Tallahassee Rock Gym Expansion

Every climber has a similar story of their early days...driving home late after climbing with forearms burning thinking of the problem or route that shut you down go after go. I remember it like yesterday. Working at the Tallahassee Rock Gym was a privilege and climbing there was a blast.

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Gear Review - Outdoor Research Stormsensor Glove

Gloves. I don't think there is a more important piece of gear for winter activities than gloves. Your gloves need to be warm and dexterous but they also need to be comfortable and dry. The perfect glove, I have found, does not exist, but there are many good options for all around use and only a few suitable for specific activities like ice climbing or skiing.

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Longs Peak Cirque Ice Climbing - 11.5.12

Alpine climbing at its finest. High elevation, wind, little sun, cold temperatures, it all combines to make an epic day on the mountain. My first day out this season was up to the high alpine of Rocky Mountain National Park in the Longs Peak Cirque. We started at the Longs Peak Trailhead parking lot at 6:20 am and didn't return until about 4:30 that afternoon.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tallahassee Rock Gym Expansion

The Tallahassee Rock Gym gave me my start in climbing and was the driving force in my early climbing years.

Every climber has a similar story of  their early days...driving home late after climbing with forearms burning thinking of the problem or route that shut you down go after go.  Meeting up with friends at the gym, even in the middle of the Florida summer heat, to climb some nasty slopey boulder problems.  Taking my first whipper on the lead wall and getting right back on to finish the route.  I remember it like yesterday.  Working at the Tallahassee Rock Gym was a privilege and climbing there was a blast.  There was always an amazing sense of community and togetherness.  Climbers would help each other out with a spot or beta and everyone was so enthusiastic about climbing.  I started the FSU Climbing Club with two close friends, Dustin and Mike, and couldn't be happier about my time at FSU and the Tallahassee Rock Gym.  Going on climbing trips to Foster Falls and Obed as well as the Triple Crown are memories and experiences I will never forget.  This gym is genuine and I really do miss it.  I need to get back there sometime soon.

Support their cause and spread the word.  This gym is worth it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gear Review - Outdoor Research Stormsensor Glove

Gloves.  I don't think there is a more important piece of gear for winter activities than gloves.  Your gloves need to be warm and dexterous but they also need to be comfortable and dry.  The perfect glove, I have found, does not exist, but there are many good options for all around use and only a few suitable for specific activities like ice climbing or skiing.  The Outdoor Research Stormsensor glove is definitely a glove that fits in the all around category.  This glove does pretty much everything very well.  I have used it hiking, ice climbing and snowboarding and the glove performed quite well in every application.  It breathed well during the hike, but was warm enough once in the alpine when I wasn't moving as much and so I wasn't having to change gloves just to regulate temperature   The leather palm and fingers are also very tacky and provided a good grip while ice climbing and fooling with climbing gear, ropes and cordage.  It did so well that it may be my new go to workhorse glove.  There is no Windstopper or Gore-Tex waterproof shell and not even Primaloft or Polartec fleece, but what it lacks in mainstream name brand technologies it makes up for in design, functionality and wearability.  Oh and it has some voodoo magic that lets you use touch screen devices like smartphones and tablets while still wearing it, more on that below.
Close up of the Stormsensor
The Outdoor Research Stormsensor glove doesn't have a lot of frills.  The glove is simple by design with a softshell outer and fixed fleece lined interior.  The softshell is highly water repellent, the fingers are anatomically pre-curved and the fleece lining is extremely nice next to skin and warm.  I used this glove mostly while ice climbing and the pre-curved fingers along with the tacky leather palm make for a great ice climbing glove.  It shed water quite well and the low bulk of the glove combined with the suppleness of the leather made it stand out as a dexterous glove for fooling with carabiners and cordage.  The softshell breathes incredibly well and during my hike into the high alpine of Rocky Mountain National Park I rarely noticed I even had the glove on.  For all the simplicity and functionality of this glove there is one main feature that is overlooked.  Outdoor Research uses a technology called TouchTec for the entire palm and finger portion of the glove.  Outdoor Research uses a nanotechnology on the leather to make the gloves completely compatible with touch screen electronics.  I used the gloves on my android phone in the parking lot to start a hiking tracker app for the hike into Longs Peak and stopped the same app once we had reached Chasm Lake at about 10,500 feet after 4.5 miles.  The Stormsensor gloves were extremely responsive and accurate on the touch screen display.  I used them on an iPad at home as well and the accuracy was just as good.  I don't know how much you would need the use of the TouchTec feature, but if you were to use this glove while skiing or snowboarding I could see this glove as a necessity on the chair lift.  The best part about the TouchTec is that it covers the entire palm and every inch of the fingers.  That means you aren't limited to just the tip of your index finger like some other gloves are.  You can pinch to zoom, use either hand or use whatever finger you want.  This glove truly has great alpine function with a new technology that makes the little things easier to do.

Final Say: 

Angry Birds on the lift or WI5 pillars in the Park, you're covered either way.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Longs Peak Cirque Ice Climbing - 11.5.12

Alpine climbing at its finest.  High elevation, wind, little sun, cold temperatures, it all combines to make an epic day on the mountain.  My first day out this season was up to the high alpine of Rocky Mountain National Park in the Longs Peak Cirque.  We started at the Longs Peak Trailhead parking lot at 6:20 am and didn't return until about 4:30 that afternoon.  The hike was a pretty grueling 4.5 miles up above treeline and into the cirque that is formed by Mount Meeker, Mount Lady Washington and Longs Peak.  I had never been up to Longs Peak and so I did not know what the area was like.  Much of the time I felt like I was heading into an area from Lord of the Rings because of the vast expanses of high alpine tundra and once we turned the corner to enter the cirque I was impressed by the sheer size of Longs Peak and the surrounding mountains.  I went up there to climb The Flying Dutchman with my friend Mike, but after seeing the lack of snow for the walk off we decided to climb some of the shorter and less committing routes in the area.  The hike was strenuous, but the views were amazing and the climbing was incredible.

I was excited to get out for my first day of the season for a couple reasons.  First is I love ice climbing.  I think it is so exciting to hike into the middle of nowhere, find a beautiful frozen strip of water and hack away at it for a few hours.  The serenity is renewing and being out in the alpine winter with a climbing buddy is exhilarating.  The second reason is that I LOVE outdoor gear.  I cannot get enough of it.  I work in the outdoor industry and I still fawn over gear guides for climbing, biking, snowboarding and hiking every year.  I was really excited to hike into the Longs Peak Cirque because I have recently gotten a couple new pieces of gear (backpack and gloves) and those gear reviews should be published soon.  We first hiked all the way up to Chasm Lake to get a good view of The Flying Dutchman.  After seeing the lack of snow for the approach and the walk off we decided to hit some of the shorter flows below Chasm Lake and bordering Peacock Pool.  The day definitely turned into a ice cragging day, but it was great to get to a part of the Park I had never been to before.  We climbed a pretty simple WI2 M3 (I think) with some meandering broken cracks, a little running water and good plastic ice up high.  We also climbed an amazing smear on the southwest shore of Peacock Pool.  Check out the photos below of the Cirque and the two climbs we did.

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I also have a My Tracks of the day for the hike into Longs Peak Cirque.  Check it out as it is pretty darn accurate and you can see exactly what the elevation change, terrain and time lapse for this type of hike is.  I think this is a very cool piece of technology to use when hiking into a new place or just wanting to document terrain and time while hiking.  It is really amazing because it just overlays onto Google Maps and is online in my Google Profile.  Very cool.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gear Review - Edelrid Eagle Climbing Rope

Edelrid has been around for about 150 years.  It was founded originally by Julius Edelman and Carl Ridder, a mountaineer and sales man and a technician that worked with braiding machines.  They started with braided fishing line in the late 1800's and by 1953 they created the very first kernmantel rope.  This, for obvious reasons, revolutionized the climbing industry from hemp ropes and progressed the climbing world because climbers now had the ability to climb much more difficult and committing climbs with better safety.  If you fast forward to today Edelrid is one of the leading climbing companies in the world.  They have mastered climbing ropes and also have divisions for adventure parks, industrial and safety.  They really do lead the industry when it comes to the sport (climbing) side of the business though.  Many Americans do not know much about them, but Edelrid would be comparable to a company like Black Diamond in America, but for Europeans.  Edelrid produces ropes, climbing shoes, harnesses, carabiners, draws, via ferrata, camping cookware and stoves, and crashpads.  Their quality is unsurpassed and the engineering in everyone of their products is outstanding.  For example; they have recently come out with an autolocking tube style belay device (autolocking ATC for ~$40), 6.9mm twin ropes and a 19g carabiner.  They are innovative and passionate about climbing.  With all that being said, they still have their steadfast products that have been in the line forever and change very little from year to year because they are already so good.  Their Eagle 9.8mm climbing rope is one of these great products.
Edelrid Eagle climbing rope on my rope bag
Beautiful looking rope
I have been climbing on Edelrid's Eagle for a couple months now and I must admit, it is a great rope.  It is the perfect diameter at 9.8mm and because of the, albeit minimal weight savings, I went for the 70 meter length and I also got it dry treated and bi-color.  The dry treatment and 70 meter length is so I can use it for ice climbing and the bi-color is just so nice I opted for it.  The Eagle is incredibly smooth because of Edelrid's braiding process and the suppleness is better than any rope I have ever used.  It fed so smoothly through my Reverso for ice climbing and through my Grigri 2 for sport climbing in Boulder Canyon that I think there is finally a winner against the BlueWater Eliminator (one of my personal favorites).  The overall durability of the rope seems to be great.  I have only used it a few times sport climbing and once ice climbing, but I haven't noticed any frays, dead spots or issues otherwise.  I have climbed on the sharp rock of the Poudre Canyon and the alpine ice terrain of Longs Peak and I am looking forward to many years of use for this rope.  I really can't say enough about the quality of this rope.  I am really encouraged about Edelrid coming to the USA and I hope they get bigger and bigger over here.

Final Say:
Edelrid makes a great rope and the Eagle 9.8mm is probably their best all around work horse.  If you need a new rope, get an Edelrid.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Joe's Valley Bouldering Trip - October 2012

This is a little late posting, but I went to Joe's Valley back in October.  I went with a group from Inner Strength Rock Gym here in Fort Collins for a 3 day weekend.  A friend doing a PT rotation in Moab met us for one of the days as well.  The trip was great and everyone climbed very well, I actually finally got Planet of the Apes and a couple V7's and a V8.  All in all a great trip.  Not much to report on the actual trip so take a look at the pictures below and leave any questions in the comment section.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

RMNP Conditions Report - 11.5.12

This past Monday I hiked into the Longs Peak Cirque with a friend of mine to climb some ice.  Our objective was The Flying Dutchman, but with a lack of snow in the Loft for the hike off we elected to climb some of the single pitch ice around Chasm Lake and Peacock Pool.

Here is a quick list of ice conditions for the cirque.

The Flying Dutchman - In, but not a lot of snow for the approach of the walk off (upper left corner).
Smear of Fear - Getting there, but has a little way to go before it touches down.
Crazy Train - Same

Ice below Chasm Lake - In, but thin and on a pretty serious melt freeze cycle.

Columbine Falls - In, but thin and on a pretty serious melt freeze cycle.
South Face of Mount Lady Washington - Out

Peacock Pool Ice - Very good smear in great condition on the southwest shore of the pool. Some other flows look thin, but are coming in.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Hardest Route in the World?!

This is getting out of control!  Sport Climbing has become so focused on getting harder and harder that athletes are putting up new routes weekly that rival even time tested routes like Action Direct or Flex Luthor.  Climbers like Adam Ondra and Chris Sharma are progressing the sport in such a staggering way.  And it is impressive.

I just saw a post on UKClimbing and Climbing about Adam Ondra's new testpiece in Norway.  The climb is in Hanshelleren cave at Flatanger and it looks to be incredibly overhung.  It looks very featured and I would love to visit someday.  The power endurance route is 55 meters and goes from 20 meters of 9a+/b to a 30 meter 9a finish.  Below is a quick clip of Ondra working the route.

Adam Ondra climing in the Flatanger cave in Norway from Ove Magne Ribsskog on Vimeo.

Just recently Reel Rock showed Chris Sharma and Adam Ondra squaring off while working some of the hardest route in the world in Spain, but this is definitely stepping it up.  Can't wait to see video of the full send once he gets it done.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Ice Climbing: A Scary Sport or Just Misunderstood

I fell in love with ice climbing at the Ouray Ice Festival in January of 2007.  I had just moved out to Colorado the summer before and a friend of mine still living in Florida was interested in coming out to Colorado for the festival.  He convinced myself and a housemate of mine to go on a roadtrip to Ouray to climb and participate in the Ice Festival in Ouray.  Having no idea what I should really expect I reserved myself to hoping that it wouldn't be too cold and that I wouldn't get too scared.  I was amazed, when I arrived at that box canyon outside Ouray on the way up "Million Dollar Highway", to see ice climbers young and old screaming and yelling and hacking away at the ice.  It was a veritable baptism by fire and I was ready.  I, and no one else with us, had any gear for ice climbing other than harnesses and ropes, so we scoured the demo tents and came out geared up in Scarpa and La Sportiva boots, Petzl and Black Diamond ice tools and crampons that looked like they should be mounted to a stick to fashion some kind of mace.  We were ready to ice climb...WI1.  We started out small and looking back now I am very thankful that my friend, now a paramedic in Denver, was there to curtail my more wilder dreams of leading daggers and delicate curtains that first fateful day.  We top roped everything and had a great time, but we all had a very healthy respect for the ice and the inherent danger that lived in that box Canyon.

I have read a lot about ice climbing on guide websites, in guidebooks, in instruction books and I must say that the safety aspect of preparing for ice climbing is pretty well covered.  I have even more experience from the actual activity of ice climbing all over Colorado on hard and easy routes in fairly timid environments and even more committing areas.  With that being said I still see plenty of ice climbers doing the wrong things when out on ice.  Standing in the wrong place, not having proper climbing or belaying skill and techniques, not being prepared for changing conditions in the alpine environments, etc. and I thought I would use this post to expound on my thoughts about ice climbing safety.
In the Ouray Ice Park
Hopefully the points I have below will help explain ice climbing to non climbers and reiterate important safety to those who do ice climb or have tried it at any time.  These are fairly straight forward and mostly seem like common sense, but I wanted to post what I think are some of the most important safety concerns and things to know about the sport.
  1. Never fall - This is not rock climbing.
  2. Stay out of the way of falling ice
  3. Use Pro...a lot!
  4. Top rope...a lot! - Probably 75+ pitches of top rope to really understand ice and be confident and competent enough to lead.
  5. Do not be afraid to clip into your tools while placing pro
  6. Practice placing pro on top rope
  7. Bring more gloves than you think you'll need
These are not exhaustive and are more so guidelines than rules, obviously you can do whatever you want, but overall these will keep you more comfortable climbing ice and give you a better chance of having a fun day instead of an "interesting" day.  Ice climbing is certainly a dangerous sport, but only as dangerous as you let it be.  These guidelines can help you mitigate any potential hazards with a clear head and proper precautions.  Will Gadd is definitely one of the best ice climbers in the world and he adheres to most if not all of these points and I figure if he does, they're good enough for me.  Eli Helmuth, a mountain guide in Colorado, adheres to a very strict set of rules and guidelines and he is out every day in the wilderness of Colorado, skiing, ice climbing and rock climbing.  There are plenty of resources out there and I encourage anyone interested in the sport to grab a book or guide and read up on the techniques, skills and precautions that these well written instructions can provide.  There are things as simple as, how to retreat off a route properly, to the more intricate details of ice climbing like analyzing types of ice and gauging how safe an area or climb might be.  Good apparel, a jacket and pants, are extremely important as well as good boots and crampons that fit well and feel good.  Your gear might be most important once you start leading.  Make sure you get everything you need and want to make clipping easier, sticking tools more efficient and placing pro simpler.  All these things can make a day in sub freezing temperatures not only bearable, but fun and exciting.
My friend Austin top roping a pillar
Ice climbing is a gift and if you have ever gone ice climbing or wish and pray for the season to be good in September, you know what I am talking about.  For ice to form and create the amazing areas and individual routes that we dream of every winter is impressive.  Ice climbers understand the rarity of their sport and the delicate balance that it teeters on every winter and they come back every year for more and more experiences in sub freezing temperatures and altitudes that most reserve for the summer months of May through September.  It is a great sport, a mesmerizing sport, a misunderstood sport...by the general public.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gear Review - Adidas Outdoor Terrex Fast R Trail Shoe

Adidas isn't exactly an outdoor company.  I mean they make top notch soccer and team sports apparel and footwear, but you wouldn't be caught dead at the climbing crag in Adidas product, right?  That has all changed in the last year and a half.  Adidas has jumped head first into the outdoor market with Adidas Outdoor.  Adidas Outdoor offers everything from superlight trail running and approach shoes to soft and hardshell jackets and pants.  They have signed athletes like Sasha Digiulian and Thomas Huber and they recently bought the iconic climbing shoe brand Five Ten.  Adidas Outdoor definitely has the dollars to be significant and impact the outdoor industry, but are they doing it the right way?  Do their products perform at the same level as the competition or better, or are they just limping into an extremely tight knit industry with ruthless innovation cycles?  In the end, what I am asking is, is the product right?  I recently got a pair of Terrex Fast R trail shoes from Adidas Outdoor and have given them a month of heavy use.  I must say for their first foray into the outdoor industry they are definitely doing things correct.  The Terrex Fast R is comfortable and has every feature you would want from a lightweight trail runner, like durability, an easy lacing system and comfort.

The first real test I had for them was a day of bouldering at Lincoln Lake up at Mt. Evans in Colorado.  The trail down to the boulders is fairly technical and there is plenty of rock hopping once in the boulder field.  The Terrex Fast R from Adidas Outdoor performed extremely well.  The fit and comfort was great and the ankle support was fair for a trail runner.  Jumping and landing, even with extra weight from my crashpad, was no problem and traction on firm and loose terrain was top notch.  While we were bouldering it started to down pour and we had to hike out in miserable conditions. The traction for the Terrex Fast R was still great on wet rocks and on the trail in mud and wet grass.  I did notice a little bit of pinky toe rub after a full day of hiking straight down and then up 3 miles of trail, but I think on rolling terrain while running this shoe would perform great.  I highly recommend this shoe for lightweight approach and low to mid distance trail running.  

These shoes breathe incredibly well too and the speed lacing is a pretty great feature.  The onyl draw back to the speed lacing is that it is not quite as good as what Salomon offers on pretty much every one of their models.  The lacing twists and make loosening and tightening the shoe difficult and there is no tuck area for the laces on the tongue like Salomon does.  Instead you have to send them down to the end of the show and wrap around a bungee tab.  Not the best thing to do because they are exposed and still bounce around a little, but overall it works good enough.  The removable Ortholite insole and overall durability of the shoe make up for its shortfalls and overall these shoes are great.  The fit, features and traction are all stellar and I really didn't have any complaints that would keep me from buying this shoe.

Final Say:
Fit, form, function.  Yep, this shoe takes care of it all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's Ski Season

I am more of a snowboarder, but I do ski some.  Either way I love ski/snowboard movies because of the amazing views, the incredible lines and the athletes involved in the films.  Tonight I am going to The Aggie in Fort Collins for Teton Gravity Research's tour stop to premiere The Dream Factory.

The film looks amazing and definitely gets me jazzed for ski season.  I can't wait to get up to Vail and Breckenridge for the season to get some turns in on fresh powder.  Hopefully the snow fall this year will be better in Colorado and all over the country.

Sick gear, crazy tricks and amazing cinematography contribute to a great ski flick.  The music is sweet too.  Check out the trailer and get psyched for the season!

Another ski film, from last year, has some amazing cinematography and tunes.  Check out the trailer for Chapter 5: Imagination for All I Can below.
JP Auclair Street Segment (from All.I.Can.) from Sherpas Cinema on Vimeo.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Reel Rock Film Tour and BA Rock Climbers

I always love this time of year.  Reel Rock Film Tour has been going on for 7 years now.  It was really the start of mainstream climbing films that demonstrate the bizarre but awesome culture of climbing and mountaineering.  The stories are inspiring (Anker and Sharksfin) and terrifying at the same time (Honnold soloing) and the quality of these films is amazing!  It started for me with Solutions and the Triple Crown back in the Southeast of the United States and culminated with First Ascent and my move to Colorado.  Reel Rock took over and continued to renew my love of the sport(s) annually every year.  I can't get enough of it.

How about you?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gear Review - Edelrid Crux Crashpad

This crashpad gives a whole new meaning to the saying "Go big or go home."  The Edelrid Crux crashpad is one of the largest crashpads on the market, there is no excuse with this pad underneath you.  I think it might actually be the largest.  Bigger than the Metolius Magnum, the Black Diamond Mondo, the Revolution 12-G...the list goes on and on.  It is only 4 inches thick, but at 85 inches in length and 47 inches in width this pad will cover any boulder problem by itself!  I took it up to Mount Evans Area A with my buddy Mike and we climbed a bunch of boulder problems from traverses to highballs.  This is the only pad I have ever used where I barely had to move it once we threw it down under a boulder problem.  Keep reading to check out the pros and cons of this monstrous pad.

The construction is pretty good and carrying the pad is pretty comfortable for the size.  The weight of this pad helps with that because it weighs very little for the size of the pad (go ahead and compare them).  The shoulder straps are padded, the waist belt is large and has a beefy buckle and the closure system for the pad is pretty intuitive.  Overall this pad has all the features that benefit any bouldering pad.  I do like the zipper closure for the bottom because I am always afraid of having gear slide out while hiking the trail or jumping around in a talus field.  The carpet in the middle of the pad puts the icing on the cake for sure.

Specs and Features:
  • 85.7L x 47W x 4H inches
  • 18.5 lbs.
  • Padded shoulder straps with waist belt
  • Daisy chain on each shoulder strap
  • Edelrid E in the center of the pad is carpet
  • Beefy buckles at every attachment
  • 3 pull handles
  • Zipper closure for bottom when pad folds up
The only drawback, so far, that I have experienced with this pad is a small puncture I got on the bottom of the pad.  I believe this is from one of the many sharp talus rocks that this pad was laid on for the day at Mount Evans, but it raises the question of long term durability.  Maybe the 18.5 lbs. of weight was accomplished by skimping on more durable nylon?  I don't know, but I do know that this pad seems to have a similar nylon construction to the Black Diamond Drop Zone and most Organic pads.  It might be the actual size and the small shift of the nylon outer wrap during falls that made it more susceptible to tearing.  I will update on this when I have a better idea.  At the end of the day though I would still recommend this crashpad to others.

Final Say:
You want a mattress under you while bouldering, but you don't want to carry it?  Get the Edelrid Crux crashpad.  'Nuff said.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Making Carabiners and Climbing Routes...in Utah

So while I was at Outdoor Retailer in Salt lake City earlier this month I stayed a couple extra days after the show.  I got a tour of Black Diamond and climbed in Maple Canyon.  I got to see Black Diamond gear being made like carabiners and crampons and I got to see them testing everything from ski boots to their new Magnetron locking carabiners.  Maple Canyon was great as well and a completely different type of climbing than anything I am used to on the Frontrange of Colorado.  More on that later.

Below you can see a few different photos from BD.  The entire facility was pretty cool.  They have their hot and cold forge processes downstairs in their factory and I could watch them cranking out parts and finished goods for everything.  One thing that climbers are confused on sometimes is that they think some of BD's cams are made in China.  This is not entirely true.  They are assembled in China, but every part of every Black Diamond C4 and C3 (presumably the X4 too) is made in Salt Lake City Utah, USA.  The cam may be assembled in China, but they are still made in the USA.  A great point that was explained to me was that BD's factory in China has the same type of employees that value time off and climbing/skiing as their counterparts in America.  The employee passion and drive is not like that of other factories in China.  BD said to me "It might as well be another Salt Lake City factory in China."  The second one of these photos is particularly cool because you can see three white touch points working with the carabiner.  Two of these touch each magnet to open the carabiner and the third pushes the gate open.  BD runs this thousands of times for quality assurance.  Very cool to see it in action.

Maple Canyon was a blast as well.  The type of climbing in Maple Canyon is very different from anything I climb on the Frontrange in Fort Collins, Boulder or Golden.  Every hold is a variation of some type of cobble.  On harder routes there may be some type of smaller pinch cobble, but on easier routes you could find extremely large cobble jugs.  The climbing varies from route to route and whether the route is overhung or a slab, but you can find yourself climbing a completely overhung roof with nothing but cobble pinches for holds!  The area is pristine and the rock is in great condition as long as you climb the more traveled routes.  We climbed a few 5.10's and a couple 5.11's for the day.  It was great to have a local showing me around and getting me on some of the best routes in the canyon.  The Box was definitely the coolest area with climbing on each side of a slot canyon maybe 20 feet wide.  The massive cave in the photos below shows one of the largest caves I have ever seen.  It rivals anything I have seen in Rifle and actually reminds me more of Obed or Foster Falls back east in Tennessee.
The extra couple days I spent in Salt Lake City were really fun.  As a climber I have to say walking around Black Diamond was amazing.  It would be great to have a job there and be able to walk through the factory and see everything from carabiners and crampons to hexes and stoppers being made.  To be able to walk into work everyday and know you are a part of something like that and a brand that represents the climbing community would be extremely rewarding.

I hope this post gives a little insight into the inner workings of Black Diamond.  I probably left a few things out, so leave a comment if you have any questions.