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GALLERY

Thursday, 15 May

Michelin image

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INVITATIONS

Wednesday, 26 March

Boreal meeting in Chulilla

By mid March, Boreal gathered some of its most representative athletes in Albarracín and Chulilla in order to get some shots of them climbing with the new climbing shoes which they have recently released. Three nice days spent with the base camp set in the refugio de Chulilla, a place for climbers managed by the once strong Spanish climber, Pedro Pons, together with his girlfriend, Nuria Martí.


Satori, Dharma and Marduk were the new tools of the trade presented which are said to be awesome by the few sponsored athletes who have already been lucky enough to break in on one of these. The very few of us who were invited to the meeting could also try them out as well as enjoying the show provided by climbers like Dani Andrada -the team's alma mater-, Edu Marín, Raquel Hernández, Urko Carmona, Nacho Sánchez, Silvia Vidal, Ignasi Tarrazona, Bruno Macías, Manu Córdova, Alex Germanovych, the British Nathan Lee, James Mchaffie and Jordan Buys, and the Germans Robert Leistner and Julia Winter.


Dani Andrada climbing in the Chorreras sector.

Edu Marín fired this 8c off on his third go.

Raquel Hernández in 'Moon Safari' (7c/+)

Urko Carmona climbing the same route as Raquel in El Balconcito sector.

Nacho Sánchez in 'El Varano', 8A in Albarracín

James McHaffie in the Chorreras sector (Chulilla).

At 8a.nu we took advantage of this great opportunity to have a quick chat with some of the Boreal's sponsored athletes, about what their plans are and what they think of the new climbing shoes. All this is fitted out with some great images shot by David Munilla.



Nacho Sánchez


It seems that this year we haven't heard much about you. Is it that you're training for the World Cup circuit?

Nowadays I'm training for a project in Crevillente and living in Asturias, which means I'm quite far from it. I'm mainly training power-endurance for this project and also for the World Cup. I will not be able to attend all the events but only to a few. There are two WC events which coincide with the Spanish Cup events, so I still don't know what I'm going to do.


What's it like living in Asturias?

Very well. It rains a lot, but the rock dries very fast. So, even if one day it rains, you're going to be able to climb the next day. Since I'm also working, I haven't got all the time which I'd fancy. 


What do you think about the new climbing shoes from Boreal and, out of all of them, which is the one that you like the most?

The one which I've used the most is the Satori. The new climbing shoes line is awesome. We've been testing a prototype and I've been giving some advices on how to improve it. The final result is brilliant.



Raquel Hernández


It seems like the girls' trend in Oliana once they send 'Fish Eye' is to start trying 'Mind Control'... Is this the same for you?

No, I'm already trying a different one in the same sector, but I didn't feel like trying 'Mind Control' since, as both routes are so desired, I already had to queue up to try 'Fish Eye' and I didn't want the same thing to happen now. Maybe in the future, since it's a really good one but not now. 


Are you in a peak performance period, have you just finished your season or still have some good tries left?

I think I still have some good days left before Summer. I feel I'm close to send this route which I'm trying now.


What do you think about the new climbing shoes line from Boreal and which one is your favourite?

The new models have nothing to do with the precedent ones. They're way better! Everything has substantially changed to the better. These are completely different climbing shoes! They've got a way more modern design, they fit the feet and the heels perfectly. It's like if you would be breaking in a glove. Internally, this shoes have got the foot bed and toes anatomically shaped which makes the feet fit perfectly inside them. The outer toe shape is different... it's completely different to the previous ones... It allows for much more precision in really small foot holds and, the Zenith rubber is super sticky with a curved shape which makes them more streamlined.   


YOU'VE GOT TO TRY THEM OUT TO EXPERIENCE THE METAMORPHOSIS THE BOREAL CLIMBING SHOES HAVE GONE THROUGH TO THE BETTER!


  

Edu Marín


Have you thought about competing in the international circuit this season?

I would like to compete in the World Championships, but I don't want to focus too much in the competitions since I've been competing during many years and now I'm motivated for other stuff, such as Big Wall climbing, hard routes, boulder, etc. I've always been super focused on competition climbing, but during the last injury I had I realized that there's other things which motivate me more and I want to do them.


You've recently sent a 9a and you're back in shape for hard climbing. Have you got any other project in mind before Summer?

Yes, I'm trying a 9a+ in Santa Linya which I think I can make quickly. Although the heat is already hitting the cave, I'm not worried since I know I'm fit and if it can't happen now it will be for next Winter. In my mind I see myself doing 9a+ and 9b. Why not??


What is your opinion on the new Boreal climbing shoes line and which is the one that you like the most?

I think that Boreal has been doing quite a lot of research on climbing shoes. They've thrown themselves into their sponsored athletes' opinion, especially into Dani Andrada's, and it's pretty visible that they've released some very nice climbing shoes. 


My favourite are the Dharma. It's a very versatile climbing shoe, quite aggressive, more technical. The rubber has also improved, it's still called Zenith but it's stiffer so it's better in edging -which was what didn't work so well before-. 


I think these are 3 new models which will give people a lot to talk about since they represent a big evolution in Boreal and we are all super happy with them.




At 8a.nu we want to thank Boreal for the invitation and the nice treatment. We're already trying these new climbing shoes, thus expect our review article soon.





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INTERVIEWS

Sunday, 9 March

Barbara Zangerl after her successful Oliana trip

BARBARA ZANGERL after her successful Oliana trip

By Esteban Diez Fernández

Barbara climbing 'Fish Eye', 8c in Oliana.
Pic© Jacopo Larcher.

Pic© Ignacio Sandoval Burón.

In 'Mind Control', 8c (+).
Pic© Walker Emerson.




text-autospace:none">- 8b, 8b+, 8c and 8c(+) in just 2 weeks is a great performance, isn’t it? Can you tell us about those routes with all the differences and similarities in between? text-autospace:none">It was my first trip to Oliana. It was great there. Cool rock, we met some nice other climbers and had all together a good time. It’s just a simple life: climbing, eating, sleeping, relaxing... and the weather was always fine. text-autospace:none">‘Mind Control’ is for me the most beautiful climb of this selected routes... from start to end, the best rock quality. Two hard sequences. One in the middle and one at the end. And a lot of time to think on the rests -Mind Control-. It is only over when you clip the chains. text-autospace:none">‘Fish Eye’ is the same style. Pumpy! Crux in the middle and tricky top-out. text-autospace:none"> text-autospace:none">‘Full Equip’ and ‘China Crisis’ aretotally different to the other routes. A lot of crimps, lightly overhanging, bouldery with rests. ‘China Crisis’ is a little bit easier than ‘Full Equip’. I had a good run on ‘Full Equip’ and did it on my second try. text-autospace:none"> text-autospace:none">All the routes I climbed and a lot of others are super cool!!! text-autospace:none">‘Humildes pa casa’, for example, was the coolest tufa I ever climbed, you can’t compare this route with all the others in Oliana. You just climb on a really big tufa... changing in a double tufa and ending in single tufa again. Just endurance. text-autospace:none">
text-autospace:none">- Are you stronger than ever or this is just training for this season? text-autospace:none">I don’t know. I trained a lot this winter and this was my first trip on the rocks this year.A lot of motivation after plastic climbing. And, for sure, in Spring after the Winter training season I am stronger than in Autumn. text-autospace:none">
text-autospace:none">- How can you be in such good shapealmost all year round? Is it a lot of rock climbing or hard training in the gym? text-autospace:none"> text-autospace:none">I only train in the gym in Winter. In Spring, Summer and Autumn I normaly just go outdoors and climb and train on the rocks (when the weather is ok). For me, the best training for a route is to just try it. (bouldering on the single moves). text-autospace:none">   text-autospace:none"> text-autospace:none">- Apart from your alpine projects, haveyou got any other sport climbing trip in mind?

text-autospace:none">I will go to Indian Creek in10 days to improve in crack climbing. I am really bad in climbing cracks. No sport climbing trip is planned at the moment. In Summer I am more motivated for multi-pitches.

Another shot in 'Mind Control', 8c (+).
Pic© Walker Emerson.











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INTERVIEWS

Monday, 3 February

CAC - A great success story

John Ellison: "The diagnosis is a terminal one so no cure in sight."
Leah Crane, Mina Leslie-Wujastyk and Alex Puccio
The Swedish Junior National Team
Climbers Against Cancer and John Ellison won the "Winners" award of Social awareness at ISPO. In just 12 months, CAC has raised 230 000 Euro out of which 40 000 have already been donated to research facilities in Australia, France and Canada.


What is your normal work and how much time do you spend with CAC?

Due to the extremity of my condition I finished work approximately 18 months ago. I was working as a building surveyor prior to the decision to call time. CAC is pretty much a 24/7 job as it is truly global and given the time differences Worldwide. If I am awake at 2am in the morning I can quite often be answering emails etc and during the day it is mainly packing orders etc. CAC is totally a non profit organisation and every penny raised goes towards the fundraising efforts. No one is paid and no money is used for any of the administration. Anyone who helps with the project does so on a voluntary basis (myself included) and quite often at a cost to themselves. 


What was your hope with CAC and what is your future hope?
Following my own diagnosis I realized that many people were almost frightened of talking about cancer never mind discussing it openly. In the first year, prior to CAC I raised approximately £20,000 for cancer research groups in the UK and felt that awareness had as big a part to play in the defeating of cancer as fundraising. This is why awareness and open discussion is still very important to myself and I feel that through CAC we are making such a difference already especially when I talk to many of the young climbers I know worldwide who have opened up so much when discussing the disease. My hope for the future wuld be that CAC continues to grow and continue to leave an impression on people across the spectrum so not only amongst the climbing community but also beyond. We are after all metaphorically speaking ‘all climbers in life’. From a donation point of view it would be nice if eventually we can make contributions in every country raising awareness wherever we go. 


Why did CAC become such a great success?
I think it helped in the first instance that I already knew many well known climbers on an international scale before the campaign started and many of whom were personal friends. Choosing the right garment and making them colorful straight away made people smile especially when the first batch were worn by many of the top competition climbers who had all offered their support once they new the plan for the charity. Making the donations at the big events helped massively as it gave CAC global coverage and so helped bring it to many peoples attention. To start to thank everyone who has played their part or helped in someway to make CAC a success would take forever so I would like to thank everyone as a whole for their support and to say this is your charity and its success so far belongs to everyone. 


How is your personal treatment going nowadays?
Where do I start? It sin’t easy to explain but I have a primary cancer in the prostate that is very aggressive along with many tumors on my bones (over 20 of various dimensions). The pain is chronic and affects the whole body varying in intensity as the day goes by. The diagnosis is a terminal one so no cure in sight. I think being positive has played a major part in my dealing with the situation so far and happiness is key. It is true after all that happiness is reciprocal so if I am happy then those around me will be and so on. 

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Outdoor Research's FLOODLIGHT JACKET


Staying warm in Albarracín with the Floodlight Jacket and the Deadpoint Pants.
Outdoor Research's promotional video.
Backcountryskiingcanada.com video where we can appreciate this jacket's water-proofness (starts at 2:00).


Sometimes, when we're about to leave home to go climbing/bouldering in the mountains and the weather is changeable, i.e., it's cold outside and don't know whether it's going to rain or not, we normally doubt whether to take our down jacket to be warm or the waterproof one so as not to get wet.


I always ended up putting both pieces of clothing in the backpack, but unfortunately this means extra weight -which is not a good idea when the hike-in is long- and you need a rucksack big enough to host everything in.


The new Floodlight Jacket by Outdoor Research has just solved this problem for me, since it perfectly combines the nice warmth its 800+ down fill provides -besides of the compressibility and lightness which are not met by the synthetic garments- plus the fact that I'm going to be at ease without worrying about getting wet or the wind bothering me. 


How did OR was able to do that? Instead of sewing the baffles, they have bonded an exterior Pertex® Shield+ membrane (water and wind-proof and breathable) to the synthetic interior. That way they avoid the humidity to enter where the feather is.  


The only drawbacks that we've found are:

- It's a little bit heavier (600 g in size L) and a little bit less compressible (less bulkier than a harness).

- As with all the jackets that we've tested from OR so far, it hasn't got double zipper closure, which is a bit annoying when belaying from our harness belay loop.

- We think that the neck box is a little bit too wide, making it feel a tad colder around our neck (it could be fixed with a long necked 1st and/or 2nd layer/s).


Besides this, its main characteristics are:

- 2 big zippered hand pockets which are situated higher than most of the jackets out there making it possible to have your hands in them while you wear the harness or your rucksack/crash-pad belt over the Floodlight Jacket. Moreover, they are fleece lined, which makes them cosier. 

- 1 zippered Napoleon pocket.

- 2 internal pockets where to place your climbing shoes when its cold, hence, warm them before you slide them on.

- Adjustable wire-brimmed hood, helmet compatible.

- Velcro Hook/loop cuff closures as well as double adjustable hem.

- Internal front-zip storm flap. This avoids the zipper to snag the internal fabric.

- 800+ fill down.

- Outer: Pertex® Shield+, which is breathable and water-resistant (10.000 mm) as well as windproof. Check the video at the bottom right-hand corner to see how water-proof this jacket actually is (starts at 2:00).



If you're looking for a lighter and more compressible feather jacket, you can read our Transcendent Hoody review (just 369 g. in size L).




REVIEW

Tuesday, 28 January

Outdoor Research'S FLOODLIGHT JACKET

Outdoor Research's FLOODLIGHT JACKET


Staying warm in Albarracín with the Floodlight Jacket and the Deadpoint Pants.
Outdoor Research's promotional video.
Backcountryskiingcanada.com video where we can appreciate this jacket's water-proofness (starts at 2:00).


Sometimes, when we're about to leave home to go climbing/bouldering in the mountains and the weather is changeable, i.e., it's cold outside and don't know whether it's going to rain or not, we normally doubt whether to take our down jacket to be warm or the waterproof one so as not to get wet.


I always ended up putting both pieces of clothing in the backpack, but unfortunately this means extra weight -which is not a good idea when the hike-in is long- and you need a rucksack big enough to host everything in.


The new Floodlight Jacket by Outdoor Research has just solved this problem for me, since it perfectly combines the nice warmth its 800+ down fill provides -besides of the compressibility and lightness which are not met by the synthetic garments- plus the fact that I'm going to be at ease without worrying about getting wet or the wind bothering me. 


How did OR was able to do that? Instead of sewing the baffles, they have bonded an exterior Pertex® Shield+ membrane (water and wind-proof and breathable) to the synthetic interior. That way they avoid the humidity to enter where the feather is.  


The only drawbacks that we've found are:

- It's a little bit heavier (600 g in size L) and a little bit less compressible (less bulkier than a harness).

- As with all the jackets that we've tested from OR so far, it hasn't got double zipper closure, which is a bit annoying when belaying from our harness belay loop.

- We think that the neck box is a little bit too wide, making it feel a tad colder around our neck (it could be fixed with a long necked 1st and/or 2nd layer/s).


Besides this, its main characteristics are:

- 2 big zippered hand pockets which are situated higher than most of the jackets out there making it possible to have your hands in them while you wear the harness or your rucksack/crash-pad belt over the Floodlight Jacket. Moreover, they are fleece lined, which makes them cosier. 

- 1 zippered Napoleon pocket.

- 2 internal pockets where to place your climbing shoes when its cold, hence, warm them before you slide them on.

- Adjustable wire-brimmed hood, helmet compatible.

- Velcro Hook/loop cuff closures as well as double adjustable hem.

- Internal front-zip storm flap. This avoids the zipper to snag the internal fabric.

- 800+ fill down.

- Outer: Pertex® Shield+, which is breathable and water-resistant (10.000 mm) as well as windproof. Check the video at the bottom right-hand corner to see how water-proof this jacket actually is (starts at 2:00).



If you're looking for a lighter and more compressible feather jacket, you can read our Transcendent Hoody review (just 369 g. in size L).




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TRAVEL & CRAGS

Wednesday, 8 January

Exploring Malawi

This article will focus on the genesis of the project, the climbing in Malawi and information for people who want to climb there. For a more in depth behind the scene look, our Behind The Scene video will be released late January.

Haroun Souirji [Vast Motion Pictures], producer and director.

GENESIS:

Africa has always been an important part of my life. As the son of a man who has dedicated his life helping African populations with his work, I had the chance to visit and spend time in countries such as Senegal, Mozambique and more. So as a climber and filmmaker, it has always been a dream to explore Africa to develop and film rock climbing.

In 2013, I was lucky to visit Rocklands with Mélissa Le Nevé. While this is certainly the best introduction to bouldering in Africa and probably as good as the rock gets there, it lacked the exploration part. Yes the bouldering is freaking awesome but what about the rest of that massive continent? Following that trip I spent a lot of time searching for boulder fields in Africa, mostly using Google Earth. Zimbabwe quickly showed a lot of rocks but a lot of it seemed explored and videos were even available. I was looking for a country that was never really considered for bouldering.

Countless hours on Google led me to some pictures of people climbing on boulders above a lake. They were pictures of Hot Rocks truck tours (climbhotrock.com). Bouldering on the banks of the third biggest lake of Africa sounded great but it was not enough to justify going there, especially since the rock did not seem to be very good quality. After a lot of Google Earth "exploration", I found a few hills which seemed to hold an almost infinite amount of boulders. No photo of the rock though... this was going be a risky bet... but we told ourselves that such a big amount of boulders HAD to offer some good lines. Also the average high size of the boulders was encouraging.

The Seminary: this satellite picture is what convinced us to visit Malawi. For the team I invited climbers Mélissa Le Nevé and Benjamin Rueack. Julie Guignier (Additional Cinematography) and Scott Noy (Still Photography and general help) completed the production crew. With the team ready, I started organizing the trip. Using producing sorcery I managed to get us a catamaran for free to explore the boulders of Lake Malawi. The trip looked like an easy one... But we quickly realized it would not be a calm trip as Ben had a lost luggage which resulted in him having only one (white...) shirt for the first 10 days. The "One Shirt" event quickly became a running joke... more of that and other behind the scene aspects in the behind the scene video out in January. The climbing: Before our trip, climbing in Malawi meant a few routes on the granite big walls of Mount Mulanje. Expatriates there opened a few routes in other areas but most of the climbing happened some time ago and was limited to a few easy routes. While the potential for routes is real (we might go there again for routes someday), the abundance of boulders is incredible.
Developing bouldering in Malawi is a frustrating game. We crossed many areas with an immense amount of boulders but only spent time in 3 because we had limited time. In some areas, vegetation can be dense, itchy or even try to cut you open as Ben learned the hard way… twice. You will often see tons of boulders at the distance but never find the time to reach them. Many boulders will have no holds and some will be flaky, but once in a while you will find a pure line with great rock, which will make you regret you only planned a few days in that area. This is not specific to Malawi. Even in Rocklands, some parts have very few actual lines compared to the amount of boulders. So if you plan to explore in Malawi, go there for a month at least! I. Chambe Boulders: This area was discovered out of pure luck. Chambe face is the biggest rock face of Africa (1600m if you combine the bottom slab and the vertical wall...) and is part of Mulanje Massif. We initially planned to walk up the mountain to search line in boulder fields at 2000m+ elevation. But when we drove past the face, we noticed hundreds of big boulders lying at the bottom of the mountain. Surprisingly we missed them on Google Earth. The boulders were massive. We later realized that this is a constant in Malawi. Many 10m high but some would be as high as 20-40m. Some boulders turned out being flacky but many boulders featured very interesting lines on great rock. That was the case for Mélissa's "3 min left", a crimpy vertical line on gorgeous rock. Some of those granite boulders had even huecos on them. We only spent a few days there and checked maybe 10% of that boulder field. There are other boulder fields higher in the mountain but we did not check them. As a bonus there is a limited potential for bouldering in the river beds from rivers coming down from the mountain. While many would be very hard to explore (but with lots of rock), Benjamin found a "deep water bouldering" line on a boulder right next to our lodge (Thuchila lodge). The boulder lies above a natural pool with fresh water and amazing colors at sunset. One of the multiple magical places we would visit during our trip and the best average rock quality of the 3 areas. There is unfortunately one downside to the Chambe boulders. There are many villages next to the dirt road at the bottom of the rock face. Expect many kids to follow you and ask for money. While kids are rightfully very curious (they are extremely poor and have never seen climbers), it can get a little bit out of hand when you have 20-30 running next to you at the end of the day. In those situations I find that the best is to keep things at a playful level; surprise the kids, smile and keep calm. It is not advised to give money to the kids as this will make the situation worse for you and future visitors. It is STRONGLY advised to pay for an official guide (only 8-10$/day which you can divide between your group members) as they are nice people, will handle the kids and translate. If you want to give something to the kids, they appreciate empty bottles so they can transport water. Best is to give them to the guide who will divide equally between the kids. For more information about the mountain and the guides: http://www.mcm.org.mw/. Please note that this is the only area we had that “problem” and it got better each day as they got used to us and us to them. II. The Seminary (Mangochi): The main goal of our trip was checking the boulders behind the Saint Paul the Apostle Seminary. The place is almost empty during the summer but teaches future priests during the rest of the year. Google Earth showed a dense 3km long boulder fields with many very big ones. The first visit is overwhelming: boulders for a life time, an extremely calm atmosphere with only baboons, birds and the wind as the soundtrack. This is one special place. When you first start touching the rock and pulling on holds, you start to understand that a lot of it is flaky. You can open many slabs on blank rock but most of the holds on featured rock just brakes. But the seminary offers the highest density of boulders we have seen and despite the low percentage of solid lines there are again many great lines to be developed. Some of the rock is coarse but not worse than what you can find sometimes on boulders in popular crags. Most of the climbing is on crimps on vertical to 35° overhang. If you are lucky and find a big line with solid rock all the way to the top, then there is no limit with boulders as high as 5, 10 or 20m+. It really comes to sampling as much rock as possible. We checked only a few percent of the area and maybe other parts offer the best rock. The advantage of this part of the hill is that you can park in the Seminary itself and reach the first boulders very easily. There is also a road along the left side of the hill, which seems to feature even more boulders, but you will have to park on the side of the road and most likely face 30 kids during your climbing session. It is a very special feeling to go climbing knowing that every day you will be followed and spied on by baboons in a strangely calm place. If spending time exploring with no certainty of finding "the line" works for you than it is absolutely worth it. III. Cape Maclear: As mentioned in the "genesis" of the project, I discovered Malawi looking at a photo of people climbing on boulders above Lake Malawi. This lake is the third biggest in Africa and has more fish species than any other lake in the world. With a length of 500km and sand beaches, it feels like facing a sea. The photos of people climbing gave us hope the rock would turn to be ok but it turned out to be by far the worst of the trip. Holds break and the rock is very coarse. From what we have seen it is not worth a visit if your only goal is climbing. If you want to spend time sunbathing, scuba-diving and watching gorgeous sunsets after a few intense weeks of bouldering in other areas than you are at the right place. But important information: Lake Malawi, which until recently was the only big body of water of central Africa free from schistosomiasis/bilharzia (an infection caused by a parasite) in Africa, is now contaminated in some parts. Luckily you can prevent it with a pill you take after you get back (very cheap if bough in Malawi). Lake Malawi has the most fish species of any lake in the world (very colorful ones) so it would be a shame not to be able to swim in its warm water. IV. The future: If you have the time and motivation to explore this uncharted territory, no doubt you will find some special lines. Not only did we only explore a very small part of Chambe boulders and The Seminary but there are many other boulders field and walls. There is one place that we only spend half a day that offered amazing rock in a more tropical setting. Also many giant boulders offer great options for bolting. This could be the goal of a second trip. PLANNING A TRIP TO MALAWI: Malawi is unlike any other climbing area we have visited. Unlike Rocklands, it has the true tropical Africa feel I remember from countries like Mozambique and Congo. South Africa, while maybe being my favorite place on earth, is extremely influenced by western culture so is in a way separate from the rest of Sub-Saharan countries. If you also want to experience such a trip, here is some information for you: When to go: this is a very simple one. It is very hot most of the year. Southern Winter (June-August) offers the lowest temperature (26° average max, fresh at night) and the wind will often make the temperatures very tolerable. During our 3 weeks in July, we only experienced rain during one evening so rain should not be an issue. Safety: Malawi is very stable and the people there are the most friendly I have encountered in Africa, despite being some of the poorest. They are genuinely curious about what you are doing and will try to help you without asking anything in return. We never felt threatened. One time we left a car window open for a whole day in a village with the lens case open inside the car. Nothing was stolen. You should of course be careful but safety is not an issue. Health: There are no vaccines imposed to enter Malawi but it is highly recommended to be up to date with common vaccines such as tetanus, hepatitis, etc. You will however need to take Malaria pills (and bilharzia pills if you plan to swim in Lake Malawi). Do not forget mosquito sprays. Transportation: it is highly advised to rend a 4*4 if you plan to explore. Good thing is that it is much cheaper than in South Africa. We rented ours at Beta Car Rentals. Malawi is a rather small country so unless you want to go north, most travels will take half a day at most. Wildlife: a lot of the country is burnt each year. It is a shame for biodiversity but when you get to a safe spot for creepers you understand that locals do it to protect themselves. At our lodge, which had many big trees, we saw tarantulas on multiple occasions and other big spiders. We only encountered “friendly” tarantulas but do not touch them… Malawi also has lots of venomous snakes (including many Black Mambas) and unlike Rocklands they do not all hibernate in Winter as temperatures stay high. Encounters are extremely rare but it is a good idea to bring a kit like an Aspivenin in your bag. A great experience is going on a car or boat safaris in Liwonde National Reserve. It is only a few hours from Mangochi and you will see crocodiles, MANY hippos and if you are lucky elephants. The park has less variety than South African reserves but costs a fraction of the price (15$ for a nice tent, 20$ for a boat ride… you easily pay 5 times or more in South Africa). Official documents: you need a passport but a Visa is required only for trips longer than 30 days. Costs: the plane ticket is very expensive for sure (1500€ or more) but if you go to local restaurants (we almost made the whole trip without being sick…) or cook your own food, this is counterbalanced in part with low travel costs once you get there. Accommodation should not cost you more than 10$ (spacious room) or 20$ (for a shared house with living room and kitchen) per person and per night and was always very clean. You probably get it by now. This is not your usual climbing destination. It is unlike any trip within Europe and very different than Rocklands. If doing first ascents on a daily basis in t-shirt weather deep in Africa sounds good to you, Malawi could be the place for you. It certainly is not as good as Rocklands for climbing but you will not forget your trip there. Everybody in the team wants to go back there… Stay tuned for our behind the scene video or watch the video of the trip if you have not seen it yet!
 

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INTERVIEWS

Monday, 2 December

Patxi Usobiaga is back into climbing

PATXI USOBIAGA is back into climbing

By Ignacio Sandoval Burón

It´s only a couple of years ago that Patxilín announced his retirement from the competition scene due to some discomfort at a cervical level product of an hernia produced by a car accident -just a year before he had already mentioned all the problems he was bearing which didn't let him climb a muerte-.

The day after those news, we at the Spanish 8a.nu site published another interview with him where he showed his hope of a future comeback which, after what he says in the following interview and with a little bit of luck, is super imminent by the hand of his new professional projects...

 












- How are you doing with your injury? I've heard that you're thinking of having an operation.

The truth is that it´s getting better, after three years the disc has dehydrated and the compression on the bone marrow is lower, all of which doesn't mean that I'm totally okay but with constant discomfort. That's why it´s been a week since I meet up with the traumatologist, Eduardo Álvarez, to speak about the surgery and we have decided to give it a three months ultimatum and see how it reacts. I will take a risk by saying that it's almost sure that I'll have to undergo a surgery but, whether it's like that or the opposite, I'll end up all right for cranking hard again.



- If you undergo the surgery it´s with what intention? To go back to the highest level?

I'm eager to climb and why not, send a hardcore route again. In competition terms, I'd like to take up the competitions route setting thing again. This is something which also motivates me a lot.



- What have you been doing during all this time off the climbing scene? Have you climbed at all?

I've been two years without climbing at all. If I ever went to the crag it was to show someone what climbing is and to get him/her to try it. During all this time I have devoted myself to surfing until last May when Adam Ondra stayed over for a couple of days and I got psyched.

In July, while teaching surf in Yako Surf Eskola in Deva, during the little time I had off, I started going to Getaria where there's a sandstone traverse. Thanks to Ioritz González (one of the climbers I'm training), I started to get motivated. After a month I was climbing 8b again. Then, in October I travelled to Indonesia to surf during 40 days.

When I came back from that trip, two weeks ago, the first thing I did was go to the climbing gym in order to regain the fitness I had before leaving to Indonesia, and that's when I brought out to light this project I've been working on for a while.



- What have these other sports you've been practicing provided you with?

Seeing that there's more things other than climbing, that life is not only this but this is the best thing!



- Did you feel equally fulfilled with these other activities in the same way as you felt with climbing?

The truth is that I highly enjoyed these two years of surfing. I felt alive as I did with climbing and in September my heart started to split, half climbing, half surfing. Now I want to get in the water but what climbing makes me feel is different. They are both different and incredible sports but I've always been a climber and I'll keep being a climber.



- What´s the thing you've missed the most from climbing and what´s what you haven't missed at all?

Human beings have the capacity to leave those things behind and sincerely I haven't missed anything at all. I've been living a different life till now that it´s gone straight into my bloodstream again!



- What is that new project you've just started? Tell us a bit about what it´s all about.

The truth is that I've started a super interesting thing. I continue with ‘patxitraining’, which is that of distance training, which is providing me with much satisfaction knowing how the climbers I train are doing.

And, on the other hand, I've just started with ‘Patxiusobiaga Climbtrips’, a super interesting project. This is a way of joining my training teachings, some psychology and everything that climbing involves, as well as the practice part, climbing with the people, analyzing their climbing, their technique and even trying the same projects they´re in. All of the travelling and sleeping, etc. in my motorhome. You can find all the information in http://www.patxiusobiaga.com/. I hope you like it.



- In one of the first tests you had with ‘Ildomani Climbtrips’ we saw you with Adam Ondra, was that a friendly visit or maybe he hired you in order to ask you for some advice about training, etc.?

Like any other company, in the begining it needs some testing, and this was the first one. Besides being a good friend, we shared some super fanatical days climbing.



- I'm sure you fulfilled most of every climber's dreams during all your career as a professional climber. Is there any that you have left?

Yes! Sending a 9b. I will fulfill all the other projects now that I've come back.



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OTHER

Wednesday, 20 November

8C+ is needed to take us further

By Peter Baumgart

8C+ and 9A are needed to take us further

Everything has been said, but not by everyone. And maybe I feel the persistent discussion around bouldering grades deserves another statement. In the hope it adds a new perspective. This new perspective shall be a mix of irony, sarcasm and a provocative call for the top boulderers in the world to take responsibility for developing our sport. And yes, I am passionate about bouldering as it is just a fantastic way of life.

My justification to write this? Well I’m old, rich, have a beautiful wife, my personal best is 7B+ in an area which feels totally over-graded, so you can safely assume I have no personal interest in any boulder being particularly graded.

My going-in position is rooted in the following beliefs:

1)       Grades do matter. Let’s stop this fake ‘it is not important but …’ and simply be honest: At least for everyone who develops a minimum ambition in sports there is a desire to compare/rate performance. It is a trivial fact of human beings, look at all the runners who track themselves with smartphone apps or similar. And look at all the amount of discussion going on about grades in climbing forums/magazines.

2)      Grades are subjective. Another trivial fact as the physiognomy of people is different. Size, weight, genetic disposition for finger strength etc. all lead to one specific boulder feeling very hard for one person and rather easy for another.

3)      Bouldering grades is an open scale. No-one ever defined a climbing scale with an absolute top end. We are pole-vaulting, not running 100 meter races. Means better performance achieves a higher score (a new height like in pole-vaulting), whilst we do this on changing objects (different from the never-changing 100 meter scale).

4)      Evolution takes place. Training methods evolve, shoe rubber evolves, an increase in sport popularity reaches a larger gene pool with able climbers etc. What was the top end 10 / 20 years ago is today warm-up for the top athletes.

5)      Downgrading is more likely than upgrading. Psychology biases us; when I downgrade, I essentially say ‘I am stronger than the one who gave the original grade’. Upgrading is the opposite statement of feeling apparently weaker. Hence we should not wonder why we see mostly downgrades.

6)      Bouldering grades will always have a higher error rate than rope climbing grades. Talking about the ‘average’, and yes, you can easily find the exemptions to this ‘rule’, subjective predispositions for the ability to do certain moves tend to matter more in 4 move problems than in 40 movers where endurance weighs in more for the assessment of the difficulty.

What are the implications from the above?

1)       I believe attempts by Dave, Nalle or others to define ‘the’ standard 8C must fail. We might think of a set of problems, and when you sent all these you can call yourself an ‘Accomplished Climber on the 8C level’. This is the legendary AC8C status! So, do we need to award this? No. You can safely assume that ‘the community knows its heroes’ and we can differentiate between an 8C boulderer who did one (and might have had a lucky go on the perfect-fit problem) and another who did several and in different styles and areas.

2)      When you, by whatever community-accepted scale, reach AC8C, what do you do with this? You most likely try to make a living out of it and feed the community with videos of your latest sent. With the bonus of added important messages to the world in the range of ‘I’m so psyched, my hardest problem so far, cool line’. If you think the last statement is ironic, you are right.

3)      As a ‘customer’ to this, do I care? Well, if I like you, the early news are news, then it becomes the no-surprise standard and after some years I start to wonder if you have done any progress at all.

4)      There is no obligation, but I really believe if you are gifted by your genes etc. to achieve AC8C, it comes with the chance and responsibility to take the sport further. Why? Because any sport can only be taken further by the top athletes. Ok, let’s rule out doctors and doping in this equation.

5)      Taking the sport further does not lie in the ‘downgrading game’. Why? If the top guys ‘decide/agree/feel’ that the (current) top end can only be 8C but still progress, they implicitly  introduce (temporarily) a closed-end scale to bouldering. And this means every downgrade of a particular 8C to an 8B+ has a carry-over effect to the relative ranking of other boulders. Essentially to not only possibly 20 affected other problems in the 8B+ range, but all boulders out there in the world. But as there is no human being able and interested to derive this theoretical list of absolute truth, the top end downgrading ‘breaks’ somewhere in the grade range where the top boulderers do not care anymore (let’s say 7C) and effectively destroys the consistency of the bouldering grade scale for the whole community.

6)      I sometimes get the impression that the top boulderers are locked in a game ‘I do not want to be the first to propose 9A and then being called off by the others to have over-rated it’. And this is a bit strange. What could happen? Let’s say Daniel claims 9A. Big news. Sure the others will soon attempt to repeat it. Let’s assume the first repeater gives it 8C. So? Will the reputation of Daniel suffer? Most likely not. Fred Nicole has never been called a weak jerk despite several of his problems have been downgraded. His name rightfully stands out as one of the top boulderers who actually took the sport further. 

7)      And finally, I believe (and this is only rooted in an optimistic state of mind) progress in bouldering beyond 8C is possible. With a sport just at the verge of becoming popular, with a just beginning inflow of money, professionalized training and a larger gene pool access should bring about people who can simply boulder harder than before. It is unlikely that we have reached the limits of human performance in our sport already.

To sum it up, this is a call for Dave, Nalle, Daniel, Jan, Paul and all the others I actually have never met to go out there and find and grade a 9A boulder. Actually not one, many! And have the confidence that if some of you proposes 9A and this gets downgraded by your ‘colleagues’ to 8C, we, the ordinary climbing news feed readers, will still love and admire you and continue watching your videos.

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TRAINING

Friday, 8 November

Running can be contra productive


"All gyms and top climbers should have a kranking machine or a rower. This would make most us get better endurance."

Running can be counterproductive
By Dr 8a, Björn Alber, MSc Training physiology and one of the best rowers in the world during the 80'ies.

Everybody will agree that maintaining grip power, pump capacity and grip strength, are the most limiting factors in performance for an experienced climber. The factors that affect this is the circulation through the forearms and the muscle mass, muscle fiber type, lactid acid tolerance and the neuromuscular function (signal efficiency between nervous system and the muscle).

In an aerobic sport (eg running) the heart pump capacity (around 40 liters per minute for the elite) is one of the most limiting factors of performance. There are around 5 liters of blood to be circulated. The blood vessel system has a capacity in access of 40 liters meaning blood has to be limited to circulate where needed. If we consider running as a viable option for improving your climbing pump we immediately see a problem.
True is the fact that running will increase your caridac output (pump capacity) but for a climber, if not extremely poorly conditioned, this is not a limiting factor in general but the local forearm circulation is! To increase forearm vascular bed and thus circulatory capacity, you need to load the circulation in the forearms for an extended period at a level of no more than 70% of maximal capacity, higher intensity will start up lactid acid accumulation. Kayaking, arm kranking, high tempo easy continuous up and down climbing etc are more suitable exercises. 

Only by loading the forearm circulatory system, the vascular bed will improve by creating bigger and more blood vessels. If you do not need to loose weight or to build a general good cardiovascular capacity, he should put time into local aerobic training exercises. Putting more time into running/biking will take energy from more beneficial training and can be contra productive. 
If your goal short term is to increase your cardiac output, run a maximum of 20-30 minutes 3 times per week at high intensity (eg interval training). Do all other aerobic conditioning by upper body exercises preferably climbing high volume. Although running as a warmup exercise will fast raise the core temperature raise it will, when taken to far, reduce the upper body blood circulation capacity.

As a elite level kayaker I often warmed up 6-10 minutes with running before getting in the kayak. In tests and subjectively, the swedish national kayaking team found running extensively was extremely counter productive booth as warming up and as aerobic conditioning, the kayaking capacity severely hampered by the redirected blood flow. Warming up through running should always be done short and high in intensity. Thereafter, to redirect the blood flow, perform circulatory exercises for the upper body and especially for the forearms, before actual climbing. I will in later communications discuss the other factors affecting pump power/grip strength.

Dr8a Björn Albersport medicine specialist, MSc Training physiology

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INTERVIEWS

Tuesday, 29 October

The Gimme Kraft new message

Archon 8b on trad gear
New Orleans Heavy Weight Division 8c
Alexander Megos: "For me it was definetly important not to climb at my limit all the time when I was young. That's exactely what it was. I never climbed at my limit until recently and that was maybe the reason why I could keep my high motivation and never dropped out. A loss of motivation is more likely when you always climb at your limit. If you choose to proceed step by step it's a lot easier to keep fun and motivation alive. That's exactly what I learned from my two trainers."
Here is how Patrick Matros explain the new concept of their training book - Gimme Kraft. For several years he and Ludwig "Dicki" Korb have been the trainer for Alexander Megos. 

Our main goal was, to create a user friendly and easy to understand collection of exercises. We missed that in the recent literature of climbing. There are already many good books on the market, which teach you climbing technique and how to structure your physical and mental training.

The gap was for new and fresh exercises which can be done in completion to a usual boulder or climbing session. "GimmeKraft" means "give me strength", so our focus was on strength training. But that doesn't mean, that we consider strenght training as the main factor in climbing performance. Mental abilities for example are so important. 

We just noticed, that this kind of training should get a more complex approach, especially the part with balanced strength training in order to prevent injuries. This type of training is underestimated by far in climbing training and you see so much young climbers who don't care about. So, the danger of injuries due to overstrain and unbalanced impact rises. Shoulder surgeries among climbers due to a SLAP-Lesion or a damaged rotator cuff rise and not only the "old guard" is affected!  
 
Considering the training of your climbing technique for example, there is another aspect to mention: What can you impart with a book or DVD? Technical training is a very individual thing. You have some standard movements, but every individual climbs different due to its physis and mental attitude. It's very complex! For my opinion a solid technical training is done with a real person and it would be best with a good trainer. Exercises for strength training are much easier to impart with a book or DVD, because the movements are much less complicated, even our complex exercises.

Planning your training or get into a periodization is another aspect, which is very individual. We already have written a book, which enables an easy access to this topic: Wettkampfklettern (Competition climbing). There you will find an easy and practical way to structure a systematic training. Unfortunately it is sold out and we don't know if there's a new edition planned.

There's another problem, too: "<i>We noticed that the average climbers and boulderers, even if they are performance -orientated, don't have the time to plan and structure their training with a time consuming periodization and often they don't have the motivation. We are doing proper periodization in micro and macro cycles with the top climbers at our federal center. There is a need especially when you want to excel in competitions. It is not so important for a rock climber.

The competitions force you to do that because you have to be in top shape exactly to the point. Rock climbing doens't force you to do that so much and long vacations or road trips make it even more difficult. I think rock climbers have a periodisation, too but it is much more flexible and many good climbers without trainers may do this intuitive. 

With athletes like Alexander we drive a middle course because periodization is good to prevent performance barriers at a high level but when you are traveling pretty much you have to be flexible.

Concerning training for climbing and bouldering for the average but still performance-orientated climber we think they should not think so much about perfect periodizied training plans but should focus more on a training done in a healthy, motivated and not too complicated way and exactly that should be the message of our book!"

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