Climbing in a Time of Coronavirus, vol. 9

The Grand Canyon, a once and future favorite place for many of us. Photo: Ann Revill.

Hello climbers!

We’re here for you with this week’s installment of news, vicarious adventures, useful information, serious climbing inspiration, and a bit of fun stuff. Or is that serious information, fun climbing inspiration, and bit of useful stuff? Let’s find out!

The biggest news of the week, of course, is that Arizona’s stay-at-home order has ended and climbing gyms are reopening. Here’s the local round-up:

Phoenix Rock Gym resumed normal public hours as of May 13. Member hours will be coming back soon.

Ape Index will reopen May 18 with regular hours.

AZ on the Rocks will reopen May 18 for members only, with sign-ups required for climbing sessions.

Black Rock Bouldering will reopen May 18 for current and active members only.

Focus Climbing Center is planning to reopen May 23 for members and punch-card holders only.

Speaking of which, here’s a surprise: In a recent Vertical Life survey, 95% of 20,000 climbers said they want to go back to their climbing gym. Actually… that’s not a surprise.

In the outdoor realm, national parks are reopening on a case-by-case basis and Grand Canyon is allowing limited daily visitation to the South Rim.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service is reopening many recreational areas across Arizona, so if you need a nature fix, check out the updates.

Tonto National Forest has even put together an interactive Recreation Conditions map to track closures, openings, and other conditions at trailheads, campgrounds, river access points and more.

But just because you CAN climb, should you? Access Fund hosted a webinar last week featuring an expert panel discussing that very topic.

Much of that information can be summarized in this handy chart.

If you need a mask while climbing (or grocery shopping, for that matter), and want to get fancy, Outdoor Research is now selling a sturdy, reusable model that includes a pocket for a filter.

Staying at home? Mental focus is a super-power for climbers, and this is a fine time to develop your meditation practice.

And if you’re looking to bump up your home-based workouts, Emily Harrington shares a typical hangboard workout in her ongoing series of home training videos.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Czech Republic lifted its nationwide-closure order last month, and Adam Ondra zipped out to make the second ascent of “Iceberg” (V15). On his fourth try.

And then moved on to a little 5.15a waltz called “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Coincidentally, yesterday was 5.15, and Gripped took the opportunity to commemorate the short but notable history of 5.15 ascents.

Access to many of the world’s biggest peaks, however, is currently a challenge for reasons having nothing to do with grades. Mountaineer Alan Arnette has pulled together an update on how the novel coronavirus has upended expedition climbs—and climbing regions—around the world.

If you’re one of the many who don’t really want to climb The Eiger but do want to HAVE climbed The Eiger, here’s an instructive account of how one couple managed it this year, just before the lockdown.

Because we cannot leave Canada out of this, Ann would like to take you to Mt. Louis, where Brandon Pullen recalls a day spent climbing with Tim Auger on some of the best limestone the Canadian Rockies have to offer.

Since we’re already in the Canadian Rockies, here’s an interesting take from Dave Crerar on what it’s like to be a (ski) guide in 2020.

Moving away from the Great White North (sorry, Ann), Flash Foxy has a new interview with climber and filmmaker Isabela Zawistowska along with a link to her short film, Approach to Caliche, about Nicole Vidal, the only female climbing guide in Puerto Rico.

And, on May 21, Flash Foxy founder Shelma Jul will be speaking about how climbers can be better allies to underrepresented groups at an online benefit event organized by the Bishop Area Climbers Coalition.

Outside magazine interviews three boundary-pushing women about the power of challenging your self-imposed limitations.

American Alpine Club has continued its new series of Clubhouse Live events with real-time interviews with Emily Harrington, Madeline Sorkin, and the Link Sar first ascent team. Next up is an event with Jimmy Chin and Conrad Anker on May 21. You can listen live or check out the archived shows on the website.

AAC has also been digging into their vault to give us all more pandemic presents. This week, they’ve posted the short film Alpinists at Large chronicling the 1978 attempt on the north face of Latok I.

For even more alpine excitement, watch as free solo legend Peter Croft mentors elite boulderer Lisa Rands on The Hulk.

Not climbing, but if you want to immerse yourself (or a home-schooler you love) in some educational screen-time, two of the companies that make IMAX-style films for museums and science centers across the country are now offering some of their movies for no-cost home viewing. Giant Screen Films is streaming Dinosaurs Alive!, Mummies, and Wild Ocean. And MacGillivray Freeman’s films are offered with supplemental activities and range in topic from National Parks Adventure to Van Gogh: Brush with Genius.

If you’d like to learn a little something about climbing this week—and we hope you would—check this out. It turns out that all those numbers and symbols on climbing ropes actually mean something!

Hat tip to Scott Kuchman who found this extremely thoughtful analysis of assisted-braking devices in the AAC’s archive.

Arc’teryx has a whole series of videos about how to repair your outdoor clothes and gear, including these helpful instructions on how to fix small rips and tears with Tenacious Tape.

Here’s a climbing-related P.S.A. for those times when you encounter baby birds or injured wildlife. Arizona Game and Fish wants you to know how to help, whom to call, and when to leave well enough alone.

You know what you should always leave alone? Rattlesnakes. They’re more active this time of year, so pay attention to where you walk and where you put your hands.

And, because we are all about the safety, we leave you with this great tip for safer rappelling. All you have to do is be a magician!

Whatever you do, be safe, and tell us all about it.

Isolate on!
Ann and Andrea

Author: Andrea Galyean

4 thoughts on “Climbing in a Time of Coronavirus, vol. 9

  1. Big think you to A-Squared for putting these out—THANK YOU!

    Belay backup knots (image: ) were mentioned in the Assisted Braking article to add redundancy into belaying without a backup person. I was trying to do a thought experiment (it’s been a while since touching rope) on how to efficiently create these knots, without a second set of hands (which could then just backup the belay), while belaying and keeping your climber safe and not loosening up on the brake line at all. Does anyone have instruction/technique/clarity they can share on this?


    1. Thanks, Skz! We’re so glad you’re enjoying these. RE: belay backup knots—I had the same question when I saw that, as I’ve not done that before (I usually belay with either a Gri Gri or a Reverso in guide mode), but I feel like a loosely-tied overhand on a bight, and a fair bit of practice would make it workable with a tube-style belay device. That said, I’d love to hear from someone who uses this in the field.

  2. Folks, here is an easy way to do a one handed overhand knot on a bight. It’s all about your brake hand! Of course, never, ever, let go of your brake hand but stick out your pinky on your brake hand. With the opposite hand pull back on the climbing rope away from and below the brake hand side to about arm length. Bring that part of the rope toward your brake hand, looping/resting the rope over your outstretched pinky. Turn that same hand over, thumb pointed down, and reach down this newly created bight of rope about one foot. Grab the bight, flip it over on itself once as you bring it up, toward your brake hand. Retrieve the top of the bight off your pinky finger and pull through to tighten. Loosely as Andrea says is just fine and easier to untie. Wahoo, you got your overhand on a bight that will not pass through any belay device. Same as the AMC teaches as a catastrophe knot when prusiking. Hope that helps!

    1. Excellent tip, Scott. And remember, kids: practice makes perfect! Also remember to conduct that practice BEFORE you have a climber on the other end of the rope…

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