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Oct 272014

“How can I properly train for climbing?”

That’s usually the hot question for most climbers. And then even finding the right training program for your body (and your lifestyle) can be really challenging!

This was the same question on Colorado climbers Neely Quinn and her husband Seth Lytton minds’ when they created

Their site has a TON of beta from an assortment of climbers, nutritionists, coaches and trainers – from our friend Kris Peters from Team of 2, Angie Payne, Jonathan Siegrist and many more.

They recently released a brand NEW bouldering training program and as a way to introduce themselves to Planet Granite, they’re offering us ALL a 25% OFF discount for the next 4 weeks!

Read on to hear their story, score yourself TWO FREE sample workouts AND get that PG discount code. Enjoy!

This post is the 1st of 3 articles written especially for Planet Granite by Neely Quinn, a climber, nutritionist, and owner of

bouldering strength and power program

Who we are at TrainingBeta

As climbers, our main objectives are to have fun and to be as awesome at our sport as we possibly can be. Simple enough right? Nope, not even close!

Last February, I was struggling with my climbing, trying to figure out how to overcome a plateau I was at. I was searching online for training information and coming up short.

No offense to the people out there with training info, but I wanted a PLAN, and one that I didn’t have to spend 6 hours deciphering and figuring out for myself.

I also didn’t want to pay a ton of money to get personal training. And I also wanted a variety of really easy-to-follow advice from all kinds of strong climbers and good trainers – not just one person.

So my husband Seth and I created, where we collect as much training information from as many strong climbers and trainers in one place as we can!

We have a blog with tons of training articles by trainers, climbers, and us.

We have a podcast where I interview trainers and climbers, and there are training videos and training programs for all kinds of climbers of ALL abilities!

2 Sample Workouts –
Just for Planet Granite 

Here’s 2 workouts taken directly from the new bouldering program, so you can get a taste of what’s in there! And so you also have two awesome new drills to do like NOW. So get started this week!

finger strength workout

Want more?

This new Bouldering Strength and Power Program was created by Kris Peters, (the trainer from Team of 2), and it’s a subscription plan, so you can train with Kris’s guidance for as long or as short of a time as you want to.

You get 3 workouts every week that train the following:
  • Power Endurance (climbing and weight room)
  • Power (campusing and weight room)
  • Finger Strength (fingerboarding)
  • Overall Strength (weight room, circuit training, climbing)
  • Fitness (cardio* and circuit training)
  • Injury Prevention (opposition and strengthening exercises)
  • Projecting (on a bouldering wall)

* We know a lot of people hate cardio, so we explain who should be doing it and why in the program.

It’s a cyclical program, so every 6 weeks you’ll be training something specifically, whether it’s power, strength, or power endurance.


*Special Discount for ALL Planet Granite Climbers!*

From TODAY until SUNDAY 11/30, ALL climbers at Planet Granite can get 25% OFF ANY of the subscription programs on!  

Because we heard you guys at PG are SO psyched on training (or so we’ve been told by Kris Peters from Team of 2!) we’re really excited to share our programs with ya.

You just need to use the coupon code “PlanetGraniteat checkout to get the discount!


  • So you might be thinking  – “Why Train and Not Just Climb More?”

We tried to think of everything a boulderer would need in order to send harder, since we know first hand how important climbing can be!

For a lot of years I just figured that climbing was enough to train for climbing. The more I climbed, the harder I should be able to climb, right? Well, not so much because I hit that plateau.

As soon as I started training with weights, the finger board, campus board, and getting a little fitter, I noticed measurable improvements in my climbing. It’s unbelievable how simple it is, and yet how overlooked “training” is for most climbers!

  • Ok you’re psyched to train but your schedule is ‘hella’ busy. We hear ya!

Research has shown that MORE training is NOT necessarily better… or smarter in fact!

Often, shorter, concise training sessions are more than enough to produce fast results in your climbing! We had that in mind when we created these workouts, as well as the fact that not everyone can train for 6 hours 6 days a week like some of the pros do.

So there are 3 workouts a week – 2 climbing and 1 either fingerboarding or campusing (or alternate workouts for super beginners) – and almost all of them are between 1.5 and 2.5 hours, including your warm-up!

You can fit these workouts in over the week if you’re going climbing on the weekend, and you can always adjust how many of the workouts you do, depending on whether it’s sending season or training season.

We love to chat!

We’d love to have your feedback if you do try it out, and if you ever have any questions about anything training or TrainingBeta, just email us at

Whether you train with our programs, with a personal trainer, or on your own, we wish you the best with your climbing!




Oct 242014

*Event recap brought to you today by PG Setter Shannon EK Joslin.

BLOC PARTY SERIES 2014 concluded at PG San Francisco on Friday, 11/17.

It’s a week past the conclusion of BLOC PARTY 2014 and the excitement is STILL booming up in San Francisco.

Competitions seem to bring out the BEST in Planet Granite’s community and I’m always inspired to see so many people cheer on and encourage others in a friendly competition!

A BIG congratulations to everyone who competed and a BIG thank you to everyone who came out just to cheer their peers on!

We’ll start at the beginning: REGISTRATION.


PG Managers Kalie and Carolyn checking climbers in before the climbers check the problems out.

And then we’ll skip over the logistics (I just wanted to put in a photo of the shining, smiling faces of PG staff!) and let’s get to the meat of the matter:

Climbing 1

Everyone was super psyched on the climbs.

The walls this year were chock full of fresh grips from Rock Candy, Kilter Grips and Urban Plastix.

As the chalk will show all of the problems got A LOT OF LOVE but perhaps the boulder that really stole the reappoint show was number 32, a green compression pinch rig set by PG’s one and only Walker Emerson, ‘SMASH‘.

Walker's green one

The infamous #32. SO SO good!

The problem has it all– it looked cool, it climbed well, people looked psyched to top it out and falling on it was even okay because it meant you could climb on it again.

When Walker was asked what inspired the route he declined to state but when crusher Kearney Coghlan, the Women’s 3rd place Winner, was asked about the boulder she said she wished it would have gone on for 3,000 feet like El Cap. We think Walker would approve!

The event was visited by a smattering of local vendors including Sports Basement and Three Twins ice cream.

And there was also a smattering of prizes to be won by climbers and spectators alike through the raffle. And even more pizza to be won just outside!

Pizza and ice cream

Ice cream + Pizza = happy PG climbers!

After an evening of fantastic climbing the heat was turned up while the weather cooled down for our Onsight Finals.

*For those of you who don’t know what an Onsight final is, don’t worry! It is quite simple:

Five top-scoring finalists of each sex go into isolation. While in isolation three finals problems for both Men’s and Women’s are put up by PG’s quick trigger pit crew, I mean setters.

The finalist are then taken downstairs and each person has 4 minutes to look at the boulder and determine the intended sequence of these new climbs on the spot.

Onsighting tests a climber’s personal proficiency at reading a boulder and efficiently carrying out the moves.

The showy problems made for great entertainment and stupendous climbing!

The Men’s finalists were Giovani Traversi, Jeremy Ho, Andy Lamb, Ryan Olson and Eric Sanchez.

The Women’s finalists were Hannah Donnelly, Kearney Coghlan, Amanda Anderson, and Jenna Keller.


The Men’s and Women’s podiums. Well done climbers!


Everyone did a fantastic job in finals and the crowd was psyched!

Congratulations to Hannah Donnelly and Andy Lamb for their crushing wins and crushing grips!

Now get outside and rock climb!

*As always we want to say a BIG thanks to all our sponsors!*

Shannon bioBorn under a smoldering Mars, it is rumored that Shannon began setting routes as a young girl in the gaudy playpens at the Sultan’s palace in Delhi on walls of pure velvet and pinches of wrought gold. As word of her startling talent spread she was adopted by a traveling English sugar baron and quickly inducted into the glittering halls and silk petticoats of London’s new rich, where she lived for a time before stowing away on the four-master Santa Guadalupe, bound for the Americas. What transpired aboard the vessel can only be guessed at by a tremor in her root-like thumbs—though many have of course cited the numerous horrific diaries discovered among the wreckages of two Japanese whalers. How she at last came to Planet Granite remains unknown…

*What is known* about Shannon is that she is an ambassador of La Sportiva, Organic Bouldering Mats, Joshua Tree Skin Care, Flux Coffee, and Solo Eyewear. She chooses to wake up in the morning with a Flux and a snuggle with her dog/black bear, Philia. She is a wealth of information about climbing products, training for climbing, climbing holds and outdoor climbing and eagerly invites you to seek out or rival her Valerian steel sharpened advice. She’ll likely have a smile and snacks for you too!


*Follow Shannon’s adventures on her personal BLOG and Facebook athlete PAGE.*

Oct 212014
Squeezing in Another Classic
A Route Description of the Steck Salathe
by Walker Emerson


(A WORD OF CAUTION: Before you embark on this adventure, please do your research! Review both online sources and printed guidebooks. This route is notoriously challenging and should not be taken lightly. Be both confident and comfortable climbing 5.10 cracks in the Yosemite Valley, using the appropriate technique for wide crack climbing and also familiar with (& fit enough!) for long days of 10-15+ pitches. While we’re psyched to share Walker’s beta, consult a professional mountain guide for more information. Climbing is an inherently dangerous activity. Choosing to climb routes described is done at your own risk. We strongly recommend that you consult a professional guide and a qualified medical practitioner before attempting these routes. 

Walker 1

(The Sentinel amongst the trees, in the early morning light. Photo by Walker Emerson.)

Everything you’ve heard about the Steck Salathe is true.

It’s wide, it’s hard, it’s good.

The route is a testament to the early ages of Yosemite Climbing. In 1950 on a hot summer day Allen Steck and John Salathe, eyed a line of weakness up the fifteen hundred foot Sentinel Rock. Due to its northern aspect, the climb would provide an escape from the sweltering valley floor. They set off with their gear, pitons, nuts, hexes and stiff rubber boots.


Park at the Four Mile Trail head, on Southside Dr, follow the trail past the boulders and up the gentle switchbacks, to the base of the Sentinel (See Overview Map). Locate a large sloping ramp to your right, continue up around to the base of the climb.

Steck 1

(LEFT: Locate this large ramp. Photo from  |   RIGHT: It’s wide from the start! Looking up the 1st pitch. Photo by Walker.)

Be prepared for exposed fourth class terrain; skirt the Northeast corner of the wall, between a larger tree and the wall, and up a sandy hill to the base of the Steck Salathe. Begin the route on mound of sand, hidden by trees.


Pitch 1-3

Begin in a large left facing corner, through a difficult 5.8 offwidth. Continue up easy terrain past hand cracks, a 5.7 finger crack, past a few trees and an easy loose section. Belay from a ledge above the loose section. The Wilson Overhang, pitch 4, will be visible. Route finding is slightly difficult. Some simul climbing will be necessary to link.

Pitch 4

The Wilson Overhang.

Climb an easy offwidth to the base of the overhang. The crux is easier than it looks. Gain the flake jug and pull over the bulge past a pin. Continue up sustained climbing to the belay.

Pitch 5-6

The hardest pitch for me, was not one of the dubiously named cruxes, but this short 5.9 squeeze. In order to make this pitch less awkward, leave everything at the belay except, the #4 and #2. In your best Yosemite style, suck in your gut and battle the sandbagged pitch, right side in. Once safely past the crux lower a loop of rope and tag up both you and your partners gear. Traverse to the right on good holds to a long sustained 5.8 crack system. Belay at a large ledge.

Pitch 7-9

Climb the steep juggy crack system to the left to a ledge with a few small trees and a large boulder. Sling the boulder with your rope for a belay. continue up up the easy terrain towards the top of the Flying Buttress, passing through a corridor just shy of the summit to a bolted belay on the other side. Rappel or down climb to a large sheltered ledge. This is a nice place to stop and eat lunch. 

Climb down to a bolted belay at the base of the obvious crack system, belay from here.


(A spectacular view of El Cap and the Cathedrals from the Steck Salathe. Photo by Walker.)

Pitch 10

Climb a long 5.9 pitch to a belay below a small roof.

Steck 2

(LEFT: Looking up at the 10b crux of the route and the Narrows. Photo from | RIGHT: A climber enters the Narrows. Photo from

Pitch 11

Climb up and right, mantle onto a sloping ledge, climb to the right locating an old bolt. Trending up and left on fun terrain, placing small nuts and clipping new bolts, belay at the base of a wide flare. Easiest 5.9 on the route.

Pitch 12

With everything you’ve got, burl your way through the crux of the route. Plunging your arms into the gaping crack, swimming with your legs, wiggle your way past two new bolts to the bolted belay. Victory favors the bold.

Pitch 13

The Narrows

Placing the #4 high above your head, chimney through one of the most unique features ever, gaining the squeeze and a hidden jug. Bracing with your knees and feet tunnel inside the mountain, escape through a gap to the outside, following a foot ledge away from the depths, gain the easy cracks and climb to the sandy belay.

Pitch 14-15

Climb easy terrain to the base of one final chimney with large lodge boulders inside. Navigate through and behind the obstacles existing up and left on easy terrain to the belay at the base of a steep crack system. #3 and #4 fit in at belay nicely.

Pitch 16-17

Climb the final steep 5.9 hand cracks to a difficult exist move. Romp up low angle cracks, past a large tree, to the summit. Belay in the sand from a crack to the right with a #.4 and #.5.

Steck 3

(LEFT: The descent viewed from the summit. | RIGHT: Looking up the descent gully. Both photos by Walker.)

Locate the large dead tree directly North of your position. This is NOT the way down!


(The large dead tree – NOT the way down! Photo by Walker.)

Instead head towards the North East corner of the summit. Meander down through manzanita tunnels. Exit the manzanita on the West side of the saddle, traverse the hillside to the notch. Pass over the notch to the East gulley.

Keep close to your partner, in case you dislodge a boulder and send it tumbling. At the end of the gulley you will encounter a cold spring. Drink up you deserve it!

the sentinel

(Approach and descent overview for the Sentinel. Photo Google Earth.)

From here the route finding is a little tricky. Cross the stream and make your way down a series ledges and small cliffs. Be sure to not get suckered too low and escape back towards the base of the sentinel down a bushy gully. Continue down steep slabs paralleling the creek still on the East side.

At the bottom of the steep section you can escape across the creek to easier terrain and finally arriving at the junction, where you have left your packs. Stash your beers in the creek on the approach for a cool and refreshing reward!

  • Single set of BD C4’s #.3 – 4 with extra pieces in the .4 – .75 range
  • Single set of BD Stoppers #4 – 12
  • 9 Slings
  • 3 double length Slings
  • 70 meter Rope
  • Start early.
  • Leave extra gear at base of route.
  • Avoid using a daypack.
  • Distribute weight on your harness, use two plastic water bottles, modified with cordelette and duct tape.
  • Hang a mesh bag from your harness to carry bars, a sandwich and your headlamp.
  • Both you and your partner take pictures of the topo with your phones.
  • Link pitches to save time.
  • Tweet at the belay to avoid boredom.
stecksalathe topo

(Overview of the Steck Salathe. Photo

walker bio photo
Walker Emerson is a contributing writer for the PG Blog. He also sets routes at Planet Granite under the alias ‘Smash’. When he’s not plugging grips and jugging lines, he can be found on weekends clipping bolts at Jailhouse or sailing the granite seas of Yosemite.

To keep up with Walker’s adventures, follow him on the PG Blog, join him on InstagramVimeo and Facebook.

Oct 152014

On September 26th Planet Granite Belmont opened its doors to over 300 climbers, all ready to test themselves against the setters’ best for BLOC PARTY 2014.  Climbers of all ability levels worked for hours on the problems, and were not disappointed. High finishes, creative sequences, and smooth flowing climbing at all difficulty levels made this set of problems great!

26 and 25

LEFT: Problem #26. | RIGHT: Problem #25.

Several problems stood out for their popularity: #26 demanded balance and controlled movement on the smallest of crimps. #25 had a near-constant crowd of climbers working on the beta, with the most popular choice being a high left heel to a tricky left-hand cross.


The infamous problem #35.

However, by far the most popular climb of the night was #35, set in the lead cave.

Matt Irwin, one of the night’s winners and a Climbing Team veteran, thinks the reason for this popularity is clear: “The climb is a triple dyno with a big heel hook. Its really cool.”  From 4:00pm to 9:00pm, packs of climbers gathered around #35 encouraging each other to commit to the big horizontal and vertical moves!

Edder Diaz kept things moving as this year’s MC, motivating climbers with interesting interviews and his usual impeccable style.  Climbers also regained energy by visiting our fantastic sponsor booths: Flux Coffee, Three Twins Ice Cream, and Katapult Energy.

And of course, the event would never have gone so smoothly without the hard-working staff at the front desk and on the floor!

BL Bloc Party

PG staff love giving out prizes!

At the end of the night climbers gathered together around the prize table, and eagerly raised their hands towards the balcony where Chelsea was poised and ready to rain prizes down onto them. After a five-minute-long shower of stickers, bars, brushes and other small gear items, everyone had their hands full of goodies.

Finally, it was time for the results!


22,660   HANNAH DONNELLY       Female Open

19,370   ZOE WONG         Female Advanced

14,500   NIKA BOGOSLOVSKY      Female Recreational

14,500   HEATHER I HOUGHTON Female Recreational


27,980   RYAN K OLSON  Male      Open

23,960   MATTHEW IRWIN            Male      Advanced

19,080   TED PETERSON  Male      Recreational


With good music, good food, good people and good problems Belmont’s 2014 Bloc Party was truly a fantastic night!

Last stop in the tour AND the ONSIGHT SERIES FINAL!

Jesse Bio Pic
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jesse has a passion for education, climbing, and being outdoors with friends. Now back in the Bay Area after several years of traveling, he can often be found talking with friends and drinking tea in the gym between climbs. He loves the PG community, and is psyched to take both his training plans and the PG Belmont youth programs and community events to the next level. 

Oct 012014
An Interview with Sam Elias by Walker Emerson

JUNE 25th 2014: Sam and Mike shiver on a small rock ledge two thousand feet above the ground. They huddle around a small single burner stove for warmth. Burning their precious fuel, they pray the storm breaks before they run out of supplies or freeze to death.

Mike and Sam rack

Sam racking up for their push to the summit. Photo by Jonathan Byers.

Mike checks the battery life on his phone – only 20%.  “We’re gonna have to call for a rescue if this storm keeps up.” he says. They are unprepared with only one rain jacket between them.

Only ten pitches stand between them and a free ascent of the route. Sam funnels the rain water with his jacket into a plastic bottle. “Well, at least we won’t go thirsty…” he groans.


Sam and Mike alone on the wall after surviving a cold day in the rain. Photo by Jonathan Byers.

A blue rope smacks the ledge beside them and pierces the air with a loud CRACK. They look up expecting to see a Yosemite Search and Rescue team descending towards them, ready to pick them off the wall and end their crusade.

But to Sam and Mike’s surprise their friend Eliot Faber rappels towards them. “I’ve brought food and fuel!” he exclaims “How you guys doing?” “Much better now that you are here!” Sam says smiling.

They weathered the storm and after six days on El Capitan, Sam Elias and Mike Kerzhner made the 3rd free ascent of the long and difficult route called The PreMuir. 

ABOUT SAM ELIAS: Thirty two years ago Sam was born near Detroit, Michigan. He began sport climbing in the Red River Gorge and soon found himself living and working at Miguel’s Pizza to fuel his new passion for climbing rocks.

Today, Sam is an extremely well rounded rock climber. From ice and mixed climbing, to traditional climbing and bouldering, (including a summit of Mount Everest in 2012!), Sam is a true rock and ice connoisseur. He presently works as an ambassador for The North Face, Scarpa and Black Diamond.

As a friend of Sam’s, I am truly inspired by his accomplishments and wanted to learn more about his experiences. 


Sam takes in the exposure after sending the crux pitch. Photo by Mike Kerzhner.

Q – What made you want to climb El Cap?

Curiosity, the desire to try something new, and the affinity to connect with climbing history.

Q – The PreMuir is one of the hardest free routes on El Cap. With only two prior ascents!

Why did you choose this route for your first big wall experience?

My friends (you and Mike Kerzhner) were working on it, and said it was awesome. I honestly didn’t really know what I was getting into and didn’t really think so much about a full ascent. I was happy just climbing some pitches on the Captain.

It slowly progressed into thinking about a real push and ultimately came down to a hail mary because the summer was getting along and Yosemite was getting hot.

Q – What did you eat on the wall?

Oatmeal, dried fruit, nuts, ProBars, Larabars, prepackaged dehydrated meals – a lot of soups and also quinoa, rice, or pasta dishes, canned tuna and chicken, some dried meat and cheese, bread bagels and crackers, apples, oranges, avocados, radishes, olive oil and salt.

Q – What was your approach for sending the PreMuir?

We planned for 3 days of climbing followed by a rest day, and then 2-4 more days of climbing. We also came up with a plan to avoid using a portaledge. We woke everyday between 3-4 am, and were climbing by first light to avoid climbing in the sun as much as possible.

Sam and Mike 2

Photos by Jonathan Byers.

In the end we had climbed for 3 days, rested a day, and climbed out in 2 days. After spending a night on top of El Cap we then rappelled the whole route.

Q – What’s the next El Cap project for you?

Maybe the Salathe? I don’t know. There’s so much for me to do.

Q – What did you do to train for the PreMuir?

I mostly just climbed on it for the better part of 2 months. Though I did take a few rest periods from the valley in San Francisco and also went home to Salt Lake City. I gym climbed at those times to keep my climbing endurance up and maintain my finger and upper body strength.

Q – Had you and Mike Kerzhner climbed together before you teamed up to send the Premuir?

I’ve known Mike since 2005 in the Red River Gorge. I moved there to chill out after college and climb. His family was living in Ohio and he was visiting the Red like every weekend. He and his brother Greg were in high school then, and we were around each other a lot.


Mike high on the wall pushing for the top. Photo by Jonathan Byers.

It’s pretty cool that I’ve known them for this long and literally watched them both grow up. They are really talented guys – physically and intellectually.

The PreMuir was the first time Mike and I had connected and climbed together since the Red, though we’ve been aware of each others whereabouts over the years through mutual friends.

Q – What’s your proudest climbing moment?

Sam and Mike after send

Sam and Mike on top of the PreMuir after their ascent. Photo by Mike Kerzhner.

It’s such a simple but difficult question. The PreMuir took everything I had. It required everything I knew of myself and of climbing, but it also forced me to learn other skills and adapt to new situations. I’m pretty damn proud of it!

Q – Favorite things to do when not climbing?

I like to enjoy the simple things of home and rest – coffee, cooking and food, good drinks, and friends. I like to run. I read and write sometimes. I like to think about art and tattoos. I like to do things with my hands.

Q – What makes you happy?

Balance, simplicity, imagination, creativity, physical exertion. Being outside, the wind and the smells, wide open landscapes.

walker bio photo
Walker Emerson is a contributing writer for the PG Blog. He also sets routes at Planet Granite under the alias ‘Smash’. When he’s not plugging grips and jugging lines, he can be found on weekends clipping bolts at Jailhouse or sailing the granite seas of Yosemite.

To keep up with Walker’s adventures, follow him on the PG Blog, join him on InstagramVimeo and Facebook.

Sep 252014

(Apparently when Sports Illustrated asked the infamous author Hunter S. Thomson to cover motorcycle races in Las Vegas for a 500-word article, he returned with a 25 page meandering manuscript that would eventually become his iconic novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I shall try my best not to do that here.)


I was completely new to climbing when I first started working at PG this summer, and I was entirely unsure what to expect so it was an understandably odd sensation when I found myself jammed in a car with four other climbers, shooting up to Tahoe for a weekend of climbing, not two weeks after I had been hired.

It was about 1 a.m. when I started wondering if I was sure about what I had gotten myself into. I was sitting in the front seat of my coworker Jesse’s car, watching his headlights reach out onto the ever-so-dark mountain roads a bit north of Auburn, California. I had met Jesse a week prior, and though I had to come to know him a lot better in the following two days (and coming weeks), at the moment all I knew about him was that he loved rock climbing, owned a five-seater car, and had a certain proclivity for dying his hair vibrant colors (currently pink).

Piled in the back, amidst crash pads, a few packs, sleeping bags, and countless carabineers sat Cristina, Julia, and Ali. All together, we made five of the new Event Staff team members.


Almost all of us had met for the first time on the first day of Event Staff training—the instructional period in which all of us new Event Staff learned the skills we need to make Planet Granite summer camp awesome for all the kids to attend. After learning the ropes (pun intended), Jesse had invited anyone who was interested to go up to Southern Lake Tahoe to climb. I jumped at the opportunity, as did the other three newcomers.

While Julia—and obviously Jesse—had climbed before, Ali, Cristina and I were new to the ways of the rock. You would have thought that our lack of experience—coupled with the fact that none of us really new each other—might have made the car ride a bit uncomfortable.

But I have to give credit to PG hiring process; the five of us hit it off right away. We had left late—Cristina was the last pick-up, at around 10:30 p.m.—and the next four hours were filled stories, laughing, and some nefariously strong black coffee that Jesse brought along to keep our energy up.

We got into South Lake Tahoe after 2 a.m., and pitched a few tents in the dark, with Jesse and I setting up to sleep under the stars. I remember lying out under the impossibly wide Tahoe sky. Counting stars is a good way to fall asleep up in the mountains, and after a week of work and a long drive, I was passed out pretty quickly.

We were up a few hours later, but there wasn’t any time for grogginess. There were rocks to climb.


In the morning light, we were introduced to two of Jesse’s friends, who had been (understandably) fast sleep when we arrived. Nick and Jennifer solidified my belief that “climber” and “friendly” are synonymous terms; meeting them was one of the highlights of the weekend.

But the major highlight was arriving at our real destination: 90-Foot Wall.

90-Foot Wall is actually a misnomer—the wall is more like 70 feet tall. It’s a roughly 200 foot long crag, with great face and crack climbing along the length of it.

While 90-Foot offers lead climbing, we opted to climb to the top to set in a few anchors for top-rope climbing. Being new to climbing meant I didn’t know much about anchors but, seeing I’d be depending on said anchors to protect my life and limb(s), I decided that I wanted to at least watch them get set.

I want to say that watching Jesse, Nick, and Jennifer set anchors was like watching artists at work, but setting cradles for climbing rope seems more like an exercise in engineering than art. I was fascinated by how important it was to establish symmetry. For every anchor we used two bolts (metal rods set into the rock for climbing purposes); from the bolts, we set out two lines of equal length, and connected them with carabiners. At each step of the process, we established redundancies—two lines of cord from every bolt, and two carabiners at every junction. At the end, the anchor made a “Y” shape—two lines of cord coming from each bolt, joined at the middle by two carabiners. The rope we would use while climbing was to pass through these two carabineers.

While setting the anchors, a few local climbers gave us some tips to help us make them extra secure. They were very helpful, and even more friendly. I’m telling you—climbers are a different (perhaps superior) breed of people.

We arrived at our last step in the process. Jesse shouted, “Rope!” and threw down what was to become our lifeline. We then hiked and scrambled our way back down to the foot of the rock, donned our harnesses, attached a Gri-Gri, and prepared to climb.


It’s hard to describe the feeling I felt when I walked up to the base of the wall to tie myself in. It was a mixture of nervousness, only-two-hours-of-sleep-ness, and curiosity. Obviously I was incredibly excited but, to be honest, I was pretty spooked too. I had climbed walls in the gym plenty of times, but something about being out in the mountains, climbing on actual granite, had shaken me up a bit. There were so many new variables to think about, and my mind was racing trying to think of all of them.

“On belay?” I asked.

“Belay on,” responded Jesse.

“Climbing…?” I said.

“Climb on,” replied Jesse.

All the nervousness, all the overthinking, all the lack of sleep—it disappeared the second I put my hand on the first hold I could see. Everything floated away as my focus latched itself onto the wall and the task at hand. I got my feet up. I arranged my hips with the wall. I began to climb.

Something I noticed right off the bat was that there were no pink handholds—or green, or orange, or red for that matter. It wasn’t like the gym; the entire wall all looked the same. But I quickly began to recognize what the handholds were on an actual wall. I used everything I could to climb, the most useful of which was a relatively large crack down the face.

There came a moment about halfway up the face. I leaned back to take a break and felt the rock, rough beneath my skin. I felt the sun on my back and smelled pine trees. As I rested I saw blue in my peripheral vision. I looked to the right just as the wind picked up. As it blew through my hair I saw Lake Tahoe’s beautiful Emerald Bay.

I’m not sure if all climbers have “their moment,” but for me, that was it. That was my moment. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked. I now know climbing is a way to get close to nature, and close to myself. It is a beautiful sport.

I am so grateful to all the people that made the trip such a success—Jesse, Julia, Cristina, and Ali have been great to work with in the weeks since our trip, and I have even seen Nick around the gym a few times. Planet Granite is a community—a village—and I am so glad to have been welcomed into the heart of it. I hope it will serve as a basecamp as I begin the ascent into a life of climbing.