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Planet Granite

Feb 052016


Sooner or later, every climber gets asked the same question:

“Don’t you get scared?”

While we all have different ways of answering that question, they all amount to the same basic response:“Well, yeah. Duh.”

The tendency among non-climbers is to view climbers as fundamentally different people, made up of fundamentally different stuff that allows them to enjoy a sport that would otherwise seem stupid or terrifying.

Of course we enjoy it, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t challenged by it. For many climbers, fear verges on omnipresent, lurking in the backs of our minds regardless of the route’s grade, exposure, or commitment level.

Success is often determined not by raw strength and stubbornness, but by our ability to maintain poise and grace under pressure.

The bad news is that there is no shortcut to mastering fear. Take the example of Simon Prochnik, a member at Planet Granite who recently attended Warrior’s Way Falling and Commitment clinic taught by Jeff Lodas:

“I’ve been climbing for nearly 20 years, indoors and out. I hit a plateau with leading. I was just terrified of falling. I needed a completely new way to get past my block,” Prochnik said.

There were no easy solutions offered to Simon in his time taking the clinic. Rather, the goal was for each student to learn to recognize fear as another aspect of our climbing experience, as controllable as body movement and rope management.

Your author also had the pleasure of attending the Warrior’s Way, led by Lodas, who exudes the presence of the archetypal climbing instructor. Part warrior, part Buddhist, and part dirtbag, he exhibited the kind of calm of someone who has probed the depths of his own mind and has a great deal to share about it.

“I’ve always been interested in the mind, even from an early age,” he said. “I started climbing, and after a few years I realized the potential climbing has as a laboratory for mental training.”

The first half of the clinic dealt entirely with falling. It built incrementally, starting well within our comfort level. Lodas gave us things to practice while a fall is in progress.

By attentively falling again and again,
we began to discover how a proper mental approach
can change how scary a fall feels,
or how unpleasant the inevitable swing
back into the wall will feel.

If the first half was devoted to mental training, then the second was almost entirely to the physical. Lodas instructed us to climb as intuitively as possible. See a hold, grab a hold. He demonstrated how the eyes look naturally to the places where our body most instinctively sought balanced movement.

The mind and body act in concert and often in opposition. They are yin and yang. Sometimes, mastery of the mental side of climbing involves silencing the inner monologue that often leads to hesitation, half-hearted commitment, or exhausting mental coinflict.

Lodas suggested we try to divide our climbing into periods of movement and non-movement. When resting, for instance, we would allow our mind to survey the climb and inform our next course of action.  Look down, look up, consider the risks and the objective, make a decision, and go.

Allow awareness of the fear, rather than deny it, but delay reacting to it. Climb as though it wasn’t there, and pause to reconsider the consequences at the next rest. Trust your mind to create a plan, and see that plan through to the end.

If this is sounding like something out of a corporate team-building exercise, or a Boy Scouts’ ropes course, that’s because these lessons inhabit a realm far larger than that of a rock climb.

“Mental training is not just about climbing – it’s a way of life, and once you start observing your own mind, you don’t stop just because you untie from the rope,” Jeff Lodas said.

He recently worked with Arno Ilgner, founder of the Warrior’s Way and Desiderata Institute, to expand the curriculum to a non-climbing audience. It’s easy to see how some of the curriculum (look down, look up, for example) might lend itself to a more universal theater (look back, look forward).
Part of why we climb is tied up in how we feel when we aren’t climbing. We feel more confident. We feel more at peace. The lessons we learn at the gym or at the crag reverberate throughout our professional and personal lives.

“What you learn there is directly applicable at all times,” Jeff said, reflecting on his own climbing experiences. “Whether it’s the learning process itself, how you can act effectively in stressful situations, how attention can transform fear, finding out what your motivations are, or noticing and unlearning the negative habits of the mind.”

Looking back on the clinic, one month later, I have not suddenly become a fearless leader. Neither has Simon:

“It’s a work in progress, but I can see that every fall I take gets less scary. This means I can spend energy focusing on the next move instead of worrying about what happens.”  

There is no magical panacea to the fears and doubts that nag us.

Each fearful encounter is more familiar than the last, allowing us to develop our ability to focus attention under stress.  Our management of it becomes more efficient as we are able to respond intelligently rather than react.

The beauty of the Warrior’s Way clinic lies in the almost zen-like mantras that you are left with, words and phrases that seemingly pop into your head when before you might have been floundering.

The mind becomes quiet and a familiar script fills the place of confused thought:

Look down. Look up. Inhale. Exhale. Go.

Planet Granite hosts the Warrior’s Way Falling and Commitment clinic twice each year, open to all lead-certified members. Jeff Lodas and the instructors of Warrior’s Way also host multi-day clinics at climbing areas in California and elsewhere.  More information can be found at  Images in article courtesy of Jeff Lodas. 


Michael Adamson

Since high school, Michael Adamson has been climbing rocks of all sizes ranging from tall to not as tall. It is also rumored that he enjoys the occasional bubble bath. When not at Planet Granite, he can be seen in his natural habitat walking the mercurial line between mischief, bravery, and stupidity.


How to climb “”: Six Mental Tips to Climb Harder

 Belmont, Beta, Blog, Portland, San Francisco, Sunnyvale  Comments Off on How to climb “”: Six Mental Tips to Climb Harder
Jan 082016
Cannibals Donner Summit

Approaching the crux on Cannibals, 5.12d at Donner Summit.

This isn’t going to be another train harder, work out more, get stronger fingers-type article—because, while these articles are important and valuable, they’ve already been written.  Instead, this is what I do mentally, when I want to climb harder.

Let’s face it, we all want to get better.  It’s why we love climbing.  There’s always a challenge, whether you’re looking to climb your first 5.10 or 5.13.  In my 14+ years of climbing, these are my time-tested tips on how to push your climbing level to the next grade.

The Juice - Anthony Lapomardo

Reaching for a clip, The Juice, 5.14a. photo by Anthony Lapomardo

1. Get on it.

This may seem blatantly obvious, but it’s surprising how many of us, myself included, simply don’t do this.
“It looks too hard.”
“I’m not strong enough.”
“It’s not my style.”
“I suck at overhangs.”
I can list off a thousand excuses of why I shouldn’t try a hard climb, but the only thing holding me back is just that—my excuses.

Now I’m not suggesting if you’re climbing 10a, that you should try your first 5.13.  But it is ok to try harder stuff!  That’s what’s so great about the gym – there are endless climbs to try.  Maybe you’ll fail.  But…maybe you won’t.  (Etiquette note: if the gym is busy, please limit your time on a route to no more than 15-20 minutes.)

Left Image - by Anthony Lapomardo, right image by Jill Sompel

Left Image: In the crux on Burning Down the House, 5.14b Jailhouse California. photo by Anthony Lapomardo Right image: Dynoing to the last hold on Churning, 5.13a, Smith Rock, Oregon.

2. Watch someone else.

Beta is key.  It’s also what is so fun about climbing–it’s not only challenging physically, but mentally!  That being said, more brainpower is always better.  I always find that watching someone on a route I’m working AFTER I’ve tried it is immensely helpful.  I see new beta: I watch how they turn their body, which feet they use, and their sequencing.  It’s even more helpful if the person is a better climber than you and they’re similar in size.  It’s also just as fun to work a route with someone else, even if they’re not casually floating your project.


Training in the gym. Left photo by Sebastian Vido. Right image: PG San Francisco’s ramp – the perfect route training when you’re solo! Photo by Ivan Cua.

3. Get on it again.

Not to be overly obvious, but this is a really key point.  I’ve learned (yet still have to remind myself) that I should not decide if a route is too hard for me until I have tried it at least twice.  Moves that seemed virtually impossible the first time are often manageable the second time, simply because you now know what to do and are confident that it can be done that way.  Mental strength (and body memory) is an incredible force.

Maple Canyon

Holding the swing on a near horizontal roof. La Confienza, 5.13b, Pipedream Cave. Maple Canyon, Utah.

4. Don’t quit because of one move.

A common misconception is that if you can’t do a move on a route, you should stop.  Climbing magazines and sites love to highlight the latest 5.15’s that have been put up. What is less talked about, is that there’s a lot of projecting that goes into climbing hard routes.  So if you hit a stopper move on your route, assess it and try to work it, but don’t waste excessive energy and strength on it.  Cheat past it (another great thing about the gym is there’s often an easier route or a friendly looking hold right next to you!) and try the rest of the route out.  Come back to that move later.

It’s important to be strategic about how to work a hard route.  Spending all your time and energy on one move early in the route won’t help you get to the top!  You can always come back to a move and work it later. An added side bonus is that working a hard move on a route will get you stronger.


Lost in a sea of pockets. Elephant Man, 5.13b, Red River Gorge KY.

5. Go down swinging.

It’s easy to quit (remember all those nice excuses) or, more often, to half-ass a try.  I struggle with this the most on big moves – throwing for a big move, I’ll often “test” the distance, when anyone watching can tell I didn’t intend to or believe I’d reach it.  This doesn’t help my confidence.  However, if you give it your all, and go down swinging, you’ll feel so much better.  And, you might surprise yourself by sticking the hold!   I have found that if I gave it my all, then I feel better when I lower off a route, even if I didn’t send.


Left image: Endless climbing on No Limit, 5.13a at La Surgencia, Rodellar Spain. Right image: Tufas forever on Latido del Media, 5.13b, Terredets, Spain

6. Have fun!

“The best climber in the world is the one who’s having the most fun.”—Alex Lowe

This is probably the most important and for me, the most easily lost, point.  I find I climb harder when I’m laughing, with friends and enjoying myself.  When getting on harder routes, it’s easy to get frustrated and become negative.  This will only cause you to climb worse.

I hope this inspires you to set a new goal this year!  Go get it!

Stephanie Ko Pound

Stephanie Ko Pound has been climbing since 2001.  Her hardest redpoint is Burning Down the House, 5.14b, which had she not followed point 3, would never have been completed.


MEMBERSHIP SALE: Save $45 on initiation!

 Belmont, Blog, Membership, Portland, San Francisco, Sunnyvale  Comments Off on MEMBERSHIP SALE: Save $45 on initiation!
Jan 022016

Membership Sale - January

One more month to save!  Through the end of January, we will waive initiation!  Starting February 1st, our initiation rate will be going up to $45, so that’s one great deal to help you achieve your new years goals.

For more details about our memberships, click here.

*New members must pay a pro-rated first month plus a full second month at sign up to receive $0 initiation.  Offer good through close of business on Jan 31st, 2016.  

Tip of the Week: Resting while climbing

 Belmont, Portland, San Francisco, Tip of the Week, Video of the Week  Comments Off on Tip of the Week: Resting while climbing
Dec 282015



Learning to rest and  to climb strategically is key to route climbing.  Check out these quick 5 tips on how to make your rests count!

CATEGORY:  Tips on how to rest while climbingTIP OF THE WEEK - white background
BY: Eunice Cho

Drop-in Kids Climbing: one of many options for kids during winter break.

 Belmont, Kids, Portland, San Francisco, Sunnyvale  Comments Off on Drop-in Kids Climbing: one of many options for kids during winter break.
Dec 212015

kids banner 600x100px copy

Do you have little monkeys climbing your walls because they are out of school?  Well look no further – we have the perfect day time solutions!

The perfect escape for your kids! Drop them off for the afternoon and we’ll teach them fun new climbing skills while you can take the afternoon off!  
Monday-Wednesday  Dec 28th through 30th  **Update**  Space is still available at PG PDX!  All other camps are full.
1pm-5pm, ages 5-13
Space is filling up fast!

Looking for something to do last minute?  Bring them by one of our gyms and we’ll belay them for you!  Use that hour to escape to a yoga class, get some climbing in yourself or just to grab a restful break at a coffee shop.

$25/child for one hour of climbing.  Drop-in only – space is limited!
Call your gym for specific times.

PG San Francisco – 415-692-3434
*check back here soon, more dates are being added!
Mondays 12/21 & 12/28
Tuesday 12/22 (morning only) & 12/29
Wednesday 12/23 & 12/30 (morning only)
Thursday 12/24
Saturdays 12/26 and 1/2
Sundays 12/27 and 1/3

*PGSF accepts same day reservations, call them at 415-692-3434

PG Belmont – 650-591-3030
Monday 12/28
Tuesday 12/29
Wednesday 12/30
Saturdays 12/26 and 1/2

PG Sunnyvale – 408-991-9090
Saturdays 12/26 and 1/2
Sundays 12/27 and 1/3

PG Portland – 503-477-5666
Saturdays 12/26 and 1/2
Sundays 12/27 and 1/3

We offer extra belay lessons this week during the day (in addition to our regular week night and weekend lessons).  These 1-hour lessons will teach you how to manage the ropes for your child!  Call for details!

Parent Child Belay Lesson: $28 includes harness for each parent and adult, and day pass for child to climb.  

PG San Francisco: extra lessons Monday-Friday 12/28-1/1
PG Belmont: extra lessons Monday-Weds 12/28-12/30
PG Sunnyvale: extra lessons Monday-Friday 12/28-1/1 

Looking for more?  Private lessons are a great way to get your child that one-on-one instruction!
$70/hour.  Must reserve time in advance.


Holiday Tick List – gifts for the unapologetic climber

 Belmont, Blog, Portland, Retail, San Francisco, Sunnyvale  Comments Off on Holiday Tick List – gifts for the unapologetic climber
Dec 022015

Not sure what your climber wants this holiday season?  Check out our staff picks for some ideas!


metolius nutsThe curved design of these nuts makes placing them in those awkward flaring cracks a breeze. Couple that with the stiffer wires makes these my favorite nuts. – PG Portland staffer Viviane



Metolius Rope Master

No fancy name needed here the Metolius Rope Master HC is the master of all rope bags. It has a huge rope tarp attached to help keep you rope clean, the tarp also makes for a quick pack up so you don’t waste time getting to the base of the next route. What really sells it is the buckle system that allows you to cinch the bag and your rope down to fit inside your backpack. Plus it is made and designed in Bend Oregon. – PG Portland staffer Kyle




This tarp sports 2 tie in points, and a large pocket which makes moving around the base of the crag a breeze. It pairs nicely with any pack and is a great, light, low volume addition to your cragging gear. I’ve even used is as a rain poncho when caught in an unexpected downpour :) – PG staffer Carolyn  


Petzl Grigri copy

An industry standard, and found on every PG top rope, the Petzl GriGri delivers excellent control for top rope and lead climbing.  It can also accommodate a wide range of rope sizes.  A perfect gift for your favorite climber!  –PG Portland staffer Brandon




Petzl Carabiner copyHow many screw locking carabiners can you lock with a single flick of your finger? One! The Petzl Attache 3D. Take the old bulky Attache put it on a diet and make the screw gate lighter and you get the only locking Carabiner you will ever use again! –PG Portland setter Lexee


BD Magnetron copy

Few carabiners elicit as much intrigue as Black Diamond’s Magnetron. Two magnets and a clever locking mechanism make for hours of entertainment, even when not on the wall! With only a little bit of practice, it’ll become the easiest carabiner that you’ve ever had to operate. – PG San Francisco staffer Ruben



Petzl Spirit QD copy

Have you felt the smooth action of the Spirt quickdraw, if not it will change the way you view the world of sport climbing. The action of the gate is only interrupted by the most satisfying “click” that you only get clipping your rope. – PG Portland staffer Ken




CAMP armour copyThe simplest solution is often the most efficient. CAMP took this to heart when designing their Armour helmet. A simple shell that is sure to protect your noggin, without too many moving parts to break. –PG Portland staffer Yetta  


PETZL SIROCCO (Bay Area only)

Petzl Sirocco

Ever look into your closet and say to yourself: “Self, I am lacking a bright enough helmet for my vertical endeavors.” If that’s the case, there’s no better fit than the Petzl Sirocco. Not only will you helmet be bright enough to outshine the sun at your local crag, its light weight and minimalist design will keep you light on your toes. – PG San Francisco staffer Joey



organic padsMade in the good old USA from recycled materials, bold colors and basic designs, Organic crash pads set the standard of excellence when it comes to padding your landing.  – PG San Francisco staffer Carolyn  



Organic Chalk Bagspng copy

What’s not to love about the Organic Chalkbag. Bonus they are large enough to put a candy bar in for when you need a boost on those long multi-pitch routes. – PG Portland staffer Carrina



PG Hoodies copyWonderfully soft and super cozy, these hip hoodies are my favorite go to, plus they look super cool too.  Designed in house by Andrew!  – PG staffer Stephanie



Planet Granite gift cards

Still uncertain on what to get your favorite climber?  A gift card is the perfect solution!  Available in any dollar amount from $5-$500, this gift is certain to satisfy.