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A Trip of Firsts. By Dustin Moore

 Belmont, Blog, Community, Portland, San Francisco, Sunnyvale, Trip Report  Comments Off on A Trip of Firsts. By Dustin Moore
Oct 222015

As a full time climber I generally avoid large climbing events. The Red Rock Rendezvous in Las Vegas, Nevada in March of 2015 was an exception to this rule. The gravitational pull of spending a week climbing in Red Rocks with good friends and fellow Planet Granite staffers was too strong to allow my apprehension for climbing among the crowds to keep me away. For months, PG staffer Max Stuart and I had been scheming on a particular route, and this trip would afford us the opportunity to “have a go”. It was an ambitious mission, but we both felt fit, stoked, and confident in our ability to execute. Our target was to free climb a big wall route called the Original Route, 5.12b, 15 pitches, on Rainbow Wall, car-to-car, in a day.

photo 1

This type of climbing mission requires you to move light and fast. It means that most of your typical “big wall” climbing amenities must be left behind. We could only afford to bring items that were absolutely required, nothing more. To add a layer of difficulty and complexity, the route we chose has a long, steep, and technical approach/descent. The crux of the approach is about a 1500’ tall slab guarding the base of the wall, which includes two low 5th class sections. The reality of our scenario was that we would need to safely navigate this terrain in the dark, in both directions. Neither of us had been to this wall before, so we would have to on-sight the approach, pre-dawn in order to be racked up and climbing by sunrise. Conversely, we would have to negotiate the decent in the dark, mentally and psychically exhausted after free climbing a big wall.


In the days leading up to our mission we spent time bouldering with fellow PG staffer John Dennery, as well as a cast of other PG members including Sheila Canasa and Daniel Improta. Two days prior to liftoff we learned that John and Sheila, while being absolute crushers, had never been on a multi-pitch route, or climbed higher than 100’ feet off the deck. Immediately Max and I decided this was unacceptable and that we should take them up a rad first multi-pitch route. We wanted to put them on something moderate so they could focus on learning and getting comfortable with the systems, and let the climbing be and mostly autopilot for their ability levels. So after minimal debate, we settled on Prince of Darkness, 5.10c, 8 pitches, on Black Velvet Wall. The night before, we racked up all the gear and did a 2 hour lesson on the ground with the basics of the systems we would be using to get up and down the wall. The next day, John and Sheila cruised their first multi-pitch route. They learned the systems, became comfortable with the exposure, and had a blast climbing to just over 1000’ off the deck. John even swapped leads with me and took the crux final pitch, on-sighting with no hesitation. The climbing was, of course, very easy for someone of John’s strength, but it’s a very different experience to lead 1000’ off the ground, and John adapted beautifully and showed the composure of someone with far more experience in that style of climbing.


“The crew on top of Black Velvet Wall”


For Max and I, this run up Black Velvet Wall with John and Sheila was the perfect warm up prior to our assault on Rainbow Wall. Now with one more day remaining, we secured our permit from the park service, rested, and made final preparations to begin our adventure in the morning.


3:45 am came very early the next morning. We slept well knowing we had done our homework, our gear was sorted, and our bags packed, but with that bit of excitement that inevitably occurs before a huge mission, we were restless. Once our alarms went off, we sprang up ready for battle. In the next 45 minutes, we slammed coffee and breakfast, then hit the trail by headlamp promptly at 4:30 am. For the next 2.5 hours we slogged up the steep drainage canyon towards Rainbow Wall and surmounted the final crux slab of the approach to arrive at the base of the wall. While we knew we needed an early start for our mission, we had no idea that there would end up being 12 or so people on the route that day. After all this was a remote big wall with only hard climbing, how many people could be out to climb this thing on a Tuesday?


Fortunately for us, we were first to the wall, and therefore first in line. Max and I planned to swing leads all the way up the wall, and because of the way the difficult pitches lined up, this meant we both got an equal number of 5.12 and 5.11 pitches. The crux 5.12 pitches of the route are on the bottom and top of the route, which meant that Max and I had to choose between a crux cold off the deck or get crushed near the end of the climb. I volunteered to get us started and take the first lead, which included the first 5.12b crux on pitch 1. In and of itself this proposition was a little daunting, but to add some anxiety, I now had to do it in front of a horde of people waiting to get started on the route behind us. This crowd included Ethan Pringle, Spenser Tang-Smith, and product folks from Trango shooting Ethan for the new Cinch belay device. The pressure was on!


I started up the long first pitch, climbing slowly and carefully through the mostly unprotected but easy first 100’ of the pitch. By the time I reached the steeper and more difficult middle section I felt solid and was climbing strong. I had fleeting thoughts of how it would feel to on sight the first 5.12b pitch, and how much relief would come from not creating a junk show in front of the herd below waiting to get on route. As I neared the top of the 200’ pitch and entered the 12b crux, I gritted my teeth, planned my sequence and started the execution of moves. I let out several grunts, giving everything I had to make the technical and powerful moves through the crux statically. But alas, I was simply too short to make the final reach to the crimper rail that would allow passage beyond the crux. I was too committed to down climb and re-position for a dynamic move, so in a final moment of desperation, I lunged for it, got the tips of two fingers on, and promptly took the whipper as they peeled off the hold.

photo 3

“Looking down the first pitch 5.12b crux with Max following”


As I sat for just a moment on the rope to rest, all my anxiety diminished. It helped that Ethan and the other folks below were cheering me on with encouragement. After a couple minutes working out how to get around my height challenge for this move, I fired through the crux and carefully climbed the remaining 25’ of 5.11 ground to the chains and let out a hoot with elation. Max immediately started following the pitch with amazing control and fluidity, and proceeded to on-sight the first 12b crux! We were psyched!


“Max following the final 5.11+ pitch high on the route”


Over the next several hours we got into a harmonic rhythm of on-sighting pitches and swinging leads up the route. We pulled away from the parties below us to the point they were no longer visible, and we only occasionally heard the tell-tale tones of someone trying hard below us. It was like we had the entire wall to ourselves.


“Max stemming the overhung corner, leading the final 5.12 pitch near the top”


With only 3 pitches left to the top, it is was Max’s lead on the final 5.12 pitch of the route. He started up, carefully placing his pieces and making the sustained powerful moves up the overhung corner. Letting out a grunt at the apex of the difficulty he gritted his teeth and gave it his all, but ultimately peeled off and took the fall. His gear held the fall, he took stock of his situation, and rested briefly before pulling back on and started back up the final hard moves of the pitch. On his second attempt he fired through and let out a hoot as he made the chains. We linked the last couple pitches, and in what seemed like just a couple moments, we were standing on the summit basking in the evening glow of the sun.


“Max psyched to find the summit register”


It was surreal standing on the summit with daylight left to spare. We took the time to enjoy the glow and sign the summit register. We were psyched! However, now it was time to negotiate the descent. We efficiently simul-rapped the wall in the dark, and even though it was still a ton of rappels, in what seemed like just an hour or so, we were finally back on the ground. Ethan and Spencer were also still on the wall and rappelled shortly after we did. We all took a moment to decompress, re-hydrate back at our packs, and then started the long slog back down the slabs and canyon. It was great hiking out with Ethan and Spenser because Ethan had done this descent several times, and he guided us through the 5th class slab sections. So long as you went the right way, it was no harder than a 5.2 slab. However, there were deadly consequences if you made an error, so we were psyched not to wonder if we were going the right way, down climbing in approach shoes in the dark.


“Me looking ready to be done rappelling after more than 10 rappels, with 5 more to go”


After the slab descent crux, we all fell into a rhythm and marched down the canyon at a near jog. Even though we were all crushed, the idea of getting a real meal and sleep was enough to make us giddy. We made it back to the van at 10:45 pm, putting our car-to-car time at just over 18 hours. We were elated! Though we cannot claim the glory of having on-sighted the wall, we came close. We made every move free, with Max and I each taking a lead fall on the respective 12b crux pitches. We could not have been more stoked!


Spenser and Ethan did not have a permit, so they were parked outside the loop. The least we could do in return for the descent beta was to give them a lift back to their car, saving them an additional 10 miles of hiking. Once we dropped them off, we made a b-line to Denny’s and proceeded to gorge ourselves.


It was the perfect end to a perfect day out in the mountains with the perfect partner.


profile_dustinmooreDustin Moore is a contributing writer for the Planet Granite Blog. He is also professional phtographer and climber. You may find him scared on ice, clipping bolts somewhere in a steep cliff haven, or climbing high on the big walls of Yosemite.


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

3 last-minute ways to participate in Battle for Bolts

 Belmont, Blog, Community, PG Gives Back, San Francisco, Sunnyvale  Comments Off on 3 last-minute ways to participate in Battle for Bolts
Oct 162015


  1. Afternoon Games: Stop by Saturday afternoon to try your hand at wacky climbing games. Think obstacle course, for one… Games are friendly for all skill levels and open to everyone, not just competitors. Prizes included, of course! 12:00pm-7:00pm Saturday.
  2. Free Lululemon Yoga Class: A semi-restorative yoga class guest-taught by a Lululemon Ambassador. Open and free for all! 5:00-6:30pm Saturday.
  3. Last Minute Sign Ups: There’s still space in the competition, and sign ups on the day of are welcome! Sign up as an individual, join up with a team, or form a completely new team the day of the event.

Register now:

PG SF Access Update: Nike Women’s Marathon this Sunday

 Blog, San Francisco  Comments Off on PG SF Access Update: Nike Women’s Marathon this Sunday
Oct 152015

photo borrowed from Nike Womens Marathon Pagephoto borrowed from Nike Womens’ Series Facebook Page.

Head’s up Weekend Warriors! Women are taking over the Presidio this weekend for the annual Nike Women’s Half Marathon! It is expected that around 20,000 women will hit the ground running throughout the streets of San Francisco, marking the event’s 12th anniversary.

Just so you are prepared, Planet Granite is giving you the low-down on routes to avoid while you make your trek to the San Francisco gym location this weekend. 

There will be road closures from 5am – 11am this Sunday with road blocks along 25th Ave., Lincoln to Crissy Field, and Mason Street to Marina Gate. According to the course route people will run through Fort Scott and Crissy Field right alongside our gym. Make sure to take a look and plan ahead:

Don’t let the traffic slow you down. We’d love to have you here this weekend!

Top 5 Reasons You Should Participate in This Saturday’s 24-Hour Battle for Bolts

 Belmont, Blog, Community, PG Gives Back, Portland, San Francisco, Sunnyvale  Comments Off on Top 5 Reasons You Should Participate in This Saturday’s 24-Hour Battle for Bolts
Oct 142015
Good Bolt Bad Bolt

Don’t get caught clipping this old bolt!

BATTLE FOR BOLTS is this Saturday! Register now!

Spoiler Alert! Reason #1- Individual competitors can now enter

  1.  Individual competitors can now enter, no team needed! This means that if you want to participate, but haven’t been able to find a partner, you can climb anyway. Swap belays with other individual competitors, boulder on your own, and maybe even find a team the day of the comp.
  2. A HUGE prize pool. Seriously, we have so much awesome stuff to give away. Across the outdoor industry companies are psyched to support the ASCA’s re-bolting mission. Black Diamond, CAMP, Evolv, Icebreaker, Patagonia, Rock & Ice, Flashed, lululemon athletica, SFT Climbing, Skout, Two Ogres, Muscle Milk, and Naturewise have all stepped up big time. Take a gander…

    CAMP prizes

    Just a few prizes from our awesome sponsor CAMP!

  3.  It’s all for fun – You don’t need to climb 24 hours straight. Take breaks, go home and come back, and relax with your new friends. This is a fun community-building event, and it’s as intense or as casual as you make it. Whether you’re a grizzled 5.14d monster or a wide-eyed 5.8 acolyte, you can tailor your own experience to fit.

    prizes collage

    So many prizes!

  4.  Games and possible prize winning all day, plus event T-shirts. We have mini games and prizes throughout the event for competitors and spectators alike. These games will test your skill, strength, and sense of humor.

    skout prizes

    Yummy snacks from Skout!

  5.  This supports the American Safe Climbing Association (ASCA). The ASCA is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping keep our sport climbing areas safe. Since 1998, the ASCA has replaced over 14,000 old bolts at local climbing areas like Pinnacles, Donner Summit, Yosemite, and Tuolumne and hundreds of other areas across the state and worldwide. Largely run by volunteers, the ASCA relies on donations from individuals and organizations such as ours.


Halloween Headlamp Climbing + special Parents’ Night Off!

 Belmont, Blog, Events, Portland, San Francisco, Sunnyvale  Comments Off on Halloween Headlamp Climbing + special Parents’ Night Off!
Oct 012015


headlamp climbing

Headlamp Climbing is back!
Every year at Halloween, we turn the lights out!

Friday October 30th
Lights go out at 8pm!

Bring a headlamp, wear a costume and try your skills at climbing in the dark!

Free for Members!
Wear a costume and receive 1/2 off entry!


plus Parents take note of our special kids only event!

Parents Night Off – Headlamp Climbing

Friday October 30th
$45/child; ages 6-13

Drop your child off for a fun night of climbing, games and a pizza dinner!  At 8pm, when the lights go out, we’ll take each of your kids out onto the floor so they can experience climbing at night!

How to find a climbing partner – by Amy Verret

 Belmont, Blog, Portland, San Francisco, Staff, Sunnyvale  Comments Off on How to find a climbing partner – by Amy Verret
Sep 142015

The first question new climbers ask when they arrive at Planet Granite is how to find someone to climb with. Some people are introduced to climbing by a close friend or significant other who provides a convenient first partner. Many people who are new to the climbing gym, however, don’t have the luxury of a built-in partner. For these individuals, the realization that they need a climbing partner can be daunting. Even if you have a regular partner, it is nice to mix things up and climb with someone new once in a while. Climbing with new folks will speed up the process of learning the subtle techniques that are crucial in order to become a competent climber and belayer. What follows are a few ways to meet new potential climbing partners and hopefully make the process a lot faster and more enjoyable.


Longtime PG member, Javier, and his friends became climbing partners through a mutual love of crack climbing and sense of humor. Left to right: Javier, Christiano, Kaylena, and Guillermo.


If you are excited to try climbing but don’t have a partner yet, the bouldering wall is the perfect place to start. The routes are shorter, allowing you to concentrate on a smaller number of moves. Bouldering quickly introduces you to scores of like-minded climbers and lends itself to interacting with larger groups of people. These types of interactions often lead to climbing partnerships. If you are unsure how to approach a group of boulderers, try getting in line to start working a popular problem. Usually, other climbers are happy to share what they may have figured out about a particular problem and help you solve the puzzle.

“On a great day, climbing is an opportunity for us to be challenged and have fun, and our relationship as climbing partners I think helps to put those two pieces together,” says Josh, Planet Granite member


Curt and Andy have been fixtures at PG Sunnyvale as climbing partners for the past two years. They enjoy pushing their limits together both inside and outside the gym.


If the greater height of the rope walls is more your style, look for a group with an odd number of climbers. Ask if they would like another belayer. There is always a chance that the odd man out would be happy to get climbing sooner. It helps if you offer to belay rather than asking them to belay you. It’s all in the approach.


Javier gives climbing partner Guillermo an attentive belay right off the deck.)




















Chance opportunities to climb with new partners are more likely to turn into long-term partnerships if your belay technique is solid. Be positive and encouraging to the climber; you want your new potential partner to feel comfortable climbing with you. Watch the climber while belaying, and be conscious of the amount of slack in the rope. A good belay is the basis for a likely belay in the future.

“The goal is to feel confident when climbing with someone. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a fall or coming off the wall with your partner then they aren’t really a good partner for you,” says  Zack, Planet Granite member



PG staff members Karen and Rolando man the Singles and Swingers table on Hawaiian night. Karen is known for her creative themes each month.

Singles and Swingers: At this event, we will match you up with as many different climbing partners as possible. It’s a great way to meet and climb with partners of all levels.

“I often see climbers who have participated in the event climbing together and becoming more and more confident,” says Karen, Single and Swingers host for PG Sunnyvale

According to Karen, one of the best aspects of the event is that newer people get a chance to climb with partners of all experience levels. Look for the Singles and Swingers table at your local PG every second Thursday evening of the month.

Partner Shout-Outs: You can always stop by the front desk to ask if anybody is looking for a partner. The staff will make an announcement, and anyone else who is interested can come find you at the front desk. This strategy works best in the evening when they gym is at its busiest, but give it a try anytime.


The master’s class crew. Left to right: Isaac, Linda, Andrew, Joshua, Eric, Steve.

“We met through the Masters class! Once the class finished, many of us were inspired to keep up the momentum and kept climbing together,” says Linda, Planet Granite member

Climbing Classes: Taking one of PG’s climbing classes is a great way to meet other climbers who are eager to learn and have a similar skill level and goals. Often, the other students in the class are as motivated to find partners as you are, and you can make plans to meet up later in the week and practice the techniques you learned in class. In fact, students who climb together outside of class, tend to progress faster and benefit the most. I hope you are inspired to get out of your comfort zone and ask other climbers to team up and exchange belays. Don’t be afraid to join in on the bouldering walls and meet some new friends. You will all benefit from sharing information on belaying technique and climbing strategy. The social aspect of climbing is one of the strongest bonds you can build in today’s sports. You will find great joy in pushing each other to succeed to new heights you never thought possible.

More options:
These are just a few of our favorite ways to meet people, but we have other programs and events too!  Check out Bouldering League, an all levels friendly competition and any of our game nights like Trivia Night or Golf Night!

amy Amy Verret is a multi-faceted member of the Planet Granite community, doing everything from teaching classes to working behind the scenes while dreaming up her next big climbing adventure.    On the weekends, she can be found scaling the grand walls of local climbing areas such as Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows. She’s always ready to talk about long routes and gear.  Follow Amy on her adventures on Instagram!