Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ice and Mixed Season

For the first time in many years, I have not climbed ice before Christmas. I'm not entirely sure how this happened but due to a number of contributing factors I just haven't gotten out yet. Conditions in the northeast have been slow to come in but things are looking good now and I'm excited to get out next week.

Josh at the Toko Crag

I was able to make it out dry tooling in NH with my friend Josh Worley a couple of weeks ago. Josh is one of the strongest mixed climbers I have climbed with and is in impressive shape right now for the Ouray Ice Fest Competition in a couple of weeks.

Kevin warming up on "Unemployment Line"

We visited the Toko Crag in Madison, NH which houses a small but impressive number of really steep mixed routes. The first time drytooling every season always feels a bit awkward to me and I have a hard time trusting my tools and fruit boots. After a shaky warm-up burn I was psyched to send "Unemployment Line" (M8+) to the ice and then did a couple more training laps on it for the extra pump.

Josh and Kevin Mahoney each took a couple of burns on M.O.G. Country M11? with Josh nearly sending first go!

Kevin on "M.O.G. Country" M11? with Josh's tool stuck above

Hopefully with some free time in the coming weeks I'll have more to report on the ice and mixed side of things!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Sad Year

On Friday a call from my good friend Jim Shimberg delivered the sad news that the legendary Guy Lacelle had been killed in an avalanche while climbing during the Bozeman Ice Festival. Although I had never met Guy, his positive energy and giving personality were renown in the community. Aside from being an amazing person, Guy's accomplishments on the ice were nearly unparalleled. He routinely soloed the hardest routes in the world including an amazing solo link up of Terminator, Sea of Vapors and the Replicant on the Trophy Wall above Banff, Alberta.

So many great climbers have lost their lives this year. I did not know any of these climbers well aside from the chance meeting at the crag but like many I felt connected to them in spirit. All of them lived their lives pursuing their passion for climbing and the for mountains and all of them were known equally for the impact they had on the people around them. I can only hope to live my life in this way.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Back in the Gunks and Ice Season

Last weekend Naomi and I traveled down to the Gunks to climb and hang out with our friend Jamie before he heads out west for the winter. The weather called for snow but we figured it wouldn't be too bad. Turns out we were wrong and after a couple of hours at the crag on Sat it started to dump! I was really psyched to give Survival of the Fittest (13a) a lead go. I been on it a couple of years ago and wanted to finish it up this weekend. The route is definitely a bit spicy to lead in that all of the 4 pieces you place in 70 ft. are critical to keeping you off of the ground and tricky to place. I toproped it a couple of times and was feeling ready to lead and send it when the snow started to come down even heavier and a big drip developed right on the crux holds! Bummer!

Lost City covered in snow

We spent a bit more time there before making the treacherous hike down in worn down approach shoes. We realized that worn out approach shoes are pretty much skis on wet, slippery snow as we took a bunch of feet over head diggers.

Jaime and I talking beta in the blizzard

We headed back to Lost City and Survival on Sunday which turned out to be a beautiful day but found the route to be even wetter than yesterday after all of the snow. We toproped on a beautiful 13b/c route just to the left called Clairevoyance. This is an amazing route with really cool moves. I fell off the last move on my third toprope burn. Definitely going back for this one!

One another note... the winter has finally arrived and I have pulled out the ice gear for this weekend. today is rather wet and warm and then it's supposed to get really cold. Perfect scenario for something cool to form on Cannon Cliff. That's where I'm heading Sat. Psyched to see what we find!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Back From the Red! Great Success!

After a "red eye" drive back from the Red River Gorge Saturday night into Sunday, I find myself back at work. Our week long trip went by fast as usual I find myself wishing I could have stayed another 2 w
eeks. Despite the shortness of our trip I am really pleased with how the trip went. We stuck to a 2 day on, 1 day off schedule which meant 5 climbing days.

On our first couple of days our crew headed to Left Flank where my friend Brian and I got on the beautiful Table of Colors .13a. This route breaks down into a steep 5.11 to a rest, to about a 13 move V5/6 to some tricky and pumpy 5.12 moves to the top. On our second day Brian almost sent on his warm-up! I chose to warm-up more properly and sent on my first redpoint go. This route is mega-classic and highly recommended!

Pat on Table of Colors .13a

I should mention how impressed I was with the cabin that we rented at Lago Linda's. For the 6 of us it cost $550 which is pretty cheap for a week long trip. The cabin came fully equipped pots, plates, towels, shower, a really nice heater, and plenty of beds to sleep in. Here are some pics...

On Wednesday and Thursday we warmed up at the Drive-By Crag on some of the incredible .12a's there and then headed over to Bob Marley Crag to check out No Redemption .13b This route is an amazing line that is pretty atypical of the Red being no too steep and having some pretty bad holds. The crux involved a big move to a slopey left hand crimp that took my quite a few tries to do. Brian and I headed back there Thursday when he fell off a ways above the crux. The route was was definitely not going to go down easy.

On Saturday I had still not done the crux from the ground and was actually falling of the easier moves going into the crux. After a fall from the easier intro moves, I pulled the rope and immediately headed back up.
Finding myself at the crux move I set up and hit the slopey crux crimp (pictured at left) for the first time from the ground, set up my feet and threw to the flat rest hold. Somehow I held on for the rest of the way and next thing I knew I was clipping the chains! Brian followed it with a send as well and then we both flashed the incredible .12a Dog Leg which has some of the most fun moves I've experienced on a route.

I'll write more about this in a later post but I was really psyched with how my interval training payed off down there. Granted I was not trying
the enduro routes in the Madness Cave but I felt like I could recover well on most good holds between cruxes which is key down there.

Here are some more pics...

Vasya sending Kaleidoscope .13c 2nd go

Sending No Redemption .13b

Naomi on Breakfast Burrito .10c

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Red River Gorge Training

Training for the Red

Aerobic vs. Anaerobic

Over the last 4-5 weeks I’ve been following a plan to prepare for a week long trip to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. For those of you unfamiliar with the Red, the climbing is most often characterized by monstrous endurance and resistance routes.

Jonathan Siegrist on his recent sendfest in the Red

Climbers who perform at a high level in the Red possess an amazing balance of aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Below I share a quick explanation of the difference between aerobic and anaerobic as well as sharing the plan I’ve been following for the past several weeks. We’ll see how it goes!

A quick explanation of aerobic and anaerobic energy production...

Aerobic: This is the body’s most efficient energy production mode and can be sustained indefinitely because the body is able to use oxygen in the energy production process. The body can only sustain aerobic energy production at steady, sub-maximal levels of exertion. Ie. A route that you don’t get pumped on at all and that has no moves that are difficult for you. Another great example is going for a long steady run.

Anaerobic: At a certain level of exertion (this is different for each person and called the anaerobic threshold) each person’s body will no longer be able to supply the necessary energy using the aerobic system. At this point the body begin to supply energy using the anaerobic system which does not utilize oxygen and can only be sustained for 1-3 minutes. Anaerobic energy production is inefficient in producing long term energy because of the build up of lactic acid that it produces. This lactic acid buildup seriously inhibits muscle function and results in that all too familiar pump. The anaerobic system is good at producing energy for short bursts of high intensity exertion. Ie. A crux on a route or a boulder problem. Climbers can train to increase their body’s ability to function well with a high build-up of lactic acid. This is called anaerobic endurance.

Here’s the catch! In climbing, unless you specialize in one-move-wonders, you need to train both systems.

Climbing, more than most sports, is extremely complex and difficult to categorize. Over the course of a route or long boulder problem, a climber will draw energy from a both aerobic and anaerobic systems. Moving through cruxes at their limit the climber will utilize the anaerobic system for energy and then at rests and through easier sections the climber can recover because his energy is being drawn from the efficiency of the aerobic system.

Check out this video of Sharma on Pachamama in Spain. The routes Sharma is doing know are amazing performances of anaerobic endurance.

The Red River Plan

The plan I followed over the last several weeks focused on building anaerobic endurance as well as building finger strength, power, and aerobic endurance. Here it is...

Day 1

Hangboard - (Absolute finger strength): Why this for the Red you might ask? Think of the V13 boulderer who goes to the Red and onsights 5.13+ in the Madness Cave. He may not have the best aerobic endurance but the moves are not hard for him and the holds feel easy to hang onto.

Pick 4 grips on the hangboard. Train your weaknesses!

Perform 3 sets on each of the four grips. You’ll need a stopwatch right in front of you for this. One set = Seven 7 second hangs with 3 seconds of rest between each hang. Rest 1 minute and repeat 3 sets for each grip. Rest 2 minutes between each grip. If you can complete One set without dropping off the board, increase the weight 2-5 lbs. For the sake of your tendon pulleys, use an open grip rather than full closed crimp grip.

Open Grip

Closed (Full) Crimp

Traverse into Boulder Problems x 5:

Create a 30+ move traverse at sub-maximal level (ie. if you boulder V7 create a V4 crux or cruxes in the traverse split up by rests). Have the traverse end at the start of a boulder problem slightly below your max (For the V7 boulderer V5/V5+ would be perfect). The goal is to recover on some good holds before the final boulder problem. Crush the boulder problem and then rest 1 minute before repeating or repeating into another problem. Do this 5 times.

Cool Down: Aerobic Recovery Capillary (ARC)

15-20 minutes of traversing. The goal here is to stay in the Aerobic zone (just slightly below your anaerobic threshold) for the entire 20 minutes. You’ll be able to tell this by staying just below the point where your getting really pumped but still at a level where your getting fatigued. Kind of like going for a long run or bike ride. This exercise will increase your local endurance as well as build more capillary density in the forearm muscles. Capillaries move nutrients to and from the muscle and help speed recovery.

Core: Complete 15 minutes of core exercises of your choice.

Day 2:

Campus Board: (Power)

Ladders and Touches

Perform one ladder up and down. Rest 1 minute and then perform one set of touches doing 2-3 touches with each arm without stepping off the board.

Here’s a great site with some video of these 2 exercises:

Repeat this 4 times.

Boulder Pyramid: This is an excellent anaerobic endurance exercise!

Pick 6 boulder problems and arrange them in a pyramid as below.


Complete this pyramid 4 times moving between problems as quickly as possible. Rest 2 minutes between completing each pyramid.

Cool Down: Aerobic Recovery Capillary (ARC) (See above)

Core: Complete 15 minutes of core exercises of your choice.

Rest Day: Think about doing some aerobic exercise for 30-60 minutes. This will accelerate recovery and help build general aerobic fitness.

Day 3:

Repeat Day 1...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Back at the Gunks

The weather was absolutely beautiful this past weekend for another trip down to the Gunks. I'm always psyched to meet up with my friend Jamie Hamilton and check out all that place has to offer. Jamie is absolutely crushing these days and is making quick repeats of hard 13's and hiking 12's like it's no big deal. The video below shows him making an Alzheimer's onsight of Pleasure Dome 12b/c at Lost city. Jamie's heading out to the desert southwest in a week or so and I'm he'll be tearing it up at the creek all winter and coming back mutated in the spring.
On Sat morning we went out to Sleepy Hollow and I was psyched to lead Bone Hard .12b pg-13/R. This is an amazing route with really cool movement and some dicey gear. The crux is placing a questionable offset nut, which zippered as I lowered off, and then punching it through a short boulder problem past a strenuous pin clip. Apparently this has been led often with a long sling pre-hung from the pin but not often ground up. The video shows some footage of the crux. It's a bit shaky but I figured I'd put it in since Jamie went through the effort of climbing a tree to take it.

After that we sessioned an amazing, bouldery 13a called Renaissance that Jamie had worked out direct start to. We only toproped it but perhaps with some more work I would be psyched to try and lead it.

This route is just one of so many lines at the Gunks that combine hard climbing with bad or really hard to place gear. Just having seen the new film Progression and watching the American crew destroy that place, it got me thinking about how many routes lie in the Gunks with few, if any, lead repeats. It would be rad to see a crew of the caliber that went to the Gritstone come to the Gunks and try and repeat some of these hard, scary lines!

This weekend I teach my training workshop at the Boston Rock Gym which I'm really psyched for and then the following Friday we're off to the Red River Gorge for Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Gunks and article

I'm all packed up and ready to head down to the Gunks in New Paltz, NY today after work. I've been going to the Gunks for the past 10 years or so and it's been really cool to see my progression over the years in comfort level and through the stout grades down there. I was down there last Halloween weekend and got a totally bouted by rain and rally humid conditions. This weekend looks prime and I'm super excited to get on a few routes I've had my eye on. Of all the places I've climbed in the northeast, the gunks is a true bastion of traditional ethics and many of the routes are a bit scary to say the least. Gear is often extremely tricky to find and place and is often really specific. I'm psyched to spend some time down there as it starts to get really cold up here in northern New England.

Jaime racking up below Bone Hard 12b pg-13, Gunks

Also... check out the article here by Reinhard Cate on about Wheelin N' Dealin and Matt Wilder's route Cheating Reality 5.14a R in the Flatirons, CO.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Training Seminar at the Boston Rock Gym: Nov 13-14

I'm incredibly excited to teach this seminar at the Boston Rock Gym on Nov 13 and 14! I started climbing as a highschooler at the BRG back in 1996 and trained there regularly over the past several years when I was working in MA. If you live in the area and are interested in learning a slew of new training skills, concepts, exercises, and generally new ways of thinking about training for climbing, sign up for this workshop!

On top of 2 days of hands on work at the BRG, I will also be sending all participants a personalized training plan via email. This plan will be based on consultation and discussion over the 2 day workshop.

As the winter approaches, so does the time to start getting stronger for that winter trip or that project you have your eye on for the spring. This workshop will give you the tools to shape your training over the winter months!



Friday and Saturday November 13th & 14th
6-10pm on Friday, 11am-finish on Saturday.

As always, the BRG wants to help you reach new heights! Come to our training seminar to learn how to hit the next level in your climbing. Matt McCormick has a degree in Physical Education and a strong background in exercise physiology and has taken his knowledge to the climbing arena. This seminar will provide an overview of principles of training as they apply to climbing. Including, but not limited to: Muscle memory movement, endurance training concepts, strength and oppostion training. At the conclusion of the seminar, Matt will create an individualized program to help you meet your goals and will be available for further correspondence.

$99 for members
$125 for non-members
Includes two day seminar and a personalized training program.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Last Friday I headed to the sport climbing gem of the Highgrade Wall in Marshfield, VT. There was a pretty good crew of five headed there and we were surprised by some pretty wintery conditions upon arriving!

Courtney warming up on the highgrade

One of the coolest things about climbing at this wall is that it is located about 300 feet up a giant slab reminiscent of Whitehorse Ledge in North Conway. Amazingly there is a massive ledge to hang out on which makes for one of the coolest sport climbing hangs I've ever experienced. I had been up here a few random times in the past but it took a couple of burns to re-figure the moves on the route. The routes on the wall, save Peter K's futuristic project, all start the same which can be tricky with a crowd. The climbing is amazing on crisp granite edges with big moves between! I had my eye on sending the Highgrade Direct 13b and made some pretty good progress during the day. I was also excited to figure out new beta for the highgrade 13a which I had always avoided due to what I thought was a pretty un-enjoyable crux. With the new beta my friend Brian Bittner, new to route climbing but a stone cold crusher on the boulders, sent High Grade and I gave it one last go, punting on the low crux. Bummer!

Brian off the crux of Highgrade

I'm planning on going back on Saturday although Brian told me that on Sunday our friend Steve Potter may have broken the hold I was using in the crux. Hopefully that info is wrong and it will go down next go!

Check out some photos!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

One more day at the Web!

I just got back from yet another day at the Spider's Web. This time it was nice to not have the burden on Wheelin N' Dealin looming over my head and to get the chance to belay my friend Peter Kamitses on it. Peter had toproped on the route a bit while I was working it and quickly got on the sharp end today. After taking the big fall from the crux, he thought his day was over due to the sun starting to bake the wall. As the weather tends to do though in the northeast, the clouds suddenly moved in and Peter went for it again grabbing the second ascent!

Lycanthropia on the left and Wheelin N' Dealin on the right

I was psyched on my day as well after sending Lycanthropia 12c which is the first route left of Wheelin. This is an old Martin Berzins route from the early 90's. I took a quick toprope burn to figure out a key piece which is placed blindy before the crux, and then another to sort out some new beta after breaking a foot at the crux. Feeling pretty good, I went for it on lead and sent! Psyched! The route shares a short 4' of the crag classic Drop Fly or Die before breaking out right through an insecure boulder problem to an incredible finger crack above. Although you never know in these parts, it was more than likely the second ascent of the route! Folks should go and get on this thing! It's mega-classic!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Training Programs and Consultations!

I've just added a Paypal button below for those of you who are interested in purchasing a personalized training plan and or consulting with me about your climbing goals!

As we enter the winter season, it's time to start hitting the gym and the plastic. Do you have goals for the spring or for a mid-winter trip? Send me an email at and I'll send you a questionnaire to fill out. From there I'll construct a personalized training plan based on your goals, abilities, and motivation! I will also include ideas for mental training for those who are interested. The price is $95.00 for a plan and consultation as well as the ability to continue to check in with me in the future with questions and where to go next.

Feel free to email me with any questions and enjoy the rest of the fall!!! The conditions are prime!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wheelin N' Dealin

On Saturday I sent the new line at the Spider's Web that I've been trying just about every weekend, save a few, since July. I'm really psyched! I put a lot of time into this thing and a lot of people, especially my girlfriend, we're super patient putting up with my obsession during that time. It's amazing to have found such an incredible line at a the web which is one of the most popular crags in the Adirondack State Park.

The route follows an incipient seam that had been checked out by climbers over the years but never attempted. Back in July I put an anchor on the line and began working out the moves. The route follows a 12cish seam to a rest at a horizontal and then through some entry moves to a V8 boulder problem a ways above your last gear. The gear includes three hybrid aliens including a tipped out green/yellow at the crux and several questionable micro rps which fortunately were never tested. This route forced me to use the worst feet I've ever had to use on a route and completely changed my perception of what is possible to stand on.

I named the route Wheelin N' Dealin (5.13c R 100') after a foot blew and sent me for a nasty "cartwheel whipper" from the crux back in September. The next day on it, after taking that fall, three key holds broke off and the route got a bit harder. I had to work out new beta for some parts of the route and then some other weekend commitments kept me away for a couple of weeks. I always had that nasty fall in the back of my head. Last weekend I went up on lead but got spooked and jumped off. I sent yesterday on my first go after getting the re-warms in my fingers warming up! It was a perfect day with perfect temps and just Naomi and I at the best crag in the Daks.

Check out a short video I made about the process here:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Feeling the power building

For the past month or so I've been working on a new route at the Spider's Web in the Adirondacks. The line is one of the most difficult and inspiring lines I have ever tried and what's more, it's all on gear! I worked the route on toprope for about 6 days before starting to go for it on lead. I'm yet to link it on top-rope and have now fallen from the crux at the top about a dozen times! A couple of weeks ago I decided to take some time away and try and build up a little more fitness to bring to it. After two weeks of training I am feeling stronger than ever and am drooling and the cool temps forecasted for later this week!

I set a long traverse in the gym (about 50 moves) and wired that in for training as well as hitting the campus board hard. I've also been making after-work forays up to the 82 crag in Bolton to get on the amazing sport routes up there and train. Last night I surprised myself by sending Little Red Hen (12d) on pretty much my second go! I had briefly gotten on it last week but bailed right away due to burning skin. So psyched to be feeling strong and ready to give it hard on the project! Yeeaah!

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I've gone ahead and set up this site as a venue to discuss training for climbing. Training as it applies to the sport of climbing is still a relatively unwritten about and unresearched subject. In other sports, volumes abound on training techniques, injury prevention, and diet. Perhaps much of this has to do with the culture of climbers. Many suggest that the "best training for climbing is climbing" or the classic "I train with 12 ounce curls." This seems to be changing with the publication of more books on the subject, the creation of gyms like Mountain Athlete and even a national study on climbing injury.

Having been at this sport for the past dozen or so years, I've realized that the average climber knows little to nothing about effective principles of training. Sure, people are aware of things like campusing, doing laps, and even the occasional H.I.T. strip workout, but how to put it all together seems to be lacking.

I would love to have the opportunity to work with you on your climbing goals and set up a training program that fits your needs. This past winter I took the knowledge I have gained from years of research on the subject and a degree in Physical Education, and designed a program for myself. During my winter trip to Spain I doubled the number of 5.13's that I had done in the past sending 5 routes of that grade up to .13c.

Whether you are a beginner looking to improve your technique or a experienced climber looking to break through a plateau, some focused training might be your ticket to success. Please contact me either through this blog or at I'll send you a questionnaire on your goals and set up a time to meet with you in person if possible. From there we'll set up a plan for you to follow to work toward your goals. I guarantee that you'll see results!