Monday, June 6, 2016

Kurt's Korner - Bolting Moratorium

The new route / bolting moratorium in Mill Creek has gone on too long with nothing being done. The people who want climbing removed from the North Rim – Keele, Milner – are at work trying to expand the wilderness that lies to the west of the climbs (west even of the areas like Pro Gray and No Sweat that have been established for decades) and push it to the east. The Forest Service has put a moratorium on bolting outside the wilderness because of this opposition. But what are wilderness attributes? Here are a few of the questions and issues I sent to Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Julie King:

Solitude is a wilderness attribute. Yet in lower Mill, we hear the gun range and highway traffic. What level of noise is acceptable? Give us a number. Will the North Rim meet it? Will the gun range have to be shut down for the lower end of the canyon (where the climbs are) to meet the requirement? Will the people of Pinesdale be too close? Will the Cow Creek gate be closed permanently?

Solitude also means lack of people. But I (and other climbers) frequently see non-climbers hiking up the ridge on the treed slopes above the climbs. We know Keele frequently hikes that area. And kids from Pinesdale. There are enough hikers, in fact, to create a footpath that could be followed up the ridge well before the climbs went in. That path is what we used as the first half of the approach trail to the climbs.

And what about the backcountry skiers who use the burned slopes north of the climbs? All of this is accessible by Cow Creek and an easy trailhead. Therefore, wouldn’t the lower Mill Creek area be considered "too close" to the trailhead for wilderness?

What about the knapweed? The distance from the trailhead could be measured to the first knapweed (a matter of feet or inches) and how far into the drainage the knapweed goes to the west toward the real wilderness boundary.

What about wildlife? What are the counts that we need for wilderness? Camera counts can be done.

The Forest Service imposed a bolting moratorium, but it’s not based on counts, numbers. Give us concrete attributes for wilderness. Dan Ritter, the Stevensville district ranger who retired last year, was our FS contact and asked us to accept a voluntary moratorium. He called it a “cooling off period.” That doesn’t cut it. When is the end? What are the goals? Why does Region 1 staff think the moratorium was broken? How is something “broken” that was agreed to voluntarily? Nothing was accomplished except to advance the agenda of the Keele-Milner opposition to climbing.

Some other points:
  1.  It has been 3 years of no progress. The FS was supposed to make a May trip to the North Rim for assessment. We should be hearing their findings by now. If they aren’t going to expand the wilderness to the east then there is no reason for the moratorium (as already said, they have given us no end date to work under). If they wait past June we get into fire season. One fire season leads to another and before we know it any decision will be delayed to 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 years.
  2. No other forest service land has recommended the number of routes. Why is Region 1 trying to do so? What is the criteria? Consider this:

    • If 2 climbers are going to the North Rim and are of unequal level of climbing skill, how will the Forest Service guarantee equal route availability? ·
    • With an aging population do we not need climbing areas close to trailheads? What about kids who would like to be introduced to climbing on safe, beginner routes, like at the North Rim? The Forest Service is required to make the public lands accessible to old and young alike. · 
    • How does the FS propose to regulate the inventory of climbs across grades? 
    • If 2 climbers are at the 5.8 sport level, do they need more than 3 climbs or will the FS restrict the number? 
    • If 2 climbers are at the 5.9 sport level does the community need more than 2 climbs? If these climbers are training for longer, multi-pitch climbs, they should be able to do 8 or 9 training pitches in a day. Will there be enough routes or will the FS decide the number? 
    • What if climbers are training for an overseas trip? 
    • What about out-of-state climbers whose visits benefit local economy?  Will the FS allow enough routes to attract them to the area?

    Is this the business the BNF intends to get into --arbitrary micro-management of climbing when no other FS in the country controls climbing resources at such a level? There are many questions to be answered, the first of which is:  When will the moratorium, that was believed to be voluntary and short term and entered into under good faith by the climbing community, be lifted, not extended indefinitely as it currently is?
Other ideas to follow...

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Molly Kohler Rennie - Unstoppable

by Ken Turley

Picture the following, like one of those single frame cartoons in the New Yorker. Two boys, one a couple years older, are arguing at a climbing wall.

"I was climbing 5.12 before you could walk!" says the older one.

"Oh yeah!" says the younger. "Well I was climbing 5.12 before I was even born!"

If your name is Torrin Rennie, now two years old, you'll be free to make that claim. And it won't be stretching the truth one bit. That's because your mom is Molly Kohler Rennie.

In February of 2014, when she was 7 months pregnant, Molly, then 29, wore a full body harness and, belayed on toprope by her husband and fellow strong climber Brandon Rennie, cranked training burns on the BRIK, Kootenai canyon, Montana's bouldery 5.12 testpiece. A month later, shortly before Torrin's birth, Molly was still making toprope ascents of the Tempest, the 35m 11c endurance-fest also located south of Missoula in Kootenai. 

Molly's ability to climb such stout routes so far into her pregnancy was a testament to her drive and passion for climbing as well as the fitness base she'd built over the years. Primarily a boulderer, she was well established at the V7 level, with several V8s and two V9s to her credit. She'd also climbed 5.13 sport. Even so, it would have been reasonable to assume the full-harness toprope sessions were about to mark the end of Molly's serious climbing. Not only was the arrival of their first child imminent, but she and Brandon were starting down the final stretch of Brandon's academic journey to earn a PHD in Psychology. Indeed, the couple was poised on the verge of major life changes: Torrin was born in April, 2014; Brandon accepted an internship in Omaha, Nebraska that summer where he would complete his dissertation; in June the family left Missoula; November Molly turned 30; mid-year 2015 Brandon earned his PHD and the couple moved again, to Albuquerque, New Mexico where Brandon accepted a post doctoral position, and Molly began a full time job as an elementary librarian.

Most people would be well satisfied with the major accomplishments a two-year stretch like that represents: first child born, PHD earned, two major household moves to new cities--moves that included the relocation of Molly's 17.1 hand grand prix level eventing horse, Caper; and new jobs, careers and friendships begun. But for Molly, those events were only part of the story. During that same time, she regained and then surpassed her pre-pregnancy fitness level. She competed in and reached semi-finals in both the 2014 and 2015 American Bouldering Series (ABS) Nationals. She appeared in the Kansas City qualifiers of the 2015 American Ninja Warrior television show. And on March 27th of this year, she attained the level of an elite boulderer by sending her first V11 (F8a).  By anyone's account, that's one impressive run.

Montana limestone Erik Pallister

A week after her V11 send, Molly gave up a portion of her Sunday afternoon to talk with me by phone about her accomplishments, training, time management and goals. In the course of our conversation, I was reminded of what a thoughtful, kind and genuinely gracious person Molly is, and how much we in Montana miss having her and Brandon in our local climbing community. Here's what Molly had to say about the past two years since leaving Missoula, and what lies ahead.


"Omaha was a really good program for Brandon to do his internship," Molly says. But no one moves to Nebraska expecting good rock climbing.  So the couple formed a gameplan to make the most of the year they expected to be there. First on the list was regaining the climbing fitness lost during the pregnancy and the move. "We immediately built a woody in our garage. We set it up on hinges so you could change the angle, and equipped it very much like a systems board." Along with the home wall, they installed a hangboard, campus board and a set of SICgrips (

"There was also a gym at the university that's very similar to the University of Montana's gym.  But it was expensive so we only committed to going there once a week.  Other than that we were in our garage. We had a set schedule and we stuck to it really well. We'd train usually after putting the baby to bed.  We'd take a monitor out with us and do a lot of training.

"We also printed out a plan from Training Beta ( We chose the 'get back into shape' plan that included a lot of general fitness."

Molly also followed the T25 Video Workout for "five weeks of fitness that worked out really well with Torrin. They were 25 minutes and I could do them in my living room. I was pretty good about doing those every day. I think that and the Training Beta plan were definitely good to start with because I could have seen myself getting back [to climbing] too fast from the pregnancy and hurting myself."

During their year in Nebraska, they made a couple of climbing trips to Arkansas and one trip to a nearby crag in Minnesota. But Brandon's free time was very limited.  "He was doing this really intense internship and working on his dissertation. He was working, and then he'd sleep," Molly says. "And he was training in between."

"It was really stressful," she adds. "Earning a PHD is so much harder than sending hard boulder problems."

While Brandon progressed toward his objective, Molly established her own. "I decided my goal that year was to go to ABS Nationals in February of 2015, so we set up our training program to peak then." With the general fitness phase behind her, she began following a periodized plan she and Brandon had developed on their own over the years. It included phases of strength, power, and power-endurance in that order.

Competing at 2015 ABS Nationals Molly Kohler Rennie Instagram

In the fall of that year, 2014, Torrin turned 6 months old. In November Molly turned 30. She stuck to the training and on February 6th, 2015, she was in Madison, WI at Nationals where she made it through the qualifying round, entering semi-finals in 17th place. This put her in company with many of the country's top women climbers, including Angie Payne, Alex Puccio and Megan Mascarenas.  She finished the competition in 20th place overall.

"The thing I realized when I got to Nationals was that I was really powerful on single moves, but I didn't have any power-endurance. If I didn't send a problem first try, I couldn't recover enough to do it again. But I had definitely added power."


ANW Kansas City 2015 Molly Kohler Rennie Facebook

"I loved watching American Gladiator," Molly says. "I always wanted to be on that show, but of course it ended. I thought, American Ninja Warrior is pretty cool, and I decided I wanted to apply for it."  Molly started the online application process, getting most of the way through, which included listing her rock climbing experience and providing pictures. But she hadn't yet submitted the final piece, a 3 minute video, and after having some second thoughts, left her application incomplete. Not long after, the show's producers contacted her and encouraged her to complete the application. Molly did, and was accepted into the 2015 season. She competed in April of 2015 in the Kansas City regional qualifiers.

Prior to that, Molly had no experience with Ninja course obstacles. Nor did she know any other Ninja athletes. "I had no idea what I was going to be getting myself into," she says. She and Brandon were still living in Omaha, and the closest training facility was three hours away in Kansas City. She travelled a few times to Kansas City to practice on the course. She and Brandon also built a home salmon ladder, one of the more notorious obstacles.

"I'm not a dynamic climber," Molly says. "If I was I would have been more successful my first time on the show. But that's where I was uncomfortable with the Ninja stuff." She fell on the second obstacle, which involved swinging from a monkey bar and flying through the air to catch a cargo net. 

But simply being accepted to compete in the American Ninja Warrior is a huge accomplishment in its own right. During the televised 2015 season, the announcers spoke of the forty thousand applications the show received. At least one strong male athlete was shown camped out and waiting in a walk-on line for days just to have the chance to participate. 

"Being a woman, though, is definitely low-hanging fruit," Molly says. "Being a man you have to have some story that's going to catch their attention. American Ninja Warrior really is a reality show, more than I realized it was." The show directs athletes in how to act. Molly was encouraged to blow a kiss to Torrin at the start of her run. Had she progressed through the stages, she was to be known as the "Ninja Mom."

"I kind of was bothered by that side of it. But as far as being on stage, there really aren't that many people spectating.  I feel I've had way more people watching me climb before."

Ninja Training (Video Still) Molly Kohler Rennie Instagram

Whether Molly competes in the 2016 American Ninja Warrior season is up to the show's producers. She hopes she gets the call, but it doesn't really matter that much to her. As someone who has included the hashtag "#‎climbing_is_my_passion‬" in her social media posts, for Molly it's still all about climbing rocks, and the Ninja experience has benefited her considerably. Since the 2015 Kansas City qualifiers, she has continued her Ninja training, and found the obstacles have made her a better dynamic climber as well as added to her big-muscle strength, shoulders and biceps.

She also participates in a new national Ninja league, the Ultimate Ninja Athlete Association.  "They're having competitions all over the country. There's nothing showy about it. The big goal for the league is it's all about the athlete."  Molly has found the same sense of community among the Ninja league athletes. "You start to see the same people, like with climbing. People travel for the events."

"But," she adds, "it will never trump climbing. I consider it wonderful cross-training."


Rubberband Fingers V8, Socorro, New Mexico Molly Kohler Rennie Instagram

In July of 2015, Molly, Brandon and Torrin left Omaha and relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Brandon accepted a postdoc position in a university-affiliated autism clinic. New Mexico has produced a number of professional climbers over the years, including Timmy Fairfield, Cody Roth and Jon Cardwell. Within 45 minutes of their new home, Molly found boulder fields of quality problems put up by these and other strong climbers.

At this time, it had been a little over a year since she'd started serious post-pregnancy training and she was once again climbing at a high level. But even with the steady progress, she was sensing she might be approaching a plateau. Like many climbers with roots in Montana, Molly had taken note of Bozeman's Inge Perkins and the 5.14 sends she was accumulating. Inge often credited Kris Hampton and his Power Company training program ( for much of her own progress. Inspired by this, Molly purchased one of the Power Company's training plans, but found it was very similar to the periodized plan she and Brandon had been using on their own.

"I needed a change," Molly says. "I needed to do something different with my training, something more specifically for what my weaknesses are."

So, in September of 2015, she contacted Hampton directly.  "I emailed him really late at night and he emailed me back immediately! He was in the middle of doing the 24 hours of Horseshoe Hell. I thought, Wow, this guy is amazing!" Molly corresponded with Hampton to discuss a training program. "He was so good about answering questions, going back and forth on email. I sent him some videos and my goals. He was really excited to help me. I felt like he loves what he does. He thought about my training beyond just our conversations."

Hampton created a custom plan for Molly. The plan was comprehensive, covering seven days a week. Molly makes detailed, daily logs using a Power Co. app on her phone. Hampton reviews the entries and they adjust the schedule as needed, taking into account Molly's short-term goals, as well as any injuries that might be surfacing, rest-day activities, and other personal priorities like climbing outside on the weekend.

At the same time, Molly had started a fulltime job as an elementary librarian, working 7:30am to 2:30pm.  The 2016 ABS Nationals were fast approaching in late January. And there was, of course, the high time and energy demand of parenting an 18-month-old. Time management became an essential part of the equation.

"Kris was really good about helping me make cuts to the plan. Some of the workouts were too long in the beginning, like three hours. I didn't have enough time to do those." But Molly also found benefits of having a very busy life that demanded a highly structured approach to her training.

"I think that having a kid was a really good way to get through a plateau for me because I don't slack any more, ever, when I train. When Brandon and I train we have so much time before we have to go home to get Torrin to bed. We hit it hard. We don't socialize. Our friends at the gym know this about us. I get after it every time I train or climb. My joke is, if you hit a plateau, get pregnant!"

Kris Hampton, when contacted for his impressions of Molly, identified Molly's drive and focus as major strengths.

"If I limited my relationship with my clients to watching their workout stats," Hampton says, "I may never have known that Molly is a mom who has limited time.  She just doesn't allow things to get in the way.  There's one common thread that links the people I work with who end up being successful, and that is that they make no excuses.  When life gets tough, they get more focused.  That doesn't mean they don't handle their responsibilities.  Instead, in Molly's case, she's got Torrin in there with her, teaching him what it's like to stay on the path, and to have fun doing it."

Competing at 2016 ABS Nationals Molly Kohler Rennie Instagram

At the end of January, Molly reached the 2016 ABS Nationals semi-finals in 10th place, 7 positions better than the year before. She finished in 14th place overall, 6 better than 2015.  Once again, Molly had shown she is among the strongest women climbers in the nation.

With Nationals over, Hampton scheduled a two-month break from intense, structured training for Molly, encouraging her to focus on outdoor bouldering as she entered the performance phase of her training cycle. And that's when she really started to crush.


The Argument V11, Ponderosa, New Mexico Molly Kohler Rennie Instagram

The weekend of March 26, 2016 was a good one for Molly. On Saturday, she won the women's division of the Ultimate Ninja Athlete Association New Mexico area qualifiers.  And on Sunday, she went out and sent her first V11 boulder problem.

The climb is called the Argument, and is located less than an hour from her house in the Ponderosa Bouldering area. The area sits at 6500 ft elevation and is described on Mountain Project as "the best bouldering in New Mexico."

"There's a traverse that has a bunch of cool problems on it," Molly says. The Argument is on the other side of that boulder. "I walked around the corner one day and thought it looked pretty cool. Then I was out there later with some friends and someone said we should all see if we can do the first move. I did pretty well that day. About a month later I tried it again and almost got it, but the topout got me."

The problem is 5 powerful, crimpy moves to a scary mantle topout composed of brittle holds. The first ascensionist is listed on Mountain Project as "Timmy?" [Fairfield]. Molly thinks it might have been Jon Cardwell and that the initial grade was V12. To her knowledge, the consensus settled in at V11. But a key hold has since broken in the main part of the problem and it hasn't gotten any easier.

"It's not a very aesthetic line," Molly says, "but the style totally suited me. It has a really, really high foot, scrunched up under where your right hand is. It suits someone who is flexible, with long arms and strong fingers. That's me!"

The Argument was Molly's first V-double-digit.  "I didn't have any V10s, but I have lots of V9s this season. I feel ready for that first V10 but I just haven't found one. The 9s have been going down pretty quick."

On April 9, a week after our conversation, Molly climbed her first V10, Fei Gai at Temple.  -KT

Fei Gai V10, Temple, New Mexico Molly Kohler Rennie Instagram

It can be difficult to appreciate how hard V11 is when every week it seems a new V15 goes up somewhere in the world, pro climbers like Jimmy Webb and Daniel Woods flash V14, and teenagers like Ashima Shiraishi put down some of the hardest boulder problems on the planet.

So how do we put V11 (F8a) in context?
  • The highest accepted bouldering grade is V15 with a couple of V16s proposed in the world. 
  • Austrian competition bouldering superstar Anna Stohr just made news by repeating a Klem Loskot V13, Wrestling with an Alligator.
  • Lynn Hill made news in 2008 by sending Chablanke (V11/12) in Heuco Tanks at the age of 47.

Route climbers can look at these comparisons:
  • Paige Claassen describes Smith Rock's To Bolt or Not to Be, the country's first 5.14a, as "a hundred and five V6 moves." (YouTube
  • Teenage crusher Drew Ruana calls Smith's 14b/c Just Do It a "series of V9 boulder problems separated by okay rests." (YouTube)
  • Mike Doyle, in discussing his long-fought redpoint of the 14c benchmark route Necessary Evil, stated, "I had to make V11 and V10 feel easy." (Mike Doyle blog)

Working Chablanke V11/12, Hueco Molly Kohler Rennie Instagram

In other words, V11 is damn hard. It represents a solid 5.14 route level. And it means Molly is nipping at the heels of bouldering grades that often make world climbing news.

Molly's first V11 send may feel even better to her. The latest New Mexico guidebook lists the Argument as V12. -KT


The two month training break following ABS Nationals will come to an end in April. Both Molly and Brandon will then begin a new Power Co. plan designed by Hampton. Molly looks forward to Brandon now having the opportunity to spend more time on his own climbing. "We are equally obsessed," she says. With more typical work schedules, as well as convenient access to a climbing gym, and a Ninja obstacle gym where Molly continues honing those skills, they no longer use a home wall as in Omaha.

"I normally work seven-thirty to two-thirty," Molly says. "I'll pick up Torrin from preschool at three. I'll go to the Ninja gym until four-thirty. Then I'll meet Brandon at the climbing gym at five. We'll then leave there and go home at seven. That's not every day, but it's a fairly regular routine." They also get outside on the weekends to boulder as much as possible.

Brandon and Torrin. Behind every super woman... Molly Kohler Rennie Instagram

Next up on the horizon for Molly is the IFSC Bouldering World Cup in Vail in June.  "I'm just really excited to put on a U.S. team shirt and climb. That's been an ultimate goal of mine." But she also emphasizes a large part of the appeal of the Vail World Cup is the weekend of festivities surrounding the Go Pro Mountain Games (formerly Teva Mountain Games), which it is a part of.  In fact, she won't necessarily schedule her training to peak at the world cup, but instead, has her sights set on a week-long bouldering trip in early July to Leavenworth where she and Brandon hope to be joined by a number of Montana climbing friends. Traveling to climb is an important motivator for her. "I tried traveling to travel, but looking at old buildings all day just isn't my thing. But to go on a climbing trip I want to be able to climb stuff, and I don't want to be disappointed in my performance."

Following Leavenworth she would like to do some comps in the Fall, like the Portland Boulder Rally. And "I'd love to come back to the Bozeman comp." After that, she plans to do the ABS Nationals in 2017. "But I'm kind of thinking next year will be the last year I try."

"I'm clearly older than the other climbers," she laughs. "There are some older climbers. I shouldn't say everybody. But in semi-finals I was clearly the oldest. I kind of feel like my comp career is short, but almost over." Still, "I want to see what I can do."

This, as much as anything, seems to define Molly's approach to her athletic goals. She is without a doubt driven and has that essential innate ability shared by other top athletes to kick into a higher gear when the game is on - whether that's in a competition or reeling in the send of a hard boulder problem outside. But she is also pragmatic, a realist. She doesn't wish for things to happen, she works hard for them, at the same time recognizing there are constraints that come with choices made and the desire to live a full, well-rounded life.

This approach likely means we'll hear a lot more of Molly Kohler Rennie in the years to come.

"I haven't slowed down yet since I've been getting back into shape. It's just been a steady progression," she says. "Which is really cool because you don't expect that."

How hard can she climb? What can she achieve? Her coach, Kris Hampton, has some final thoughts on that.

 "Molly has the one thing that can take her further than any training I throw at her," Hampton says. "She sincerely loves this. I fully expect that she'll continue to get better, and that V11 is in no way a cap on what she's capable of."

Molly, Brandon, Torrin Molly Kohler Rennie Facebook

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Events Week of May 2

There are a couple of Missoula area climbing events this week:

May 3 - Defying Gravity Give Local Missoula 

Tuesday is a special day when you can donate cash to local Missuola non-profits. Defying Gravity, the organization that promotes youth climbing in the the Missoula area is, on the list. Donations start at just $10 and support a great cause.

Defying Gravity's Give Local Missoula page:
Defying Gravity's web site:

May 6 - Freestone Game of Stones Climbing Festival

Billed as "climbing, fun, pizza, and beer" with a raffle for a lifetime Freestone membership. Plans for the new Gym, aka Freestone V2.0, will also be unveiled.

Note the gym will be closed for preparations from 7pm Wednesday until 6pm Friday. Preregistration is open now at the gym's front desk. The gym's calendar also shows registration at the start of the event on Friday.

Freestone's web site:

May 6 -  Western Montana Climbing Coalition Spring Social

WMTCC is a co-sponsor of the Game of Stones festival at Freestone. Membership table will be set up 8pm to 10pm. This is your chance to support local climbing in western Montana.

WMTCC's web site:
WMTCC's facebook:

Friday, April 1, 2016

Kurt's Korner - The Idea Man

Today we present the final installment of this week's series of Kurt's Korner posts. Kurt reaches an important conclusion at the end. For easy reference, here are links to the other posts: 

I know how we can solve the main problem, which is how to make climbing access the most important job of the Forest Service. First, because WTMCC is associated with the Access Fund, we (climbers) already have a partnership with the FS in the form of a MOU (Memorandum of Use. Or if you prefer, Make Obvious Use of Kurt agreement). When your climbing partner is having a problem, is stuck or stranded, there is no question you will help them out. When the climbing community has an issue, the community helps out.

Fortunately, I have offered solutions to many of climbing's pressing problems over the last several decades. (Side note: Michael has been collecting my ideas in four notebooks covering 10 years. Stay tuned for the book.) Here are some examples:
  • With the chalk problem in the 80’s, I cut the chalk usage in the United States by 50% by dividing things up by geographic area, time of day, aspect, etc.  See “The Final Word”, CLIMBING, issue 83, page 22.
  • I addressed climbers numbers problems in CLIMBING, issue 75, page 54.
  • I took on route reporting, red pointing, and whether we need guides: “Climbing for the People”, CLIMBING, issue 87, page 5 and letters.
  • I can easily solve a bolt war with some of my ideas from a previous post in this blog, Bolt War of One. The climbing wall around the North Rim will be the first step there.
In other words, the anti-climbers aren't the only one who can write letters to the editor.

Looking ahead, I wrote the sign design program for Region 1 Forest Service (really) so I know the importance of signage. The next step is to place a sign at the Cow Creek trailhead announcing climbers are the most importance user group of the BNF. If it's displayed in a FS sign (or brochure), it must be.

There is no shortage of ideas.

Oh, and one last closing thought for the week: APRIL FOOLS!!

Other ideas to follow...

Editor's Note: It is hard to fact check non-facts. But working with Kurt this week has certainly improved our visualization skills. This should contribute to faster sends of boulder problems and crux sequences, further demonstrating the merit of Kurt's approach to problem solving. The publisher of this blog also wishes to issue a disclaimer that the Mill Creek Report does not support Trump for President. It is the belief of all involved with this blog that there is already far enough separatism, acrimony and anti-human sentiment in the world, as is routinely demonstrated by Keele and his anti-climber minority.

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Kurt's Korner - Helicopter and Debate

Update on the ice maintenance: Have done a little checking and Dave has a friend in Wyoming with access to a Halliburton oil field helicopter who will drop the cat off at the top of the cliff. The helicopter won't be able to pick the cat back up, so we’ll have to drive it down the trail or leave it up there for a while. If it is left up there, we can make some super belay platforms. Also, if we use the cat to make the approach trail 48 inches wide, I can then run a pack animal business to haul in climbing gear, bolts and drills. That way we won’t have to maintain a cache of gear on the big ledge (out of sight from the anti-climbers as we've been doing). The anti-climbers apparently haven't taken on backcountry horsemen or their trails, so this should qualify as "acceptable" use of public land.

The other big news is the Trump vs anti-climbers debate scheduled for April 8. When Trump heard Obama was involved with the South Rim, he didn't want to be out-maneuvered. He has decided to speak out against the discrimination climbers have faced at the North Rim. Trump also proposes that a wall be built across the mouth of Mill Creek canyon to protect the climbers. We suggest one side of the wall (the west side) be bolted with gym holds paid for by the allied health workers of Hamilton. The holds will allow training and improve climber physical condition and health, something which any health worker should readily promote. The debate will be moderated by the author of this blog series, his brother, and the pilot of the previously mentioned helicopter. Winner will also be decided by the author. UM will televise the debate and the advertising revenue will be donated to the FTUKKR2TCC (Fund to Update Kurt Krueger’s Rack to the Current Century - recall I am retired and on a fixed income).

Other ideas to follow...

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Kurt's Korner - Grant to Study Hikers Impact

I’ve been investigating the possibility of getting a $1,520,000.00 grant from the Forest Service for a study of the anti-climber's use of the North Rim of Mill Creek. I'm pretty sure I can push it through. I've had grants funded in the past for bike trails in Missoula on Forest Service and Fish, Wildlife and Parks land. My proposal for this grant is the study be conducted by our own FS research staff (retired). As I've done in the past, I'll bring in the top people in recreation activity to assist with the work. My friends at the IMBA will be a good match since the anti-climbers have also been pushing the FS to shut down biking trails in the Bitterroot.

The research will focus on trail wear caused by the anti-climbers' hiking boots per weight class, the effect of the holes in the soil made by their hiking pole tips, and the CO2 global warming effect of their extra hiking as opposed to more sedate activities like sitting around belaying. The second part of the study will involve the feasibility of moving any birds of prey to New York City skyscrapers. I think PetSmart has bird cages, and might be brought on as a corporate sponsor. Some funds could be maintained to relocate the anti-climbers to NYC with the birds.

Update on the ice maintenance: I have a request in with the Missoula City Parks Department for a Private Citizens Use authorization (PCU) of their new cat with a narrow blade. I don’t think it will be that hard to figure out how to run it, and it will be the perfect tool to push the snow off the top of the climbs and help us get snow shovels up there for manual use. The old hiking and animal trail up the ridge should be easy to follow and the cat can help straighten out the braided trails at the bottom caused by the anti-climbers' moving of downed trees and habitat as they tried to block the public's access to public land. Once the path is in, Dave will take a bunch of shovels and extra gas in his bike trailer and can cache the shovels in case we get any late season storms. A couple trailers should do the trick for equipment transport.

It's important to reward those climbers clearing the ice and doing other maintenance for the good of the climbing community. The Forest Service has prohibited us from slowing the erosion at the base of the climbs or reversing the damage the anti-climbers caused when they dug up rocks and branches up there as well. But it is possible that pulling knapweed and picking up litter, like the broken toilet and spent gun cartridges that cover the hillside, may be permitted. Therefore, any climber who presents a knapweed stem (roots must be included) or a piece of litter (especially litter planted by the anti-climbers) will be rewarded with a beer on "Tick Traverse" (trad climb). Remember to double up your anchor when you rap down.
Keg is supported by stoppers and hexes.
No bolts placed.

Other ideas to follow...

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Kurt's Korner - South Rim Routes

Editor's Note: Submissions from Kurt often require a little work, teasing meaning from the words, ensuring the essence of the idea is neither distorted nor lost. This is the first part of a longer piece. We expect to get another paragraph or two posted each of the next few days.

Good news on the voluntary bolting moratorium. After hearing that the route “No Drama Obama” had been named for him at the North Rim, it looks as if President Obama will issue an executive order to open the South Rim (the cliff band across the canyon from the current climbing area) for route development. As a result, we did a preliminary walk through of the potential up there and it turns out the anti-climbing group was correct about existing routes. We found five routes, only there are two things: First, the hardware dates from the 1990s, meaning, they’ve apparently been there all along and no one knew. Also, the first bolt on each route is at least 20 feet off the ground. We first thought this was due to minimizing visual impact. But the anti-climbing group was too busy stopping timber sales back then to worry about climbers and bolts, so we came to the obvious conclusion that the high first bolt was of the old-school type of climb, before crash pads, stick clips, and climbing gyms made climbers soft and lazy litterbugs. Either way, it may be one of the reasons the routes are still there since hikers and bird-watchers can’t reach the bolts to damage them.

Since climbing at the South Rim is now officially recognized (thanks to May 25 Forest Service letter), I am pleased to report the next 25 routes have been picked out and transferred to official drawings. We’ve also made a few chalk marks at the base of several to help remember where they’ll go. If you want to put one of the new routes up just stop by the Climbers Club HQ and pick one out. Remember you will have to name the climb, so the pressure is on. Important: you can pick up the secret knock for admittance to HQ at the gym’s front desk. You can find out which gym’s front desk (UM or Freestone) by asking one of the girls drawing beer at Draught Works, but only if they’re drawing the special “code” beer at the time. To find out which beer is the special code beer, well, you’ll have to figure that out for yourself. It may take a lot of trial and error, so start drinking.

On another topic, we do have a maintenance problem across the canyon at the North Rim. The ice coming over the top is getting our routes wet. Dave is leading a trip on April 1 to shovel the snow off the top of the cliff. He figures if he takes the snow off for about 10 feet that should allow things to dry off pretty nicely. If anyone thinks the climbs are a little dirty check with Dave about collecting snow in a tank up top and then run a hose down to clean the dirt off. Remember if you have a climbing problem – we’re here to help and will figure out a solution for you.

Scouting the South Rim for Routes
Aerial Vandal Patrols Also Under Consideration

Other ideas to follow...

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Kurt's Korner - Good Neighbors

Next issue to tackle: Although Montana had a history of not reporting climbs, that changed around 1990. I’ve had early climbs in Kootenai reported by others when the Falcon guide came out. Other climbers have done the same. That’s our choice. Today we have the guides.

Montana climbers tend to travel a bunch, especially in winter when our local crags are snowed in. When we visit other areas, we get to enjoy the labor of the climbing family in those states in the form of the routes others have put up. Meanwhile, during the time this blog was down in 2015, climbers in our area continued to be harassed by the vocal minority, and received no support from the Forest Service. The Forest Service even activated a moratorium for new sport routes. The blog being off-line resulted in us letting down other climbers by not giving them access to our routes, as we have to theirs. So let’s change that and say, Come and enjoy them now. The North Rim guide is available for PDF download in the upper right corner of this site, as it always has been. Another guide for some new trad routes will also be out soon.

The group and individuals who have pressured the Forest Service with anti-climbing harassment are definitely of the “not in my neighborhood” type. So, to them, sorry about that. But it’s over now. Print the guidebook and enjoy the routes. Montana is a poor state. The state government promotes inviting your friends to Montana to recreate and spend money. Face the reality.

A few more details of coordinating routes and guidebooks. First thing, I’m retired from the Forest Service (research not leadership). Now the important part: I was also a union steward. As a result, I have problems with FS leadership. For Dwight’s 2nd addition of the Butte guide he and I agreed we wouldn’t put all the areas in the guide. There were plenty of climbs for climbers new to the area and we thought once you completed all the climbs you would be plugged into the local scene and could find the non-published areas. After Dwight passed, I continued this practice in the 3rd edition of the Butte guide. We have a similar situation here in Missoula. Lots of climbs and areas are not published, while plenty are published for new residents and visiting climbers. The Forest Service has indicated they will be developing a climbing management plan in the Bitterroot National Forest. It is hard to manage a recreation activity if you don’t know where it is taking place. At this point in time I don’t feel the climbing community believes it has had a positive experience with the Forest Service. So, I will keep some climbs unknown, just in case. If you are a visiting climber (please bring ID to prove you are not a member of the “not in my neighborhood” group) and need to find some of the unpublished climbs -- just get in touch with me. I have the time to show you around. I’ll take you. Sharing is part of being a good neighbor.

Other ideas to follow...

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Forest Service Follow-Up Letter

Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Julie King has issued a follow-up to her March 7 letter. The new letter, dated March 25, is reproduced below. The letter contains a number of inaccuracies, actual and implied. The statement about routes on the South Rim especially demands comment. Simply put, there are no routes to any climber's knowledge at the South Rim. What makes this claim's inclusion especially disturbing is that it reveals the extent to which the BNF listens to the anti-climbing group without verifying the information they're being fed. We saw an example of this last year when Lost Horse was closed based on hearsay of nesting raptors that was shown to be false.

The South Rim statement does raise an interesting question: If there are several imaginary bolted routes at the South Rim, and we are allowed the "replacement of existing bolts for safety reasons" then logic seems to indicate that missing bolts on routes believed to exist can be replaced, bringing those routes into actual existence. Any philosophers in the reading audience want to weigh in?

Here's the letter:

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Defying Gravity and Gnar Pirates Youth Web Sites

To foster a love of climbing in our local youth while developing a sense of community, pride, self confidence and stewardship of the land.

--Defying Gravity

Fred Rhoderick got in touch to let us know that web sites are now on-line for both Defying Gravity and the Gnar Pirates. Defying Gravity is a non-profit organization promoting youth climbing in the Missoula area. Gnar Pirates is a Missoula-based youth competition climbing team. The two organizations are committed to giving kids in western Montana the opportunity to learn and participate in climbing through supervised activities both in the gym and outside. Membership is growing with lots of events and programs on the horizon.

Click on the following links to learn about how your child can join, upcoming events, and ways to contribute:

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Kurt's Korner - Blog is Back

The Blog is back. It is time to share some opinions. The Forest Service bolting moratorium did nothing. So where are we now? The main objection was the sport climbing. Well just before the moratorium, we saw 2 new sport routes. A steep one on the far left, above hard rocks with no soil damage at the bottom. And Cole and I put up a route which is over on the far right of the Tick Farm. It shares the first 3 bolts of a previous climb so no new soil impact, for any readers who are counting. We’ll likely call that one “Better Friends of the Bitterroot” but we have to get approval from Ken, keeper of the guide, for permission to deviate from the “tick” theme for names. Given his “opinion” of Keele and FOB, it’s unlikely he’ll object. So, this was an increase of 5% to the sport climb routes. I also put up some trad climbs, resulting in a 28% increase of those routes. My project for this spring is to add a second pitch to Liger. There is about 25 feet of crack and a gear placement up a little higher. After that maybe a couple bolts. It will go up to anchors which have been waiting for use for about 5 years.

A number of trad routes have also gone up on both sides of Pie for Strength. I count about 50 pitches. This means trad pitches now outnumber sport. This makes Mill Creek a trad area (guide of the new trad routes coming soon). Therefore, while we don’t want to discriminate against sport climbers and want to make them feel welcome, I do think we need to adapt to the change in the type of climbing at Mill. I did come up with one idea: The first thing is we can’t have the wimpy sport climbers running around on their thin legs. Therefore, to help bulk up the wimps, we will have them carry the trad climbers’ packs which have those heavy trad racks in them, those cams and nuts and things that make those climbs “acceptable.” As the author of most of the trad climbs says, “FOB can’t chop what’s not there.”

Other ideas to follow.
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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bitterroot Forest Service Letter - No Progress

The Bitterroot National Forest service released a letter dated March 7, 2016, that updates "interested parties" on the status of climbing in Mill Creek. The letter is a disappointment, and keeps our local Forest Service sitting firmly on the fence. The letter was in part a response to a letter sent by the Western Montana Climbing Coalition to Stevensville District Ranger Tami Sabol. Among the requests made by WMTCC was that the Forest Service honor a verbal agreement made with District Ranger Dan Ritter that the voluntary bolting moratorium be lifted February, 2016; agree that climbers could work to mitigate erosion at the base of the Tick Farm --erosion that we shall remember was accelerated by the repeated destruction of primitive belay platforms by the small but extreme group that opposes climbing-- and demonstrate willingness to establish a climbers' approach trail from the main trail in the Mill Creek drainage.

Instead, the Forest Service has extended the bolting moratorium indefinitely; apparently prohibited erosion control by banning "permanent structures"; and most disturbing, stated that no route development of any kind shall be done in the canyon. This last clause especially appears an attempt by our local Forest Service to place the Bitterroot National Forest in a use class by itself, standing unique among all other Forest Service lands, occupying a category of management more restricted than even our country's national parks or wilderness areas where traditional gear routes are routinely and legally established, and where bolts themselves are permitted if hand-drilled.

A copy of the letter is included below. The fight is far from over.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Truck Gloves

Truck Gloves is an outdoor gear company that's recently hit the marketplace. Thanks to mutual friend EP, we had the chance to meet and share a whiskey a few nights ago at Montgomery Distillery with two Truck representatives. Brett Keyes and Evan Bouchier are currently on the road in the official Truck Sprinter van, visiting ski areas in the Rockies and Cascades to introduce their product to ski patrol, mountain rescue, and anyone else interested in warm hands. Both Keyes and Bouchier have extensive experience in the outdoor industry, including working for Black Diamond in Asia. Keyes, one of Truck's company founders, served as a senior BD project developer. Besides the sweet styling, there are two reasons to consider Truck gloves. First is the construction and design. You can tell the gloves were created by people who play outdoors and demand gear that works well, fits well, and stands up to serious use. This includes sizing options that chuck the usual S-M-LG in favor of more choices from Size 6 to 11. Second is the price. Truck skips brick-and-mortar retail for consumer-direct sales via their web site. Eliminating the middleman means Truck gloves cost about half that of comparable brands. The two models sell for $29.95 and $64.95, compared to $100 or more for comparable Black Diamond gloves. Our group wound up buying several pairs out of the Sprinter in the Caras parking lot. The company's slogan, "Distinctive Gear / Disruptive Prices," definitely applies.
June with "Mom's" new M1's.
Truck currently offers two glove models, the M1 (pictured) and M2, both targeted at the ski market. But their leather construction and soft fleece lining make them suitable for many winter applications --think ice climbing, mountain biking, approach hikes, snowmobiling, horses, chores. The company has plans to introduce cycling gloves this spring, and, with luck, belay gloves sometime in the future.

We love meeting people who are taking chances and making things happen in their lives. This is the kind of company worth supporting, and a product you'll be psyched to own.

Facebook: Footnote: Truck's Evan Bouchier is also a high-end paraglider pilot. Check out some rad footage on Black Diamond's Vimeo channel here:

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Media Part 2 - Climbing Podcasts

It's a great time for audio content on the Internet. Several high quality climbing podcasts have appeared over the last four years. Combined with others that fit well with an outdoor mindset, and you have the potential for hours of engaging listening each month. We've placed so many podcasts on our favorites list, in fact, that we've divided them into two separate posts. In this one we feature four five that are climbing specific, with the general ones covered next time.

Here are the climbing podcasts:


Host: Chris Kalous. Launched: Dec 2011

The climbing podcast by which all others shall be measured. In December, 2015 the Enormocast celebrated its four-year anniversary. Host Chris Kalous has done a remarkable job of producing high quality, entertaining episodes, two per month, with only one missed in the entire run since first airing in December of 2011.

Kalous is a lifer, a climber rooted in the "Bro-muda Triangle" of Indian Creek, Rifle and Black Canyon of the Gunnison. He's traveled the world through 4 decades devoted to the climbing lifestyle, along the way amassing a who's who list of friends from the climbing scene, many of whom are featured in one or more Enormocast episodes.

Topics range from the comedic (anything with Kelly Cordes), to the serious (back-to-back episodes featuring Hayden Kennedy and the chopping of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre), to the poignant and inspiring (Kevin Landolt's battle with leukemia). Kalous brings a light, easy, conversational style to his podcasts, reminiscent of Charlie Rose. The listener can often hear the snap-hiss of a PBR tallboy opening during an episode as Kalous guides his guests through engaging stories from lives lived fully. Above all, Kalous demonstrates the most important skill an interviewer can have: he knows when to stay quiet and let his guests hit their stride.


Chalk Talk

Host: John Blomquist. Launched: May 2014

Billed as a "climbing industry podcast," Chalk Talk is the creation of Reno-based climber John Blomquist. According to his bio, Blomquist has only been climbing since 2008. He must have hit the ground running, because in that short time he's managed a climbing gym, worked in various capacities in the climbing industry, met a bunch of significant people, set for national comps, and fired up a high quality podcast averaging more than two episodes a month since its inception in May of 2014.

Based on this evidence, we can picture Blomquist as a guy who discovered climbing and got so psyched that he wanted to know everything about it. But instead of just wondering aloud from his crashpad between project burns, Blomquist rounded up climbing industry leaders, pro athletes and other dedicated climbers, and brought them onto the airwaves for the rest of us to benefit from and enjoy.

Blomquist is a great host, displaying a quality, professional interview style. He stays true to the "industry podcast" tag by ensuring that each episode contains at least a dash, if not an entire serving, of the inner workings of the climbing scene. This might be what went into the development of hundreds of new boulder problems in the Tahoe area, or how and why the founders of Friction Labs started a brand new chalk company.

Chalk Talk has emerged as a reliable source for insight into the world of modern climbing. Let's hope John Blomquist keeps the fire burning for a long time to come. Significant changes are taking place in our sport, and Chalk Talk is well positioned to explore and investigate the trends that will help define the future.



Host: Neely Quinn. Launched: February 2014

Look anywhere in the context of bouldering, gym or sport climbing these days and you'll quickly encounter the topic of Training. For those who subscribe to "climbing as a lifestyle," this can be anathema. But the reality is, as athletes push the boundaries of human capacity ever further into the grades, as competition climbing moves closer to becoming an Olympic event, as the sport matures (or if you prefer, as rock climbing becomes a sport), advancements in difficulty will depend on training.

Avid climber and professional nutritionist Neely Quinn must have recognized this trend two years ago when she launched the TrainingBeta Podcast. TrainingBeta's release was bracketed by the appearance of two important books: Gimme Kraft (Aug 2013) from the German camp that trains Alex Megos, and the Anderson Brothers' excellent The Rock Climber's Training Manual (March 2014). Each serves as evidence of recent developments and increased interest in serious training, and Quinn's prescience in starting her podcast.

Quinn approaches her guests not as an authority, but as a climber herself who is trying to understand the complexity of training concepts and programs. In that way, she represents every climber and the questions, doubts and desires we all share when it comes to improving performance. Her disarming approach must be working quite well, for Quinn's guests include many of the biggest and most accomplished individuals in modern climbing: Ben Moon, Adam Ondra, Alex Puccio, Dave MacLeod, Kevin Jorgeson, Paige Claasen and Jonathan Siegrist to name a few.

Some of the best content in the TrainingBeta series is the block of episodes featuring leading trainers and coaches. The episodes are grouped on the Coach, Trainer and Inteviews summary page here: Our favorite episodes include Steve Bechtel (parts 1 and 2), the Anderson brothers, Steve Maisch, Kris Hampton and (not listed) Adam Macke (Episode 29).

TrainingBeta is an indispensable resource in the quest to understand the emerging techniques and principles of training for climbing. We encourage you to join Neely Quinn twice a month and, to use her words, discover "how we can get a little better at our favorite sport."

Jam Crack

Host: Nial Grimes. Launched: December 2015

Sheffield, England based climber and writer Niall Grimes is the creator of the fourth climbing-specific podcast, the brand new Jam Crack, introduced December 2015. Jam Crack looks to be of general-interest content along the lines of the Enormocast, with an equally well-traveled and entertaining host.

Part of the enjoyment of listening to a podcast from its early episodes is following the host as their style and skillset evolve. Grimes, however, already seems comfortable in his podcast host's skin. Or maybe it's just his pleasant UK accent that, to an American listener, makes him sound brimming with wit and authority. Regardless, he seems to lack neither confidence nor connections as he was able to obtain Tommy Caldwell as only his second guest. During the conversation Grimes suddenly bursts into a 50's-era commercial jingle for his "sponsor" (seamless guttering), makes another plug for a neighborhood Polish butcher, matches Caldwell's Kyrgyzstan abduction epic with one of his own, and tells how a traffic violation encounter with a disco dancing traffic cop almost made him late for the interview. Whatever portions of wit and authenticity are mixed into each (you of course can never tell with those accents), Caldwell obviously enjoys himself and can be heard saying in the background as he leaves, "That was probably the most fun podcast I've done for sure."

Grimes promises to further distinguish the podcast by alternating interview episodes with readings of climbing literature and essays presented at times by guest readers. Though we were initially skeptical about the non-interview episode concept, it only took listening to Chris Schulte's intimate baritone-voiced reading of Chuck Pratt's "View from Deadhorse Point," to be sold. If nothing else, the quality of Pratt's writing from 1970 will leave you thinking, They just don't make 'em like that anymore.

Niall Grimes and his new podcast are off to a great start. We can't wait to see where the Jam Crack leads.
Literally minutes after first publishing this blog entry, a Facebook post appeared referencing another new climbing podcast. Here it is...

Power Company

Host: Kris Hampton. Launched: December 2015

Just released on the scene at the first of the year, the Power Company Podcast comes from Kris Hampton, a climber, trainer and musician who runs Power Company Climbing. Power Company is a rich source of climbing training information as well as training programs you can purchase. 5.14 crusher Inge Perkins and two-time ABS Nationals semi-finalist Molly Rennie are among a growing list of Montana climbers who are working with the Power Company.

As stated above, Kris Hampton is featured on one of our favorite TrainingBeta podcasts. He is also the guest on a memorable Enormocast episode. Though he has emerged as one of the top trainers in the country, we have personal experience with Hampton being approachable via email and Facebook comments. All of this bodes well for an excellent podcast series. We'll be subscribing and listening ASAP!
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