As I illustrated in my previous post on the history of many climbing terms, climbing's past isn't the neat, sensible topic you'd read in a history book. Our ancestors were a nutty bunch, inventing words and gear on the fly, with little thought as to how much they were affecting the future of climbing, they were so into the now. Without these brave, often impulsive souls making the sport into what they wanted, we would not have many of the gear and phrases we readily have access to today.
Stan is the ever-present, but rarely seen partner in Summit Gyms. He's an ex-Team kid turned Team coach turned gym owner who's now a lot of the brains behind our 3 — going on 4 — gym operation. He spends hours locked away in an office, doing all the drudgework necessary to owning a business that no one else was willing to do. It's because of him that we actually know what we're doing enough to keep expanding, and he keeps us all thoroughly entertained by being the sole source of probably all original comedic content within the company. If it's funny, it's only because Stan said it first.
Let's face it — we live in Dallas. This is certainly no climbing mecca, or even a great spot for anyone relatively outdoorsy. You can make an active lifestyle in Dallas work if you're creative / a little crazy, but this city definitely won't hand it to you. Boulderites have it easy — they can basically walk out their front door and a five-star crag awaits them. They probably walk their dogs by climbing pros screaming on their 5.trillion project, and sip fair-trade coffee while trail running at 6,000 feet above sea level. Or something like that. But it takes a lot to maintain an active climbing life in Dallas, and we deserve all the bonus points in the world for making it work. I've compiled a list of the best options we Dallasites have as far as touching real (or sometimes manufactured .. hey, we take what we can get) rock in the somewhat near vicinity.
There is something like, a billion different climbing shoes on the market right now, according to the extensive research I may, or may not have actually done. But there are certainly a lot, and we carry a pretty great array of them here at our gyms. It's hard to decide which shoes to buy, though! There's too many options, fits, and styles. Climbing shoe shopping is not like trying on shoes at Dillard's — you're not just looking for which kicks look the coolest. There are a whole host of different things climbers need from their shoes, (including looking like supah fly), so we came up with this handy guide so you can narrow down what you need from a climbing shoe, and how to know when you find it! It's like Cinderella and the glass slipper, except we'll let you stay a princess, even after midnight. Because we're cool like that.
Kyle Clinkscales, owner of Summit gyms, head coach of Team Texas and basically the mastermind behind a lot of the climbing gym expansion in the Dallas area, is not the diabolical dude you'd think he'd be. He's not cocky, he's not cunning — he's just a guy doing what he loves, and trying to make it as awesome as possible. It was six simple words, "Why don't you sell it to me?" that basically took him from owning no gyms, to owning three gyms and now building a fourth. Kyle has been an enormous part of the Dallas community basically since its inception, and he continues to write the history of Dallas climbing, and strive every day to make it bigger, and better.
As many of you that have visited our newly remodeled Carrollton location have probably noticed, we have changed up the way we rate problems there. And no, we didn't do it to confuse you guys or be annoying. We've switched over from the classic V-scale widely used in most American gyms, to the circuit system many gyms in Europe utilize. We swear the switch-over was not arbitrary — the circuit system is a more efficient training method, and gives you a more accurate idea of where your skill level is at. Here's the history of this particular system, and why we decided to integrate it into our gym.
The all-around aggressive gym shoe for those on a budget, the La Sportiva Python has surprisingly great edging capabilities for a slipper. Not a newcomer to the climbing scene, but new to the gear shops of all three of our gyms (instead of just being sold at our Dallas location), the Python delivers power, precision, and surprising comfort to a high-performance slipper. Here's the lowdown of this flashy, aggressively down-turned shoe, and why it's a great staple for anyone's shoe arsenal.
She's been a GM of two gyms now, but she is also the GM that has been with the company for the least amount of time. She is also the source of GIRL POWER within the company (excluding myself, but I barely count because I am fairly "unfeminine," we'll say). She came to us fresh from working the climbing wall at TCU, and you probably know her as the bubbly chatterbox that is always at the gym — either working, climbing, or getting in her fitness at Climb Fit. Here's the basics of this neat little lady, so yo can have yet another topic of conversation to have with her. Like you could ever run out of things to talk about with her, anyways.
As we tore down the panelling to begin our reconstruction project at Summit Carrollton, the dust, chalk and God-knows-what-else from the past 22 years came pouring out of the gym's walls, like smoke from the microwave after you accidentally nuke a fork. (Similes are not my strong suit.) Besides giving us the anticipation of potential future lung problems, the dust brought with it some very strong feelings of nostalgia from a lot of us who have been climbing at this old climbing gym for the past few years. This gym — now Summit, but formerly Exposure — is one of the oldest climbing gyms in the state, as well as the country. A lot of people have graced its walls, (Climber Jack Mileski, who coined the term "beta," actually got his start at Exposure back in the day), and it's seen many, many changes throughout its 22-year history in the Dallas area.
Fairly new to the scene in 2014, the Five Ten Hi-Angle is a balancing act of aggressiveness, comfort and affordability. It's got the down-turn to put down some work, but won't ruin you and your wallet in the process. Available at all 3 of our gyms (with the women's model only available at our Dallas location), here's the inside scoop of what this shoe's all about, and why you should care.
We're very excited about the brand new GM at Summit Carrollton! He's been an employee of Summit Grapevine, but we shipped him off to Summit Carrollton, so we could steal Mackenzie and relocate her to GM of Grapevine, and ship Franny off to pursue his dream of being a bearded lady at the circus. (Or he's been promoted to Regional Manager. He's still a bearded lady, though.) David's a pretty quiet guy, known for his tattoos and swoopy blonde hair — which did you know, used to be crazy super long? But I sat him down and managed to get him to talk about himself long enough to get this blog post done. So here's a little Q&A so you can better know our newest GM and resident super-nice-guy, David.
Climbers have a very particular vocabulary. If any outsider were to eavesdrop on a conversation between climbers for even five minutes, they would leave very confused and probably disgusted. Our slang terms get slangier, and shortened, and misspelled until we're left with a language so exclusive, that I'm still learning new words all the time — and I have been in the climbing game for about 13 years now. I compiled a list of 20 of the most common climbing terms that y'all might be interested in hearing the origins of. Let me know if I missed any! GriGri: Believe it or not, the term "GriGri" is derived from Voodoo. Yep, spell castin', doll stabbin' Voodoo. In Voodoo, a "gris gris" is a good luck talisman — thanks to its auto-locking feature, I'd say the GriGri is a pretty good luck charm against your partner's crappy belaying. So be sure to make an animal sacrifice to the Petzl gods, in appreciation for them creating you such a glorious device.
There are a lot of things we focus on while we climb: what shoes we're wearing, how comfortable our harness is, or how ripped our tank top may, or may not, make us look. (Spoiler alert: RIPPED.) But what about your chalk? Are you thinking about the performance of your chalk every time you clap it on your hands? I know I haven't in the past ... I have typically gone with whatever chalk is closest to free ... but all chalks are NOT created equal, and the newest chalk line we have added to our gear shops at Summit stands out miles above the rest. I'd say it's more than just chalk — but it's not. It's different because it IS just chalk; with none of the other nonsense fillers you see in other chalk blends. Basically, it's the gluten-free blend of the chalk world, and once you start, you ain't never going back. Probably because you can't digest gluten anymore, but whatever. I am no dietician.
He's a bad-a$$ rock climber, an awesome slack-liner, and now a new dad — he's Chris Curry, the GM of Summit Dallas. He and his wife Raili both work with us here at Summit, and they just welcomed their baby girl Koa in January, so it's safe to say that Chris is a pretty busy guy. But he took the time to sit down with me, so the rest of you can better know the ultra-nice, curly-headed guy throwing you beta at Summit Dallas.
Sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees, the details in the big picture — or, the little, essential climbing items through our mounds and mounds of climbing gear. It's fairly easy to gear up for a climbing sesh at the gym — harness; check, shoes; check, chalkbag; double check cuz I got TWO to choose from — but there are quite a few items we usually forget to keep handy, that aren't absolutely essential until you, holy crap, need them. Here's the quick and dirty list of the small stuff that you would want to keep in your bag at all times, to bust out and show off your preparedness, you little boy scout, at those times when you really need them most.
Your body is a machine. A finely-tuned burl-monster that crushes crimps into dust, alters the forces of gravity with every dyno, and mantels so hard the wall topples over. Or something like that, right? Like any machine, your body needs a proper warm-up before performing its mind-bending feats of strength. I mean, you can jam your foot on the accelerator straight after starting up your car, but your rig would go a lot faster a lot sooner if you let the engine warm-up a bit. It's science.
You all know him — you love him — he's the bearded mountain man who makes rude commentary during the Summit Series Bouldering comps — it's Summit Grapevine GM Alex "Franny" Francis! Or Franny Panties if you are trying to annoy him, which I would personally recommend doing. But it's definitely not because he let out the most rancid fart of my life as I collected this info from him, and not because my questions were choked out between gags and tears. If you know Franny, you're not surprised — but if you don't, here's a quick little Q&A I put together so you can better know the tall, hairy dude standing behind the counter at Summit who is probably farting as you read this. How long have you been a manager with Summit?
I started managing Summit Carrollton from October to May 2013/2014 and then I managed Grapevine from May until now. So about a year and a half.
How long have you been climbing?
I've been climbing for 11 years. I was the first person on Kids Club. Me and Tiny (the Team Texas nickname given to Franny's younger brother, Kyle) went to a boy scout camp at Carrollton back when it was Exposure, and we liked it so much that my mom called the gym and asked about an after school program, which they didn’t have at the time. A couple days later, she got a call back from Kyle, because Kyle thought it was a great idea and wanted to start it. When we started out it was basically me, Tiny and Kyle doing lessons and then it kind of grew from there. (It's probably only fitting that Franny is in charge of the Kids Club at Grapevine now then, right?) Then I was on Kids Club from January to May and then did summer camps in the summer, and then joined Team Texas in the fall of 2003 and I was on team until I graduated in 2009. I continued to work for the team as a Summer Trip guide until 2013 and then I started working for Summit as the GM of Grapevine.
Favorite climbing area?
Red Rocks in Nevada.
Choir Boys in Hueco Tanks.
Favorite Summit memory?
Making short jokes about Lindsay Murray while she’s climbing in finals at the Dallas Summit Bouldering Series competition. (To be fair, she is pretty short. Glad I'm not that short, that's for sure.)
Little known facts about Franny:
He has a degree in Zoology from Team A&M. Despite Franny's insistence that it is pronounced Zoh-ology, it's probably actually pronounced Zoo-ology. Probably. I read it in a book once. Which I'm not sure was a book. It might have been nothing.
Also, he once set himself on fire during a team trip to the Red. He set his baggy emo teenager jeans aflame by standing too close to a space heater, but still continued to climb for the rest of the trip with second and third degree burns on his knee. One particularly sensitive team mother (Hi mom!) referred to him as "Sparky" for many years after that.
His biggest claim to fame might just be his ability to clap with one hand.
Well there you have it. Everything you need to know about Alex Francis, and maybe a bunch of stuff you didn't need to know, but are definitely glad you learned. So next time you see him, say "Hey Franny! How are you? How's your Zoology going?" But it's Zoo-ology. Not Zoh. Remember that.
Rules, rules, rules — "Keep off the grass," "Wait here," "Do not feed the alligators" — nothing good in this world comes without some rules. They're necessary, however, for keeping things from devolving into utter chaos. We like to keep it pretty simple here at Summit and like to give people as much freedom as possible, but there are a couple rules of thumb to keep in mind while climbing at any of our gyms. Obviously the original ten commandments apply at Summit, too, like don't kill people, steal things, or power spot your friend's girlfriend (or boyfriend!).
1. Wait Your Turn!
I know climbing is awesome and all, and you're so stoked on your project that you can just barely wait to get on the wall, but slow down, turbo! Is there anyone else waiting to use the same wall space? Have they been patiently waiting longer than you? Make sure you honor the first-come-first-serve rule when waiting to use a popular wall. Also when your turn's up, make sure you capitalize on it. There's nothing worse than waiting on someone whose turn is up and they're dilly-dallying at the bottom of the wall, checking on their chalk, oh is it still there? Yup, there it is, chalk up, oh better check again, where is it? Oh, there it is. Also — no double dipping. If there's a large crowd at your wall and you fall off your problem, don't just hop right back on. Give other people a chance to get on the wall before you collect yourself and give the old proj another go.
2. Keep It Down
Climbing gyms are by no means a library, so feel free to make some noise while at the gym. But try to keep any excessive noise, i.e. screaming and yelling, to a minimum. It's very distracting for anyone else climbing when you're being too loud, and distressing for employees when they come running to the source of screaming and see it's just you clowning around with your friends. You wouldn't yell "Fire!" in the middle of a crowded theater, so please don't scream bloody murder at the climbing gym!
3. No Camping
Unless you brought your bivouac, please no overnights on the wall. Or, perhaps a bit more reasonably, please don't spend an unreasonable amount of time on the wall. If the gym is not busy and no one is waiting on your rope, then feel free to camp out a bit and work the route. But if someone's waiting on the rope, please try to climb as expeditiously as possible, and perhaps save the hang-dogging for a less busy time. If your belayer is also climbing the same route, don't monopolize — give another climber a chance to hop in between the two of y'all's attempts.
4. Tread Carefully
Watch where you're walking when cruising around the gym. Climbing gyms can be minefields of potential hazards if you're not watching your step. Don't walk between a belayer and a climber when the climber is top-roping or lead climbing, and definitely give space to a climber when they are bouldering above you. Basically, give a wide berth to anyone climbing overhead, or walk quickly if you must navigate a potentially hazardous area. Also keep an eye out for items on the ground — chalk buckets can be devastatingly messy when upended.
5. Watch Your Mouth
Our gyms are, after all, family establishments. I'm not saying we're going to wash your mouth out with soap after every little curse, but try to be courteous to any families that may be climbing nearby. Falling on the last move of your project can be a terribly frustrating thing — but if there's a 30-child birthday party on the wall behind you, it might be time to bust out your childhood "curse" words. May I recommend "Fudge!", "Hot pot of coffee!" or possibly "By St. Boogar and all the saints at the backside door of purgatory!" (This is a real curse. I looked it up. The More You Know.)
6. Give 'Em Space
When beginning a climb next to another climber, make sure your routes don't intersect, or share quickdraws or anchors. If intersection is likely, or if the routes are just a little too close for comfort, just wait a little until they are clear of your climbing space. Also keep in mind that there's the potential that the person you are climbing next to could go all Miley Cyrus and come in like a wrecking ball towards you in the event of a fall, so factor in falling when calculating the risk of climbing right next to another climber.
7. Check Your Chalk
Keep tabs on your chalk receptacle of choice when at the gym. If the boulder bucket is more your thing, then make sure it is out of the way of being potentially fallen on, and making a huge mess / being incredibly uncomfortable for the person landing on it. If you use a chalk bag around your waist, be sure to not overfill it — there's less of a chance chalk will come poofing out when you fall. Try not to coat your hands in chalk before climbing — unless you have crazy sweaty hands, most likely you don't need that much chalk and it just ends up coating the floors, and shmarming up the holds. So, easy on the chalk, LeBron.
8. Dress For The Occasion
At Summit, we have a strict shirt-on policy. As sweet as it is to flex shirtless as you're climbing, we will politely have to ask you to keep your shirt on. Nothing against your physique — we just wish to maintain a semi-professional, family-friendly atmosphere at the gym. Make sure the shoes you're climbing in are climbing shoes ( i.e., not your tennis shoes) and also are actual shoes ... and not just your bare feet. Barefoot climbing greases up the holds, and also looks kinda gross. Feel free to walk around the gym barefoot, though. In short, no shirt, no shoes, no service! If you can't buy a pack of gum at 7-eleven in your attire, then it's probably not OK to wear to Summit.
9. Don't Spray
Wrap up the firehose, Fire Chief Betasprayer — there's no fire here. Always ask permission before giving beta to a person you don't know. A lot of people appreciate the help while they're on the wall, but there are also others who prefer to figure things out themselves. If you see someone struggling on a problem that you have dialed, ask them if they're looking for some advice on it before giving them the blow by blow of the entire thing.
10. If You See Something, Say Something!
Our staff here at Summit are truly very awesome, eagle-eyed safety machines. But they cannot be everywhere at once. (Not yet — the future of employment at Summit will probably be robots.) Anyways, if you see anything unsafe during your time at any of our gyms, please speak up and tell one of our staff. Even if it is a false alarm, we would prefer to know about any, and all dangerous situations before they can become a real issue. Even when it comes to small things, too, — like spinning holds and missing tape — if you alert one of our staff members, we can fix the concern so the next person to climb that route is not inconvenienced.
+ Bonus Yoga Tips
1. Be On Time!
Our yoga classes are at the same time every week, so there should be no confusion about their start times. When you enter a yoga class late, it disrupts the class, and inconveniences the instructor as they must make sure you are checked-in to the class. If it's a full class, it's a lot harder to ask someone to move their mat over a couple inches to give you space if they're already in a pose. Sometimes things like traffic, and car trouble can't be avoided, so Summit tries its best to accommodate late-comers, but please make an effort to be at least five minutes early to any yoga class you attend.
2. Clean Up After Yourself
If you are using one of our provided mats, please be sure to wipe it off after each and every use, no matter how much you feel you may have sweat on it. We have provided yoga mat spray and paper towels for this purpose, so please take the minute or so after class to make your mat presentable for the next person to use. Our Manduka mats (the ones with the frog logo on the corner), do not get sprayed. They have their own antibacterial treatment, which our provided cleanser could damage if sprayed onto the mat.
So I'm gonna begin this post by saying that I am definitely not a doctor. I have a degree, yes, but it's a liberal arts one that basically makes me qualified to diagnose you as a poor speller. I am also not a yogi. I do yoga, but there are days when none of the poses make sense and I resign myself to an hour of glorified flopping around on my mat. But, I am a climber. I've been at it for about 13 years now, and I can attest to the effects that a year thus far of yoga practice has given me.
I injured myself during my time training for competitions in my youth, but instead of taking care of it, I chose to ignore it — like all sensible people do. And if you guessed that my injury would only get worse, then you'd be right! Your prize is the ability to travel back in time and punch 15-year-old me in the face. Congrats. Anyways, after beginning to attend yoga classes, I found that I was not only able to mitigate the pain of my shoulder injury, but also begin to reverse the issue that was causing it: the dreaded climber shoulder hunch. (For some reason I also thought it was called "Boulder Shoulder" but a Google Images search of that got weird ... so ... disregard). Through religious use of heart-opening stretches, and a constant consciousness about my previously awful posture, I corrected my shoulder hunch and have noticed a significant reduction in my shoulder pain. Boom!
And let's be honest, shoulder hunch is just the tip of the iceberg of climbing-related problems. While in Down Dog at a recent yoga class, my yoga instructor tut-tutted as she saw my hands — instead of spreading neatly out on the mat, my knuckles bent up like I was trying to palm a basketball. "You're a climber, I see. You've got climber hands." No duh. I weakly attempted to straighten my fingers out in shame, but they soon curled back up into that perma-crimp we all know and love. But that's not good. It means my tendons are too tight, and therefore more prone to injury. By regularly doing hand-strengthening poses like Down Dog, you can stretch the tendons and pulleys in your hands to the point where your fingers might look ... dare I say ... normal? Gaining more flexible tendons doesn't weaken them — it just gives you the ability to have Gumby fingers to crush all holds out of existence.
Hip and hamstring inflexibility are also issues known for plaguing climbers. We spend so much time working our arms, shoulders and fingers that we forget leg day, every day. Our poor little legs turn into inflexible sticks, to swing around on overhangs and cram into the latest super-shoe. Just a little bit of hip and calf stretching during yoga, and you cold be high-stepping and heel-hooking for days.
Climbers can be a loud, rather aggro bunch, but there's a lot we can learn from our soft-spoken yogi friends. My climbing, as well as my climbing-related injuries, have only improved after starting yoga. If I go more than four days without yoga now, the panic starts to set in — Am I going to feel stiff? Am I going to get injured? Am I going to die?! Yoga can serve as the perfect counter-balance to the punishment we put our bodies through while climbing, and it can keep a lot of avoidable injuries from happening in the first place.
For any climber maybe thinking of picking up yoga, I put together a little guide of the different types of yoga you might see at our gyms, and when and why you'd want to try them. Yoga for dummies, if you will, but you guys aren't dummies. I know better that that.
Vinyasa yoga is, in essence, yoga poses synched with breathing. There is a pretty heavy flow aspect to Vinyasa, with each pose flowing into the next one, in harmony with your breath. Vinyasa, in Sanskrit, translates to "connection," signifying the direct relation between your breathing and movement. It is a very flexible form of yoga, meaning the poses and flows can be varied greatly to accomplish a variety of different goals, such as flexibility, power, etc.
When to try Vinyasa: Vinyasa is a great intro into yoga. Because of its flexibility, it's very simple to modify any poses in a flow you find too difficult into something a little easier. It's great for beginners, to get your blood flowing in the morning, or before a workout.
Along with a regular Vinyasa Flow class, at Summit we also offer power flow, slow flow, and inversion flow Vinyasa classes.
Power flow might be pretty self-explanatory. A key component of Power flow is cardio. It'll get your heart rate up and you'll probably break a sweat. These classes usually have a pretty heavy emphasis on standing poses to increase your circulation.
When to try Power Flow: Not for the faint of heart, Power flow yoga can be a pretty intense workout. Maybe if after a long weekend you've got some toxins you feel you need to sweat out, then Power Flow is the class for you. A Power Flow class before your workout might sap all of your strength, so would be best after climbing, or as a standalone workout. Other benefits of Power flow are increased stamina and strengthening of the bajillions of stabilizer muscles usually neglected in most workouts.
Slow flow Vinyasa is less intense than Power flow, but don't expect it to be easy. Slow flow places emphasis on holding poses for extended periods. Correct form is important in Slow flow, so you're not spending 45 seconds in a possibly injurious position. Also, make sure you are conscious of any preexisting injuries with Slow flow (although this really applies to all of yoga ... and all of life for that matter. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.)
When to try Slow flow: Slow flow is great anytime, and for really anyone. The slow movements calm your ADD mind, and holding poses will build muscle. It might be the slowest way to jacked ever, but totally worth it.
Believe it or not, yoga can actually be fun, and Inversion flow is perfect proof of that. Inversion involves a lot of being upside-down, in various head-stands, hand-stands, forearm-stands, whatever-stands. These classes can be a fun time to experiment with things you wouldn't normally try. And they're a safe place to flop around on the mat, and generally be a goof. (I know this. I am normally that goof.)
When to try Inversion flow: Are you bored? Try standing on your head. Now you're not bored. Inversion classes are fun, while improving your balance and increasing your core strength. I would recommend Inversion classes to anyone at anytime, as long as you don't have any serious shoulder issues ... and don't mind being upside-down.
Ashtanga classes are similar to Vinyasa but they are a little more structured. It centers around five different Ashtanga asana (pose) series, which are usually followed sequentially. It's fast and repetitive, and a pretty intense overall workout. "Ashtanga" means "eight-limbed" in Sanskrit, which is in reference to the eight different aspects of yoga focused on in Ashtanga, such as concentration, posture, and breath control, to name just three.
When to try Ashtanga: Normally not recommended for beginners, Ashtanga is great for anyone wanting to up their yoga game, or try a form of yoga that is more traditional. It is meant to be practiced every day, and when practiced regularly it'll get you really strong, really fast. Do work son!
If your aim is to feel like a rubberband through yoga, then Yin is your class. A very slow-paced class, you won't necessarily be breathing hard and breaking a sweat. But you will be able to put your legs behind your head ... eventually. Yin classes are usually composed of just a few poses, but they are held for very extended periods, like five minutes, to allow you to sink into your fullest expression of the pose. Yin is usually about flexibility and not about strength.
When to try Yin: Umm, can I say all the time? Yin is great after a climb, to really stretch out your already warmed up muscles. Yin is aimed at loosening your connective tissues, and stilling the hamster wheel going crazy in your brain.
This is not a comprehensive list of every type of yoga — just the types of classes currently offered at Summit. I hope this guide helps you pick which class to try next!
Check out the rough footage from the comp! A lot of good sends, some great falls, and some awesome clips from the finals! http://youtu.be/HOl4Cps9Tpc