Rock Climbing Gear: Staff Training Day 2 Highlights
The Eastern Mountain Sports Rock Climbing Convergence is a 404 level staff training event where our most passionate and most accomplished store guides connect with rock climbing gear vendors and profesional athletes for two days of on-the-rock clinics and presentations on the latest rock climbing gear. I asked Abby Nash from our West Hartford, CT store to keep a journal and provide a recap of the event to give our customers and fans an inside look at this unique event that helps our store guides provide great service and support to rock climbers of ALL ability levels. Day 1 of the Rock Climbing Convergence was all about getting settled in, before the first full day of hands-on learning and rock climbing gear testing. — JD.
8 AM: The sun is up. Nature’s thermostat is slowly starting to rise, and it’s time that we do too. Breakfast has a community theme. Everyone has brought something to the table, literally. A Guide named Mike makes beer battered pancakes out of the back of his truck bed, they taste like he got the recipe from God’s Grandma. Brandon Koger, EMS Product Manager and mastermind of this magical miracle, is running around, making sure the big top hasn’t caught on fire, that the eggs and sausage aren’t burning, and that everyone knows that in 15 minutes, it’s time to head to the crag for vendor clinics.
When we arrive at Cathedral, the Petzl reps outfit us with helmets and harnesses to try out. I grab the updated Selena and an Elia helmet.
The Selena rock climbing harness is a dream: it’s waist belt buckle is so easy to double back it feels like it’s putting itself on me, not the other way around. The stretchy, elastic leg loops are just the right fit and can be used in warm and cold weather climbs.
The Elia rock climbing helmet, which was designed to specifically fit a women’s head, takes a little more finesse to adjust, but once it’s on, it feels like nothing’s there–which is exactly what you want when you’re climbing.
From 9AM on we get to play with all the awesome Petzl rock climbing gear their reps brought with them. We try out all things Petz– the Gri Gri 2, Attache, Ange, Ascension Ascender (I’m not going to lie, I felt so damn proud of myself the first time I used the Ascender successfully). And of course, we get to try out the updated Spirit Quick Draws, with their flat face gate that takes rope so smoothly, it’s like butter.
After Petzl we move on to Biddeford, Maine’s Sterling Rope. Here we play with the ATS and learn the difference between Dry Core and Dry Coated treatments in their dynamic rock climbing ropes. I am also inspired to learn that their founder and CEO is a woman. Nice! At 12, we break away from the reps for lunch, and are treated to delicious wraps crafted by Moat Smokehouse and Brewing Co. If you ever take a trip up to North Conway, it would be a sin not to visit this incredible eatery.
After lunch it’s a whirlwind of rock climbing gear testing and vendor presntations beginning with Black Diamond where Kevin Mahoney and Al Diamond (no kidding) let us play with the new X4 Cam’s that everyone is so excited about (and that EMS is presently sold out of L. I’ll post a link when they’re back in stock) . I don’t lead trad yet, but I can’t help but get excited by the innovation in these guys- X4’s single stem flexibility for easier placement and four lobe expansion range, which make them more versatile for pinned out crack and horizontal slots.
We then move onto La Sportiva, where we learn how being family owned for generations can breed such high quality rock climbing gear. I already know about the awesomeness of P3 technology in their Muiras, which I own and love.
After Sportiva, Jonathan from Scarpa, one of the nicest people on the planet, explains how the different types of active randing systems (Bi-Tension, V-Tension, X-tension) affect their climbing shoes’ power and performance. I try out the Boostic and have a ball standing up on teeny-tiny chips.
Later, Dana, the 5.10 rep, raves about the company’s newest innovation: Mi6 rubber, and I drool over the MoccAsym, imagining myself deep water soloing in Vietnam.
At our last station, which is CAMP, my eyeballs practically pop out of my head as I gaze over a plethora of affordable rock climbing gear that make me think my dreams can be a reality. CAMP has it all, from ice axes to harnesses, helmets, slings, to tricams, and carabiners. After speaking to us about CAMP’s Italian history and the innovation in their products, like the Nano being the lightest carabineer in the world, the rep directs us over an obstacle course, where we can win a trip to Colorado. I don’t even come close to winning, but I have a ball running around the woods like a crazy person, switching between a tree-rigged Tyrolean Traverse, and Via Ferrata (Nick, pictured in the photo, won the contest. Congrats Buddy!)
At 6:00 it’s time to go, as the sun is setting and a dinner of turkey and chorizo stuffing courtesy of The Moat Mountain Smokehouse, awaits us back at Great Glen.
While we’re eating, a lanky, bespectacled fellow makes his way up to the front of the tent. His sits down next to a table where a projector is set up, and Brandon introduces him. This is Cedar Wright, professional climber, filmmaker, musician and comedian. For the next 30 minutes, as Cedar gives his presentation, I am awestruck. I, with the rest of the audience, laugh, smile, and gasp as we hear about his exploits. From humble beginnings of being conceived in a school bus (his words, not mine) Cedar has crafted himself into a professional, sponsored climber, and as a result, has been all over the world, from Yosemite to China, Pakistan to Australia, and has done everything from climbing, to mountaineering, to completing the world’s most insane, psychotic rope jump in Russia (it was 600-feet.) And then there’s the infamous video of him rescuing his hungover friend from a knee jam which is hilarious, if not 100% safe for work due to colorful language and an embarrassing bodily function: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dJLN43G6KA
Watching Cedar’s presentation, I am inspired. I tell myself that I will do amazing things like he did, and I believe it. I have to keep myself from tearing up.
When I walk out of the tent, it happens again. I look up, and the sky is covered in diamonds. There’s no city light here, and heading out from the incandescent light of the tent, it takes my eyes a second to adjust to the brilliance above me. It’s subtle, then dumbfounding. In this moment, everything is truly illuminated and I can’t wait to see what Day 3 brings.