Did you miss your chance to get outside with PRG in June and July? Well, don’t you fret, because our August Outdoor Clinics are here. Make sure to conquer all the skills you set out to this season with the help of our great instructors!
So you’ve found yourself the ultimate project and are dedicated to whatever it takes to send it. Days, weeks, months pass by, and you’re still putting in attempt after attempt to show that rock who’s boss. Meanwhile, memories of your soft bed, hot shower, and full kitchen creep in and out of your mind while refueling on Nutella and stale bagels.
Now, if you’re one of those climbers with a pimped out RV or van, fine, you might still have those luxuries tucked away in the parking lot waiting for your return, but for those of us still rocking the old Chevy Cavalier our parents hooked us up with on our 16th birthdays, you might be ready to pack it in and find the closest motel when the going gets rough.
However, there is one way to ensure you maintain your sanity while choosing to kick it Huckleberry Finn style, and that is building the perfect shantytown (aka long term camping set-up) from day one. Here are the most important things to keep in mind when crafting your home away from home:
Location! Location! Location!
Finding the most beneficial location is the key to any successful shantytown. Once everything is set up, you are definitely going to be irked to discover that rain drains straight into your tent. Just like architects dedicate large efforts to their blueprints, you need to pre-plan and think through the setup of your shantytown. Every mistake will cost you in the long run.
Things to look for when scouting out your location:
- Trees: Trees are great for acting as anchor points for your structure. They also provide amazing shelter from the elements. However, try to avoid setting up under old ones that might drop branches and such on you, as well as ones with tons of birds roosting in them (for obvious reasons). You want your trees to be strong and sturdy. Endangered, fragile trees could greatly suffer from your structure, so respect the environment and choose trees that can handle it.
- Land: As mentioned above, you don’t want to end up sleeping in a swamp, so surveying the lay of the land is essential in choosing your location. Pick a spot that slopes at a slight angle and set up near the high point. Also, you might want to take into account where you are in relation to the sun. If you don’t appreciate waking up at sunrise, try to place your tent somewhere that remains shady until a decent hour of the day. On the flip side, if you’re in a cold location, be sure to keep your tent in the sun as long as you can.
- Sound: Are you the loud and rowdy group who stays up late laughing around the campfire until 2am? Are you the eager beaver group who heads to sleep early and is first to the crag at sunrise? Are you the family with two young children who get night terrors? All of these are awesome, but know which one you are and embrace it. Don’t set up next to a family if you plan to party all night. Don’t set up next to a site that has empty beer bottles everywhere if you want to go to sleep at sunset.
- Proximity: Take into account your surroundings and needs. Are there bathrooms available at your location? If so, consider how important it is to you to be close to them. How far are you from the crag? Do you want to be in isolation or closer to a town? Sometimes you don’t have very many options, but if you do, think about what will make your long term stay the most enjoyable.
Construction Zone. Go Slow!
So, you’ve found the perfect location after much back and forth with your fellow shantytown inhabitants. Now it’s time to begin crafting your framework and structure.
Things to remember when building your structure:
- Equipment: Maybe you are an experienced architect and brought all the bells and whistles for erecting a shantytown mansion, but most of us usually show up with some rope and a couple cheap tarps. Don’t get overzealous when constructing your new home. Even if you’re drooling over your neighbor’s masterpiece, remember that you can only go as big and bold as your equipment allows. If you’re not in the middle of nowhere, a trip to Wally World can often assist in your endeavors.
- Rope Framework: Stringing up your ropes is the first step to success. You want to decide on your anchor points and ensure the rope is tied tightly and securely. Before you even hang a single tarp, you must get your rope framework properly tensioned. The more tension the better. Your structure must withstand wind and rain, and water is heavier than you think. Also, don’t forget that you have to walk under this structure, so unless you are abnormally short or enjoy adding to the climber hunchback you already have, make sure you tie off your ropes high enough to make for a comfortable setting. (A bit of acrobatic or tree-climbing skill may be required.)
- Vehicles: If you have multiple cars in the group and can sacrifice one for the shantytown, awesome. Vehicles are great to use as an extra wall to your home. They help protect against the wind (if properly placed) and provide a lockable, waterproof space for your valuables. Cars also give you the added benefit of a built-in radio and power source. Just don’t forget to start the car frequently, so you don’t kill the battery. And, remember to point the exhaust away from your site or others.
- Tarpology: There is definitely a science to hanging your tarps, and if you’ve never studied tarpology, be sure to get some assistance from someone who has. Even a beginner tarpist knows the golden rule: you need to have a high point and a low point. Whether you’re going for an A-frame, a single slope, or something more advanced, the key to setting up your tarps is to think like Mother Nature. Really tap into the minds of the wind and rain. If you don’t want to wake up every hour during a torrential downpour to empty out the heavy pool of water forming over your kitchen, be sure to follow the golden rule. Securely fasten your tarp to your rope framework using twine or something sturdy. Zip ties can be especially handy if you have them. The more points you can fasten to the main ropes, the better.
- Bonus Tip: If one or more of your tarp corner eyelets have been ripped out by past battles with Mother Nature, don’t fret. Find a smooth, golf ball or baseball sized rock and cover it with the corner of the tarp. You can then wrap the twine around the bottom of the rock and tie that to the rope.
Home Sweet Home
The time has finally come to unpack and settle in. This involves setting up four key areas of your shantytown: the kitchen, living room, fireplace, and bedrooms.
Things to consider when organizing your home:
- Kitchen: If you don’t have your car or food tent incorporated, you will need a place to store all your food and cooking gear. Bringing a foldable table is always beneficial, but you can usually snag a picnic table from somewhere as well. A table of some sort will make your life a LOT easier and enjoyable when living in a shantytown. You then have a permanent place to keep your camp stove, cut up your vegetables, and gather for a good ol’fashioned family meal. Be sure to have a trash and recycling bin nearby and empty them regularly. If you are camping in a bear/wildlife area, you will need to be careful with your food and scraps.
- Living Room: Everyone wants a comfortable place to chill out at the end of a hard day of climbing or to spend a quiet rest day. Foldable camping chairs and hammocks are an absolute necessity when it comes to shantytown living. Keep the slackline nearby as well. Adding special touches to this area can make it feel homier and easily identifiable for when you invite guests over. Pick up a welcome mat or flag. Maybe create some artwork to hang on a tree. If you can, include a lantern in your set up to avoid getting smashed in the eyes with bright headlamps every five seconds.
- Fireplace: If you are lucky enough to be in an area that allows fires, make sure to incorporate your fire pit placement into your whole design. You want the fire to be outside of the tarp, so you don’t fill up your living space with smoke or accidentally set the roof on fire. If you are relying on your fire for warmth, place the bedrooms nearby. If you are relying on your fire for cooking, place the kitchen nearby. If it’s just there to get drunk and tell ghost stories around, place the bedrooms faraway.
- Bedrooms (aka tents): When choosing where to set up your tent, be sure to take into account the other people in your group. Is there a young buck looking for lots of love? Is there an overly affectionate couple? You know what I’m getting at here… Think about your own needs when placing your tent. Keep away from the kitchen if there are animals in the area. If not, set up close to kitchen and wake up to the smell of bacon each morning (if you’re lucky).
With these helpful suggestions, you are bound to stay comfy and cozy while spending months at your favorite crag sending your ultimate project. If followed correctly, you will probably even make lots of new friends in the process. Everyone loves a friend with an epic shantytown. Happy building!
Blog by guest writer Sara Schneider. See more of her writing here.
With Gym to Crag, climbers will head to a local crag from three hours and climb with a PRG, AMGA guide. It’s a great way for beginning climbers to get some outdoor climbing experience. Gym to Crag is just getting started for 2014! Find out more now.
For those of you who sit (or stand) at work every day while dreaming of the weekend, this blog post is for you. For those of you who spend more time pushing yourself in the climbing gym than cleaning a climb, continue reading. For those of you who dream of climbing for days straight, never worrying about when you’ll have to clock back into work, you’re going to want to read this. And for our readers who may never become a pro climber but want to live like one, this article could possibly get you closer to that reality. It’s hard work, it takes a lot of planning, and it’s not easy. But when it does happen and you step on that plane or pack up your car, it’s all worth it.
Sometime in the summer of 2012, my friend Chris and I shot around the idea of heading to Mallorca, Spain to do some deep water soloing (DWS). We figured we were just as good (and strong) as Chris Sharma, and falling 60 feet into the ocean was a helluva lot more fun than taking a 10-foot whipper in the gym.
Like most grand plan ideas, it just started as small talk, and honestly, that’s all I ever thought it would amount to. More and more, Chris would bring it up, often at the gym where we were really starting to push ourselves into the high 11s and low 12s. Climbing was something we loved dearly, enough to commute by car 30+ minutes in each direction to our local gym. So when Chris, who by all means is a “doer,” said that it was time to get serious about planning this trip, I knew he really meant it.
As for me, I had an amazing job, at an amazing company, who paid me well and allowed me to live a very comfortable life. So when the idea grew from a two-week long trip to the thought of a multiple-month long expedition, I got a bit hesitant. Instead of the conversation now being based around the price of plane tickets, it formed into the tone of, “What am I doing with my life?” Could I really just take three months off work? Would my company, who was highly dependent on me, even allow that type of leave? It turned out, the answer was no.
You see, as humans, we love comfort. At the root of it all, comfort is the un-ignorable feeling that we love the most – yet only some will admit it. As for me, your guide, I was living in the pinnacle of comfort. At age 27, I had graduated college with a degree, was promoted within the company that I had already been working for to a director position, was not married, had no children, no outstanding debt, with the exception of student loans, and living with roommates paying just under $400/month. If that doesn’t sound like living under the bridge of comfort, I’m not sure what does.
So when taking a couple of weeks off work formulated further into saving as much as you can, quitting your job, and heading to Europe for 3+ months, I got a little anxious. This is when I sat back and realized that maybe this shield of comfort wasn’t as good as I thought. It was too good. It was good enough that I could sit back one day and realize that I had worked the same job in the same city through my twenties and into my thirties without taking any risks and scaring myself. After that realization, this European trip became more and more of a reality.
The following are some steps to make a life changing trip happen. When I explained what I wanted to do to my father, a man who prizes security, he took it well and replied to me with a comforting, “…sounds like you’re ready to take a walkabout.”
Are you? Well, lucky you, I put together the most important six steps to making your climbing adventure a reality, just like mine…
6 STEPS TO CLIMBING FREEDOM:
1. Surround yourself with doers.
There are people who talk about it and then there are people who do it. Find the latter. You’ll never make anything happen if you don’t. If you’re unable to make the drive happen yourself, be around those who can and will push you to do the same.
2. Save every single penny you can.
This is an obvious step and could equally be tied for the #1 position. Monetary freedom is unfortunately what it really comes down to. Whether or not you’re going to travel like a dirt bag or sleep in hotels every night, you’re still going to need a significant amount of change to get there and then support yourself.
On top of my salaried position at work, I took on as much additional freelance work as I possibly could. Because of this, my normal climbing training after work was cut down drastically, but I still accepted every job that came in and searched for more work on top of that.
Note: If you’re lucky enough to have a job you can do on the road, keep it. Additional income on the road will justify drinking that cold beer after a hard day on the crag.
3. Buy your tickets.
Do it. Commit. I meet so many people that say they’re going here or going there, but until those plane tickets are in your hand, you’re not going anywhere. Talk is cheap.
Once those tickets are bought, your life changing leave of absence becomes a reality. Your spending becomes more delicate and your plan of action until the day you leave becomes more thought out.
4. Once those tickets are confirmed, tell your job you’re leaving.
Give them as much of a professional heads up as you can. Never burn bridges and always leave on a good note.
5. Ask for sponsorship.
Yes, ask for sponsorship. It’s as easy as that. As a group of three mediocre climbers in their late twenties, what would we have to offer big name climbing companies? Absolutely nothing – so sell them that. With the help of some graphic design skills, we were able to position ourselves as three average climbers who would appeal directly to all of the other average climbers out there. Peers appealing to peers.
We sent nearly 100 climbing, outdoor, and food companies a sponsorship packet and hoped for the best. This simple angle and the right verbiage allowed us to land enough pro deals and free essentials that clothing, food, ropes and all other climbing gear costs didn’t come out of our pockets. We got more thumbs down than thumbs up, but what we did get saved us thousands of dollars.
In return, the awesome companies that did sponsor us got daily Twitter shoutouts, Instagram images, and Facebook photos for their use – which to them is a big deal in today’s world.
6. Live like a dirt bag.
There’s no simpler way to put it. If you’re on a climbing trip for three or more months and don’t know what your future looks like when you finally return to reality – the dirt bag lifestyle is the only way to go. Make a financial spending limit that you won’t surpass, and then do every single thing you can to stay far below that.
What do I mean by living like a dirt bag? For starters, I mean traveling smart. The more you plan ahead (route, food, expenses, etc.) the less money you will waste doing it on the go. Cook everything and shop at grocery stores or farmer’s markets. Sleep in caves, on the beach, and under bushes rather than hostels. Hitchhike or take the bus. If you absolutely need to rent a car, rent the cheapest thing you can. Meet other climbers and talk to them about sharing camp spots or making a joint trip to the grocery store. Don’t go sightseeing. You’re here to climb which in reality is going to give you a better view than any tourist-filled overlook. Tell yourself every day that you’re spending too much. Train you mind to fill up on water and even try fasting once a week. It’s easier than it sounds and will save you big money in the long run. Focus your energy on climbing, not which cafe has the best croissant.
That about wraps it up. Going on extended trips is hard, but it can become a reality. Start with step number one and go from there.
Blog post written by PRG climber and graphic design mastermind Miles Quillen. Have a topic you’d love to write about on our blog? Email Anna!
Buying a Portland Rock Gym membership in June has its benefits!
All Annual Contracts AND Prepaid Annual purchases made in June will receive a 30% OFF coupon to the Columbia and Mountain Hardwear store.
Coupon expires 6/30/2014. Valid at Columbia store downtown, Mountain Hardwear store downtown, and the Columbia store in the PDX airport.
Drum roll please…
Paige Claassen is coming to Portland Rock Gym!! On May 22nd, Paige will be hosting a clinic at PRG followed by a presentation at Base Camp Brewing Company!
Paige is an incredibly accomplished 5.14 climber. She’s traveled all over and most recently toured the world in the Marmot Lead Now Tour. This is an opportunity to learn from one of the best, you won’t want to miss it!
Clinic: May 22nd 5-7PM
$50, MAX 10 PARTICIPANTS!
Call or sign up in person
C.A.M.P. and La Sportiva Gear Demo: 6-7pm
Video and Q+A: 8-9PM
Location: Base Camp Brewing
Want to get out to Smith Rock? Let us help! Participants can sign up for both days or just one!
- 4:1 client to guide ratio
- 8 person max each day
- Participants must be top rope belay certified.
- An adult must accompany minors.
Times: Saturday, May 31 and/or Sunday, June 1
Price:$120/day, participants can sign up for both days or just one!
Wednesday I heard the call. The weather was amazing, I had the day off and I wanted an adventure. So I answered the call to climb.
Rooster Rock is a 165′ basalt pinnacle up Highway 84 just across from Crown Point (in the background of the photo). Take exist 25 for the aptly named Rooster Rock State Park. This climb appealed to the adventurous side of me because it is a trad climb, it is multi-pitch and I had heard good things about it. This would be my third multi-pitch endeavor and one of a handful of trad leads. But as an aspiring trad climber the 5.4 grade of the south face felt pretty welcoming. So my buddy and I jumped into his car and cruised down I-84 for an adventure!
First tip: Turn left after you pay the day fee. Don’t turn right and drive all the way to the end. That would be the wrong way.
Second tip: Buy an annual Oregon State Park Pass if you are going to be visiting a lot of State Parks (like Smith Rock!) and don’t forget it at home.
Third tip: When the guide book says, “walk between the freeway and the lagoon” what it really means is walk right beside the freeway. The trail around the lagoon requires swimming.
There was already a party at the top when we reached the base of the climb. I could see the new bolted 5.6 route that went straight up the center of the South Face. I stayed left, up the original route. The beginning of the first pitch was mostly grassy ledges and 4th class climbing. The climbing was super easy (I elected to do the route in my approach shoes). However, I was pretty concerned about A) where I was going to place gear and B) grabbing a hidden loose block covered in moss and sending myself and the block onto my belayer. I was about halfway up the first pitch, wondering if I could excavate a cam placement through all the grass and moss, when I found the first bolt. The guide book did not mention any bolts, but I gladly clipped it and kept moving. The climbing at this point moved into more 5th class style, so I was looking for more placements. There are several basalt spikes that stick out from the moss. I gleefully pulled out a sling and lassoed the horn. As I was clipping the sling to my rope I saw the second bolt two feet above me. Feeling slightly defeated I un-slung the horn and clipped a long runner to the bolt. A few moves later, in view of the anchor, I was faced with a mantel move with that last bolt 5′ below me. I whipped out my sling in defiance of the bolts, protected the move and clipped the chains! First pitch done.
The party above rapped by us as I belayed my partner up. The guide book calls for a double rope rap from the top. There is, however, a fresh anchor 20′ to the right of the original at the top of the new 5.6 route. It appears this new anchor can serve as a second rap station for those who don’t want to haul two ropes. We did not test that hypothesis, though. After the other party pulled their ropes it was on to the real meat of the climb; the 5.4 diagonal corner system.
The second pitch was pretty sweet. Despite being very weary of all the blocks, hoping my placements were in solid rock and not detached rubble, not being able to hear my partner because of the wind or see him from the top and the copious amounts of rope drag, the climb was great. All the placements had very stable and sometime hands free stances and the move to gain the ridge had awesome exposure. Rooster Rock State Park is a popular windsurfing spot because there is A LOT of wind. Clearing the ridge I felt like I was going to be blown of. Crouched on the ridge I could see several spikes sticking out above me along the slope to the finish. Just like the back of a stegosaurus. As the wind abated I began up the back of the dinosaur. I gained the summit and clipped into the spiderweb of chains at the top. Now, I faced the challenge of telling my partner I was “off belay.” I shouted between occasional breaks in the wind and hoped he heard me. I could NOT hear him. I managed to take up the rope and belay him up without a problem. It could have been a bad situation, but we both did what we had discussed before we left the ground. For me the experience really highlighted how important good communication and planning are in climbing.
There we were, at the top!
Last tip: If you do opt for the double rope rap, watch out how the rope lays along the top. We got our joining knot stuck in a notch and had to use some judicious rope management skills to free it.
Whether you are a veteran trad climber, or a newbie like me, this climb is pretty fun. It is close to Portland, has bolted anchors for the belays and raps, has pretty good rock once you look around a bit and great gear placement stances.
If you have not done any trad or multi-pitch and want to experience an adventure like Rooster Rock you could always hire one of our guides!