Tag Archives: climbing

Behind the Scenes with Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren contacted us with a new “climbing inspired” clothing line they were designing for Fall of 2018. They were intent on replicating some of the iconic images taken by Glen Denny in the Golden Years of rock climbing that was evolving in Yosemite’s Camp 4 during the 60’s and 70’s. 

Working with a tight deadline of only a couple weeks, we were able to orchestrate a complex sequence of logistics to support the project. We worked with their location scout to identify key locations that would best suit the images and video that would represent the new line of products. When the crew of 20 people came out from offices in Los Angeles and New York we were able to help them navigate the intricacies of a remote wilderness setting including the proper Commercial Permitting, lodging and full catering, technical rigging, remote transportation and the entire support for the project.

It was pretty awesome to see the full RL team in action way out in the wilderness! We had full wardrobe, hair & makeup artists, photographers, videographers, and great-catered food all miles from civilization! It was quite the production but it made for some fun work.  – SYMG Rigging Expert – Josh Helling

After months of post production work Ralph Lauren have recently rolled out their “Hi Tech” line of performance pieces. The images and video tell the story of some of the historical roots of the brand, which include sponsorship of an ascent of Mt. Everest by Ed Viesturs in 1993.

“The results, we’re happy to report look as sharp on a city sidewalk as they do hanging from a cliff in Yosemite – or solo climb up Mount Everest” RL Mag

“SYMG and the team were spot-on. It was huge to have your understanding of the areas, guiding and safety knowledge and a general understanding of what’s required to make a production work. Everyone was always ready to help and I was impressed with everyone’s ability to think on their feet, always ready to come up with solutions rather then comment on why something can’t work.” -Marlon Krieger

Third photo from the top and Video: Ralph Lauren

Crag Pack Essentials

When it’s time to pack for a day at the climbing crags we all know to pack a rope and anchor set-up, but so many other things can sneak into your bag! There are lots of other pieces of gear out there with the potential to make your day safer, more efficient, and more fun. The trick is to make thoughtful choices that will improve your experience without overloading your pack. We’ve asked SYMG Rock Guide Riley West to share some insight as to what he carries in his Deuter Guide 35+ cragging pack.  

Through my years of guiding and climbing, I’ve experimented with many different pieces of gear. I’ve gone ultra light, ultra heavy, blue, orange, big, small. Name a piece of gear and I probably have one buried in the back of my closet, waiting for a yard sale. After sinking all my expendable income into aluminum and nylon whatchamacallits, I’ve finally settled on six staples that make it into my pack every time I go climbing, whether leading Guided Rock Climbing Trips or just with my own friends.

The Essentials

  1. ATC Guide

I’m not talking regular old ATC or gri-gri. The plaquette device, as it’s also known, serves purposes beyond giving a top rope belay. My ATC Guide is an important rescue tool when used in “guide mode”, enabling me to work hands free. I can haul someone through a tough section, belay off my harness, and rappel with two strands of rope, all with a reliable piece of metal.

  1. Prussik Cord

Every time you rappel, you have two options: rely on your superman grip strength to hold the brake strand, or put a friction hitch on the brake strand. A small loop of 5mm cord is all your need to back up your rappels. They weigh almost nothing, cost almost nothing, and keep you safe. I promise it’ll be the best 2 dollars you ever spend.

  1. Double Shoulder-length Sling

A sewn 48-inch runner, as it is also known, is the transformer of the climbing gear world. I use my 4 -foot slings as anchors, friction hitches, chest harnesses, tethers, and ascenders regularly. I think this is a piece of gear that will always exist, purely because of its versatility. For a few ounces, you cannot find a more useful piece of climbing gear.

  1. Belay Gloves

As a full time rock-climbing guide, there are certain things that need to keep working every single day. My hands may look broken, cracked, and callused, but they are my most precious resource. They pay my rent and keep me safe. I use my belay gloves every time I belay or rappel to prevent the all-too-common cut, scrape, or nick. And as an added bonus, I don’t have to scrub aluminum and dirt from my palms every evening.

  1. Camera and Phone

My favorite pastime is to text my parents pictures of me swinging around in scary places. They love it, I’m sure. And if you take nothing else from this article, at least remember to send your mom pictures now and then. Joking aside, it’ll be pretty hard to call for a rescue if you forgot your phone at home. Don’t get stuck without a way to call for help.

  1. Snack

I get really hungry. Not like waiting for delivery pizza hungry, more like a hobbit skipping second breakfast hungry. Hunger leads to afternoon yawns and yawns lead to me dropping carabiners, cams, etc. My suggestion is to buy a handful of Clif bars and distribute them among your climbing packs as a secret stash of energy in the event you forget lunch (or second lunch).

A Day in the Sawtooths of the Sierra Nevada

A foreshortened view of the North Arete of Matterhorn Peak

The Sawtooth range looks like something out of an alpinists dream.  It has all the features one would look for; looming granite faces, knife edge ridges with big air under you heels, historic summits, a glacier and a few little snow and ice gullies tucked back in the shadows.  Plus, it has the key feature of being out just far enough that it keeps the crowds at bay. Most people will only take a curious glance from the window of their car at 75 miles per hour from highway 395, where the Sawtooths dominate the skyline above Bridgeport California.

Snow pack varies season to season in the Sierra Nevada, sometimes as dry as J-tree to years like the last two, which seemed like a constant blizzard.  Here in Fish Camp, Southern Yosemite, we received about twice as much snow as usual.  Which means I had almost 7ft of pack at one point in my front yard, which sits about 5,100 feet in elevation.

When my long time climbing partner Matt and I showed up at the glacier we found conditions more like May 1st than mid-July.  The rocks were barely poking up from beneath the snow.  The little lake that would usually be a milky blue gem of glacially fed melt water was instead mostly ice with only one little corner free.  It exposed the clearest water possible after a long winter of lying undisturbed by wind and the constant surge of the glacial melt.  Believe me, it tastes every bit as good as you can imagine.

Matt and I had also decided to bring our two most entertaining climbing partners: Kevin and Carlos.  Kevin has an endless sense of humor, which could only be categorized slapstick clowning, not to be mixed with Matt’s sometimes out of control mischief.  For example, they were kicked out of Bangkok together.  You have to be pretty bad for the Thai police to not even want you in their jail. The fourth was Carlos, a blonde-haired blued-eyed Puerto Rican.  As a tropical fellow, Carlos was cold.  But he was awestruck by the setting we were about to partake in.  Soon we would all be eating up the cracks and drinking down the faces as it was the sweetest nectar on earth, Sierra granite.

Forest fires somewhere in the Sierra always help to make the sunrise beautiful and different every day.  Different shades of pink and purple reflect off the clean white granite faces. The hue changing as the wind and sun shift until it is blindingly clear and bright from the suns reflection off glacier and rock.

After we drank coffee until the point of shaking, we headed up the glacier. We found it to be firm and easy to walk on for the approach, though twice as long as it appears.  Our goal was the North Arête of Matterhorn Peak.  It is the type of peak a child would draw; geometric, near symmetrical, lines running to a pointed summit.  Add the climbers’ artistry to the picture and a striking arête running from glacier to summit would be next followed by a couple crack split dihedrals for good measure.  Luckily for us, it is real and we were there.

We were a group of climbers familiar with each other and the pitches rolled by only interrupted by laughter and the occasional snack. The climbing hard enough to warrant basic rock shoes but no more.  There is a crux on every climbing route, and I found ours on a little section of face and arête that I traversed out on to in order to, let’s say, keep the route clean.  After all was said and done, I kept going up finding the holds to be right on the arête, which was about 35 feet long and 800 ft. off the glacier, giving me maximum exposure and no gear. The edges and knobs kept my retreat at bay and seemed to be just big enough to try to go a little higher, hoping that one more move was going to give me the respite I wanted.  Of course it came all the way at the top of the arête where I was able to traverse back into the nice dihedral crack.

To finish the route, a traverse around the arête from one dihedral to another on the North Face is necessary. This section is cold and shaded, not to be taken lightly by our tropical companion.  The face is near vertical and split by only a few cracks, all of which look intimidating and hard. Not quite what I was expecting. Hand-jamming my way up the face I kept finding hidden cracks in the back for my tips making what looks 5.10+ climbing into 5.6.  But the cracks are ice cold the wind is picking up and the reality that alpine climbing is always serious is back on the forefront of my mind.

As we pull onto the summit ridge clouds began to stack and were blowing through the gap of Matterhorn Couloir; swirling dark vortices, like the water around a large rock in the Merced River in spring.  It was re-coalescing back into a stream of clouds over our base camp and across the Walker River Valley, East to Nevada.

After a few pictures we pull on rain gear for the descent, for both the glissade and the oncoming storm.  When we clear the saddle south of the summit and start our descent the ground beneath our feet aids our downward progress as it freely slides and makes you have to check your speed.  It consists of the ever so fine powder that only a glacier can produce over millennia, combined with flakes and boulders, proof of the effects of the freeze and thaw process from the walls towering above.  Once we hit the obstacle free snow we were back at camp in minutes.  Using both boot and butt glissade we did the last two-thirds of the descent in 15 minutes.  Arriving just before the short-lived rain, all four of us snacked beneath the Mega-Mid at basecamp. Damn! What a good day!

Pat Warren is one of SYMG’s Senior Guides and a Sierra granite addict. To learn more about Pat and the rest of the SYMG staff, click here