Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Real World

I'm off to Ethiopia today for a couple weeks. I'm not sure if I'll be able to update the blog while I'm there (I suspect not) but if I can, I will. I'm looking forward to the trip, though I know it will be challenging to be faced with real poverty for the first time. I've been to Africa before, but South Africa is more like a displaced chunk of Europe. Ethiopia is the un-real deal.

Bringing clean water to ten villages is the goal of the trip. The film I make will be used to raise support for the wells and other infrastructure needed to create and maintain a clean water source.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thoughts on Fred Nicole

Fred Nicole Working a project at Arthurs Rock

Should I even write about Fred? I've been bouldering avidly for 14 years and I still feel under-qualified to try to write any sort of authoritative article about him. I've slept on his floor on trips to Switzerland, I've shot footage and pictures of him, I've hosted him on a visit to Colorado, and I've flogged myself trying to repeat problems he opened in Hueco, Fontainebleau, Australia, Switzerland, and South Africa.

Here are some things I know about Fred:

1)Hype is not a language Fred speaks. He is fluent in German, English, and French, and of course in climbing movement. But hype and image are things he is not fluent in. He's an intelligent man... he knows how media works. He knows how sponsorship works. He knows about controversy and what it takes to drive magazine sales.

Four Dollar Arete

2)Fred has a job. He works. His job is flexible but I think Fred and I both sometimes look at the up and coming generation of would-be pro climbers and we both think... “Ya know, a job makes a great rest day activity... maybe you should consider it.” But of course those are my words not his.

Four Dollar Arete - the send effort

3)Fred does grade his problems, but he has his own system. His system does involve a grade as we know it, such as V12 or 8a+, but here's the difference: the grade is preceded and followed by a story. Contextual information. A description of the process of the first ascent. An account of the successful send attempt and an overview of the conditions necessary for the climb. He will usually follow any grade suggestion with plenty of shrugs and say something like “I dont know... maybe for me it is this way, but for you it will be another way”. And then usually his grade proposition will conclude with something like “This problem is very special and if you go there please be careful about the plants growing nearby as they may be fragile”. Get ready for a big surprise: by the time it makes it to the Internet or to printed media, this narrative has been distilled to a single number, which then falls under the scrutiny... borderline attack... of the entire bouldering world.

Fred Meets John Gill

4)Fred calls no attention to the fact that his problems have been the world standard for difficult bouldering for a long, long time. It's quite common to hear people say “This kid is the best in the world... did you hear he repeated that Fred Nicole problem?” It's as though we've lost track of the fact that there was a guy in all these areas years ago who not only had the strength to pull off the moves, but also the vision to see and believe that the line would even be possible. Dozens of talented climbers have hit the Fred Nicole threshold in bouldering and no one has yet broken through.

North Shore, Clear Creek

5)I'm going to go out on a limb here and propose that of all the ascents of the bulk (ahem) of Fred's problems, Fred is the heaviest. I would also propose that his ascents would be generally considered to be in good style. Okay, style is relative... I'm not going to say that one style is better than another, but I would propose that one style is stronger than another. Jumping and lunging and screaming and clutching requires less power... less strength in both mind and body, than fluid graceful coordinated movement. If we don't draw at least a subjective distinction between anorexic teenagers and 180 lb men then by extension, watching video clips of bugs and spiders crawling around on blank rock faces would be the most inspirational display of athleticism ever. I would propose that athleticism is more than a number grade.

The Ripper Traverse - Pueblo

6)There are a few things that Fred would never do, and writing this blog post is one of them.
7)Every time I visit Fred it's like hitting the reset button. I come away with a sense of how the sport is supposed to be practiced... with tolerance and dedication.

Feb 24 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

A start and an end

First off, thanks to everyone who came out to the premiere on friday. What a great feeling to get to show your work on a big screen for the first time. I hope everyone enjoyed the circus performers as much as I did!

If you pre-ordered a copy of the DVD at the show, I'll be sending those out today.

It's always a great feeling to launch a new film. I've done it many times before but this one was my first crack at a full-length climbing film since I graduated school so in many ways it felt like my first real premiere. There's more than a final grade on the line with Pure...

At the end of the evening when I returned home I was totally relaxed for the first time in months. I've finally let the film go out on its own and in doing so I can now focus my energy on other things. I went climbing on both Saturday and Sunday, and between the two days I came away with about 130 points of bouldering. It's crazy... as soon as the movie is done I literally feel ten pounds lighter!

for the next couple months I have to keep my head down and promote pure and support all the screenings coming up. I'll announce all the European dates soon and so the calendar will be quite full. come April I'll have a little down-time to train for Rocklands season before heading back down there for another season of FA's and hard repeats.

On wednesday I leave for Ethiopia for twelve days, then I'll be back here for a few shows then off to Europe for the Pure Tour. It's a busy time but I'm psyched to have this lifestyle. And as Nalle says in Pure... 'I wouldn't change it for anything'.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Special Guest

We will have a special guest at the world premiere of Pure tomorrow. Kevin Jorgeson will be coming in to check out the show and sign autographs. If you have never had the opportunity to meet Kevin, this is a great opportunity to stop by and hang with one of the coolest athletes on the scene today.

Monday, February 16, 2009

This Friday!

Don't forget! This Friday is the world premiere of Pure at The Boulder Theater. I hope to have everyone there from the Front Range community, so don't forget to tell your friends about the show. If you're coming from a ways away, you might want to book a ticket early on the web site so you are guaranteed not to leave empty handed.

Last weekend was the ABS nationals at The Spot in Boulder. Daniel Woods put on a clinic called 'Here's how you win a bouldering competition'. Paul Robinson took second, making a gutsy decision to compete despite a less-than-perfect ankle, and Sean McColl came in third. Everyone was climbing in good form and it was a fun comp to watch.

I did some live video feeds for the comp, keeping all the spectators up with what was happening on the problems by using two big-screens and four cameras.

I had Andy Mann, Scott Neel, Nelson, and Sebastian Hatt shooting video, and all the streams fed to my Control Room where I mixed the video and sent it out to the projectors. I had never done any live video work previously but it was pretty fun and not too hard. Not nearly as much concentration needed as compared to DJ'ing.

Sunday was a great day at Morrison. Fun climbing on all the problems in cold air and warm sunshine. I got about 100 points of climbing in so I'm stoked.

This week I'm planning on filming a short piece for Athletik Spesifik to air before Pure on Friday. Dave Wahl is supporting the event and hopefully we will be able to drum up some business for his awesome strength coaching program.

Take it easy!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


If I had to sum up what happens at my house, I guess I would just show people these photos and that would pretty much do the trick.

In related news... I'm going bouldering this afternoon!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Balancing out the scales

Okay, so the big prize goes to Smarvez. She guessed Ethiopia on the flag from my last post, and she's right. Angus from Rock and Ice Magazine also got it right, but I think maybe both of them cheated... or at least used their 'phone-a-friend'. Yeah, Google is my friend too.

So I'll be going to Ethiopia soon after I premiere PURE here in Colorado and before the European PURE tour starts. There are a lot of things that start to gnaw on you after spending seven months making a film, and one of the biggest is this: Looking back over the last seven months I can honestly say my existence has been 100% completely self-centered. Honestly, that's the best way to make a film... to get totally encompassed in it. But seven months later I've done nothing for anyone other than myself and it's time to set the scales closer to a balance.

I'll be going to Ethiopia for about 10 days to do a short film about clean water infrastructure and the benefits it can bring to villages. The idea is then to bring the film back to the US and gather as many eyeballs as possible together to see the kind of difference it makes when villages have access to a clean water source.
I dont personally have the finances to donate wads of cash to the effort, but using my cameras for good is one of the things I aspire to and this looks to be a very good chance to work for some positive change.

The above photo is from the Elizabethfontaine Primary School near Rocklands, South Africa. The donation we made to the school last year was 10 times more meaningful to me than sending V14 (of course, I didn't scream "Fuck Yeah!" after donating the money... but you get the picture). I hope the trip to Ethiopia will be even more positive and memorable. And hopefully I can tip the scales far enough in the other direction that I can start working on another film soon.

If you would like to support my travel to Ethiopia please feel free to contact me through my web site. I'm currently accepting donations to offset the expense of the trip.

If anyone out there has been to Ethiopia or has any advice to offer on traveling in the country... fire away. I'm all ears. Some friends of mine were mugged in Ethiopia last year and honestly It's a bit frightening to head out there with all my camera gear, so any stories or tales or bits of advice are welcome.

Oh, commercial plug... PURE is now available for pre-order at and the tour schedule is filling up. If you want to host a show contact me as soon as you can!


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Something is coming up... maybe

There's a project on the horizon that I may be a part of soon. Not sure yet, but here's a hint...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Films are unique in many ways!

Making a film is a unique experience in a lot of ways. There's the travel, the uncertainty about the project, the tremendous personal debt the filmmaker gets themselves into in order to make the thing. The list goes on and on.

Sadly, one of the constants of film making is unsolicited criticism. Thus far in the life of PURE, all I've released is the trailer, and here are some of the criticisms I've seen thus far: (this list is abridged)

"you need a proofreader. In the Pure trailer you spelt Fontainebleau wrong. You missed out the last A. It is a crazy french word and everything but if there's one crazy french word a boulderer should be able to spell, that's it. Plus about 30 seconds after the misspelled on-screen text we see it spelt correctly on a sign.

(by the way, spelled is spelled S-P-E-L-L-E-D, spelt is a type of grain.)

If this was a one-off incident I wouldn't have bothered writing, but sadly it's not. First Try, a brilliant little film, so good I have it ripped to my hard drive and can watch it right now, is riddled with spelling and punctuation errors. First up, it should be JOE'S VALLEY, with an apostrophe. Then you spell thieves wrong, it's PRINCE OF THIEVES, not THEIVES. Then when it's DANIEL'S TURN you need an apostrophe again. Then THIEVES is spelt wrong again, but at least you were consistent. That's quite a lot of mistakes for less than nine minutes of film. I think I have noticed mistakes in other ones too but I can't remember which ones right now."

"Movie looks like it sucks, I heard the rocklands scene copies most boulder problems Dosage 5 and reshoot footage for switzerland as well….I agree with angie, the robot voice sucks."

"That voiceover was the worst though."

"How much did it cost to hire Stephen Hawking for that voice over?"

I know, I know... water off a duck's back. We all have to deal with criticism, but a lot of people have the benefit of their criticism taking place in a two-way medium or better yet face-to-face, while the bulk of mine comes via one-way channels, such as reviews.

Is it just me or do films get scrutinized particularly... um... thoroughly?

I chose to make PURE 'A Chuck Fryberger Film' and I didn't take that decision lightly. It is very tempting to put UP a big front and hide behind a faceless logo but I am becoming drawn to the honesty of presenting my work under my own name. The criticism bites twice as hard though when, inevitably, it does come.

There, that feels better.