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PRIOLO - THE JOYS OF ROCK CLIMBING

8/9/2017 3:56:00 PM / Steve Priolo

Instead of moving into an apartment while he plays in a summer league in Victoria, British Columbia, Bandits defenseman Steve Priolo decided to make a van his temporary residence and hit the road. Each week, he's blogging about his experiences for Bandits.com.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

"The best part about climbing rocks is that it doesn't pretend to be anything useful" - Royal Robbins, climbing legend

Before I start this blog about rock and ice climbing, there are a couple terms we have to be familiar with. 

Top rope - to set up a bomber anchor above the climb with the rope clipped in for protection.
 
Bomber anchor - consists of a rope, slings, and carabiners that are attached to bolts, trees or rocks, and are set up in a way that if a bomb went off, they would still hold. 

Lead sport climb - when the climber clips QuickDraws to bolts for protection as they climb.
 
Traditional (trad) climbing placing protection - cracks that wedge against the walls when you fall.

Free Solo - no rope, no gear. Do not fall. Alex Honnold is well known for this. I will not be doing this. 

As many of you who have been following my Instagram may know, I've been spending some time climbing rocks. This may seem like something out of the ordinary, but for as long as I can remember, I've wanted to climb whatever I could get my hands on. 

For the last couple winters in Ontario, Jacqueline and I have been going through different companies to go ice climbing. They would have all the gear and set everything up, and all we would have to do is show up and climb. 

After two winters of this, we decided that we liked it so much that we’d invest in our own gear and start to climb all the time. So for that Christmas and birthday, Jacqueline bought me climbing gear! 

The gear for ice climbing is mostly the same as the gear for rock climbing, except it includes ice axes and spikes on your feet called crampons. For all ice climbing, we would top rope. 

When I drove out to B.C., I knew rock climbing was everywhere so I instantly looked for it. I found Mt. Wells and Nanaimo Gorge on the island, and I knew about Squamish, B.C. 

With Jacqueline and my two friends Mike and Ashley, we hit the mountains. Mt. wells is the closest to us, so we are able to climb there almost every day. 

The ranking in climbing starts with a 5 – which indicates that protection is required. Falling would result in death. 

So Mt. Wells’ climbs range from 5.6 all the way to 5.12b. The hardest climbs in the world are 5.15d or maybe a 5.16, but I've never heard of anyone climbing 5.16. This year was my first year climbing outdoors and I began climbing top rope on 5.7 and 5.8. But I quickly moved on to leading 5.9 and now I am leading 5.10d on a regular basis.

When climbing top rope there is almost always tension on the rope, and when you fall, you are just falling down a couple inches and the rope stretches vertically. There is a lot of comfort in falling on top rope. When you are lead climbing, you need to have a belayer that is really paying attention because when you fall, you are being pulled towards to wall which could be dangerous.

The belayer’s job is to make the fall as soft as possible. More importantly, you are falling a greater distance. On lead, you fall the distance you are above the last clip times two because you fall that same distance below the clip, plus the slack in the rope, plus the stretch in the dynamic rope. Plus, my belayer moves with the fall and usually ends up off the ground. 

For example, if I am 5 feet above my last clip, I fall 5 ft above + 5ft below + slack + stretch + belayer. I could fall 12-15 feet. 

This sounds bad, but in fact, the more factors and clips you have, usually the softer the landing.

The most dangerous time of a lead climb is the first clip where you cannot have any slack because you will hit the ground, and will then be pulled into the wall. This all sounds scary I'm sure, but honestly, it's kind of what makes it fun. 

You know that you have to be sure on your gear. Make sure you've checked everything, understand the climb while working out the problem, and have total faith in your belayer. Jacqui and I make a great team, and because I'm so much heavier than her, when I fall she goes for a ride as well. 

Working out the problems and the different holds is one of the reasons Squamish was so appealing to me. 

I love the shear amount of climbs and different problems you have to solve to get up the wall. There are routes where the only way to get up is through a specific series of movements, in proper order, that give you the balance and hand holds you need to achieve your goal. 

I have become addicted to this problem solving. Also when you climb at Squamish, the rewards of the views speak for themselves. You are climbing on these beautiful granite walls which are ideal for climbing, and on the way up – when you get out of the tree line – you get to see the ocean with whistler mountain and many others towering in the landscape. 

You take a second and look around and see, near and far, granite walls with little specs of people climbing, and you understand that there is something special to behold when you climb rocks. 

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