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Gearheads on Granite

From the sheer face of a 1500-foot wall in Yosemite to the spires of the Bugaboos, our Gearheads have climbed an impressive roster of granite routes in North America. They’ve tackled Squamish, the City of Rocks, the Buttermilks in Bishop, California, the Incredible Hulk in the Sierra Nevadas, and Little Cottonwood Canyon in our own backyard. Having hit upon so many iconic climbing destinations, three of our Gearheads gathered on August 28th to host a Google Hangout and share their stories.  Diana, Arthur, and Greg swapped tales about their travels, shared photos, and answered questions submitted by the audience viewing the live broadcast.  Below is a recap of the Q&A session and a sample of the photo slideshow.  For the full story, check out the broadcast.

Q & A

Q: Should I even bother climbing on granite if the temperature is higher than 60 degrees?  At what point do you guys decide to climb elsewhere if it’s too hot?
-Brenda from California

Diana: Climbing on granite above 60-70 degrees is challenging.  However, I’ve been climbing all summer and it’s been around 80 in the evenings.  I usually try to find time in the mornings or late at night when it’s cooler.  The holds aren’t going to be great, and you will notice a difference, but if you are psyched to be climbing, I say get out and go.  You can always move up in elevation to try and find something better or look for easier climbs with bigger holds.

Diana-10_1“The Red Headed Stepchild” serves up some diagonal footwork for Diana in Little Cottonwood.

Q: I’m going to Yosemite in the fall, what are some routes that I shouldn’t miss?
-Brandon from Hood River, OR

Arthur: I’m partial towards the longer routes, so I’ll suggest some of those.  If you’re climbing under 5.10 I think a route not to be missed would be “Royal Arches,” which clocks in around the 5.7 range with an A0 move which just involves swinging across on a rope past a blank section. This route is 1200 feet and you can just cruise up the face. It’s beautiful.  By the time the fall rolls around there’s no water running off the wal,l and you can quickly cover a lot of vertical.

For me, another favorite was the “Serenity” to “Sons” linkup, climbing the Serenity Crack and then joining up to the Sons of Yesterday.  This is a continuous 5.10, every pitch is memorable in its own way, and I have a lot of amazing memories from climbing this route a handful of times.

For all the hardcore climbers out there, you’ve got to tackle “Astroman,” which will take you up one of the best pieces of rock on Washington’s column.  If you don’t have the full guns for it, you can go up to the Harding Slot and consider yourself an Astroboy!

Arthur 1

Arthur shimmies up the V4 “Bachar Cracker” in Yosemite National Park.

Q: I’m just getting into bouldering and want to know if there is any good way to practice falling?  I’m really terrified of heights, and the thought of not being roped in or wearing a harness is really intimidating.  Does falling get any easier, or is there a correct way to fall?
-Janie in Colorado

Diana: Janie, there is a correct way to fall.  It’s scary to start out falling when bouldering, but you do get used to it.  When falling, you want to relax and roll back in a ball to avoid injury to your knees or wrists.  Another thing with bouldering and falling is to invest in good crash pads and have trustworthy spotters.  If you don’t have good spotters, you may get hurt, especially on taller routes.  Don’t try to stand up when falling, you want to fall straight down, relax in the air, and avoid kicking your feet around.

Q: When you’re flipping through the guidebook or looking up at the rock, what are a couple of the reasons you pick a particular line to climb?  Pure aesthetics?  Difficulty?  History behind the route?  To impress your friends?
Joseph from Saratoga, New York

Greg:  I’ve been climbing for 9 years now, so I’ve gone through the whole process of learning the hard way and getting in way over my head.  Through the years, as a crack climber does, I’ve visited many iconic areas.  You tend to see the same names in the guidebook over and over again and get a feel for what the difficulty will be like. Perhaps it’s a Fred Beckey route, Layton Kor, or an Ingalls, any of these legendary gentlemen who put up routes in the ’50s and ’60s.  I look at aesthetics, I look for a line that really speaks to me, I look in the guidebook to get a feel for the grade, and I check both the ascensionist and the year it was put up.  I like to compare my gut feeling to the information in the guidebook.

1-Exasperator---SquamishGreg on Exasperator in Squamish, BC.

Arthur: I’ve definitely sought out historic routes as well; in Yosemite I bagged the Regular Route on the Higher Cathedral Spire, which was one of the hardest routes in the world in the ’30s. It has that notorious 5.9+ rating, and I had to work for it!  The other thing I tend to look for is the test piece of an area.  For whatever given grade I like to test myself against that grade just so I can establish myself at that difficulty.  I can then mentally tackle any route at that grade, which means any of the routes around that difficulty are fair game when I consult the guide book for that area.

Watch the Broadcast

Diana, Arthur, and Greg are available to provide gear or trip advice for climbing in any of the locations they’ve visited.
Diana: Profile, E-Mail
Greg: Profile, E-Mail
Arthur: Profile, E-Mail

In planning to host future Hangouts with our Gearheads, Backcountry would like to hear suggestions or feedback on the topics you want to learn about.  You can contact us with a request by email at   We look forward to sharing our next Google Hangout with you!


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