Friday, July 24, 2009

2009 SLC OR Mammut Bouldering Championships

The Mammut Bouldering Championships at the 2009 Summer Outdoor Retail (OR) show started off slow, with both the initial women and men competitors not topping out a single route. At first you questioned the route setters, thinking it may be too tough for anyone. Or, maybe it was the 90+ degree heat and sun beaming down on slopers and crimps that was making it impossible for anyone to top out.

Then, Alex Johnson, Alex Puccio, Lisa Rands, Daniel Woods, Paul Robinson and Julian Bautista took their turns -- some of them flashing several of the routes. Both Alex' flashed the first three routes and timed out before topping out the final route. Johnson won by completing two more moves than Puccio, who had previously won over Johnson at the World Cup finals. The last route for both genders seemed to be the hardest and required the most juice.

For the men, the last route typically included a rose move or some sort of 360 cross-through over three separate holds. In the men's division Daniel Woods took first place by flashing all but one route. Julian Bautista made a surprising triumph over Paul Robinson by topping out all routes and placing second. He definitely appears to be one to look out for.

Photos by Leland Marshall

You can see video of the comp by going to
or through

Final comp results:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

AF Hole

This past weekend, Brady Robinson, Access Fund's executive director, was in town to test out the local limestone, discuss access issues with Central Texas Mountaineers (CTM), and on other business. Myself and Gary Ellis, CTM president, took him out climbing on Lake Travis on my boat to appease his appetite for water soloing. On the way out we discussed some access issues in San Antonio and our interest in aggressively assisting in educating locals and building relationships to open new and old areas to climbing. Hopefully we'll have some progress there to discuss in the coming months.

We arrived at Pace Bend Park around 8:30 a.m. and headed straight to Cow Creek Cove to do some soloing. The crags are a little chossy, but what do you expect from rock that has been submerged for over a decade? Austin is experiencing quite the drought this year and water levels are dropping about a half a foot a day at the lake. This is good and bad. Bad for obvious reasons, but good for the fact that it's opening up new climbing areas, new first ascents and onsights. It's also making what were once mere boulder problems into 30+ foot routes, which doesn’t seem so short when you’re topping out a crux on an unknown route that has never been cleaned.

We were spent after a short three or four hours, but were all satisfied. Brady even ticked what was most likely an FA on a great route that spat me off several times when I relied too heavily on some loose footholds. If it was an FA, he's calling it AF Hole. Check out the pics from the day after when we had a crew of six boats representing. If you haven’t been water soling in Austin you are missing out. Come on!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Deep Water Soloing in Central Texas - A Growing Armada

Yesterday I went out on one of many water soloing excursions to come this summer. With Texas being so hot (102 degrees today), climbing outside has been about as motivating as paying to work. Even the gyms here don’t see the need to turn on their AC’s – combining Bikram Yoga with pulling plastic. I haven’t climbed more than a handful of times over the past month or so due to this reality, ultimately becoming a fair-weather climber.

The rock wasn’t bullet hard, but it was super steep and crazy fun. Top outs were around 30 feet, with the crux often conveniently positioned at the top. There’s nothing like that adrenaline rush you get from sending a crux move that would otherwise have left you doing a reversed belly flop. There were nearly a dozen of us out on three boats. The Austin armada has grown to six boats now and I wouldn’t doubt it if more flee the gym and join the fleet. The lake is evaporating, but there are so many limestone crags on the Colorado that I think we’ll have plenty of updates to come as the summer continues to heat up.
Photo credit: Erik Moore

Monday, June 22, 2009

Positive growth in outdoor retail - OIA news release

This news release was originally posted on The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) - See link at end for full release.

April Outdoor Sales Indicate Declines Easing, Shoppers Returning

Boulder, Colorado, June 10th, 2009 — Retail sales for all core outdoor stores combined (chain, internet, specialty)* grew 2% compared to last April, moving from $339M to $347M, according to the most recent edition of The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Outdoor Topline Report, produced for OIA by the Leisure Trends Group. Sales for the four months of the year totaled $1.4B, down 5% from the same period in 2008.

Outdoor Chain – Shoppers Return
According to the OIA Outdoor Topline Report, chain stores saw sales surge 20% in units and 18% in dollars. Every major product category (equipment, equipment accessories, apparel and footwear) and most sub-categories gained. Products that appeal to families and car campers fared especially well. Recreation tent sales shot ahead of last April by 78% in units and 64% in dollars. Sun shelters were up 88% in units and three-season recreation tents, retailing for $124, jumped 71%. Synthetic fill rectangular bags, retailing for $32, increased 82% in units whereas the more technical synthetic mummy bags, at $99 retail, grew 31%.

Outdoor Specialty – Declines are Slowing but Not Yet Reversing
In specialty stores, April declines were not as severe as in past months, as total sales fell 1% in units and 4% in dollars compared to April 2008. So far this year, all specialty unit sales declined 6% and dollars fell 10%. Each major product category (equipment, equipment accessories, apparel and footwear) saw single-digit declines compared to last April. There were bright spots this month, too, as synthetic sleeping bags, medium-sized packs, climbing gear, multisport shoes, hiking boots and various equipment accessory categories posted gains.

Outdoor Internet – Retail Prices Rise, Units Fall as Online Retailers Rein in Clearance Product
Internet sales totaled $54M this month, falling 20% in units, rising 4% in average retail-selling price and dropping 17% in dollars. All year, Internet sales have been sporadic, up 35% in January on huge carryover sales, down 9% in February, back up 14% in March and now down 17% in April. Higher retail-selling prices across many categories coupled with dramatically smaller carryover sales (defined as old and/or discontinued merchandise) point to either a lack of available merchandise and/or online retailers reigning in the amount of rock-bottom clearance priced product they are offering. If this is the case, total sales may have fallen but profit per turn might go up.

For more on this, see the whole release on the Outdoor Industry Association's news page:

Competition is heating up in the outdoor industry in Texas

A decade ago there was really only one place to shop for outdoor gear and apparel under one roof in Central Texas – Whole Earth Provision Company. Yes there were a few fishing or outdoor stores that carried one-off products and maybe even some climbing gear, however, they were short lived and rarely had everything you needed in one go.

Fast forward to 2009 and Austin alone has nearly a dozen stores that carry a decent variety of quality apparel including Whole Earth Provision Company, REI, St. Bernard’s, Backwoods, Patagonia and others. Each have their attributes and none carry a decent selection of climbing shoes. Whole Earth still has one of the more comprehensive apparel selections even over the three local REI stores, which I found surprising since the retail space is so drastically different.

One factor that makes this growth even more interesting is the increasing use of online mega-stores like and It’s a good sign that there’s still a place for physical stores. It shows that each is creating a niche that is working for them and exceeds the experience of shopping online – since it’s nearly impossible to beat the deals you can find throughout the options provided online.

Myself, I still need to know it’s going to really fit. I want to try it out. Hold it in my hands. And, perusing the grounds of an outdoor store can actually be a stress reliever as compared to some of the other places we are forced to shop throughout our lives. It’s almost like you are feeding that itch to be out climbing or looking to inspire yourself to take a trip – can be a good break from the monotony of the work day.

It will be interesting to see how these companies stay competitive and how they position themselves to emerge as leaders in their own niches. They all have great potential.


Granite Gripper Film Contest

This year the Granite Gripper is hosting a climbing film contest alongside the regular comps. With all the locals picking up cameras and honing in their skills at documenting the climbing at local crags I look forward to this.

There have been several good videos dropping lately that get me as hyped as any pro sponsored feature (see example below). I hope there are some serious competitors and some great films that come of it. Film on!

Lake Travis Deep Water Soloing from VTP on Vimeo.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

OR is one month out!

The outdoor retail and sports mega event, Summer OR, is coming up on July 21. The summer event is in SLC and hosts tons of fun for those involved in the industry. There's always time for hitting the local crags on the surrounding weekends. Check out the site for more details. I'll post more as the show gets closer. Let me know if you plan on going.