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.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Review: Arc'Teryx Rampart Long Shorts

I never envisioned reviewing a pair of shorts; however, my recent trial of the Arc’Teryx Rampart shorts inspired me. I was pretty tired of the elastic waistband shorts that could barely stay up against the weight of my wallet, mobile and keys. Or, there’s the ones that are made for climbing and outdoors that all but deteriorate the first time you chimney or even sit on somewhat abrasive rock – you know who you are.

I kind of took a gamble with these just to see how they were and at the end of it I ended up ordering another pair. They are excellent for climbing, swimming or even just lounging. The material – a nylon/spandex blend – is sturdy, lightweight and breathable and the pocket design actually makes sense. Also, they are fit to size so no worries about relying on the elastic band being just right.

Overall I would give it a 9 out of 10. Price is $69.


Registration opens for 2009 Granite Gripper

(Posted on behalf of CTCC)

That's right folks. This will be the 18th consecutive year for us!

We're really excited about this year's event as we'll be debuting a companion film contest to the climbing comp. We've taken input & lessons learned from year's past and poured our creative juices over trying to make this the best year yet.

Everything is made possible by our sponsors, volunteers and, of course, you! So mark your calendars for the weekend of October the 17th, 2009 as Gripper Weekend and come on down for a great time climbing on central Texas' best granite and socializing below the domes among our awesome climbing community.

As always, all money raised goes directly to the Friends of Enchanted Rock... our local ERock stewards who have tirelessly worked to not only maintain, but improve the quality of our trails and our experiences while visiting the park.

Please visit the granite gripper site at (or you can just as well start at the CTCC's home page) for information regarding the film contest and how to register online. Act soon as we're offering incredible deals for online registrants!

Here's an early "Thanks Yall!" for everyone who can make it or help spread the word. We'll see ya at our beautiful Enchanted Rock SNA.

Wishing you safe & happy climbing!

The members of the Central Texas Climbing Committee,
Bill Gooch
Matt Twyman
Conrad Schaefer
Barry Wilson
Corey Fields
Gail McClanahan
James Faerber


Let’s try this again

Yes, I know it’s been a while, but sometimes you have to take a break to have a quality return (no promises on that one). Just like with climbing – often you need rest so you can come back even stronger. Now that the temps are boiling once again in Texas, I must resort to getting my partial fix through the Webcrag. Not to say there aren’t positive aspects of the hot summers.

For instance, there’s water soloing in Central Texas, something that has grown exponentially over the past year (more to come on that). The other is getting pushed to take road trips seeking out fair weather. Plans are currently brewing for climbing trips in Montana, SLC and Cali. Let’s make the best of it. Stay tuned!