Category Archives: Rock Climbing

Tour de Bloc 10: Climber’s Rock

I typically have a little something to say about every climbing competition I shoot. This time around, though, I got to Climber’s Rock literally one minute before finals were to start. And, when I take photos, I never have to time to watch the climbers and enjoy the show. As you can see from the results, not all problems were topped, and that’s always a touch disappointing for the setters and the crowd, but the energy was high and there was a lot of excitement none-the-less! So without further ado, here are a few pictures from last weekend’s finals!

Women’s Finals:

  1. Marieta Akalski (2/2 & 4/5)
  2. Kerry Briggs (2/4 & 3/5)
  3. Bonnie de Bruijn (2/4 & 3/5)
  4. Holly Reid (1/3 & 4/6)
  5. Clarrie Lam (0/0 & 4/7)
  6. Kacy Wilson (0/0 & 1/1)

Men’s Finals:

  1. Dylan Barks (3/3 & 4/4)
  2. Jeremy Noring (2/3 & 3/8)
  3. Keith Mackay (1/1 & 3/4)
  4. Mathew Moreau (1/1 & 2/3)
  5. Carmen Ing (1/2 & 2/3)
  6. Florent Balsez (1/3 & 3/5)
  7. Dustin Kerr (1/3 & 3/5)
  8. Shaun Hunter (0/0 & 1/1)

Tour de Bloc 10: Altitude

This past weekend was the Altitude comp and although I wasn’t planning on going, I somehow ended up driving five hours to Gatineau! I always enjoy the comps at Altitude. I think it’s because the angles of the walls are very good for me, they use a lot of pinches holds, and there is a ton of room to warm up. The gym is really cool! On the other hand, I have always found it to be a difficult place to shoot photos. I think that between the color of the walls, and their strange angles and curvatures, it is pretty hard to get a good view of the climbers and the problems at the same time. This time around I decided to shoot from above, to change things up. It didn’t make it any easier to get the shots, but it was a lot of fun and a good challenge. I also wanted to take photos of the climber’s expression when climbing, instead of just showing the movements. I’m pretty pleased with the results (especially the one of Fred and Sebas on problem #5), i hope you enjoy them! Oh and congrats to Fred and Cloe to claiming the top spots at Altitude!

Women’s Finals:

  1. Cloe Legault (3/5 & 5/5)
  2. Katerine Martin (3/5 & 5/8)
  3. Ashley Veevers (2/2 & 5/7)
  4. Clarrie Lam (2/2 & 4/5)
  5. Emily Cornelisse (2/3 & 5/7)
  6. Holly Reid (2/5 & 4/5)
  7. Eve-Marie Landry (1/1 & 5/11)
  8. Elizabeth Maltais (1/1 & 4/5)

Men’s Finals:

  1. Fred Charron (2/3 & 3/7)
  2. Florent Balsez (2/7 & 3/11)
  3. Yves Gravelle (1/1 & 4/7)
  4. Sébastien Lazure (1/1 & 2/4)
  5. David Heerema (0/0 & 4/4)
  6. Shaun HUnter (0/0 & 2/7)
  7. Tony Berlier (0/0 & 1/1)
  8. Daniel Gingras (0/0 & 1/2)

Tour de Bloc 10: More photos from Allez Up

So, after trying to clean up my photography database a little bit (i.e. deleting a bunch of photos!), i found those four pictures from last tour de bloc’s comp at Allez Up. I thought I would share them. This set includes photos of the women’s winner, Elise Sethna, and some pics of Flo contorting his body like a mad men! By the way, if you haven’t seen my initial set of photos form the comp, check them out here: Tour de Bloc: Allez Up.

I wish I could go to the next Tour de Bloc event at Altitude, but someone else will have to share pictures aorund for those of us not going! Enjoy my last few pics from Allez Up’s awesome comp! Hard to believe, but my next comp will have to be in the new year, in 2013!!, at Climber’s Rock!

Tour de Bloc 10: Allez Up

Well, yesterday was the second eastern competition of the Tour de Bloc 10th season. It was a great show at the new Allez Up climbing gym. First of all, if you live in Montreal and you haven’t been to the new gym, you should definitely check it out. It is one of the nicest facilities I have seen in a long time, especially in Canada! Lots of space and light, great angles, and boulders that top out!

The comp itself ran really well. The problems were fun and varied and there was a great atmosphere. There were a lot of open competitors, though, so getting on the problems wasn’t as fast and easy as it might have been. The field was very competitive all around; in addition to the usual strong eastern crowd, there were a few surprise cameo appearances from Alberta and Nova Scotia, and there was an unprecedented showing of over 40 women open competitors. Finalists had to really work to earn their spot.

As usual, the team at Allez-Up put on a fantastic finals show, with dramatic lighting, good music and live video footage of the upstairs problems for the crowd downstairs! The problems were pretty tough for both the men and the women – a little bit too hard for the men actually (only 2 problems were topped, by winner Sebastien Lazure) – but the World Cup-inspired problems were as entertaining to watch as it was fun and challenging for the finalists to climb on. The race was a bit closer for the women. Elise and Melissa looked especially strong, sending all 4 problems (flashing 3/4), and Clarrie wasn’t far behind with her 3 top-outs. Hope you enjoy the photos!

Women’s Finals:

  1. Elise Sethna (4/5 & 4/5)
  2. Melissa Lacasse (4/5 & 4/6)
  3. Clarrie Lam (3/4 & 4/7)
  4. Marine Cusa (1/1 & 4/6)
  5. Kerry Briggs (1/2 & 4/5)
  6. Marieta Akalski (1/2 & 4/7)
  7. Bonnie de Bruijn (0/0 & 4/6)
  8. Cloe Legault (0/0 & 3/5)

Men’s Finals:

  1. Sébastien Lazure (2/6 & 3/4)
  2. Florent Balsez (0/0 & 4/9)
  3. John Bowles (0/0 & 4/10)
  4. Simon Villeneuve (0/0 & 4/10)
  5. David Heerema (0/0 & 3/5)
  6. Carl Desnoyers (0/0 & 3/6)
  7. Mark Button (0/0 & 2/2)
  8. Hans Christian Montenegro Bogoya (0/0 & 2/6)

Tour de Bloc 10: Joe Rockhead’s

It’s that time of year again…the time to start pulling on plastic! Once again, the Eastern portion of the tour de bloc season kicked off at Toronto’s Joe Rockhead’s and what a great show it was! The finals, set by a team led by Ayo, were intricate, beta-intensive, and mixed with different styles. And without any clear style advantage it was anybody’s comp to take. Congrats to Kerry for not only winning but being the only one to finish all four problems! Also, big congrats to Flo for winning the comp against a really strong field. Way to go buddy!

Here are the official final results:

Women’s Finals:

  1. Kerry Briggs (4/6 & 4/5)
  2. Iymma Lamarche (3/7 & 3/7)
  3. Emily Cornelisse (3/10 & 4/22)
  4. Bonnie de Bruijn (2/2 & 4/6)
  5. Marieta Akalski (2/3 & 3/5)
  6. Marine Cusa (2/8 & 3/12)
  7. Cloe Legault (1/1 & 2/3)
  8. Kacy Wilson (1/3 & 3/6)

Men’s Finals:

  1. Florent Balsez (2/2 & 3/3)
  2. Eric Sethna (2/4 & 4/9)
  3. Sébastien Lazure (2/8 & 4/19)
  4. Mathew Moreau (1/3 & 4/13)
  5. Fred Charron (1/4 & 1/3)
  6. Travis Van Ryn (1/6 & 3/11)
  7. Mark Button (1/6 & 2/13)
  8. Carl Desnoyers (0/0 & 1/3)

Hopefully this is a preview of the competitions to come this year. High energy and great problems for an amazing tenth season! Bring on the plastic!

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Yosemite, part 1

Yosemite Valley is one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited. It just takes your breath away.

Our first day out to the boulders was a little disappointing, to say the least – not because the rock isn’t amazing, it is, but because I fell onto the edge of a crash pad and rolled my ankle! After essentially waiting 2 weeks to settle in somewhere and climb, this was kinda crappy. But these things happen and I decided not to get too bummed out. Staying positive was made much easier by the fact that we met a fabulous Canadian couple (now Seattle residents), Jenn and Mike, and their little boy, who is a month younger than A.J. They’re rad. It’s too bad our trips didn’t overlap more!

I took good care of my ankle and rested it for 4 days, during which Mig went back and took revenge on the silly problem (Battle of the Bulge) that injured me. Then I put my climbing shoes back on (albeit carefully) and we toured the Valley in search of fun, low-ball problems. When you’re just two + a baby, and you’re nursing a fragile ankle, you try to avoid high-balls – and there are many in Yosemite. For this reason, we didn’t try anything super hard. Well, it was partly because of that, partly because it was getting warm, and partly (if we’re honest with ourselves) that we were just getting tired, generally speaking. Nevertheless, we enjoyed ourselves on problems such as: No Fur, Zorro, Smile for the Green Dragon, The Mechanic, and Root Canal.

Some of you may be thinking: how does one go to Yosemite and not climb any long, trad routes? I have to admit that it felt somewhat sacrilege to be in the Valley only to boulder, but we had decided when planning this trip that, with a baby, bouldering would be easier. Not to mention that, when it came to ropes, Mig had only climbed single-pitch, sport routes. That said, when an old friend suggested that Mig (and Marie-Claude) join him on a classic Yosemite multi-pitch, he was totally stok… I mean, scared pant-less. For those of you who didn’t know, Mig is afraid of heights. But, with no surprise to me, he seconded up The Nut Cracker with ease and was psyched to have won a small battle against his fears. Seeing Nic after 4 years was great, but climbing that route with him was even better.

Aside from climbing, we also took many photos, went on hikes, picnicked in the meadows and had another visit from family. But I’ll save all of that for “Yosemite, part 2.” For now, in the album below you’ll find our climbing pics and a selection of scenic photos from our first week or so in the Valley!

Continue reading Yosemite, part 1

Joshua Tree National Park

The drive to Joshua Tree from Las Vegas was one of the most breathtaking stretches of road we’ve encountered. The road runs through the Mojave Desert and, seeing as we had left Vegas a little late (as usual) the afternoon light made it especially stunning. As a mid-route break, we decided to stop and check out some sand dunes.

We arrived too late to set up camp that night but arriving the next day (on a Sunday) made it such that we actually got a campsite at the very popular Hidden Valley Campground. For those of you who haven’t been, Joshua Tree National Park is amazing; you’re in the middle of the desert surrounded by giant granite boulders and fields of the coolest looking desert plant ever. It actually looks unreal – like you’re on a movie-set or at an amusement park. Well I suppose one could argue that it is a bit of an amusement park for climbers considering how much climbing there is (about 2000 boulder problems as well as 8000 trad routes), and how accessible it is (we actually had to walk through campsites to get to some problems).

It was fantastic to be camping (finally!) and climbing in this beautiful place. Unfortunately, while the temps were perfect on the day we arrived, they quickly shot up to the point where it was really too hot to climb! We chased after the shade from the moment the sun rose (sauna-fying our tent) until late afternoon, at which point we had to basically run around and climb as much as possible before the sun disappeared. This was far from ideal but we tried to make the best of it. We managed to tick a few easy classics (and I use the term “easy” very loosely, as the grades in J-Tree are notoriously sand-bagged), such as The Chube and Gunsmoke, enjoyed a couple great crack problems (see photo), which seemed fitting for the area, and got our asses handed to us on other “easy” classics, such as Stem Gem (our new friend, Nick, came the closest – see pic). So, with much disappointment, we decided to end our stay in J-Tree quite a bit earlier than planned; we just weren’t able to climb enough in those conditions. However, it was definitely worth the trip. We were surrounded by beautiful landscapes, interesting wildlife (road runners! – see photos), and gorgeous night skies (see photos). And, once again, we were in great company! Long-time friend Marie-Claude drove down with her friend Nick from San Francisco to hang out and climb with us and it was fantastic to catch up with her, introduce to her the new addition to our family, enjoy her gourmet camp food, and get to know Nick.

Leaving early from J-Tree meant that Nick, Marie-Claude and the three of us all had to improvise the next leg of our journey…which will be the subject of our next post, so stay tuned! In the meantime, check out the photo album from our time in Joshua Tree.

Continue reading Joshua Tree National Park

Leaving Bishop

After a month-long stay in Bishop, we felt – yet again – that we were leaving a new-found “home,” and right when we had peaked in terms of our climbing. As usual, we had to leave problems behind (un-tried ones are easier to leave than those un-finished and Mig and I each have a problem that we came *painfully* close to sending – “something to come back for,” they say). We also left behind new friends (who actually live in Bishop – not just fellow transient climbers). Finally, we left behind the lovely little mountain village that is Bishop, with its famous Dutch bakery, climber-filled cafes, the Mountain Light gallery, cheap motels, the airport Thai restaurant, happy hour at Whiskey Creek, the Pizza Factory and Holy Smoke BBQ!

All good things come to an end, though, and our time there was definitely a good thing. We climbed with so many awesome people! After the Reeves left, other friends from Toronto (and surrounding areas) showed up: Cassandra, Dennis & their little girl, Keith and Kaska, and the Durago brothers came with Loic (who basically sent everything in sight) and G6 marketing director, James Koka. So much fun! And then there were all the other Canadians, many of whom we already knew from comps and other climbing trips, a few Kiwis, some Americans, and “Leo, from Japan.” A big thanks to everyone we climbed with for making the Bishop-leg of our trip amazing!

In terms of climbing, the idea was to switch gears and try some harder stuff. It’s definitely not easy on the morale to come back at the end of the day without having topped anything out, but it was really fun to sample a bunch of awesome, tough problems (some of which felt doable and others not so much)! Thankfully, stepping up our game paid off; we each walked away with a personal best! Mig did an amazing send Acid Wash Right and I sent Water Hazard & Aquatic Hitchhiker. Projects aside, ee also had a fabulous time on other classic Bishop probs, such as: Jedi Mind Tricks, Cue Ball, Mr. Happy, Karma (new!), and Fly Boy Sit.

Continue reading Leaving Bishop

Bishop so far…

On our first day, my feeling was that Bishop climbing was going to be harder and maybe not as fun as Hueco climbing. The change of rock and style is extremely noticeable and I wasn’t feeling it at first, personally. But later in the afternoon, something kicked in and I ran around and ticked 2 fun moderate problems and 1 harder one and that boosted my confidence and my psych. Since then, my two favourite problems would have to be: High Plains Drifter and Fly Boy. High Plains is a problem that I had my eye on way back in 2001 and never tried (maybe didn’t feel strong enough) and it was high on my tick list in 2009 but I couldn’t try it then either because it was covered in snow. So, I showed up this year with 11 years of anticipation built up! Thankfully, it did not let me down; it is a *rad* problem. I worked it one morning with Adam and a couple other people and as soon as I figured out the subtlety of the drifter move, it went down – despite, I must add, the miserable conditions (major gusting winds, which didn’t make the high-ball top-out very enjoyable!). Anyway, it was major fun and long-awaited tick. Fly Boy (see video) was super cool because it finishes with a big jump. I’m definitely going back for the sit-start because the upper moves are locked in now and, well, the sit-start looks like the better, more obvious line. Otherwise, I’ve done a lot of moderate things here already from previous trips, so this time I want to play on some harder stuff and see if I can get anything done.

Mig’s Bishop days have been awesome so far. He’s proven just how much stronger he is now than he was in 2009 with numerous sends of problems left behind! Two of the most impressive problems ticked: The Hulk and Seven Spanish Angels (see photo), both done in super style. (Interestingly, I can not do either of these problems – yet, I suppose – and he has yet to do High Plains or Fly Boy; clearly he and I have different strengths!) Also, Mig sent his hardest problem to date: Gleaming the Cube! So cool. Other than that, Mig still has few “old” problems to do but he, too, wants to push himself a bit more and have some goes at harder stuff.


We were lucky enough to spend our first week here with Pam and Adam from Toronto, who also have a baby girl! It was really cool not only to share the experience (and work) of cragging with babies, but also to hang out and get to know them better. They are awesome! We will remember fondly (among other things), our little girls having secret conversations, Pam and Mig’s giggle fits, and Adam sketching-out on the down-climb from 7 Spanish Angels.


At the moment we have the pleasure of hanging out with Dennis, Cassandra and their daughter (yes, a lot of baby girls born into the Toronto climbing scene recently)! This is particularly fun for Mig because he has a partner to get out at the wee hours of the morning and night for various photo shoots. He was able to share a couple sun-rise photo sessions with Adam, and now he has a partner to shoot the Bristlecone Pine Forest, Mono Lake, and other sites. Bishop is situated in one of the most picturesque parts of California, surrounded by mountains, lakes, trees, rocks, etc. It’s a photographer’s dream. See the photo gallery for some of his shots so far!

* click an image for larger size (cliqué sur une image pour la voir en grand format).

Leaving Hueco

Leaving Hueco was extremely hard! For one, we left many problems behind (mostly untried, but a few unfinished). Second, we left behind new friends (and their dogs!), whom we already miss a bunch! Basically we left a place that had begun to feel like home (in more ways than one). I think this is common; there is something special about Hueco, and there are just too many awesome problems to ever feel “done.” Thankfully, though, Mig and I both finally started to feel in decent shape and so we take with us a great tick-list of classics, as well as some individual proud sends. Actually, considering that we have a baby with us and that we had only 3.5 weeks, we’re pretty darn psyched about everything we did.

People + Climbing

Many people contributed to our good times. Jesse – a rad dude with a positive, chill yet psyched attitude – was awesome to climb with for a couple of days. He got the send-train going for me on ‘DDD,’ and his flash of ‘Rudy’ (along with Rocco’s beta) inspired me to bite the bullet and send ‘King Cobra’ from the proper start (both hands on the undercling). Also, more Montrealers came through. I believe we mentioned Dom, Geoff and Phil, but we also got to climb – even if briefly – with Claudia and Eveline, and then on our 2nd last day, with Cloe and Fred. Toujours le fun de voir et grimper avec nos amis du Quebec!

Also, we were joined for a week by our friend Omar, and fellow Joe Rock-heads, Siu and Robin. We had a blast with these clowns! In case some of you were wondering, yes – Omar can still be his angry self when climbing outdoors. But, he is also motivated, hilarious, generous, and all-around awesome. It’s true, his send of ‘Mexican Chicken’ wasn’t pretty but he deserves serious props for not letting go at the top after cutting loose that often. We didn’t know Siu and Robin very well before this trip but we quickly learned that they are both very kind and super funny. We also learned that Siu will never stop climbing despite being broken in numerous places (cf. Loic) and that Robin is a dyno master.

Our tour to the East Spur with these 3 dudes and beta-master Rocco (a.k.a. the conductor) was definitely a highlight for us. Climbing-wise, Mig finished off ‘Jigsaw Puzzle’ as well as (the unfortunately named) ‘Better Beat Your Sweeties’; I took down a problem that I had had my eye on called ‘Better Eat Your Wheaties;’ we both flashed the ultra-classic, amazing line, ‘Moonshine Roof;’ and Siu sent ‘Uncut Yogi’ (essentially 3 times) in classic Siu style (i.e. with desperate screams) (see photo). We all finished off this great day with dinner at the famous Texan steakhouse: Cattlemans (drool).

Oh, and we also have to mention Scott. This guy is psyched! He also happens to know a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff, so he’s very interesting to have around. He kindly came out on his rest day to make us feel very important by taking photos and shooting video on our last climbing day, which was on East Mountain (with Rocco, Mary, Ian and Leici – more great peeps!). Thanks to him, Mig and I each have video footage of our last sends of the trip (Mig on ‘Ventral Fin’; Me on ‘Something Different’), which were both very proud.

Rock Art Tour

On one of our rest days, we went on a “Rock Art” tour (led by Mary) and checked out a sample of the native art paintings in the park. It was very cool to learn about the (conjectured) history of the inhabitants of Hueco Tanks as well as how the rock mountains were formed (hardened lava inside a giant limestone “mould,” which eroded away over time).


Thanks to Scott Strong for shooting video on our East Mountain tour. Here is a video of Mig on ‘Ventral Fin’:

More photos…

* click an image for larger size (cliqué sur une image pour la voir en grand format).