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Sender Stories: Mt. Kenya – A Fast Intro to Multi-Pitch Climbing

Sender Stories: Mt. Kenya – A Fast Intro to Multi-Pitch Climbing

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We all have stories to tell and we want to hear and share them with everyone! Sender Stories is now dedicated to our members and community to share your experiences and of course, Share Our Passions, Find Creative Beta, Learn from our Projects and Send Them, See from Other People's Perspective, and Climb Together! Sender One embraces personal experiences being told within our community and encourage all to share!

Words and Pictures by Amy Huang

"My name is Amy and I have climbed at Sender One LAX since the beginning of 2017. My passion for rock climbing started when I took a Wilderness Travel Course (WTC) and climbed peak of 4377 ft. in Joshua Tree. It was then that I fell in love with rock climbing.

On December 28, 2018 I decided to rock climb up to Nelion (17,027 ft.) and Bation (17,057 ft.), peaks on Mt. Kenya. Mt. Kenya was ideal because it was the second highest peak in Africa at 17,057 ft and it required rope climbing to get to the summits.  I could have easily done rock-climbing peaks in the U.S. but I wanted an international adventure. I spent a total of 7 days hiking in Kenya.  

One of my practice grounds was Sender One LAX.  Since I have done top roping consistently for about 2 years, I decided to try lead climbing.  I took the lead climbing class at Sender One and became lead certified. Lead climbing at Sender helped me become more confident in my rock climbing abilities.

I did not know that the approach to Mt. Kenya’s rock climbing would take 2 hours from the Austrian Hut (15,700ft) on clumps of loose talus.  Nor did I know that I would be wearing my La Sportiva snow boots, which acted like “death traps” for my feet. I was told that when I got up to the second highest peak, Nelion, we would have to down-climb and cross a glacier field and use our ice axes and crampons, to get to Batian, the higher peak.  Unfortunately these snow boots were the only ones that fit my crampons. My snow boots however, were not ideal on rock as it made it very slippery. The only other shoes I carried in my pack were my climbing shoes. My snow boots made me feel like I was hauling 2 additional pounds on each leg.  

At 5AM, on December 28, 2018 after an early breakfast, we began the approach to the base of the mountain.  When we got to the start of our climb, it was 7AM. I was a bit cold changing into my climbing shoes. As I put my snow boots into my pack, I realized that they took up the majority of my 40-liter pack.  My water bladder was frozen, but luckily, I had about a liter of hot water stored in a thermos. My guide would be on lead setting up the cams and the bolts while I belayed him from below. Looking at the rock, the hand and footholds looked straightforward, I actually thought it could be possible to free-solo Mt. Kenya.   Little did I know that there were some tricky sections where I would fall. After my guide would set the route, I would tie myself in and climb up the rope and clean what he had done while he belayed me from above.  

Sometimes I had a difficult time understanding my guide so I had to have him repeat whether to “take” as there was one point he had been afraid of falling, and when he was all done setting up the route, I had to confirm with him that it was ready for me to climb.  The grade ranged from 5.4-5.8, and there were times I had to traverse to the side or down climb.      

When we had done the first 3 pitches, my guide asked me for the time.  I responded with 9:10AM.  He was concerned that we would not have the time to climb either peak. I frowned, as I did not want to fail. Determined, and probably a big mistake, I climbed faster only to fall 10 ft., flip upside down and hit my back against the rock.  Luckily, I was wearing my helmet, which protected me from concussing, and my pack cushioned my back from getting severely hurt. I decided to shed my layers so I wouldn't overheat. Since I could not fit my extra layers in my pack, I had to leave it on one of the pitches. I thought maybe it would not get too cold and the only thing I could fit in my pack was a thick long sleeved-shirt. At the time, I was only wearing one layer of pants and one shirt.      

My guide was surprised that I was able to get through the difficult sections in a reasonable amount of time. So he said Nelion was possible to summit, but not Batian which involved rappelling down, crossing the glacier and 5 more pitches.  So happily, we left our ice axes and crampons on another pitch since we would not be using them.  

We arrived at the summit of Nelion peak at 4:30PM.  Nearby, there was the Howell Hut where some people bivouac or spend the night before they continue to Batian. At that moment, I only had a thick long-sleeved shirt from my pack. 

The nightmare began as we started to rappel down 18 pitches while shivering violently as it had gotten really cold.  I asked my guide where my jacket and warm clothes were and he replied they were at pitch #9. We had a system where he would rappel down first, and then I would anchor myself and then set my belay device for rappelling. I consciously told myself that I had to make sure that I was doing things right since there was no one to check me once my guide was gone.  

As I rappelled down, I felt like dead weight as I was tired banging into the walls going down.  The scary part was that although we had our headlamps on, it was getting difficult to see clearly at night. I was crying because I was so cold, and my guide begrudgingly gave me his windbreaker to wear that reeked of cigarette smoke.  

Twice, we had gotten the rope stuck on the rock, and we had to pull down.  The scary part was that we could not see where the rope was caught and we had to trust that we could get the rope un-caught.  I used the bulk of my weight to pull the rope down, as I had run out of strength. We had finally gotten to the pitch with my warm coat but after putting it on, I was still a bit cold but I could not put my thermal pants on as my snow boots were tightly fastened and I had no energy to take them off.  

When we had finished rappelling, I was spent.  I could not walk in a straight line with my snow-boots and had to glissade down on the sand and rocks. I could no longer carry my heavy pack. My guide went to get my team to help carry my pack and guide me back to the hut, which was 2 hours away.  I waited for 3 hours in the cold and prayed that I would be alive the next morning as I pictured freezing to death. Around 3AM, my team got me and gave me warm water to drink. They brought my regular hiking shoes, and hiking poles so I could walk easily, while carrying my heavy pack. In the end, I gave them a big tip, and was grateful that I could get back to the hut and rest. I also felt very proud to have done this multi-pitch climb. I was also touched by the kindness of my team to come get me in the early morning. I was grateful to be warm again.

When I returned, I was ready to tell people at Sender One about my experience and encouraged them to take their rock climbing to a new level. I would like to encourage more foreigners to utilize reputable African guides because they really need the money. Since I paid an affordable rate with an African Company, I was able to tip their workers more.  For example, my cook was touched that I gave him a $140 tip as he could now spend more time with his family. I felt like my African guides gave me a wonderful experience, and I wanted to show them my gratitude by giving them a generous tip for their services."

USAC Collegiate National Championship: An Interview with Randy Casillan

USAC Collegiate National Championship: An Interview with Randy Casillan

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Randy Casillan, possibly better known as RC, is Sender One SNA’s routesetting foreman. Recently, he was invited to set for the USAC Collegiate National Championship at Momentum Indoor Climbing in Houston, Texas. We interviewed Randy about his experience at the National Championships.


Hello Randy. For those of us who aren’t familiar with you or your setting style, can you tell us a little about yourself? 

Hi. I’m Randy, I’m the SNA routesetting foreman. I’m RC. I set what I think will be fun; climbing is like a puzzle. I like challenging people, and making them “solve” my climbs. Climbing is more than just a physical challenge, there’s a huge mental game in climbing. That’s why they’re called problems.

That’s awesome, that’s probably why they invited you to set for the Collegiate National Championship. Can you provide some background on the event?

The championship was a two day event, and we set at two Momentum gyms. We had climbers come from all over the place, I even saw some climbers from Sender One there. We set boulders and sport climbs. It took a whole week to prepare for the event.

Wow, a whole week! How many other setters were there? Did you enjoy meeting and them?

I’m a social butterfly with the other nine routesetters. We had our own texting thread. I sent GIFs, and had a lot of fun. It was great connecting with the other setters. It wasn’t just climbing, we stayed out and hung out throughout the week.

So you made friends. How was setting with them?

All the sets were a team effort. There was a lot of setting to do with a very diverse skill-level to accommodate to. We all had a say in everything, and we set climbs from V3 to V10. I even helped set a 5.8 for ropes.

Did you learn anything from the other setters? How did you contribute to the team?

Absolutely! Climbing is constantly changing and everyone has their own styles and ideas. Competition sets are a different game than commercial sets and it gave us an opportunity to try some new things.

I learned a bunch of new things, and Momentum has a lot of cool toys and tools that I got to try out. I think I was an I was positive influence on the team. I believe I have great attention to details, I notice things. I liked tweaking certain aspects of the climbs to just make the flow smoother.

Can you tell me how competition sets are different than regular sets?

For competition sets, we’re really testing someone’s skill in all aspects of climbing. We use the Risk-Intensity-Complexity scale for the climbs. Risk means a high commitment moves, like dynos. Intensity is the raw strength required for the climb. Complexity means the technical aspects of the climb, or the creativity in reading the route beta.

In the gym, I just like to set what I think would be fun to climb. I set all different aspects so I can challenge everyone and help them improve.

What was the best part of the competition?

Finals night was the pay off for all of our hard work. Watching the climbers try to figure out our climbs, and feeling the energy and hype from the crowds. The crowds would just go wild when the climbers would make certain moves, or finishing the climb.

Did you bring anything back from your experience? How is going to affect your sets at Sender One?

Well, I got this super cool jacket. And I’m back on dynamic moves. Paddles, I’m gonna set a bunch of paddles. Low percentage, high commitment moves. Risky moves, cross dynos, and such. 

Would you like to see anything new at Sender One?

Our gym is perfect. But I saw some cool new holds that we’re planning on getting for Sender One.

Any advice for the climbing community out there?

Climbing is hard. Never quit. And all climbing styles are good. I’ve seen it all and it's always fun.

Thanks Randy.

Thank you.

Sender One SNA will be hosting the USAC Sport & Speed Youth Regional Competition. Click here to volunteer for the event!


How to Clean Your Climbing Rope

How to Clean Your Climbing Rope

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Words & Photos by Melody Yuan

I’ve had my trusted rope for two years. It’s dynamic, durable and my life depends on it.

It only seems right then, to make sure the rope’s well taken care of. While I’ve taken precaution to keep my rope on the tarp and not step on it when climbing outdoors, rinse it every few months, use a proper rope bag, and make sure it stays flaked when it’s not in use, I really only washed it for the first time two weeks ago.

My rope has journeyed up many routes and picked up dirt across different crags. My climbing friends can attest that I probably had the dirtiest rope among our regular climbing group. I used to pride myself on the fact that my rope was well used, but after belaying one day and noticing that my hands were black as night after only one climb, I decided it was time to wash it.

But how?

After talking to a few fellow climbers, reading threads and making a trip to REI, I was equipped and ready to take on the challenge.

What you need:

Tub, bucket or a sink that you don’t mind getting dirty

Rope soap (Editor's Note: Recommended. Other detergents are potentially damaging to ropes.)

Warm water

Gloves (optional)

While cleaning the rope using just warm water may be a good enough solution, I decided to use the Edelweiss Rope Wash because my rope was too dirty for just water to clean. I have also heard of climbers throwing their rope into the washing machine*, but I would encourage washing the rope by hand. Who wants all that rope dirt in the washer where your clothes go anyway?

Step 1:

I used the bathtub at home and placed my filthy rope inside. Then, I filled the tub half way with lukewarm water. Editor's note: Washing your rope may stain your bathtub! Wash at your discretion.

Step 2:

Let the water soak. I left the rope in the tub for about 5 minutes. During this time, I cleaned the inside of my rope bag.

Step 3:

Swish it around. I pulled and squeezed the rope to make sure all the sediments were coming off, and that every inch of the rope had been in the water.

Step 4:

Add rope wash. If you’re intending to use a wash, a small amount will usually suffice in getting the grittier dirt out.

Step 5:

Scrub and Swish. Pull the entire length of your rope through your hands and scrub with your fingers.

Step 6:

Drain the water, rinse the rope and then refill the tub with clean water to rinse and/or scrub the rope again. I drained and refilled the tub four times before the water started getting clear again.

Step 7:

Dry thoroughly. Flake the rope out of the tub and lay it across a water-friendly area like a towel, balcony or shower-curtain rod. In my case, I laid it across the bike rack in my garage and away from direct sunlight.

Once it’s completely dry and looking brand new again, flake the rope one more time to make sure the rope is clean, tie the ends, and put it back into your rope bag. And voila! Guaranteed that the next time you go climbing, you’ll feel great pulling out some clean rope to set up on a new route.

To ensure that your rope stays in its optimum conditions, I would suggest doing the following:

  •         Store your rope in a dry place, away from heat and direct sunlight. Exposing the rope to too much direct sun can damage the fibers and fade the colors. This includes keeping the rope in your car on a hot day.
  •         Make sure that your rope is on a tarp or something similar when you climb outdoors, since dirt and sediment can easily get onto your rope. Also, you don’t want anyone to accidentally step onto your rope.
  •         Inspect your rope as you flake it to make sure there aren’t any fuzzy areas, cuts, flat spots or weird misshapes in your rope. It’s normal for a rope to get weaker over time, especially in the event that you’ve taken a huge fall or have owned the rope for more than a year, so this inspection is important**.

* Please research and wash your rope in a washing machine at your own discretion.

**This post is a general guide to maintaining your rope. If you are uncertain about the integrity of a rope, have it inspected by a professional. Sender One is not responsible for any rope failures via use of this guide.

Why You should NEVER Climb in the Morning

Why You should NEVER Climb in the Morning

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words by Iris Ma

Note: This piece is meant to be humorous.

Climbing in the morning is such a chore. You have to wake up before the sun rises and it makes you feel more productive than you should be. The drive is forgettable without the usual vexation of traffic. Then, you get to the gym and nobody's there, except for the bright and cheery-eyed front desk crew. Your voice echoes through the empty space when you ask for tension and no one is there to watch you send your project except for your belayer. You can do laps on your favorite routes and you don’t have to wait for any to free up. If you encounter a spinner, you get to be the hero and report it to the front desk, who probably knows why you’re there to talk to them anyway. Finally, when you’re climbing outdoors, you’ve developed a habit of an early start and waking up early is no longer such a pain when you want to beat the heat and the crowds to the crag. If these aren’t enough to convince you not to climb before work, here are four more reasons why exercise in the morning sucks:

Burn more calories

Boost your EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) - otherwise known as oxygen debt or the “afterburn”. EPOC explains how your body can continue to burn calories long after you’ve finished your workout. So, the intensity of your workout directly correlates with the amount of EPOC benefit you receive.

Win win win, no matter what 

Don’t get derailed by last minute errands, to-dos, or a late night at the office. Getting your workout done first thing in the morning ensures that nothing else gets in your way and you can stick with your training program.  

Feel rad all day long

If you’re feeling fatigued, the best antidote is more exercise. Some research suggests that morning exercise improves mental focus and abilities all day long, and has the ability reduce symptoms of depression.

Rest & digest better

Morning exercise can not only improve the length of sleep you enjoy, but also your quality of sleep by promoting deeper sleep cycles. Exercise releases a healthy dose of adrenaline which is great for waking up, but not so great in the evenings before bed. The hormones released during exercise also improve your internal digestion and system on a more consistent and regular basis.

Editor's note: Iris climbs EVERYDAY at 7AM.

With all of this being said, I hope you take my advice and never climb in the morning.

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