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3 Reasons to Hire a Rock Climber

3 Reasons to Hire a Rock Climber

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Words and photos by Martha Jane Peters

Alex Honnold and Chris Sharma can climb for a living, but most of us have to do something else to put food on the table. And most of our employers would rather us spend more time in the office and less time rock climbing. What they don’t know is that climbing is a great way to develop the soft skills needed to succeed in the workplace. Here are 3 (of the many) reasons to hire a climber:

Climbers know that succeeding means facing your fear of failure

Recently, I saw a Facebook job listing that read “We are looking for a slightly impatient individual willing to face down their fear of failure to accomplish bold things.” If I were to apply for the position, I could probably come up with some examples of my willingness to face down fear of failure from my cubicle. But they wouldn’t be as compelling as the lessons that I’ve learned through climbing.

Every person who makes a habit of climbing has probably faced their fear of failure at one point or another. When you first start climbing, you may be afraid of being unable to finish any difficult grades. On your first day, you might not make it up anything at all. To progress, you have to be persistent and consistent. You have to be willing to walk up to the bottom of that project you’ve failed at every day for 6 weeks and give it your all one more time. Because who knows? Today may be the day you send your project, climbing or career-wise. Climbers know that the sweetest success is preceded by failure.

Climbers perform under pressure

The University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business recently pioneered a new program called The Performance Science Institute (PSI). PSI’s mission is to “teach, train, and research the science, best practices, and applied principles for high performance in any domain.”

One of the focus areas for the PSI is understanding performance under pressure. Dr. Glenn Fox, who heads the program, studies neuroscience and teaches “The Science of Peak Performance.” When asked if he could have anyone in the world come speak at USC, his response was Alex Honnold. In Fox’s mind, Honnold’s free solo ascent of El Capitan is the ultimate lesson in performance under pressure. In fact, on February 1, 2018, USC hosted Alex Honnold at a special event for business students and the public.

Climbers like Honnold develop strategies for coping under pressure that allows them to succeed in high-stress environments. It says a lot about the sport that USC’s business school is studying those strategies to share with business students and leaders.

Face your fears! Failure is not getting back up after you fall.

Face your fears! Failure is not getting back up after you fall.

Multi-Pitch in Tahquitz.

Multi-pitch in Tahquitz

Climbers plan ahead and communicate

Ok, smart climbers plan ahead and communicate. If you’re on a multi-pitch climb and your partner is going to link the last 2 pitches so that you can finish before sunset, there could be 150 feet between the two of you when he/she finishes the second pitch. You need to plan for that. What if you can’t hear them yell “off belay?” What’s the signal to start climbing?

Smart climbers plan ahead and prepare. They know about the route they’re climbing, and they’re ready for contingencies. Sometimes – in climbing and at work - you have to improvise in the moment. Solid preparation and communication are the skills you need to do that effectively.

At first glance, scaling 600 foot walls for fun doesn’t seem like good cross training for a career in investment banking or engineering. But take a look around Sender One LAX on a weeknight and the number of SpaceX t-shirts suggests otherwise. Maybe Elon Musk is on to something.


BS Combo: Baldy to Sender

BS Combo: Baldy to Sender

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words by Iris Ma, photos by Iris Ma, Shin NImura, Richard Graham

There those who climb, and there are those who hike, but rarely do you find folks that love to combine these two activities together and actually have a blast in both arenas. When I met Shin at Sender One, whom I call Shin-sama or “Lord Shin” , I quickly discovered his passion for hiking. I learned that he and a handful of friends were part of an offbeat club. A club of people who successfully partake in the BS Combo.

The BS Combo was created by Shin and his friend Richard when they were training to summit Mount Whitney via the East Buttress from the Whitney Portal Trailhead in a single day. Generally this strenuous classic is broken up over two days, and involves a hike in and a long multi-pitch climb to the summit. To simulate this effort, the BS Combo was born, which involves a hike to the summit of Mount Baldy (B) and then climbing laps Sender One (S).

So, over Easter weekend, Shin-sama had gathered his herd of masochists for another BS Combo. We would meet at the Baldy Visitor Center at 7:00 a.m., take the Bear Canyon Trail, gain 6,000 feet of elevation to the summit, then head to Sender One to complete 20 routes - the equivalent of 1,000 vertical feet.

When I arrived at 6:45 a.m., Shin was already parked in front of the Visitor Center chatting away with the locals. When Jozef and Richard arrived, I reported that Scott would either join in later, or not at all, so we headed off around 7:15 a.m.

From the start, Jozef sprinted out past the group and we would only see glimpses of him from afar until we reached the summit. It seemed he had more energy and eagerness to push his limits than the rest of us and would maintain his pace to reach the summit within 3 hours. Very impressive for someone who doesn't even hike! As Shin would say, "I don't like suffering." While there is a degree of fun to suffering, I decided to take a steadier pace, knowing my legs were already giving me signs that I should have taken the day off within the first mile. I made a mental note to suggest we start an hour earlier in the future as I felt the heat rising on the switchbacks.

At about 8:40 a.m., I heard a steady trot behind me and thought it was Richard, but to my surprise, I saw his signature smile, reflective sunglasses and floppy hat. "I thought we were training! What's up with this lazy pace, Iris Ma?" chirped Scott.

I've lost count the times Scott would appear out of nowhere in the mountains. I don't think I will ever get tired of that happening. Scott easily passed each of us to reach the summit first. He lamented about taking 2 hr 22 mins but hung out with the group for a bit before heading down. I too was beginning to feel chilled and quickly put on the jacket Jozef lent to Scott to keep warm.

We got back to our cars, and prepared for part two of the BS combo.I made it to Sender One in the afternoon, and I set up in the workout area. I waited a while for Jozef and Richard to arrive. Jozef had taken much longer to descend, perhaps due to the energy he used earlier in the day. But now, they were both refueled with freshly squeezed carrot juice and ready to climb. And so we did.

Jozef offered rules for Richard and I. We would each climb one route, and alternate belaying so that the climber would have a rest before it was their turn. This rule would soon be broken by rule-maker Jozef as we made it to lap 6, as he found it extremely difficult to simply sit still. While Richard and I climbed routes of varying difficulty, Jozef stuck to his rule of climbing routes 11b and above. By lap 16, we were starting to fade, both mentally or physically. However, we kept pushing through, and Shin-sama’s band of goats finished out another successful BS combo.

Some tips from Shin-sama for future BS Combo enthusiasts:
- Pace yourself
- Hydrate the day before and be sure to bring enough water on the hike
- Start early to avoid the heat
- Drink a gallon of carrot juice while driving from the trail head to Sender One
- Yoga helps. Try doing up to 3 hours everyday
- Treat yourself to a decent snack to enjoy at the summit
- Keep your sunglasses and belongings where you can recover them if misplaced

Climbing Terms for New Climbers

Climbing Terms for New Climbers

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Whenever you’re climbing, indoors or out, you may hear or find yourself using all sorts of climbing jargon. Whether you’re new to the sport or well versed in climbing, there may be some words you may not understand. Especially with the start of Sender One LAX’s Bouldering League, you may need to know some of these words just to understand the rules! Climbers use and say so much slang, climbing pretty much has its own language. So here’s some beta (don’t worry, keep reading and we’ll define this too!) on how to navigate and translate this foreign language.


Beta: Specific advice, direction, or instruction on how to complete a climb.

Example: “Hey, what’s the beta for this climb?” “There’s a secret knee bar, my friend.”

Boulder: Climbing on boulders, often “shorter” or less tall climbs. Protection usually is the floor or a mat.

Example: “I like that boulder. That is a nice boulder.”


Bump: A technique in which you move an extremity to a hold, then move it to a subsequently higher hold.  This is done to advance short distances with poor holds.

Example: “Go to that crimp, then bump to the jug.”


Campus: Climbing without the use of your feet.

Example: "It's too difficult to keep my feet on the wall, so I'm just going to campus this."


Crimp: A small hold that you can only get the first pad of your fingers on.

Example: “Crimps are small.”


Crux: The hardest part of the climbing sequence.

Example: “The crux of the problem is the big move in the middle. And also the first move. Also, the move after the middle. And the top.”


Dyno: Short for dynamic, this is a technique where the climber will jump for a hold otherwise out of reach.

Example: “You’re a lot shorter, so you might have to dyno to the top.”


Flash: Finishing a climb on your first attempt, with beta or seeing the entire climb.

Example: “I flashed that climb, now I never have to do it again.”


Jug: A big hold that you can hold with your whole hand.

Example: “It’s good. It’s a jug.”



On-sight: Only applicable to rope climbs, on-sighting is finishing a climb on your first attempt, without any beta or being able to see the full route in detail.

Example: “I can probably on-sight a 10.a.”


Project: A climb that may take multiple sessions to figure out and complete.

Example: “I’ve been projecting the pink one in the corner for months.”


Sandbag: To underestimate a climb’s difficulty or a climber’s ability.

Example: “They’re sandbagging to score more points in Bouldering League

Send: To successfully complete a climb.

Example: “I finally sent my project at Sender One.” (OH, THAT'S WHERE WE GOT THE NAME!)


Have fun adding these new terms to your vocabulary so you can better communicate with your fellow climbers - and communicate way worse with everyone else.

Our Sending Community

Our Sending Community

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Words and photos by Melody Yuan

Ever had that moment while you’re climbing and you reach the crux and hear someone yell, “Yeah! Come on,” or “you’ve got this!”

Given how inclusive and supportive our climbing community is, it’s not out of the ordinary for a small gallery to form, and encouraging comments to grow louder as you grit your teeth up the wall. Some may even spray some beta such as, “match your feet,” or “raise your right foot to that hold by your hip!”

Whether you appreciate them or not, this is the nature of our climbing culture. The level of support and positive feedback helps to motivate me and push past my existing limits to stick the next move. While some climbers may find this level of verbal encouragement distracting and/or stressful, would climbing be the same without our sending communities?

When I first started climbing, I used to cringe when I noticed that people were watching or when they started vocalizing their support. I wasn’t used to it and I didn’t like the attention. Perhaps this was simply due to my self-esteem as a novice climber, but I felt pressured to send and embarrassed if I couldn’t.

Today, however, I am reassured and motivated by words of encouragement. Sure,it could be because I’m climbing stronger now or I’ve simply accepted the fact that I’ll never look as graceful as Margo Hayes while attempting a crux. But I attribute this change to the fact that I’ve gotten to know my sending community. Some of them are now my closest friends who have watched me climb from the very beginning, and we’ve established a bond in which I trust their words (and catch!) while I am on the wall.


What’s the Etiquette?

There is no guideline or real etiquette when it comes to giving verbal support. While I am a climber who now appreciates positive affirmation and encouragement during tough climbs, there are others who prefer quietude while scaling the wall. The initial urge of seeing a climber attempt a hard move may be to encourage them, but be sure not to overstep if you feel like they aren’t comfortable with the all the cheering and beta spray.

I once spoke to a climber who said that the term, “you can do it,” puts an immense amount of pressure on her as she climbs the wall. “What if I can’t do it? It just makes me feel like less of a climber when I come down,” she said.  

There are some climbers who also believe that beta spraying defeats the purpose of climbing. An older climber once told me that the only way to improve technique is to reflect on how you could have climbed differently. Beta for some, are only welcomed when asked for. If not, it might be best to keep your beta to yourself and instead, give cues that might help the climber make the connection on their own.

Most climbers can probably express politely that they’d rather not receive verbal encouragement, but body language is also a big indicator to whether or not they appreciate your words. You may have good intentions, but take a second to decipher whether or not the climber needs to hear what you have to say.

Sending Community

Whether it’s the friends who spot you, your belay partner, or the people who watch you climb, the sending community is a supportive and positive one. They are there to help protect you and motivate you to send your projects.

There’s no denying the feeling of satisfaction of sending, and the amplification of that feeling when the community congratulates you on the accomplishment. So I’ll take this moment to thank all those who have patiently belayed or spotted me, and to the many words of encouragement, fist bumps, high fives and hugs that we’ve shared along the way.

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