oh the irony

I can’t tell you how good it felt to climb in Hueco last week, so good in fact I think it warrants another trip.

My finger has seemed to heal up okay, (after 6 agonizing weeks) although the nail and the cuticle are still obviously detached, leaving a small opening for another possible infection. The doctor tells me this takes months to close up. So I’m playing it safe and being patient. But aside from that everything was Honky Dory. On my last day I snagged a V11 in a short session and patted myself on the back.

I still didn’t crimp though, just did the old ‘Half Grab’. I call it the half grab because it’s not really open handed and it’s not really a crimp, it’s a half grab and Sean McColl is one of the best half grabbers I’ve ever seen. Notice his hands in this photo I took below, he climbs everything like this. I’ve never seen him close his hand on a single hold, not once, no matter how small it is. Nelly climbs like this too. I like this photo, the feather feature of “The Feather ” V11 is very much prominent.

Like I said, I like this photo. Maybe I should send this along to the magazines, maybe they’d publish it and give me a few bucks for my trouble,


maybe I should post it for free, (like I just did, oops) – I mean, isn’t that what the internet is all about anyway? Content for FREE and a world of mediocrity? Nobody expects to pay for anything these days, especially not if it’s just average. Nope, the mob won’t pay – not a single cent. Especially during these corrective times. So where does value lie? What is still valuable in this world? Where can we find WORTH?

Answer: Anything that is REAL, anything that you can taste, touch, smell and feel. Anything that you can be proud to own. I am proud of the windshield wipers on my car, because I dismantled them and replaced the whole unit myself. I am proud of the things I build and the products I get from my sponsors. I am proud of the people who still go outside and take in fresh air everyday and I am proud of the people who work for what they believe in and do what they feel is right.

At this point, this blog can go any which direction today, I have lots of things rolling around my empty skull, like for example an article I read in Rock and Ice magazine yesterday about why doing weighted pull ups won’t work. That pissed me right off, what a CROCK – of – SHIT. I’m sure they will never put me on the cover ever again if they read this, (no matter how hard I pose down in bright clothing) but what the hell. I’m sure Dr.J is a very smart, friendly and caring person, but to put those words on the cover like that “WON’T WORK” as if it’s the fucking holy bible. Because it’s in print, it is the end all and the be all of training. Well, I guess I better put away my weight belt then eh? It’s been published.

FACT: I have never been stronger in my entire life then the three months I spent back in 2003 after training with weights, weighted deadhangs, pull ups and the like. The reason it worked for me, was because my body got used to the weight it naturally was (about 160-ish), and I PLATEAUED.

SO – I decided – “If I want to keep getting stronger (and please note that I am not a gifted powerhouse, in fact I am not even an average powerhouse and I’m not really gifted at anything, I am the guy you see doing pull ups to get stronger, and campus board workouts because if I don’t I won’t improve, god knows I wish I was born with Sharma’s fingers, but I wasn’t, so I train and I suck it up) Where was I? Oh yah the winter of ’03, if I wanted to keep getting stronger, I had to add more weight to the muscles I was working. Simple.

Remember, I said stronger, NOT fitter. If fitness is what you are after, then by all means, climb all day long and never do a single pull up or hard move. But I wanted strength, I wanted three to five moves of pure muscle (and guess what, this also leads to higher levels of fitness, I’d tell you why but it would take another blog) so I added weight. What I didn’t do was pull weights every single day, that would be ludicrous, I didn’t stick to just one routine, I mixed it up constantly and to offset elbow tendonitis (inflamation), I ate a sensible high protein diet and drank a Lake full of water each day.

It pisses me off when the mags try and say “THIS IS HOW IT IS” like there is no exception. BULLOCKS. EAT ME. AS IF. There are a million ways to do things, what you and I need to do is research for ourselves from credited sources and practice on our own bodies to see what is effective, and what’s not.

Another thing thats been chipping at me, is this whole 8a thing about Rhapsody. Rhapsody is a very hot topic during the last few years and I’m sure will continue to be so because it is a bench mark climb and a world class route. Issues like this come up all the time in our everday lives and it’s not a big deal because it’s usually at the local crag and likely isn’t one of the worlds hardest trad climbs. But when it is, it generates discussion, opinions and general spray. Spray as in ‘spit from peoples keyboards’. 8a recently although a tad bit LATE published this picture.

I want to take this opportunity to comment on this, because this too is crap. The reason it is crap is because it is a VERY foreshortened view AND it’s inaccurate.

People want to say, “OH so is this what it really looks like? Oh My. It’s very contrived isn’t it. I’m not sure it counts.” This is such crap. From this angle the wall above me looks like it’s only 15 feet tall, not 35. So don’t jump to any conclusions, if you want to make a comment go ahead, but I won’t listen until you’ve stood underneath the wall, and watched someone climb it, or better yet, strap on a harness and get on it for yourself and then after, by all means, PLEASE tell me what you think. I am all ears.

Did Steve McClure climb Rhapsody? In my opinion no, he did not. He did a slightly easier sequence out left gunning for the arete. He avoided what I think (personally) is the most defining sequence on Rhapsody, the lunge for the top of the wall.

But what he did do was still an UNBELIEVABLE climb, and in only four days, he pretty much showed Dave and I what is possible and set the bar pretty high for any further repeats. I’d be impressed to see anyone climb through the crux faster than Steve did. He’s AMAZING and one of my personal hero’s, but this isn’t about him and what he did or didn’t do, because STEVE doesn’t care anyway, he’s just out there having fun and pulling down, the way it should be.

BUT…(this leads me to my rant)

Because Steve opted for a different finish to the arete, there is now even more controversy over the eliminate issue than ever. I tried very hard to keep the eliminate thing at a mellow volume, but even now, nearly 7 months later, it’s still in discussion and still circulating. And it’s my fault. So I want to try to clear things up and I hope I am not making matters worse. I’m just trying to explain my perspective as I see it.

Rhapsody is a beautiful world class climb. It is one of the best experiences of my vertical life. A challenge I am deeply proud to say I met. It has all the elements of a classic. Except one. There are two additional variations.

Rhapsody IS NOT an eliminate, this is a poor choice of words.

It’s not as if a climber can grab this hold (A is okay), but cannot grab this hold (B is not okay). It’s not like bouldering at Morrison, Colorado (thank god for Poudre Canyon) where people say you can’t use your thumb on this crimp (which is also a fun challenge) but not very liberating.

So if it’s not an eliminate, what is it then? Rhapsody is a line with two possible variants.

And let’s go a step further let’s say that Rhapsody is still the first and foremost line (it is the line Dave chose and it is the line he climbed and claimed) and lets say the other ones are simply variations of this and these are the reasons why…

– It has variations because there are no bolts dictating where the leader must follow. Once you place the gear, you are free to roam around the wall at will, you are set free to interpret the stone the way YOU see it. Me, I saw it the same way Dave saw it, climb the crack feature to the top of the wall without escaping left to the arete. Steve saw it differently, and that’s wonderful too, and maybe next year someone will see it differently again. But not likely.

– It has variations like this because the rock is featured, and good thing for that too, otherwise it would be a blank face that nobody has ever heard about, somewhere in Scotland and there would be no joy in falling from it’s crux moves. (like I did 23 times)

– It has variations like this in the very same way that many if not most of the classic boulder problems around the world have different starts and different finishes – I.E. The wheel of life. V16. It has many more possible finishes, but I don’t hear anyone complaining about them.

The most beautiful thing about climbing rocks is that there is no one standing beside you telling you what you should do, you just do what comes naturally.

So, that’s it. That is what I have to say, (not that anyone cares and I’m glad) but I feel like I should apologize to Dave for ever thinking it was an elimination. It’s a line. An obvious line. A proud and difficult line and it’s the line of power. The two climbs going left to the arete are variations to this one original line and thats the way I see it.

Anyway, — Agree to Disagree and if you want to slag me, go ahead, I won’t sensor your comments, I shall embrace them. Also, inform me of my spelling errors, I’m terrible.

HEY – By the way, Did you know that ‘San Diego’ means a ‘Whale’s Vagina’? That’s soo cool, if you didn’t know this, please forward this onto 25 of your friends (or you will fall off your project tomorrow) so that they too can be informed and enjoy this interesting fact. If it comes back to me, then I have done my duty and can retire a bitter old climber who quits and takes up surfing.

Please forward this NOW.


  • caroline

    Nothing like reading a good rant over breakfast on a Sunday morning, nice one!

    Hope you both have a great Christmas and all the best for the New year.

    Take care x

  • Interesting. I like getting some clarity from actual climbing sources after getting confuzzled by 8a. I discount most of the stuff I read there anyway unless I can confirm it elsewhere. Oh, and ‘sensored’ is spelled ‘censored.’ 🙂

    Happy Holidays!

  • Sonnie

    Thanks Calvin,

    I thought that word looked a little funny.


    Great to hear from you, I hope you are well too, and happy holidays back at ya. Say hi to the whole ‘Eddie’ crew for me please. Cheers.

  • Johnny

    Great post. As a regular at Dumbarton it is too true that it looks a WHOLE lot different standing at the bottom of that rock face, intimidating and awesome. So much so that I’m happy to scratch around on the boulders below under the aura of that wall and have merry dreams of being up there one day. Line of power indeed.

    Maximum respect Sonnie, it was a pleasure to have you around during that period, you had so much respect for the climb, the place and the people whether you were dancing up Requiem for the umpteenth time or sending Slap Happy in your trainers.

    I have to agree that I don’t think Steve climbed Rhapsody, missing that finish seems like the missing piece of the jigsaw, but then again who cares and why should he? It was amazing to see him climb, like a motherfucking human fly.

    I was interviewing Dave at Dumby a couple of months back for my dissertation and we got talking about how we thought it was just great that you were able to see the worth of the climb and spend time at the beautiful mess that is Dumby!


  • John

    Hi Sonnie,

    You say the the 8a.nu picture is “inaccurate”…

    What lines do you think are poorly represented in the picture (other than by foreshortening)?

    From what I saw of various attempts on the routes by yourself and Dave I thought the lines shown for “Requiem”, “Rhapsody” and “Direquiem” were fair indications of the lines. I don’t think I ever saw you do “Cop Out” and this line may be shown inaccurately. (Perhaps you could clarify the line of “Cop Out” if this is the case.) I have only seen Steve’s climb on video and would say that perhaps 8a should have shown a more pronounced traverse to the left but it would seem broadly correct to me. What da ya say?


  • Ben

    Very interesting post/rant, Sonnie. It’s nice to hear peoples points of veiw on these things. I can’t even begin to comprehend how difficult Rhapsody must be – I guess it’s easy for people to wax lyrical about things from down on the ground, but as you say, you can’t really say whats “right” and “wrong” on the rock like I can on plastic. Whatever way you guys got to the top of that wall is a massive achievement.

    Also, we’re planning to add weighted dead hangs/pull ups to our training routine in the new year – It’ll be interesting to see how that works. I feel like I’m starting to plateau strengthwise at the moment, so it’ll be a good experiment for a few months.

    Oh, and thanks for sharing all your amazing photos! I can’t wait to get to Hueco Tanks next year!


  • Tarik

    Amen to that – the part on weighted pull ups to be precise – I could not agree more, this is pretty much exactly what I thought when I came across the R&I piece.

  • Hi Sonnie,

    First of all, I’d like to apologise for the Rhapsody photo shown and referred to above. It’s mine – I did it – mea culpa! It was done with the best intentions, believe me. As you say it’s published on 8a, but was in fact originally uploaded to UKC a good bit earlier. One of the mod.s on that site asked for a photo-topo, distinguishing the various lines. I’d watched with interest your first few RP attempts, but sadly missed your first send. Nonetheless, I offered to try and draw up something useful. I e-mailed some others who’d been there and witnessed your success and between us, we sort of compiled the photo above.

    *BARP !!!* Big mistake, sorry.

    Clearly the content is inaccurate, so I’d really like to get the correct lines and if possible, maybe update the photo. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet seen Committed 2, so I’ve not seen the close-up shots which I hope will clarify the matter. I’m guessing however you won’t want to be drawn into further prolonging the “great line discussion”, but it would be good to let me make amends. Fair enough, it’s your call, but it would be one way of finally putting this baby to bed.

    Re the foreshortening, I agree, but there’s not much I could do about it. Two other pix on my gallery maybe redress the inaccurate perception:



    Okay enough, I’m officially rambling! In short great line – great effort – great tick, and once again, big apologies for the error.



  • Andy Chasteen

    Classic rant. Good read bro.

  • Sonnie

    Hey Ben,

    Another note on using weights, I don’t recommend a big number of reps. Three is often sufficient.


    Thanks for the comment. No worries at all mate, no apologies, you did a great job, I should have given you more credit and it is I who should be sorry. I wasn’t trying to devalue your work, and your contribution, it’s appreciated by many. I was merely trying to inform people that pictures can often be misleading and until you stand face to face with the giant, you won’t truly understand it.

    I could go into details about the accuracy, but lets just say you’ve done good, and the climbers who want to climb these routes will surely find their way.

  • Matt

    Sonnie New Year resolution……training section in your site…..I’m psyched but need guidance

  • Brilliant!

  • hey sonnie
    in this post you wrote “…and to offset elbow tendonitis (inflamation), I ate a sensible high protein diet…”.
    as soon as i start to train (campus etc.) i also get tendonitis which shuts me down all the time… it got better by training the antagonists (doing push ups) and stretching (!) a lot, but it’s always there. So it would be nice if you could give me more details on the diet you talk about and how it is supposed to help?


  • Sonnie

    Hey Jakob,

    Sorry to hear about the sore elbows. Just listen to your body, VERY VERY well.

    Whenever I’ve been injured or developed tendonitis, it’s been because I wasn’t paying attention and I let my motivation overrule my warning signs. I eat a lot of fish, tons of salmon and lots of greens – but when you feel this, it’s important to start drinking buckets of water and even back off a tiny little bit. Also, be careful of the stretching, I only do it once or MAYBE twice a day, it can be harmful if you don’t do it well and just keep cranking on your forearms all day, especially if they are cold. Also, do some gentle message and even try Glucosamine with Chondroitin. Pain is good in a way because it means you are pushing your threshhold, but then slow down at any sign of pain or chronic discomfort. You won’t lose what you’ve gained and you will soon build your resistance up and then you can go hard again, it’s a constant state of balance. Go hard, back off, go hard, back off, this way you won’t end up completely destroying yourself and quit, which I’ve seen many people do. Think longevity. Drink water, and train your opposition muscles too. Best wishes.