Sunday, May 30, 2010

2010 Teva Games / World Cup

photo: Bo Bridges

Next weekend will be the 3rd bouldering World Cup hosted on US soil at the Teva Games in Vail, Colorado. I will be competing for a shot at the title prize of being World Champion against the top boulderers in the world: Daniel Woods, Paul Robinson, Killian Fischhuber, and many others. Is it fair to say that this is probably the biggest competition of my career so far? I think so. I'm PSYCHED. Hopefully you are too. Coverage of the finals of the event will be at online.

Killian Fischhuber winning it in 2008
photo: Bo Bridges

Castle Rock 5/23/10

Castle Rock. Hidden away in the mountainous hills of Saratoga, Castle is one of Northern California's hidden bouldering gems. The boulders here are Fontainebleau-esque sandstone pillars with a soft layer of moss gently brushing each of the many surfaces, creating some picture perfect climbs.

I started the day hiking up to the Parking Lot boulder with my friend Mitch Newman, who had given me a ride so we could go work our project, Ecoterrorist (v10). After getting there and warming up, we started the early sending with a quick lap up Tree Route (v5), a way cool problem that stretched up the boulder's main face after a sit start. Still a hard problem with many variations, its a classic for the grade.

Mitch checking out a problem

We then started working on Deforestation (v9), which starts off way over head height and makes a huge move out right before topping out on tiny crimps. I made a little progress on this one, but local Castle crusher for over 15 years, Jeremy Meigs, showed me how it was done and fired it off first go. He's probably one of the Bay Area's strongest boulderers and is a great inspiration for younger climbers like me. Keep it up man!

After a couple tries, I was able to tick off Parking Lot Traverse (v7), a long traverse of the whole parking lot boulder, starting on the downhill side and coming all the way back up into Tree Route. Pretty psyched on this one.

Mitch and I headed over to Ecoterrorist at about 5:00, which didn't give us that much time to project the problem, but was still worth it anyways. The entire problem is about 6 or 7 moves, and is mostly just a mantle at the top. It starts at about head height with a hard moving getting into the starting hueco (I had to climb the tree behind me to get it first time), then makes a huge move up to the lip where you match and go out right to another sloper and top out from there. We worked it for a while, but the farthest I got on it was to slap the 2nd sloper lip and fell from there. Good project for the future.

start move of Ecoterrorist

Mitch at the crux

trying to pull the lip

SCS Regionals 2010

Last weekend was the Northern California Regional Championships at City Beach in Fremont, California. The event went really well, with my team, Zero Gravity, taking home the regional team championship for the fourth year in a row. I went to the competition not knowing if I was fully able to compete, due to a slight back strain three days before the competition.

I felt pretty good warming up and headed out 2nd in the running order. I got myself pretty psyched listening to my ipod with my friend Charlie Andrews in the chair, then fired off the first qualifier quickly so I could have more time to rest. From the preview period, I saw that the 2nd qualifier was a tricky slab route with the crux in the roof section at the end. I tried to focus on resting and drinking water, but the stereo aimed at my head 4 feet away kinda distracted me a little. Still, I managed to stay in the moment and climbed the bottom half of the climb without too much trouble. The second half had a tricky move to a SoIll feature, then a huge move out right onto a good right hand (picture above). I then had to bring my feet up and finish the rest of the roof with some cool foot beta and crazy undercling moves. It was a pretty cool route overall.

After a quick lunch at Panera Bread (I got a turkey sandwich), Charlie and I headed back into isolation to start finals. We played a couple rounds of Jungle Speed (best game EVER) and walked out for preview. The final route stretched up the right side of the roof, with what looked like the crux coming off of a huge volume and having to make a big move to double underclings. I previewed the whole thing with Charlie, my friend Eric Sanchez (who is in the next age category up), and the two other kids in my category, Will Roderick and Rick Gentry.

The first part of the climb looked like it had some pretty tough sequency sections, followed by either a big move straight up or down to an undercling to get the right hand on a crimp, following that, there were a couple pinches leading up into the roof, where the climb went to some roof jugs and a big move to a good hold on a volume beefore heading up. As I flashed both climbs in qualifiers, I was last to head out of isolation. I heard Will and Charlie get pretty high, so I knew the bar was set. I set up on the starting holds and cruised the bottom section without much of a problem. The crux ended up being transitioning off of the upper volume in the roof to the underclings above. After that, the last move to the finish hold wasn't too bad.

me and Cicada Jenerik in the finals

right before the crux
Photo: Eric Wang

After difficulty was finished, we headed over to the speed wall while some of the kids in the other categories were getting ready for superfinals. Charlie and I ended up racing each other, which we usually end up doing anyways. It was really close again, with both of us pretty much tying on the first wall, but I hit 4.75 seconds on wall 2, putting me ahead by about a second. Probably the greatest speed sets I saw today came from one of my friends on my team, Sam Steuart. He climbed the left wall in about 10 seconds, but he was really pissed at himself for slipping at a couple spots, so he went as fast as he could and hit 6 seconds on the second wall and won! Way to go dude!

Back in the superfinal, Cicada Jenerik, Hannah Le, and Ana Stirniman had all flashed their final route in Female A, so they were put on my final route as the seperator. All three of them flashed it! Pretty impressive stuff from all those guys. Eric Sanchez and Gregor Pierce tied on the Male Junior final route, so they were put on the ridiculously hard superfinal route that hadn't been used yet. Neither of them ended up getting up into the roof and fell on the cruxy slab, but Eric won by controlling a pinch out right. Second regionals win in a row for him. Way to go man!

After the comp was over, Eric belayed me on the superfinal route, and I surprised myself by not only pulling through the crux on the roof, but sending the whole thing! Eric tried it again after the comp as well, sending it casually this time. I'd say we're ready for divisionals.

In the end, I got first in speed, first in difficulty, and we won our 4th team championship with Zero Gravity. Pretty successful day overall I'd say. While getting our awards for difficulty, Charlie and I tried to do a chest bump after getting off the podium, which kinda failed, but was worth it all the way. By the way, a big happy birthday to Charlie for turning 16. Have a great day dude!

on the podium with Charlie (left) and Will (right)

Zero Gravity: regional champs '10

Saturday, May 29, 2010


..... is amazing. Nuff said. A climber's paradise by definition, this place is probably one of my favorite bouldering crags ever. Almost unlimited potential, amazing backdrops, world class conditions and rock combine for the best climbing trips possible. The fact that it was spring break made it even better...
This past trip to Bishop I was able to tick off some of my hardest sends yet, including:
  • Pow Pow v8 (onsight)
  • Moonraker v9
  • Last Dance v9
  • Beefcake v10 (hardest flash yet!)
  • Beefy Gecko v11
We headed into Bishop on the 13th and I was able to hit up the Buttermilks for a couple hours with my friend Tiff Hensley and Mauricio Huerta, who is up from Mexico and absolutely crushed everything he got on. We climbed at the cave boulder while Tiff and I projected Moonraker v9 and I ticked off that and Gleaming the Cube v8 after a couple efforts. Mauricio was getting pretty close on the Buttermilker v13, but ended up coming up a bit short on his last attempt. Tiff and I were playing around with her fisheye camera for a while after that, and got some pretty great shots on the 4 foot wide ring that makes the problems in that area so cool.

The next day, we hit up the Happies in the morning, and I was able to fire off Last Dance v9 after a couple goes and some heelhook beta from some locals. Unfortunately, the wind was really picking up around this time, so I decided to take a break and hiked up to the upper rim to scout out some of the problems up there. While working some stuff up there, I ran into Tiff and Mau(ricio) again and started working a super pocketed v11 called Bubba Butt Buster. Tiff got all the way to the lip and almost pulled through, but ended up falling at the last set of crimps on the slab. So close! At the end of the day, I got myself super psyched up for probably the most classic problem in the Happies, and stepped up to Atari.

Starting Crimps on Bubba Butt Buster

Atari is on the right side of the rim as you walk in, and looks like.... well... the Atari logo. The super slopey sides of the boulder make the whole thing a super hard, super cool compression problem with heelhooks galore and a crazy last move to the finish. It was almost dark by the time we got up that far, and we had to finish fast so we would still have some light to get back down. On my first go, I got all the way up to the finish move before slapping the edge and barely falling on the pads at the bottom. As soon as I looked at it again, I realized I missed a key foothold in the middle of the face, but took a couple more tries to get back up to the same spot. After sticking the hold again, I hit the finish easily topped it out. So cool!

soo close on the last move


On my last full day in Bishop I decided to go to the Sads. I had never been there before and was pretty psyched to try out the classic there. We started off the day with Molly (v5) and some bouldering on some easier stuff around there. After a quick snack, I headed off into the boulderfield with my guidebook to try to find some harder problems to project. After scouting out most of the Sads, I found the ever-classic Pow Pow. After looking it over for about 15 minutes, I laid out the pads, put on my shoes, chalked up, and fired it first go! My hardest onsight ever at v8, I was super stoked for more.

Pow Pow
photo: Carrie Levin

sticking the crux
photo: Carrie Levin

After a quick lunch (yeah, it was really good), we hit up the Strength in Numbers Boulder and I fired off the problem first go. Tiff, Mau and I decided to head out to the Ice Caves where Tiff wanted to try Beefcake (v10) and Mau wanted to try the right variation, Beefy Gecko (v11) as well as Beautiful Gecko (v11/12). The cave itself is located in the far corner of the Sads, and the Beefcake boulder is actually the side of a horizontal ledge. The climbs in that area are all hard, body tension intensive, roof climbs. Obviously my style.

When we got there, there were already a couple guys trying the problems from Southern California. They were really chill about us climbing with them and were able to give me and Mau really good beta on Beefcake. Mau flashed both Beefcake and Beefy Gecko pretty easily (BEAST) and started to work Beautiful Gecko, which he did in about 10 tries. I sussed out the moves on Beefcake for about 10 minutes before giving it a go. As I climbed, I got super good running beta on all the moves. Before I knew what was happening, I pulled the crux move and was working my way around the corner on jugs. I just flashed my first v10! Super psyched, i topped it out and let out probably the best victory yell of my life. SUCCESS.

After I got down, I thanked the guys who gave me the beta, who were in the process of leaving for the day. Energized, I brushed off the holds on Beefy Gecko, which follows the same line as Beefcake but branches off and heads right with a hard cross right after a rest. I tried to flash the problem as well, but forgot all the beta that our SoCal friends had given us earlier. Oh well. I thoroughly worked the problem for the next four hours, and FINALLY got back to the break off point of Beefcake, but I was unable to link that with the upper section. I decided to come back the next day, and ended up firing the problem next go that morning. I felt pretty accomplished.

Overall, this Bishop trip was one of my best ever for sure. Good sends and good memories go a long ways. Can't wait till I make it back out there again.

Mauricio in the moment

High Altitude Fitness Blacklight Comp

BADASS. That's probably the only word close enough to describe the blacklight competition hosted by High Altitude Fitness in Incline Village last month. The whole event was done really well by the gym and the setters, and Jason Kehl made a special appearance to give his slideshow and set a couple of the problems.

photo: Michael Eadington

The comp started out with the setters doing a couple last minute adjustments to the route numbers, then the DJ kicked it off and the sending began. I quickly ticked off the 2nd hardest problem and set to work on the next couple ones. I projected this one dyno problem on the right side of the topout boulder for a while with my friend, Charlie Andrews. We both ended up getting it with some extra beta from some of the locals, Paul Otis and Eric Wolff from Reno.

In the end, I finished in first place going into finals, and started getting super psyched up with the presentation from Jason Kehl and his trips to Hueco Tanks and around the country. The other four guys that qualified for the finals were Urs Moosemuller, Eric Wolff, Paul Otis, and Luke Larson.

Coming out of isolation, I was pretty nervous due to the pressure of going last in the running order and the huge crowd behind me. But I was able to calm down for problem #1 with some Eminem from Charlie's ipod and a bit of warm up in the chair. The first problem was a pretty heinous slab problem with a lot of slopers, and I barely stuck the last hold on my first go. Problem 2 was really cool as it had some glowing slots that were a lot better than they looked and I was able to flash this one easier than #1.

I heard a lot of people struggling on problem 3 while I was in the chair, but when I actually turned around to face it, it blew me away. It started out with some powerful undercling moves, then moved onto a face with a big move up to the huge SoIll eye (which happened to be glowing). The last couple moves on the face looked pretty daunting, considering they were about 15 feet off the deck with only blackness below and glowing lights all around you. However, the first few moves proved to be easier than they looked, and I was able to find the good spot on the eye and was able to fire the problem first go! Here's the video below:

video: Richard Levin

After sending problem 3 and getting the crowd really psyched, I got focused again and geared it up for problem 4. It turned out to be a long overhanging problem with an undercling move at the end. I stepped up expecting the first couple moves to flow pretty well, but I couldn't move off the first hold for a couple different tries before noticing a really good foot out right. The rest of the problem was really my style and had a couple cool heelhook moves in the middle, but was really sick problem overall.

video: Richard Levin

In the end, I ended up winning the competition, but got 3rd overall in the series, having missed the 2nd competition due to bouldering nationals. Definitely getting excited for next year though. Great comp, sick prizes, awesome people, AMAZING problems, and a super cool gym definitely have the potential for some pretty awesome opportunities! Get ready for next year...


Hows it going? I made this blog to share all my adventures around the world climbing. I would like to share my ideas and perspective on life from my point of view.

My name is Josh Levin and I'm 16 years old. I've been climbing for around 12 years now, and I hope to do so for a long time to come. Climbing is a sport that really inspires me to push myself as hard as I can and do the best I can do. It is a really unique sport that incorporates gymnastic movement, problem solving skills, and a creative and aesthetic nature. It is a form of art and a lifestyle. It can bring you places you could never imagine. Climbing is my life.

I hope to share all the amazing experiences I have with everyone, and hopefully you can take something away from what I experience. If you have any suggestions or just want to say hi, feel free to comment anytime. But now, time to get psyched.


photo: Nic Tan