Q&A with So iLL founder Daniel Chancellor: Redefining the look of climbing

I’ve been geeking out over So iLL since I started climbing back in 2009. Back in those days, the love affair centered around their killer holds. The first route I ever put up that I was actually proud of was a V4 set with So iLL’s Appendage holds on the lead wall at Tally Rock Gym. Since then, they’ve impressed me with their bold colors, clean aesthetic, commitment to their brand’s style + community–and of course, these kickass leggings.

A few weeks ago, they once again caught my attention by launching a crowdfunding campaign to support a new journey: retro-inspired climbing shoes. Say whaaaaaaat? The goal was to offer the climbing community a shoe that combines functionality with a focus on fashion. The urban outdoorist and the rise of outdoor millennial consumers is a hot topic at my day-job running social for OIA, so I instantly knew it was going to be a success–and it was. So iLL reached 100% funding in only 5 hours.

This weekend I sat down with founder Daniel Chancellor to chat about this ambitious project, his vision for the climbing community, and what So iLL is going to dream up next:

So iLL climbing shoes (photo: So iLL)

*All photos in this post courtesy of So iLL

It’s hard to put a finger on So iLL. You’ve got climbing holds (some of my favorites from my route-setting days), crash pads, bold leggings, chalk, training tools, and now, shoes. What inspired the dream to add climbing footwear to the diverse line-up?

Climbing footwear, along with our clothing, is a direction we have been working on for years.  We aren’t trying to create the next lightest carabiner technical piece of gear.  Instead, we delivery highly designed clothing, footwear and training products.  Things that our crew can use, wear, and be proud of.

Our goal to create products that help our climbing community succeed.  Keeping climbers fashionable, and encouraging them on their journey through media, and well designed products, will be our focus as we look towards the future.

Climbing with So iLL and their new line of retro inspired performance climbing shoes. (Photo: So iLL)

Within the first 10 seconds of your promo video, we hear this: “there needs to be a fashionable alternative for the climbing community.” In the outdoor industry, there’s a growing trend of urban climbers getting outdoors for the first time, but there is also a large pre-existing climber group who simply never had fashion-forward options before–who are you making this shoe for? 

The success of this campaign has put a lot of attention toward the brand. This is great for the project, but this entire creation is not for us.  We created these products for others.  The success is motivating and reinforces us that we made quality decisions during the journey, but in the end, these shoes are for you!

We opened our first flagship retail location and climbing gym in Saint Louis, MO a few years ago.  At Climb So iLL , we are deeply connected with our community there.  We have been able to learn the needs of urban rock climbers, and deliver them both an experience, and products, that make sense.  These climbers eventually move outside (like we did), and the product was designed to transition with them.

Our lifestyle products can be used by all outdoor enthusiasts, but it stars within our niche. Our hearts are with the urban climbers around the country, and the communities in which they exist.  The sport is growing exponentially, but the fire seems to start here.   

So iLL's line of climbing shoes is the first to dye high performance rubber this way. (Photo: So iLL)

Aside from their stellar looks, what makes these shoes a unique addition to an already booming climbing shoe market?

The rubber on our climbing shoes has a special story.  It was developed for the U.S military.  The Navy Seals needed an outsole rubber that was both sticky, and would retain color.  They were building an approach shoe, and were in need of this technology.  When we heard about this new “Dark Matter” rubber, we immediately were drawn towards it’s properties.  Putting color on the outsole of a climbing shoe (with real sticky rubber) has not been done before.  There is a first time for everything, and this is what we are most proud of.

So iLL’s Kickstarter campaign has been a phenomenal success–the original goal was $10k, but you’re currently sitting at well over $100,000 in pledges. What drove the decision to use crowdfunding for this project?

We wanted to accomplish two things with the Kickstarter Platform.  1) We really do believe in these shoes, and wanted to give climbers the opportunity to try them at a discount as early supports.  2) The kickstarter has helped us with production minimums.  Being such a small company, it has been difficult to build 6 models, in so many sizes, with so much inventory to start.  We needed help, and our community delivered.

So iLL founder Daniel Chancellor and his new line of climbing shoes. (Photo: So iLL)

While So iLL has a big digital presence and strong community, it’s still a fairly small operation. How big is the team, and how do you manage to build so much hype and energy while still remaining true to your grassroots values? 

Great question.  I know that we appear massive online!  People think that the company is huge, but we are TINY in the outdoor space.  We have 5 employees in the office, and interns, that’s it.  There is a blog on our site that talks about us just now moving out of my basement (a few months ago).  We finally rented a loft apartment.

We do all of our own sales, we do all of our own marketing, and we do all of our own branding.  Our entire team pulled together on this one and made it happen.  Evan packs boxes in our warehouse and also does all of our product photography.  Ryan answers the phone and does service, but shoots all of our lifestyle photography.  Paul works in house as our marketing guy.  Lisa answers all of our kickstarter questions online and has been working behind the scenes.  It’s really been a team effort.  My friends Daniel Wilson and Tennyson Tanner both helped us with the videos.  They are both local guys.

The team is small, but we are all very proud of what we are doing.  We really actually do the work of 10-15 people, and I”m very proud of what we have accomplished as such a small operation.

The shoes aren’t even in full production yet, and they’re already a success. What’s next on the horizon for So iLL? 

We are going to continue designing and producing high quality, innovative and fashionable products for rock climbers.  We are going to continue encouraging others to stay positive and to take hold.

Big thank you to So iLL founder Daniel Chancellor for taking the time to sit down with me and do this interview in between a hectic travel schedule, snapchatting the brand’s adventures (follow ‘em: soillinc), and trying to change the industry with climbing shoes that look just as great as they perform. You’ve got until Tuesday evening to support the Kickstarter and get your hands on a pair of these shoes at the insane backer rate before the price goes up when they hit the broader market this summer!

Stay tuned for a full review of the shoes when I get my pair of So iLL beauties
and put them to the test in California this summer. 

Celebrating 27 – City to Creek to Camp to Climb

The week approaching my 27th birthday was, frankly, a bit humdrum. I had been so busy with ‘life‘ and work that I hardly even registered it was my birthday week until someone else pointed it out. “Oh well, 27 isn’t a big deal–let’s just go with the flow on this one,” I figured, and decided to not sign myself up for any crazy climbing birthday challenges or big trips. We had a fly-fishing clinic scheduled as a work outing on my actual birthday, and that was groovy enough for me.

Every outdoorist should have an ‘adventure bug out bag’. You know, that one pack that always has your outside playtime essentials ready to go at a moments notice. In my evrgrn Kickback pack, you’ll find a Hydro Flask, my trusty notebook + pen, my Nikon D7000, an extra scarf–because autumn is upon us, chapstick, and a spare $20 in case I find a taco stand in the middle of the woods. You never know.

Photo: Mehri Russo

Photo: Mehri Russo

As it turns out, I’m a much better photographer than I am fisherman. The time I spent along Boulder Creek with a rod in my hand primarily consisted of me trying to perfect the flick of my wrist and then spending 10 minutes untangling the line. I did catch something though: a rock. The lack of freshly caught fish for dinner didn’t deter me though–I tossed my pack into the car, hauled from Boulder to Denver, and caught up with some of my favorite people for a latin feast at Cuba Cuba.

The next morning, I realized that a birthday weekend can’t just go to waste–so Mcgoo and I grabbed our packs, tossed our down comforter into the back of his Subaru, loaded up on cheese and kabob ingredients at Whole Foods, and headed towards the mountains. We ended up at West Magnolia Trailhead near Nederland, miraculously finding the perfect campsite at 3:00 PM on a Saturday. There were rolling mountain views, sprawling fields for Amble to plow through, and plenty of forest to explore. We played, relaxed by the fire, and I even got a jumpstart on my birthday resolution to start writing more snail mail. I’ll let the photos tell the story:

20151017-DSC_363920151017-DSC_367020151017-DSC_370720151018-DSC0358920151017-DSC_376520151017-DSC_377720151017-DSC_381520151017-DSC_3822 [Read more…]

Love Joe’s Valley? Speak up about it!

It’s no secret that Joe’s Valley is one of my favorite places on the planet. I could fill a book professing my love for the desert valleys, sharp sandstone boulders, cozy campsites, lazy river, and even the deer that love to jump out in front of cars at dusk. This spot is one of the greatest things to ever happen to bouldering – and now Joe’s Valley needs our help.

The Access Fund and SLCA are working with the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service to address some of the impending big issues with the area (hello, poop in the river washes). There’s a lot of work to be done, but the first thing you can do to get involved is to write a letter to the BLM making your voice heard about the issues. Access Fund has a super simple letter writing tool to help you, but comments are due by March 1st!

Show your support for Joe’s Valley bouldering here.

Photo: Andy Wickstrom

Photo: Andy Wickstrom

I wrote a letter, which you can read below. It isn’t perfect, and it only took me about five minutes to write – but every voice matters here. It would break my heart to see Joe’s Valley turn into an overdeveloped, over-regulated area where I have to pay $20 to pitch my tent, and the only way to prevent that is to get involved.

First, thank you for taking the time to take the climbing community’s comment into consideration while assessing the land use at Joe’s Valley. I first visited the area during a yearlong climbing trip – and out of the many places I visited from coast to coast, Joe’s Valley remained my favorite. It is one of the most incredible places on the planet, and deserves to be treated as such.

While you are assessing the area, there are a few key issues that need to be addressed to ensure the valley’s longevity as a recreational hub:

The trails, camping areas, etc. need proper establishment/maintenance to reduce erosion and overuse of the surrounding areas (clear trails = less brush crushing!). However, while I fully support proper trail establishment and infrastructure improvements, I believe it is absolutely vital to the spirit of Joe’s to prevent overdevelopment. Human waste is a major issue in the valley, and proper waste facilities are crucial – but turning camping areas into expensive sites with running water and paved driveways would be a travesty to the wild attitude of this destination.

In the event that fees are collected for camping areas (which I believe is unnecessary pending the commitment of the climbing community to take full responsibility for the area and work to keep it sustainable), I believe that all fees collected should directly support the resources for which they are collected.

I have spent a lot of time in Orangeville and the surrounding towns, and truly believe that the climbing community drawn to Joe’s Valley makes positive economic contributions to the county. During a city clean-up day I volunteered at a few years ago, I was able to really connect with some of the locals and was moved by their great perspective on the climbers who frequent their small slice of Utah. Climbers have an indescribable connection to Joe’s Valley, the sandstone boulders, the dry landscape, the freshly baked donuts in town, and every moment spent out in the wilderness.

While I realize my comments may not directly lead to any actions, I want to express my interest in continuing to be a part of the conversation about Joe’s Valley. There is much work to be done to protect the future of this climbing area, but there is a strong force of climbers willing to stand behind Joe’s and make an impact.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Katie Boué

Being a climber is about more than just clawing your way up rocks – living this lifestyle also comes with a responsibility to the places where you play. As climbing gets bigger and bigger, it’s on our community to make sure we’re doing things right.

Getting older, getting weak, getting strong again – My Birthday Challenge Recap

Sometimes, the passage of time is a good thing – you become wiser, you get your shi*t together, and you figure yourself out. Sometimes, it’s not such a great thing – like when six months fly by and you can barely still call yourself a climber.

After falling out of love with climbing at the end of my yearlong road trip, I shifted my priorities around for a few months. Climbing took a backseat to other life “things” like moving to Colorado, freelancing, and hiking.

Before I knew it, my 26th birthday was approaching. I had been slowly dabbling back in my love affair with climbing, but with less than two weeks before my birthday, I decided to attempt whipping myself into shape for a proper birthday challenge with the lovely duo from The RV Project – who are going to turn this challenge in a kick-ass video for their birthday challenge series with EpicTV.

Making my return to Joe's Valley!

The challenge was to climb 26 v-points in each of the main areas at Joe’s Valley (78 v-points total) within 26 hours. After picking up two new pairs of Five Ten shoes at the Food Ranch, I started the challenge at 5:45 PM on Wednesday, October 15th.

After warming up at the Mine Cart area, I started getting into my challenge at the Riverside Boulders in the Left Fork. Confession: I had never climbed one of the most iconic lines at Joe’s Valley – The Angler (V2). It’s a little tall, and I always wussed out last year when I spent the season there. Oops.

I somehow managed to send The Angler first go, and immediately felt confident about my challenge. Maybe all that trad Jason Gebauer has been making me climb helped my mental game for bouldering!

Photo: The RV Project

Photo: The RV Project

The next morning, we got off to a fairly slow start (which will later come back to haunt me). I started the day on The Small Boulder, which was a goldmine of short, easy problems. After warming up and ticking off a large portion of my Right Fork points, we hiked over to a funky V5 called Blue Eyed. [Read more…]

#CouchToCrush: My 26th Birthday Climbing Challenge

My alarm was set for 6:00 AM, but by 5:43 I knew there was no point in trying to sleep any longer. I got dressed in the dark, caught a glimpse of my unwelcomed mouse roommate scurrying under my door, made a thermos of tea, and tossed my climbing gear into my hatchback before driving out to Denver Bouldering Club for a morning solo session.

You see, I’m in training mode. Big time.My new home sweet home, the Denver Bouldering Club.

Last year while I was living on the road, my dear friends Vikki and Spenser teamed up with EpicTV to start a climbing birthday challenge video project. So far, they’ve featured Alex Johnson and Carlo Traversi, with birthday videos from Alex Honnold, Steve Edwards, and Spenser’s own 30-day birthday challenge in the pipeline too.

So much in my life has changed since the day they sealed the deal and returned to our dirtbag camp declaring “We’re going to do your birthday challenge next October!” – but the promise of a radical week reuniting in Joe’s Valley to film me making a fool of myself on some boulders has brought it all full circle. I may not have my van anymore, but dammit, I’ll always have Joe’s!

So, what’s my birthday challenge?My 26th Birthday Challenge in Joe's Valley with The RV Project.

[Read more…]

Gear Review: Cypher Phelix Climbing Shoes

I’m somewhat of a climbing shoe snob. I have unwavering loyalty to my favorite pairs, despise certain models just because they irk me, and am not easily won over by newcomers to my shoe collection. The Cypher Phelix is a beautifully created shoe for female climbers. It features a feminine (but not too girly) design that I have gotten countless compliments on, and Velcro closures that use webbing for a sturdy solution that won’t be worn out easily.

Here’s the official description of the Cypher Phelix shoes from Liberty Mountain:

“Designed for a lower volume foot and heel, the Phelix comes with a perforated toe-‐box and heel-‐cup designed for technical toe and heel-‐hooking. Not all feet are the same, for that reason the Phelix uses the cross-‐velcro system to provide a custom fit to the foot. Made of leather with an inside cotton lining. 4.2mm Enigma HP rubber provides a sticky sole to land any of those tiny foot jibs.”

The Cypher Phelix climbing shoe at the Red River Gorge.Climbing Plate Tectonics at Muir Valley in Red River Gorge with the Cypher Phelix shoes.

I received my Phelix shoes while in Colorado, and have since tested them while bouldering on granite at Rocky Mountain National Park, sport climbing for three weeks at the Red River Gorge, route-setting at Tallahassee Rock Gym, and adventuring through my favorite southeastern boulder fields. Overall, I’m a big fan of these shoes – but I don’t think I totally agree with the “official description” for them.

The ultimate strength of these shoes is smearing on slabs or vertical surfaces. I have never had a pair of shoes that I truly felt confident smearing with until I climbed “The Scoop” at Rocktown in Georgia while wearing the Cypher Phelix. Every millimeter of the shoe’s surface gripped onto the sandstone slab as I shuffled my feet along the rock, never once slipping. Impressive. You can press onto the tiniest of jibs and the Phelix will stay put.Projecting The Kind at Rock Mountain National Park while wearing the Cypher Phelix climbing shoes.

One of the striking features of the Cypher Phelix shoe is how comfortable they are on your feet. I wear a street size 6 and got these climbing shoes in a 5.5, which provided just the perfect amount of masochistic-climber-toe-crunch while still being cozy enough to wear for hours while setting routes in a rock gym (which is another one of the situations where the Phelix becomes my preferred shoe – they are so comfortable while you’re pulling an all-night route setting session).

Routesetting with the Cypher Phelix climbing shoes.

Initially, I was very skeptical about the Enigma HP rubber on the Cypher Phelix – it’s super soft compared to the usual hard rubber I climb with, so I feared I would wear through the shoes very quickly. Surprisingly, the rubber has held up well, except for a few spots where it seems like I wore through the first little layer to expose the stronger surface beneath. The softness allows me to feel small features when I’m dancing up a slab, which I love.

As with any climbing shoe, I did notice a few things that the Cypher Phelix shoe isn’t built for: namely, overhanging climbs and heel hooks. Cypher specifically mentions heel hooking as a strength for these shoes, but my heel is just a little too big to finagle strong heel hooks in the Phelix – but it would probably be a great fit for someone with a smaller heel. For reference, La Sportiva Katanas and Testarossas are my favorite shoes for heel hooks – so if those heels are baggy on you, the Phelix will likely be a great fit. 

Overall, these shoes have earned their place in my small collection of go-to climbing shoes. The Cypher Phelix is my new preferred shoe for climbing slabs, long sport routes, warming up, and setting routes. I would highly recommend it as a first shoe for beginner climbers, or as a comfortable shoe for someone like me with way too many pairs of aggressive shoes. Retailing for $100, the Cypher Phelix is affordably priced and worth the investment. These shoes look good, feel good, and will leave your feet feeling cozy even after a long day of sending.

Starting to Circuit the Best of Southeastern Bouldering (With my Proudest Send!)

My crew of lady crushers at Rocktown in Georgia.One of my favorite things about the climbing culture of the southeast is our pride. Folks around here are proud of their local boulderfields, proud of hard-earned sends, proud to be a part of a community with camaraderie, hospitality, and deep-rooted, well, pride unlike any other population of climbers I’ve encountered on this trip. This is my favorite place in the entire country, and it feels so good to be home in the southeast.

For the remainder of my yearlong trip (less than 12 weeks, whoa!), Niko and I will be circuiting the climbing areas throughout Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and a bit of North Carolina. Our main focus is what we consider the true triple crown of the southeast: Stone Fort in Tennessee, Rocktown in Georgia, and Horse Pens 40 in Alabama. Now, I love Hound Ears more than anything, but it’s only open one day a year (and no days this year), so I think it’s about time Rocktown earned some respect with triple crown status.

We spent the weekend climbing at Rocktown with old friends from Tallahassee Rock Gym, and Vikki and Spenser from The RV Project. For once, the ladies outnumbered the men! It is so good to be crushing with Vikki again – she is the queen of short lady beta, and has helped me crush a few problems I was struggling with.

Finishing the top-out on Grape Ape (V4) at Rocktown in Georgia.Rocktown impressed us with some crazy autumn colors, easily the best we’ve ever seen out there. I spent the weekend getting a little mileage with a few new sends mixed in, like Belly Button (V3), and a totally-intimidating-can’t-believe-I-sent-it V4 called Grape Ape. It’s a fairly committing, tall boulder that demands you to trust your feet and lean over a funky slab to a great, but slightly out of reach, jug. I was mildly terrified at the top, but somehow made it work.

I’ve yet to find any big projects that really inspire me at Rocktown, but we’ll be spending a lot of time there so I’ll do some exploring until I stumble upon a climb that pushes my limits and motivates me to challenge myself on it. In the meantime, I returned to Stone Fort near Chattanooga to tango with a climb that has haunted me for way too long: Shotgun (V6).

During our last southeastern climbing trip before starting our yearlong trip, I fell in love with a boulder problem that was way out of my league, but absolutely enchanting. The fellas I was with quickly sent it, while I fumbled around on the first move without making any progress. For some reason, I was convinced that this was the one, and vowed that my goal for my yearlong adventure was to come back to the southeast and send Shotgun.

And I tried and tried. I came up with crazy beta that doubled the amount of moves I had to do compared to most folks who climb it. And I made progress. Then I got shut down, left Stone Fort for a while, and trained a bit at Tallahassee Rock Gym. And then I came back, and everything clicked.Gunning for the big pinch on Shotgun (V6) at Stone Fort. I’m still not entirely sure how I managed to get up to the top out of this boulder, but it happened. It was my last attempt for the day, and I wasn’t quite feeling it, so I decided to just really throw myself at the big pinch move that had been shutting me down – and it worked. I reached up to the victory jug, recollected myself, and prepared for the notorious top-out.

I’ll admit, I spent a LOT of time hanging out on those slopers. There’s seriously just nothing there. You have to slap your hands on the flat nothingness, trust your feet, and stand up. Luckily, I had Spenser snapping pictures from the top of the boulder, plus Vikki and Niko cheering me on from below. It was an ugly struggle, but I had to do what I had to do.

Sussing out the top-out on Shotgun (V6) at Stone Fort in Tennessee.Working out the slopers on the top-out of Shotgun (V6) at Stone Fort in Chattanooga.Photos: Spenser Tang-Smith of The RV Project – he’s the best. 

Folks, it was a big moment for this little lady. There was totally a happy-dance on top of the boulder. Now I need a new project to keep me motivated at Stone Fort. The icing on my yearlong trip cake would be to send a V7 before the adventure officially ends – but that’s definitely dreaming big.

Since we’ll be around the Chattanooga area for the next few weeks, Niko and I (along with Vikki and Spenser of The RV Project) decided to show some love to my favorite climbing organization, the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. We’ll be volunteering at the second annual Buy Your Own Boulderfield fundraiser party at The Crash Pad on Friday night – and if you’re in town you ought to be there! (And if you’re not in town, it’s totally worth making a weekend trip for – we’ll go crush some boulders afterwards!) The SCC will be auctioning off awesome swag like crash pads, climbing videography workshops, rock gym passes, and even a climbing day with Lisa Rands.

Come to the BYOB party in Chattanooga –
I’ll be serving up all-you-can-eat chili all night!

That Time I Made a Cameo in a Climbing Video, But All I Did Was Eat Nutella and Apples

Shannon Joslin climbs A River Runs Through It at Joe's Valley while Niko and Spenser film her ascent.No, but seriously. My two friends, Spenser and Vikki, from The RV Project made a killer climbing video, and I’m totally in it – and all I do in my cameo is sit on a rock and stuff my face with Nutella and apples while everyone around me is cheering. Wow. But really, does this shock anyone even a little bit?

Here’s the story: You remember how Niko and I planned to visit Joe’s Valley in Utah for two weeks, and ended up staying for two months? Well, Spenser and Vikki totally instigated our long-term stay, and while we were there we helped them shoot a sweet project they filmed featuring our lady friends Shannon Joslin and Flannery Shay-Nemirow. These incredible women climb for La Sportiva and Five Ten (respectively), and wanted to do a head-to-head battle to see which climbing shoes are better.

It took weeks to film, and months to edit, but Spenser did an incredible job with the final product – it’s such a fun video. Niko and I are really proud to have had a small part in it – mostly Niko, who helped Spenser shoot a few scenes. We both make a cameo during the “A River Runs Through It” scene, and my La Sportiva Katanas get worn by Shannon in the “Self Service” segment. Awesome!

Check it out:

Those ladies know how to crush, amirite? They make those stout climbs look like a cake walk. Bonus points to Niko for his hilariously edited fist-pump. And then there’s me, just hangin’ out, stuffing my face like a total lard. And I wonder why I don’t climb V10 – it just might have something to do with all the Nutella. Sheesh.

Check out more from The RV Project on their Facebook page, and show ‘em some love on Twitter!

Review: Stonelick’s YOSE Crash Pads for Bouldering

Climbing at Moe's Valley in Utah with the Stonelick YOSE crash pad.One of the most profound and important pieces of climbing gear in my yearlong-trip arsenal is my crash pad. Tasked with keeping me from busting myself apart while popping from crimps and punting off boulders, crash pads are as vital to my bouldering as my trusty climbing shoes. Niko and I have three different crash pads provided to us by Stonelick for our yearlong trip, but my go-to pad is the Yose.

It all starts with the hinge-step system, Stonelick’s signature innovative technology. Eliminating any soft spots or creasing, the Tetris-style folding technique ensures that I have an even landing every time. Visiting new bouldering areas on a weekly basis means that I am constantly battling new elements, and frequently falling off problems, so having a crash pad set-up I can trust is crucial to helping me keep my confidence when I’m in try-hard mode. One of the most valuable things I’ve gained on this trip is confidence in topping out boulders, which I credit largely to having an awesome spotter (thanks, Niko!) and reliable crash pads.

Aside from being a generally primo landing zone, the Yose has a few features that set it apart from any other crash pad I’ve totted around a boulder field. The biggest item for me is the thickly padded waist belt. I’m a tiny gal, so when I hoist a big ‘ole crash pad full of gear on my back, it quickly becomes a top-heavy, unbalanced mess. Having a comfortable support system to help distribute and manage the weight of the pad helps me carry it around with ease – and Stonelick gets bonus points for making a waist strap system that actually accommodates my miniscule hips. But on a brutally honest note: I still totally knock myself over all the time bumping into trees and rocks. I’m the worst.

A crew of Stonelick crash pads out at Red Rocks in Las Vegas.

Another great crash pad amenity offered by the Yose is a dual-flap adjustable closure that makes my closed crash pad a perfect slotted vestibule for stuffing in my gear, snacks, extra layers, and camera gear. I never have to worry about stuff falling out while I’m hopping around in search of climbs. During the entire nine months I’ve spent lugging my gear around in my Yose thus far, I have yet to drop a single item while tromping from boulder to boulder.

With features like a ballistic cover, reinforced corners, and a hardy, multi-layer foam interior, the construction of Stonelick pads is something that has always made this brand stand out from the crowd in my opinion. Spotting one out at a climbing area is somewhat of a rarity, so it’s always great when climbers fall on my Stonelick pads and compliment their superb structure and durability. Bonus points: These beautiful pads are made in the USA – which I love.

Climbing Ripple (V2) at Rocktown in Georgia with a Stonelick crash pad.Stonelick crash pads, made in the USA!

What Would I Change? Honestly, there isn’t much I would tinker with if I was to “rebuild” the Yose. The only thing I don’t love about the crash pad is the metal hooks used to close up the pad, but I really don’t mind ‘em too much. I’d make the metal hooks a bit fatter/thicker so they’re easier to maneuver, but the current system works perfectly fine in terms of keeping my crash pad shut.  

Bottom line: I won’t lie, Stonelick crash pads can cost a tad more than other options, but the extra dollars are totally worth the investment. After nine solid months of a non-stop climbing trip, my Yose is still in excellent condition, and the quality foam has proven itself time and time again. I’ve frayed a few corners with my overuse, and have begun to pull a few stitching out from daily use, but I am truly impressed that the Yose has been able to keep up with my bouldering adventures. From what I figure, Niko and I have put in the amount of climbing days in nine months that most folks clock in a few years, so these pads will last you a long, long time.

Even better? The two folks behind Stonelick, Arone and Diana, are downright awesome people who love climbing, and have a deep passion for what they’re doing. I love supporting Stonelick because I know who is making my pads, and can climb with confidence knowing they were built with love by folks who get out there and beat up their gear as much as I do.

Want to get your hands on a sweet Stonelick Yose crash pad?
You can grab one on the Stonelick online store for $279.
Be sure to tell ‘em I sent ya!

25 Climbs for 25 Years at Rocktown, and a Perfect Weekend in Chattanooga & North Carolina

In an attempt to say “no thanks” to the typical 25th birthday, which according to my generation includes a quarter-life crisis where you wonder what you’re doing with your life and why you aren’t as so-called successful as your peers, I decided to do something different: I challenged myself to climb 25 boulder problems.

I thought it was going to be easy. The original plan was to head to one of my favorite spots in the southeast, Stone Fort, where I have a pretty decent circuit of familiar climbs. Instead, the weather forecast relocated us to Rocktown – also a wonderful crag, but with a few hang-ups. The boulders are drastically spread-out compared to Stone Fort, and the lines aren’t always as clean.

The day started strong at a familiar warm-up spot near The Orb, a classic Rocktown V8. I made quick work of almost 10 climbs ranging from V0 to V2, including a few new lines I hadn’t climbed before. Things were looking good.
Climbing at Rocktown for my 25th birthday challenge.Climbing at Rocktown for my 25th birthday challenge.

After a few failed flails on Double Trouble (V5) and an old send, Jug Surfin’ (V4), I realized that if I was going to succeed at climbing 25 boulder problems, I was going to have to take it easy. We moved on to another cluster of easy problems, knocking out 5 more lines. I was convinced that V0s were all I’d be able to send, but resigned myself to having a fun day instead of focusing on v-points.

We visited a new area I haven’t seen before, and I flashed two sweet climbs called Ripple (V2) and Mario (V3). A quick moment of redemption, but still no impressive sends.
Climbing Mario (V3) at Rocktown in Georgia for my 25th birthday.Flashing Ripple (V2) at Rocktown during my 25th birthday challenge.

The remainder of the day was spent climbing lines that looked like no one had touched them in a very, very long time. First was a tall arête climb with a sweet iron rail feature, which I quickly cruised up. Then we moved onto a trio of lines on a triangular boulder called Pommel Horse – and it was game-on. This boulder was completely grown over, and anything that could have been a hold was caked in moss or draped with cobwebs. Even Niko struggled to decifer where the various V0s went, but we finally finagled our way up the boulder and I bagged three more sends.
Climbing at Rocktown for my 25th birthday challenge.

I ended the day on what can only be described as a choss pile. My favorite southern food buffet was closing in only a few hours, and I still needed five more climbs. We hiked back towards the front of the boulder field, and climbed unappealing problems toilet-themed names. It wasn’t pretty, but I was determined to finish all 25 climbs.

Twenty minutes of hiking, and an hour of driving later, we arrived for an all-you-can-eat southern feast at Wally’s Family Restaurant in Chattanooga. Once our bellies were bursting with collard greens and bacon, we retreated to The Crash Pad where we were treated to the hostel’s newly opened private room – which is crazy cozy and has a great upstairs view of the grounds.

The next morning, Niko and I made a long haul out to Waxhaw, North Carolina, where we met my family and two favorite fellas for a relaxing birthday weekend. We explored the Q-City BBQ Championship in downtown Charlotte, wandered around Asheville, and I even got to blow out some birthday candles over a slice of red velvet cake. It was the perfect way to spend my birthday – my 26th is going to have a lot to live up to!