Black Diamond Goes ‘RetroModern’ in Terrific Video Series

Black Diamond’s RetroModern is a four-part video series from climber Sam Elias and filmmaker Mike Call. It’s a re-imaging and re-appreciation of historic climbing routes, a connection between veteran and young climbers. We’ll be running each film in the series, with words from Elias accompanying the films. Enjoy. – Ed. 

Part One – Kintsugi

Maple Canyon is a very special maze of rock. It’s an unlikely and enchanting place, and it takes on a distinct personality with each season of the year. It’s like a cobblestone riverbed that got pushed up vertically and then turned into a labyrinth. By going from start to finish, you arrive on the very top of everything — able to see the whole of the canyon, and also the surrounding wide landscape.

I have been climbing there for a long time, since even before moving to Salt Lake City in 2013. I have had a lot of relaxed, casual and fun days there with friends. It’s a higher elevation area and is one of the nicest summer climbing areas around. The conglomerate rock is basically smooth river stones cemented together by a gritty, porous matrix. It’s not the best quality for climbing because it can break easily and frequently. Thus, the bolts for climbing can be tricky to place, and new routes can take a long time to clean up. The climbing is generally pumpy and gets whole-body physical and complicated, often with kneebars as the angle gets steeper.

The Compound is my favorite sector. The climbing has a unique character, but it also has a different vibe overall, because it’s the highest crag in the canyon — perched up above the trees. You see and feel more of the whole landscape, often with wind swirling and birds soaring around. The routes are not terribly long and require more strength endurance than most of the other areas in Maple. It was the last area in the whole canyon to be developed, likely because it’s the furthest from the campground and hardest to access. Similarly, it was the last area to get re-bolted. The age and use were evident with rusted bolts, loose bolts and spinning hangers.

I didn’t have a relationship with any particular route, more the place as a whole. Additionally, I had always wondered about climbing on an upper panel of rock to top out the cave. Most of the central climbs in the cave stop at a midway break in the wall. It’s an obvious anchor point, but many of the climbs could have an extension or second pitch. I chose Cracker because it seemed the least likely to have a full no-hands rest above the original pitch, before the new climbing on the upper headwall. I was surprised by the quality of the rock and the quality of the movement.

Words by Sam Elias. More at Black Diamond



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