Rock Climbing


The media likes to call them drones. They could also be called UAVs–Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Or…a Phantom quadcopter, in this case.

These machines have really come into their own as incredible video and still photography platforms. They have worked out a lot of the camera stability and distortion issues, they have added more megapixels with each iteration, the batteries last much longer, and the GPS system allows for pre-programmed flight paths and the easy return of the vehicle.

Possible uses? The list is endless, including of course some rather shady paparazzi-ish options (or worse).

Out at the Audubon Research Ranch this past week (see yesterday’s post), I watched an excellent example of how these quadcopters might be used in a very positive way…

  1. To capture low altitude video of a nature preserve’s most scenic areas for publicity use on their website.
  2. To monitor the seasonal or annual changes in the flora of a specific area or ecosystem. Key to this is the ability to program a specific altitude, an exact search grid flightpath, as well as precise spots at which to take still photographs (and/or video). The same route can be precisely reflown each time and the changes in, say, grassland condition and coverage due to drought or grazing, can be monitored.

Here are some sample images, with a special bonus rock climbing video at the end…

The launch. My brother, Greg, is flying this one as another brother, Brian, looks on. The entire flight system can be carried easily in a very reasonably-sized daypack (that’s the tote pack, lying open just in front of the car):

Quadcopter Flight. Southern Arizona, 2016
Quadcopter Flight. Southern Arizona, 2016

A beautiful touchscreen interface allows the controller to select various flight options and views. On the screen you can see exactly what the camera sees, and/or you can select a bird’s eye view of the flightpath. Flight parameters–groundspeed, altitude, battery status, signal strength, and more, are also easily monitored. The two stick controls are visible next to Greg’s left thumb:

Monitoring the Flight. Southern Arizona, 2016
Monitoring the Flight. Southern Arizona, 2016


No need to actually land the quadcopter. Just let it hover its way down until you can simply grab it, as Brian is preparing to do here:

The Catch. Southern Arizona, 2016
Brian Makes the Catch. Southern Arizona, 2016


As a nice addition to your aerial video, consider a few stationary wildlife cameras throughout your zone of interest. They can take video and still images as well as night infrared footage:

Servicing the Critter Cam. Southern Arizona, 2016
Greg, Servicing the Critter Cam. Southern Arizona, 2016

And, finally, a bonus video by someone who happened to be out filming across the highway when my old climbing buddy Jim D. and I were working our way up the iconic Praying Monk on Camelback Mountain in the midst of the Phoenix, Arizona metropolis:

Third Flatiron Portrait

Onward and Upward. Gary, on the Third Flatiron, Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Onward and Upward. Third Flatiron, Boulder, Colorado, 2015


A portrait of Gary, on the Third Flatiron, indicating the direction of the next pitch (or the threatening rain clouds???). Expect a few more rock climbing photographs scattered through this blog as time goes on.


I’m “back in the saddle again” after a 30-year hiatus and feeling like a kid with new shoes on a playground with a spiral slide and a rocket ship monkey bar set. That is, I am back to enjoying steep rock, the [sometimes] graceful movement from hold to to hold to stance, the satisfaction of setting up a quick and secure belay anchor, the grand vistas far below, the ravens, hawks and eagles, as they swoop and circle…and I’ll usually carry a camera with me on these climbs.

Back on the rock again, whoopee!

Review: Park Güell Bouldering Area, Barcelona

Sort of “buildering”, actually.

For all the details on precise location, how to get there, etc., see the website Escalar a Barcelona. There, you’ll find a few pictures but, more importantly, a map on where you will find these walls. This steep, hillside area is a confusing mess of narrow streets, so use a map to get there for the first time.

I will add these few points…

–This area doesn’t seem to get near the traffic that you’ll see at the La Foixarda tunnel on Montjuic.

–Still, the holds–especially the feet–are fairly polished from lots of use.

–There are holes, slots, an occasional strange finger jam, as well as the standard crimps. This is a nice change from artificial gym holds, if that has been your diet of late.

–It feels more like trad climbing because…well…the rock is natural (imagine that!)–even if the stones were piled up and cemented there by human beans a century ago.

–Be aware that this area is atop and at the rear of the park. Do NOT be climbing on the walls by the main Park Güell entrance.


Park Güell Bouldering, #1. Barcelona, 2015
Park Güell Bouldering, #1. Barcelona, 2015


Park Güell Bouldering, #2. Barcelona, 2015
Park Güell Bouldering, #2. Barcelona, 2015

Review: La Foixarda Rock Climbing Tunnel, Barcelona

La Foixarda, #1. Barcelona, 2015
La Foixarda, #1. Barcelona, 2015


A climbing “tunnel”, you ask with incredulity?

Yes, indeedy, a tunnel.

It is located on Montjuic, in the city of Barcelona, in what was once a stone quarry. In fact, the stone to build the famous Santa María del Mar church came from this same quarry way back in the 14th century. The tunnel was a late 20th century addition built to access the area which now also includes a very pro rugby pitch and an indoor climbing gym, Climbat.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, before the 1992 Barcelona Olympic games, local climbers started to put up routes in the quarry walls as well as inside and on the ends of the concrete tunnel. In October of 2009, heavy rains caused a large collapse of the rock in the quarry, so the large sections of natural rock have been closed ever since.

Still, there is plenty here to play around on.

A few observations:

–It is pretty much all bouldering or sport climbing on very short (4 to 15 meters) routes. The low traverses are very popular and probably where you will start.

–You’ll likely find climbers here at just about any hour and any day of the week. You may even run into a possible climbing partner for a run out to one of the many nearby local crags.

–Being a tunnel, you can hang out and climb here even in inclement weather.

–They say there are some 80-90 possible climbs in and just outside of the tunnel, from 5a (5.7) to as hard as you like. You’ll find the route names and ratings in the little yellow squares here and there–if they haven’t been eroded beyond recognition. From the yellow box, climb straight up to the apex of the curved roof, then lower off the anchors.

–Most of the longer routes just outside the tunnel are on the artificial Disney-like cement that was used to cap and control the unstable natural rock beneath. Here, you will find glued-on and bolted gym holds as well as holds chipped directly into the concrete.

–With the passage of many, many feet over the decades, you’ll often find the holds polished down to a virtual verglas state–especially the foot holds on the low traverses along the 50-meter length of the tunnel. You will be using a lot more hand, finger and upper body than would normally be necessary otherwise.

–The “onda” is very grunge-urban with plenty of graffiti, the light noise of the passing traffic above, and the soundtrack beat from the odd portable boom box.

–For a completely different experience, try the Climbat climbing gym just a few hundred yards away on the same road.

For more… Click here for the photographic tour!