And if you are looking to travel and climb in the Tucson area, check out the Ultimate Guide To Rock Climbing In Tucson Arizona by Cory Hanson (coming soon).
Ladies and Gentlemen, please meet Cory Hanson:
HCRB: The last good book I ready was:
Cory: The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
HCRB: My go-to brand of climbing shoe is:
Cory: Recently I’ve been digging the Scarpa Furia
HCRB: My go-to brand of approach shoe is:
HCRB: My go-to brand of climbing chalk:
Cory: Metolius Bloc Chalk
HCRB: If I had to eat the same breakfast, every day, for a year, it would be:
Cory: Eggs, shallots, leeks, and avocado…at least that’s what’s cooking in the AM recently
HCRB: The music I listen to most right now is:
HCRB: The last thing I googled was:
Cory: The address of a Makita service repair center in Tucson
HCRB: If I am not climbing, I am:
Cory: Most likely coaching, setting, exploring the mountains, working on my house, or walking my dog. I need a social life.
HCRB: Coffee or Beer? Ideal location to enjoy it?
Cory: Is there a cruel place in this world that would make you choose? Both are best consumed in ponderosa pine woods.
HCRB: What is Old Pueblo Bouldering?
Cory: As of now OPB is an online guidebook that is growing at a rate of about 200+ problems a year. In the future it will be a print guidebook. The goal is to motivate and grow the bouldering community in Southern Arizona. I built the website myself and there is a lot of room for improvement but the bones are nearly all there. If I ever get time to, I’d like to code it again from scratch and make a much cleaner layout and UI and get rid of some annoying bugs that crop up like weeds from my novice coding.
OPB has been an excuse to hike up and down every wash, ridge, hillside, trail, and slope for new pebbles to brush up and climb. I come from the east coast and I moved out here to be in the mountains as much as possible. It has been a blast getting to know a mountain range as much as I know the Santa Catalina’s. I am nearing the point where I will be done hunting out new stuff. Not that more won’t be out there; I just really need to start making time to send some of my projects!
Cory: My first foray into developing was about a decade ago. I explored, cleaned, and eventually put out a little guidebook for an area just outside of Washington D.C. called Northwest Branch. I wasn’t the first climber out there, I wasn’t the strongest, and I made the guidebook in Microsoft Word and Paint. I loved every second of it. The guidebook got a lot of positive feedback as well. Years after I moved away, I was actually contacted by a new group of climbers who asked if they could re-work the information and post it online. I was really excited to find out what I had put out there was still alive and being used!
Then I helped some friends put up some bouldering near Old Rag in Northern Virginia but nothing every really came of that effort as far as I know. When I moved to Austin I was too busy with grad school and repeating the established lines to care to explore much.
When I moved to Tucson, however, I immediately started to explore. I have only done a handful of established lines here compared to the number of lines I have either FA’d or re-discovered.
I really enjoy the work involved in developing. I also really enjoy grumbling about how little I get to climb and how weak all the time-and-energy-draining bushwhacking and brushing leave me. Can’t have my cake and eat it too; but I try damn hard.
HCRB: How long have you been route setting?
Cory: I have been route setting for about 13 years. I started moving plastic around in the original Sportrock Climbing Center in Rockville, MD way back when I was also transitioning from birthday party staff to working the front desk. While I was in undergrad I set for my university wall. In grad school I set at commercial facilities when time would allow. Then, 5 years ago, I decided to make climbing my career and I have been setting constantly in as many places as will let me since then.
Cory: The Bloc was designed with competition spectating in mind. The space is a long rectangle with walls on one side and a large open area paralleling the walls. Additionally, the mezzanine space provides a higher vantage point for even more people. Since we opened, we have hosted USAC Youth Divisionals four times and Regionals once. During the rest of the year, our members get to enjoy the space of the facility while they rest between burns or while they hang out with friends.
HCRB: What is something that you need to improve at The Bloc?
Cory: Because we have such a strong relationship with the youth team and our setting team enjoys the competition style of setting that the kids see at events we sometimes get a little too excited and skew the style of the problems in the gym to far towards that flashy/compy style. We have recently implemented new setting protocol to combat that habit but that also allows our setters to play with the flashy stuff enough that they don’t get rusty and they still get to have fun from time to time.
HCRB: Do you have any monthly specials or discounts?
Cory: We have discounts for students and the military and we run specials over the summer. We also have an annual membership drive that can save you some money if you plan on purchasing several months or a year of membership at a time.
Cory: Our youth program is amazing. We have a setting team that is dedicated to setting for these kids on staff year around to support their training. We have coaches dedicated to each tier of the team but also work with the other teams so kids can transition smoothly between teams as their skills grow. We run multiple outdoor trips a year to places like Maple Canyon and Hueco Tanks. We run summer training camps. We use our most experienced competitors as mentors to younger climbers to build the leadership experience of our older kids and to encourage peer-to-peer role modeling. And we integrate fun activities into our training to keep our kids well-rounded and excited about practices! Our team is one of our biggest successes and it seems like it gets better every year.
The most novel aspect of our program is that we have started a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to raising funds from individual and corporate donors to facilitate competitive and recreational youth climbing in Tucson called the Tucson Climbing Project (TCP). TCP is a collaborative endeavor involving several coaches (including myself) and team parents that has helped us sponsor kids to pay team dues, buy new equipment, travel to championship level events, and to go climbing with the team on our outdoor trips. This program is only just 3 years old but it has taken off mostly due to the efforts of the head coach and founder Jon Mavko.
HCRB: What is the question that kids ask you the most – about climbing?
Cory: The literal question the kids ask me most often is ‘How long have you been climbing?’ Once they get past that they actually tend to be very diverse with their questions. Working with the youth team has taught me how inquisitive, in very individual ways, kids can be. And, watching them grow up learning in their own ways has been the most rewarding part of coaching for me.
HCRB: What is the best place to take your kids for a climbing trip?
Cory: When we go outside we tend to go for at least a long weekend. We have run several trips to a local crag called Milagrosa which hosts a bunch of sport climbing that is appropriate for a large portion of our team. We are working on integrating more day trips into our program but we have a couple of small steps to take before our program is going to head in that direction.
HCRB: Give 3 tips to a new climber:
Cory: …about spending money on gear…no shoe on the market can replace a stronger core and better technique. Focus on getting those (a stronger core and better technique.)
In the meantime, get a pair of shoes that fits your foot well. Sometimes that is the most expensive model. Sometimes it is not. Try on everything you come across and note the differences. Keep in mind that no style of shoe is equally apt at all styles of climbing!
Cory: …about having the best time possible on outdoor sessions…find knowledgeable people who are excited to be outside with you and don’t worry what they think. Try everything you can a lot. Climbing is about turning things you can’t do into things that you have done! Don’t let self-consciousness prevent you from trying hard and learning!
Cory: …about having the best time possible on outdoor trips…don’t focus on trying stuff at your limit until you are comfortable in the new area. Also don’t turn your trip sour by equating how fun it is with how hard you send or if you send this one particular climb. Climbing is fun. If you find yourself getting frustrated by the style of the climbing, remember that you are improving by learning new intricacies of the sport. If a project is frustrating you, try to remember you are on the trip to experience more than just that one line. Explore! If it means that much to you then train for it and come back prepared to project!
HCRB: I’ve seen some terrible spotting outside and inside – what tips can you give to help us all become better spotters?
Cory: Spotting doesn’t have a place in indoor facilities with seamless padding unless the climber has a chance of flipping upside down. In facilities with drag mats or in which some stray falls may send a climber towards the edge of a mat, the spotters job is primarily to ensure the climber lands on the mat. Falling properly is always the climber’s responsibility.
I have a similar ethos when I go outside. Tucson has many terrible landings. My preference is to bring enough pads that I know I will be able to land safely no matter how I come off the problem. My partner’s primary role is moving pads as I climb to places we have discussed prior to my attempt. Her/his secondary role is to prevent me from missing the pads if something goes wrong.
This isn’t a free pass for bouldering partners though! While your buddy is giving attempts you need to make sure pads stay aligned. Track their potential fall trajectories so you are ready to move pads if necessary. Only if things go wrong or you simply cannot protect every potential fall THEN be prepared to interact with the falling climber. My best advice is to communicate about expectations with your partner before you begin your attempt.
- The first step to being a boulderer is learning how to fall properly.
- The second step is learning how to place pads well.
- The third step is learning how to pull down hard.
Cory: The Southern Arizona Climbing Community can support me best by getting outside and appreciating the rock they have all around them. I learned to climb in a place with far fewer pebbles to wrestle and the nearest sport climbing was a 6 hour drive. All I really need from them is their input and some positive energy.
HCRB: Best advice for leaving no trace?
Cory: Be efficient with your packing. Have a plan for where garbage you generate at the crag will go. Keep your gear consolidated when you are at the crag. Pick up any trash you see while you are there.
Learn a whole lot more about cool people in THE climbing community by visiting the HCRBeta Interviews Category.
Jason Clements is the founder of and writer for HCRBeta, Hike Climb Relax: How to… Jason has served as the President of the Kansas City Climbing Club where he grew the club from 100 members to 1000 members. He lives in Shawnee, Kansas and also runs the cell phone recycling company, Cells for Cells, which recycles cell phones to raise money for families battling cancer.
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