Out of nowhere, my brief break from climbing and training is over, and I'm back in The Engine Room.
I'd missed it, of course, in some sadistic way. It's possible that I need this industrial attic space to balance out the wide open air of Lander, Wyoming. More than likely though, I just love it. I love holing up, with no crowds around to feed my ego, and going to work. So I am.
My first visit back to The Engine Room was with the goal of finding new max boulder problems. I needed bad holds. BAD holds.
And so, the Bumper Pads.
Shaped by Vision Climbing owner Lynette Miller, but inspired by local strongman Aaron Schnieder, these edges are deceptively difficult to use. I've witnessed the off-the-charts crimp strength of Aaron, so I knew that if he had input in the design, they would push me beyond my realm of comfort.
I mounted the Bumper Pads on our Engine Room bouldering wall last year, and quickly discovered that at our 30 degree angle, they were often harder to use than I could muster. This season, in an effort to switch things up a little, I readjusted our wall to about 25 degrees, and suddenly the Bumper Pads make sense.
At our former angle of 30 degrees, I can't imagine you'd be using more than the largest one in many problems easier than V10 or 11, unless you pair them with big footholds or have them simply to bump off of. (Get it? Bump... bumper pads!) As soon as you start to back off on the angle, they get more and more useful for us mere mortals. At our current 25 degree angle, I can (barely) use them on more of my limit problems, and when used judiciously, a few of them can now be the crux hold in V6's and 7's. At an even lower angle, they would really shine for creating crimp problems in the V4-V8 range.
Something about these edges is confounding. Before you bolt them to the wall, they seem big enough to use comfortably. They seem better than your usual "crux" crimp. Then you try to use them. They have a deviously rounded shape that threatens to spit off the weak of body tension the minute fingers are laid to them. Actually, I have a couple of theories as to why they end up being so difficult, and for me, each theory is a positive.
One, because the edge isn't situated against the climbing wall surface, but against the rounded surface of the hold, it's not as comfortable to "dig" your tips into. Two, again because the edge is in the middle of the hold, it doesn't flex like a normal edge. If you watch a normal edge when grabbed, it flexes, and if you're "digging" your tips in, you get a little bit extra to hold. Not so with these. Also, these seem to mimic the rounded edges you so often find on southern sandstone. I have an inexplicably difficult time on those edges, and it certainly translates to the Bumper Pads.
The edge itself is rounded enough to be friendly, but make no mistake; the Bumper Pads will spit you off, and you'll leave some skin behind. A few swipes with sandpaper, (a must for all new holds, in my opinion,) makes it a little more comfortable to accept the inevitable ejection. The shape of the edge differs from hold to hold: some are curved as if smiling, while others frown at you like a coach who knows you're not giving it your all.
At their widest point (across the edge), the 5 hold set varies from about 3.5" to 4.75", easily making room for 4 fingers (for those of you who use your pinkies when you climb, unlike me). Because of their diamond shape, they can be squeezed into even the most packed of bouldering walls (except for maybe Steven Jeffrey's wall).
The shape and design would seem (to me) to lend itself to spinning, particularly when oriented in such a way that you aren't pulling directly in line with the bolt and edge, but either I can't pull hard enough to make them spin, or the physics of it escapes me. Regardless, I've had no more trouble with them spinning than I do with any other hold.
As I (hopefully) get stronger, the Bumper Pads will play more and more into my limit bouldering. They force the precision and focused finger strength that I value in my training.
Vision tells me that they'll be running a nice special that puts the five hold set at only $25 (usually $35). At that price, these are a steal. The special runs from today to 8/15/14, so go get 'em now!