With a glut of new sites dedicated to everything from bouldering films to alpine expeditions, staying current on climbing is an El Cap-sized endeavor. To help simplify your time online, we picked ten blogs that feature informative writing about climbing and its culture. As with any definitive list, some worthy candidates got cut. Two sites worth checking out are JStar in Orbit, the personal blog of sport climber Jonathan Siegrist, and Alpinist's Newswire, which is less of a blog and more of a thoroughly researched news site. Because we focused on rock climbing, you won't find big-mountain climbers like Alan Arnette on the list, either. The blogs below vary widely, so there's something for climbers of every discipline and skill level.
10. Splitter Choss
Road trip inspiration from around the West
Good for: Beta on trad climbing areas.
Written by: Carbondale, Colorado-based climber and desert rat BJ Sbarra.
Splitter Choss is less about climbing news than it is about the lifestyle of the sport. Sbarra’s posts on seemingly mundane topics—what your choice of climbing forum says about you, why buying rock shoes is such a hassle—are consistently among the most popular on the site. Detailed write-ups on low-profile crags like Monitor Rock are enough to make even the most jaded desk jockeys want to hit the road.
Sample post: In this "Crag of the Month" write-up, a semi-regular feature on the site, Sbarra explains why Moab's Wall Street crags—mediocre by the area's standards—get so many visitors.
"There is a place near Moab, Utah, where the rock is not good, the road is six inches away and the smell of urine assaults your nostrils on warm sunny days. Somehow, though, this is one of the most popular crags in Moab. Just goes to show, if you build it, they will come. So what is it with Wall Street, and why is it so popular despite all its shortcomings?
For starters, it gets sun first thing in the morning. While other cliffs are still shaking off the previous night’s cold, Wall Street offers warm stone. And aside from the highway, which offers the chance to see just how close you can stand to a speeding semi, the setting is actually quite scenic. The Colorado River sits just a few yards away, and the towering orange cliffs glow in the sun." ...
9. Sonnie Trotter
A pro shares stories of his most epic climbs
Good for: Adventure stories straight from one of the world's boldest climbers.
Written by: Canadian Sonnie Trotter, first ascensionist of hard trad routes including Cobra Crack and The Path.
The scariest climbs often make for the best stories, which is part of why pro climber Trotter’s blog is so captivating. Trotter, 32, has made a career out of climbing epic, occasionally frightening, trad routes. He’s made gear-only ascents of bolted routes like the East Face of Monkey Face (5.13d R) in Smith Rock. His writing is raw and personal—straight-up adventure stories mixed with the occasional musing on risk-taking—but still entertaining.
Sample post: After completing the second ascent of The Prophet (5.13d R) on El Capitan with Will Stanhope, Trotter summed up the experience.
" Wow. What a roller coaster. As life is I suppose. The Highest of highs, and Lowest of lows. It’s a beautiful thing really...there’s a sad truth that when you’re so focused on a project such as the Prophet, time literally just flies by. Days turn into weeks and you don’t even think twice about it. Looking back now, most of it’s a blur.
5 weeks in the Valley, 5 failed ground up attempts, 4 days in Lake Tahoe, 2 days in Santa Cruz, and over 25 days climbing, hiking, rappelling, hauling and slogging. El Cap is a glorious son of a bitch – that’s a fact. And the Prophet, is one of the richest, most deeply rooted climbing experiences I have ever had, with a partner who’s got both a boyish charm, a man’s ambition, and a spirit that’s tougher than leather. It was more like an expedition than a climbing trip."...
8. Bishop Bouldering Blog
A direct line into one of the world's most dynamic climbing scenes
Good for: Anyone who loves the East Side of California.
Written by: Bishop local and guidebook author Wills Young.
This blog has one very narrowly-defined purpose: to record and report cutting-edge ascents from Bishop, California, one of the hubs of U.S. bouldering. Young wrote the definitive guidebook to Bishop’s massive granite and volcanic boulder fields, and he’s meticulous in his role as historian, supplementing his news posts with detailed background on the problems, high-quality photos, and, whenever possible, uncut video of ascents. It's a direct line into the heart of one of the world's most vibrant climbing scenes, wherever you are in the world.
Sample post: This history of Paul Robinson's V16 highball Lucid Dreaming is a perfect example of the attention to detail Young brings to the blog.
"This line is the bafflingly hard sit start to Jared Roth's 2002 highball, Rastaman Vibration (v12) on the left side of the Grandpa Peabody's south face. Roth began his original problem at a high pinch, setting feet on the rock before making a desperate dyno to snag a fingertip edge. The crux over, v6-ish moves then led to the highball finish that he described as an epic hair-raiser. Sticking that first move alone though, was hard enough that only three or four people have ever done it. But not one had felt the urge to repeat the original line, by continuing on to the finish, perhaps feeling that the high topout was too sketchy to be worth the effort for a second ascent while the obvious and tantalizing sit-start was so nearly within grasp.
However, the "Rasta Sit Project" rebuffed all-comers, and steadily began to take on mythic status as the hardest well-tried project in the West, turning away everyone that came knocking, including Matt Birch, and Paul Robinson two years running." ...
News and notes from the oft-neglected Northeast
Good for: Climbers in the Northeast.
Written by: Burlington, Vermont-based climber David Crothers.
Since its first issue came out last year, Climberism has grown from an obscure online zine to a hub for news about the climbing scene on the northern half of the East Coast. Besides reporting on significant ascents and competitions from the Adirondacks up to Quebec and the Maritimes, Crothers, who runs Climberism’s blog almost single-handedly, also keeps track of northeastern climbers’ adventures away from home.
Sample post: When a visiting climber took a 100-foot fall from New Hampshire's Cathedral Ledge, Climberism picked up a gripping story ignored by other blogs.
"Hans Bauer and climbing partner Max Lurie made the trip to Cathedral for a day of aid climbing the Prow, a classic route that ascends the prominent Prow Buttress...The day Bauer and Lurie were making their ascent, they were climbing well and everything was going smooth. Lurie had just climbed the crux pitch and Bauer was to ascend the rope, cleaning gear as he went. Unfortunately, Bauer was dehydrated and dropped his ascender...he then had to rely on another device he was unfamiliar with. Believing the device was setup properly he untied from his anchor with approximately 50 feet of slack in the line and down he went. The device he had rigged ultimately created a small amount of friction on the rope slowing his fall but nearly severing it in the process. Slamming into the slabs below, Bauer came to a stop and felt good enough to ascend the rope to the anchor above."...
6. Dead Point Magazine
The world's biggest collection of climbing porn
Good for: Watching bouldering videos.
Written/shot by: A network of freelance contributors and users, presided over by editor Matt Williams.
Yes, the free print magazine and its website are choked with ads, but that doesn’t change the fact that DPM’s site has the best collection of climbing videos on the web, both professionally-shot and user-uploaded. Some of the best include Daniel Woods' ascent of Desperanza in Hueco Tanks and Kevin Jorgeson's send of Spectre in Bishop, as well as user-uploaded clips from more obscure areas like New Mexico's Monster Island. Bummer: DPM keeps some of the best videos in its subscription-only section, The Stash, which costs $12 per year to view.
Sample post: Dead Point scored this video of a rare ascent of Dani Andrada's hybrid boulder/route testpiece Ali Hulk Extension (5.15a) by Argentine climber Danilo Pereyra.
5. UK Climbing
The latest from Britain's boldest climbers
Good for: Keeping track of what’s happening on the other side of the pond.
Written by: A team of writers headed up by chief editor Mick Ryan, one of the cofounders of Rockfax guidebooks.
From gritstone headpoints to long sea cliff climbs, the British climbing scene is different than the U.S. As the name suggests, UK Climbing is the best source for news of hard repeats and first ascents from around the United Kingdom. An editorial staff of six—most with backgrounds in outdoors journalism and guidebook writing—put up three to six news posts a day.
Sample post: In the fall of 2008, Alex Honnold, Kevin Jorgeson, and Matt Segal traveled to the U.K. and ticked some of the country's hardest grit routes. UKC tracked "Team America's" progress on its blog.
"Alex Honnold, Kevin Jorgeson and Matt Segal are having one helluva trip, and not just enjoying our glorious weather and having mammoth movie watching sessions, but kicking ass on God's own rock. They are, as the lament went about the American G.I's who invaded the UK in the Second World War, "overpaid, oversexed and over here." This week has been Honnold's. To borrow a phrase: He owned!...
On the 14th November Honnold did, to quote his friend Matt Segal, "some variation of Knocking on Heavens Door E8" then later that day, "In typical Honnold style, he walked up to Gaia E8 and thought it didn't look too bad... After a quick warm-up he flashed (much closer to an on-sight) Gaia... Was pretty sick, there was no chalk on the holds and he didn't have any beta, he had just seen Hard Grit a while ago... Super proud!"…
Cutting-edge ascents and interviews from the Continent
Good for: Climbing and mountaineering news from around Europe; interviews with famous athletes
Written by: An Italy-based team under Editors Vinicio Stefanello, Nicholas Hobley, and Nicola Tremolada
PlanetMountain is to continental Europe what UK Climbing is to Britain. The site tends to focus on multi-pitch rock and alpine climbs, particularly from the Italian Dolomites, but also reports on hard sport ascents and international expeditions. The editors’ ability to nab interviews with famous climbers right after high-profile ascents, such as Chris Sharma’s FA of First Round, First Minute, his two-year project in Margalef, Spain, is uncanny. Yes, some of the site’s writers aren’t native English speakers, and the occasional awkward sentence makes it hard to understand what happened.
Sample post: The day after Adam Ondra made the first repeat of Bernabe Fernandez's controversial line Chilam Balam in Spain, the team posted an interview with Ondra. In the introduction, PlanetMountain explained why many people doubted that Fernandez had ever climbed the route.
"It would be nice to just celebrate Ondra's repeat and, consequently Fernandez's first ascent, but this would be ignoring the obvious, namely the history of the line which is shrouded in mystery. Because, rightly or wrongly, Chilam Balam has been hotly contested right from the outset because of its grade—9b+ [5.15c] represented a quantum leap forward on almost all other existing routes in 2003—and because of other important details, such as Fernandez's previous track record which, despite being impressive, didn't suggest this be possible." ...
3. High Places
Climbers' most pressing questions answered by an expert
Good for: Advice from a master climber and vegan baking tips
Written by: Pro climber Steph Davis
Most pros’ blogs read like scribbled diary entries. Davis, a Moab-based climber and jumper with a master’s degree in English Literature from Colorado State University, is an exception. Besides chronicling her adventures, Davis answers reader’s questions on subjects ranging from how to overcome a fear of heights to the best way to shower while living out of a truck. Bonus: Davis, a committed vegan baker, shares her favorite recipes on the site.
Sample post: In this response to a reader who wrote about her fear of beginning to lead, Davis goes back to her own beginnings as a climber.
"I first started climbing at Carderock in Maryland. The good thing about it was that everything was a toprope–in fact, I didn’t even know there were other kinds of climbing yet! So after about a year, I started traveling to other places, and even discovered that there was a thing called lead climbing, and that you could do it with gear or bolts. So I could climb pretty well by the time I started learning how to lead climb, and it was pretty difficult to go from toproping 5.11 to being terrified on 5.9s...I remember taking a trip to Devil’s Tower, and suddenly having things all come together. I was leading up thin finger cracks, placing bomber nuts, and feeling like I was suddenly free of fear."...
2. Evening Sends
Literary climbing journalism from one of the genre's top writers
Good for: Longform climbing journalism worth curling up with on the couch (or in the back seat of your Subaru)
Written by: Rock and Ice Senior Editor Andrew Bisharat
Easily the best-written blog on this list. Besides posting some of the articles he writes for the magazine, Bisharat uses this side project to share outtakes and extras from his climbing trips to places like Spain and China. The site is frank and funny, and gives him the room to explore his topics more thoroughly than he can on paper. Bisharat recently released a prize-winning instructional book on sport climbing, so there’s plenty of good practical advice too.
Sample post: After traveling to China to cover the 2011 Petzl Roc Trip, Bisharat shared some of his notes on China's culture and climbing. Included was this anecdote about three Chinese girls who approached Bisharat and asked to take their pictures with him.
"My climbing partner for the day was Daila Ojeda—girlfriend of Chris Sharma, who, on that day, was belaying Dani Andrada while he sent his five-pitch mega project. After the Chinese girls left, she came over and teased me.
“Que guapa!” she said, nudging me with her elbow.
“I don’t know what that was all about,” I said, still blushing.
“Mate,” said this random appearing-out-of-nowhere Australian, who was standing next to us and had observed the whole thing, “They think you’re Chris Sharma.”
“What?” Though we’re both technically climbers, and we’re both technically Americans, the similarities between Sharma and myself end there. I was, however, climbing with Daila, which I suppose could cause some confusion were someone able to ignore the fact that I look nothing like Sharma—not in person, not in my lumpy, slouching gait, and most definitely not on the rock, where I tend to shake like a nervous, wet dog." ...
1. Climbing Narc
The one-stop shop for climbing news
Good for: Being the only climbing blog you check
Written by: Wisconsin-based climber Brian Runnells
While Climbing Narc occasionally features original reviews and event coverage, it really stands out as the Internet’s best curator of climbing news. Every day, Runnells picks the most notable one or two ascents, comps, or interviews floating around the scene's innumerable blogs and summarizes them, like a rock-centric version of The Daily Beast’s cheat sheet. The news is divided fairly evenly between bouldering, sport, and trad ascents, and the writing is clear and concise. In the often-fragmented world of climbing, it’s as close to a one-stop shop as there is
Sample post: When Chris Sharma knocked off two 5.15's in a single day this May, the Narc jumped on the story.
"Since turning 30 a few weeks back do you think Chris Sharma spends his free time watching the Climbing After 30 series to keep his motivation up?? Whatever he’s doing is working because yesterday Sharma managed to fire off two 5.15s at Oliana with one of them being a first ascent.
Writing on her blog, Daila Ojeda describes how Sharma warmed up by trying a likely 5.15 project that combines Papichulo and Pachamama. From there he tried to repeat Chaxiraxi, the 5.15b first done by Adam Ondra a few weeks ago, only to fall on 'the last move of the boulder problem.''"...
Read more at Climbing Narc