Setting Exponential Goals

The Exponential Challenge by Rob Pizem


This past March I attempted to complete a self-created and self-imposed rock climbing challenge. It consisted of climbing seven days in a row all while increasing the demands of each days route total exponentially. Climbing seven days in a row is not all that difficult due to the fact that you can always climb something easier and who is to decide what an actual climbing day consists of? But this exponential part intrigued me. I strove to create something that actually got harder with every additional day. Not to be cool or establish a hard man line, but more to test my personal (mental and physical) toughness.

So, due to my wife's wishes, I kept it to seven days at seven different Colorado climbing areas being sure to include sport climbing, mixed gear and traditionally protected routes. I even added multi-pitch and desert towers into the mix to keep me (and my lucky partner) on our toes. Once I got a partner, which was a challenge in of itself and my spring break arrived, I was able to begin the challenge. The only other big question was to decide what Sterling Rope to use. Here are the details:

 Day 1: free 1 aid line on a desert tower (It was initially going to be a Black Canyon route, but there is too much snow and difficult access right now)
Day 2: free 2 500ft climbs in Unaweep Canyon
Day 3: free 4 towers in Colorado National Monument
Day 4: free 8 Escalante routes
Day 5: free 16 Rifle routes
Day 6: free 32 routes in Clear Creek Canyon
Day 7: free 64 routes at Shelf Road (in under 24 hours and lead every pitch)

I started the journey with one rope in mind, the Fusion Ion2 9.4mm 70 meter beauty. I cracked open a new rope the day before the challenge and flaked it out once or twice to make sure that it wouldn't tangle or get snagged while climbing the sandy desert tower. It made me happy to know that having a perfect rope was all it would take to get things off to a great start.

The Ion2 handled as a well broken in rope on the first day and hardly looked abused after freeing that tower. We had to aid, fall, hang and jug on that rope in addition to running it over sharp sandstone edges and giving long snow covered belays.

On day two we climbed two, six hundred foot granite multi-pitch routes in Unaweep Canyon. The rock can be smooth as a baby's bottom or as sharp as a knife. Fortunately, it didn't matter because we were using the Ion2. It ignored every sharp edge and even the abuse from the rappels back to the ground. When I need to use a rap line, there is only one that I ever bring, the RIT900. It is a 6.8mm static rope made for fire fighters. It's extra durable and specially designed last longer over deadly edges and chemicals and a bit of heat.

The tower day we got the ropes stuck while on rappel. Even though we had to yank on them pretty hard and still ended up reclimbing a pitch, there was no damage on the rope from being stuck behind that giant chock stone in the chimney.

The rest of the week went smoothly for us as we climbed on all the different rock types and anchors. We climbed nearly 200 pitches each in just seven days and although the sheath began to fuzz a little, there were no significant soft spots or core shots. Thanks Sterling for making the best ropes on the market! I wouldn't dream of taking another rope on any kind of trip, EVER!


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