Simply Read, Rifle, CO
photo by Tobin Sanson

Sunday, January 29, 2012

New Years Reflection

Upcycling prAna Shipping Bags

Upcycling prAna Shipping Bags (video)

With winter comes short days and long, dark evenings. My first few winters as a climber in Colorado were filled with anxiety. When would I get to climb again? Would it ever stop snowing? How can it be SO cold?
It took some time, and some patience, but I’ve finally found my peace with winter. I’ve finally realized that I don’t have to climb every weekend. In fact, it turns out that there are a whole slew of other things that I also love to do. Like skiing, swimming in the hot springs pool, watching football, and hanging out with my non-climbing friends. Most of all I enjoy finding creative ways to use all of the pretty things I save throughout the year.
This past weekend I pulled out some of the prAna shipping bags I’ve been saving for a snowy day and got to work foldingorigami boxes. I love these boxes. They make perfect treasure chests for all of the little knick-knacks I have lying around my bedroom.
Here’s a quick tutorial on how to up-cycle your own prAna shipping bags into fun little boxes.
~Jen Vennon, prAna Ambassador

Sunday, November 6, 2011

prAna Blog; Shop Handmade, Shop Local

Jen Vennon: Shop Handmade, Shop Local

With the holiday season upon us it’s time to start thinking about gifts for all the special people in your life. This year, I’m challenging myself to do all of my shopping at either locally owned shops or from handmade merchants.
Here are a few of my favorites for the people on my list:
Mountain Love
Mountain Love is owned by my dear friend, and fellow teacher, Kelly Philbin. Kelly makes beautiful interchangeable magnetic necklaces. Each necklace comes with an engraved pendant and three magnetic pieces for you to switch and change on a whim. You can find Mountain Love at craft fairs all over the Western Slope and the Front Range of Colorado, or on her website at
ash & ore
“ash & ore is a one woman venture founded in 2009, specializing in handmade leather goods that combines simple functional designs with re-purposed materials.
Nestled at the base of the Rockies, Amee happily dwells and creates in a 100 year old bungalow with her boyfriend and their fuzzy, four legged friend, Roobix.”
Amee Hinklee is an ultra creative artist and a member of the climbing community. She can be found at craft shows and fairs around Colorado. Keep up with her at or on ash & ore’s Facebook page!
“MuKee products are handmade from reclaimed skateboards” by Derek Keenan. Products include necklaces, earrings, and belt buckles; all for a reasonable price. Check out Mukee’s shop at or follow him on Facebook at
Two+Two, handmade in Carbondale CO, makes reusable, washable, bags in a variety of sizes and designs. They are the perfect gift for that practical eco-minded loved one. I use and reuse these bags daily for my lunch and snack. They are also perfect for children! The website is coming soon at or you can follow them on Facebook at
Child’s Own Studio
This is the perfect gift for the little artist in your life. This talented woman can turn your child’s drawings into a unique stuffed animal!
“Child’s Own Studio started with a simple project, to make a recognizable comfort toy for a 4 year old boy based on his drawing. It was an idea that launched a home-based craft business. Since then, Child’s Own Studio has custom made over 200 personal softies, each one as unique as the child who drew it.”
Check out for great pictures and more information on this unique product.
Unfortunately Child’s Own Studio is not taking any more orders for the Holiday season, but she’ll start up again in January.
Those are five of my favorite handmade merchants. Let’s hear about your favorites?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stockboy's Revenge

Saturday was one of those days I can only describe as un-motivating.  It was raining and cold as we packed the car. It dumped for the entire 1 hour drive to Rifle Mountain Park. At one point I began laughing and questioned Andrew about why we were still driving. I’d  suggested throwing in the towel before we even made it to the highway. A day at the Glenwood Hot Springs was sounding perfect to me. But we kept driving.

The canyon was pretty much empty when we arrived. Everything looked a little darker than it should and the black rock was glistening as the water poured down the walls. I had no hope of actually climbing and was just hoping I could convince everyone that a diving board session at the pool would be much more fun.

The car thermometer read 48 degrees as we parked the car. In the back of my mind I couldn’t help but think about a day last year when the thermometer read the exact same thing. It was damp and gross then too. That was the day I sent the 7 PM Show. Maybe, just maybe, I could pull it off again. Maybe. . . but probably not!

Three bolts into my third warm-up I saw a flash and heard the crash of thunder. I believe I even let out a loud whoop! This was just ridiculous, but I was kind of having fun. That was until Andrew screamed up at me. “I’m getting soaked down here, you gotta come down!” I looked down to see him huddled as far under the wall as possible and getting nailed by sideways hail that was penetrating deep into the caves. I came down and finding my jackets soaked decided to give up for the day. I had one good go on my project for the weekend; I didn’t want to waste it on such a crappy day. I’d fallen at the crux countless times and even punted once above there. I just needed to do it right one time and Sunday’s forecast looked really good.

Once again I attempted to get the boys to pack it up and call it a day. This was just dumb, and now my coats were wet!

They wouldn’t leave. I was stuck in the canyon. I could either climb or just sit around pouting all day. Honestly the latter sounded fine to me. Adam Avery was with us and he had a cooler filled with beer, not climbing wouldn’t be too bad. But the thought of last years send kept creeping into my mind.

I decided to walk down to the Bauhaus and check to condition of Stockboy’s Revenge. If it was wet the decision would be made and I’d call it a day. To my great surprise it was dry and actually looked kind of bright. Several of my friends were in there trying to stay warm and get some pitches in. Chris Kalous called me over, saying he had a present for me, and handed me a roll of zebra striped duck tape. I love colored duck tape, maybe this would be just the luck I needed to send my route!

I decided to try warming up again and hoped my hands would feel warm. Going numb on this project wasn’t going to work, it was just too long and there was nowhere to get the warmth back in my hands.

After two more warm ups my hands were warm and I was ready to give it a go. So it was back down to the Bauhaus to face my fate. I’d either succeed or fail and I was willing to give my all to find out which it would be.

There’s a routine or pattern to getting ready to climb on a project. For me, it’s knee pads, duck tape, tie in, shoes on, and go.

My first attempt was a nightmare. I fell low on the first set of hard moves after knee-barring my finger and getting stuck. ARG!

I came down, pulled the rope, and tied back in. Andrew said I had fire in my eyes. I’ll say that I was mad. Really mad.

Back up I headed, squeaking through the bottom, but only just barely. I rested as long as I could bear before heading out the roof. A series of easier moves and various knee bars led me into the crux of the route.

Big move to a pinch. Throw the right foot above my head and put in the shallow knee bar. Grad the seam and sink the knee bar in deeper. This one has to be perfect, too shallow and it’ll slide, too deep and I’ll be too low on the next hold. Stand up and clip. Sink down and re-position the foot. Stand tall, all at once, and grad the gastone. Generate in the arms, stand tall, and switch the knee bar. Foot to knee and knee to foot. Suck up, stay tight, and grab the side pull. Get it high, get it wide.

Now go, go, go, get the feet up as quickly as possible.

For me getting the feet up was the crux of this route. Once they’re up it’s just a quick move to a sloppy gastone and then roll up to the undercligs. Get into the double knee bar rest and calm down.

I’d climbed to this point once before and then punted. Literally falling out of a knee bar. I couldn’t believe it!

On Saturday I stayed in that rest for what seemed like forever. I wasn’t going until I was sure. All that ran through my mind in the rest was “one move at a time, each move perfect”. Again and again I thought that. Stay in the present, finish this route.

The rest of the climb was a blur. I climbed it well, but was more tired than I’d ever been. I’d always skipped the third to last bolt and had played around with skipping the one above that as well. After an awful fall earlier in the summer I’d decided that skipping both was a bad idea, even if clipping the the second was hard. On the send my feet cut when I hit the clip hold. I threw them back on, but knew that there was no way I could clip and pull off the next moves. Without hesitation I threw for the jug on the lip and quickly moved through the next few moves to the next clipping stance. It wasn’t until I had it clipped that I let myself remember the last time I’d tried to skip that draw and nearly broke my ankle after a 60 foot whipper sent me crashing into the wall. None of that matter by then, I was done. Just a few more moves on big holds and I’d clip the chains!

I have to say that I’m very psyched to have sent this route. It’s uniquely amazing and exemplifies everything I love about Rifle. Strange, cryptic, specific, and above all fun.

Big thanks to Andy Raether for bolting this route and all of my patient friends who had to deal with my various and often-unpredictable emotions throughout the process.

photo by Andrew Bisharat
setting up the big crux knee bar

photo by Andrew Bisharat
moving through the crux

Monday, September 5, 2011


Earlier this summer I sent the route Huge, 5.13d. It's a long route in the Bauhaus, Rifle, CO. Characterized by two distinct cruxes and beautiful limestone, Huge is a great route.

I'd tried the route a few times in the past but was never able to figure out how to do this one REALLY big (for me) move early on the route. This summer however I found a way to stick the move. . . at least inconsistently.  Luckily the actual crux didn't feel so bad and the higher crux had a massive rest just before it, so I knew that if I got there I'd be able to pull it off.  

Finally one day I stuck the opening hard move and climbed to the top! There was no doubt in my mind that I could finish the route. I just had to stay in the moment and focus on one move at a time, and it worked!

As I write this, I'm trying to conjure up the feeling of calmness and absolute confidence I had the day I stuck that opening hard move and sent Huge. I'll need that confidence and calmness today as I head back to Rifle, to face my current project.

Here are some photos from a working session on Huge, taken by Dave Clifford.

photo (c) Dave Clifford

photo (c) Dave Clifford

photo (c) Dave Clifford

photo (c) Dave Clifford

photo (c) Dave Clifford

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Composting How To

One of my personal goals this year is to get a compost started for my classroom and my home. Here's a handy "How To" that I found on the prAna blog.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chicks and Ducklings

I was just looking over my past blog entries and realized that I never posted pics of this year's flock.

This was the third year that I attempted to hatch chick with my Kindergarten class. After last year's dreaded half chicken incident, I was a bit nervous, especially since I would be adding duck eggs into the mix.

Luckily this year's hatch was a success. Only full chickens and ducks! When all was said and done we had 4 chicks (Batman, Robin, Lila, and something else) and 5 ducklings (Mario, Mac, Vincent, Uncle Quaker, Katilina).

I can't express how wonderful of an experience this is for the children. Something they'll remember for the rest of their lives.

The night before hatching day.
I was a bit excited to test out my costume, which I wore most of the week.

Our first two chicks
Chicken hatching video!

We put this photo in the chicken trough to keep them company.

Duck eggs!

We had given up hope on this one and turned off the incubator.
3 hours later, he made a go at it.

Duckling breaking through the shell.


The ducklings first swim.