It’s that time again. This industry is growing like crazy. Please continue sending me updates. Here’s what I added (or finally added) today:
Bloc Syndicate is the European distributor for all the fantastic brands listed above. To see their online catalog (no website yet) click here: Bloc Syndicate Digital Catalog 2014
Speaking of Kilter, somehow in my bid to avoid favoritism I’d completely neglected to put Kilter on this list at all. Now it’s added:
kiltergrips.com ~ email@example.com ~ Boulder, CO USA
Also from the USA is Kingdom Climbing:
kingdomclimbing.com ~ firstname.lastname@example.org ~ So Cal USA
And distributing many European brands in the US including Artline, Cheeta, Holdz, God Hand, HRT, and Expression, we have Holdtopia:
holdtopia.com ~ contact via website ~ Pennsylvania/Salt Lake, USA
Speaking of Cheeta, they’ve been added to the Europe list as well:
cheeta-holds.com ~ France
And God Hand has been added to the Asia/Australia/New Zealand list:
godhandhold.com ~ email@example.com ~ Asia
Update: Also Squadra:
I think that’s it for now. More on the way!
We didn’t get to watch or cover Psicocomp this year, but luckily LT11 was on the scene and they’ll have highlights soon. Til then, they posted all the head-to-heads on their youtube. You can see Mike vs Carlo as the 8th video on the full men’s bracket playlist here:
Here’s the women’s rounds:
Our very own setter and coach Ian Dory joined several other climbers and competed on American Ninja Warrior in Denver this season. We are so proud of Ian! Want to see how he did? Rewatch the Denver Finals at this link:
Click forward to around 54 minutes to watch Ian, or start from the beginning and watch climbers and Spot friends Brian Arnold, Matt Wilder, Keith Allen Peters, Alex Manikowski, Paul Kasemir, Noah Kaufman, and of course #mightymeagan Meagan Martin.
Nice job Ian!!!
Escape is a small company out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, that sells custom climbing holds and a small variety of clothing and training and gym accessories. We’d seen a sample hold from them a few years ago and we thought it looked like a copy of a bubble wrap. Then someone accidentally dropped it on the concrete floor and it promptly broke. We weren’t even trying to break it, which is a standard part of our hold reviews, and it broke, so we kinda wrote them off. We continued not paying much attention to what they offered until this year when a mutual friend reached out to tell us that Escape had grown and changed and asked if we’d be interested in doing a review. After looking over their website it became clear that Escape climbing is serious about becoming a mature hold company and that their small but worthy selection of holds looked quite fun to climb on. We said we’d be happy to do a review, and here’s what we got:
From the top left picture you can tell they did a nice job packaging their holds for shipping. They chose a variety of styles to send us. Everything arrived in great shape, and we were very excited to unpack it all and put it up on the Dojo.
Escape is a small operation. The owner and main shaper is Ryan Angelo, and his wife Karen is the other half of the business. Occasionally they have interns or get extra help for big orders, but most of the time it’s a two-pony show. According to their honorable mention on CBJ’s 2014 Grip List, Escape will stay small because Ryan will only produce the best of the best. “My goal is to have a very refined line of holds,” he says. “I won’t ever have a huge selection because I retire/replace sets that I don’t like or don’t receive good reviews from routesetters.” (Read the article: CBJ 2014 Grip List.)
Ryan has stayed true to his statement and perusing their offering we saw more “I’d buy that” than “meh”. They’re still selling the bubble-wrap-like holds, aka Nemesis series, but they’re not really bubbles, instead they’re tiny hexagons, and apparently they’re quite popular and as now texture sharing seems to be much more common we won’t hold it against them. Ryan’s also come up with his own texture–a cool-looking all-over design of different sized octopus suckers he calls Craters. We got a Crater sloper to review.
Mix & Molding
Escape pours their own holds. The mix is urethane, similar to what Element produces (vs the Aragon elastomeric or the Habit urethane). All the holds we got were this green color (below) and the color was consistent. We didn’t try hard to break any yet but they did well when we set with them through several cycles on our uneven walls and did not seem brittle at all. So far we haven’t had any polishing issues.
The bigger holds are hollow-backs and they are nicely done and seem stable (photos below).
The dual-tex is more matte than shiny, but it’s a really nice smooth matte that is effective as a dual-tex and looks good.
The logos didn’t bother us at all on any of the holds.
The bolt hole edges aren’t rounded out at all which is ok but makes a sharp mono if you can get a finger in it.
A nice little set of six flat to slightly incut edges with dual-tex faces and a small textured ball for the thumb.
Nice matte dual tex. Feels smooth and looks good.
Handholds are good full pad edges and are comfortable to grab.
Nice hand positions.
Textured ball thumb catches are nice.
Pre-cut set screw hole.
Great little set.
Sharp edged bolt holes (but you can’t get your fingers in ‘em so no biggie).
Not elastomeric so could crack on an uneven surface. No issues with that so far though at all. I will update if we do break one. Besides that, nothing. We loved these.
XL Chicken Head
One big stalactite.
Really cool looking.
Texture is comfortable sandstone style with nice rounded contours.
Good enough to use on a roof on harder climbs. Would be a good mini-mantle hold on vertical.
Everyone wants to grab it when they look at it so great customer awe value.
Pre-drilled set screw hole.
We want 3 more.
Too hard to use on the roof on easy or moderate climbs.
Sharp edged bolt hole.
Again, overall pretty solid material though we have had a few edge chips. Not worried about the whole thing cracking though (ala resin) and even some elastomerics have been chipping lately so with good handling shouldn’t be an issue.
XL Crater Sloper
Unique octopus sucker texture, like collapsed bubbles. You can buy this as a single hold or in a set with four other Crater slopers.
Nice brick shape.
Cool looking texture.
Interesting grip positions.
Sometimes your fingers fit right in the dots, which makes this somehow more fun than your normal hold to grab.
Some people don’t fit in the suckers very well.
Sticks out from the wall far at the top so you can ham-hock it. That can be a plus or a minus depending on what you’re trying to set.
Overall the holds looked good and were fun to set with and climb on. The material is my only concern, as it isn’t an elastomeric like Kilter/Urban Plastix/E-Grips, but again, our walls are more challenging than most everyone else’s and so far the material has held up fairly well with only a few slight edge chips against it. I will update if that changes.
Escape has clearly transitioned into a professional company worthy of attention from setters and orders from gyms. Though they are small, all the holds we’ve seen are worth having multiple copies of and Ryan says they are capable of filling big orders. Ryan said a few more things I’d like to share, but read the next part first:
We liked the test holds so much that before we finished reviewing them we ordered more from Escape. We got the Disc Sloper, the Ball Sloper (the dual-tex ones at the top), the Large Ledges, the Crater Mini-Jugs, the Crater Pinches, and two more Crater Slopers.
We actually had more issues with our follow-up order than our hold test order in terms of quality. One of the follow-ups arrived with a chipped edge and the color isn’t consistent across the holds. They’re all red, but some are a lighter or dustier red than the others. Specifically the bottom middle pinch in the picture above is different than the rest, and the little jugs are lighter than the big craters and big slopers.
The Crater jugs are definitely mini-jugs and are good enough for V2 and up on vertical. As soon as you get even a little steep they’re V5+ holds though.
The dual-tex sloper ball is awesome and very challenging. You can rotate it to give more or less textured surface to grab, which is neat because otherwise the hold would be similarly usable no matter how you rotated it. This way you can really dial it in to the difficulty you want. It’d be amazing to set a whole problem with a bunch of them, or the dual-tex balls + the dual-tex dishes.
The dual-tex dish (like the ball but dishy and with two thumb-catch blobs) is really hard to use and match on on less than vertical as it’s pretty hard to hold so you end up hogging it with one hand. Right now ours is on one of the hardest problems on the Hueco.
The thin Crater Pinches are cool and fun to use.
The large ledges are smaller than I thought they’d be and also thinner (top to bottom-wise) but so far are doing fine.
Finally, the other Crater (octopus sucker) slopers are cool and fun to climb on. Everything in the Crater series looks amazing when it gets chalked up because of the way the chalk sticks to the suckers.
What Ryan Said
I wrote to Ryan re: the color discrepancy and edge chip. Here is what he said:
Sorry to hear about the chip and color inconsistencies. I alway stand behind my product and warranty things like this (exchange the holds, credit on new order, etc), so just let me know.
Cool. Good warranty. We’ve already got ‘em up on the wall though and, as he says below, we do use tape at The Spot so it’s not a huge deal to us.
Gyms that are tapeless and order exact RAL colors I am very careful with. For whatever reason I thought you still used tape at the Spot and I just pulled red holds off the shelf for you…which can be from different red batches (Germany, Japan, USA, custom reds).
Ok, that makes sense. I still feel that any order of any single color from any company should be the same color across the board as even with tape it looks nice to have identically colored holds up on the wall if they’re on the same problem or are the same style. Maybe a further labeling system with Red1, Red2, Red3 would solve this issue so every gym gets a consistent color batch. I’m sure if you specify though he will send identical color sets.
Glad to hear he distributes in German and Japan as well!
In my email I’d asked if he hand mixes each batch, since that was a guess for the color inconsistency. He said:
I have switched to a dispensing machine which allows me to do large batches of single colors. It keeps my color batches consistent and the quality of my holds higher when compared to hand mixing.
Finally, here’s what he had to say about the development of his company:
I started making holds in my garage 8 years ago for fun, and it grew to the point where I quit the local gym and started doing it full time (3 years ago). Its pretty much a 2 person team with my wife Karen and I. However, this summer I have 2 interns helping out, and I also bring in help for the really large orders. We have refined the process quite a bit in the last few years, and Escape is at the point where large commercial gyms can take a more serious look at us.
I agree, from what we’ve seen Escape is ready and able to produce high quality, interesting climbing holds that your setters and customers will enjoy. We’ve been impressed with the Escape we have and will definitely be keeping an eye on them as they come out with more holds in the future.
SUPER EXTRA BONUS
Ryan also included a set of Escape impact hex bits. They are longer than normal hex bits and we were really excited about them for those times when a regular bit is too long to be practical (i.e. can’t reach the bolt cause the bolt-hole is too deep). This long of a bit with a quick-chuck end used to be quite hard to find, and I’m glad to see a climbing company making them easily available. I should say that a longer bit like this takes a bit of getting used to for stripping most holds, so I’ll probably just keep it in a pocket for those times when we really need it. Very cool, thanks Ryan!
Mike is a strong climber and a rising young star in the comp scene and outdoors, where he’s constantly searching for first ascents. He’s put up boulders like The Phoenix in RMNP and has made repeats up to V15. Check out his bio here: Michael O’Rourke The Spot Setter Bio
If you’re around the Spot much you probably know Ian Powell. He spends most of his time shaping holds for his company, Kilter Grips, but sometimes he sets a problem or two for us and they’re always interesting and creative. His initials are IP, check out his profile here: Ian Powell Setter Profile
On a side note, we’ve got the full Kilter line 2x over at The Spot and we love setting with them. Click here to check ‘em out:
UPDATE: Here are the Semi Results with how everyone did on each problem:
Finals start around noon on Saturday, Boulder time. Watch the top 6 men and women battle it out. Overall season winners will also be decided. Jan Hojer has already won the overall for the men as Dmitrii Sharafutdinov missed semis. For the women it’s a tight race with Shauna Coxsey and Akiyo Noguchi so close that whoever beats the other in this comp will take first. Exciting!!!