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!!!
This post is from May but I forgot to post it so here it is now!
For the 2014 Climbing Wall Association after party we had climbing, a food truck, beer, an Urban Plastix and Kilter hold showcase, and a dyno comp! The dyno comp had two formats–team and individual. For the team competition, everyone from the same gym or company sent as many prelim dynos as they could (there were 26 to choose from) and we added up the total scores. The highest scoring individual dyno-ers were taken to an individual finals on the Beach where we’d set up stations for all the CWA exhibiting hold companies. Here are some pictures of the holds we used from each company:
So Ill was the title sponsor of this year’s CWA and they hooked it up with a huge baby head, a logo hold, a giant positive pinch that we can’t wait to use on the dojo, and the double fat smooth edges. We also got one of their newest Jason Kehl holds at the show and used it as a launch hold (it’s the one that looks like an octopus, above). I have to admit, I was skeptical about the Baby Supreme, but it ended up being a really cool hold. Ian Powell set a jump where you hit the logo hold as a gaston and kicked the baby head to stay on. Unfortunately some of the tallest competitors were able to semi-static the dyno, doing a deadpoint to the gaston and a very tensiony stand match. The other So Ill dyno was a jump to the large pinch, and it was really fun and several competitors stuck it.
Check out the So Ill holds: Baby Supreme Vaccine (the big pinch, every gym needs two of these) Pharmaceutical (logo hold – very cool, now on the river wall) Nausea (double edges, my favorites from this batch, very fun holds, now on the river) I don’t have a link to the octopus yet as it’s brand new.
As usual So Ill is producing quality shapes and their big shapes are super fun to climb on. There are several other newer holds and sets in their lineup that we have our eye on for the future. Keep innovating guys!
Kingdom is a fairly new company and we’d never seen anything from them in person before, but we were impressed. They sent us several Dragon Balls and several Love Handles, as well as some green feet from the Cobbles set.
The Dragon Balls are these big lumpy things with dual-tex bases. The huge one is HEAVY, and we used it to set the most popular dyno of the evening–a jump off two smaller cobbles to try and hang it as a stalactite. It’s was hanging straight down from the middle of the Beach bulge and the deskies told me they loved watching people try to stick it. Nobody managed to hang it during the finals, but right afterwards several of the finalists stuck it. We also set other Dragon Ball catches off the same launch holds that weren’t super far but were quite challenging to stick.
Overall the Dragon Balls have been extremely popular with our customers. They’re cool shapes and the fact that they’re bright pink certainly helps as well.
The Love Handles are also super fun to climb on. For the comp we had a double-dyno to squeeze two of them on the Dojo roof and another Dyno to catch the big one on the Left Dojo. We moved them to the River where you have one of the biggest as a drop-down on the Left River and one you slap into and mantle on mid-Right-River. The Left River one we had to flip over from its original position as it has kind of a thin wall for how huge it is and it wouldn’t stop flexing (and we can’t use screws so we couldn’t reinforce it that way). The Right River one is the end of one of my favorite things I’ve set in a long time, and Lily’s brown problem on it is also awesome.
The weird thing about the holds is that they are imperfect. The shapes are far from symmetrical and sometimes, especially with the Dragon Balls, it doesn’t really feel like they did it on purpose because the shapes are a bit atypical. There were mold scars on a couple of holds. Despite these things that we picky setters noticed, the holds are fantastic to set with, they climb really well, and our customers love them. Overall we are very psyched and impressed with the new Kingdom holds and definitely recommend everyone get some.
These guys really went above and beyond for this event. They created custom light-up holds and then came in to set up the dynos and wire them themselves.
Thanks for all the help guys!
The holds they used were several from the Spawn series–The Spawn Mega Ledge was the highest catch and nobody even got close. Two of the Spawn Incuts were the next down, but they were easier to catch than the slightly lower Spawn Pinches. The launch holds was the third Spawn incut and there were some smaller Spawn Slopers for feet.
The lights looked great and we’re definitely talking about using them again for this year’s Psychedelia. The holds are really fun to climb on and the sandstone texture works surprisingly well. Now the holds are on a popular white-taped 4 spot on the Left River. The Spawn set comes highly recommended from us at The Spot, and we can’t wait to get the rest of the set!
See more from Element Climbing Holds
We were thrilled to get several of the Blockus pinches from Rock Candy. These are big, blocky, comfortable, fun pinches that we’ve had our eye on for a long time. Kevin used them to set some good & challenging straight up dynos at the comp. The fattest pinch (bottom of the photo) was really hard to stick!
We got the Blockus Feature and the Blockus 3xL. We also got the excellent Blockus smalls (5 little pinches to match) that we used as feet for this event but will be hands from here on out. They sent some cool Rock Candy Logo Tape, a nice printed white gaffer’s tape, to tape the dynos with as well.
Now that we reset the Beach we’ve spread the holds around. Two of the big ones are in the middle face of the Hueco right now on Ian Dory’s excellent purple 4 spot. Overall this set is really cool and I think it will always be up on one of our walls cause as soon as they’re clean someone puts them on a problem. I should say that we don’t have much Rock Candy but everything I’ve seen from them lately is quite impressive and I’m looking forward to ordering from them when I can. They’re poured at Aragon so the material is right for us, I saw most of their line recently at the Boulder Rock Club and they looked great, and Brent Ng (their head setter) said his team really likes them. Check out their line here: Rock Candy Holds
Thanks for participating RC!
Enterprises is known for their walls, but they have completely reworked their hold line this year as well. We saw some incredible huge volumes at the CWA show and the jugs and feet they sent us for the Dyno comp are nice shapes, plus they have a big edge radius so they are comfortable and fun to grab.
I set all the Enterprises dynos on the right side of the Beach and the jump to the bottom big hold in the picture above (The Portaledge) provided some of the most exciting moments of the night. The two Beast holds (top two in the photo) made a nice double catch, and the giant Phat Lip was the launch. The Micro Jugs set they sent us to use as feet were great as well, though we did break one. The material is a urethane, not elastomeric like Aragon but similar to the other urethanes out there that aren’t elastomerics (Habit, et al).
The Phat Lip is still on the right Beach only now it’s an undercling and is the start to several problems including Joel’s 3-ending journey across the wall. The others are being moved elsewhere for our next sets. We can’t wait to get ‘em on the Dojo!
There are some really cool shapes in their new line and I’m glad to see them taking the time and spending the money to make their holds a force again. See ‘em all: Enterprises Handholds
The feature is a big dish, but there are also some balls you can grab at the top. I originally envisioned it as a catch hold, but Jake ended up using it as the start for several dynos on the right Beach. You had to hold the top and balance into the dish and then jump out of it. The hardest dyno was a straight-up to match both hands on the purple feature. There was also a left jumping and a big step-across right jumping dyno from this hold, both to one of those big green pinches. The green jugs are the Cheeta Alba Jug L1 and other Cheeta Alba jugs and were used a launch hands for the sideways dynos. The catch pinches are the Cheeta Kaly Swell MEGA set which were also used in one of the World Cups this season.
Holdtopia also gave us a few Godhand Tengu screw-ons but we weren’t able to use them for feet for the comp as we don’t put screw-ons on our walls. They are awesome shapes but the European material doesn’t flex like elastomerics and so they would crack if tightened onto an uneven surface. We’re saving them to use on our wood volumes!
Originally instead of the purple feature we had a large purple HRT Dino Spine hold that is really cool but unfortunately got damaged in shipping so Alfred of Holdtopia gave us the other purple hold instead for the comp. The new purple hold is an Expression hold and I couldn’t find a link to it on the site. Right now you can see it on the front Font–several problems climb through it and there is a great dyno to it as well.
Holdtopia is importing many large European brands and it’s cool to see this kind of variety in the US market now. Our favorites so far are the Godhand line. Check ‘em out!
Volx is a French company that is now being imported into the US by MadRock. We got a big screw-on hold, the Giga Guru, that we had to build a base for (1″ thick plywood plate cut to match the bottom of the hold, we bolt it to the wall and screw the volume onto it). The other two are pinches from the V-Pure 2.0 Euphoria set with simple single-bolt attachment points. All are comfortable and have a fine texture that is different from most holds on the American market. The volume has a weird dimple in the back of it that is about two-fingers big and feels machined to be perfectly round. It’s a bit strange but it works, and the hold overall is quite fun to use. I’m excited to see what else they come out with.
E-Grips gave us two of their newest jug, the Giant Caterpillar. They are pretty neat, shallower than I expected but fun to set with. The jug part has several divot areas to use so it’s more complicated than it looks from the front. For the comp we did a 1-2 dyno off them using another e-Grips hold as the finish. Many competitors said they had never seen a dyno like that before. Now both holds are set as facing gastons on Joel’s across-the-Beach journey route that starts on the Enterprises Phat Lip as noted above. We’ve always been big e-Grips fans, and we bet you are too. See their site: e-grips holds
So that’s it. Thanks to everyone who participated in the CWA Dyno Comp and thanks to the companies who sent holds. The party was a blast and our customers and members were psyched to have brand new dynos to play with. See you next year!
OnBouldering.com has posted qualifier videos from Laval:
They’ve also posted qualifiers from several other comps this season including Vail. Check out their youtube channel for more: On Bouldering Youtube
In Laval US Youth Phenom Megan Mascarenas has advanced to semifinals in fourth place! She did all 5 qualifiers and it took her 9 attempts to top (she flashed to all bonuses). Tied for 1st are women’s WC powerhouses Shauna Coxsey, Anna Stöhr, and Akiyo Noguchi, who all did all 5 qualifiers in 5 attempts (all flash).
You will remember Megan, as she usually wins The Spot Bouldering Series open finals and also has done well at Nationals and at this year’s World Cup Final in Vail where she took 4th. It’s fun to watch her show the world what she can do. Congratulations Megan!!!
American competitor Miura Hawkins ended up in 25th. Here are the top 20 women who qualified for semis:
For the men, our favorite young Korean climber, Jongwon Chon, has qualified tied for first with French master (and 2014 Vail WC winner) Guillaume Glairon Mondet. Many other favorites made the semifinal including Canadian Sean McColl who squeaked in in 20th place. Russian champion Dmitrii Sharafutdinov missed semifinals for the first time in a long time, ending up in a heartbreaking 21st. He would have needed one more top to get through. American and Spot fixture Nathaniel Spencer competed in Laval as well as his second Bouldering World Cup and ended up in 55th. Here are the men’s top 20:
And here is the live feed for semifinals:
I only got to watch the semifinal round of this comp, as the finals were in the middle of the night for us here. If you care about these events you’ll already know that Akiyo Noguchi won her third comp in a row and Jan Hojer won for the men. Nice job to both!
I can’t find the finals video replay, but when I find it I’ll add it here. UPDATE: Here it is! Finals:
Here are the finals results:
There is also a lead and speed aspect to this comp, and you can find more results et al here: IFSC.org