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Sevve Stember

Coolibar Athletes Sevve Stember

An Athlete Prepares for Summer

By Sevve Stember

As summer approaches, my mind shifts from snow sports (specifically nordic skiing) to climbing, trail running, and biking.

But that’s putting it all too simply. The changing of the seasons is always really meaningful, a natural opportunity to reflect on growth. In my professional, personal, and athletic life, I am always pushing myself to find and see growth within myself. Just as the trees stop growing during the winter as the snow flies, there are also periods where I see less growth than I’d like to. I think this is a fact of life that we all have to deal with.  However, spring brings us a yearly reminder that we are all capable of fantastic and beautiful feats.

I use the desire to always be my better self to fuel my seasonal and annual athletic pursuits. Below are some of the ways I prepare to do so this summer.

Goal Setting

I keep a journal/training log of my daily workouts. This allows me to hold myself accountable for getting outside or working out. The training log also allows me to compare my weekly, monthly, and yearly accomplishments to prior years. In doing so, I can push myself to log more hours on skis, climb harder routes, compare to what I’ve done in the past. It’s a really fun way of tracking my progress towards a goal. In my training log, there’s also a section that I dedicate to setting goals. I often set monthly, seasonal and yearly goals. Goal setting is a super-powerful method of motivating yourself and improving your own personal bests. Once the goals have been set, identify three action steps that will help you make progress towards your goals.

Injury Prevention

I recently went to the world-famous bouldering venue in Bishop, CA.

This was my first trip to Bishop and I was stoked out of my mind! I eagerly threw myself at boulder problem after boulder problem, and unfortunately I did not warm up properly. On the ultra-classic problem “Suspended in Silence”, you start off with an all points off dyno (a climbing move where you jump into the air). On my first attempt, I stuck the move. The next move involves a heel hook while using a crappy left hand hold. Unbeknownst to me, the left hand hold had recently broken, making the problem much harder than advertised. Refusing to believe that I couldn’t complete the problem, I torqued harder and harder on my heel hook. The result was – you guessed it – a loud “pop!” in my hamstring.

In the following days, I had trouble walking and was really sore. Fortunately, I’ve recovered quickly, but it was a good reminder that as summer approaches we must remember that easing back into our spring and summer activities is required to normalize our body/muscles to new stimuli. Take time to stretch, warm up properly, and ease back into your normal workout routines.

Sun Protection

Summer weather literally means more direct sun rays hitting the Earth, and therefore your skin. To account for this seasonal change, I always carry chapstick in my climbing pack. Additionally, being really fair skinned, I always wear a hat Cooilbar Athlete - Climbingoutdoors; it helps keep harmful rays off my skin.  Another strategy that I use is to always wear long sleeve shirts, when temperature dictates. When warmer, I always make sure to at least wear a short sleeve shirt. But I’ve found that the latest UPF 50+ fabrics don’t rely on density for their sun protection and can actually keep you cool even directly in the sun.  It’s just not worth exposing my bare back to the sun, no matter how hot it may be. Lastly, a supply of UVA/UVB sunscreen in my car and climbing pack is an essential that I never leave without.

It is so exciting to be on the threshold of another training, running and climbing season in the Rocky Mountains. I’ve got some big goals for the year:  climb 5.13a, boulder V8 and V9, climb the Red Dihedral in Yosemite National Park, and trail run 20+ miles per week. To reach these goals, it’s going to take discipline, prudence, and using the right gear.

In the coming weeks, I’d encourage everyone to sit down and ask yourself “What do I want from this summer?  What is something I’ve always wanted to accomplish, but not hard the time/energy/etc. for?”  Once you’ve answered these questions, apply some of the strategies outlined above and see your own personal progress becoming a reality. But most of all, just get outside, smile, and have fun!

 

Climber and multiple-sport athlete Sevve StemberSevve Stember is a climbing expert and multiple-sport athlete who has established climbing routes in the Andes, the Sierra Nevadas and several other mountain ranges. A former park ranger, Sevve also pursues camping, soccer and cross country skiing. Sevve is a 6th-grade science teacher at Cole Middle School in Denver, Colorado. He lives there with his wife, Andrea, also an accomplished cross country skier. His previous posts for Coolibar include “Why Climbing Matters.”

 

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Partner Athletes Sevve Stember

Lessons from Thin Air: Training at Altitude

Coolibar - Sevve Stember

By Sevve Stember

Minnesota, I’ve come to realize, is the nordic skiing capital of the United States. I came to this epiphany when my wife and I moved from Minneapolis to Denver last summer. Which is to say, there’s really not any nordic skiing here unless you drive up into the Rockies and hunt down some snow at high elevation. And training at 9,000 feet above sea level, whether trail running, hiking or nordic skiing, is entirely different than doing cardiovascular fitness in Minnesota at 900 feet.

Needless to say, it was quite an adjustment to begin training for my annual tradition: skiing America’s largest cross country ski marathon, the American Birkebeiner in Cable, Wisconsin.

Hard-Won Lessons

Lesson one for altitude training: Be flexible. Adjust your pace when necessary, and don’t be tied to a particular pace. Instead, focus on completing a sustainable pace that is manageable and comfortable.Sevve and Tyler - Coolibar

One of my first experiences training at high altitude was when my college ski teammate, Tyler, and I went on a trail run in Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes, Colorado. We started out jogging along this beautiful ridge with fantastic views in the distance. Eventually, our trail made a steep descent down into a valley. We were doing an out and back jog, and so on the way back we had to adjust our pace and do more of a “run-walk” trail run. In other words, run when you can, walk when you must.

Lesson two: Acclimate; the longer the better.

An experience forever burned into my memory from last summer’s climbing season was my one-day ascent of “The Casual Route” (5.10a, 1,000 ft. of technical climbing) on the Diamond of Longs Peak in RMNP, which incidentally is more than 14,000 feet high at the summit. My climbing partner, Dan, came from low elevation. On the approach, which we began at 2 a.m., Dan struggled a bit and developed a headache. He had not spent more than a day or two at altitude and went from relatively low elevation right up to Estes Park at 7,500 feet. Dan is simply a really strong dude and he toughed it out, linking pitches 2 and 3 which turned out to be a breakthrough lead that allowed us to summit. However, despite his success, he admitted some more time to acclimate would’ve been ideal.

Sevve and Andrea, expecting a long climb

Lesson three: Expect long sustained climbs. There’s not much for “rolling” hills in these parts, or in most parts at high altitude.

The first day my wife and I had on snow was at Eldora’s Nordic Center near Nederland. As usual, my excitement for skiing led to me “hammering” up the first hill we encountered. Soon, my wife and I were both going anaerobic – taking in less oxygen than we were using – at a pace that was not sustainable. The Eldora Mountain Resort, as we came to know, is notorious for being exceptionally hilly. As we continued to ski in the Rockies, we noticed that the topography of ski trails in Colorado is extremely different than Minnesota. The climbs are more sustained; the descents are quicker.

Lesson four: when racing at altitude for the first time, ease into your race. It’s far too easy to burn yourself out early in the game.

Coolibar - Sevve Stember skiing Sevve Stember, going out a little too fast

We kicked off the ski racing season at the Frisco Nordic Center in Colorado’s Summit County. The gun went off, and I hammered out somedouble pole strokes. Soon we were skate skiing up a long gradual hill. I quickly took the lead in the 30km ski race. It’s funny how you forget many of the lessons we’ve already learned throughout the course of our life. After the initial excitement of the mass start wore off, I realized I was in trouble. I had gone out too fast and was at an anaerobic level. The rest of the race was a STRUGGLE!

Tip for the Lips

Colorado is quite a bit south of Minnesota and I’ve noticed I burn a lot easier here than I do in Minnesota. The sun’s rays are simply more direct year round. Additionally, even when it’s winter and you think it’s not so easy to burn, the snow reflects a lot of rays into your face. I’ve learned it’s essential to apply an SPF lip protectant early and often while out doing a training session.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the transition from the flatlands of Minnesota to the front range of the Rockies.  Nothing’s black and white; there are aspects of the Midwest that are simply way better than Colorado, such as easy access to world-class cross country skiing. Colorado is simply a more inspiring place in a day-to-day sense. While here, I plan to apply the lessons I’ve learned about training at altitude and I certainly will continue to figure out how to maximize performance.

 

Climber and multiple-sport athlete Sevve StemberSevve Stember is a climbing expert and multiple-sport athlete who has established climbing routes in the Andes, the Sierra Nevadas and several other mountain ranges. A former park ranger, Sevve also pursues camping, soccer and cross country skiing. Sevve is a 6th-grade science teacher at Cole Middle School in Denver, Colorado. He lives there with his wife, Andrea, also an accomplished cross country skier. His previous posts for Coolibar include “Why Climbing Matters.”

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Partner Athletes Sevve Stember

Why Climbing Matters

Coolibar Athlete Sevve Stember is a natural born climber, always seeking the next mountain to climb. This summer, he and his wife, Andrea, moved from Minnesota to Colorado to pursue new opportunities and climbing routes. Sevve shares why climbing is important to him and journals his favorite moments during his first summer in the Rocky Mountains.

I often ask myself, “Why climbing? Why do I care about it so much? Is it significant?” I am very aware of the priority that I place on climbing in my life, so it’s important for me to grapple with these questions. I’ve distilled my reflection down to these three themes:

1. Human connection
We all seek to belong to something and to be understood. In climbing, I’ve found more like-minded people that I can connect with on many levels than I could’ve ever imagined. The journal entries below are all really special days in my life that I will look back on with fond memories and good times. Despite the obvious individual aspects of climbing, there are many profound implications that climbing has on the people that share it together. Trust, sacrifice, failure, success and frustration…these feelings are shared with my climbing partners through a common love of being outdoors and challenging oneself.

2. The Bigger Picture
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal the body and soul alike.” -John Muir

When working in Yosemite National Park, I used to share this quote with visitors as an eloquent way of getting at the significance wilderness has to a person. There are many different belief systems about how the world came to be. For instance, as a science teacher, I believe the world is very old and has been slowly changing for billions of years. When climbing, I can connect with the many different processes that occurred before I could enjoy its continuous crack system or perfectly sculpted pockets. Being in nature helps humans tap into a state-of-mind that is hard to come by elsewhere, it helps us connect with our beliefs—whatever they might be.

3. Progression, Goals, and Self-betterment
Climbing routes are graded by difficulty, providing climbers with data to see personal improvements. Personal growth is something that drives me in all aspects of my life. The motivation I receive from trying to climb harder routes spills over into other aspects of my life, such as being a better teacher or learning how to be a more supportive husband. This matters because it helps me be a more productive, efficient and passionate member of society.

It was a summer to remember, to say the least. Seeing new sites, sharing beautiful vistas with friends, sleeping under the stars with my wife, and I continue to learn along the way. Although at times I do have doubts about how I spend my time, I know that finding that thing that drives me to new places: good friends, higher goals, are critical to living a fulfilling life.

South Platte

Summer 2013 Climbing Journal: My First Summer in the Front Range

June 11
After a fantastic evening on my aunt and uncle’s back porch in Rapid City, South Dakota, Andrea and I stopped briefly for a couple climbs in Spearfish canyon. We were closing in on the final leg of our move from Minneapolis, MN to Denver, CO. I hung draws on a route called “Wow!” and climbed it on my next try without falling – very gratifying!

June 17
Today I met Matt and Linde, friends of mine from Minnesota, in Boulder, Colorado. We climbed a 4-pitch route (route with four stops) called “Athlete’s Feet”. Towards the top of the route a large thunderstorm rolled in, and we descended just as the first drops hit. Linde met us and we rolled to a different crag (an outcrop of rock) to do some shorter, harder sport climbing routes. Matt is a climber that I looked up to a lot when I lived in Duluth, MN years ago; it was fun to swap leads with him all day and work a route that we both got on our second attempt.

Sevve sending Animal Riots Activist (5.12a) shortly after Matt showed the way

June 28
Eldorado Canyon is known as one of America’s premier climbing destinations. I had never been there before today. Frank, a good friend of a friend, and I climbed the classic “Bastille Crack”. It was great to experience a new piece of American climbing history while getting to know a new friend.

July 4-7
Being the patriotic people we are, my friends Garrison, Dan, Frank, Katie and I headed into the heart of the Big Horn mountains of Wyoming to celebrate the 4th of July with some real cowboys. I’ve driven through Tensleep before, but never had the pleasure of climbing there. It was phenomenal to say the least. I set several benchmark onsights (climbing a route first try without any information) and flashes (first try; but with prior information). The trip was complete when we saw a full on cowboy brawl during the street dance. Wyoming must be the most unchanged state over the past 50 years.

A typical view in Tensleep, Wyoming

July 14-15
My buddy Dommer flew in for the weekend and we headed north towards Estes Park. A good crew of friends were waiting for us upon arrival, and as we waited out an evening storm a double rainbow appeared over the breathtaking view of Longs Peak. The next day, we climbed granite spires and soaked in the sun.

A good crew of goofballs enjoying the double rainbow
Sevve

July 24-25
Rifle is one of the most sought after crags in the American sport climbing scene. My wife Andrea had a week off from her residency duties and we took the chance to go check it out. From the parking lot, the approach was about two minutes. Once the sun hit the side of the canyon we were on, we’d walk two minutes to the other side of the canyon. Such good rock! Although Rifle has a reputation of being super challenging, I was encouraged by how I climbed while visiting. We also tagged the summit of Mount Massive, with a not-so-alpine-start, leaving the parking lot at 11am.

Andrea and Sevve on the summit of Mount Massive, near Leadville, CO

July 31
Summer draws to a close. Our friends Dan, Bron and their son traveled from Minnesota to visit for a couple days. Dan and I had been getting stoked all summer to climb the face of Longs Peak; a feature called The Diamond. In 2007, while living in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, I became familiar with The Diamond. Since that summer, I had always dreamed of climbing it.

We woke up at 1:30 a.m., slammed coffee and jammed to tunes on the five mile drive to the parking lot. Amidst dozens of peak baggers, we quickly ascended the six mile approach to Chasm View and rappelled onto Broadway ledge, which marks the beginning of the routes on the Diamond. Pitch after pitch went by as we kept a watchful eye to the east. We witnessed many thunderstorms roll in, but to our good fortune, they were always several miles away. I got to lead the crux pitch, which is one of the last pitches on the route so the full day’s toils had definitely taken their toll. I meticulously made my way up the finger crack section, followed by a full on chimney that deposited me onto the final crux bulge. With horrendous rope drag, I managed my way through the crux, and belayed Dan up. An hour later we were on the summit and our luck had run out. Sleet started to fall and we opted to make our way down the Keyhole Route instead of rappelling the Cables Route; which I predicted would have some scrambling on exposed (and recently wet) slabs. We made it back to our car feeling exhausted, but so fulfilled. Dan is embarking on a “50 noteworthy climbs by the time he turns 50 years old” adventure and this was his 1st of 50. I met a personal goal and felt really competent in a complex environment. This was a day to remember the rest of my life.

The gratifying sunset on the hike back after climbing The Diamond

Like the shirts Sevve is wearing in the photos? Shop Coolibar UPF 50+ Short Sleeve Fitness Shirt and Long Sleeve Fitness Shirt

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Partner Athletes Sevve Stember

Six Thumbs Up for the Short Sleeve Fitness Shirt

What does a long-distance runner, kayak instructor and rock climber all have in common besides a passion for fitness? Their love for the Coolibar Short Sleeve Fitness Shirt! Since it’s introduction into the Coolibar UPF 50+ clothing line last season, this sweat-wicking, sun-blocking shirt has received more positive feedback than any other dedicated fitness item in the history of Coolibar!

Here’s what these athletes had to say.

Sevve Stember – Rock Climber

What are your overall thoughts on the shirt? This shirt is an excellent top layer that wicks moisture away from the body.  I’ve used it primarily for rock climbing and trail running.  It has performed well in both situations and I wear it with confidence knowing that it is also protecting me from the sun.

Favorite features: Moisture wicking, sun protection, bright colors so that it’s easy for a camera to pick up or people to see you. I also like the fact that it is so simple.  There isn’t any words on the shirt, so its very understated

Thoughts on the fabric: I like the fabric.  It’s definitely a synthetic, but it wicks well and is comfortable enough. Recently, on a trail run, I submerged the shirt in a creek.  As we hiked, the shirt dried in about a half hour.  It does not hold water very long, but still keeps you cool.  It’s a relatively light-weight shirt.

What do you want others to know about this shirt? Its an excellent shirt for outdoor activity.  If you are in a wilderness setting and you want a bright color so that you are very visible, these shirts work great.  If you want a go to shirt for working out in the city, these shirts are great because they wick moisture while providing solid sun protection.

What advice do you have for other athletes regarding sun protection? Any tips to stay comfortable/safe out in the sun? Getting burned is no fun and it’s super dangerous.  I always wear a shirt when I am working out in the sun, despite hot temperatures.  It’s just not worth exposing that much of my body to the sun.  Additionally, I always wear something on my head like a baseball hat or a “dew rag.”  This helps keep the sun off my body.

Gene Meade – Ultra Runner

What are you overall thoughts on the shirt? Comfortable! The cut and fit felt really good. I wore the shirt during training runs and a segment of a 24 hour race.

What are your favorite features? I love the V-Neck!  The shirt did not rub or chafe, even after several hours. The fabric is nice, soft and breathable.

Did the fabric meet your expectations? Yes. The 24 hour race had temps in the 80’s, did not feel like the shirt “trapped” any heat.

What do you want others to know about this shirt? This is a great shirt to wear for any outdoor activity — lightweight, comfortable plus sun protective! I was really impressed how the shirt remained comfortable even after several hours of running and sweating in it!

What advice do you have for other athletes regarding sun protection? Any tips to stay comfortable/safe out in the sun? Don’t assume you are not at risk from the potentially harmful effects of the sun! Be proactive and sunAWARE. Run early in the morning or later in the evening when the sun is not as strong (it will also be cooler)! Apply sunscreen, wear a hat. Take it to the trails if you can. Usually trails are shaded by trees and will keep you out of direct sun.

John Chase – Kayak Instructor

What are you overall thoughts on the shirt? As a kayak instructor, tour leader, and pleasure boater, I spend hours in the sun. Add reflection from the water and you have some pretty powerful rays hitting you.  The Fitness Shirt is one of the most comfortable pieces of clothing I have ever worn. The fabric is soft and it fits just right.  It’s just loose enough to not bind but not so loose to flap in the wind.  Best of all, it looks great and I get compliments both on and off the water.  There aren’t too many pieces that look equally as good in the kayak and at a restaurant with my family.

What are your favorite features? Feel of the fabric; v-style neck; close, but not too close fit

What are your overall thoughts on the fabric? It’s very soft, yet it can handle the demands of hard activity.  It moves with your body and doesn’t rub.

Shop Coolibar Fitness Shirt

Coolibar athletes received free product for the purpose of this review.

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Partner Athletes Sevve Stember

Tracing back to the birthplace of sport climbing

 

 

As a teacher, I get some nice chunks of time off throughout the year, and I do my best to spend these breaks doing what I love — rock climbing.  This year, I journeyed west to Oregon and climbed on the welded tuff that was left over after a long ago volcanic episode.  There is a really strong and interesting history of rock climbing in Smith Rock State park, and it is often sited as the birthplace of sport climbing in America.  Sport climbing involves clipping pre-placed bolts as opposed to traditional (or “trad’) climbing, which involves placing your own protection in the rock as you ascend a crack system.

I was fortunate enough to join a married couple and their son for this trip.  Additionally, I met up with an old friend and roommate whom I lived with in Yosemite Valley when I worked there as a park ranger.  The trip had all the makings of a great time: classic climbing routes and good people to hang out with.

Smith Rock

The first day we climbed at a place called “The Lower Gorge”, where we avoided the large crowds that were enjoying their last day of spring break at some of the more popular crags (crag=cliff where people climb).  Jacob, my old roommate, and I teamed up and spent most of the day trad climbing classic crack routes. 

Since we were both new to the area, we decided to climb routes that we could onsight (climb first try without falling) instead of trying harder routes that were on the outer limits of our ability.  The day was awesome: we climbed 10 routes, each only falling once.   We both flashed (climbed without falling) “Pure Palm” (5.11a), which is a route with very few holds, and involves a lot of stemming.  Super classic!

Unfortunately, at the end of the day on the last route I climbed, my shoulder gave a large “creak!” and was a little tweaked the rest of the trip.  I’ve learned this same lesson many times before; but it’s hard to control my excitement.  My mentality is to always push myself to do more, partially because I simply love climb but also because I want to get better.  The lesson I took away from this experience is to quit while I’m ahead.  Injuries happen when tired.

Monday was a bit strange: I had two phone interviews for teaching jobs in Denver because my wife and I are relocating for her residency program in Emergency Medicine.  My day went something like: interview, climb, interview, climb.  I think I probably had the best view anyone has ever had during an interview as I looked out over Smith Rock from Jacob’s car.

Lets Face It 10b

The day was a total success: the interviews went well and I sent “Ring of Fire” (5.11d) on my 2nd attempt. 

Tuesday, Jacob and I did a multipitch (multiple rope lengths above the ground) route called “Wherever I May Roam” (5.9, 5 pitches).  The route, although easy, was enjoyable because I don’t get the opportunity to get hundreds of feet off the ground in Minnesota.  He headed back to Portland afterwards, and I met up with my crew from MN.  We worked on a super fun route called “Lightly Toasted” (5.11c).  Dan hung the draws and made a great effort.  I went next and fell at the crux (hardest part of the route).  We both sent next go.

The last day of the trip was one of the most memorable ones.  We had a leisurely morning, each one of us catching up on our “normal” life (aka work).  After lunch, we decided to head to Smith Rock for one final session of climbing.  On the drive, the weather looked questionable.  As we pulled into the parking lot, it started to rain.  Laughing, we tossed our backpacks on and hiked down to “The Morning Glory” wall.  On the way, about a dozen climbers passed us on their way to the parking lot.  “Perfect!” Dan said to me.  All the climbers had left and we had the entire wall to ourselves.

We quickly roped up and I lead “Nine Gallon Buckets” (5.10c) which is a really spectacular route; in fact probably the best single pitch of 5.10c I’ve ever climbed.  Next, we got on “Full Light Doritos Flavor” (5.12a), which is a pitch of 5.11a with a three-bolt extension.  I lead first, hanging a couple times.  Dan and Bronwyn both had a great time on it, making great efforts.  The clouds were back to looking ominous.   I quickly decided to try to send the route and soon I was well above the ground. 

As I entered into the crux (hardest part of the climb), it began to rain.  It didn’t matter.  I was in the zone.  All the clutter in my brain dissolved into the background.  The rain spattered against the rock as the wind picked up.  Moves that had felt hard the first time went smoothly.  Soon, I was at the final undercling, staring the anchors in the face.  I high stepped with my left foot, pushed hard on my right handhold, and reached effortlessly to the final jug.

The hike out was surreal.  It rained, a rainbow appeared, and then a double rainbow topped the whole day off.  I smiled from ear to ear on my hike out and the trip ended in a special way.  Spending meaningful time with people, seeing new sites, climbing new routes…these are the things that make me tick.

– Sevve Stember
Coolibar Athlete

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Coolibar Athletes Sevve Stember

Key ingredients for fitness success

Motivation is one of a few key ingredients for success.  I stay motivated by having goals to train for and think about.  Additionally, I try to plan some short weekend trips as well as a couple larger road trips.  These are at the core of what motivates me to stay active because in order to be successful on the road, I must be prepare during the spring and summer.  I think of my trips as “final exams” where I put together months of hard work and enjoy some of the premier climbing destinations and routes in the world.  Once I’ve worked hard, I can truly savor each climb and know that I’ve prepared myself to the best of my ability. 

Thinking more locally, I always have a “project” that I am working on.  In non-climber terms, this means that there is a really hard route that I am figuring out the moves on and working towards climbing it with no falls-that could happen the next week or the next year.  Whatever your recreational outlet is, set a goal that is attainable but is beyond what you’ve ever accomplished before.  You must also believe in yourself and your ability to attain levels that you’ve never thought were possible.

My advice to anyone that is looking to stay active outdoors is to find an outdoor sport or hobby that brings you joy, satisfaction, and meaning.  Getting “burnt out” out happens all too often because people do not love what they are doing.  If you do not love running, don’t run.  Instead, walk, play soccer, bike,….the list goes on.  Try many different activities until you find the one or two that really seems to fit you, your family, and your lifestyle.  At the end of the day, you should feel like you spent your time doing exactly what you wanted to do. 

Find some people to be active with.  One of the most enjoyable parts of climbing or skiing for me is the fantastic company that I get to do those activities with.  Lastly, keep a journal where you write down the date, what you did, length of time, and any other short notes you want.  I’ve found the key to keeping a training log that you actually use is to keep entries really short.  That way, you are more likely to continue using your training journal if it does not require much time to maintain it.  This written record of activity is a good visual reminder of how many days you’ve been active in a week.  It can be a reminder that you are working hard and where you want to be or a reminder that you need to get outdoors more and get some physical activity.

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Partner Athletes Sevve Stember

Rock Climbing Season Opener: Granddad’s Bluff

By Sevve Stember, Rock Climbing Expert:

After a fantastic winter of skiing on fresh snow and training harder than past season, I was ready to focus on other things.  March saw me in my home climbing gym, Vertical Endeavors, logging a lot of time on the climbing wall to build endurance, which was definitely lacking.  Since I only climbed once/week this winter, I focused on building my power.  To do this, I primarily bouldered (climbing close to the ground with crash pads as protection instead of belay ropes) and I definitely saw gains from this focused training.  Spring was slow to come and each weekend in March I would get excited to go climbing outside, only to see temperatures below 30 or a wintery mix falling from the sky.  So when my partner in crime, Bobby, and I saw temperatures around 37 projected for Saturday, we couldn’t help but get super psyched.

Throughout the week we nervously checked the weather for La Crosse, WI where we hoped to go.  I shot another couple of friends texts to see if they wanted to join.  Most didn’t.  “You guys are crazy!   It’s going to be too cold.  What if it’s wet?” were some of the naysayer’s comments.  We knew better than to fear a little chill.

As Sean, Bobby, and I left Minneapolis around 7:30AM, Sean said, “I’ve finally found people that are as psyched as I am!”  Sean felt the energy in the car as it sprinted south.  Blue skies, red tail hawks, and open prairies greeted us along the way.

Once we arrived at Granddad’s Bluff, which sits above La Crosse, I kicked on my mukluks to navigate the snowy approach trail.  We walked up to the wall.  DRY!  Many comments about how smart and clever we were for getting outside followed.  After a short warm up, Sean and I talked about what to do next.

I had unfinished business from last season called Brown Reason to Live (5.12d).  Last season, on December 1st, I had figured out all the moves late in the day, but lacked the power to send (climb the route without falling or weighting the rope) the route.  Sean was going to try to flash (climb it first try, having never climbed the route before) the route so I had the task of hanging the quick draws from the protection bolts.  As I tied into the rope, Sean and I talked about the pros and cons of trying to send a route while hanging draws.  My past experiences lead me to never rule out sending while hanging draws.

Sevve Stember climbing Granddad's Bluff Sevve Stember climbing Granddad’s Bluff

Sean put me on belay and I climbed the opening moves, which I had virtually memorized.  The first part of the route does not tap into my power much and there’s a large rest after three bolts.  I shook out at “the shield” hold and gazed up at the first crux (hardest technical sequence of a route).  I moved quickly through the first crux, feeling strong and smooth.  Soon, I was staring the final protection bolt and final crux in the face.  I heard Sean give some encouragement below, which helped focus my efforts for the final moves.  My right hand made a long reach up to a thin pinch.  I hit the pinch, moved my left foot up, found the thin hold for my left hand, and hit the final jug (large hold) confidently with my right hand.  Clipping the anchors, I looked out over the beautiful spring landscape and took it all in.  Sending a route that you’ve put days of effort into is always a reminder to me that success takes hard work.  Good thing I didn’t rule out the send while hanging draws.

Sean made a valiant effort, nearly flashing the route.  Bobby worked super hard on his project Big Man on Campus (5.12a) and made some definite progress.  Next, Sean and I spent some time on The Man in Black Pajamas (5.13a).  We both did all the moves and felt like one more day on the route would be all we needed to send it.  Later in the day, some other friends of ours joined us, which made for some added fun and laughs.  A Midwest climbing icon, Dave Groth, even stopped by and told us some compelling tales about establishing first ascents in the 70’s.

As we drove home, we all felt tired, exerted, and satisfied.  We’d harnessed all of our pent-up energy and had a rewarding day.  The whole experience epitomized why I climb: meaningful interactions with friends, working to help each other succeed, spending time outside enjoying fresh air, and learning about myself through the lens of a challenging climbing objective.  The outdoor climbing season has opened and it couldn’t have been better.

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Partner Athletes Sevve Stember

Coolibar Athlete Sevve Stember: Climbing Expert

I started climbing shortly after I could walk, although I don’t remember much of it. My mom would turn her head for a brief moment while we ate breakfast in the house that doubled as my dad’s chiropractic clinic at our home in Minnesota. Before she knew it, I would mantel my way onto the kitchen table. Climbing was in my blood.

One of the first climbs I did outdoors is burned into my memory as one of those moments that changes your life forever. As I climbed Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies at Shovel Point above the Great Lake Superior, I didn’t know it, but a whole new world had opened up to me – the vertical one. From that day onward, I would surround myself with climbing.

I learned from anyone I could and got on the rock as often as college would allow. The next three years would be a steady crescendo leading to an international expedition that was funded, in part, by a grant from the American Alpine Club to establish first ascents in Valle de Cochamo of the Andes Mountains.
After a successful expedition in Chile, where we established many new routes, some over 1000 feet tall, and climbed an unclimbed peak, I set my sights a little closer to home: Yosemite National Park. There I established an 800-foot aesthetic route on a granite point in Yosemite’s Wilderness.

Sevve Stember climbing Mr. Lean (5.11d) on the sea cliffs of Palisade Head in north eastern Minnesota

Since moving back to Minnesota, I have been focused on climbing shorter, harder routes. In this new endeavor, I have been successful in transforming myself as a climber and have developed a broader skill set. I’ve also learned to be ok with “failure” and think of it more so as a learning opportunity.

Climbing is inspiring to me because in order to improve at it, you must be really honest with yourself about your weaknesses. I love the mental side of climbing, the amazing places it takes me to, and the lessons that I learn from it that are often applicable in other aspects of my life. I care about sun protection because in order to do what I love outside, I must protect myself from the sun’s intense rays. Another reason skin care matters to me is because skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, so clearly as a society we need to work on prevention.

Outside of climbing, I am a science teacher, which is a really fantastic subject matter to teach because kids have a genuine interest in it. One of the best parts of my job is that I can use my strong connection with the natural world to inspire young minds. My wife and I also enjoy traveling, drinking coffee, cross-country skiing, and talking about the Norwegian Elk Hound that we hope to own soon.

– Sevve Stember

Andrea and Sevve Stember Andrea and Sevve Stember enjoy a bluebird day after completing the Buena Vista Snowjourn 12km freestyle ski race, just north of Bemidji, MN. Both stood on the podium; Sevve placed 2nd overall and Andrea won the women’s division.
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