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Reviews by phaedrus (7)

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Gunther's Big Day (Manufacturer link) Average Rating = 3.00/5 Average Rating : 3.00/5

In: Gear: Archive

Review 3 out of 5 stars

Review by: phaedrus, 2005-09-23

[b]Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this equipment provided it free of charge to and then provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his or her review. This company does not currently advertise on[/b]
For those long days in the office (with or without anything to do), [url=]Asana[/url] has created the perfect way to kill some time with Gunther’s Big Day, a bouldering video game. It has some pretty low-tech requirements and it doesn’t even download onto your computer (so the boss can’t catch you), making it perfect for almost any computer -- just pop it in and play. The game is made for both PC and Mac, so you don’t have any excuse not to own one.

Gunther’s Big Day features three different bouldering areas (desert, forest, and alpine) as well as slacklining and a “grimper” game (based on the Grimper product sold by Asana). Gunther himself is [b]NOT[/b] your stereotypical boulderer; that is to say, he’s not a slim, muscular, beanie-wearing teenager. In fact, he’s an old, fat, bearded guy who looks like he’d be found on some long trad climb instead of boppin' around in a VW Bus cranking out the V’s. Of course, that’s part of what makes this game so funny.

The graphics are average to good for a flash game. The only real problem is that you can’t really see some of the smaller holds; you pretty much have to guess. The sequences themselves get pretty tricky… you can’t just “wing it” on some of the sequences like you would in real life. The controls are a really nice feature of the game since Asana followed the “Keep It Simple, Stupid” philosophy with their layout. For the climbing, all you use are the arrow keys and the space bar. (The slacklining sequences are a bit more involved.) The music is okay, but don’t look for any techno hits here. The sound effects are funny, with a “D’oh!” coming out of Gunther’s mouth with every fall.

The game itself is super addicting, so beware. Definitely don’t put this in during your coffee break thinking you’ll be done in 15 minutes… you’ll end up playing right through lunch and that big meeting where you were [i]supposed[/i] to be getting a raise for your productivity. (Which will go straight down the tubes once you start playing this game.) It features 30 problems ranging from V1 to V14. As the problems become more difficult, they become more realistic, with things like how long you can hang on a hold, falling off slopers, etc. The climbs are challenging; expect to spend a decent amount of time on the harder problems (*HINT HINT* It took our resident video game freak 150 attempts on “one stupid problem.”) And don’t think you can cheat. Passwords are required for problems rated V5 and higher. The desert area was overall our favorite of the three; the alpine sections start at V5 and have the hardest sequences.

The slacklining sequences are pretty cool. You get to walk Gunther across the line and he even can do tricks. Of course, Gunther being the kind of guy he is, he manages to rack himself nicely on the way down for those walks and tricks that didn’t quite work. (“D’oh!”)

The Grimper game was our least favorite part of the game. It’s not horrible, but it’s not as much of a challenge or as much fun as the bouldering and slacklining are. However, this is made up for by the outtakes found in the bouldering section. They are VERY funny and definitely worth watching more than once.

The $19.95 price tag is a little steep. We thought $15 was probably a better price for the game, but a comp of some sort would be a pretty cool addition, especially if you could play online and earn prizes or money to buy new stuff, making it worth the $20 or even more.

Gunther's Big Day requires Windows 2000 or higher for PC or Macintosh 9.3 or higher, Pentium III or better, 64 MB of free RAM, 15 MB of hard drive space, speakers, a mouse, keyboard, and a screen resolution of 800 x 600 with 16-bit color.

You know you want to by it. Go with Gunther on his Big Day!

Stick It (Manufacturer link) Average Rating = 4.00/5 Average Rating : 4.00/5

In: Gear: Archive

Review 4 out of 5 stars

Review by: phaedrus, 2005-09-13

First of all, let me start by saying that I am sick of bouldering films. There are too many on the market all fitting the same formula to the point of being clichéd: young kids in beanies grunting and groaning, calling each other “bro” (even the females) to the same techno/thrash punk music. That being said, I can say without any sort of hesitation that Stick It (2001, 50 minutes), from Slackjaw Films ([url][/url]) is by far one of THE BEST bouldering videos I’ve seen in a long, long time. (American bouldering filmmakers take note.) Stick It isn’t at all your stereotypical testosterone fest as mentioned above. The camera work is clear and clean with climbing sequences more focused on the climbing, not on the “how cool does the climber look” so typical of too many bouldering films.

It’s also nice to see a bouldering movie that doesn’t contain the look/feel of a skater video, right down to its lack of “stupid climber tricks” found elsewhere. That’s not to say there aren’t some humorous moments. A feel of “it’s only climbing, so don’t take it so seriously” seems to pervade the film, lending a sense of fun to the watching of this film. One of my favorite sequences featured interviewing (mostly) elderly/older non-climbers at an amusement park in Pentrwyn, asking them why they thought climbers did what they do. The juxtaposition of a traditional amusement park with a boulder field made for a nice touch.

Climbers featured in Stick It include Ben Moon, Jerry Moffatt, Katherine Shirmacher, Lucy Creamer, and more.

Stick It can be ordered directly from the Slackjaw Films site. While the price tag of £15.95 (approximately $29.29 USD), may seem a little steep for a 50 minute film, if you’re in the market for a bouldering video, this is the one to get.

X Chalk (Manufacturer link) Average Rating = 3.92/5 Average Rating : 3.92/5

In: Gear: Training & Accessories

Review 4 out of 5 stars

Review by: phaedrus, 2005-09-07

[b]Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this equipment provided it free of charge to and then provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his or her review. This company does not currently advertise on[/b]

It seems like only yesterday the great John Gill introduced the use of magnesium
carbonate to the sport of rock climbing. The idea of chalk use is simply to keep
your hands dry while you're climbing, and for a long time it didn't seem like there
could be too much innovation when it came to such a simple and effective compound.
Yet, in recent years, much innovation [i]has[/i] happened in climbing chalk circles,
most recently with the addition of various natural and even organic additives.

Enter Zen Lizard. According to the Zen Lizard
[url=]website[/url], X Chalk was "originally developed to
counteract the effects from the extremely gritty rock... in some climbing areas in
Arizona." X Chalk was "developed and formulated with the help and guidance from a
Chinese herbalist," and contains a variety of known and commonly used herbs and
botanicals that appear in traditional Chinese medicine. The idea is that these
ingredients will "help heal minor skin abrasions/scratches/cuts and also help
protect these from infection." Cloves are a definite ingredient in X Chalk, but as
far as what the other ingredients are, Zen Lizard isn't telling.

We had the chance to try X Chalk this summer, when the Colorado sun heats up the
rock quite nicely. The claim by Zen Lizard is that X Chalk will both cool and heal
your hands, and fortunately, it did both. X Chalk is a very fine-grained chalk, and
a little bit goes a LONG way. We found ourselves chalking up less often, and even
when we couldn't see it on our hands, we could still feel its effects. X Chalk
smells pretty darned good, too, and it can be used both indoors and outdoors since
its scent isn't overpowering.

According to Zen Lizard, X Chalk shouldn't be mixed with other chalk; its meant to
be used full strength, which can be a hassle if you have a bag of chalk and just
want to add it to what you have and not wait to use up what's in there.

X Chalk does cost a bit more than regular chalk ($3.25 for 2 ounces, including
shipping and handling; $5.25 for 4 ounces, including shipping and handling), but we
think it'll be worth the extra money you'll pay.

Joshua Tree Climbing Salve (Manufacturer link) Average Rating = 4.30/5 Average Rating : 4.30/5

In: Gear: Training & Accessories

Review 4 out of 5 stars

Review by: phaedrus, 2004-06-01

I brought this stuff out to Moab and loved it. It did leave my hands a little greasy after using it, but it definitely helped heal them at the end of the day.

Hewbolt Double Average Rating = 4.00/5 Average Rating : 4.00/5

In: Gear: Essential Equipment: Belay Devices & Descenders

Review 5 out of 5 stars

Review by: phaedrus, 2004-05-31

Even though PMI says "The TRE is the only rope brake for double ropes that locks under stress," that's not quite accurate. The Hewbolt Double is specifically designed as an autolocking double rope rappel/belay device. These devices are designed to be used with UIAA 10-11 mm dynamic ropes.

Similar to the Hewbolt Single, this device can be used to belay a leader and makes a GREAT autolocking belay device. Personally, rappelling gives me the willies, and this device takes the edge off of that for me. It can be used with a single rope to belay with, and it fits a double rope for rappelling. Since it's an autolocker, a prussic is not needed if you're using this, though if you want, you can still use one- it just makes rapping down really slow.

I own one of each, the single and the double- both are excellent additions to my bag of tricks! This can even be used by the newest beginner or the crustiest expert.

Like the Hewbolt Single, this can be used equally well by either a left or right-handed person, which is another selling point for me (I'm left-handed.)

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