Monday, February 23, 2009

Review > Rockwerx > Sandstone Big Ribs

Big pinch or finger jugs, its your choice when it come to the Big Ribs from Rockwex. When Noodles first told me that we were getting holds from them I said "who?" and went onto the computer for a little research. With its head office now residing in Massachusettes, Rockwerx started its humble beginnings in Cort Gariepy's garage in California, the company has grown to involve itself in all streams of indoor climbing. As for their holds you might ask, these ones are BIG with craters in the pockets where you can find and fine tune your hand placement with the options between pinch, finger jug and crimps.

Rockwerx sent us samples from their line and I wasn't around when they arrived so Jacky and Noodles were the first ones to set with them. Once on the wall these holds will stand out for their size and color (they sent us our holds in a deep orange). When I came in and saw the Big Ribs going up the 45, my first impression was that it would be easy enough to get up, but they are more difficult to hold than you expect. The craters in the pockets of the holds make it hard to get a good grip and I didn't feel solid on some of the moves (Noodles accuses me of cheating at the end because of the bump, but I didn't feel like I could lock off on that last hold). The pockets on the holds are shallow and when we flipped them around and used them as finger jugs the craters acted like crimps inside the pocket much like features you'll find on real sandstone. The craters again left me second guessing my placement and praying that my grip would hold. Our next step was to make things interesting by setting a problem with a roof section:

Its obvious when looking at the holds that they are meant to be used as pinches or finger pockets but when I got onto the front face of the box I found that the best grip was to crimp like hell, and then go for the roof moves; the first roof route was easily dispatched, the second route was a different case altogether; to say we spent a lot of time hitting the floor is an understatement, most of the holds are more than OK for roof-pinches except one that is just so hard to hold onto that it's almost impossible to grip :(

After the last review (DRCC Setters Delight which are small and crimpy) I was glad to be climbing on some bigger holds and even though my fingers still feel a little sore, the crimps felt comfortable and personally I would go as far as saying that I felt the most solid with this grip. Since the sequence was sent within minutes of the set we pushed the bar up and put them on the roof. It takes some brute force to prevent yourself from falling and Noodles was convinced that he could hang on two pinches to get his feet around to the other side of the wall, but first we needed to figure out how to get through the first section of the problem. With some classic falls (courtesy of yours truly) Noodles used a hook to get himself across the roof, which meant we had to move some lights to allow him to hit the edge.

So we finally figured out the beta for roof and the holds are deceptive once again. We set a route straight up the box. On a vertical wall we could use the holds as jugs and now that we weren't trying to pinch them the holds are quite comfortable.

All in all, good holds aimed for the more advanced climber but still having great applications for the novice climber if set on vertical terrain or shallow overhangs

Roof anybody? I definitely would not recommend that you put these holds on the roof, but if you're don't mind falling on your ass (or seeing your friends fall) you'll have fun trying to figure out the beta. Rockwerx doesn't give any recommendations on wall angles on their website and leaves it up to the climbers imagination to find the best place to set the holds. The novice and advanced climbers will find good use of the holds however I find that the unsymmetrical design of the holds lends itself to more experienced climbing. To a novice or beginner climber the holds are finger jugs or pinches, but for experienced climbers and setters you can see all the different sequences that can be made with the holds, the pockets on either side of the holds vary in depth (some of them being near to non existing, the best description would be thumb catches) and you could set some tricky weight shifts if you set the holds up vertically.

Not many people have heard about Rockwerx, I only found them because Steve from Holdz dropped me a line a while back that he'd done some shaping for them, so that whetted my curiosity to see what their holds were like. The set we're looking at this week isn't actually one of Steve's sets, but they're interesting none the less.

Now, as some of you may know I'm from the Uk; Essex infact, and that means the only rock that's close to me other than coastal cliffs is sandstone and I've spent a great deal of time hiding in the forest slipping off of sandy holds! With that important segway done and dusted lets look at the Sandstone Big Ribs!For someone that is primarily a wall builder Rockwerx seem to have a nice compliment of shapes for when their walls open, and that means they seem to take pride in their holds as much as their main business, that's a nice thing to see as sometimes wall builders see holds as a side line and they don't pay much TLC to what they're churning out (No I'm not pointing the finger at anyone in particular), seeing these shapes for the first time you're going to think that they're resin and someone is pulling the wall over your eyes, or that the Rockwerx website is wrong, that's what I thought so I dropped them a mail to check and it is urethane, pure and simple. With that little worry out of the way we spent a bunch of time setting routes for people to fall off of, and that's what they did on the 45 wall until they figured out how to hold a couple of the holds, infact that's what people did on most of the routes that were set, but once you get your brain dialed into the holds you can hit them with confidence everytime. I wouldn't say this is a bad thing, it's good for people to not be able to grab and then haul on all of the holds they see, Chris is saying in the main body of the review that he'd see these holds for more intermediate climbers, this I disagree with, I think that having a 5.8 with large challenging holds will teach people different hand positions and body positions. I'm impressed with the Big Ribs, they're not something you'll see every day and I've been on sandstone enough to know that these holds feel like a non-sandy version of sandstone rock, but I've never seen any shapes like this on rock... but they do feel and look like sandstone. Rockwerx is maybe a company you should look at, see what they have that you like, we've got more reviews coming in the future, and there are some shapes that I know Chris and Jacky are going to complain about... stay tuned :)
Let's start with the obvious. How do they look? Well good enough to be considered average and above. That is for a guy who would not want his wall to be some form of modern art but rather something that looks and feels like the rock that I'm missing.

How do they feel? Weird, as I first thought that they would rip my skin apart and force me to carry a chalk bag... like I can hold on long enough to justify it :) (Editor: They do suck chalk off of your hands thou!) Anyways bottom line is that I was completely wrong and that they ended up being very comfortable and harmless

Now the best part: testing the route that I have set (read: follow the unpleasant path that I thought would be a cool warm up) Things to know: I didn't use the roof as I don't feel strong enough to play the monkey (I'm more in the fat gorilla range!) and no 45 degree for no particular reason. I am commenting on a traverse that was surprisingly not that bad BECAUSE of these holds. The grip was really good and with a certain degree of complexity which is usually not a default feature to every climbing hold. And what do I think is their best feature, they're amazingly versatile, offering a wide range of fun (for an intermediate - top rope not boulder type of climber)

Would I buy them? Hell yeah for the versatility as they suit a style of climbing that I really like. I would actually consider giving them the editors choice, golden monkey thing... if there was one. Hummm, Noodles!

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