TCA’s Unconventional Sends

The following is by TCA senior Kieran and juniors Adam and Tanner. 

The Climbing Academy is known for the amazing opportunities it provides for pushing students’ limits on difficult rock climbs. What it isn’t known for, however, is pushing the limits of new, never-before-seen types of climbing.

Kieran gears up for the send of Monkey Bar Direct.

Over the course of the year, TCA students have put up beautiful lines on trees, buildings, and even on hanging Metolius Rock Rings. We interviewed one of TCA’s most visionary first ascensionists to see firsthand the innovation and creativity that goes into the creation of these incredible routes.

Enter TCA student Benoît Lavigeur, an avid climber and explorer of strange new types of climbing. When he is not watching climbing movies, he can be found climbing trees and buildings, often covered almost completely in dirt. He has established climbs on trees, playgrounds, and even a kitchen counter in Spain. We asked Benoît why he enjoys these unorthodox types of climbing, and how he chooses his inspirational lines.

Tanner executes a doorway drop-knee.


“Unconventional climbing is fun because of the fact that you don’t know if anyone has climbed the things that you try. I’ll climb anything — I walk into a room and see the lines, and, you know, you cannot not climb them,” says Lavigeur.

Benoît recently put up a groundbreaking new line in El Portrero Chico, one that will likely rival even the legendary Sendero Luminoso. Located on a medium-sized tree in a small campground at the base of Portrero’s vast limestone faces, this climb follows the beautiful prow of a protruding tree branch. Watching Benoît create this route is akin to watching Jackson Pollock paint a canvas — to the untrained eye, it seems as if he is just randomly selecting which branches to grab, but there is method to the madness. After he climbs the tree the easiest way, he begins to skip holds until he has achieved his idea of perfection. Benoît doesn’t yet know what he will call this route, but probable names include The Mona Treesa or Stonebranch.

Benoît, along with the rest of The Climbing Academy, just spent three weeks in El Salto, Mexico, and that meant a lot of potential for some serious off-the-wall climbing. Aside from its exquisite limestone walls featured with a variety of tufas, blocky ledges, and pockets, El Salto offers opportunities for some remarkably unique climbing.

Tanner takes flight on The Recess.

The local test-piece is a ten-foot dyno between two monkey bars, called The Recess. Tanner Mack first climbed this aesthetic line, which clocks in at about V9, after a week of projecting it. It has not been repeated since, though not for lack of effort, as numerous TCA students have tested their mettle against the metal of the monkey bars. For some more laidback climbs, or maybe a warm up, try Monkey Bar Direct, V3. El Salto has immense potential for alternative types of climbing, so be sure to keep it in mind as a future destination.

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