Magic Line and Gear Innovations

Coming close on a lifetime project, and launching a brand with new climbing gear innovations

My blog has been a bit quiet this spring due to two major projects over the last seven months. I spent many weeks into the winter in Yosemite attempting to climb Magic Line, a 5.14c trad route. Additionally, I launched my new climbing gear brand, Avant Climbing Innovations, which features multiple exclusive products for trad climbing and rope soloing. This combines my extensive product design career experience with an elite climbing perspective towards gear improvements. Both projects have been enormous undertakings, consuming a great deal of my mental energy! Read on to get a recap of both endeavors. 

Magic Line has been a dream route for years. I first climbed on it back in 2018 with Carlo Traversi during a Black Diamond event in Yosemite. The incredibly technical under-vert movement meshed super well with my climbing strengths. If there were to be one pinnacle route to work towards in my trad climbing career, this was it!

I began a more serious effort on the route in the fall of 2021. I was out in the Valley for a few weeks and put in multiple solo top-rope days. I didn’t complete all the moves, but I was able to hold positions in the crux, which built my belief in climbing it one day.

This past fall, I revisited the route while out for El Nino with Amity, using a few off days during our wall preparation to climb on Magic Line. On one fresher day, I managed to eke out the crux moves in isolation! This was enough inspiration to make a second trip to Yosemite post-El Cap ascent, after a 10-day regroup back home in Flagstaff.

On the sharp end, just above the crux bulge (photo by Alex Eggermont)

I went out with low expectations and an open schedule. I climbed one day on, one day off, for nearly the entire time. The energy at the route was great, climbing with friends including Franco Cookson, Babsi Zangerl, Lara Neumeier, and Connor Herson. About ten days into that visit, I began lead attempts. They were perhaps a bit premature—I made it through the low crux (a ~V10 gaston bulge) over a dozen times, only to fall off in the easier but hard-to-remember middle sections.

By mid-December, three weeks in, I made it past the final rest and into the outro boulder multiple times. My best lead attempt had me falling on the very last moves of the top slab (~V9 laybacking), just a few moves away from the finishing jug! It was painfully close, but I did not send. This outro boulder was my top-rope warm-up every session, and I could tiptoe through it without falling most times. However, there is something especially challenging about the warm rubber, tired core, and mental pressure of leading through that slab section from the ground. After 7 weeks in the Valley between October and January, I called it a season without a clean lead.

Magic Line is still a dream route, and I will be working hard to align quality attempts with good friends again this fall!

Working out the hardest moves (photo by Nelson Klein)

The right foot from the previous photo. Lots of weight needs to be transfered into this tiny edge! 

In January, I launched a new climbing accessory gear brand, Avant Climbing Innovations. Combining my extensive product design and high end climbing experience, Avant makes gear to increase efficiency and safety in trad, multipitch, and rope solo climbing. Be sure to check out the exclusive gear on the Avant webstore if you haven’t already! 

My Patent Pending "Flip-Stop" cam carabiner stabilizers. Climb harder trad routes by fumbling less with gear! 

The idea for Avant's flagship product, the Flip-Stop Cam Carabiner Stabilizer, emerged from my own frustrations encountered while trying Cobra Crack in Squamish—a route that demands very powerful cam placements. I was using various methods to keep cam racking carabiners in an easy clipping position, but they were all breaking in normal usage. This invention was inspired during a rest day when I experimented with a tape pattern that held the carabiner in place, but left the sling loop open and usable. Recognizing the potential for a more durable and universal solution, I developed the final design using a triple-loop and double-fold shape out of a durable TPU, which could be easily integrated into existing cam setups. Upgrade your own cams with Flip-Stop on the Avant webstore 

Alongside the development of Flip-Stops, I also brought to market a series of lead rope solo climbing accessories, refined over the last years for my own needs as a solo redpoint climber. These accessory products truly refine a lead rope solo setup, enabling soloists to lead climb near their free climbing limit. If you have read my Redpoint Rope Soloing blogs, you’ll definitely want to check out the new lead rope solo accessories. 

The Soft-Cinch lead rope solo backfeed keeper. A one handed solution for lead solo free climbing. 

Another product not to miss is my favorite Top Rope Solo Lanyard design, brought to market to reduce the DIY research projects needed to go climbing! This simple and adjustable lanyard holds up your fixed line soloing device with comfort. It is also a crucial part of your kit for modern fix-and-follow multipitch methods.

Through this new Avant brand, I am excited to offer these specialized innovations for trad, multipitch, and rope solo climbing, which are often overlooked by mainstream gear companies. Be sure to sign up to the Avant newsletter as well as some future how-to content will be exclusive to Avant brand followers.

The Avant Top Rope Solo Neck Lanyard. Fixed line top rope without the DIY hassle. A universal adjustable fit to share with partners while fix-and-follow multipitching.