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Jenny "Lemonpie" Fischer and her Intellectual Nerd Jams

FrictionLabs Athlete, Jenny "Lemonpie" Fischer, talks intro to offwidth, intellectual nerd jams, the beauty of the desert, and just about everything you need to get started if you want to shove your body into cracks.

Let's start with the basics. How did you get into offwidth climbing?

From the get-go I was stronger on crack climbs compared to face climbing. Sticking my fist in a crack was like putting a key in a lock; it just made total sense to me. The more I crack climbed the more I saw other climbers avoid the wide cracks and reference them with dread. I was intrigued.
I think it appealed to my bizarre draw to doing everything the hard way. I also really wanted to do big wall routes in Zion and Yosemite, many of which have wide pitches, so I felt like being skilled at wide would make me a stronger partner.
After my first try at offwidth, I was hooked. It was full-body as opposed to just upper body strength and it required so much creativity, figuring out the moves and body parts that would keep me in the crack. So, from then on, I started to pursue it intentionally which led me to invert offwidth and that's a whole other world of weird fun!

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You mentioned your "bizzare draw" to off-width because of your innate desire to do things the hard way.  Can you elaborate on that desire and why off-width is so appealing?

Other than the fact that I just love a good ol' sustained struggle??? I like the fact that success on off-width usually boils down to how smart you climb and how long you can endure, rather than how strong you are in any one isolation.
Every move is a creative 3D arrangement of your bodily puzzle pieces and there isn't one obvious answer for progress. Wide climbing is very nuanced and strategy-driven. It keeps me thinking and problem-solving which is definitely my intellectual nerd jam.
Photo: Pete Takeda
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How do I learn to do that? Where do I even begin?

I highly recommend offwith bouldering as a learning medium. It gives you the opportunity to try out different variations on moves without the pressure and complications of being on lead. And, it's much easier to commit to inverting when your 4 ft off a pad with spotters compared to 30-40 ft up a route!
Speaking of which, make sure you have GOOD spotters, getting a foot stuck can be dangerous and very scary. Getting started with a good base of knowledge in crack climbing is very helpful, knowing how to handjam and get a good solid fist is a good jump start to offwidth stacks, which are essentially a hand or fist jam on your own hand or fist.
If you can find a crusty offwidth climber to show you some tricks that will go a long way as well, even if it's just to open your mind to what might work.

What rack do you recommend starting with?

Someone else's! Haha. Big cams and other wide gear like Big Bros are expensive compared to most other pro. 9-inch cams run around $200 a piece, so you’ll want to make sure you're committed to the wide before investing.
Start with a standard set of big pieces and see how you feel about off-sized climbing to start with. A Black Diamond Camalot 4, 5, and 6 will get you up some pitches that aren't necessarily sustained offwidth but have some wide bits.
If you're totally hooked after that, start saving up money and double to triple up on 5's and 6's. The number of 4's you'll need/want depends a bit on your fist size; if your fists are 4's you may be able to comfortably get away with only 2-3, my fists are 3's and I climb in the desert a lot so I own 5 4's!
The other thing about big cams is you can only realistically put so many on your harness before it makes the climbing unreasonable. After double/triple 5's and 6's I recommend picking up some big bros; they're easier to carry when you have a sustained run of wide climbing.
I find the green and blue bros the most useful, with the red and purple being secondary but sometimes super helpful for rope management in specific situations.
Lastly, I would look at purchasing a big cam, from 9-12 inches, I rarely think I need a 12, but run into good use for the 9 all the time. Plan ahead for this, since you can't just walk into an REI and buy one. The two primary options that I know of are Valley Giants and Merlin Rock Gear. For both, you'll have to contact the builder directly and order one. If you're curious to read up on these there are some fairly lengthy Super Topo threads about it here:
http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=2720258&tn=20
and here:
http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=2720258&tn=240
Lastly, while you're building out your big rack I HIGHLY recommend picking up some old BD Camalot's if you can find them. The overlap in the larger cam ranges is a little spacier than the smaller cams and I've found myself in many circumstances where an old 3.5, 4 or even 4.5 was the safest placement.  
Photo by Todd Bukowski

It seems like you climb a LOT. How do you balance climb-life and work-life?

I'd be lying if I said it was easy! I do work a full-time job outside of climbing and do a lot of juggling with my laptop, weather forecasts, travel plans and climbing projects.
I've spent the last year finagling more remote work capabilities so that I can spend more time in climbing locations without taking time off, and on workdays, I'll get out to climb early, split up my work day or even try projects on lunch breaks just to squeeze in climbing. Thankfully I work for a company that understands my climbing goals and is willing to work with me on this. (Thanks, Deuter!!)
Photo by Chris Shulte

Okay, last question, just to fully get our psych on. What's your favorite/closest to the heart favorite spot to climb?

Closest to the heart has to be Indian Creek. The Creek came into my life at a time when I needed to really distill my energy into simply living. The huge wide open spaces and the majestic sandstone mesas were the perfect place to just focus on the experience at hand. (There's no cell service in the Creek and I hope there never is!)
It's also the perfect crack-climbing training ground; whatever size you need to work on, it's out there in multiples, as are plenty of testpieces to see if you've really mastered the techniques you're developing. That being said, if you head that direction please learn up on more than just crack climbing. The desert is a fragile system and as more and more people come through that canyon the impact multiplies.
Tread lightly, leave no trace and consider avoiding it during high traffic times like the holidays.

Well, this was absolutely enlightening and invigorating. Thank you so much, Jenny!

Follow Jenny's offwidth adventures on her Instagram @jenny.lemonpie.

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