An Adventure with Backbone’s Newest Employee

Red Rock Canyon National Park, Las Vegas, Nevada – 3.9.15-3.12.15
Words and Photography: Corbin Clement


ginger buttress mt wilson_pic corbin clement

Entering the Park looking at the Ginger Buttress and Mt Wilson.

After finishing graduate school last Thanksgiving, I was fortunate enough to undertake a 6 week journey in Asia solely for pursuits of eating, climbing and surfing. For months after that, my time commitments were limited to three days a week at an SEO internship, working various events for Burton, and finding myself a job where I’d be happy enough to sit still.

Upon the realization my wondrously ample free time (and schedule flexible enough to break the back of your average Cirque Du Soleil contortionist) would be coming to an end, Holly Yeary, Thomas SeymourAbby Seymour and I decided to take a mid-week trip to one of the Canadian circus’ permanent residences, Las Vegas. For me, this was a last hurrah before accepting a dream offer to be a part of the Backbone Media PR team. (Psyched to be here!) These days, a vacation from your vacation is the only way to stay sane.

Thomas fear and loathing 8_pic corbin clement

Thomas cleans his route. This afternoon, we had a huge zone all to ourselves.

As fun as fist-pumping up in da club with Paris Hilton may be, we happily planned to remain far from the central attractions of the city. As this was the first time I’d ever done fly-in camping, I had no idea what to pack. So, due to $400,000 bag check fees, I ended up bringing barely enough clothing to keep my fellow return flight passengers from having to accompany a character of questionable appearance. 

After arriving to the campsite in Red Rock many hours after the night had, we slept immediately.  No sense dragging ass in the morning due to lack of sleep. That’s what coffee shops are for. Barred from bringing camping fuel by TSA, each morning we opted for the 5-minute commute from our campsite to Dunkin or the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.  This was the soft man’s camping trip.

Thomas fear and loathing 5_pic corbin clement

Thomas leading Fear and Loathing while Holly and Abby watch. Taking this shot was very entertaining. I had to perch precariously on some very steep and crumbly sandstone. Scrambling the opposing face here was a perfect vantage point. I was able to stay level with and close to Thomas almost the entire route.

The first climb began on the alleged “classic” multi-pitch sport route, Unimpeachable Groping. After a hurried approach, we rounded the corner to the belay zone and Thomas’ fears of congregation were relieved. We embarked on an awesome 7 pitches of mellow crimping.  Not one other group arrived to follow after us. The next two days were filled with hot laps in more popular zones, all of which provided unbelievable climbs. I was lucky enough to be pushed by my monkey friends, as they showed no capacity for fatigue.

corbin american sportsman 1 pic_Abby Seymour

Everyone cleared out a little bit before this, as it was looking like rain. The weather missed and I was able to get in this last route of the afternoon. The face shown here was amazing, sporting the most consistent crimps the entire way up. I pause on one of the few good rest zones. Photo: Abby Seymour

holly ginger buttress final pitch b_pic thomas seymour

Abby climbs to the pinnacle of the final pitch of Unimpeachable Groping. Aside from what’s shown here, the climb offered 6 stacked pitches of vertical awesomeness. Regretfully, my rope management skills were frequently sub-par. Photo: Thomas Seymour

holly fear and loathing 3_pic corbin clement

Holly topping out. The rock here is so red. Don’t be fooled by the grey light. It glows in sunlight. Maybe that’s why they call it Red Rock Canyon.

Our last night there, we booked a hotel room which was supposed to have a complimentary spa. Checking in after a long day of climbing, ready to indulge, we were informed everything in the hotel closed at 7:00pm (except the casino, of course). We made do.

spa day_pic Thomas Seymour

Photo: Tomas Seymour


There is a lot of static out there these days. As marketers and brands claim to get more targeted and specific, our collective social media channels gum up with all sorts of filler. What it comes down to, what matters are pieces that resonate.

Recently two projects have hit high marks in terms of target and scale. In mid-May, Black Diamond announced its partnership with Mountain Project. No big deal right? Well, actually Mountain Project is the most comprehensive online climbing guide to ever exist, featuring route beta for over 112,000 climbing routes at over 19,000 climbing areas worldwide. The mobile application allows users to download route information (location, description, images and rating) on their devices and access it anytime without a cell signal. Mountain Project features over 304,000 unique users per month and reaches nearly 2,500,000 climbers per year.


As a modern day climber you can search and discover new areas on your phone and go climbing. The tool is indispensable. The cool part about the BD/MP partnership is Black Diamond took the app and made it free. Make sure, you catch this part. FREE. Why? BD wanted to provide its core community with a great proactive mobile app to help them go climbing. Pretty cool. And the on the metrics side – Mountain Project has seen an immediate, robust and sustained level of engagement since partnering.

Spear of Destiny

Spear of Destiny

We searched for 4 star routes on River Road and got this single pitch chimney/tower

We searched for 4 star routes on River Road and got this single pitch chimney/tower

The second case study is from earlier this week working with Protect Our Winters. In a coordinated effort around President Obama’s announcement of new EPA regulations to limit carbon emissions POW worked with the White House and activated a social media campaign, #actonclimate asking POW athletes to organically share a place or reason why we should support these new EPA standards for the generational and long term health of our planet.


The results were staggering with positive trends in the first six hours upward of 100 million impressions. More importantly was the core audience initiatives where POW saw over 7,000 new Instagram followers day one and over 13,000 tweets by over 10,000 individuals. Taking it even a step further, the profiles of people posting included: Alex Honnold, Conrad Anker, Jeremy Jones, Gretchen Bleiler, Jamie Anderson, Jimmy Chin, Danny Davis, Renan Ozturk, Chris Davenport and brands such as The North Face, Teton Gravity Research, Camp 4 Collective, Goal Zero, and Snowsports Industry of America.

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All this prompted the White House to comment on the authenticity of this social campaign and how the photos from the athletes were inspiring everyday people in a way only athletes could and driving a larger audience to identify with the cause of climate change.






Backbone Media – Fall 2013 Charge

Harry Gates Hut, Sawatch Mountains (Sept. 10th & 11th)

Please enjoy some photos from the recent Backbone Charge* – high country cragging at Lime Creek, fly fishing, biking, mountain games, and a massive bonfire. Thanks to a remarkable CO resource 10th Mountain Division Hut Association for the Gates Hut, La Sportiva for the loan of demo shoes and of course the entire Backbone team for general awesomeness. — Penn

*Backbone Charge is a semi annual gathering. We do not ‘do’ retreats we charge.


A complete gallery of photos can be found on the Backbone Media Facebook Page


Don’t Call it a Retreat

When I started working at Backbone over five short years ago, our bi-annual get togethers consisted of eleven of us having a small BBQ at a partner’s Carbondale home. Good food, sparkling dinner conversation (lots of jokes about how young and naive I was…) and PR State of the Union discussions.
Ahhh how times have changed.

At Backbone, the word “corporate retreat” makes us all twitch a little bit and one intern actually broke out in hives a few years back when those words were spoken. Penn told us recently that we were not allowed to call it a retreat. “We do not retreat at Backbone,” he said, “we charge.”

Well, in the past few years, and in response to a growing staff, development of new media departments and the creation of satellite offices in Jackson and Denver, we all agree that face-time, and company-wide get togethers are more important that ever to ensure a unified “charge”.

Considering our company’s addiction to the early adoption of any and all i-products, getting off the grid also becomes paramount. For a company based on a work hard, play hard philosophy, it is essential that we have at least 48 hours of un-interrupted time to share a beverage or two, hit the river and the trail together and make sure that we all spend enough time with the other 30+ members of the staff to uncover some of our finest personal skills which may never find their way into an RFP…

What we found this past week was a veritable cornucopia of freak flags, red flags, jazz choir histories, poor facial hair and haircut decisions in the mid 90’s, impressive first jobs (TCBY, Donut making), plastic baby launching talents, slow-cooking culinary prowess, glow stick dancing, remarkable fireproof-ness (accidental), SUP racing dogs, bocce ball balancing skills, a shared love of inflatables, freestyle margarita making skills and a company-wide borderline contractual agreement to only sit in the chair one may or may not have personally brought on the trip. Real resume builders.

Location: Twin Lakes, CO (which is conveniently now for sale- not sure if it hit the market before or after we were there…)
Attendance: 3 Partners, 28 staffers, 7 dogs, and one very scary plastic baby.
Takeaway: We are well positioned for another successful year as the leading agency in the active lifestyle industry, and are equally well positioned to start a traveling circus.

Intern Impressions: 10th Annual Teva Mountain Games

I’ve never been a big competition climber myself, but the chance to watch the 2011 IFSC World Cup finals at the 2011 Teva Mountain Games (TMG) was too good to pass up. As a new intern at Backbone, I arrived at Carbondale just as the build-up and excitement for the Games was coming to a head. Saturday the 4th dawned cloudless and dry, and I tossed a longing gaze at the pile of climbing shoes in the back of my van. Being from New England, I’ve been conditioned never to say no to a day of good climbing temps. Still, it’s not every day that I get to watch a dozen of my climbing heros flash up to V11 in front of a screaming crowd of thousands. Some things are worth missing a day on the rock.

The World Cup finals were slated to start at 5. Arriving an hour or so early, I had a chance to wander through Vail Village. On the cobbled streets, vendors from every niche of the outdoor industry had constructed a veritable tent city. Hipsters on fixies, bro-dudes on skateboards and families pushing strollers milled around, looking at the 2012 product they were soon to buy–this was Vail after all. Making my way through thousands of people carrying bags of free schwag, raffle prizes and awesome giveaways, I saw more than one dream come true. A skinny bro-dude-in-training, who couldn’t have been a day over 12, walked up to a bikini-blad twenty-something.

“Can I have a hug,” he asked, pushing his oversized white sunglasses into a mop of sun-lightened hair.

“I guess,” replied the girl, craning into an awkward embrace.

Releasing begrudgingly, the boy immediately pounded the fists of his three friends, waiting a yardstick’s length behind him.

“Nice one bro,” I heard them say. “You totally got it.” I envied the boy’s initiative.

On my way to the climbing wall I called my friend Dave Wetmore. Dave is a friend from my native Boston, and after an impressive 14th-place finish at the 2011  American Bouldering national championship, he qualified to participate in the World Cup. Dave climbed very well in qualifiers, but was in the audience to watch finals with me. At around 5, the top six men and women strolled out from isolation to begin work on the four problems that lay in front of them.

Rei Sugimoto is worth driving for.

So is Anna Stohr.

I won’t bother to recap the results as numerous result listings and highlight reels are plastered all over the interweb. Of note is Louder than Eleven’s short video, which is–as usual–very nicely done.

It is difficult to provide an objective evaluation of the competition. I’m a climbing nerd, and would probably have fun watching the comp if I were blindfolded. Furthermore, saying that the crowd seemed “super-psyched,” or “high-energy,” is essentially meaningless; it seems that action sports devotees have limited modes of expression. However, the size of the crowd did surprise me. I realized, at some point, that not everyone in the crowd was a climber–not by a long shot. This means two things: first, it indicates that climbing competitions stand some chance of providing audience appeal in a large sense. Second, it means that the TMG’s efforts to combine a whole range of outdoor lifestyle activities were successful. TMG’s attendees must have been excited to watch events that fell outside of their own usual interests.


The world cup crowd. Awesome.

After the comp ended, I met up with a few more members of the Backbone crew and headed up to the Teva House, where, on a rooftop overlooking a the Budlight Mountains of Music Festival Stage, athletes and industry folks enjoyed the setting sun with a poolside barbeque. Before long, the evening’s music, Xavier Rudd started an amazing set, simultaneously playing guitar and didjeridoo. Anyone who has ever to tried to produce a sound from a six-foot-long tube of eucalyptus will recognize this as no small feat.

Xavier Rudd.

Having been a bit of a sneaker freaker in a past life (read: high school), I took notice of the many pairs of flashy shoes stomping around the party. It seems that Teva had been giving away quite a bit of free schwag (according to Ian this is called “seeding”), and everyone and their brother was rocking bright kicks.

Teva Gnarkosi.

These things were designed for wake skating, and have a sticky rubber bottom with hundreds of drainage holes. This would have come in handy that night, as the mountain biking pro’s got endless entertainment out of cannonballing into the pool, dousing the periphery and the people in it.

From speaking to a number of people who had a part in planning and executing TMG 2011, I could tell that everyone was pleased with the turnout, the buzz, and of course the uncontrollable arbitrator of any outdoor event’s success: the weather. Though I’ve just started, it was great to be on the inside of an event like this, which up until know I’ve only viewed as a spectator. A frightening number of hours go into these events, and it has to feel good to see it grow after year.

Congrats to all the athletes and the TMG crew for putting on a great show.

Onward and upward!

First Ascent Vinson Massif shot by Kent Harvey

We are pretty fortunate in this industry to work with a lot of very passionate and talented folks that continue to push the envelope in their respective fields.  There’s been more than one occasion that I’ll be going over athlete reports or expedition updates and have to sit back and just enjoy the amazing shots and video that are captured and appreciate the hard work and risk that went into accomplishing these feats.  This understanding takes on a different aspect when it’s your spouse that is putting himself or herself in harm’s way.  This happens to be the case with our own Amy Harvey.  Check out the latest expedition her husband Kent Harvey just completed with the First Ascent guide team in Antarctica…

Kent Harvey, director/cinematographer

Grand Teton Rescue on Video

The Grand is not someplace that you want to get hurt. The vertical rise and rocky terrain make a rescue extremely difficult. Veteran Jackson climbers Michelle Smith and Stephen Koch were headed up the Grand in late August when Michelle took a 30ft fall on the Valhalla Traverse, right above a 2000ft cliff. Michelle shattered her tib fib and sustained contusions to her back and legs.

Thankfully, the Jenny Lake Rangers, a well-known team of veteran rescuers and all around incredible badasses were able to get Michelle out via heli. The entire day and rescue was recorded and here is the final product courtesy of Ungrounded. It is a rare real-time view of what being rescued from high altitude looks and feels like. Thumbs up to Michelle and the rangers for not only incredible attitudes but a safe and successful rescue.

Rescue on Valhalla Traverse from getungrounded on Vimeo.

Stream of social/PR/media consciousness

Backbone 2010 goes something like this so far:

Ski Day, conference calls, NYC, FAM trip, FB and mobile apps, Vail, Crested Butte, ice climbing, Steamboat, avy class, Beaver Creek, Fort Collins, 1% iTunes, Shot Show, Monarch Cat Skiing, truck crash (walk away), OR, Dawn Patrol, dog commute, SIA, Bluebird, On-Snow, Rando Race, ISPO, hut trip, Olympics, Clients in Town, 30″ new, pow ski, PowderWeek, ski tests, Birkebeiner, Telemakuri, Scufoneda, Aspen entertain, Big Lepowski.

if you have extra time to burn try reading above to this tune…REM End of the World As We Know It.

And we feel fine

Calling All Climbers!

Backbone Media and the American Alpine Club want to know which types of activities would encourage more climbers to join the AAC. Backbone is a long-time supporter of the AAC, and we are encouraging climbers to participate in the survey: CLICK HERE.

If you’re a climber, this is your chance to help shape the club’s direction for the next five years, and have a say on which activities should be funded in the future by membership dues. It will be very valuable to us in planning the future direction of the AAC.

Thank you!

Let’s Do Lunch!

Lunch times at Backbone are interesting affairs. Admittedly, we are a bit spoiled. The bike path is groomed for Nordic. The local rodeo grounds have been converted into an ice rink. Just up the road toward Redstone is some world class ice climbing.

G-Dub on the first pillar

Hearing that conditions are fat – Greg and I headed up there for lunch – which means a pick up at Fat Belly Burgers and then 3 pitches up Avocado Gulley a classic WI3+ route.

Testing the new Cloudveil Stettner insulated soft shell

Happy Holidays!