December 10, 2019

As far as trustworthy gear reviews go, climbing guides may very well have the first and last words. Unlike weekend warriors or even seasoned hobbyists, guides are solely in the business of one thing: consistent performance. Their gear must last all day, every day, with no exceptions. With that in mind, we sat down with two of our favorite local guides, Gavin Bridgman and Dan Sherman, to discuss must-have climbing gifts, family time, and the magic of ugly sweater climbing.

Gavin Bridgman

As a Southern California native and experienced adventure guide, Gavin has grown used to blazing his own trail. Whether stand-up paddle boarding or climbing, he has done for himself what many only dream of. He channeled his passion into a bonafide business. Gavin’s guiding company, Dynamic Ascents, offers climbing classes to those looking for a head-start on the wall.

His favorite aspect of guiding is witnessing someone’s first true outdoor experience; being a part of the special moment when someone “falls in love with something” is what motivates him most.

Gem Hunting

We asked Gavin how many years he had been involved in the SoCal climbing mecca.

“I have professionally guided for eight years, but I’ve been in the guiding world for about ten.” Anchored in Orange County for the last 36 years, Gavin is a born and bred Californian. “I used to work for a big box retail company, I’ve done quite a bit of instructor training, but I got out of that and started [Dynamic Ascents].”

Gavin has put years of time and energy into his new business, as he describes, “This all started three years ago, and we’ve been permitted in the Ventura area for the last two-and-a-half years. Then we [got permitted in] San Diego a year-and-a-half or two years ago. We’re working on the San Bernadinos right now.” His relentless pursuit has opened doors for him to guide almost anywhere around Southern California.

Ugly Sweater Party

We asked Gavin if he has any special holiday traditions. He laughed and recounted, “For Halloween and Christmas, every year, we dress up and climb fully dressed in seasonal costumes, like lederhosen. A few years ago we wore llama knitted sweaters. This year maybe we’ll do 80’s outfits or something.”

Element Essentials

Gavin is all too familiar with climbing in the blistering sun on rough granite, which is a normal day in Joshua Tree. He relies on his Prana Zion pants (available in-store) to get him through work. Gavin raves about the durability and comfort of the Zions. “As a guide, when I’m going to determine if a piece of gear is good, it’s gotta take abuse for three months.”

What is essential wear for a guide? Gavin chimes in, “Climbers don’t wanna put sunscreen on ‘cause it gets their hands all goopy and gross. So hooded sun shirts are a must.” A sun shirt seems like a no-brainer if you’re going to be climbing all day, but for Gavin, he requires one important addition: a small, hidden phone pocket “for taking rad insta-shots.” Gotta love the priorities of a true climber.

Gavin says he’ll be spending time in Yosemite for the rest of this year, working on a big wall objective called “Laughing at The Void.” Of course, knowing Gavin, you may just as well find him bouldering in the Bahamas rocking a knitted sweater.

If you’re looking for an expert climbing guide between San Diego and Ventura, Dynamic Ascents is the name to remember. As for Joshua Tree, keep an eye out for Gavin teaching with Cliffhanger Guides.

Dan Sherman

We’re going to be honest. Dan Sherman is a certified rock star. After 15 years of teaching climbers and medical professionals, he established Ektos Unlimited. The guide company trains enthusiasts and safety professionals with the practical skills necessary to experience some of the country’s most rugged terrain.

Life as a Life-Saver

Growing up, Dan spent the holidays with his family skiing in Mammoth and devouring the Sunrise Skillet at The Stove. Fresh powder and good food were the perfect ingredients for a tradition that would continue indefinitely.

Dan mastered first-aid by working ski patrol, then later working as an EMT-P. “I’ve traveled to other states and other countries, but this is my bread and butter.” He began climbing at Hangar 18, but now you’ll catch him at Sender One, where he regularly holds classes on CPR and first-aid.

Not All Gifts Come in a Box

We asked Dan what gift he would like to receive this year for the holidays. “It’s not physical,” he said. Skiing and quality family time are all Dan really wants out of the holidays. If he had to pick something, he would opt for some Arc’teryx AR layers, since he’s burnt out his current three-layer system. “The quality of the material itself is second to none,” he said. Dan remains loyal to the AR line over other products because of Arc’teryx’s commitment to quality material and practical durability.

Essentials are Everything

Dan’s first-aid kit comes with him everywhere he goes. “It’s #1,” he says, holding up his kit, neatly organized in a Patagonia Black Hole Cube (available in-store.) Dan loves the durability of that series. Whatever trip he’s on, “it’s the essentials and the kit.”

A good backpack is another must-have. Dan’s pack of choice is another classic from Patagonia, the Cragsmith. “That pack is amazing; I love that backpack,” he said affectionately. “It’s really nice to be able to have a backpack, unzip the whole back panel, flip it open, and you have all your gear right there.” He also praised the Cragsmith’s value for guiding. We couldn’t agree more, as the Cragsmith has long been a favorite among the Gear Coop staff.

“My plan is to just destroy myself!”

At the start of the new year, Dan plans to hit Ouray Ice Park in Colorado and lead every climb south of The Ridge. “My plan is to just destroy myself and lead every route they have.” To prep for it, Dan climbs at the gym each morning until he’s too pumped to climb anymore. “There is a lot of truth to be told about being able to climb at a gym every day to build your fitness, and then seeing the results outside–it’s remarkable.”

We always enjoy meeting up with Dan, whether he is teaching us first-aid or buying anchor slings for his next guiding trip. He is a methodical expert who has objectively influenced our climbing community in Southern California.

If you’re looking to safely experience the adventure of a lifetime, Dan has your back and we have your gear.