Entries by Daniel Brayack

The Cutting Edge

As I close in on 500 5.12s, I’ve found that the ones I have left to do at my home crag, the New River Gorge are mostly the HARD ones.  Back in 2001 or 2002, I was a top rope tough guy maxing out at 5.11- or so.  However, my climbing mentor Bob was doing his best to climb every 5.12 in the world.  Despite me not being strong enough, I made a point of getting on EVERY single 5.12 I could.  Looking back, I owe Bob big time for all the marathon belay/ “pull me up” sessions!

I’ve gone back and done just about every of these routes, though one route, “The Cutting Edge” 5.12b at Bubba City has continued to spit me off over the years.   I specifically remember climbing 5.13 one day out there, yet once again, not being able to do the route!  Two weekends ago, it was quite hot and conditions were bad, but I finally worked out the two crux sequences on the route.  I went for a send go but got pumped mid-way through the second crux and blew it. 


Climbing Le Grand Fromage V5 at Moore’s Wall.  Boulder is great training for routes!  Photo Greg Loomis

This past weekend, though, it felt a lot better.  I used typical “Siege Tactics”, rappelling off the top of the route to hang the draws, brush and chalk the holds, and work the crux moves hanging there.  I extended several draws to make the clips easier and then waited for some clouds. 

The route has open shuts, which was scary for coming top-down.  I leaned over, dropped my rope over them and also clipped a biner to them, then did the reverse pull up on a couple of maybe dead trees.  Because of the open shuts, my rope fell out of one of the shuts, but it stayed in the other and also, my biner stayed.   A little scary though….

My fingers and body remembered what I taught them the previous weekend and I was happy to do the route pretty easily, though I still had to try hard, spending a lot of time between the first and second crux on really small hands, but good feet shaking.  (I was 95-100 percent on all the moves which is always nice.)

About 10+ years ago, Eric Horst re-engineered the route to add a final 5.12- sequence going to the anchors instead of a jaunt up 5.easy slab to a (now dead) tree anchor.  Unfortunately, this part of the route was wet, but “dry enough.”  This ascent made for number 480 5.12s for me. 

Here is some blow-by-blow beta if any of you ever want to try the route.

Cutting Edge starts on an easy scramble up pillar to a small ledge, then immediately launches into a “so-so feet” traverse right on steep jugs to the arete.  A fairly long, but easy move leads to two great incut hand jugs, and an easy clip (but hard bolt to hang.)  This is where it gets serious.  Some smaller edges and a pretty high left foot leads to a slimper left undercling/sidepull.  Unfortunately, there is a roof so the right foot just dangles, but I worked out a right toe hook under the roof to surf up to a pretty bad sloper/edge.  From that, a move left to a good (well better) sloper leads to the next clip and a shake (though a poor one) before the real crux.  

This route really works the left hand and a couple set-up moves lead to a ½ pad sidepull, a nothing smear for the left and a bad right back-step smear (glad to have my Tenaya Iatis.)   From the sidepull you make a long move to a really bad pocket/crimp.  Still about 80 percent on that left hand, walk feet up some and GO HARD again right hand to the better pocket.  Sticking that pocket, you’re out of the woods if you can keep it together.  A couple better feet lead to a good sidepull and clip.  From here, there’s about 30 feet of 5.10+ or easier climbing and essentially a full recovery before launching into the finish.  A hidden pocket on the arete leads left to a good hold, and then another pocket/pinch on the arete with some high feet leads to some pretty bad holds just below the moss covered top.  The anchor clip is easy because the feet are good. 

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Coming back to Training

I basically took this spring off.  Not from climbing.  But from training.  I was doing what most people consider training: Climbing and projecting boulder problems at the gym during the week and climbing outside and trying to send routes on the nice weekends.  I basically “let myself go back to my base ability.”  Of course, that’s not true..but it felt like it.  We are a product of our past training.  It turns out my “not-training” base is climbing 12d second or third go and onsiting 12a and b.  So pretty hard to complain right?  Now that I’m successfully married and honeymooned, its time to get serious with my training.  I think sometimes taking a break is really good – like I am so excited to train right now, I’m bursting with it!
Ryan Smith on Blood Raid 5.13a, New River Gorge.
I’m a dedicated student of training – like all of us right?  So what is my primary weakness?  My natural strength has always been my pure enduro.  I’m a big guy (for a climber) which means I have tons of gas in the tank.  Unless I’m at my limit, I rarely fail on a route because of enduro or power enduro.  Because of my previous hangboarding workouts, my finger strength is awesome – I can hold just about anything.  I will certainly do a new hangboard workout this winter, but I’m skipping my summer hangboard workout to focus on my true weakness:  Power.
If you’re not sure what your weakness is, I would first ask your friends.  Training your strength is good and fun, but its not effective for breaking through barriers.  There are also some online quizzes.  If you’ve never done core training – I’ll tell you right now.  Your weakness is your core.  Especially if you don’t climb “super smooth.”

My climber bro, Ryan’s primary strength is his power, so I’ve been consulting with him and today at the gym, he’s going to take me through a series of ring exercises he’s been doing.  I’ll be training on the rings for core, stabilizer muscles (super important), some pull, and I want to do flies to improve my compression strength – which flat out stinks.  I’m also going to do weighted pull ups as well as train for a one-arm pull up.  I would say right now my 50/50 focus will be the general pull stuff as I described above and the campus board.  Once I get a good base on the pull stuff, I’ll probably move into 80/20 campus board, ring stuff.  I have about ten weeks before I’m going to regularly climbing outside (its hot as crap here anyways.)

All that on top of running of course.  I love running.  Once I get it all sorted out, I’ll post my routines and see if I can get some input from you internet readers.
Lauren Brayack doing some training in Cartagena, Spain
Me doing a little bouldering on the Rock of Gibraltar

Summer Climbing and Training in the East

In the east (West Virginia), summer is the worst season.  The high temperature and more-so the high humidity is overwhelmingly oppressive.  That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and get some routes in, but what and where we can climb here is extremely limited.  The New River Gorge area has several separate gorge valleys for […]

It’s Nice When the Work Pays Off.

 We don’t get a very big “awesome” window in West Virginia.  This spring, we got more awesome days than one can expect – maybe a month’s worth of cool temps and low humidity.  Then it started raining.  And it really didn’t stop raining.  In-fact, over the past month and a half, its only stopped raining […]

What to Do When the Rain Just Won’t Quit!

Its been a pretty hard going spring season here in the east.  The first half of spring was awesome – lots of great climbing days, low humidity and no rain.  But we are paying for it now.  I swear, it has rained almost every day and heavily for the past three weeks, making climbing outside […]

Trying hard(er) in the Gym

V7 at Joe’s Valley
I’m not the type of person who does the whole new years resolutions.  To me, New Years is just another day.  I understand that people need “fresh starts”; “A time to change their lives.”  I listen to NPR podcasts all the time and I see why its important for humans to try to change our bad habits and also, all those fitness gyms need their “black January 2nds.”

Myself, I am constantly looking for ways to improve; not just my climbing, but my life overall.  My bro Ryan and I were talking about how to improve our climbing and we had a revelation: 


We never try hard in the gym.  Like….ever.  
In fact, most of the time, I just half bass it (not a typo.)   The Energy Rock Gym in Charleston has been HUGE for all of us here.  Our collective climbing has gone through the roof, mine included.  I had observed how several of the folks have improved a lot faster than I had; I wondered what I was doing wrong and what I could do to improve.  We did notice that they tried REALLY hard in the gym…their entire lives for 3 hours revolve around sending the purple problem.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I agree that gyms are ruining climbing all over the country.  (Just kidding, its an inside joke.)  I don’t take gym climbing very serious; nowhere near as serious as climbing outside. When I’m climbing outside, I try as hard as I can and push myself to, and sometimes past what I think are my physical limits.  In the gym though…I’m like “meh…didn’t send the blue problem…not gonna try and hold that hold…meh…(meh.)  Its lame anyways….” 


I would like to say that my hang-ups are practical things like “injury prevention” or “saving myself for the weekend.”  But honestly, I’m just lazy and don’t really give ‘er.  (I do actually try and push my limits while training though.)

So I’ve decided that I’m going to start trying as hard as I can (it will be a process) in the gym.  The conclusion being that the harder I try in the gym, the more the gym will improve my climbing.   Hopefully I won’t injure myself or ruin myself for the weekend. 
I’m in my hangboard phase of my phased training, but I am also setting for our annual climbing competition.  I even ACTUALLY decided to try as hard as I could for one problem yesterday.  It’s a start.  (I’m totally going to send the purple cave problem!!)

2016 Winter Training Season

It’s January here in West Virginia.  Normally by now, the weather is terrible, it’s snowing, everything is wet and everything will stay wet.  And it is way too cold to climb.  That makes training season easy!  Not this year though.  The weather has been unnaturally hot.  In-fact, it was almost TOO hot to boulder in December.  Things have finally cooled off though.   I finished my Fall/Winter climbing season by bouldering at Meadow Top area of the New River Gorge last weekend.

There’s No I in Illiterate V7.
After a short warm-up, I jumped right on “There’s no I in Illiterate” V7 and the companion problem “Mechanical Sensei” V5, flashing them both.  Not too bad right?  The carry-over finger strength from my summer hangboard is still with me!  I then set my sites on “Thomas Pinch-Ons” V8 and after working it a good bit, managed to send it too.  Not a bad way to finish up the season!
Now its time to train!

Thomas Pinch-Ons V8.
I’ve been running and dieting, trying to stay slim.  I find that my hangboard phase is also my best “running and dieting” phase too.  I pay a lot of attention to my weight and when I work HARD to gain 20 lbs on a particular grip, it reminds me how important being slim is for me.  (And how not-important ice cream and pizza are for me.)
Sunshine Arête V5.
 Trango has released the Rock Prodigy Forge.  This is basically a more hardcore “difficult” version of the Rock Prodigy Training Center.  I basically (what I consider) maxed out all the two finger pockets on the first board.  Some folks like to overload holds – adding 20, 30, 40 lbs per hold, but because of my climbing style, I prefer not to load up a grip more than 20 lbs.  I’m a static and slow climber, so I don’t feel like I need to gain body weight ++ on ANY grip.  That’s just me.  So long story short, I try to pick grips that I start at -30 or so lbs and try to work these to 0,5,10 etc.  I did this with the smallest pockets on the Rock Prodigy Training Center through 3 hangboard cycles.
Trango Forge
I did my initial workout on the Forge last Monday and found that the new (smaller) pockets were perfect!  My first hangboard workout of a cycle is usually pretty sloppy; its hard to know which weights to start with, but I did pretty OK on this one.  On the Forge board, I got to train the closed crimper for the first time.  For me, this is the revolutionary step in hangboarding technology.  It’s VERY dangerous to train the closed grip position on a normal hangboard.  The Forge uses a thumb bar to safely train this angle. I LOVED IT!

Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center
In the Rock Prodigy Training Manual, the Andersons present scientific evidence about how “joint angle” while training matters.  Below is the page that talks about it, but long story short, training tiny crimps in the open grip, doesn’t necessarily translate to the closed grip.  I close crimp holds all the time – including slopers (I know, I’m weird) so it will be great to get this trained!

From The Rock Climber’s Training Manual by Mike and Mark Anderson
For my supplemental training, I’ve also decided that I will start working on my flexibility.  If there’s such thing as a new years resolution for me, I guess that’s it!  BE MORE FLEXIBLE.  I’m not very flexible. I do P90x abs after every hangboard workout as well.

Rock Prodigy Forge

Finger strength is the single best thing to train to be a better Rock Climber.  There is almost ALWAYS small holds in crux sequences.  It is what makes climbing so hard…grabbing those terrible little holds. 
Much empirical and some actual studies strongly suggest that hangboard training significantly increases a climber’s abilities to hold smaller holds (trust me it works.)

Rock Prodigy Forge
The hangboard evolution has come a long way.  I remember the earlier boards being different versions and adaptations of medieval torture devices.  With the large climbing hold revolution in the 90s and 2000s, hold and subsequently hangboard designs were artistic rather than functional.  The point was to “look good” while hanging from your doorframe. 

Most folks who bought hangboards would do pull-ups from them now and then and maybe challenged their drinking buddies to see who could hang from the smallest hold.  This was a bad time in the life of hangboards.  Sure, they looked good, but their functionality suffered.  Those who dedicated themselves to actual hangboard workouts still either took the pain or modified the available boards – sanding down some of the texture, reshaping the most usable grips, and cutting their boards in half.  Because of poor hold layout, most of the holds on the boards were useless anyways.  Each board really had only 2 or maybe 3 (if you’re lucky) useable holds.  For the other holds, the hangboard got in the way.

The steadily growing training revolution took a large upswing in 2013-14 with the release of the Anderson brother’s Rock Climbing Training Manual and Trango’s Rock Prodigy Training Center (the street name seems to have settled on ‘The Trango Board.’)  This board seriously revolutionized the hangboard, taking all of the benefits of the various boards on the market and addressed the drawbacks.   The board is awesome and is a good all-around board for training.  I used the board for 5 hangboard cycles but started maxing out the smallest two finger pockets.  I consider adding more than 30 lbs to a hold to be “maxing it out.”  I was starting to wonder what I was going to do – maybe just consider pockets my “strength” and focus more on crimps?
Rock Prodigy Training Center
 

Then I heard that Trango was developing a new board.  Voila.  The Rock Prodigy Forge.  I haven’t had a chance to train on the new board; my next hangboard won’t start until this February some time, but just from feeling out the holds and doing some test hanging, I immediately realized that this was this board is seriously awesome and has smaller and more difficult holds for me to train.  The textured is finer too.   Further, I noticed that the pockets are sloped (drafted)!  I really can’t wait to start training on this thing! 


The revolutionary step is the ability to train the closed crimp.  In their training book, the Andersons present scientific evidence that supports the theory that grip angle matters. For example, if you train open grip (120 degrees), this does not necessarily translate to a closed grip (90 degrees.)  Only a madman would attempt to close crimp while hangboarding (injury issues) but the Forge Board uses a thumb bar so you can effectively and safely train the closed grip position!  Total genius….and that’s why I love Trango.