|Climbing Le Grand Fromage V5 at Moore’s Wall. Boulder is great training for routes! Photo Greg Loomis|
|Climbing Le Grand Fromage V5 at Moore’s Wall. Boulder is great training for routes! Photo Greg Loomis|
|Ryan Smith on Blood Raid 5.13a, New River Gorge.|
|Lauren Brayack doing some training in Cartagena, Spain|
|Me doing a little bouldering on the Rock of Gibraltar|
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 climbing. The New River itself is hand’s down the most awesome and scenic climbing area, though Summersville Lake is God’s gift to the summer climber (more like the Corps of Engineer’s gift to climbers.) In the heat, the lake keeps the temps down a bit and often offers a nice breeze. That, and the fact that a quick, cooling dip in the lake is the best way to end your climbing day (it feeeeels so good) makes this the ideal summer location.
Instead of doing my normal summer hangboard session, I’ve decided to go off the Mike and Mark Anderson reservation some (The Rock Climbers Training Manual is my training bible.) Some of the new(er) climbers at our gym (only been climbing for 3 years) came from a gym training background. We have a pretty awesome training section to our gym, and those guys are always doing rings/pull-ups/ all kinds of weird stuff etc. Some of the other “strong” guys in the gym do a series of gymnastic training including one-arm pull-ups, front levers, ring dips, etc. Just for fun one day, I figured I’d try to do a one-arm and some ring dips. It was bad. Really bad. Ditto with the front lever…pretty pathetic…I was really stoked!
|Julia Statler on “Under the Milky Way” 5.11d at Summersville Lake in 2009.|
In climbing you want to “train your weakness” instead of your strength. Many training methods including P90x revolve around “initial gains.” This simply stated is that if you’re really bad at “x”, if you train “x” for a short period of time, you’ll make dramatic initial gains. As you continue to train “x” you’ll peak, then plateau. The key is to stop at the plateau and move onto the next exercise.
I’m not recommending this training program for all climbers, but for me, I look at it as touching up in areas that I can use a lot of work. I start my session by doing some project bouldering for about 30 minutes, including maybe 1 or 2 problems a grade below my limit.
|Me on Mercy Seat 5.13a. That move is a BIG pull of one-arm.|
I then do a ¾ campus workout. I go hard, but not too far past my peak. (I don’t hammer myself into the ground.) I then do the following exercises:
The gains have been impressive (for me.) The first time I tried a ring dip, I couldn’t even hold the “dip” position. My last workout, I did 9 of them my first set! And I went from barely able to do a 1-arm at -70lbs to doing 3-3.5 1-arms at -50. My front levers are getting…well…almost to not pathetic which is a huge gain!
What I’m hoping to gain is the climbing equivalent of the 1-arm pull up. There are several routes which I feel this is my limiting factor. I can hold all the holds, but I just can’t do ONE BIG pull. The route at Kaymoor, “Against the Grain” 5.13b is like that for me. It’s a big move over the lip of the roof. I can hold the hold, but I can’t let go with my other hand and pull hard to get the next hold (big punch!) Dial 911 at the New River proper also has a hard move like that. A lot of routes, really, require ONE BIG PULL off one arm.
Last weekend at the lake, I climbed the route “All the Way Baby” 5.12b. A short 15 move route. I’ve done the route a bunch, but could definitely feel my increased pulling power! I was super happy to see the gains and I can’t wait for the fall season to roll in.
I’ve also been route developing. More about that when I send the routes.
|We managed to find a paper wasp next. Poor Dustin got hit pretty bad. I got one to the forehead.|
|Rule 1 of summer training – ice cream. (With sprinkles.)|
|Matt Patterson on Mini Ovest 5.11d at McConnells Mill|
|Me climbing Five Fingers Arête – 5.8 at McConnells Mill|
|Lauren Brayack climbing Ross Boulder at McConnells Mill.|
|Bob Value climbing on Ross Boulder at McConnells Mill|
|Barb Miller climbing “Laid Back” 5.10b at McConnells Mill|
|Matt Fanning on Red Bull 5.12d at the Meadow, NRG.|
|Sarah Canterbury on “Tar Baby” 5.12b – 1st Buttress, Kaymoor, NRG|
|David Statler at the slab crux of “The Tantrum” 5.12d, 1st Buttress, Kaymoor, NRG.|
|Ryan Smith on “Blood Raid” 5.13a, the Hole, Kaymoor|
|Matt Fanning on the crux of “Blood Raid” 5.13a, the Hole, Kaymoor|
|Bouldering at Moore’s Wall. (I’m working on the guidebook.)|
|Sticking the crux on “The Beast in Me” 5.12a R. Photo Jared Musgrave|
I will note that I am referring to sport climbing and bouldering. When I gear climb I will typically try to climb the route “well” as in not be a chuffer with my gear, climb efficiently etc.
|David Statler with the extended sling on “Harlequin” 5.12b. Endless Wall, New River Gorge.|
For a hard start and dangerous second clip, just stick-clip the second bolt.
Climb in good to ideal temperatures/conditions
For a difficult lead, especially a trad climb, work out all the gear and the moves, then try to send the rig. Once you’ve worked it out, visualize the movements; chalk and tick key holds (I know people talk smack on tick marks…so brush them off when you’re done.) When you’re climbing, you don’t want to have to think, but just connect the dots. A great way to mess up a techy sequence is to try and change beta, or forget your beta half way through the crux.
For sending routes at your limit (grade-wise) pick stuff that is your strength.
Temperatures and conditions are huge. Ideal conditions make hard routes easy and bad conditions make easy routes miserable! I will typically try to send the hardest routes (peak my training) during the ideal conditions window for the area. Based on day-to-day conditions I follow:
|Slopers on a cold day. Chronic – V7 at Stone Fort, flashing the problem. Photo Lauren Goff|
I decided that I would try to climb the route: “The Beast in Me” 5.12a R at the New River Gorge this spring. I don’t think this route gets the “R” rating in the newest book, but by most definitions, it should. The crux has a bolt but there are two cruxes before it (V3 or so) with long falls on good, but must-not-fail gear.
We set the route up on TR and I loaded up my harness with gear. I climbed the route as if leading placing the gear and I works out all the gear beta my first go (and the moves). I figured out the crux sequence and brushed all the holds.
|“The Beast in Me” 5.12a R. Photo Jared Musgrave|
As I attempted to lead the route after top roping it, I had the gear on my harness in order with the draws already on them. I also sorted the gear on the left and right side of my harness based on the placement. The plan was to have no extra gear and as I clipped the anchor I had no gear on my harness!
I was poised to “slam dunk” the crux before the crux. I was waaaaaaay over my last piece of gear, a good cam in a horizontal, and for a split second imagined what would happen if I shorted the long move. I quashed the thought and went hard! Sticking the hold. ……woah boy !!!!…..that was a pretty sketchy 1/4 of a second. If that cam were to blow, it’s would likely be a fatal or serious ground fall from about 40+ feet. Climbing is dangerous.
I didn’t get it, I fell at the crux. I didn’t listen to my own advice and tried to do a different sequence. My buddy Neal was also working the route and between the two of us, we refined the beta (finding a key foot.) I wasn’t going to try the frightful lead a third time so I sent the rig on Top Rope to get some confidence and muscle memory.
I wrote down the gear and sent the route my next trip out, once again clipping the anchor with no gear on my harness. I topped out and enjoyed the view before downclimbing and lowering. I’m not sure if this is my hardest trad line, though it was definitely exciting. When I climbed the route, it went pretty easy for me, but I was on edge the whole time. As I went through the dangerous section, I once again imagined what would happen if I fell there. On Neal’s previous attempt, he figured out better gear beta; we stacked two cams into the horizontal instead of the one. Cutting the chances of death by falling on V3 in half is a good idea.
I had a lot more on this, but figured I’d make it a “part two” where I talk about temperatures and bouldering!
|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.”
|There’s No I in Illiterate V7.|
|Thomas Pinch-Ons V8.|
|Sunshine Arête V5.|
|Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center|
|From The Rock Climber’s Training Manual by Mike and Mark Anderson|
|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) usable 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 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 texture 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 dedicated thumb support so you can effectively and safely train the closed grip position! Total genius….and that’s why I love Trango.
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