Fall is sending season. Time for breaking into that next grade, sending that nemesis rig, and time for some good old-fashioned try-hard. Sending at your limit is all about the details – the micro beta, the mental game, and every iota of body tension you can muster.
With that in mind, here are 5 (often overlooked) tips for breaking through and sending your fall project.
TIP 1: Expose yourself to different styles
“I think exposure is the most important. If you vary the type and style you climb a lot, you’ll have a larger repertoire of knowledge to apply while climbing.” – Drew Ruana
TIP 2: Movement over Strength
“Focus on movement. A common misconception is that you need to be strong to climb hard routes, but being GOOD at climbing is so much cooler, and more efficient.” – Alex Johnson
TIP 3: Eliminate Worry So You Can Focus
“I think its a systems check. We’ve all tied a figure-eight knot so many times. We do it without thinking and yet a lot of people get nervous when the route starts getting hard above the bolt or cam and they worry about things they shouldn’t be – like their knot or belayer. Take the extra second on the ground to check your partner, have them check you, and test a piece if you need to. Make sure that when the time comes, you’re already totally confident they’ll work the way their supposed to. Who knows, you maybe would have sent through that slippery crux section if you were 100% focused on the moves and not at all focused on something else.” – Jason Haas
TIP 3: Practice Makes Perfect
“In general, I think climbers (both new and really old) don’t take time to PRACTICE climbing. We often tend to jump on the hardest thing we can get on, and that’s not effective. We should spend more time on slightly easier terrain, practicing the movement and other skills needed to climb well.” – Mike Anderson
TIP 5: Master the Mental Game
“Jeff Lowe once told me 90% of climbing is above the shoulders, and I agree with him. Approaching climbing with the right mental approach and honest competency earned by learning and working the craft is key. Your greatest hopes and dreams can be achieved. If you put a climb on a pedestal it will stay there. If you put a climb on your level and work your ass off you’ll be on top of it faster than you think. It’s as much about attitude and vision as it is about the necessary physical strength to just get up something. Earn it both inside and out. To me ice climbing is not just about the external journey but the internal journey.” – Ari Novak
In my tick list for 2016 I stated that one of my main goals was to “focus more on the process than crossing something off the list.” And by that I meant that I wanted to be more picky in the routes that I invest extra time on, choosing quality over quantity. At the end of 2015 I found myself easily frustrated at the amount of routes I had “unfinished business” on. Our family’s climb time is at a premium, and the logistics of getting back to certain climbs with an extra partner often ends up being a crux. So this year I made a point of giving myself a free pass to walk away from routes I didn’t necessarily feel called back to – just because I believe I CAN send it doesn’t mean I HAVE to. In other words, if it’s fun and feels worth my while, give it another go, train for it, etc. If not, leave it undone for now…or forever!
Practically speaking, this meant spending MORE time on LESS routes, often choosing to try something harder that I knew I probably wouldn’t send rather than logging more mileage at a more comfortable grade/style. The result was that I wound up with far fewer ticks on my sending belt than the previous year…but the ones I did get are a lot more meaningful.
It’s also no surprise that many of my year end highlights did not result in an updated 8a card. But the following are my top ten climbing moments of 2016.
10. “TRY HARD” BOULDERING: This summer the CragDaddy challenged me to step up my bouldering game at the gym. Power tends to always crop up as a weakness of mine, and I’ve decided that it’s actually just as much a movement/coordination issue as it is strength/power; ie, I default to static movement that often times doesn’t allow me to “tap in” to any power that I might already have. Anyway, I surprised myself and actually had a LOT of fun throwing myself around the boulder problems at the gym, and I’ve seen some really good gains. Who knows, maybe next year’s tick list will include some boulder problems?
9. LEGALIZE IT 12a and WAKE AND BAKE 11d (Red River Gorge) – After blowing the flash right at the end of the 12, I redeemed myself with a pretty casual second go send, and an onsight of it’s slightly easier next door neighbor. Not my hardest onsight ever, but hardest one in at least a year, probably since Ten Sleep last summer.
8. GALUNLATI 12b (Red River Gorge): This is the route that made me fall in love with the Solarium, which is now my favorite crag at the Red. Not only is it awesome, but it was my first (and so far only) 12b at the Red.
Stone Mountain multi-pitch with the CragKiddo
7. BLACKHAPPY 12b (New River Gorge) – I knew I wasn’t going to send this one on my 2nd go. But it went a lot better than I expected, and I was happy that I gave it another effort rather than finding something easier to end the day on. It’s a long hike in for the kids, but I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to work on this one some more next spring.
Line of Fire 12c Photo creds: Justin Hedrick
6. ORANGE JUICE 12c (Red River Gorge) – I’ve been dying to touch this route ever since I first laid eyes on it in 2012. I knew I didn’t have the guns for it then (and I’m not sure I do now…). But I sure was psyched to give it a couple of tries this past November, and after feeling how hard those upper cruxes were, I’m even more psyched I was able to execute all the moves on point. No send, and no plans to come back any time soon, as neither the hike nor the cliff base are great for the kids. But experiencing this 5 star classic that I’d wondered about for so many years was amazing!
5. CRAGKIDDO’s 1st MULTI-PITCH – I wasn’t the only one that came to terms with walking away with unfinished business this year. Big C experienced this when we had to bail just one pitch below the summit on his very first multi-pitch endeavor at Stone Mountain back in February. Despite not making it to the top, I was so proud of how brave he was (and he was too, once he got down and saw where our high point was on the mountain!)
3. TIPS AHOY 12d (Hawksbill Mountain):First ever 12d! Sharp microcrimps on an ever so slightly overhanging face…if only I could find a zillion more like this.
Tips Ahoy 12dPhoto: Joe Virtanen
2. LINE OF FIRE 12c (Hawksbill Mountain): Even though grade-wise this one is easier than the previous one, I think I’m more proud of this send. In the same breath everyone told me I’d like Tips, they also told me that I probably wouldn’t like Line of Fire, due to the dynamic, bouldery moves. My first time up, I agreed with everyone else, and I only got on it again because the CragDaddy was still working Tips. It took a while to find beta that worked for me, but the 7th try was the charm, and when it went I had it so dialed in it almost felt easy.
1. JESUS AND TEQUILA 12b (New River Gorge) – Last year I said that if I sent only one route the entire year, I wanted this one to be it, and if that truly was the only one, I’d count the year as a success. I’ve got a lot of emotion wrapped up in this one, and I know that it’s one of those that I’ll still remember vividly when I’m old, gray, and can’t even toprope my kids’ warm-ups. After multiple heartbreaker attempts, crushing this one in unexpectedly fine style this past November was by far the highlight of the year!
And that’s that! Please don’t let me spray by myself…I’d love to hear about your favorite achievements this past year (climbing related or not!) So comment below so we can cyber clink our glasses to 2016.
For many of us, the end of a year marks a time to reflect on the goals we had for the previous year, as well as make new ones for the next year. With regards to climbing, I’d left my goals for 2015 fairly open-ended, so as not to get bogged down with all the crazy logistics that go hand in hand with family craggin’. I basically had 3 items on my list – take a “big” family climbing trip, find some 12c/d routes that played well to my strengths, and send some 12a/b’s that forced me to work on my weaknesses. Overall I’d say I did fairly well, and learned a lot in the process.
Last climb of my Ten Sleep Birthday Challenge – 35th lifetime 5.12 on my 35th bday!
The first goal was the highest priority of the three, and because of that, received most of my attention. Back in August we spent almost 2 weeks climbing out West – Wild Iris, Ten Sleep Canyon, and Logan Canyon, to be exact. I trained hard for it, and crushed all my expectations. I walked away with hard sends in the double digits, several of which matched my previous hardest onsight to date, and one of which pushed my hardest onsight up by a letter grade.
I made some solid progress on Goal #2, though if I’m being perfectly honest, not as much as I personally would have liked. Part of the problem was that my goal to send hard 12 was hindered a little by my first goal – I knew my emphasis in Wyoming was going to be onsight climbing, so leading up to the trip I wanted to touch as many new (to me) routes as possible, and not get sucked in to a harder, multi-day project. But there was definitely progress – I sent Center El Shinto 12b/c, as well as Hard Rock Cafe 12c. I also gave several good go’s on Techman 12c, a route that is proving to have a frustratingly low percentage crux move on it for me. The closest I got was a 2-hang, but to be honest, the line is not all that inspiring. I’m not gonna rule it out, but it’s probably not gonna show up on the “must do” list for 2016. I also came as close as you can possibly come to sending Jesus and Tequila – technically only 12b, but everyone treats it like such a sandbag that it seems worth mentioning here.
Shaking out on Center El Shinto 5.12b/c
Goal #3 also got some progress, although again, was somewhat hindered by Goal #1 AND #2. Preparing for the style of technical face climbing we knew we’d encounter on our trip meant logging lots of mileage on terrain that was the exact OPPOSITE of what I needed for Goal #3. As far as steep climbing goes, I didn’t get a lot of practice but did manage some subtle but noteworthy improvement – Check Your Grip 12a at the Red went in 3 attempts, Standard Issue 11c at the Obed went 2nd go, and I got in one beta burn on Psychowrangler 12a.
That being said, Goal #3 wasn’t just about steep climbing, it was about working my weaknesses, which includes A LOT more than overhanging terrain. Sticking to mostly face climbing throughout the year still gave me plenty of chance to work on another issue that consistently shuts me down – the dreaded “big move.” If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, then you are probably aware of how often I find myself able to work through crux moves just fine, only to get stuck in a different spot on the route that ends up being a “non-move” for my (usually taller as well as stronger) climbing partners.
The campus start of Standard Issue 11c
Considering that the New River Gorge is one of the areas I’ve frequented most over the past few years, my lock off strength has slowly and steadily improved as I’ve progressed through the grades. That ability is what’s seen me through on numerous sends this year – MENSA 11d, Modern Primitive 12b, Fine Motor Control 12a. But this year in particular, I’ve been putting in a lot of work into the business of “trying hard.” As in, really getting after it and moving dynamically. While I’ve often found myself working Lost Souls 12a with a bunch of gym rats vying for their first 5.12, I’d never been able to successfully fire all 3 big moves while on point…until this past May, when I sent it on my 4th try of the weekend. And though it may not show up on paper, I learned a LOT about coordination and timing on New World Order 12a. No send (yet), but it will for sure be on the list for the spring.
Letting the feet fly on Lost Souls 12a
Above all however, this has been a great learning year for me. I successfully completed 2 (and a half) training cycles using the Rock Climber’s Training Manual (reviewed here), and that allowed me to really get a feel for how to structure my mid-week training for very specific outdoor goals. And the more I progress, the more I’m realizing that some goals work better together than others. For instance, I probably could have done a lot better on Goals 2 and 3 had I devoted an entire season for each one, as the training for powerful, technical face climbing is completely different than the training required for steep, overhanging enduro routes. That approach would have honed a more specific skill set. On the flip side, however, it could have been more restrictive when it came to finding partners (since we always need an extra person, we often end up simply going where “everyone else” is going, and generally can’t afford to be “picky” about what routes we want to do.) My guess is that, like most things, there’s a balance in there somewhere. One of my goals for 2016 will be to find that sweet spot where training specificity and family craggin’ meet in an efficient and fun-filled way. Look for the tick list next week – and be thinking of your own to share as well!
Considering that I was a large and in charge, 30+ weeks along pregnant mama last year at this time, my climbing goals for the year were pretty low key. I wanted to find that balance between motivating myself and overwhelming myself! Anyway, I ended up choosing 3 broad goals that seemed doable with a little bit of work and committment. Here’s how I fared… 1. ESTABLISH A TRAINING ROUTINE It took some trial and error, and those first few months we were all flying by the seat of our pants, but at nearly 10 months postpartum, our family feels pretty…Read the rest of this entry →
This time of year in my climbing journey always involves a lot of reflection. I look back on how well I accomplished my goals for the past year, and I look forward to setting new goals for the upcoming year. But as soon as I saw two lines on a pregnancy test last June, it’s fair to say that my list of climbing projects got put on the backburner. Pregnancy is obviously not the time to explore your limits. That being said, I “failed” miserably at crossing off even half of what I set out to do on my 2013…Read the rest of this entry →
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