|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|
|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|
By Mike Anderson
As I said in my last article (Spring, Sprain, Summer, Send?), I’m having somewhat of a “Cinderella Season”…with things just clicking despite some minor adversity. As I bragged in that post, I sent one of my “life list” routes, Grand ‘Ol Opry (5.14c) at the Monastery. It went faster than I expected, leaving me with just under three weeks of “bonus climbing” before our big trip to Europe…what to do…in Colorado…in the summer?
We tried Wild Iris on the first weekend, and found it too hot, so instead, we opted for Independence Pass…maybe the coolest (coldest) climbing in Colorado.
Waaaay back in 2012, I worked and sent Tommy Caldwell’s route Before there were Nine (not his name, as far as I know). While I was working the route, Mark visited and we spotted a “futuristic” (for us) line of holds in the middle of the Grotto Wall that we were sure could hold a route. I was living in Florida at the time, and the proposed route was out of my reach, literally and figuratively.
Mark returned, however, and bolted the line in the Fall of 2013, and sent it just over two years ago, establishing, Insurrection, 5.14c and the hardest route on Independence Pass. He described his epic send in this article from May, 2014. I always wished we could have worked the line together, but, as I said, it was beyond me, and I’m glad he got the First Ascent.
So, with about two weeks, I thought maybe I had a shot at sending Insurrection, and completing what Mark and I envisioned four years ago. It would be really tight, but if it didn’t work out, I could return in the fall to finish it off.
I busted out of work on Wednesday, the 8th of June, with my good friend and trusty belayer, Shaun. I checked out the route, and it seemed plausible, but hard. The holds were much smaller than those on Grand ‘Ol Opry, and the rests were not as good (or almost non-existent). Nevertheless, there was nowhere else cooler to climb, or better to prepare us for the granite-laden Zillertal region of Austria, so I figured I’d give it the old college try with the roughly 2 weeks I had left.
Since the 8th, I managed 5 climbing days on the Pass, and squeezed in two ARC’ing sessions at the gym to build up my ability to recover on the route. This last Saturday, everything clicked…we had great weather (waking up at 4:45 AM helps with that!) I had the moves dialed by now, and my fitness is peaking, thanks to the work put in on Grand ‘Ol Opry. I sent Insurrection on my first go of the day…a rarity for me. I usually get flash pumped on my first go, and really think of it as a warmup burn. This time, I warmed up really carefully, took time to stretch thoroughly, and massage my forearms before the send.
The climbing is a power-endurance test piece with hard, dynamic moves and little rests, so for me, the send was all about rationing my effort. I really focused on breathing and relaxing my grip on every hold…this is especially important with dynamic climbing because you tend to tense up and stop breathing when you dyno, as you engage your core. The key is to recognize this, and make a conscious effort to relax after every dynamic move. The mileage I got on the rock while working Grand ‘Ol Opry really helped me dial-in this technique, and it showed on Insurrection.
Insurrection is a brilliant route! It’s in the center of Independence Pass’s most prominent crag, and one of Colorado’s most historic sport cliffs. It’s now the centerpiece of that crag. The rock is excellent, and the moves are really cool, especially if you love crimping like I do!
My experience is limited, but I think the 5.14c rating is legit, and I think I’m in a good position to make a comparison to Grand ‘Ol Opry. GOO took me 6 climbing days, and 14 days from start to finish. I was able to send Insurrection in slightly less time…5 climbing days spread over 11, but that was with the benefit of the fitness and technique I developed working GOO. GOO is longer, and has more moves to dial in, but it has much bigger handholds and pretty good jam-crack rests, one huge rest right before the crux. Insurrection is in your face from the start on very small, crimpy holds, and you have to do a long, 3-bolt crux section with no shakes. You really have to hold it together mentally. Regardless, it’s a great route, and it brings Independence Pass back into prominence as a cutting-edge sport crag, the best summer destination in Colorado.
I’m feeling my strongest ever now, at the age of 39, and I have really high hopes for Europe. This winter and spring were humbling for me, and I had to re-dedicate myself to training and climbing. My birthday was May 5th, and at that time I told myself: “it’s a new year…forget about 38 because 39 is going to be your best year yet!” It’s working so far, and I plan to keep it up! Training on Trango’s Rock Prodigy Forge, with it’s specially engineered micro cripmp, has really paid off. My crimping is the strongest it’s ever been and it’s showing in my climbing.
Thanks Mark for having the courage to bolt this line and see it through to a route. Your passion and dedication are a huge inspiration to us all!
by Mark Anderson
Last week I had to upgrade to a new binder for my training records. The old one was full. This is actually my fourth or fifth binder. My first binder was just an old manila folder. The oldest sheet in my binder is a hangboard log for a workout I did in June 2003. I was training before that time, but either I did not write down what I did, or (more likely) I misplaced those records. Since that first workout I’ve added 347 more hangboard sheets–one for each workout, plus an inch or so worth of campus, ARC, Linked Bouldering Circuit and Supplemental Exercise sheets.
After a few seasons of training, I upgraded to my first three-ring binder: red, 1”-thick with D-rings (super plush!). This most recent binder is 3” thick and lasted me almost a decade, but now it’s bursting. My new binder is 4” thick, but I think I’m going to split my records into two binders—one for hangboard logs, one for everything else—so I don’t have to keep moving it between the barn and my hangboard room, and to increase capacity in each binder. Hopefully this approach will last me through the next decade.
One of the most common questions heard at the crag is “what’s the beta…?” or “how did you do that one move?” Well, if you ask me, here is my answer—in the many chalk-dust-covered pages of those creaking binders. In other words, the beta is: do lots of thinking and lots of hard work. Do a little bit of each of those things every week. Then continue that month after month, season after season, year after year. Keep doing it. Do it even when you don’t really feel like doing it. Every page in that binder represents a decision point: whether to do what is presently the most satisfying, or to invest temporary discomfort in the hope of future returns. Training is a ‘long con’–you will not see results in one week, or one month. There is no quick pay-off or silver bullet. You have to keep at it for years. It may be monotonous, it certainly isn’t glamorous and it often isn’t fun. But if you do stick with it, if you follow through, you will be rewarded.
And that—with all sincerity—is how I did ‘that one move’.
Earlier this week Mike and I were invited on Nik Hawks’ podcast over at PaleoTreats. PaleoTreats is a web-based mail order company that makes delicious and nutritious desserts for active and health-conscious folks. In their own words,
“…We’ve been making foodie-approved Paleo desserts since 2009. We are serious about flavor, texture, ingredients and Paleo. Yes, all of them. We’ve shipped around the world, from Australia to Afghanistan, and we’ve ironed out all the kinks of getting a great dessert to your door.”
Nik’s podcast isn’t really about that though. He’s interviewed an impressively diverse group of folks covering the gamut from elite athletes, to coaches and nutrition experts, focused on a wide variety of sports. He’s really interested in the pursuit of excellence, and the common factors that make athletes successful, regardless of their athletic vocation. Our podcast covered a variety of topics, including:
(Pretty much the only thing we didn’t talk about is food)
Limit Bouldering is one of the best ways for rock climbers to train power. When done properly, Limit Bouldering trains max recruitment, contraction speed, core strength and inter-muscular coordination. If that weren’t enough, Limit Bouldering is also highly sport-specific, so the skills developed will translate directly to the rock.
The crux of Limit Bouldering is finding suitable training terrain. If you have the luxury to set your own routes, the best option is to build your own Limit Boulder problems from scratch. Even if you can’t set your own routes you can “make up” problems at your local gym using a system board, or any other part of the wall that has suitable holds and steepness (be sure to take notes on your made up problem so you can remember the holds each session).
So what makes a good Limit Boulder problem?
Below are two examples of Limit Boulder problems I’ve used in my training. Each of these problems literally took me several training cycles, spread over YEARS, to send. If you can do all the moves of your Limit Boulder problem on the first day, it’s not hard enough. The hardest moves should require many sessions to do in isolation, and linking the entire problem should take close to an entire Power Phase, if not several.
Problem #1: “Yellow Jacket” (~V11?)
This problem overhangs about 8 degrees and features a big, barn-door dyno to a rugged half-pad edge, just wide-enough for three-fingers. Here is a detailed look at the handholds:
…and the problem:
The target hold (#4) has to be hit just right in all three dimensions. It’s probably a bit rougher than I’d like, and I certainly had to limit the number of attempts per session to spare my skin, but it’s irregular shape really punishes inaccuracy. That’s the only limit move on the problem, but none of the holds are positive so if your hips sag or swing out from the wall you can come off at any point. The contorted setup makes the crux move much harder to stick on the send, so you really have to pay attention to your hip movement and flagging foot.
Problem #2: “Iron Cross” (~V12?)
This four-move problem overhangs 35 degrees and consists of small, sharp crimps that each need to be latched just right in order to have a shot at sticking the subsequent move. This problem is a bit unusual in that there aren’t any foot-only holds (every foothold is also used as a handhold, and the handholds are well-spaced). As a result, each foot move is difficult, and every foot needs to be placed just right. The key holds:
…and the problem:
The first move pulling off the ground may be the hardest individual move, a long precise stretch to a rounded crimp. The second and third moves are not super hard, but they need to be done just right in order to have a chance on the last move–a big, difficult dyno that is certainly the redpoint crux. Having a really hard move at the end is not ideal for a Limit Boulder problem, so I worked this like two problems (approaching the last move by starting at the third move) until I had mastered the dyno.
Now that you know what it takes to make a good Limit Boulder problem, you can get some holds together and get setting. Winter is the perfect time to build confidence–and power–on a long-term indoor project. Set something that will expand your perception of what is feasible and get to work turning your skepticism into belief!
Rock Prodigy Training Center and Rock Prodigy Forge hangboards are revolutionary tools for developing elite finger strength. The split board design allows you to customize it to fit your body, improving the ergonomics, making it safer to train hard, and really boost your finger strength!
To really take the most advantage of the split design, you can mount the two halves in a way that allows the spacing and rotation to be adjusted on-the-fly…an “Adjustable Mount”.
The picture below shows one way to utilize the Adjustable Mount to enhance your training. In this pic, I’m training my “Index-Middle” 2-finger pocket. If you’ve tried this, you know that your fingers never fit in the pockets quite right because the middle finger is so much longer than the index. With the adjustable mount, I’ve widened the board spacing, and rotated the boards by placing shims under the outside mounting brackets (Counter-clockwise on the right, and clockwise on the left). This vastly improves the ergonomics, reducing skin wear and flapper potential. This makes a once-awkward grip really fun to train, and my IM 2F strength has improved substantially.
In two previous articles, we’ve presented methods for creating adjustable mounts: Adjustable Mount for the RPTC and Adjustable Mount 2.0 for the Rock Prodigy Training Center. The first method uses a “French Cleat” system:
The second method uses fence post brackets bolted to a backing board that allows it to slip over a fixed-mounted 2×10:
Recently we developed the all-new Rock Prodigy Forge, (see this post to understand how awesome it is: The World’s Most Technologically Advanced Finger Training System – The Forge) This hangboard is super-kick-ass, but it’s a little shorter than the RPTC, so I wasn’t sure my “Adjustable Mount 2.0” would fit on it. Therefore, I had the motivation to finally try an idea I’d had for an easier Adjustable Mount, that I’ll describe now.
In a nutshell, this system is created by bending sheet metal into a U-shape, then simply epoxy-adhering them directly to the back of the board. With the right equipment, it takes about 30 minutes to create this.
Here’s the final product:
Here’s how to make it….
Start with the brackets. I used galvanized steel Simpson Strong Tie framing backets, and used a “bending brake” to bend them into the desired U-shape. If you can find some, try to get brackets that are already shaped to fit over a 2×4. I picked some up at home depot, the HTP37Z. These are about $2 each, and they are a pretty heavy duty gauge (16 Gauge):
This is another option, the A44 but more expensive, at $4.50:
Here’s another option. It’s pre-formed, but it’s a thinner gauge of steel (18-Gauge), and a little smaller, so it would provide less surface area for adhesion. Most importantly; I haven’t tested it:
OK, so you have your brackets. If you need to bend the brackets, measure them carefully and account for the material that will be used up in the corners for the bend radius. I suggest buying an extra bracket in case you mess up. A bending brake is the best tool, which I have access to at the Air Force Academy’s Applied Mechanics Lab:
A simple bench-top vice will work too:
Here’s the desired shape:
You need two brackets per half of the RPTC or Forge, so four total to mount a hangboard system.
This step is critical! For proper adhesion, you must prepare the surface of the steel brackets. I used a sand-blaster, but sandpaper, or a Dremel tool works too…it just takes longer. Sand the surface of the steel that will adhere to the RPTC or Forge to rough it up and remove any contaminants so that the epoxy forms a good bond. This is critical because the brackets will have a thin film of oil and other debris on them. Once you have treated the surface, don’t touch it or otherwise let it get dirty. The hangboard can be lightly sanded as well, but in my experience, simply wiping it down with a paper towel and solvent is adequate.
I used West System 105 Resin and 205 Fast Hardener, shown below, but any number of commercial adhesives will work, such as Gorilla Glue, Loctite, JB Weld, etc. The surface preparation is far more important than your choice of epoxy.
If using a 2-part epoxy (which I recommend), make sure it is mixed thoroughly. Here, I’m using a paper cup and a tongue depressor that I’ve trimmed the end off of so that it is flat and can cleanly scrape the bottom of the cup. Follow the instructions for your epoxy carefully.
Now glue the brackets on…. Take care to get proper alighment. On the Forge, the top edge should be parallel to the ground, so I used a straight edge, as shown below, to line up the brackets with the top edge of the board. This ensures the board will hang parallel to the ground. Don’t fret, if you make a mistake and the brackets are uneven, you can always add shim material afterwards to level it out.
Once the brackets are in place with epoxy, they may drift a little before the epoxy sets, so tape them down with some masking tape. If your brackets have fastener holes, like mine, cover the holes with tape so epoxy doesn’t bleed through the holes. If it does, it can impede the brackets from sliding over your 2×10 (you can sand any excess epoxy off, but it’s a pain). You want to place the brackets as close to the outside edges of the board as possible to prevent unintended rotation when using the outer holds, such as the pinches.
Finally, let the glue dry and mount your 2×10, if not done already. Here’s an earlier article describing how to do that: How’s Your Hang? Now enjoy your adjustable mount!
If you’re skeptical and discerning like me; you may be wondering…how strong is this adhesive mount anyway? Well, since I have access to the best undergraduate mechanics laboratory in the world, and the best undergraduate students, I decided to find out. I assigned a group of cadets to investigate (Cadet Mike Hyde, Cadet Nate Dickman, and Cadet Tim Welkener). They are Mechanical Engineering students at the Air Force Academy, and this testing served as their final project for their Experimental Mechanics course (lest you think I’m abusing my powers 🙂 ). Trango donated some hangboards, and the cadets replicated the mounting system, then tested them to failure. Here are a couple pics of the testing:
The cadets did a few tests:
Here’s a picture of the epoxy bond after the shear test:
…And the deformed brackets:
Here’s a of quick video one of the pure shear tests.
In conclusion, I think you can hang with confidence off your new adjustable mount!
January is a pretty popular time to start a training program for many people, what with the combination of New Year’s resolutions and falling off the exercise/healthy eating wagon over the holidays. And for climbers, this time of the year is the perfect time to start building a training foundation with which to get ready for spring season. A year ago at this time, I was starting my first training cycle with the Rock Climber’s Training Manual. I saw great results from the program not only during the spring, but throughout the year, and I’m optimistic for similar gains this year.
For those of you not familiar with the program, the Rock Climber’s Training Manual (aka Rock Prodigy Method, reviewed here) takes the climber through 4 distinct conditioning phases – Base Fitness, Strength, Power, and Power Endurance. The intended result is a peak sending season that can be appropriately timed for prime climbing seasons or special trips. The goal of the first phase (Base Fitness), is to gradually build a foundation of endurance that the body can build on during the latter phases to come.
The following is a compilation of my favorite endurance activities to do during my Base Fitness phase, which usually lasts 2-3 weeks for me. ***On outdoor days, I stray from the plan and just hop on what everyone else is doing
This exercise is what the RCTM authors recommend for Base Fitness workouts. ARC stands for Aerobic Restoration and Capillarity Training, but you don’t need to remember that word. All you need to know is that for it do be done correctly, you need to feel kind of pumped, but not desperate, the entire time your on the wall. The RCTM authors recommend that ARC-ing be done 2-4x per week (lower if you are also climbing outdoors during this time, higher if you are not), for 60-90 minutes per session. As long as each set is at least 20 minutes long, you can break your total “on the wall” time up however you want – ie, three 30 minute sessions versus two 45 minute sessions. I have found shorter sessions to be a lot less mind-numbing and easier to stay focused.
I’ve also found that changing up the type of ARC-ing between sets is helpful mentally. For instance, doing one set by doing low traversing across the entire gym, and the next one on an auto-belay. If you are lucky enough to have access to a tread wall, you can simply change up the angle. It’s a lot more fun (but a little more time consuming) to ARC with a partner – choose a section of wall with several routes in your grade range, and take turns running laps both up and down, ideally not coming off the wall at all during your set, then be the belay slave while your partner does the same.
So maybe you can’t convince anyone to belay you for 30 minutes at a time. Doesn’t mean your stuck traversing 3 feet off the ground for your entire session. If you’ve got a partner, climb! Choose routes that are challenging but still doable while tired, and log as many as you can with minimal rest in between. Don’t get sucked into hang dogging a project, and don’t spend a lot of extra time talking in between burns.
This is similar to a bouldering interval workout that I like to do during my Power Endurance phase, but a lot less rigid. Basically, climb as many boulder problems as you can in 45 minutes or so, giving yourself a point for every V grade you send (V1 = 1 point, V5 = 5 points, etc. If I’m including V0’s, I will say that two V0s = 1 point.) Start easy and slowly progress your way up to your typical onsight level, but not beyond. You should aim to be on the wall for as much of the set as possible, and only doing problems that you can still send while tired. (Problems that have been up for a while and you have wired are great for this!) Set a minimum point goal to achieve, and then the next time you do the workout, try and increase your score.
Though it may not be perfect execution of the RCTM program, I’ve found that I stay committed a lot better when I have more variety in my workouts, so my typical endurance workout often features a combination of the above exercises. After a couple of strictly ARC-ing workouts, I usually start adding some of the other activities into the mix, still aiming for 90 minutes of workout time divided into 3 or so sets.
If you are after a strict, regimented training program, you probably will prefer the RCTM program over my “hybrid-ish” methods. Buy the book, and jump in full force so you can be crushing come spring time! But if you are new to training, or like me, are constantly trying to find a balance between family, training, and everyday life, you can still be in plenty good shape for spring season. While it’s still probably helpful to buy the book, use it as a resource to structure a loose training plan that works for you (and potentially the rest of your family’s) schedule, and then do the best you can with what you’ve got, switching things up as needed.
That being said, who else is boosting their endurance for the sending season ahead?
by Mark Anderson
Performance-oriented climbers often ask me what to do with their time when facing a month or more of unsuitable outdoor climbing conditions. A good example is the climber who lives in the northeastern US and can’t climb through the dead of winter due to snowpack or extreme cold. On the other end of the spectrum, the summer heat stymies many in the southern part of the continent.
My standard disclaimer is that it’s personal: it really depends on your near-term and long-term goals, and your current level of motivation. If you’re psyched to train, you really want to eke every last bit of performance out of your body, and you’re willing to sacrifice other aspects of your life to do so, then the best bet is to complete a Bridge Cycle. This is a truncated version of a typical Rock Prodigy training cycle, tailored to span the gap between full-blown training cycles.
A Bridge Cycle could be as short as a month, or as long as several months. The distinctive element is that it essentially skips the Performance Phase, or at least minimizes its importance to the extent that any outdoor climbing is an afterthought, rather than the primary focus of the cycle. For example, let’s say it’s June and you have a big project looming for the fall. You’ve determined that in order to peak during optimal sending conditions in early November, you should begin your full fall cycle in mid-August. But what to do in the mean time?
If you’re like me, you might benefit the most from a break from climbing. I like to climb in cold weather, and it’s generally “too hot” for my taste in the summer. My strategy for bridging between the spring and fall seasons varies from year to year. Some years I select a relatively cool goal route, go all out as usual to train for it, and then “suffer” through the sub-optimal redpoint conditions. Some years I stop climbing completely, ride my bike instead, and focus on family and house projects. I find a long layoff helps stoke the flames of motivation for my next training cycle. Of course, I have a lot of miles under my belt, and even after an extended break I seem to be able to pick up right where I left off—physically, technically and mentally (after completing a full training cycle). Other climbers find an extended layoff makes them “rusty”, and the sabbatical negatively impacts their next full season.
This year I’m using a combination of several approaches. I began with a full bore spring season, which included working and sending several hard projects. Rather than ending the season when my peak ended (around the end of May), I’m continuing to climb easier and easier objectives as my fitness fades. I also started riding my bike and began some serious house projects around the 1st of June. I will stop climbing in the middle of July, for a full two weeks of straight rest, and then resume training around August 1st for my fall season.
There are many situations where an extended break doesn’t make sense and you would be better off with some form of training. Perhaps you are new to climbing and should keep your nose to the grindstone. Perhaps experience shows you’re best off maintaining momentum from one season to the next. Perhaps you are just plain psyched on training, there’s nothing you would rather do, and you can’t stand the thought of wasting an opportunity to get better.
How you spend the training phases will depend on your goals, strengths, and weaknesses. If you have any glaring weaknesses, they should be your first priority. A bridge cycle provides a fantastic opportunity to focus completely on addressing weaknesses because you have no specific near-term goal that demands attention. For example, if you find you struggle with a particular type of move—say, pulling the lip of a roof—you can spend this time training the physical, technical and mental aspects of these moves, including seeking out sub-limit routes to practice on.
Next consider the relative importance of any short and long term goals. Going back to the original example, let’s say your fall goal route is long and pumpy, but the individual moves are well within your ability. You may want to design your bridge cycle to improve your redpoint endurance, and so emphasize Base Fitness and Power Endurance training. Perhaps your fall goal route is short and bouldery, in which case emphasizing Strength and Power is the way to go.
For many, the near-term goal route is less significant than the desire for long term improvement. This could be because you haven’t identified a fall goal route yet, you have many goals for the fall that span the gamut of climbing styles (so focusing on one climbing style takes a backseat to general improvement), or maybe you’re “all-in” on the Time Value of Climbing Ability. If any of these apply to you, and you have no glaring weaknesses (dare to dream), I recommend focusing on Strength and Power, since these are the most difficult to attain and will benefit every aspect of your climbing.
An example of a Bridge Cycle emphasizing Strength and Power is shown below. It includes a few Base Fitness workouts to get you ready for hangboard training, a relatively full Strength Phase, and a brief Power Phase so you can realize a short payoff from your training (in the form of a few sessions of Limit Bouldering–these can be done indoors or out). It clearly favors strength over power for a number of reasons (it’s more basic, more universal, more cumulative and easier to train, to name a few). If you have more time to work with, expand the Strength Phase, then Power Phase, then Base Fitness Phase accordingly. For most the PE Phase would be the last priority since there is no Performance Phase planned.
Finally, if you do find yourself training in the mid-summer heat, you might benefit from some of these tips. Good luck and happy training–fall is just around the corner!
by Mark Anderson
Piggybacking on last week’s post about designing a home wall, here is a quick virtual tour of the Lazy H Climbing Barn. Note that I didn’t go through any logical process when designing it, I just eye-balled everything, and I paid for my impatience with a wall that was too steep. Six months in I was compelled to tear it down and re-build it. Other than that, I’m pretty much happy with it (see more below).
The floor dimensions of the Lazy H are roughly 12-feet by 24-feet, (with the 24-foot-long walls running roughly east-west). The south exterior wall is 12-feet high, and the north exterior wall is 8-feet high, with a slanted roof spanning those walls (with no interior bracing aside from the joists that support the climbing surfaces). The barn was built decades ago to match the contour of the sloping hillside. There isn’t a square angle in the place, and if I were doing it again I would tear the entire rat trap down and start over! It was used as an actual barn until I moved in. At that point the roof was full of holes and there was literally a mountain of horse manure on the floorless ground. Every flat surface was covered in rodent feces. I spent the first several days just shoveling shit and wheeling it outside. So many memories 🙂
The climbing surfaces are as follows:
Things I like about the Lazy H:
Things I dislike:
All told, I feel extremely fortunate to have such a fantastic training area. When I began building it, I had doubts that I would enjoy it enough to continue using it. Seven years later, I couldn’t imagine training anywhere else. It has easily paid for itself (in terms of money saved on gym memberships and gas) and its a huge hit with my kids and their friends. I seriously doubt I would be the climber I am today without the companionship of the trusty Lazy H.
For some brief footage of the Lazy H in action, check out this video.
by Mark Anderson
A home climbing wall offers many advantages to the performance-oriented climber. Chief among them are:
This is not a detailed step-by-step guide to home wall construction, but rather, this post will discuss some top-level design philosophies for home climbing walls. Even if you are a member of a good gym, adding a small, supplemental “woody” can help you get the most out of your training.
The first step in building your home wall is selecting a good space. Generally the taller the wall the better (up to at least 12-feet or so). Most home interiors top out at 8 feet, so a garage, basement, attic, shed, barn or other out-building may be the best option. You want your wall to be protected from the elements, so if you select an exterior building, ensure it is at least somewhat protected from moisture. The ability to control the environmental conditions to some extent is a big plus too. Most walls will be too hot more often than too cold, and it’s usually easier to add heat to a space than it is to remove it, so favor a location that is generally relatively cold (such as a basement or shaded room) as opposed to one that is generally warm (like an upstairs room or building with lots of southern exposure).
Another factor to consider is the wall’s proximity to your living spaces. Some folks are more social and will use the wall more if it’s centrally located. I like to have no distractions and complete control over my man-cave, so my detached barn works well for me. That said, I regularly have to post hole through knee-deep snow to get there in the winter, which can be a deterrent to training. If nature calls mid-session, it can be a major pain to get back to a bathroom. I think the ideal option for me would be a detached building that is adjacent (within 10-feet or so) to my house, so I could be isolated, but with easy access to/from the house.
Once you’ve identified the perfect venue, you’re ready to start designing your wall. Three major factors will drive your design:
Space will be a limiting factor for virtually everyone, so it’s important to consider how you plan to use the wall, and prioritize those activities to ensure you create the best terrain for the most important activities. Rock Prodigies might perform any of the following training activities on a home wall:
Determining which activities are most deserving of limited real estate is personal, but here are some things to consider.
In summary, I think the highest priorities are Warmup terrain, which can double as ARC terrain in a pinch, and Limit Bouldering terrain, which can also be used for LBCs. That said, it is possible to warm up on a hangboard. It’s not fun, but plenty of Rock Prodigies do it. It is NOT possible to Limit Boulder on a hangboard, so LB terrain will be the top priority for all but complete beginners (who would benefit more from ARCing). If you have extra space, throw in a Campus Board if power is a priority in your training, or add more ARC terrain if Skill-Development is a higher priority. If you have an embarrassment of riches like me, add both!
Now that you’ve figured out your training priorities, what does that terrain look like for you? Ideally we could have a wide variety of wall angles, but most of us will have to make some tough choices. The final consideration is your goals, relative to your ability. Since this is your terrain, it should be specific to your goals. If you live in Bend, Oregon, climb exclusively at Smith Rock (where routes are rarely steeper than 10 degrees overhanging), and your ultimate, lifetime climbing goal is a redpoint of the dead vertical To Bolt Or Not To Be, it will be easy to determine what your goal terrain looks like.
The rest of us will need to do an informal survey of our favorite climbing areas. Fortunately most of us have a relatively narrow range of angles that we really like. Furthermore, if you live in North America, terrain steeper than 20 degrees overhanging is quite scarce. Look through some photos of your favorite crags or goal routes and estimate the cliff angles to come up with a range of steepnesses that are representative of your performance preferences. Also, you’re not building the wall solely for the ensuring training cycle—it should be something you grow into, so dream big when considering potential goal routes.
Once you have a sample of goal-route angles, add a few degrees of steepness and then use those augmented angles to inform your wall design. The reason for this is that artificial holds, especially footholds, will always be bigger than the outdoor holds they emulate. Furthermore, small holds are hell on your skin, to the point that they can create skin injuries that will limit the duration of your training sessions, and may even impact your outdoor climbing. It’s better to go with slightly larger, more comfy holds, and compensate by kicking the angle back a bit further. Plus you can downsize holds much more easily than you can change the wall angle. Erring on the side of “too steep” will give you the potential to grow into your wall as you improve.
You now have a range of angles to train for. It’s tempting to build a wide assortment of angles with tiny increments between them to perfectly match every goal route on your list. However, the best artificial walls have only a few large planes (or even one) of a consistent angle. For some reason, this just feels better. The Lazy H has a variety of angles, but I spend 95% of my Limit Bouldering on one uniform wall, approximately 12-feet wide by 11-feet high. All the aretes, roofs, dihedrals and other features were fun for the first week or two, but the single consistent plane sees all the action. If you have a lot of space, go with two angles—one optimized for warming up/ARCing at your ability level, and one optimized for Limit Bouldering at your ability level. If you have more than a lot of space, like a huge barn, only then consider including some other angles, but mark my words, much of that extra terrain will be neglected.
One final note: invest in quality hand holds! The smaller your wall, the more essential this is, because each hold on your wall represents an opportunity cost. If your holds suck, the wall won’t be fun to use, and that will certainly impact your training. When I’m having fun in the Lazy H, my sessions are longer, more intense, and more productive. You can read some of my hold recommendations here and here.
Later this month I’ll provide a brief virtual tour of the Lazy H, detailing the dimensions and angles of each wall, what I like about it, and what I would do differently.
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