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:

1.     Weight assisted 1-arm pull-ups (I use a thumb on the board to keep me straight in the 90-degree position.)
2.     Horizontal ring 1-arm (feet on ground, alternate 1-arm)
3.     Ring Dips
4.     Front Lever on Rings
5.     Toe Points (abs)
6.     Compression Band Training

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.)