|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.
- Work out beta; Look around too. Don’t just follow the tick marks, look for new holds and new beta. Especially at the Red River Gorge, I’ve found “new holds” many times.
- Stack gear for dangerous sections. If you are placing small gear, place more than once piece. The extra energy is worth the headspace.
- One sporty sport routes, consider hanging really long slings on bolts so you can clip, and then clip up. With some smart sling-work you can put a “bolt” anywhere you want it.
|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.
- If you’re in bouldering shape, then pick short, but hard routes.
- If you’re good on pockets, then pick a route with pockets etc.
- Stick to the steep juggy routes (if you’re good at those.)
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:
- When it’s cold, climb slopers
- When it’s low humidity, climb crimpers
- When it’s hot, go swimming and climb jugs!
|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!