Tag Archives: sport climbing

Alex Johnson on Projecting, Sending, and Lessons Learned

So much of climbing, especially projecting, is puzzle piecing. It isn’t whether or not you’re strong enough to do the climb, or do each individual move on the climb, but figuring out how to do each move, and configuring the most efficient way to combine multiple moves in a row while expending the least amount of energy. I think “projecting” is “perfecting.” Working something so much you get it so dialed that it almost produces imminent, consistent success.

Alex Johnson Red Rock

Alex Johnson Sending Monster Skank. Photo: Ray Davalos

That’s how it was for me working Wet Dream Right (V11/8A Red Rock, NV). When I first started trying, I could do a couple moves, but some were so inconsistent, I couldn’t link sections of the boulder in a row. By the time I wrapped it up, I had perfected the climb’s movements. I was able to do every move on its own 100% of the time, and so efficiently, that I even when I linked them, I expended very little energy by the time I got to the final hard move.

Sometimes after I send things, I feel weird. Like I don’t know why they take so long to finish… During the process, you forget where you started. By the time you send something you’ve been working for a long period of time, it’s hard to recall how difficult the climb in its entirety felt at the beginning. This is how I felt about Monster Skank.

Alex Johnson Projecting

Alex on Day 1 of the Monster Skank Project. Photo: Kati Hetrick

You spend a few days, weeks, months on something, and then when you finally do it, you could feel so inexpressibly victorious you almost cry… or you might feel unsatisfied. Like, “Hm. I wasn’t fighting tooth and nail for every move of this climb. Maybe it really isn’t that hard. Why couldn’t I just do this last season?” When in fact, it could be that you’ve so perfected each sequence, that when you eventually finish the climb, all you really had to do was execute, in exactly the way you know how—because you’ve been doing the same moves for months.

There’s also the typical cliched opinion that the more time you spend on something, the sweeter it feels to finish, and of course that’s true. But often for me, it’s the opposite, the previously stated lack of satisfaction, almost disappointment in myself for not completing the climb faster, sooner.

Alex Johnson Day 1 Monster Skank

Day 1 Try-Hard Face

And then all these other questions race through your mind (or mine, at least) like, are the temps better today? Am I stronger? Fitter? Climbing better? Is my breathing more controlled? Am I less afraid of falling?

What was it? What was the determining factor in today’s success, versus all the other days of failure?

I heard on a (non-climbing related) podcast recently, that there’s no such thing as a failed relationship, no matter the result, how shitty it may have been, or how epic it seemed in the end. The entire time you were in that relationship you were learning; about yourself, about how you deal with conflict, emotions, etc. You were growing.

I think I want to start applying that to working projects more. I mean, I know every time I try something I learn something new, even if I don’t send it… But I get pretty in my head about things sometimes, especially when I “can’t” do something. I hate not being able to do something. It’s probably the most frustrating personal issue in my climbing life; being shut down. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

Alex Johnson Monster Skank send

Controlled Movement on the Send. Photo: Ray Davalos

And I’m not saying that by needing to project something I’m “being shut down” on it. I’m just saying that sometimes I lose track of the amazing process in my race to success with myself. Being able to climb awesome things is a gift, and if they’re difficult they require more time and commitment. Sometimes I need a little reminder that the process can be just as fun and exciting, if not more, as the end result.

New Project(s)

The past two weekends, I climbed local – here at the New River Gorge.  Its been cooler, though still humid.  Lots of sweat and manky feeling holds, but at least it wasn’t horrible hot.  I think that we are just around the corner from the perfect climbing season.

Matt Fanning at the Knee-Bar Crux of “Cage Match” 5.12c

Yesterday, climbing with Jim Woodruff, I was fed awesome beta for “Cage Match” 5.12c, an aptly named intimidatingly steep and powerful crack/jug haul.  The climbing starts right off with a difficult crux after the initial slab section.  The difficult sidepull and undercling windmill section leads to a couple bolts of pure jug pulling, culminating with the crux move, a knee-bar scum/cletus-funk rattly pull-in move to a decent jug (hard to get.)

Matt Fanning on the 11c run-out crux portion of Cage Match “5.12c”

From there, you need to establish and then gain a good ledge jug (chances are, you’re going to cut feet and hope to not blow it.)  From here, you go into a butt and knee-jam cave rest section.  Super clausterfobic…then there’s another intimidating, blind move off decent jams and holds (though awkward feet) to another jug.  From there, its run-out 11c crack climbing to the anchor!!!  Good stuff.

I did not send it on my first go, though did manage to do all the moves (except the first hard one) pretty much first go that I tried hard enough (at lot of it was feeling balances, scums etc which I was trying to work out.)

I can’t wait to get back on the route, hopefully this Saturday.  Sunday and Monday, we are climbing at Coopers Rock!

I bolted another route and think that I am going to bolt another…but I’m not going to say anything about those until I send them!


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