by Jacob Carr

The next step in execution will refer to your tactics around redpoint climbing. How do you spend your time at the crag? You can handle an undirected crag day by learning how to take responsibility for yourself and what you accomplish on a given climbing day. This means, deciding what your intentions are before you get to the gym or crag. If we take what we have learned from developing discipline around our training and apply it to our outside climbing, we can take responsibility for what happens while we are at the cliff.

This is probably one of the most important (and hardest) things to develop. It is so easy to go to the crag and get on whatever your partner wants to get on, or even worse what they want you to get on. First of all, I understand your partner wants the best for you and believes in you probably more than yourself, but they also don’t know what you need specifically. What I mean by that is that they don’t know that you actually need to develop specific skills around clipping quickdraws or that you are scared above a bolt. Your partner might not know that you haven’t been on a different warm up in 3 years because you might fall and destroy your psyche for the day and not be able to climb well the rest of the day. They don’t know you don’t want to get on your project because you are intimidated or afraid of failing again. 

Where does that leave you? Let me paint a picture of you on a trip to New York City. You get onto the street out of your hotel to hail a cab. You get in the cab and the cab driver asks you where you want to go and you answer, “wherever you want me to end up.” In this scenario, the cab driver has no choice, but to keep you in the cab as long as possible because the tab will run up and you’ll have to spend an extraordinary amount of time and money to go somewhere you don’t know you are going and possibly somewhere you never wanted to end up. On the off chance the cab driver drove you somewhere you wanted to be, it cost you time, emotional turmoil, and possibly the chance of learning for yourself what you needed in the first place.

This scenario is preposterous and yet so many of us perform this same action every time we go to the cliff or bouldering area. If you are able to take responsibility for your actions at the cliff you can serve your time better, have control over your emotions, and be the climber you truly want to be. The great thing about taking responsibility over your climbing is that, no matter what, you chose to get on specific climbs and you alone are responsible for the outcome. 

At first glance this might sound like a bad thing, but in reality this is the greatest gift in the world. The ability to have autonomy over the outcome of your life, your relationships, and your climbing career are solely up to you if you allow yourself to take responsibility over your actions. If you have a bad climbing day, you alone have the control to decide if you’re going to make yourself better by reflecting and making adjustments. You alone hold the key to your future. You can either be the passenger without a direction or you can kick the cab driver aside and take the wheel for yourself. 

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So now that you are the cab driver, we can talk about specific tactics surrounding climbing days. One way you can practice taking responsibility is by climbing pitches that you choose. The act of choosing a specific number of pitches at a specific intensity will help keep you in the driver’s seat. Make sure to include climbing days where you climb 6-10 pitches at a low intensity. Also include climbing days where you climb 4-8 pitches that take a bit of effort to complete. And of course, make sure to climb on your projects. If you normalize the execution of climbs at a lower intensity it will not be a surprise to do it on your projects, that is the point after all. 

To get practice at sending and executing when the time comes, we have a few ways to practice execution in the gym. Two sessions we use to get better at executing are called Earn Your Turns and 3 Strikes. Earn Your Turns is a great session to employ to bring together skill development, game day pressure, and hard bouldering practice. This session is set up like a game in that level 1 is a climb you can perform easily without failure and allows you to work on specific skills. Level 2 is where it gets interesting, you must choose a boulder problem that forces you to try hard to flash. If you pick something too easy, you miss the point, if you pick something too hard, then this also misses the point. You should be about 70% confident you flash the problem if you give it everything you have. Here’s the caveat: if you don’t complete the flash on level 2, it's back to level 1. 

Repeat level 1 and send level 2, you can move on to level 3. Level 3 should be a boulder project-level problem that you try hard on for 3 attempts, either linking moves or attempts from the ground. After 3 attempts at level 3, it is back to level 1. You can account for about 3-4 rounds at level 3 and call it a day. 

The 3 Strikes session is a great session to practice game time pressure and hard climbing tactics. You will find a boulder at or just above your onsight level and give yourself 3 attempts to send. You will rest plenty in between attempts and only attempt between 4-7 boulders depending on your success. If you are flashing all of the boulders you are picking problems that are too easy for you and if you are not sending any of the problems you are picking boulders that are too hard for you. 

Lastly, If you are working on a specific climb make sure you break the climb into sections. For example, this climb has 4 sections, the intro to bolt 3, the crux boulder to bolt 5, the overhanging jug haul to bolt 8, and the repoint crux to the finish. If this climb is at your limit it is unlikely you will be able to link all 4 sections together the first time you are on the climb. A good way to structure your tactics around sending this climb could go like this: get to the top of the intro climbing and make sure to brush and tick all of the holds and feet you will use. If you have done that successfully you can move on to working beta on the boulder problem again, cleaning and ticking as you go. When you feel comfortable with your beta, move on to the overhanging section of the climb and familiarize yourself with the holds, angles, and footwork. Make sure you feel comfortable with the beta here, especially the further up the climb you get the more pumped you can be and the easier it is to fall.

I have heard it a few million times here at Climb Strong, “Rehearse the top, you are going to fall.” Make sure you know where the rests are and what positions feel the most beneficial. Ask questions about the rest. How long is long enough? How long is too long?

This brings us to the last section of the climb: the redpoint crux. Rinse and repeat the rest of the steps as before. However, take care to climb it, visualize yourself climbing it, make sure to know where your feet and hands will be when you are at the chains, and feel where you will be when you are clipping them. This should be one of the more important aspects of the beta because you don’t want to leave any doubt when you are at the chains on the send-go. 

Okay, so now we have a framework for our tactics on the route. I want to be clear: the above suggestion is a hypothetical example and, depending on your strengths and weaknesses, can be molded to which sections need to be done first and which ones can be done later. That being said, the timeline by which these sections and marks are done will also be different from person to person. 

You might be able to look at the whole route in one day depending on how friendly the bolt spacing is and if you can stick clip your way up. Each section might have to take a day to figure out. Any way you do it is better than having no framework on how to perform these tactics. Once you have completed the steps above, you can start trying to link moves. Linking moves start turning into linking sections, linking sections turn into sending attempts, and then the reason any of you are even reading these words right now is to send the freaking route. 

Be the cab driver. Don’t allow your time, effort, and emotions to be wasted on being out of control. Take responsibility over yourself by choosing what to perform at the gym and at the crag. No one knows what you need better than you do- it just takes discipline to act accordingly. Reflect, refine, and act so that you can gain confidence in yourself and continue to improve for years to come.

 

Always Forward,

Jacob

JACOB CARR

Jacob has a dual master's degree in Strength and Conditioning as well as Sports Nutrition. He is also a Certified Personal Trainer with the NSCA. Jacob started his Climb Strong journey as an intern with us as part of his education. He arrived just two weeks before we were forced to close for COVID in March 2019. Jacob kept in touch and is now with us full time as a climbing coach as well as taking on a personal training athletes at Elemental. He has worked in a Physical Therapy setting in the past and has interest in functional movement training to ensure athletes move well for their lifespan. He loves climbing, mountain biking, and surfing.

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