observations on gear, adventure, and the world

How to Climb HARD: Training for the rest of us – Part 1: Motivation

Lets talk about getting “good.” Ever since I worked as a belay slave at Prairie Walls I’ve been obsessed with getting good at climbing. Even in the six years I didn’t climb at all, I didn’t climb because I knew I just didn’t have what it took to get good. Then I rethought what “good” was and started climbing harder than I ever had.

While I worked at Jeff Pederson’s Gym, The Quarry in Provo Utah, I remember over hearing a guy who had climbed Action Direct years before say that he didn’t want to climb at that level anymore, he wanted other things from climbing.

When I was young, getting good was bench-marked by how hard others were climbing, and by grades. I still care about grades, a lot. I’ll be upfront about that. But rather than seeing the grades I was ticking as a reflection of my worthiness compared to others that I saw climbing around me, it’s a key to unlocking new experiences. New routes, new movements, new objectives.

To me the major motivation for getting better is to open up more exciting terrain, and climb new and engaging routes. I’d like to be good enough that I can go climb in interesting and exciting places. For example: I’ve always wanted to climb Devil’s Tower, so I need to be able to climb 5.9-11 cracks (depends on the route). When I climbed as a kid in Minnesota I spent hours agonizing over guide books trying to find routes that I could lead near routes I wanted to top rope, then hoping the I could somehow get to the anchor, these were rarely on good rock. I’d like to go to Indian Creek and climb some things. And just get out and move on the rock without having to worry about if I can find a route I can have fun on. It was a big deal when the only climbers I knew were the same skill as me and also 12 years old.

More recently I wanted to climb The Horns of Satan on Devil’s Castle in Little Cottonwood Canyon, so my training had to get me into solid 5.10 territory with some endurance, and a partner who thought I could second the thing.

Now I’m psyched to go to the gym and do laps on V-Easy for a few hours while kids half my age send the sickness all around me, because I’m going to go do something amazing this weekend and it just feels good to get on a wall and move up. It’s the fact that I get out the makes me a worthy climber, not the grade I can pull down. But that grade unlocks increasingly endless possibilities. Returning to climbing just to get out on the rock and get stronger for the sake of getting stronger and chasing objectives that motivate me turns out to be all I needed to climb harder than I ever have.

I think that the key to getting good, is finding objectives that motivate you, and going for them, just because you want to.

So Here’s My Goals (updated Sept. 19th 2012)

  • Black Monday 11a Sport (DONE, now I want to repeat it!)
  • Goodrow’s Wall 10c Trad
  • Trinity Crack 12a Trad
  • Astroman
  • Big in Japan 12a
  • Indian Creek… just have fun!

These are going to be a stretch for me! Right now I’m bouldering V5/6, on-sighting 10a sport, seconding 10c trad, and… well I have led one pitch of trad in the last decade! And I’ve redpointed 11a sport. I’m strong on vertical and near vertical walls – over hanging stuff is tough, and my crack work is coming along.


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