For many of us, the end of a year marks a time to reflect on the goals we had for the previous year, as well as make new ones for the next year. With regards to climbing, I’d left my goals for 2015 fairly open-ended, so as not to get bogged down with all the crazy logistics that go hand in hand with family craggin’. I basically had 3 items on my list – take a “big” family climbing trip, find some 12c/d routes that played well to my strengths, and send some 12a/b’s that forced me to work on my weaknesses. Overall I’d say I did fairly well, and learned a lot in the process.
The first goal was the highest priority of the three, and because of that, received most of my attention. Back in August we spent almost 2 weeks climbing out West – Wild Iris, Ten Sleep Canyon, and Logan Canyon, to be exact. I trained hard for it, and crushed all my expectations. I walked away with hard sends in the double digits, several of which matched my previous hardest onsight to date, and one of which pushed my hardest onsight up by a letter grade.
I made some solid progress on Goal #2, though if I’m being perfectly honest, not as much as I personally would have liked. Part of the problem was that my goal to send hard 12 was hindered a little by my first goal – I knew my emphasis in Wyoming was going to be onsight climbing, so leading up to the trip I wanted to touch as many new (to me) routes as possible, and not get sucked in to a harder, multi-day project. But there was definitely progress – I sent Center El Shinto 12b/c, as well as Hard Rock Cafe 12c. I also gave several good go’s on Techman 12c, a route that is proving to have a frustratingly low percentage crux move on it for me. The closest I got was a 2-hang, but to be honest, the line is not all that inspiring. I’m not gonna rule it out, but it’s probably not gonna show up on the “must do” list for 2016. I also came as close as you can possibly come to sending Jesus and Tequila – technically only 12b, but everyone treats it like such a sandbag that it seems worth mentioning here.
Goal #3 also got some progress, although again, was somewhat hindered by Goal #1 AND #2. Preparing for the style of technical face climbing we knew we’d encounter on our trip meant logging lots of mileage on terrain that was the exact OPPOSITE of what I needed for Goal #3. As far as steep climbing goes, I didn’t get a lot of practice but did manage some subtle but noteworthy improvement – Check Your Grip 12a at the Red went in 3 attempts, Standard Issue 11c at the Obed went 2nd go, and I got in one beta burn on Psychowrangler 12a.
That being said, Goal #3 wasn’t just about steep climbing, it was about working my weaknesses, which includes A LOT more than overhanging terrain. Sticking to mostly face climbing throughout the year still gave me plenty of chance to work on another issue that consistently shuts me down – the dreaded “big move.” If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, then you are probably aware of how often I find myself able to work through crux moves just fine, only to get stuck in a different spot on the route that ends up being a “non-move” for my (usually taller as well as stronger) climbing partners.
Considering that the New River Gorge is one of the areas I’ve frequented most over the past few years, my lock off strength has slowly and steadily improved as I’ve progressed through the grades. That ability is what’s seen me through on numerous sends this year – MENSA 11d, Modern Primitive 12b, Fine Motor Control 12a. But this year in particular, I’ve been putting in a lot of work into the business of “trying hard.” As in, really getting after it and moving dynamically. While I’ve often found myself working Lost Souls 12a with a bunch of gym rats vying for their first 5.12, I’d never been able to successfully fire all 3 big moves while on point…until this past May, when I sent it on my 4th try of the weekend. And though it may not show up on paper, I learned a LOT about coordination and timing on New World Order 12a. No send (yet), but it will for sure be on the list for the spring.
Above all however, this has been a great learning year for me. I successfully completed 2 (and a half) training cycles using the Rock Climber’s Training Manual (reviewed here), and that allowed me to really get a feel for how to structure my mid-week training for very specific outdoor goals. And the more I progress, the more I’m realizing that some goals work better together than others. For instance, I probably could have done a lot better on Goals 2 and 3 had I devoted an entire season for each one, as the training for powerful, technical face climbing is completely different than the training required for steep, overhanging enduro routes. That approach would have honed a more specific skill set. On the flip side, however, it could have been more restrictive when it came to finding partners (since we always need an extra person, we often end up simply going where “everyone else” is going, and generally can’t afford to be “picky” about what routes we want to do.) My guess is that, like most things, there’s a balance in there somewhere. One of my goals for 2016 will be to find that sweet spot where training specificity and family craggin’ meet in an efficient and fun-filled way. Look for the tick list next week – and be thinking of your own to share as well!