Begin Again

I need to buy a plane ticket. After a few months of Chicago winter, with ever mounting stresses and pressures at work, I should be jumping at the chance to escape on a climbing trip. Instead, I’m afraid.

I wrote before about a scary fall that happened while I was climbing in the Red this autumn. Since then, I’ve been working to regain and improve my leading confidence, but it hasn’t been an easy road. I need this trip, I need this time in the outdoors because daily life leaves me tired, stressed, and depleted. But I’m afraid, because I’m worried that I’ll want confidence and mastery that I probably won’t have on my first outdoor trip in over 3 months. I’m wanting climbing to be easy and restorative, but I’m not sure that it will be.

I’ve recently started practicing yoga. It’s been more challenging and rewarding than I thought. One of the things I’m learning in yoga is to accept what my body can do on a particular day, to not force poses I’m ready for.

Great blog post from Heidi Wirtz over at the North Face website, and some beautiful photos. Click through for the post.

I want to try to take what I’m learning in yoga and apply it to my climbing. When I get back out again, I want to be present in my body and my mind–accept what I’m ready to do and try not to force the rest. Though it’s not in my nature, I want to trick myself into becoming a beginner again.

Everyone takes time off, from the most earnest beginner ripping off skin on huge jugs, to the seasoned climbers who suffer injury or accident. Sometimes it’s work that gets in the way, sometimes it’s family, or travel.

To get started again: Let go of what was, what you used to be able to do. Accept where you are right now and be present. Do what you can one day at a time, listen to your body. Breathe in and begin again. 

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Intermediate Climbers

#1 Find Strength in Numbers

Community is one of the things (for me, the thing) that makes climbing so amazing. Make it your goal to reach out to somebody new in 2013. Include the person who’s looking for a partner in your group–even if it makes odd numbers. Help out the beginners in your gym or at the crag! Make sure the guy in his street shoes and a harness in the bouldering area gets a good spot–sometimes beginners aren’t as in control of where they land when they fall. Be warm, welcoming and supportive.

#2 Use Outdoor Time Wisely

You should have three modes:

  1. Onsighting 
  2. Working
  3. Redpointing

Most intermediate climbers spend too much time trying to onsight and redpoint, and little or no time at all working or projecting routes. If you’re trying to send the minute your feet leave the ground, every time, I’m talking to you! If a route is too hard for you to onsight, you should be working it! Test out beta, try tough sections multiple times, rest on the rope, and plan tactics for your redpoint go.

#3 Work on Your Footwork 

Let’s be honest guys–we’re never going to be done working on footwork. There is no final state of footwork nirvana in which no improvement is possible. Now that we’ve accepted that, resolve to work on footwork in some way in every training session. One way to do this is to play the silent feet game–find a friend to make sure you stay accountable!

Fancy footin' on the cigar in Ten Sleep Canyon, WY

Fancy footin’ on the cigar in Ten Sleep Canyon, WY

#4 Be a Beginner Again 

Once you’ve been climbing for a while, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing what you’re good at. Trying things you’re bad at makes you look silly, it’s hard, and it often feels like you’re not getting anywhere. Do it anyway! Are slopers your nemesis? Replace a hold on a moderate (for you) route or problem with a sloper and see how it changes your beta? Technical masters, try something with a roof ! Jug haulers, try something balancy. Don’t spend any time telling everyone around you that you’re bad at whatever it is to lower expectations before you try it–just do it! You don’t judge other people when they fail, odds are, no one is judging you!

#5 Give Yourself a Break

When you have big dreams, it’s easy to fall short of your expectations. When this happens, don’t beat yourself up about it. Keep dreaming, and keep working! Someday you’ll get there, and in the meantime, there’s lots of fun to be had along the way.

What are your resolutions? What are you working on in the New Year? Want me to bother you about sticking to them in June? Post up in the comments!

Climbing-Related Things I Have Bookmarked In The Last Year [An Exhaustive List]

In case you’ve already read all the books you got for the holidays….

Climbing Community/Culture/Meta

  1. Women, First Ascents, and Competition, Article by Thomasina Pidgeon [Gripped] 
  2. LT11’s Jordan Shipman on Vision and the Lack Therof in the Climbing Industry [LT11]
  3. Ten Top Tips for Staying Alive [UKClimbing]
  4. Collette McInerney on Women Sending Hard [Five Ten]
  5. Sonnie Trotter on Dave Graham’s Secret and Hard Climbing [Sonnie Trotter]
  6. NYT Profile of Ashima Shiraishi [New York Times]
  7. It’s Not Cool to Care [The Stone Mind]
  8. Spiral of Death [Rock and Ice]
  9. Women and Development [B3 Bouldering]
  10. Climbing is (Not) the Best [The Stone Mind]
  11. Exorcising Dirtbags: Let the Right One In [Climbing Magazine]
  12. Return To Sender: Writeup of Sender Films [NatGeo]

Long Term Road Trips

  1. Getting Out of the Midwest, Trip Budgeting [MP]
  2. Western U.S. Road Trip, Planning Details and Destination Recommendations [MP]
  3. How To Budget for a Climbing Road Trip [Roll Global]
  4. Guide to Safely Sleeping In Your Vehicle for Free [Roll Global]
  5. 9 Traits of the Ideal Road Trip Companion [semi-rad]
  6. Hobobo Guide to Free Wifi [Roll Global]
  7. Steph Davis on Living in Your Car, Safety Issues [High Infatuation]
  8. Steph Davis on Food on the Road [High Infatuation]
  9. Steph Davis on Where to Sleep While Dirtbagging [High Infatuation]
  10. Steph Davis on How to Set Up Your Truck i.e. the Shelf! [High Infatuation]
  11. Simple Living Manifesto [72 Days Project]
  12. Making Your Road Trip 40% Better [semi-rad]
  13. The Ultimate Road Trip [semi-rad]
  14. Interactive Map: Breweries of the United States [Pop Chart Lab]
  15. Active Fire Mapping Program [US Forest Service]

Lifestyle/Road Trip Blogs 

  1. Mike D’s Climbing Roadtrip Blog
  2. Furgonetten
  3. Peder and Jess
  4. Dirtbag Life

Interviews 

  1. Really Great Interview with Alex Johnson [DPM]
  2. Interview with Collette McInerney on Bolting and Climbing Hard [Climb Find]
  3. Zen Quotes from Chris Sharma [Climb and More]
  4. Interview with Chris Sharma in Ceuse [Petzl]
  5. Chris Sharma Interview [UKClimbing]

Mental Aspects of Climbing

  1. Fear of Falling – Article Explaining Clip Drop Training Technique [UKClimbing]
  2. Attitude and Climbing [MP]
  3. The Rotpunkt Method [The Stone Mind]
  4. Escaping Climbing Grades [Alli Rainey]
  5. Escaping Grade Imprisonment [Alli Rainey]
  6. Mental States, Peak Performance, and Big Dreams [Alli Rainey]

Training for Climbing

  1. Climbing and Training for a Half-Marathon [MP]
  2. Exhaustive Collection of Mostly Horst-Authored Training Articles [Nicros]
  3. Upper Body Strength+Power in Climbing & Training [Alli Rainey]
  4. Hangboard Training with Ryan Palo [Metolius]
  5. Sport Climbing Training Plan, Discussion [MP]
  6. How Do I Get Better Faster? [Power Company Climbing]
  7. How to Climb Harder than Other Newbs [Power Company Climbing]
  8. Relationship Between Lock-Off Ability and Performance [Eva Lopez]
  9. Training Tuesdays: Training Program [Climb On, Sister!]
  10. Training for the Red River Gorge [MP]
  11. Pushing Through Plateaus [Alli Rainey]
  12. How I Broke Through My Biggest Climbing Plateau [The Morning Fresh]
  13. One Workout Every Climber Should Do [DPM]
  14. Training Wonks Discuss Training [MP]
  15. Spice Up Your ARC Training [Lazy H Climbing Club]
  16. Training Obsession [Will Gadd]
  17. H.I.T. Training [Cragmama]
  18. Article about Professional Climbing Coaching for Adults [Climber Magazine]

Climbing Videos 

  1. Tomorrow I Will Be Gone, Bouldering in Rocklands [Outcrop Films]   
  2. Zombie Roof Solo [Will Stanhope, filmed by Dave Pearson]
  3. Red River Gorge: Gray’s Branch [Colin Delhanty]
  4. Cell Block Six [Sean Stewart]
  5. Protips 3 Jason Kehl [Climb X Media]
  6. Protips 6 Lauren Lee [Climb X Media] 
  7. Protips Slopers [Climb X Media]
  8. Climb Like Sharma [Rock and Ice]
  9. Demon Seed [Sean Stewart]

Destination Specific Links 

  1. Ten Sleep, Wyoming [Roll Global]
  2. Ten Sleep Canyon Camping Options [MP]
  3. Climbing on Cayman Brac [JB]
  4. Fired For Sandbagging route page [MP]

Gear

  1. Blank Slate Page Where You Can Buy the Ten  Sleep Guidebook [Blank Slate]
  2. What to Put in the Ultimate Back Country First Aid Kit [Roll Global]
  3. 12 Reasons the iPhone is an Awesome Piece of Climbing Gear [Adventure Journal]
  4. 10 Cheap Substitutes for Expensive Camping Gear [Adventure Journal]
  5. Bliss Wrap [Icebreaker]
  6. Foam Mattress Topper [Walmart]

Miscellaneous

  1. Pretty Nice Climbing Photo Which I Bookmarked For Unknown Reasons [tumblr]
  2. Elvis Leg of The Climbing Soul [Tara Reynvaan]
  3. A Zen Story [Stone Mind]
  4. Making a Crimp Mug [?]
  5. Excellent RouteSetting Blog [RouteCrafting] 
  6. Dream World [The Ascent Blog]
  7. Finding the Power of the Unplugged Mind [Proactive Outside]
  8. Physiological Responses to Rock Climbing in Young Climbers [British Journal of Sports Medicine]

Have more links or better links? Did I forget to bookmark something good? Post up in the comments and let us know!

how to be a dirtbag climber girl

Someone found my blog by searching the title of this post. I can’t seem to replicate it (maybe the all-knowing google knows that I know where my blog is?), but I thought I’d answer the question anyway.

My most important advice is to be confident, and do it your way.

This is also known as the fake-it-till-you-make-it principle. If you’re a girl considering a dirtbag lifestyle and hesitating, don’t! Just go do it! Before my trip this summer I worried a lot about not climbing hard enough to make it on the road, not knowing enough climbers to make it work, and a lot of other silly things. None of these worries are important. I have never talked to anyone who regretted living on the road for a while.

I know so many people who hit the road, found community, and never looked back. It will work for you too. Sell your shit. Quit your job. End your lease. Hit the road! Or don’t listen to me and do it your way. That’s even better.

Go find the wild places, because they’re there. Mt. Fitz Roy in Argentina by flickr user StuckInCustoms

A bunch of my practical advice for dirtbag livin’ is on this blog. Check out my post about living in a truck, or the dirtbag beta series for some tips. Steph Davis has a lot of great tips on her blog as well. Wherever you go, you will need to find out where to sleep, where to do laundry/get wifi/get food, and where to get beer. Sometimes this info is easy to find on the internet, sometimes it’s easier to find by word of mouth.

There is only one bit of ‘how to be a dirtbag’ advice that is female-specific (that I can think of).

All climbers should be able to pee standing up without taking off their harnesses. It makes life so much easier! If you weren’t born with the right equipment, you should look into getting a PStyle. They are cheap, easy to clean, and don’t look like funnels. I will never go climbing/camping without mine!

What’s your advice for aspiring dirtbags? Sound off in the comments?

Training Dreams

Today is the day before work starts for me in earnest. Some things are kicking in already, but tomorrow the deluge will begin. I wanted to take a moment to think about my health and my goals for the semester, so I sat down and planned out a training schedule and some training goals.

Those of you that have been around for a while might notice that some of my goals are reprises from last spring–whups.  I am dreaming big and hoping that I’ll have the dedication and determination to stick with this schedule through what I anticipate to be a very busy fall.

Goals: 

  1. Redpoint 111 5.11s and 12 5.12s — I set this goal over the summer, and then realized that it was way too ambitious for the time I had left. It’s probably too ambitious for this season too. I’m keeping it around because I want to be committed to building a base and pushing my limits. I’m hoping to make progress on the totals this fall, but I’m not sure accomplishing this goal is realistic. Current count: 20/111 5.11s, 3/12 5.12s
  2. 20 Days Outside in the Fall — This one is pretty self explanatory. Getting outdoors time is really important for improving, especially for me, as I am still working to address my mental weaknesses. Current progress: 2/20!
  3. 5 Pull-ups in a Set — I set this goal because doing pull-ups makes me feel confident and bad-ass, not because I’m hoping it will improve my climbing. Currently at a 3 rep max.
  4. 10 Push-ups — I still can’t do a real push-up. I got pretty close to doing one normal push-up last spring, then went on the road and promptly stopped training push-ups. This a smaller part of a broader effort to do more opposition muscle work this fall.
  5. Lift Two Days a Week
  6. Redpoint 5.12b — I have about 5 days around Thanksgiving, which is the longest block of outdoor time I’ll be able to get all fall. I’m hoping to have a project in mind by then, and cap off the outdoor season with a win.

In recognition that I’m not going to have as much time as I want, I’m backing off on performance oriented goals, and trying to set goals that will motivate me to get make time for lifting and climbing, and help me stay consistent. What are your big goals this fall? What steps are you going to take to accomplish them?

After the break, I included my training schedule for those of you that are interested. :)

Continue reading

Pull-ups Aren’t Intimidating (Anymore)

Since I started climbing, my yearly new year’s resolution has been to do an unassisted pull-up. Sadly, it took me 3 years to make my resolution a reality. Here are 3 mistakes I made in my training which, when corrected, allowed me to complete my goal of doing a for-real unassisted pull-up!

Mistake #1: Non-Specific Training

For the first two years, I was using climbing as my main source of upper-body training. I reasoned that since I was making progress in my climbing by climbing harder, I was getting stronger. In fact, most of my gains during this time were probably coming from learning technique.

Moral #1: Climbing is only good training for climbing. If you have a specific fitness goal, add some training specific to that goal.

The Goal!

Mistake #2: All or Nothing

When I set the goal of doing a pull-up, I didn’t know about the fitness concept of progressions. It didn’t occur to me to research easier exercises which worked the same muscles I would need to be able to do a pull-up. I would try pull-ups sometimes, always with the same embarrassing failure to pull my body up even a little bit. This was disheartening, and it didn’t get me any closer to my goal.

My (successful) progression of intermediate exercises went like this:

Eccentric Only Lowering -> Flexed Arm Hangs -> Band-Assisted Pull-Ups -> Awesome!

Okay, maybe not that last one. For a really great description of technique and options for intermediate exercises and for a thorough debunking of all your excuses for not being able to do a pull-up, check out Tony Gentilcore’s 3 part opus on the subject of pull-up progressions.

Moral #2: Don’t expect to magically wake up and do a pull-up. Find a progression you like and start following it. 

Mistake #3: Once-a-day Workouts

When I started eccentric only pull-ups, my max was about 3 in a set, and I could usually only do 2-3 sets. You can get in a lot more training volume if you train multiple times a day, while still allowing your body to recover. A friend of mine had an over-the-door frame pull-up bar, so I borrowed his for a while and started doing my intermediate exercises in the morning and at night. Tony explains this better than I can in his post, but I’ll give it a shot. Basically–since a pull-up is max effort when you can almost or barely do one, sometimes you can’t do enough in one training session to get better as fast as you want. Doubling up lets you recover to do more volume.

Moral #3: Train more than once a day for faster results .

And that’s it! Before you know it, you’ll be banging out more reps than I can. It won’t be too hard–I’ve been on the road all summer and haven’t been training, so my max is still stuck right at 1 rep.

Climber ladies–can you do a pull-up? How many? Spray about your buff biceps in the comments!

First Projects: Redux

Fair warning: This post is a monster. tl;dr–just read ‘Lessons Learned’

1st Project: Magic Light, 5.11a, Smith Rock

Magic Light is a Smith classic, located on the Overboard wall. I first tried the route on top-rope. At the time, I had just redpointed my first 5.10c, and I was beginning to consider the possibility of climbing harder. I fell head over heels in love with Magic Light. The bottom crux involves technical moves on some small crimps to a good hold, and the upper crux is sustained, involving movement on rails and slopers.

The first time I tried Magic Light on lead, I got totally shut down. I went basically bolt-to-bolt, and didn’t make it to the chains. The next time was not much better, although I did make the chains. At the suggestion of one of my climbing partners, I tried the upper crux a few times before I lowered off, discovering an intermediate hold that made a reachy move easier. Before the second time I climbed, the route had seemed possible, do-able, and I still got totally shut down.

After a rest day, I tried the route first thing in the morning. My climbing partner took one for the team and warmed up on the route, pre-hanging the draws for me. I warmed up quickly, then, as the shade receded, hopped on the route. The intermediate crux hold turned out to be crucial, and I sent my first try! I was completely pumped out of my mind by the time I clipped the chains, but I managed to pull it off and send.

Lessons Learned 

  1. Pre-hung draws can make a big difference, especially when there are tough clips on the route
  2. Test out beta on top-rope on the way down. Check for useful holds you might have missed, and try out a few different ways to climb challenging sections.
  3. Don’t stress about falling, or stress about clipping. Let go of all your nerves and fears before you pull on.
  4. Set impossible-seeming goals. You might surprise yourself.

Sunset after another perfect day climbing at Smith, June, 2012

2nd Project: Vomit Launch, 5.11b, Smith Rock

Vomit Launch is a great climb in a terrible location. To get to it, you have to shimmy up a chimney in between some boulders, using a fixed rope for assistance. It’s a major pain in the butt to get up to the gully. In my last week at Smith, I went up there five times in a row.

Unlike Magic Light, I never top-roped Vomit Launch. The first time I tried the climb, I cruised through the bottom section to a jug to clip the fifth bolt, then went bolt-to-bolt in the top section, getting totally pumped silly. There is a decent rest at the 6th bolt, and there are a couple places in the upper, pumpy section where you can grab a shake.

Unlike my first project, I never sent Vomit Launch. On my best go, I made it to the 6th bolt rest pumped, but not too pumped. I was able to recover fairly well before attempting to finish the climb. Unfortunately, on the sloper-jug right before the crack, I matched instead of crossing, and popped right off. I tried the climb one last time on my final day at Smith, but didn’t manage to put it together.  Comparing my last attempt with my best attempt, I realized that on my best attempt, I used efficient beta in the lower crux, arriving at the rest much less pumped, which allowed me to recover better.

Lessons Learned 

  1. Beyond a certain level of pump, I can’t recover very well with weight on my arms. Beyond this level, resting just maintains the pump, making it neither better nor worse.
  2. How you climb the non-crux parts of the climb can be important too.
  3. Sometimes you just need to rest. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. You can learn even from failures though–every climb is an opportunity to get better.

Rain at the end of the day in Ten Sleep Canyon.

3rd Project: The Dope Shinto, 5.12a, Ten Sleep

The Dope Shinto is a 12a in the FCR area at Ten Sleep with two distinct cruxes. The first four bolts consist of long(ish) moves on thin holds: crimps and 2-finger or fewer pockets. The moves get steadily harder off the ground to the 4th bolt, then ease up for 2-4 bolts of mellow, 11- climbing, followed by an upper crux. The upper crux involves a move from a mediocre crimp to a 3 finger pocket on delicate feet, then pulling over a bulge onto slab on decent handholds and marginal feet.

I tried the climb twice, sussed out all the crux beta, rested, and then came back and sent it. It went down surprisingly easily for the grade, but the climb was very much my style. I was surprisingly stressed during the hike up to the climb–I had been obsessing about the climb for the entirety of the rest day. I had put a lot of pressure on myself. I joked around with my belayer before starting the climb, and managed to release some of the tension, which helped a lot. By the time I pulled on, I was relaxed, focused, and ready to go for it.

Lessons Learned

  1. Visualization is good, stress is bad.
  2. Harder routes that are ‘your style’ might be done more easily,  but might not feel as satisfying. I still feel like I ‘cheated’ by projecting a route that was my style.
  3. Hold on. It matters.
  4. Confidence in your belayer is a must.

Anyone have good posts about your projects? Hit me up with links in the comments! :)