On our first day together, Climber X and I went over his 2011 route pyramid, reviewed his likes and dislikes, and evaluated his performance for key physical attributes. X’s homework assignment was to find an inspiring 13a near his home to use as a long term goal and pick a number of low end 12s to be added to a progressive pyramid for 2012. On our second day together I took a look at X’s roped climbing skills with special emphasis on the process he uses to learn and then send a redpoint project. In fact, I wanted to evaluate several things including X’s ability to sustain work over a period of time (stamina) and a number of movement skills.
We began by warming up slowing doing double laps on an easy 5.7, then a sustained 5.9, and finally at 10b. After warming up I pointed X to a 10d for on-sight so that I could have a look at his process before, during, and after the attempt. Before the attempt X took his time locating the holds. He successfully located the crux from the ground and took some time evaluating that section of the climb. I asked about potential rests and he was quickly able to point out the possibilities. As he made his way up the climb, X showed he could decipher sequences and adjust to nuance as it arose, but the crux he pointed out turned out to be too much for him and he came off . Our post-climb discussion centered on alternative crux sequences and what he remembered about the first part of the route. X has difficulty committing sequences to memory so he couldn’t really recall much detail about the first part of the climb so here was any area to work on – remember that a failed on-sight then becomes a redpoint project and we want to send in as few attempts as possible. Being able to remember sequences while you’re climbing is a valuable asset to be cultivated.
We then moved on to a redpoint project at 11b. Again X showed good insight as we stood before the climb evaluating its sequences, rests, and other important details. Here I wanted to see X’s process for learning a route and then attempting to send. Unfortunately within feet of leaving the ground he tore the skin adjacent to a fingernail and had to retreat. So instead of giving up and heading for the nearest bar, I gave X a demonstration of my process. I tied in and began climbing and at each sequence I’d stop, try several sequences and locate any possible rests, pick the easiest way through, and then practice it so it was committed to memory. When I returned to the ground we went over all the sequences from start to finish. I had X repeat the sequences to me and then, having taped his finger, he gave it a go. I was pleased to see him execute sequences just as we had discussed, and he made it high on the climb before misjudging a hold and coming off.
So, what did we learn? The process of discovering, learning, and then executing efficient sequences is a skill to be learned, and that skill can save you many hours of effort and numerous failed attempts over the course of a single season. There are several movement skills that X will need to refine such as foot precision and his maximum bouldering strength will need to be increased, but the biggest short term improvement X can make is to perfect his route learning process. We’ll incorporate these elements into the improvement plan I expect to work on with him later today. Stay tuned for the results!