Three weeks ago I was in Bishop, shooting video at the Happy Boulders and the Buttermilks. On one day I was able to observe a climber projecting a V10. He was having trouble with the crux move, in this case a very long reach to the left that is low to the ground and easy to work. Two things stood out to me about this climber’s efforts. He put in a huge number of tries on that move without success, and that he tried the move the same way every time.
This is a pretty easy trap to fall into. If we feel that we are close to success on a move, or think a move should not be too hard for us; its easy to just keep trying, assuming that success will come quickly. The problem arises when after 7 or 10 tires, we still haven’t done the move; we are now tired, our skin is thinner, and our emotional state is tending towards frustration. This is exactly what happened to the climber I was watching, and he ended up walking away from the problem in question. But did this need to be the case?
I can’t say with certainty that he would have completed the problem if he approached it differently but there are a few things that he should have been doing but didn’t.
1- He should have placed a limit on the number of times he would try the move the same way without success. We are often right when we think a move will go quickly for us. But if we put in three or four tries and are still unsuccessful then its time to slow down and really start to analyze the structure of the move, to take it seriously and really learn it.
2- He should have experimented with different beta. He didn’t significantly change how he was doing the move over his many efforts. He saw several other climbers do the move in question as a dyno, but he insisted on attempting it statically and he never altered his hand and foot position.
3- Since the move in question was a very long move, he should have looked for intermediates, which would have allowed him to break one very long reach into two smaller parts.
4- He should have tried the move with a power spot. Power spots are one of those fantastic tools that you just don’t see climbers using. A power spot gives the climber the opportunity to try the move with less stress, and provides a good opportunity to learn where the center of gravity needs to be in space in order to complete the move. Power spots help us learn moves faster. It assists the Motor learning process to actually complete a difficult move. Rather than falling at the same moment over repeated attempts. The fact that the timing is different and that the required effort is less, do matter, but the brain learns more when we complete a move with assistance, than it can when we fall.
If you have not tried using power spots, use them on your next bouldering project. The best procedure to follow is to have your spotter take off just enough weight to allow you to complete the move, but the spotter should not take off so much weight that the move becomes easy. It might take a few tries for your spotter to learn how to do this on a given move. Also, you will want to try the hard moves several times with a power spot. Have your spotter try to give less assistance on each consecutive attempt. The idea is that on each try you learn the move a little better and so will need slightly less help, until you have fully learned the move and should be able to do it with no assistance.