Dec 3, 2012

Repost: Lessons from The Dead Zone

A lesson on better bench pressing that applies to climbing (hat tip to Crankenstein).

The Dead Zone for climbers is typically around V5-6. Most climbers don't need more lock-off ability or campusing-on-jugs ability to get the next level. They simply need better technique. They also lack mental, and the resulting behavioral, patterns for success.

Nov 24, 2012

Saturday Syke

It is a given this is a high water mark for climbing.

It is far more informative to view it as a thesis on climbing technique. Overall, there is a quickness to Adam's climbing without a loss of precision. He makes the right choices for his style as quickly as possible. Those right choices are facilitated with his extraordinary hip, knee, and ankle mobility. The icing on the cake is his ability to up and down regulatory his intensity level.

Thank you to Black Diamond for making this teachable moment possible by posting the uncut video.

Nov 22, 2012

A Step Back & A Step Up

I am very thankful for my current life and the current world.

I would not be an able to indulge in climbing if my body was not healthy. The same is true if I lived in a time and place that did not have a surplus of spare calories and time.

I am also thankful for the Internet. It is a force multiplier for climbing and training information.  I will continue to show my gratitude by contributing my small share.

Nov 17, 2012

Saturday Syke

Autumn's Day

Lord, it is time. Summer was very great.
Now cast your shadow upon sundials.
Let winds remind meadows it is late.

Mellow now the last fruits on the vine.
Allow them only two more southern days.
Hasten them to fulness, and press
The last heavy sweetness through the wine.

Who has no home can not build now.
Who dwells alone must now remain alone;
Will waken, read, write long letters, and
Will wander restlessly when leaves are blowing.
from Writer's Almanac November 15, 2012

Nov 15, 2012

Unknown/Unnamed Climbs at 45 Area Mt. Gretna, PA

These climbs are located in the 45 Area Governor Dick, aka Mt. Gretna. They are on the same boulder as  "22. Project" and "23. Project." It is also possible to traverse into the first problem starting to the left under the roof.

GPS Corrindates:
Parking (N 40 14.267  W 76 27.554)
Boulder (N 40 14. 309 W 76 27.325)

Nov 10, 2012

Saturday Syke

Lessons Learned:

I will learn something about myself during my next workout.

I will make myself into a machine.

I will teach people to be great.

I will systematically improve EVERYTHING.

Nov 8, 2012

Data, Method, & Narrative (Revisited)

I have written on this theme before.

Data is observable, measurable information. Method is how that data is created. Narrative is the story around the data and the method.

This blog and the associated media has taken many forms over the year (e.g., a journal of exploits or a window in my thoughts and actions). The recent reincarnation is data-driven video, an objective record of what I climbed and where I climbed with universal standards (i.e., GPS coordinates). My method can be deduced. The blog has a light sprinkle of narrative.

You can (and should) pick the elements of interest and use for you. Leave the rest.

Nov 7, 2012

Sending Projects "23" & 22" 45 Area at Mt. Gretna, PA

These climbs are listed as projects, "23" and "22" (respectively), in the 45 Area from the "Governer Dick Bouldering Guide."

Thank you to Adam & West Chester, PA crew for pads, spots, and company.

GPS Corrindates:
Parking (N 40 14.267  W 76 27.554)
Boulder (N 40 14. 309 W 76 27.325)

Nov 3, 2012

Saturday Syke

The particular providing a glimpse at the universal.

Nov 1, 2012

There is no secret science

Science values openness. If you want to claim you are the first to do something, you have to publish it. You can pursue experiments on your own and never share the results. But when someone publishes the same results, the first public results "win."

In addition to just following the "rules" of science to "win", the world is a richer and more interesting place with more information.

There is much climbing can learn from science.

Oct 29, 2012

Sending problems next to "Tourette's Razor" at Bushwhack Rocks, MD

After removing vines and cleaning the holds, I sent a couple of problems around the corner from "Tourette's Razor". There is another, easier problem (not in video) to the left that starts sitting.

There are rumors that variations of these problems may have been done. It is a pity that person choose not to share that information publicly. Give my desire to open new problems, I would spend my limited time not rediscovering established problems.

GPS Coordinates:
Parking (N 39 30.559 W 77 28.835)
Leave fireroad (N 39 30.436 W 77 28.433)
Boulder (N 39 30.230 W 77 28.441)

The rumors have been confirmed.

That is a mighty fine addition to the area.

Oct 27, 2012

Saturday Syke

In Heaven It Is Always Autumn

"In Heaven It Is Always Autumn"
         John Donne

In heaven it is always autumn. The leaves are always near
to falling there but never fall, and pairs of souls out walking
heaven's paths no longer feel the weight of years upon them.
Safe in heaven's calm, they take each other's arm,
the light shining through them, all joy and terror gone.
But we are far from heaven here, in a garden ragged and unkept
as Eden would be with the walls knocked down,
    the paths littered
with the unswept leaves of many years, bright keepsakes
for children of the Fall. The light is gold, the sun pulling
the long shadow soul out of each thing, disclosing an outcome.
The last roses of the year nod their frail heads,
like listeners listening to all that's said, to ask,
What brought us here? What seed? What rain? What light?
What forced us upward through dark earth? What made us bloom?
What wind shall take us soon, sweeping the garden bare?

Their voiceless voices hang there, as ours might,
if we were roses, too. Their beds are blanketed with leaves,
tended by an absent gardener whose life is elsewhere.
It is the last of many last days. Is it enough?
To rest in this moment? To turn our faces to the sun?
To watch the lineaments of a world passing?
To feel the metal of a black iron chair, cool and eternal,
press against our skin? To apprehend a chill as clouds
pass overhead, turning us to shivering shade and shadow?
And then to be restored, small miracle, the sun
    shining brightly
as before? We go on, you leading the way, a figure
leaning on a cane that leaves its mark on the earth.
My friend, you have led me farther than I have ever been.
To a garden in autumn. To a heaven of impermanence
where the final falling off is slow, a slow and radiant happening.
The light is gold. And while we're here, I think it must
    be heaven.
From the Writer's Almanac October 20, 2012

Oct 25, 2012

Prison Shanks, Inc

37signals has a concept - Sell Your By-products. There are many by-products of developing climbing: the joy of contribution, poison ivy rashes, and shivs.

The Climbing Lab proudly presents the first offering from Prison Shanks, Inc: 

Oct 23, 2012

First Ascent "New Eyes & Old Knees" at High Ridge Park, MD

With more time and attention, High Ridge Park will be a fine addition to the Maryland climbing community. Here is my contribution.

The revelvant GPS coordinates:
Parking lot: (N 39 06.843 W 76 51.769)
Turn off main trial: (N 39 06.814 W 76 52.174)
Boulder: (N 39 06.789 W 76 52.209)

Oct 20, 2012

Saturday Syke

The Mid-Atlantic Season is shifting into high gear, and my mind is slowing becoming consumed with climbing. It is natural to resurrect Saturday Syke.

Jason Kehl creates Art, whether that be shaping novel climbing holds, setting futurist indoor problems, or establishing outdoor test-pieces. The climbing community could use more Art.

Oct 17, 2012

Sending "Kumkwats" Variation at Murray Hill, MD

"Kumkwats" starts on the ramp, cuts to the face on the right, and finishes on a jug (to drop off).

I decided to open a line that stays entirely on the ramp and includes a top-out.

Oct 14, 2012

Sending "Full Value Project" at Murray Hill, MD

My best creation of the season (so far).

Here are the GPS coordinates:
Parking (N 39 09.563 W 76 51.166)
Boulder (N 39 09.546 W 76 51.587)

Oct 13, 2012

Sending "Excavation Project" at Murray Hill, MD

I spent more than 1 session on this project. That rare grit paid off in a send. If you like the crux low to the ground and low precentage, check it out. Mostly likely you won't fall above 7ft, but be careful out there.

Oct 2, 2012

Sending "Platform Project Sit" at Murray Hill, MD

The other projects at Murray Hill are possible and will be opened shortly.

Operation "Get Some" has been initiated.

Sep 16, 2012

Sending "Platform Project" at Murray Hill, MD

This is video evidence of my plan to make massive contributions to local climbing this season. The "Platform Project" was listed as an open project at MD Guides. I am honored to open such a nice problem and hope other people will enjoy it.

Thank you to the people who built the platform.

Jul 16, 2012

The Problem with Plyometrics

Plyometrics are damn fun. I love campusing. It is a pure expression of power as possible in climbing.

Although it is the most common tool for maximal (max) effort work in climbing, it is not the optimal tool.

Campusing, by its very nature, is non-linear. If your campus board personal record is 1-4-6, 1-4-7 is a quantum leap away.

However if a hangboard is used for max effort work, it is simple to make linear gains. I can add or subtract just a 1/2 lb at time.

It is easier to get from point A to B by taking steps (not leaps).

Jun 23, 2012

Saturday Syke

Are first ascents for the first ascentionist or for the community? 

Jonathan Siegrist has decided new climbs are for the community. That means new climbs should be enjoyable while respecting the unique history of each crag.

 Most importantly - They should be shared.

Jun 21, 2012

Warren Buffett on Training for Climbing

"Investing is forgoing consumption now in order to have the ability to consume more at a later date."
Warren Buffett

Training for climbing is similar. The monkey trap of constant projecting captures most climbers. I was caught in that trap for years. Now I am letting go of small wins (i.e., trying to climb outside during an East Coast summer) in order to setup a big win in the Fall.

Jun 19, 2012

Review: Power Endurance by Steve Bechtel

Climb Strong has released a new training manual - "Power Endurance: Fatigue Management for Rock Climbers."

Power Endurance is a manifesto (e.g., Declaration of Independence and The War of Art), a short document meant to change thoughts and, more importantly, change actions. It is aimed at changing thoughts and actions about training for power endurance climbing. Power endurance climbing, although ill-defined, requires continuous submaximal intensity. This type of climbing is ugly and nasty but essential to sport climbing (and select bouldering).

It is a slim volume, under 60 pages, but is all killer/no filler. The text is clear and light, but heavy with first-hand experience of helping climbers reach their next level. It gives equal weight the why and the how of training power endurance. There are overall training plans and individual workouts. The focus is on-the-wall progressions.

Most of the material has been covered on the website, but I prefer the physical book for my training library. A book gives structure to the logic and weight to the thoughts.

I am using it as the basis for Fall training programs, both for myself and the people I coach.

Like a true training junkie, I always want a little more. Hopefully, Steve Bechtel will provide a bigger fix sometime soon.

Pick up a copy here.

Jun 9, 2012

Saturday Syke

A breathtaking mediation on hard climbing.

The hard climbing scene frequently comes across like high school prom, aka "Who was the first to put their hands where?" However, there can be moments of transcendence.

Jun 5, 2012

Talking Doesn't Cook Rice

And hanging out on a crash pad doesn't send the project
(or make you a better climber).

Jun 2, 2012

Saturday Syke

Udo Neumann is the clear leader in climbing competition highlight reels. By refraining from quick edits, he allows the elegant movement to develop and showcases the ground breaking routesetting. The use of split-screen invites comparisons between the divergent climbing styles represented. He is accelerating the development of indoor climbing for both routesetters and climbers.

Who will do the same for outside climbing?

May 31, 2012

Mark Rippetoe Interview

General Summary: 
Strength is the most usual adaption. 
To elicit that adaption, stress appropriately. 

Mark Rippetoe is one of the clearest thinkers in fitness. The program he advocates (e.g., linear progression in basic barbell movements) is simply the best exercise program for novices. The principles he outlines are applicable to any athletic goal, including climbing.

May 29, 2012

"Why Didn't I Send?"

I ask that question every time I am end up dangling at the end of a rope or grounded out on a crashpad.

The answer reveals limiters that might take 1 moment or 1 lifetime to eliminate.

The constant and never-ending improvement process keeps me obsessed with climbing (even after I have put in more than 10,000 hours of deliberate practice).

May 26, 2012

Saturday Syke

Dave MacLeod loves climbing. All flavors - mountains, pebbles, and all styles between. His first ascents, love of training, and understanding the climbing process (frequent failing with success in mind) are a constance source of inspiration.

The Climbing Lab loves Dave MacLeod.

May 24, 2012

Bouldering Doubles

Doubles (i.e., ascending 2 climbs back-to-back) is a staple of training for routes. Stacking indoor climbs better simulates the length of outdoor climbs. Personally, I prefer climbing an easier route on the 1st lap and stepping up the difficulty on the 2nd lap. Thus, better treating one of my biggest personal limiters - executing consistently difficult moves in a prefatiged state.

Lately, I have been applying the same techniques to bouldering. I climb a problem, rest, and then climb the same problem again. During the rest period, I focus on improving the 2nd lap. My second ascent of a boulder is always more efficient.

This rapid, self-generated feedback has been catalyst for improving the quality of my climbing.

The mental pressure of getting to the top is lessen during the 2nd lap. I trick myself into putting the process before the outcome.

Since the primary goal is technique improvement, I stay as fresh as possible by resting almost completely, but not long (less than 2 minutes). I choose problems at my flash level or below.

Bouldering Doubles enable me to get a large volume, high quality movement in a session. The foundation for improvement in a skill-based sport.

May 22, 2012

Improper Campus Boarding

There is nothing incorrect in the video. However, there are several suboptimal elements.

Flannery Shay-Nemirow outlines the following campus board progression - deadhang, long move, ladder, bump, and double bump (at 2:45). There are many intermediate steps between each of those stages. For example, I advocate shrugs after hangs. Shrugs activate the prime movers for campusing. After shrugs, I do staggered matches. I start with one hand one rung higher than other hand then move the lower hand up to match the upper hand. This is the easiest campus board move I have found. Shrugs and staggered matches is a safer progression, especially for one and two finger campusing, then moving directly from hangs into long moves.

Secondarily, this video confounds a lifestyle portrait with practical instruction. There is very little practical information in the video. I value practical information as the foundation of Crowd Accelerated Innovation. Entertainment is added bonus after a pragmatic threshold is meet.

Footnote: Don't get me started about using thumbs on a campus board (at 2:54).

May 19, 2012

Saturday Syke

The above climbs are not listed in the current guidebook to Coopers Rock, West Virginia. They could be first ascents. There is potential for neo-classics around every corner in that forest.

Reenforcing my personal climbing mantra - My Golden Era is Now.

May 12, 2012

Saturday Syke

Part of what attracts me to climbing is the diversity - Different people ascent different climbs for different reasons. Everyone can contribute to climbing if they choose.

Bonus Video (for my posting tardiness):

My 1-hour-from-my-home project hitlist grows smaller every weekend. 
Operation Weekend Warrior is accomplishing mission goals.

May 8, 2012

Fall Pyramids

A climb pyramid (i.e., 4 climbs at one level, 3 climbs at one level higher, ...) is a proven method for improvement. The next logic step is creating separate pyramids for specific subgoals, anything from crimp-style climbs to dynos.

One of my biggest limiters is a fear of falling into space. Long whippers on vertical climbs are no problem, but the smallest fall into space causes my sympathetic nervous system to start shrieking.

Lately, I have been working my way through a "falling into space" pyramid. The first level is hanging on bolts in space. The second level is letting go near a clip. The third level is intentionally falling above a clip. The fourth level is falling while going for it above a clip.

I'm not to the point of taking a victory winger at the anchors, but in my constant and never ending quest for improvement, this is my next step.

May 5, 2012

Saturday Syke

Courtesy of SYKEsville, MD
(Currently the focus of my syke)

May 1, 2012

Persistent Pursuit of Perfection

I'm always seeking impeccable climbing while training. In performance, the goal is the send. In training, the goal is improvement.

Perfect doesn't always happen. If a training ascent deviates too far from my definition of perfection, I will repeat the climb until it is as close to perfect as possible for today.

Training is getting better one conscious movement at a time.

Apr 26, 2012

My Sloper Succes Plan

My attack plan to improve on slopers:

1) Analyze and maximize plum lines

2) Critically assess and increase mobility

3) Systematically increase open hand strength (last but still important)

Apr 19, 2012

Current Training Cycle: Beware of the Weekend Warrior

Beware of the Weekend Warrior
April 2 - May 6

General Objectives:
Primary - Climb outside 2x per week
Secondary - Train specific limiters 1-2x per week

Parameters: Working 40 hours per week. The weather is warming up.

Specific Objectives:
1. Establish new (to the world) climbs (20+ all grades)
2. Climb at new (to me) sector every 2 weeks
3. 1 arm hang on benchmark sloper, +10 lbs, 3 sets of 7s each
4. Squat, Press, & Prehab 1x week

1. 04-08-12 Put up 3 new problems at Mt. Gretna, PA

2. 04-16-12 Climbed at Seneca, WV

After a 10 month sabbatical, I am back to work. I'm doing what I love, researching and teaching neuroscience. As a result, my climbing is dramatically changing. I no longer climb ad libitum. I'm a weekend warrior, training during the week and cranking on the weekend.

I divide my training into an "A" session and "B" session. I will outline those sessions in a future post. As always I am, my focus is improving as a climber. My main limiters are technique, mobility, tension management, and open hand strength. Open hand strength is the easiest to quantify; thus is a specific objective. My standard is a benchmark sloper that I can currently hang 1 arm with no weight for 3 sets of 7s each. Squat, Press, and Prehab once per week have a tonic effect on my health.

The cranking is left to the weekend. That constraint focuses my energy. There are specific projects that I want to send before the heat and humidity of the Mid-Atlantic summer descend.

Yes - Beware of the Weekend Warrior!

Apr 17, 2012

Programming Cycle Postmortem

"The Bouldering Season" training cycle is successfully concluded.

I was blessed to climb outside ~3x per week and in the process established well over 40 problems. Some I shared on and the rest will appear in a guidebook to Bushwhack Rocks, MD (Summer 2012 release). I left my comfort zone by visiting 3 new-to-me areas.

My self-imposed restriction to gym climb 1x per week was not broken (too much). I reap the benefits of functional shoulders, elbows, and knees as a result of my deliberate and diligent prehab.

I feel short on establishing a hard new climb. I do not have the mental disposition to project. Since there are so many great climbs in the world, it difficult to limit myself to any single climb for more than a day.

In the next post, I will outline my new cycle - "Beware of the Weekend Warrior."

Apr 12, 2012

Movement Analysis: Nalle Hukkataival on Desperanza

Nalle Hukkataival was generous to share uncut video of both sending Esperanza (Bravo!) and not sending Desperanza. Esperanza is a testpiece climb in Hueco Tanks. Desperanza is a lower start to the problem.

Nalle Hukkataival sending Esperanza

Nalle Hukkataival trying Desperanza

These screen shots illustrate a possible cause of Nalle's success and failure on the same last moves.

In the successful completion of the last moves, Nalle uses a perched high foot to setup the move to the left hand crimp.

In the unsuccessful attempt of the last moves, Nalle turns in, with feet much lower, to make the move the left hand crimp.

That difference in body postion choice could be the difference between sending and not.

Apr 10, 2012

The Largest Plum

When climbing on slopers, I stack plum lines - starting with my torso, adding my upper arm, then aligning my forearm, and finally setting up my hand. Optimizing sloper use by aligning each element with the pull of gravity.

Typical climbers do the opposite. They spend the most time and attention on their hands, while muttering something about "beasting." Meanwhile their body is "flapping in the wind."

The next time you encounter a sloper focus your time and attention on the largest plum line first.

Apr 7, 2012

Saturday Syke

If you like to geek out on climbing movement, Jackie Hueftle series from ABS Nationals 2012 is a treasure trove. Check out more here.

Apr 5, 2012

Crowd Accelerated Innovation in Indoor Climbing

I have a personal obsession with Crowd Accelerated Innovation in climbing. This idea has helped push outdoor, performance-oriented climbing forward faster. It also has the potential to revolutionize indoor climbing and training.

Here are 3 different climbers on the same indoor problem:

Interpretation #1

Interpretation #2

My interpretation
(from yesterday)

It would be informative to see other people's interpretation of the same problem.

Apr 3, 2012

"Active Rest" While Hangboarding

A majority of my maximum effort (i.e.,~7s of effort with ~2 minutes of rest) training is done on the hangboard. By choosing the hangboard, I progress (i.e., add weight every time) with the grips (e.g., open hand, 1/2 crimp, and full crimp) I most commonly use.

What should I do during the seemly too long resting periods? Zone out to my ipod. Look at climbing nuggets. Those are okay options.

It is better to use the resting time as training time. Climb Strong suggests lower body static stretching while waiting to crank. In my experience, my hangs are negatively impacted by lower body static stretching. Instead, I work to improve my dynamic range of motion. I improve one of my limiters (mobility) and not impact my finger training. I save the static stretching for the end of the session.

Mar 31, 2012

Saturday Syke

Dave Graham is a primary inspiration for this website with his constant search for new boulders and the meaning of life through climbing.

Mar 29, 2012

Repost: McColl Training Frog-style

Sean McColl joined the French World Cup Training Camp.

My focus is result-driven medium-term (6 weeks - 1 year) programming. 2 days of training with no objective results is interesting, but not a high value, data point. What struck me was the balance of specific and general elements in the training. The specific element was choosing to climb World Cup style routes. The general element was not focusing on individual limiters or what training happened in the days before or after.

Mar 27, 2012

Create Your Own Climbing Media Network

Given the inherent power of the internet, everyone can create their own climbing media network (see mine on the right sidebar).

If you don't care about latest and loudest ascent by the youngest climber (I don't), you can ignore it and the sites that choose to cover it. If you don't want to watch uninsightful interviews in climbing shorts, fast forward through them (I do).

I don't dislike those forms of climbing news; I don't care.

Therefore, I don't speed any time or attention on it.

I make a conconcious choice on what I watch and read. I let everything else slide.

Mar 24, 2012

Saturday Syke

I spend days on this project, preparing the landing and working the moves. Then, I choose to give it away. I rather see it exist in the world now than wait.

Mar 22, 2012

A Light Chance of Falling

Bayesian inference is a powerful heuristic to understand the world. Basically, it states that predicting the future is based on the past.
I use this concept to understand how to train and perform. I tend to fall on the same type of move (over and over). My prior probability of failure on large, rounded feet and big pulls on pinches is relatively high. My prior probability of failure on crimps and topping out a climbs is relatively low.

That means if I want to maximally train I need to focus on the former. My posterior probability of failure will be high (aka I will more fall on lower grades) but will decrease my prior probability of failure in the future. On the other hand, I should focus on my strengths if I want to maximally perform (low posterior probability of failure).

Mar 20, 2012

Practicing, Rehearsing, and Gigging

In music, there are times to run the scales in the woodshed to become dramatically better. Other times, get the band together to become a seamless music making machine. Then comes the gig, time to perform.

Steve Vai's brillance was honed through practice. Black Flag became great through rehearsing. The Beatles laid the foundation to change music through gigging.

However, the easiest path to improvement is a balance of each.

Climbers by default gig too much. Almost always projecting. Sometimes they rehearse. More time spent practicing the scales of climbing is a direct path to better gigs.

Mar 17, 2012

Mar 15, 2012

Extending "Important Training Distinction for Climbers"

Please check out Rob Miller's great post on "Important Training Distinction for Climbers" for context.

My experience is consistent with Rob Miller's thoughts. Keeping 100% intensity in my climbing training program has yielded consistent gains. Like Rob Miller, I widely modulate volume at that intensity based on my current cycle and goals.

I propose further refinement of that concept - learning to not apply that intensity unnecessarily during performance. Training at 100% "greases a groove" which is suboptimal during performance, especially in sport climbing. It is common to see sport climbers fall off because they do not properly modulate their effort. I tend to pull too hard, too often. The same concept also applies to bouldering. It is unusual for a boulder problem to require 100% effort for more than 1 move. The ability put forward 100% effort and then put foward much less effort is an essential aspect of the art of climbing performance.

I geared a part of my training towards improving my ability to self-modulate effort. It is the ying to the yang of 100% intensity.

Mar 13, 2012

A Better Approach to Discussing Climbing

I have proposed an improved approach to grading.

The same method applied to any climbing label would help establish a better foundation for conversation. I would like to see it applied to these concepts:
• Quality
• Scariness
• Classic-ness

Mar 10, 2012

Mar 8, 2012

Climbs as Social Objects

Climbs can be Social Objects, the starting point for a conversation. Insert your own reference to any major alpine climb or the start holds of a test-piece boulder problem.

A single interpretation of a climb limits the conversation to "Was it climbed, yes or no?" It far more interesting when there are multiple interpretations of climb. Instead asking, "How was it climbed?"

Mar 6, 2012

A Pattern Language for Climbing

A Pattern Language is a ground breaking book. On the surface, it is a contrarian approach to architecture. On a deeper level, it is a philosophical outlook on life.

One tenant of the book is the value of selecting language units for a project. In architecture, those units could describe lots, buildings, or windows. The selection of language units can apply to climbing.

There is a pattern language to climbing areas. Hueco Tank's pattern language includes roof, crimps, and access. Red River Gorge's pattern includes steep, pump, and rain. A pattern language for a gym could be big feet, small reaches, and hand/heel matching.

Identifying a pattern language is a vital first step. If your current pattern language does not match your goal pattern language, a change is needed.

Mar 3, 2012

Saturday Syke

Anyone who climbs with me knows that I'm a proponent of warming-up. Here is another video from my warm-up routine collection (with cameos from mid-atlantic climbers).

Mar 1, 2012

Position, Movement, & Linking

When I start working a new project, I follow this template:

I find and hold all the positions. If I can't hold the holds, my time would be better spent climbing a different difficult but achievable hill.

I start connecting separate position islands. I note unfamiliar movement, room to grow as a climber. I refine the position choices with movement knowledge.

I start chaining movement elements together. Typically, progress is smaller but still present, if I have the level of awareness for it. I refine movement choices with linking knowledge.

Feb 28, 2012

My Climbing Proxy Hierarchy

Actual climbing, moving over stone or plastic, matters to me most. Sometimes I can't climb so I accept climbing by proxy.

Here is my climbing proxy hierarchy:
• Videos
• Guidebooks
• Photos
• Blogs
• The current social media outlet
• The current climbing scorecard

Feb 25, 2012

Saturday Syke

American Bouldering Series 2012 Adult National Championship are being held today in Colorado Springs, CO. Unfortunately, I am unable to watch it. Due to budget limitations, USA Climbing has chosen not to webcast the event.

Instead of spending their limited resources delighting their fans (me), they are trying to be picked by the Olympics. Their choice is clear - the Olympic World is their audience, not me.

Feb 23, 2012

Quick Tip: Hospital Booties

With the winter snow meting, it is muddy out there. I use hospital booties to keep my boots dry and clean while downclimbing. I purchased mine at a hospital supply store, 100 for ~$10.

Enjoy Spring Climbing!

Feb 21, 2012

Current Training Cycle - The Bouldering Season

Spring has Sprung. My current "training" cycle is performance-centric. I'm ready to hit the Mid-Atlantic hard.

My primary focus is killing lichen at Bushwhacks Rocks and Great Falls National Park with a light sprinkle of local classics and short road trips. Prime projects are to ready to be sent.

I'm limiting myself to one gym session per week (tough for me). I find that is easiest to train technique in the gym, given you have the ability to ignore the latest and loudest problems and climbing nuggets. My gym session will provide the stimulus I'm not getting outside (e.g., If I'm projecting outside, I will climb circuits inside. If I'm only sending moderates outside, I'll threshold boulder inside). I will force to myself to do the appropriate prehab (I swear).

Feb 18, 2012

Saturday Syke

"Let this be my annual reminder
that we could all be something bigger."

Feb 16, 2012

Programming Cycle Postmortem

I finished my first training cycle of 2012. It was designed as a post-season building phase before a training-dedicated winter cycle, but real winter never visited the mid-atlantic region. I climbed outside in reasonable conditions every week. No time for a training-only cycle, me and my Climbing World Problems.

Overall, the results of the cycle are mixed. I put up more than 20 new problems. I kept the primary goal The Goal. I fell short on most of the other objectives. I was chassing too many rabbits. For me, two is too many rabbits.

I made improvements to my climbing stamina. Those gains were partly masked because I choose two correlated dependent variables. CIR, aka rows, and hourglasses are both measures of stamina. I should have picked one and chased it until I killed it.

I picked up heavy weights and put them over my head at least twice a week. Olympic Weightlifting helps me be a more useful human being, doesn't help my climbing. I was not even close to hitting my lifting numbers, lifting after climbing for 2-3 hours is an action not consistent with the goal of lifting strong.

My core is objectively stronger. Additionally, I was able to intergrate that strength via specific technique drills. I'm better at pasting my feet and having them stay put. Most importantly, my research uncovered RKC planks. Those are a game changer.

Adding 15-20 minutes of targeted technique and mobility work at the
beginning of EVERY training session is the biggest win of the cycle. It tightens my mind and loosens my body for the hard training to follow.

Lessons learned. Time for the next cycle.

Feb 14, 2012

Leave No Trace vs Tread Lightly

I love outdoor climbing and want everyone to enjoy it, including future generations. I also love puppies and want to play with them. The trick is not to get people to agree with me but make those things happen.

Leave No Trace is one of the most popular programs for promoting sustainable enjoyment of the outdoors. However, that is an impossible standard (by name alone). If you climb outside, you will leave a trace. The traces range from short-term, footprints, to long-term, bolts. Instead, I choose to support Tread Lightly. That is a reasonable standard I can do (most of the time).

The difference between Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly is similar to the difference between New Years Resolutions (untenable after a week) and Fresh Starts & Modest Changes (which works now and in the future).

Feb 11, 2012

Saturday Syke

Another fine Udo Neuman video reinforcing the gap between USA commercial routesetting and European competition routesetting.

Feb 9, 2012

Another Piece of the Map

Most climbers don't train (FYI - Projecting climbs inside is not training. That is just performance in a different venue.) Of the few climbers who train, most are self-coached. In self-coaching, by definition, the person both creates the training map and has to follow it. For any map to be useful, you need to know where you are, where you want to go, what is the fastest way between those two points, and what is interesting along the way.

A great article, part of an useful training map, can be found here.

Feb 7, 2012


When I travel I'm a guidebook climber. I buy the best guidebook available and follow it like a bible. I chase stars if possible, regardless of grades. If there are no stars, I seek out climbs that will challenge me. A hard onsight or a quick redpoint are preferred.

When I am not traveling, I move beyond the guidebook by cleaning and sharing climbs. Every climbing area, from Heuco to any given roadside choss, has the potential for additional climbs.

I often see climbers, even local ones, as guidebook-only climbers. That choice limits their growth as climbers and the growth of the sport in general. The climbs in the guidebook are a narrow slice of the big climbing pie.

Feb 4, 2012

Saturday Syke

Brave flowers are showing their buds, it is the beginnings of spring. Bushwhack, a clean, well-lighted place for boulders, will no longer be optimal. I'm on the search for cooler, shader areas. My adventuring has yielded these two gems.

My personal passion is riverblocs with their smooth, sculptured holds and flowing water. I try to mirror those elements in my movement and often fall short. Another interest of mine is feature climbing. I enjoy the odd, frequently holdless, rocks of the world. They require more than average push and pull of climbing.

Feb 2, 2012

Effecting a training effect

In order for training to be effective, it has elicit an effect. That might seem obvious but many people miss it. Yes, a novice can "project" all day, every day and eek out minor improvements. The foot-cutting thrutching they call climbing elicits a training effect for them.

At some point a finer distinction is needed. They are many ways to elicit a training effect. You can fonder the fingerboard, switch to thrutching up a campusboard, or even try to structure your climbing to match your goals. Since they are novel stimuli, they will elicit a training effect. Some methods will have more direct and longer lasting effect on your climbing, but they will all work in the short-term.

If you aren't seeing improvements (i.e., outputs are the same), you need to change your routine (i.e., change the inputs). Any change is better than doing the same thing that is not working.

Jan 31, 2012

It is not the number of years; it is the number of feet

There is a saying in computer programming, "It is not the number of years; it is the number of hours." I propose a revision for climbing training, "It is not the number of years; it is the number of feet."

If you want to get better, you have to climb feet (lots). If you want better power endurance, you need feet of climbing while being pumped silly. If you want to climb strong on the steep, you need climb feet of steep. If you want to climb V10, you better be able to crush feet of V9.

Every time you sit down, your climbing total is not going up. Every time you climb 10 moves of V3 and fall on the V5 move, you are getting better at climbing V3. The V5 total is the same.

Simple, ain't the same as easy.

Jan 28, 2012

Saturday Syke

Imagine how this will transform climbing gyms, from custom holds to custom walls.

Jan 26, 2012

Columns & Rows

This is a follow up to the Pyramids, Diamonds, and Hourglasses post.

There are two additional shapes to structure training - Columns & Rows.

Columns are tall and skinny. The example above shows completing 1 boulder problem at every grade from V0-V10. Although this plan is simple, it is a dubious method to accomplish training goals. Rarely does the action of completing a column match any goal, other than to complete the column itself. Inherently, the intensity will either be too low or too high.

Rows are short and fat. The above example shows completing 8 problems at V5. It is easier to modulate volume and intensity in row format than column format, increasing the likelihood of eliciting a positive training effect. Continuous Intensity Repetitions (CIR) training is built upon the row idea.

Jan 24, 2012

Slide & Wedge, aka Crack Climbing 101

As a result of a recent crack climbing binge, I had this mini-epiphany:
All crack climbing is just "Slide & Wedge."

Your hands slide and wedge. Your feet slide and wedge. Your body slides and wedges.

Most crack climbing trouble is a failure to slide or wedge. Identifying and treating that single biggest weakness has the potential to up anyone's splitter game.

Sprinkle in high pain tolerance, you are ready for the 'Creek.

Jan 19, 2012

Pyramids, Diamonds, and Hourglasses

A plan doesn't have to be complicated to work. Let's look at the simplest plans for climbing performance and training:

Pyraminds are the most common plan and a great place to start. Build a base layer, 4 V7s in the example above. Then add another layer, 3 V8s in the example above. Keeping building up to the peak, V10 in the example above.

Pyraminds can be a good performance or training plan.

Intensity Zenith = 10
Intensity Nadir = 7
Intensity Total =80
Volume Total = 10
Intensity Average = 8*

Diamonds are the second most common plan. Start at the top, for example 1 V10. Then go down a level, for example 2 V9s. Continue one level at a time to the bottom. That last send feels very hard.

Diamonds work better for training than performance.

Intensity Zenith = 10
Intensity Nadir = 7
Intensity Total = 132
Volume Total = 16
Intensity Average = 8.25*

I saved my personal favorite for last. Start at top (e.g., 4 V7s). Work down one level at a time (e.g., 3 V8s, 2 V9s, and 1 V10). At the bottom of the hourglass, the climbs are objectively easier but have the same subjective difficulty. It creates a beautiful grind. Hourglasses are designed to provide the appropriate volume at the appropriate intensity for maximal training effect.

Hourglasses work for performance and training.

Intensity Zenith = 10
Intensity Nadir = 7
Intensity Total = 150
Volume Total = 19
Intensity Average = 7.89*

* The averages are meant to illustrate qualitative differences in the plans, not quantitative differences. In order to construct meaningful averages, data needs to interval scaled. Climbing unfortunately chooses difficulty measurements that might not be interval scaled.

Jan 17, 2012

Subtle Limiters

Improving limiters is the fastest path to improvement. In the case of climbing, limiters can be subtle. They are not always obvious like falling on a climb.

Are you barndooring but not coming off? That is a clue that your foot postion could be optimized.

Do you consistently hyperventilate after you clip the anchors? Your breathing might not match the nature of the climbing.

Are you holding to much tension during easy moves? Learning when to apply peak tension separates good from great climbers.

There is no end to this game. It keeps climbing at all levels engaging. A moment to recoganize the limiter but a lifetime to improve it.

Jan 12, 2012

The Complete Guide to Projecting

Do you project better climbs to get better or you get better to project better climbs?

Jan 10, 2012

Looking for training partners at Earth Treks Rockville, MD

I'm very excited about their recent expansion and looking for people who are interested in training for climbing at Earth Treks Rockville, MD.

I do a majority of my training on the wall. I occasionally hit the system board and use wieghtroom rarely.

I'm looking for seriously fun partners at any grade, preferably someone who will push me. For context, I can 1st go mid-12s and V7-8 according to their ratings.

Please send an email to me directly -

The Digital Dawn

The climbing world is flattening. Everyone now has the opportunity to share their own interpretation of the rock. There is no longer a singular voice of authority.
I don't care if you are the guidebook author, the first ascentionist, or the local. I don't care if your blog has more hits or your video has more views. None of these people make my climbing rules. I already have too many of my own rules, thank you very much.

If you want to play the "historical reenactment of the first ascent" game, go ahead. If you want to race to the bottom by adding progressively lower starts, go for it. If you want play the hardest eliminate game, more power to you.
I'm playing a different game.
May the best interpretation win.

Jan 5, 2012

Why I Olympic Weightlift (And You Shouldn't)

Under the Bar in Competition,
aka Keeping The Goal The Goal
(Somedays I miss my previous leg muscles)

My Olympic Weightlifting objectives might come as a surprise given my stated goals. Let's dig into why I'm doing it and why you should do something different.

I lift weights for a variety of reasons. One of the primary reasons is my interest in health and longevity. Climbing is my sport, I do everything possible to improve my performance just short of direct negative impacts on my health and longevity. Lifting weights in a planned progression has the greatest return on investment I have found for health and longevity.

It is important to establish a base cake layer of strength before adding the power icing top. During the holidays, I assessed my strength in the basic barbell movments. I was able to meet or exceed my benchmarks:

Back Squat, 3x5, 185lbs
Shoulder Press, 3x5, 125lbs
Deadlift, 1x5, 275lbs
at a bodyweight ~170lbs

This numbers represent my personal triple point for climbing sport performance, general health, and longevity. In the past, I had bigger gym numbers but I was not climbing very hard. Given my nominal strength base, I plan to add power via Olympic weightlifting.

I love to Snatch and Clean & Jerk. Any program you love will have higher compliance than a program you hate. I enjoy the speed, aggression, and technical challenge. In addition, quick lifts have a smaller eccentric loading component than the basic barbell lifts which means less muscle soreness for my primary sport. There is an inherent mobility component, an upright postural ying to balance the climbing hunchback yang. On the technical side of the coin, I have general sense of how do the lifts and not hurt myself. I find one focused cycle in the year breaks up the monotony of training.

Those are the reasons why I choose to lift. It is mostly likely not right for you. #1 - it takes too long to learn the lifts to gain the limited benefits for climbers. Climbers are better served by increasing strength via basic barbell movements. However if you are still interested, I suggest you contact someone that can teach Olympic Weightlifting and has a track record of results.

Jan 1, 2012

My 2012 Promise

I have decide to share my 2012 year in climbing. In the past years, I shared part of my programming and many individual sessions. Lately, I've chosen to go in a different direction with this website. Now, I feel providing a complete year at the programming level is the best way to appreciate The Climbing Lab approach to climbing.

I will share my cycles, but I won't share the individual sessions, inside or outside. I don't want the forest, the cycles, to get lost in the trees, the daily sessions. Anyone can make-up a workout that is hard or spray down about a climbing trip. There is much more value in creating a program for consistent improvement and long-term results.

Most importantly, I will share "The Why." Before a cycle, the reason for what I do and when I do it. After a cycle, a breakdown of what worked and what didn't work. Then, you can improve your own program using the principles.

You can find this experiment here. The rough sketch of "The Post Season", the first cycle of 2012, is already posted.

Please join me on this journey.