This past fall I took on my first somewhat “long-term” project in my new crag with a new style in beautiful Rumney, NH.
I say long term because anything else that I’ve “worked” has taken a maximum of six tries—and no more than two or three working days on it.
This route however; was my own personal version of “epic-ing”. I would go to sleep at night rehearsing the beta. In my head, I was in my own documentary. Here’s a brief synopsis of how this route didn’t go down.
Tried the route on Sunday. Was able to do the crux on my first try (with ample resting and figuring out in between). Tried the route again—belay kept getting messed up.
Basically I put in one moderately acceptable burn to learn the beta and the second burn got a little mucked up because of some belay issues.
Saturday – tried it two more times. Clipped the chains with two hangs on attempt #3. First time clipping the chains a 5.12–pretty satisfying.
Sunday – tried route again. Basically the same as before. Did super poorly on Sunday and climbed the first few bolts like garbage. I was shaky and felt terrible about the whole thing.
I must have tried the route 15-20 times that weekend. I stopped counting by the end the first 4 bolts were laced up perfectly. I would fall at the crux between 4 and 5, jug up and could finish from there. I was basically doing that over and over again until my fingers were literally too bloody to go on.
So there’s the synopsis. Even though I didn’t get it, it was totally worth my time. I learned so much from the process. See below for some solid take aways that you can learn from not sending your project.
- The importance of a quality beta burn.
Dialing in the beta swiftly and early in the process is critical, I have learned. Honestly, I probably could have cut my first two weekends of attempts out of this process if I had done what I did at the start of the third weekend. In one go on the rope, I rehearsed some of the sections of the route 3-4 times until I knew exactly where my feet would go. I experimented. I learned how to make certain moves WAY more efficiently than I had before. I dialed in where I was going to clip. It was HUGELY useful.
- Getting to the crag early to do your beta burn can be valuable.
On popular routes, you may be uncomfortable taking a long time to learn and rehearse the beta with others waiting. It sucks for them to wait and it sucks for you to have to rush such a crucial process. No matter how cold or dewy or whatever, just go get your route rehearsal/beta dialing session done before everyone else shows up. I never got to take my time with this process until we rolled up on weekend 3 which had a sub-optimal forecast, thus thinning the crowds.
- You might not need all the clips.
Clips are sometimes optional—even if it’s the second clip. Some clips might be slowing you down, akward etc. Think about if there are any that you can safely and confidently bypass. Personally, by the time I had the beta dialed, I realized that clipping the second bolt was a waste of time and energy, so I just stopped clipping it. It felt good to be comfortable doing that and for this route it was generally safe to do. This may not be true for other routes, but it’s a tactic that has been used by many to conserve energy if it is safe to do so.
- What foods work well when you’re trying to send.
I learned that eating a large breakfast doesn’t work for me. On the Sunday of weekend two, I ate a HUGE breakfast before going climbing—it kept me warm and it was delicious, but I was way too full to be climbing hard. The third weekend I made sure to keep it lighter—PB&J steel cut oats. That worked much better for me than a big, heavy breakfast.
- How your environment effects you when you’re trying to send
I learned that crowds FREAK ME OUT and that strangers watching me climb is actually really stressful for me. I know I need to work through this, but I hadn’t become aware of this until now. Not much to be done about it, but I’m glad I know now so I can consciously work through it. The difference between me climbing at an empty crag vs. a full one was pretty astounding.
- Your ideal pre-climb ritual. See mine below!
Step 1: Jam out to an aggressive rap song. “Shabba” was the song of choice on this trip. I also can be found enjoying “it’s nothin”, “Switch Lanes” by Tyga and “All Gold Everything”. Tell me I have awful taste, but it’s what gets me AMPED.
Step 2: Walk up to the route, tie, in and take three big breaths.
Step 3: Pick something in the distance to focus on and zone out.
Step 4: Tell myself “You know what to do, stop thinking and climb.”
I started doing this before every attempt, and it was really nice to have a routine before starting to climb.
- You can learn your capacity limit.
Having the capacity to try a route a bunch of times is very important. If you picked a route that you can’t burn all day if you have to, it might be time to work something else. I thought that I might have bitten off more than I could chew, but when put to the test, I was able to put in 8-10 burns a day on my project. But it was good to learn that I had trained well and had the capacity to put in work. See below for some solid wisdom from climbing trainer, Steve Bechtel in an article from Climbing Magazine.
“Many climbers are incapable of trying a project-level route more than once or twice a day. This is unacceptable. You have limited years to climb, so maximize your time.”
- How much rest you need.
Resting properly and not overtraining during the week is very helpful. Before the my last epic weekend working on the proj, I gave myself two rest days and training on Wednesday was super light. This was mostly because I was exhausted from work, but still. I was very well rested for the weekend and I could totally tell. From now on, I’m giving myself two full rest days before trying to redpoint/ get sendy on anything.
- The impact of an awesome climbing partner.
I have an amazing supportive boyfriend who is willing to belay me on these climbing tirades. Mike barely climbed all weekend. I kept saying we could bail and that he should go work on something, but he wouldn’t. He said all he wanted out of the weekend was for me to send this thing. Mike was on point with the beta cues, encouragement for me to try hard, and provided ample stoke and belief in me. I am so so grateful to have a climbing partner (and a boyfriend) that is so unwaveringly supportive.
All in all, yes, it is a bummer that after all of this, I still didn’t send. But I have the route down to one hang and I know that with a little more training, I will be more than ready to take this thing down in the spring for sure.