The Journey to Twelve 5.12s in a Year: An Update

butch pocket and the sundance pump

In the year of 2019, I set out to climb my first 5.12. And I made it a goal to send twelve of them by the end of the year. I wanted them to be in at least four different places to ensure that I wasn’t over-specialized in one rock type or style.

As I write this, it is September of 2019. Over the next few weekends I’ll be spending time in Rumney, NH. After that, I head to Mallorca, Spain for a week long Deep Water Solo Trip, and I’ll be rounding out the fall climbing season with a week in the Red River Gorge for Thanksgiving.

A New Route Pyramid

I am pleased that since fall of 2018, the training I have done over the course of the past year has worked. I am pleased to say that I have not sustained any injuries or really even any significant tweaks. This is something to celebrate in and of itself. As far as the progress to the New Year’s Goal, here are the stats.

Number of 5.12s Redpoints: 4 (all 5.12a)
Locations: New River Gorge, WV; Wild Iris, WY; Rumney, NH; Red River Gorge, KY
Rock Types: Sandstone, schist, and limestone

So I’m 75% through the year and 25% through my goal. Not exactly on-track, but then again I have a majority of my outdoor climbing for the year ahead of me. At minimum I’ve at least tackled four different locations and three types of rock. Here are pictures of the routes, in chronological order.

Starrry New River Gorge 12a
A shot from the bottom of Starry, a 4-star 12a in the New River Gorge.
Lauren Abernathy Wild Iris Climbing
Me getting through the crux on Butch Pocket and the Sundance Pump, 5.12a in Wild Iris, WY.
Photo by Alex McIntyre
lauren abernathy orangahang rumney nh
Me in front of my nemesis route, Orangahang in Rumney, NH. Read more about the epic failure here.
Lauren Abernathy Beattyville Pipeline Red River Gorge
Me in front of Beattyville Pipeline at the Red River Gorge post-send.

What I think Has Helped the Most

If I had to distill my progress into three factors, it would be as follows.

  1. Consistency. If I make a plan for my training, I stick to it for 8-9 weeks at minimum. I don’t get 4 weeks in, decide I hate whatever hangboard protocol I’ve chosen and then switch it out for something else. I stick to what I committed to do and I don’t change it up prematurely.
  2. Practicing Movement. Until I read Movement Drills for Climbers, I really did not know how to practice the skill of climbing. I knew it was important to do, but I didn’t really know how to do it. If you don’t have specific skill practice built into your climbing (especially when you are warming up), you would likely benefit a lot from specific skill practice.
  3. Getting Better at Redpointing. This season I didn’t go full bore into trying to send 5.12 as soon as spring rolled around. I went to Birdsboro, PA and worked on a couple of 5.11cs and 5.11ds. My goal was to build a good base at the beginning of the season. Working on these routes helped me hone my redpointing skills. These were good, manageable projects that didn’t leave me bummed and frustrated. It was a great set-up for my trip to the New River Gorge in May and it set the tone of me improving my ability to learn/rehearse/execute a route for the rest of the year.

A bonus thought: My last two 5.12 ascents occurred when I was wearing a new pair of spearmint-colored leggings. Perhaps colorful, performance spandex is a key component in sending hard routes. It seems to work for that MattClimber guy in South Africa, so perhaps there is something to this.

My Autumn Mantra: “Maintain, Maintain, Maintain”

Going into fall and trying to perform on the weekends means that my focus is shifting. The focus of training is no longer “get better”, it is now “don’t lose what you have”.

My “weekend warrior” training schedule is going to look like this through these next few weeks.

Monday – Rest
Tuesday – Limit Bouldering
Wednesday – Light Hangboard/Strength Session
Thursday – Rest
Friday – Rest
Saturday & Sunday – Outdoor Sport Climbing

This method is inspired by Episode 13 of Eric Horst’s Training for Climbing Podcast on in-season and out of season training.

The idea behind this is that you use your mid-week training sessions to maintain strength and power since, presumably you are working the energy systems associated with endurance and power endurance on the weekends.

For those who are shocked or confused, that is not a typo on the number of rest days before going outdoors: two full rest days. Some of you might think I’m a maniac, but if you’ve never tried resting for a couple of days before going outdoors, it can be very beneficial.

On Shooting for the Moon

I’m about to hit you with a cheesy quote, but it sums up this personal progress report really well.

Image result for shoot for the moon picture

So is it looking good for me to hit my goal of twelve 12s right now? Maybe. Maybe not.

Right now I’m not really afraid of failure, I’m actually more afraid of my sometimes tyrannical desire for success. This desire to succeed could manifest itself as follows: by taking the easy way out. This “easy way out” could look like this:

  1. I never try anything harder than 5.12a
  2. I prioritize routes that are “my style” and don’t work on anything that is out of my comfort zone.
  3. I don’t leave myself any time for “lower tier” routes (5.11c/d) because I’m too focused on racking up more 5.12. (for more on Route Pyramids, see here)

With that, my goal still stands. I have just over 3 months to crank out eight more 5.12s. To combat the aforementioned potential pitfalls, I have a tick list ranging from 5.11c to 5.12c with a variety of styles represented. It is designed to push my limits and my comfort zone. And if it works out and I crank out eight more 5.12s, great! And if I don’t, I will have climbed a lot, tried really hard, and I will “land among the stars”. Or whatever. You get the picture.

On Becoming a Better Climber

The purpose of setting this goal was to become a better climber. The reason I want to be a better climber is so that there are more routes in the world that I am able to climb. If there are more routes in the world that I can climb, then I can climb more rocks! Which is the whole point, because climbing is fun.

How is your year going? Are you on track to complete the goals you set out for? Did you set any goals for this season? Do you like setting goals? Leave a comment or shoot me an email. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

You can follow me on this wild ride by checking me out on on Instagram, or Facebook.

Make sure to subscribe to my newsletter to receive cool training tips, tricks and tidbits delivered straight to your inbox once a month to help you become a better climber.

Please note that this post contains an affiliate link to the Movement Drills ebook by the Power Company Climbing. I use the techniques in this book to this day and I would highly recommend it! If you purchase the book through my link it helps keep the information and articles on senderellastory.com in existence and free to access.

How to train with a Moonboard

I have climbed twice since Thanksgiving. Apart from a couple of training sessions the last week in November, I haven’t climbed at all in about three weeks.

Scary, huh? I assumed that when I went back to training that I’d feel weak, and fat and that I’d regret taking a break. Turns out the break was worth it–and so was tossing my generally healthy eating habits aside for a couple of weeks. You bet I slammed some pie over Thanksgiving, and I just got back from Hawaii. Lots of hiking and swimming—and drinking to celebrate our conquests. Life is to be lived. You can’t be light all the time.

But between some nagging finger twangs and life in general, a break was much needed. However, I am here to tell you that taking a big break was GREAT IDEA and very useful. I am fine, and climbing just as well as I was before. Sweet!

I hit the Moonboard today and had my best session ever—without any funny feelings in my wrist or fingers. These joints were getting to be painful after my trip to the Red and I could tell that I was on a one way street to really injuring myself if I didn’t give it a rest.

After some time for rest and reflection, I have decided to integrate the Moonboard into my training for the winter. Mostly for limit bouldering purposes since the benchmark V3 and V4 problems on it kick my butt. More on that later. Let’s start with the basics. 

What is a Moonboard?

A Moonboard is a training tool for climbers, first and foremost. It was invented by UK-based climber Ben Moon.  It is a wooden board with a bunch of holds in pre-prescribed positions, set at a 40 degree angle. The grades are stiff and the holds are mostly bad. There is an LED light above each hold and you can connect your phone to the board using the Moonboard App.

The app allows you to light your chosen problem up on the board. You can choose from thousands of problems grades V3-V-Insane that cimbers from all over the world are working and setting. Pretty sweet.

What the app looks like on your phone.

Why use a Moonboard?

I love my home gym, don’t get me wrong. However, I sense some grading inconsistencies in the gym—mostly dependent on the setter. I get it, if you’re 6’4” and climb V13 outside, your version of V4 and my version of what I think is V4 might be different. Understandable. One of the many benefits of the Moonboard is that it offers the ability to go back to the same problem session after session, year after year. As long as the board remains, the route is available. Instead of hiking out to your old project, to check your progress as a climber, you can benchmark your progress with a route inside—pretty cool.

In addition to the consistency, there are so many problems to choose from. You can tweak exactly how hard you want your limit problems to be, with the swipe of your finger on the app. This is great since finding the right limit problem from your gym’s set can really be a pain sometimes.

Climbing Magazine has a sweet article about how to train with a Moonboard and I agree with just about 100% of it. Give it a read. A lot of that article is echoed in what I have laid out here as well.

This is how I limit boulder on the Moonboard:

Warmup: (5 minutes of running, 10 minutes of dynamic stretching)

Climbing warmup: Do about 15 problems. A pyramid of 6-8 V1s, 3-5 V2s, a few V3s.

Hard climbing warmup: Spend 30-45 minutes projecting two or three V4 or V5 routes. At least one of these is on a steep overhang to prepare for the angle. I rest for 3-5 minutes between attempts on these “doable if I try it a few times” routes.

Hangboard warmup:  I am terrible at pinches and slopers. These are my greatest weakness. The Moonboard has a lot of these holds which is AWESOME for training. I spend a few minutes warming up these two grips on the hangboard before embarking onto the Moonboard session since I am not so great at these types of holds. This is optional but I think it helps. 

7-10s hangs, 3 reps on each hold (wide pinch and sloper). My gym has the rock prodigy hangboard, so I do bodyweight hangs on this. Note that for the pinches I alternate between hanging on my right hand and my left hand—one hand on the pinch, the other on the jug. See below.  


I am not yet strong enough to bodyweight hang on the pinches on this board—I will be someday though! I also warmup briefly on the slopers.

Learn more about the Rock Prodigy hangboard and its inventors on the Anderson Brother’s Website.

Limit Bouldering: Two “benchmark” V3s.
*Note that the hardest project I’ve sent in my gym is V6 and I can only really work V3 on the benchmark Moonboard problems. Often these V3s leave me getting chucked off the first move for a few tries. It is not easy. If you cannot climb V5-V6 in the gym, I would not recommend spending too much time on the Moonboard just yet.

Lauren Abernathy Moonboarding fall
Me falling off the first move of a “benchmark V3”–repeatedly, I might add.

I do 5-6 attempts per problem.

I rest at minimum 3 minutes between attempts. If I fell off the first move, I rest 3 minutes. If I fell after almost sending, I increase the rest to 5 minutes, sometimes I even rest for 6-7 minutes. Note that most of these routes I am not even close to sending until I have worked them for a few sessions. This makes them “limit” problems. 

If the moonboard doesn’t bring out your ugliest try-hard face then I don’t know what will.

Once I am falling of the first or second move, even with a long recovery, I call it quits. Once my power is dissipated, the session is complete.

Is the Moonboard tough on your skin?

In short–YES. The Moonboard is definitely rough on the skin. My hands are usually in some skin-related pain by the end of the session. I am working on alleviating this, however. Sanding down your calluses is always a good idea, but here is another option/additive to your climbing skincare routine. 

Today I experimented with exfoliating my hands mid-session, after warming up and before hitting the board. Sounds crazy, but it felt awesome. I went into the bathroom in the gym and used a gritty, exfoliating face scrub.

I like to use L’Oreal Paris’s Pure Sugar Scrub (FYI L’Oreal is my employer so I get to try a lot of L’Oreal products at a minimized cost to me. I like this stuff a lot, but please take my opinion with a grain of salt.)  Just find something gritty and try it out. I thought it felt great and it prevented some potential flappers. The coffee smell is also pretty nice!

Rest after Moonboarding

I need at least 24 hours for my skin to recover after moonboarding. 1-2 days of rest, depending on who you are is probably a good idea if you really dissipated yourself during a moonboarding session. 

Have you ever used a Moonboard? Does your gym have one? What problems have you worked on?! Leave a comment, I love to know your thoughts on this awesome (and sometimes frustrating training tool). 

Cheers,

Senderella