13 October 2008

Modern trends in city dwelling trad climbers

Following on from my last post where I said people often email and tell me what grades they climb in different disciplines and ask how they can improve. Of course it’s a very complicated picture, but sometimes it’s not so hard to pick out some obvious clues.

One very common clue to identifying weaknesses is the balance of strengths, or grades across the disciplines. Lets take a wee look at these in turn.

How many pull-ups can you do on a first joint edge (small campus board rung) on different grip types? Based on my observations as a coach, for about 7/8 out of ten climbers, they will do much better using a crimp grip than either four or three fingers openhanded. If thats you, you’ve found a weakness to train. Simple! Keep climbing openhanded on almost everything until you strengths on each grip type match. If you don’t, it’s your loss. If you do the hard learning about why it’s important as I stressed in the last important, you wouldn’t need any convincing why you need to go to all this trouble and spend a couple of years breaking your crimping habit.

A second one that stands out a mile with trad climbers who live in cities and spend a lot of time climbing indoors is their grades. A common one these days is “I climb F7a, Font 7a and HVS/E1” or at a higher level “F8a, Font 8a and E4” To me as a coach this now sounds normal because I’ve heard it so many times. But to me as a climber I think “What?!” 

A friend of mine is convinced if you can do Font 7c bouldering , you should be able to do F8c routes so long as you do any sort of decent stamina work. And it’s probably true for a lot of routes. As for trad - the crux of a benchmark E9 like Parthian Shot is Font 7a!

So what is all this saying? Climbers are often WAAAAY too stuck in a “climbing harder equals being stronger” paradigm and have completely forgotten to value tactics and technique. At most busy city climbing walls, if you come in every night for a week, you will come across a guy who can really climb well, but is weak as a kitten. He’ll consistently flash a certain grade on any type of terrain, every time. Yet he/she is much weaker than you. That person is your coach. Befriend them, watch their every move and ask them relentlessly what their background is. Copy it.


Morgan74 said...

Some excellent advice here in these last couple of posts Dave.

I guess I am happy that i "trad" nearly as hard as i can "sport", and i can sport nearly as hard as i can boulder and it's something i've monitored for a while.

Once these are more or less in balance what would you suggest for delivering gains?

Dave MacLeod said...

Once these are in balance the task is constantly to look for whatever is not in balance, and work harder on that.

Most will have to work constantly on basic technique, tactics and basic finger strength.

It's a constant process of observing and assessing your own climbing.

Anonymous said...

That's a really good post.
I'm sure you've covered it in other articles but I thought I'd add that fear of falling is another massive factor in people bouldering way harder than they sport/trad climb. I climb indoors a lot and it's common to see very good climbers fail on routes that are well within their range because their technique goes out the window when they're scared.
It's certainly the case for me, especially when trad climbing.

Anonymous said...

I did a Fr7b+ about 5 years ago. At the time I could lead E1 and had maybe done a couple of E2's.

My sport climbing has barely improved in the last 5 years (injuries) - well, I can onsight much harder now, but my trad grade has come up to E4 - I'm guessing it can go higher and that's the plan!

Ally f.