It’s funny how quickly and readily fashions spread through climbing. Lycra, slang terms like ‘Send it dude!’ and...
In the eighties, when the French really were the kings of ‘French Style’ climbing, as sport climbing was then known, their ideal was to climb like a ballet dancer, with effortless panache in the movements, a totally straight face and not a sound coming from your lips.
Now, thanks to films such as the Dosage series, the fashion tends to be to slap your way up that granite boulder like a wild animal screaming at the top of your voice.
The obvious question is, which is best (for performance, not looking cool). The answer comes in two parts. Firstly, somewhere in between is best. Secondly, where you should be on the continuum between straight faced ballet dancer and screaming bull terrier depends largely on who you are.
Chris Sharma, being the most famous (and possibly loudest) exponent of the psyche scream has made screaming while climbing a talking point, and I’m sure, more fashionable. He does it, so it must be good, right? Well, listen to Chris talking off the rock, and you’ll see he is a pretty chilled out type of guy. When asked about his screaming, he says it helps him raise the necessary level of aggression to unleash his full power on the holds.
When I observe others taking up this deliberately aggressive climbing style, it sometimes has poor results - poor timing, overly basic movements, not much weight on the feet and inefficient use of energy on a route/problem.
What’s going on here? In a nutshell, for those who are inherently calm and make clear, calculated and efficient movement decisions in their climbing, some extra psyching up can help them get more out of their physical capability, but just on the hardest moves. In other words, in small doses.
For those who can very easily deliver a lot of focused aggression in their climbing, more psyching will yield little more power output but incur a big drop in efficiency of movement.
The great skill of climbing is to be able to switch from moment to moment between screaming to get maximum power on a very powerful, but technically basic move, and calm focus the next instant to perfectly aim for a tiny foot of handhold.
The climber that most influenced me was Fred Nicole with a quote (from memory of a magazine article) that “it’s not so much the level of strength but the timing of it” Fred went on to explain that the climber that could use is strength at the exactly correct moment would be the best.