November 17, 2008

The Obsessed Me: Climbing

Hi, my name is Lily Cornett and I like climbing. No, I love climbing. Right now i'm writing with a bit of a grimace because my right hand and elbow is sore. For reasons unknown. Undoubtedly, climbing related. I'm a novice climber and my main passion lies in the wicked sport of bouldering. (Climbing short routes or boulders that consist of single or few problems, ropeless, and more focused (I think) then toproping or trad climbing.) I'm writing this not because I'm an expert of any sort, but because I'm in the process of learning the art of climbing and I think it would be helpful to document my attempts and my trials of error.

I don't really know why I started climbing. I was mainly a toproper in a gym in Rockville, committing about 2 times a month from January 2008. But from June I started going twice a week, and I was passionately hooked. During the summer I had a decent share of toproping out at Carderock, MD with some friends. Climbing outside, I learned a lot about balance and using tiny holds, since Carderock is mostly slanted rock and you climb better that way. During this time, I was climbing solid 5.9's and V1s at Earth Treks.

I took a break from climbing to travel to Japan for two months in August 2008. I had been climbing for two months. But even in Japan, I found people to climb with. I bouldered twice a week. When I came back, the wall at Earth Treks had been done over and none of the climbs had been rated yet. I worked on V3s and some V4s (unknowingly). Not knowing the ratings is a beautiful thing. You learn to focus on the climbs for what they are, not blindly following a botched rating system.

I left Maryland for two and a half weeks to campaign for a friend's political race in rural South Dakota.

When I came back I went back to Earth Treks, and progressed to being a solid V2 climber, solid 5.9s and shaky on the 5.10s. I sent most V3's and also, as of recent, 2 V4s. My goal is to be by the end of this year, a solid V4 climber. I like V4 rated climbs better than V2s and V3s because they are getting more technical and more like a fun puzzle. I am learning a lot by attempting V4s. I don't really care what ratings I climb in the long haul. I just want to possess the techniques required to climb them.

The reason I think I'm shaky on the 5.10s but more confidant on V3s and V4s is because the holds are smaller on 5.10 climbs and the routes are longer. I think with a little physical training, I'll become a solid 5.10 climber. My goal by May is to be a solid 5.12 climber.

Here are some of the things I learned so far:
Chalking Up:
Chalk up, but AFTER you tie in. Focus on what you are doing and you won't end up doing prep work out of sync before a climb. Plus, you'll probably climb better. Don't overchalk. If you are working on a sloper, then fine, chalk up. But when you are at the gym, most likely you're just overchalking to build unnecessary friction. Rely on proper technique and weight distribution rather then blindly chalking and throwing clamp holds. Do you really need to squeeze that hold so much it'll pop?

Trust it. That means, with confidence, commit to the next move and go for it. But don't use a rope to constantly break or lean back on it to pull over a lip. Find a break spot without leaning back on the rope and you'll get better at finding rest spots should you start trad climbing.

Other than using proper footwork, ever know what the leg where your weight isn't on doing? Is it flagging? Is it just flailing around? Are you using it to scrape your way up to the hold that's just out of reach? Pay attention to what you usually leave up to the unconscious mind. If your like me, a novice climber, it's probably not doing the best thing it can do. Why not? Well you don't have proper footwork down as a skill. Most people don't. If you dont focus on doing it the right way or using it at all, you'll most likely waste the extra leg, or worse, make it more difficult to complete the move. Rather than letting the leg hang on some moves, use the idle leg to assist, by flagging, scraping up, drop knee, whatever and try to use all those limbs that God gave you to make the next move.

Focus on what hand will reach for what hold before you climb. Visualize how you will climb a route. BUT ALSO visualize what footholds are going to allow you to reach which holds. Footholds, I am slowly learning, are the key to reaching handholds properly. And this varies person to person. So in light of your height and your reach, visualize what footholds are good and when to use them in hand with handholds.

Finger touch:
If you can just make contact with a hold, with even just a finger, you can wrap around to reaching the hold. Trust me, just making surface contact you'll stick to the hold. And if you can reach a finger, put a little more oof into it next time- stick your knee further over a hold and reach, and you'll probably tag the hold this time around.

Stick it:
Just force yourself to stick it. Keep your arms straight. You'll be surprised that you have the strength to hold a move. IT'S SOOOO MENTAL! Remember, that when you keep your arms straight you are using your skeletal structure and not muscle and you'll last longer on the rock. Also, when you get up there sometimes you'll be like, whee I can't believe I got this far. I am GOING to send it. Let yourself get determined and more confidant as you are climbing. It's really not that hard!

Falling is okay. That's what pads are for.

Take a moment to find yourself. Rest your hands. Look down at the holds. Then downclimb. You'll be surprised at how confidently you take most of the weight with your feet. If only we climbed up this way!

I love what little slopers I have worked on. They are good for you. Good for learning proper pull and placement. they force you to concentrate on how you hold them, and where you are pulling/placing your center of gravity. Try to keep you arms straight, and weight pulling down directly under them. Otherwise you can slip off.

Step into:
Step into a foothold and reach with confidence. If you step and then reach your body may fall back and you'll miss the hold. Well if this happens in some cases then you are not relying on your feet. But on overhanging walls, you need to reach as you are stepping. Use the momentum, for a reach, and not waste energy pulling with the other hand.

These require stepping up with confidence and carefully flagging the idle foot. I suck at these and am still learning. But I love deadpoints because of their dynamic nature. I really am alert when I commit to them.

Rests and Confidence Building:
Take rests. Don't just keep climbing and pumping out. Work on a climb with a straight head. That way you'll climb it in 2-3 tries and not 15. Focus on what you are doing, but also build a commitment that you are going to climb a problem. Be confident and smart as you plan your next method. And then climb the route with such confidence, head-on-straight manner, and thinking progressively as you climb. If your like me, technique is not yet second nature and you have to think as you go, but also, commit to sending the route. Don't muscle your way up there though! This is easier to do in the gym.

For Rizzle is the Shizzle:
Climbing outside is harder, and more scary because of the lack of padding. However it is Better. Yes, it is. Climbing outside has more crimp holds and slopers, requires more dynamic movement sometimes, and you have to think consciously about how you are going to use the holds in relation to footwork and where you body weight will be pulling. Climbing outside requires a lot of conscious technique work. The holds are not just freebie clampers like all the man made ones in the gym. If you want to build technique, I'm telling you, because I learned the most out of climbing outside- Outside is best. Plus you get to grapple with the rock, struggle with it, and come to love it.

No Obsessing:
Don't dream about and obsess about climbing when you are not. Have fun. Otherwise you'll end up like me and start blogging about all the little tiny things you are thinking about climbing related. It's baaaaaaad.

And that's just a little about what I am learning while climbing. I can't wait till my older brother Joel gets home tonight and my arms heals so I can hit up the rock or the gym again with him!


Suradetch said...

You should write your own climbing book one day Lily =]

Anonymous said...

Wow all I can say is that you are a great writer! Where can I contact you if I want to hire you?

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