Monday, September 24, 2007


Despite the ridiculous (rainy!) weather in the general SoCal area this weekend, we managed to get some rock climbing in on Sunday at New Jack City. The weather was perfect - not too hot, but nice and sunny with a little wind and the routes were in general cool and thought provoking.

I was really excited to be pushing my sport climbing limits on lead, redpointing a 10d/11a on the first try and getting very close to a crimpy 11a on several tries, although I still need to return and send it. It's been great to start climbing routes again after so much bouldering this summer because I've really started to feel that there is a lot I can gain in my trad climbing from becoming a better sport climber - the climbing version of cross-training.

I've realized that a big reason that I struggle to push my limits when trad climbing is that I don't believe enough in my ability to not fall - I freak out when I think I need to place gear from a "bad" stance, I take a long time to commit to difficult moves (and tire myself out while doing so), and I am sometimes easily intimidated by a route. I'm beginning to realize that all these issues are problems that I can work on through sport climbing.

Clipping bolts gives me the opportunity to practice clipping quickly and from less-than-ideal stances or holds, which I think will help me realize that I can place protection quickly, safely, and efficiently while trad climbing even if I don't have a great stance or a bomber handjam to do it from. I think these skills would be especially helpful somewhere like Indian Creek, where protection is barely more challenging than clipping a bolt since the placements are so straightforward. To be able to still place pro from a sub-optimal jam would be an invaluable skill.

Sport climbing is also helping me realize that I need to commit to moves instead of wasting time and getting pumped. On the 11a I was working on this weekend, I kept falling at the crux, which involved a few moves off very crappy crimpy holds near the top of the route, because I had trouble committing to a long, balancey move below the crux and was getting too pumped to hold onto the small holds above. Every time I rested below the crux, I could pull the move fairly easily on the first try. I've realized that I need to focus on memorizing and committing to the lower moves so that I have enough energy left for the crux. I'm pretty sure that if I work on this skill through sport climbing I will see a big improvement in my trad climbing, too.

And finally, I think I can also work on my problems with intimidation through sport routes. I often can get psyched out by a route from the ground, resulting in low self-confidence that definitely affects my performance. Sport climbs, for me, are an easier way to approach intimidating scenarios like big moves, overhangs, or difficult grades because bolts seem to require less commitment than gear placement. I'm already learning to take on more challenging routes and have a positive and open attitude towards the route instead of worrying about falling or succeeding (and getting intimidated).

Anyone who knew me a couple years ago probably knows that I used to want to climb only trad routes and turn up my nose at other kinds of climbing, but I've lost that attitude recently. A lot of skills from bouldering and (especially) sport climbing are very applicable to trad climbing and all the best trad climbers also climb fairly difficult sport routes. Overall, I'm actually really excited to keep clipping bolts and pushing my limits because I feel like I'm gaining a lot of valuable skills, especially by stepping out of whatever rut I may be in with my trad climbing.


1 comment:

luke said...

I have been thinking about the sport trad thing recently too. Like a quote that got me was about Tommy caldwell was a super fit sport climbing before he became a trad genious. Same with sonnie trotter.

It seems that it also really helps for general climbing fitness and endurance to work on sport routes where you can more safely test how hard you can push the pump.

I dont think of sport climbing as a replacement for trad but I am glad that you are having so much fun! You are really doing well!!