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bedellympian

Working on weaknesses

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I'm sure lots of you know who Dave Macleod is... one of the best all-around climbers on the planet and a training guru of sorts. I never looked at his stuff too hard as I was more focused on alpine routes than hard rock climbing, but now that I have a kid and rock climbing is much easier to access in a short time frame from my house than other things I've started taking a deeper look at what he has to say. 

A big point of his is that you need to work on your weaknesses (duh, though a lot of people don't do that). His classic training example is when he went from 8b to 9a (that's 13d-14d) in 18 months. After years of climbing he realized his weakness was grip strength and started hangboarding consistently which he credits as the main reason for his jump. Of course, everyone seems to hangboard these days, myself included, and its not my weakness (though I'm certainly not amazing at it). He mentions that this came after a good base of climbing movement and described this as doing 1,000 routes from E1 to E4 (that's 5.9+ to 11c). I initially thought I was pretty close but decided to check. I've done a fairly good job of tracking routes I've climbed thanks to MP, guidebooks, and a log of routes. I rounded up to include anything from 5.9 to 5.11 and with some rough estimation figure I'm at about 350 pitches in this grade range, much less than anticipated. Of course if you expand that to 5.7 and up (or 5.0 and up) then the number sky rockets, but a lot of this climbing doesn't teach you much about movement and technique which is Dave's point.

This got me thinking, a friend of mine (apparently I hang out with like minded people who like data) had taken all the routes at Smith Rock, our local crag, and put them into a spreadsheet by grade (OCD for sure, but it takes one to know one). According to the spreadsheet there are almost 800 routes from 5.9 to 11d at Smith. I went through and marked off all the routes/pitches in this grade range that I had done and it was less than 100! I was very surprised by this. At first I thought that despite the plethora of routes at Smith there is a lot of crap rock. However, I also think a lot of routes fall off the radar and aren't popular. I think I've probably repeated a lot of the routes, and they are good routes, but there are routes that are right by the car that are perfectly good (2-3 stars) that I've never done because they aren't super classic, or in an obvious spot.

So going forward a goal of mine is to increase the number of routes I've climbed in that range, with the ultimate goal fo reaching that arbitrary 1,000 number. Obviously there is nothing magic about the number 1,000, but it gives me a big goal to shoot for in the long term that gets me working on a probable weakness. I've also decided to include boulders in the V0-V4 range as part of this, since its also teaching me movement, and is logistically easier than going cragging.

So I guess part of me wanted to post this to put my thoughts out there to see what others think. Is this uesful? How so, how not? Also to see what others have done. Where do you think you are in your 1,000 routes? You could also apply this to ice, mixed, or even alpine (1,000 alpine routes! Crazy!). Or scale it to suite you, 5.6 to 5.9, 5.0 on up, 5.11a to 5.13d?! 

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Hmm thanks for that...it is interesting.  You sparked my curiosity so I had to go look.  I have 1052 routes from 5.9-5.11.  That doesn't include any multipitch climbs either since I keep those on a separate Excell spreadsheet and was too lazy to go through and figure out how many pitches of 5.9-5.11 there are.  I have always been an onsite climber and it is rare for me to try the same route a couple times before sending.  But I have also never lead a 5.12 clean so maybe it is time to start redpointing and/or hangboarding!  I have roughly 350 trad pitches and 700 sport pitches.....which I am not sure is relevant to the discussion but interesting to note.

I can't believe there are 800 routes at Smith in that range.  That is a lot more than I would have guessed.  I should also just sit down and read his book....I think I have it buried on a shelf somewhere.

I do pay attention to my ice pitches a lot more.  I want to make sure I have a good base for a pyramid so I keep pretty good tabs of lead climbing on ice.  I don't move up to leading the next grade much until I have a good base at the previous grade.  I know that seems common sense but it serves as a good visual reminder for me to be patient.  Ice is not a place to get in over your head!

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13 hours ago, mthorman said:

I do pay attention to my ice pitches a lot more.  I want to make sure I have a good base for a pyramid so I keep pretty good tabs of lead climbing on ice.  I don't move up to leading the next grade much until I have a good base at the previous grade.  I know that seems common sense but it serves as a good visual reminder for me to be patient.  Ice is not a place to get in over your head!

mthorman would you mind sharing where you are for ice pitches and what type of numbers you look for in a pyramid?

I had the same idea and feel like my ice pitches are pretty good, but more importantly I want to round out my mixed pitches because of the more unique movement than on most ice. 

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My ice pitches look like the following right now.  Note this is only pitches I have led.  Do to the nature of leading vs. TR on ice I didn't count or factor in TR laps in my pyramid.  The one thing I did use the TR pitches for was gauging when to start leading.  I spent an entire year just doing TR laps and got about 60 pitches in before I really stepped up to start leading.  I value that year as a good skills year of learning to read ice!

WI3 - 81 pitches
WI4 - 66 pitches
WI5 - 34 pitches
WI6 - 6 pitches

My numbers show myself that I have enough of a base to where I should be able to focus and lead a bunch more WI5 and WI6 when I am feeling strong.  Although I will say that unlike rock, ice seems to have so many more factors to consider (temps, ice condition, how cold I am etc).  I have gotten to the point where it is more about how I am feeling that day and how things look from the bottom than the grades.  I use the grades as more of a reference (ie do I want a hard day out or a chill day out?) especially since picked out WI5 will feel easier than many a fresh WI4.

Last note on the pitch counts, I think I was roughly around 20 pitches at a particular grade before I started moving to the next grade much.  I didn't hold that as a fast and hard rule more like a....don't try to lead a bunch of pitches of the next grade until you have built up good experience at the past grade.

Mixed climbing is such a different beast to me.  Maybe it is because I have only mixed climbed at the drytool crag in Spokane.  Well I have done a few other pitches of where the route got a mixed grade but it was mostly in the alpine where grading can be difficult anyway because it depends so much on conditions.  I guess if I climbed a bunch of mixed grades at Hyalite or up in Canada maybe I would have a better idea of the grading and could help compare things.  But in my limited experience it is either brutally hard drytooling (stout M6 or M7) in Spokane or easy mixed climbing on an alpine climb like M3/M4 (think West Ridge of Stuart in Winter for example).  Where are you getting in your mixed climbing?  
 

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Totally agree on the ice. Its interesting to see the numbers, turns out I'm pretty similar. 

For mixed climbing we have a couple local dry tool crags, one up by Bachelor ski are and one at an overlooked cliff at Smith Rock. There is another mixed crag getting developed up on the Cascade crest but its early stages. The other thing I do is go to this less-travelled rock crag in winter and climb the mossy/chossy grooves on gear between the actual rock climbs. Done a few 2 pitch routes that way and it makes for a good bad weather adventure practice day. Also, trying to get on more mixed stuff when I go up to Canada and other places.

I feel like mixed is one of the limiters of me doing harder routes in the alpine. Like you said, M3/4 in the alpine is fine. Getting on bolted M6/7 is convenient and straightforward. But getting on alpine M5/6 with confidence opens up a whole slew of possibilities.

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"9 out of 10" is amazing, for me it's been worthwhile rereading every few years. I definitely have tried to follow the recommendation about lots of easy mileage to improve technique, although I don't keep track of individual pitches -- partly laziness, but mostly I do a lot of bouldering. I guess one thing I would add is that for me it's really a cycle between strength training and technique training (which Dave Macleod calls taking time to apply a new level of strength to the rock). For me a new level of strength enables technique practice that would've been impossible before.

I also feel like the rock angle is maybe more important than the grade for technique practice. If I split climbing technique into two parts: 1. moving limbs and hips to allow easy upward progress vs 2. attaching feet and hands to the rock, then for 1. there's very little common technique between a 15 deg overhanging route and a 15 deg slab route, or even a vertical route. On the other hand, routes at the same angle require largely the same limb/hip (1.) technique regardless of grade -- the holds mostly just get smaller. Rock type is also important, though I think less so -- the biggest effect of rock type is perhaps getting used to granite (& others) often not having actual holds. Before I started serious hangboarding, I was basically plateauing around granite .10. But after just my first hb phase a whole new world of technique practice became possible: to me there feels like a qualitative change somewhere between mid .10 and mid .11 on granite. You go from making your feet stick to the wall mostly from gravity (with your hands sometimes pulling you on a little bit), to sticking your feet to the wall mostly with counter pressure from other limbs (pulling with fingers on vertical, pushing with palms or feet stemming or chimneying, heel hooking around an arete). Without a certain level of finger strength:weight ratio, you just can't hang around long enough on vertical terrain to learn how to make your feet stick. And if you're born with typical levels of finger strength:weight, you'll need to start hangboarding more around .11 (anderson bros) than .12 (josh w), .13 (dave m), .14 (sonny trotter), or .15/never (tommy caldwell).

Climbing with crampons is trickier, it's just vastly more time consuming (and dangerous) to get a given amount of mileage than it is with rock shoes. And as yall are saying, mixed crags tend to be developed with the goal of pulling hard on good pockets, whereas alpine climbing is more standing around and pulling lightly on teensy edges. I do think that climbing similar-angle routes in rock shoes is great technique learning for alpine crampon climbing -- it only address limb/hip technique (1.), but "onsighting vertical terrain" has lots of skills that are the same whatever your footwear. The crampon/tool interface with the rock (2.) still has to be layered on top, but that's much less time consuming than having to work on both. The difficulty of ice climbing, on the other hand, is almost entirely in attaching your fingers and toes to the wall (2.) -- pure ice uses only an extremely limited repertoire of different climbing moves.

More directly related to your counting question, while I just try to maximize number of moves rather than keeping track of individual pitches, I guess you could say I "keep track" of whether I should be focusing on technique or strength based on which I feel is causing me to fail at my goal routes at a given point in time. Right now it's super clear to me that I fail at granite onsighting, which is my main rock shoe priority, because of route reading ability -- where to switch from stem to layback, where to place what gear, etc. This is the complete opposite case to where I was a few years ago, where I'd usually find close to the best way to do moves at my level fairly quickly, but would pump out. On ice I'm in a similar technique-limited boat -- I'm comparatively bad at understanding and trusting how pointy bits penetrate ice. The nice thing about this place is that onsighting lots of stuff is waaaay the fuck more fun than hangboarding, ha ha.

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