Lately you’ve been writing me quite a lot about trad climbing and multi-pitch climbing, especially around how to get started, what is the base level that we should have, how to specifically train to feel confident in your leads…On the way that you write me, somehow I can sense that several of you presupone that you need an important baggage from the gym and under a certain training regime before you can even get to the base of a real mountain.
Hence my question is very simple: Can you become a rad climber in the gym?
We’re living in a culture that hypes overtraining and preparation. It seems that climbers we must yoga, crossfit, boulder and campus board to be real climbers, just like in the videos of the pros. But, does that really makes us better climbers? The answer is very simple; not necessarily and even less in the grades that most of us climb.
Don’t get me wrong, for sure it will make you feel strong, get your pumps running, earn you some likes in insta and you may even impress someone on Tinder, but perhaps that specific training won’t really keep your shit together while trying to feel under control placing a microfriend on a finger crack layback crux or while basculating your body weight on that slab move a few meters away from your last nut.
In the gym you won’t become an alpinist. They will never reach a day that out of piling hours on plastic you will suddenly feel comfortable in proper mountain terrain. In fact, from my experience, I venture to say that getting too comfortable building the progress on framed exercises can hold you back, even on sport climbing.
Last month went viral the last video of Alex Honnold with Jonathan SIegriszt challenging themselves to follow a methodical specific training regime. It’s surprising how Alex Honnold, someone that has free soloed el Cap through a route with delicate sections of 8a, defines himself as a climber with little finger strength. At the same time, Jonathan Siegriszt, a sport climbing prodigy, claims to have little biceps power even though he is sending ninth grade routes season after season. Meanwhile we get stressed by not being able to clip the chain of that annoying 6c+ project and we believe that the answer is obviously more hours on the campus board when it’s most likely that we are already stronger than vinegar.
Wolfgang Güllich invented the campus board to send the first 9a project of history, action directe. If until 9a they did alright without the campus, it’s most likely not a requirement for flirting in the seventh grade.
For most climbers, once we reach the point where we feel we need an structured training, it’s surprising how common it is just fall on the classical menu of indoor bouldering, campus and strength training. However generally what most climbers that ambitions to climbing comfortable on the seventh grade on bolts and on the high sixth on gear lack is way more about controlled body flow and not upper body and dynamic strenght.
Lately I’ve been climbing better than ever. Sending several 6c and 7a onsight or after few tries, several trad 6b+ on sights and I’m even very close to my 7b+ sport project after three days on it. That’s pretty good, especially considering that it’s the style that I’ve always hated the most: 30m of crimps on a sustained overhang.
In none of those climbs I’ve felt that I was lacking strength in my fingers or that finger strength is what is really holding me back and need to empower on the campus for keep progressing. This theory is confirmed by most of my fellow climbers. For climbing well on the 7th grade it’s more important to spend a good amount on hours on the rock for developing a solid body and mental flow in different situations. To feel confident on different grips, frictions and body routines so your brain can finally let go and climb in that warrior mode where you climb without one hand on the handbrake. That’s actually the main reason why most climbers are not climbing harder. As an extreme case, one of our fellow climbers from Bergen that has sent 7c on sport and 6c on gear has never ever done campus or any specific climbing training and he promises that he can barely do 7 pull ups. However he is extremely solid on his head and climbs with all he has. 7 pull ups! come on, the rest of us we are not even sure if we should laugh about that or cry.
What’s your opinion regarding climbing and training? Next week I’ll publish the second part of the article where I will write specifically about what you will find in trad climbing, especially on big mountains. What you will love and what will feel brutal at first. Yes, it’s just a matter of when until you will get that bitch slap that will teach you to respect the 6b grade and make you a humble alpinist . Ask your mates, everyone has his own “funny story”, mine was in the Rabadá-Navarro to the mallo firé in Riglos. What was yours? I will profit as well for bringing some light to the never ending discussion: are trad grades more severe that sport grades?