UKC

/ Identifying Weaknesses

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Greasy Prusiks on 01 Jan 2018
Happy new year everyone, here's to a year of great climbing trips.


I'd like to significantly push my grade up in 2018 and the best way to start seems to be working on my weaknesses. I know my lead grade is less than my bouldering, 6c+ and 7A indoors / 6a British and 6a+ outdoors. I'm looking for a second opinion on whether this is likely down to poor technique, power endurance or something else.

My thinking is my technique must be holding me back because my outdoor grades are lower than my indoor ones and outdoors tends to be techy rather than power. I never feel very efficient on routes and generally fall off due to pump.

Any advice appreciated on what to start focusing on. Any information I've missed just ask. Cheers.
SenzuBean - on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to Greasy Prusiks:

> I'd like to significantly push my grade up in 2018 and the best way to start seems to be working on my weaknesses. I know my lead grade is less than my bouldering, 6c+ and 7A indoors / 6a British and 6a+ outdoors. I'm looking for a second opinion on whether this is likely down to poor technique, power endurance or something else.

Is your lead grade a redpoint grade (I presume so)? If so - on the first few initial attempts are you able to do the moves in isolation, relatively quickly, or does the redpoint follow pretty much as soon as you've sorted the hardest moves out? Do you find indoor boulder problems with a shorter number of hard moves much easier than long ones that heavily feature overhanging terrain?

> My thinking is my technique must be holding me back because my outdoor grades are lower than my indoor ones and outdoors tends to be techy rather than power. I never feel very efficient on routes and generally fall off due to pump.

I don't think the grades are _directly_ comparable like that. And to be clear - are these onsight or redpoint attempts you're talking about outside?


Misha - on 02 Jan 2018
In reply to Greasy Prusiks:
Outdoors, do you mean 6a British trad technical grade onsight (what E grade - 3, 4, 5?) and Font 6A+ flash / worked? That’s about the same technical difficulty, isn’t it? You’d expect to boulder a bit harder but depends how much bouldering you do compared to trad. I wouldn’t be too bothered about it if trad is your main thing.

Or do you mean outdoors F6a sport onsight / repoint and Font 6A+ flash / worked? Which is vastly different and would suggest you need to sort out your fear of falling and stamina.

Or do you mean indoors you onsight/redpoint sport 6c+ and flash/work Font 7A or trad 6a (does anyone use trad grades for boulder problems? anyway, wouldn’t 7A generally be trad 6b but really it’s apples and pears!) but only onsight/redpoint sport 6a outdoors? Which is vastly different and suggests fear of falling outside / not redpointing routes properly / poor technique (leading to pumping out). Not necessarily lack of stamina as such if you can do 6c+ indoors (assuming it’s a reasonably high wall of about 15m).
Post edited at 01:01
jezb1 - on 02 Jan 2018
In reply to Greasy Prusiks:

I’d suggest hiring a coach for a session, which needn’t be silly money.

I find it quite hard to analyse yourself as effectively as a second pair of eyes with no preconceptions.
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Greasy Prusiks on 02 Jan 2018
In reply to SenzuBean:

Thanks for the reply. Lead grade is a redpoint but not a very scientific one, if it doesn't go in a few attempts I'll generally move on. Routes at my local wall are generally sustained so I can onsight all of the moves but then struggle with pump. Yes generally I'll find short problems easier.

Perhaps you're right about that. Yes that's generally a redpoint.
Greasy Prusiks on 02 Jan 2018
In reply to Misha:
Thanks for the reply. Generally that's a redpoint outdoors, most of the 6a routes I've previously seconded then gone back later for a lead. As for E grade, safe and crux so down the E2/3 end. Bouldering will be a few attempts. Yes I think that's similar grade of moves.

Outdoors it feels like I can't do any harder moves but indoors the moves are easy but I struggle to put them all together. I'm probably barking up the wrong tree comparing in/outdoors though.
Post edited at 09:43
Greasy Prusiks on 02 Jan 2018
In reply to jezb1:

That's probably a good idea. I'll have a think about that.
zmv - on 02 Jan 2018
In reply to Greasy Prusiks:
It's hard to pinpoint a weakness without actually seeing you climb, however I am convinced you can make massive gains if you tackle your weaknesses head on. These seem to be long routes.

1) Climb loads of them. How about a few months of just doing long leads with maybe a boulder session once in a while (not more than once a week). Your technique and stamina will be very different even after one month of doing mileage on long routes. Don't shy away from long steep ones, you are training! You can probably cruise vertical 6c/7a however you do want to be struggling on that steep 6b+/6c because that could teach you pump management.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdDVDeKsy1I

Watch this video and all the other Neil Gresham videos. Focus on breathing, technique, the ability to rest in good positions on steep ground.
Are you afraid of falling? Loads of people's technique deteriorates because they are afraid of falling. Sometimes it's not even real fear, as they are happy to take the fall, however not "naturally", i.e. they get scared and then simply drop. Avoid this as much as possible, push right until the moment of failure indoors (provided you've got an excellent belayer of course, and if you don't - don't lead climb with them).

2) Once you are confident that your technique is good, you are breathing well, you have good route tactics, you are a master of clipping efficiently and with no fear, then move onto endurance training. There is a wealth of information on the internet on how to do it.


Chances are if you stick to the above, you could be climbing 7b/7b+ indoors within a year. Enjoy it, it's exciting tackling a weakness head on and it always brings big rewards.
Post edited at 12:22
nniff - on 02 Jan 2018
In reply to Greasy Prusiks:

As a gross generalisation, routes indoors tend to make you focus more on your hands than your feet - the feet are easy because they go on the coloured blobs. Outside that changes markedly, in that feet are no longer as obvious, but arguably far more important for progress. Ergo, focus far more on your feet indoors than you might otherwise and establish a far higher degree of artificial precision with your foot placements than the size of the plastic blob actually warrants, and endeavour to get as much weight as possible off your hands. Steep routes are of limited use in this regard as they are rarely a representation of the routes that you will find outside at those grades. Climb more slowly, but try to be as efficient as possible, because outside you next hold will not be the next in the dotted line up the crag.

Seek out indoor routes set by Emma Twyford, Gaz Parry or Steve McClure because they are rarely of the left/right/left/right tear up the dotted line variety.
LeeWood - on 02 Jan 2018
In reply to nniff:

> Ergo, focus far more on your feet indoors than you might otherwise and establish a far higher degree of artificial precision with your foot placements

Agreed with your starting point but ... the place to practice this is outdoors. Too artificial to try that indoors.

The other difference indoor/outdoor is security - so as another contributor has said get comfy with falling. Learn to chill on fingery walls and accept that 'nearly coming off' is no big deal. Don't rush - indoor its often wasteful to hang around - look for and take full advantage of rests; clip and back down often helpful.
Lord_ash2000 - on 02 Jan 2018
In reply to Greasy Prusiks:

Indoors, assuming a vertical or overhanging wall, I'd look at it like this;

If on route you don't find the moves hard but just get pumped towards the top and fail due to being to pumped then after resting on the rope you can pull back on and finish the route without too much difficulty then your problem is a lack of stamina.

If however, you're failing because you just can't physically do a hard move, even if you're fairly fresh or you've just had a rest on the rope and still can't do it, then your problem is a lack of power. Power can then be further divided down depending on the type of move you find difficult. If you just can't hold tiny holds then it's finger strength, if you can't yard long distanced between fairly good holds on steep ground then it's more upper body general strength, if your feet are always coming off you might need to work on your core.

Outdoors there is often a bit more to it because of the varied nature of the climbing. Being super strong and super fit isn't going to help you as you're padding your way up a gritstone slab or trying to jam some horrid finger crack. As you'll know there are skill sets to do with footwork, hand placements, balance and general confidence on rock which will make a huge difference to your rock ability which you aren't going to learn indoors.

So outdoors, having better strength and stamina is never going to hurt but you'll want to break down the sort of routes you're failing on and see if there is a pattern, rather than just looking at the grade. So if you're failing on steep sustained climbing then stamina is probably the key. But if you can lead E2 walls but struggle on VS slabs then clearly it's a balance, footwork, trust thing which needs to be addressed.

Basically identify what you tend to fail on a lot then do more of that.
gejones - on 02 Jan 2018
In reply to Greasy Prusiks:

With 7A strength, stamina shouldn't be an issue when climbing in the 6's as you'll be operating at only a fraction of your maximum strength. Yet you're getting pumped so I'd guess you're over gripping.

Is indoor bouldering what you do most? If so you'll be used to pulling at your max and you are probably applying the same forces on routes and outdoor bouldering when you don't have to.

Try climbing open handed, if you're used to over gripping it'll feel insecure at first but it can be very efficient once you're used to it.
The Ex-Engineer - on 02 Jan 2018
In reply to Greasy Prusiks:

As jez says, identifying your own weaknesses is extremely tricky. Even after twenty odd years of climbing I still find it nigh on impossible.

There's lots of climbing coaches out there, some much better than others. For longer term coaching, you may want to "shop around" but for a single session I wouldn't worry too much. At your level a second opinion is almost guaranteed to yield some positive insights.

That said a good starting point would be to work out how many times you climbed indoors in 2017 and how many outside. With most climbers, it's likely that both are just far to low to make large gains.
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Lord_ash2000 - on 02 Jan 2018
In reply to gejones:

> With 7A strength, stamina shouldn't be an issue when climbing in the 6's as you'll be operating at only a fraction of your maximum strength.

I'm not so sure that's true, I mainly boulder these days and have 7C strength and then some but I can still get pumped on f6c's at the wall on the odd occasion I do routes. No one move is going to cause me any trouble but on long routes or if doing several, one after the other on an auto belay I can soon work up a pump as I lack route stamina. Were as an experienced route climber on the same stuff will go effortlessly on and on even if they are nowhere near my max strength level.

1poundSOCKS - on 02 Jan 2018
In reply to Lord_ash2000:

> I'm not so sure that's true, I mainly boulder these days and have 7C strength and then some but I can still get pumped on f6c's at the wall on the odd occasion I do routes

I tend to agree. I think getting really strong can help with power endurance, but pure endurance is another matter.
stp - on 02 Jan 2018
In reply to Greasy Prusiks:

It's very difficult to work out without seeing you climb. My first thought is that it's possibly a head problem. Putting a rope on and being high up inhibits how we climb, how hard we push ourselves. That inhibition might be very high for you.

In terms of improvement you might want to look at why you only give things a few tries before giving up. Spending time on things that are hard for you can force you to use techniques you're not used to or good at. If someone who's weaker than me does a problem or route I automatically assume I must be able to do it. I just need to use my body the right way in order to do so. If you commit to routes or problems and see them through you'll expand your repertoire of moves and techniques. If you don't you won't.

Have you got any friends you climb with regularly? They'll probably have a reasonable opinion on your strengths and weaknesses if you're unsure. Cheaper than hiring a coach and they're impression will be based on a much longer period of seeing you climb.
zmv - on 02 Jan 2018
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

Agreed, on the other end of the spectrum, I have met people that boulder 7C and have done stamina fest 8c routes. Just goes to show how important endurance training is for routes (big surprise there! )
Misha - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to Greasy Prusiks:
Right so indoors redpoint 6c+ and work Font 7A. Outdoors lead E2/3 6a after seconding preciously and work Font 6A+.

Indoor grades can be random but let’s assume these are fair grades. 7A is way harder than anything you’d find on a 6c+ so your stamina and/or power endurance must be poor. This is supported by you saying that you find the moves ok but pump off when you put them together. The good news is it’s easier (but more painful) to train stamina / power endurance than strength / brute power (or whatever the techy term is for being able to do individual hard moves).

Outdoors you’re not bouldering anywhere as hard as indoors. May be due to not getting out bouldering as much as you need to for higher grades and/or poor outdoor technique.

Also outdoors you’re leading trad routes which you’ve done before and whichnate cruxy, so similar to working boulder problems in many ways. Are these shortish routes, especially grit? Do you do longer, sustained limestone / mountain routes at E2/3 5c and find the moves ok but the route pumpy? Again that points to lack of stamina / power endurance.

I may be way off the mark but this is whar springs to mind. It may not be as simple but sounds like you need to train stamina / power endurance - assuming you want to push the trad and sport. Mind you, that’s generally my answer to everything up to E5 6a...
Ciro - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to Greasy Prusiks:

Obviously a professional coach is the quickest way to identify weaknesses, but otherwise ask everyone you climb with to tell you what mistakes you're making and where they think you could improve. Some will get it, but most won't as we have an in-built desire to praise our friends and be careful with the criticism, so be persistent... if you keep drumming it in that you want criticism it will start to come. The more advice you can get from different sources, the more you can build a picture of how others see your climbing - which may be quite different from your own perceptions.

Pay particular attention to the advice of people who climb routes better than you do, but take the time to think about what everyone says. Also pay particular attention to advice that sounds "wrong" to you, as it may be wrong or it may highlight one of your blind spots (I'm particularly bad at this, if I "know" how I should approach something it's very difficult to keep an open mind to an alternative approach).

Do you spend much time reviewing video footage of your climbing? If not, this can be another good tool for spotting weaknesses, especially if you video others climbing the same project, so you can compare pacing, rest strategies, etc.
Greasy Prusiks on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Ciro:

Thanks. I've talked to climbing partners and their feedback has generally been that I'm strong but I'm not very efficient.

I tried looking at a film of me climbing it surprised me quite how crap my technique is! I spend ages readjusting between moves, pulling first with my arms and standing out from the wall. Thanks for that, great tip.
Greasy Prusiks on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Misha:

OK thanks Misha. I agree my endurance/power endurance and my technique could do with work.

I'll start doing more routes indoors and try to refresh my technique. Thanks again.
Greasy Prusiks on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to stp:

Thanks. I think you're right about giving up on things too quickly. It sounds silly but I'd never really appreciated that it will have contributed to the gap between my strengths and weaknesses.
Greasy Prusiks on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to gejones:

That's another good point. I do tend to pull hard on routes, it's quite counterintuitive to purposefully be on the edge of falling off but I think that is part of what's holding me back.
alx on 09 Jan 2018
In reply to Greasy Prusiks:

Hi Greasy, as per Ciro’s remarks it would be interesting to know if a coach picks up on the same things as your friends and video review does.

Perhaps the hard part is linking the symptom with the cause which may not be obvious.
rockface - on 10 Jan 2018
In reply to Greasy Prusiks:

Do you read much training literature? If you're serious about reaching 8a (as I am), you need to have everything dialled, diet, rest, training and you need to be organised, using a structured training program (or at least, that's the advice I'm taking from reading Eric Horst's Training for Climbing - it's an excellent book and I feel so much more organised and focussed having read it and I can sense a difference in my climbing). For something less structured, Dave McLeod's 9 out of 10 climbers is a motivating read.
Si dH - on 10 Jan 2018
In reply to Greasy Prusiks:
Having read other replies I think there is one thing missing in the advice, which is to actually go out and learn to redpoint better on routes.
The way you describe your current approach (ie tryvto onsight, then just a couple of repeat attempts), I suspect that the only thing you do differently between an onsight failure and a successful attempt is to climb a bit faster and to overgrip a bit less because you already know what is coming up. Proper redpointing is about working and optimising all of the moves so that when you come to do the route, the easy moves feel even easier/faster, using very little energy, and you are capable of harder moves closer to your bouldering limit. So you don't just work out which holds you can reach, you work out the best exact foot orientation and hand grip type on each hold, and you work put the best combination of holds that is less powerful, and you work out the best particular body position even given a single set of holds as well. The sort of thing you might do on a hard boulder problem straight off the floor, but aren't used to doing high on a route.
Even for an experienced redpointer, working something properly at their limit will always take at least 5 goes up the route.

I say this because (a) you will probably see big gains even before any physical improvement, (b) it will combine handily as some power endurance training (assuming the sort of routes common in the UK) and (c) it will also help understand better what is your actual physical limitation. I think this is probably being obscured at the moment because your bouldering grade is a true worked grade and your lead grade is just an onsight + a bit. Stamina aerocap-style isn't always the answer and on a lot of UK sport, if you climb fast is not needed much at all.

I would recommend, given your grades, going to work a 7a sport route outside somewhere in the UK, with the attitude that you'll do it in 3-4 sessions. It'll take time and commitment to do the above well, but hopefully you'll enjoy it. If you don't, then you are in the wrong game aiming for 8a anyway.

Edit, I don't think you actually said you were aiming for any particular grade, I inferred that from someone else's post, but hopefully what I said still makes sense.
Post edited at 06:54
rockface - on 10 Jan 2018
In reply to Si dH:
I should have just said climb to your best. 8a's just a number, after all. And climbing 8a outdoors sounds nails.
Post edited at 08:47
jezb1 - on 10 Jan 2018
In reply to rockface:
If you want to climb 8a, climb a lot, and then a lot more.

Off the top of my head, training wise you’re looking at about 2000 moves per week.

I’m in Spain at the moment and was training quite a lot this year. Somewhere around 1400 moves per week, so I came here quite fit, but the biggest improvement has come from being on the rock nearly every day. My movement now matches my fitness and I’m up to 7c. My aim was 8a but this trip has really helped me focus on what I need to do to achieve that. I’ve a couple of weeks left and I’ll be stoked if I get 7c+.

Like Si says above, get working routes too. It’s amazing to jump on a route and hardly be able to stay on the rock at first, then feel ok to hold the holds, then feel ok to move between them, then do that plus clipping, then do it in sections, then finally link it, awesome process. You must must must train your head game and tactics as well as strength etc.

Building up to next winter I’ll continue with very similar training to what I did through 2017, but spend more time on the rock climbing hard (for me) routes, work got in the way this year and climbing around VS at work whilst ace fun, is of no use to climbing 8a.
Post edited at 09:40
rockface - on 10 Jan 2018
In reply to jezb1:

I'd climb 7 days a week if I had time! Sadly full time shift work forces me to be more focussed with the time I do have. If only I were a mountain guide and did it for a living...
jezb1 - on 11 Jan 2018
In reply to rockface:

> I'd climb 7 days a week if I had time! Sadly full time shift work forces me to be more focussed with the time I do have. If only I were a mountain guide and did it for a living...

Wouldn’t we all!

Sadly being a Guide won’t have you climbing routes for work that help you climb 8a.

for me the hardest part of training is not sitting down on the sofa after a day on the crag or mountain, but going to the wall instead!

Greasy Prusiks on 12 Jan 2018
In reply to alx:

Hi alx. I haven't got round to a coaching session yet but when I do I'll post to let people know the outcome. 

Greasy Prusiks on 12 Jan 2018
In reply to rockface:

No I haven't read much if I'm honest. I'll remember those books you suggest though. 

 

I'm not specifically aiming for 8a, my plan is to train as much as I enjoy it and see where that gets me. Good luck with 8a though, that's hard climbing! 

Greasy Prusiks on 12 Jan 2018
In reply to Si dH:

Thanks Si. I think you're right about doing some more serious redpointing. I'll start looking for a belay partner with either a project or a high boredom threshold! I reckon getting so I can climb a route really effectively will help with my technique as well. Cheers. 

Greasy Prusiks on 12 Jan 2018
In reply to jezb1:

Congratulations on your 7c and good luck for 7c+ etc.

Is it really possible to improve that much through redpointing a route? How difficult would you expect to find the moves/how much could you link on a route that you could do via redpointing alone ie no increase in strength/fitness?

I'm not doubting you but that's something I'd never considered. If I got on a route and couldn't do all the moves and link most of it in three goes I'd probably move on! 

Post edited at 22:39
wurzelinzummerset on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to Greasy Prusiks:

I climb similar route grades to you indoors, but my bouldering grade is pretty feeble compared to you. However, I've done a lot of redpointing on routes this year and what it teaches you is attention to detail. You learn a lot small things by working moves yourself, then more by watching others on a route. If you then get someone to watch you climbing who's got coaching abilities they can point out other things that are holding you back, sometimes very small, but when you add all these things up you find you're 2 grades up from where you were before you started the process.


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