Work Yo Weakness!

Ha ha, I found jugs in a sea of crimps!

Ha ha, I found some jugs in a sea of crimps!

“Digging around a place like Indian Creek to find your “first 5.12” that suits your hands/fingers/style is misguided and cutting corners. If it’s perfect hands or fingers for you, then it’s not 5.12 no matter what the book says and you ain’t learning shit. Find a line that inspires you, is hard for you regardless of the grade, and learn to climb it. Put your time in on all the grades, all the sizes, styles. That’s how you get better.” – Chris Kalous, The Enormocast

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I saw this come across my Facebook feed while on a rest day in Vegas. I am extremely crimping-impaired, and Red Rocks exploits this weakness like few other places do. Grades that I can onsight at steep, juggier areas, I sometimes can’t even get up on top rope there (true story). Yet there I was, for a whole week, to work on my weakness and try to learn how to be a better climber.

And then of course there’s the point that grades in Indian Creek are just silly. Even the slightest difference in hand width can make a difference in the experience. Maybe the future is a machine that scans your hand and then tells you what everything is rated based on an accurate scientific measurement. Until that time, it’s probably not the best place to set benchmarks for yourself. Tracy likes to tell a story how she met some women when she first started going to the Creek who said they had climbed 5.12 there. Well, ladies, like CK says, if it fits your hands, it ain’t 5.12.

Maybe because I have such a glaring weakness, I see the folly of chasing these grades more clearly. Different styles, different strengths, they all mean different things. I aspire to climb well on a variety of styles, rock types, etc in my pursuit of the vertical. But we all do it for different reasons. I have to laugh again though at the above quote. So let’s say you seek out that “soft” 12-  and climb it. If that’s the case, everyone probably knows it’s soft, and that with your small hands it was only 5.11. So what did you really get out of it, besides lying to yourself?

Wild Iris, pure pocket pulling at its finest.

Wild Iris, pure pocket pulling at its finest.

Last spring I took a trip to Sinks Canyon in Wyoming, which is heavily pocketed, a style I’m not used to. Everything felt stout, and the pockets had me a little unnerved, worried about getting injured isolating my tendons in that fashion. It was a fun trip, but I knew if I went back I’d want to train for it. A year later, I was back, and after a winter of training pockets on a hangboard, as well as setting pockety boulder problems in the gym, it felt worlds better. And it was immensely satisfying too, to see how much I’d progressed.

We all need to pad the ego from time to time, and you can bet after a week of getting schooled on crimps in Red Rocks I was stoked to get back home to the overhanging routes with big holds where I feel most comfortable. But if that’s all I did, I would never grow as a climber, and probably have an inflated sense of how skilled I was. Traveling around, working my weaknesses leaves me no doubt that, even 20 years later, I have a lot to learn. And in my opinion, that’s pretty rad.

Locals Corner

Bulldog Creek Dog Walk (IV WI 4+)

Hayden Carpenter and Tom Bohanon recently repeated an obscure ice climb on the south side of Mt Sopris. Given a brief mention in Jack Robert’s ice guide, Bulldog Creek Walk is described as being 100 meters of WI 4. What they found was seven pitches of ice in a remote setting that makes for one […]

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