Some Day I’ll Crimp Like a Real Boy

Carl Bullock puts his training program to the test on Nirvana, 5.11+, Lover’s Leap, CA.

“Oh, this hold IS bad. You never know with you!”

For years, the sport climbing at Red Rocks stifled me. Some people like to go on and on about how soft the grades are there, but I couldn’t have disagreed more. Grades I could onsight at steeper, juggier areas, I couldn’t even do on top rope at Red Rocks, for one small reason: crimps. Superman has kryptonite, and I have crimps.

I’ve always felt weak on crimps, and a string of frustrating and puzzling finger injuries finally spurred me to address this glaring weakness in the summer of 2014. Realizing I needed to focus all my energy on getting stronger, more injury-proof fingers, I started a dedicated hangboarding training program, and also made it a goal to seek out crimpy routes in order to improve.

On my last trip to Red Rocks, I was out sport climbing with a friend who has seen me have some epically hard times on crimpy routes that were well within the grade range I typically climb. I was climbing a route I’d never been on, trying to figure out the sequence, and the beta I was using involved a small crimp. It felt hard for the grade, but the problem with being crimping-impaired is it’s difficult to tell if you are doing it wrong, or if using the crimp really is the beta and you just suck at crimping and that’s why it feels hard.

After I came down, Emily went up and checked out my sequence, proclaiming “Oh, this hold IS bad, you never know with you!” Which might sound harsh, but she had seen me struggle mightily in the past on things that she had easily walked up. We figured out some alternate beta, and it turns out you didn’t have to use the crimp after all.

Moving to another cliff, I sent a few routes I’d only ever looked at and wondered what it would be like to climb. It was incredibly motivating to have such tangible results of all the hard work I’d been putting into my training and trying to work my weakness.

The rest of the trip was fun, with new possibilities suddenly open where before there had only been road blocks. Driving home I reflected on how rad it was that I could actually sport climb in Red Rocks closer to the same level I do at home, which for me is a HUGE improvement. Putting in numerous days on the hangboard, crushing your core, it’s not always obvious how much it’s actually doing for your climbing, but suddenly I had undeniable results right in front of me. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll even be able to crimp like a real boy!

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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