Monday, July 12, 2010

Getting Started

One of the repeated themes in the book will be getting off on the right foot, to save effort and time and avoid common beginner mistakes. What is funny is how often I continue to make mistakes and try to learn from them. As a beginning climber you spend a lot of time learning the basics, figuring what works, how it works, and why. At some point you would assume that phase would be done. But as with any great game, it is never done. There is always a new wrinkle or angle to explore, a method to try, an approach to consider. Getting started in bouldering is not about learning the rules, but learning about how to respond to new situations that don't fit the rules as you previously understood them. It's as much about being open to the possibility of being completely wrong so that you can figure out what's right.

I have been learning a lot this summer in Park and a lot of it not just about climbing. Proper hydration and eating have proven to be essential as well as pacing my hike to the boulders. Reading the weather and timing my visits has been useful. Most of all, especially given the complexity of the holds and features there, I have had to look at the rock in a comprehensive way, studying the options and being more flexible about my response to them. If someone tells you how to climb something, definitely consider that advice, but always follow your intuition. It's there for a reason.

1 comment:

  1. Great post - I've been reading through the blog entries, and you have lots of good stuff on here. I'm excited to get the book when it comes out!

    The last couple of weeks have seen a pretty dramatic drop in my route climbing endurance. A large part of it has to be that I am now a couple of months out from a half marathon I'd trained for, and I have little natural endurance. However, I've been climbing enough that I feel like I should be a little more solid when roped up.

    So, the other day I went back to the drawing board, and ran myself through some drills to see if I'd forgotten some obvious bit of technique to keep my hands a little less pumped. Silent feet? Not a problem. Backstepping, flagging, etc? They all seem to be on point.

    Then I remembered the discussion at your bouldering clinic about climbing with straight arms, and had a great "Aha!" moment. I've been climbing locked off and straight in for some reason. The only explanation I can think of is that I've had my longest stretch of injury-free climbing ever, and with increased fitness, I got lazy.

    The last few days in the gym, I've backed off the difficulty a number grade or two, and focused on straighter-armed climbing, trying to feel where it makes my body want to go, how it encourages different footwork and flow, and trying to relearn the balance of climbing. It's been great. I feel like once I relearn the skill, I'll be better than ever, especially if I can drag myself to the treadmill a few times per week.

    In any case, the point of this rambling post is that I think that not only is the "beginner phase" never perfected, it's also something that can be useful to purposefully revisit. I used to be a national-level swimmer, and I coached national-level swimmers. At the start of every season, we would start with a complete breakdown of every stroke, because refinements to the fundamentals was by far the easiest way to improve.

    Thanks again for the advice! Looking forward to the book!