Friction Series

Planet Granite held a climbing competition at their SF location yesterday. I missed the one at my home gym last month, and have been coveting people’s comp tees ever since. So I decided to go up there and get my own.

I had no idea what the format would be. I wondered what category I belonged in. As it turned out, I didn’t have to decide! Our 25 routes were ordered by difficulty, and not visibly rated. We simply climbed what we thought we could from looking at the route.

I’ve never fallen off the wall so many times in one day. It was awesome.

Not that I like falling, but I generally climb what I think I will probably be able to complete, based on rating. These days, that means I mentally top out at 5.11a and 5.11b routes. (Knowing that I do this and remembering to change my behavior aren’t quite in sync yet.)

I have no idea what I tried to climb yesterday, but everything I attempted was a challenge. Every time I fell off, I added a new skill to work on to my list.

Here’s to falling! *clink*

At the end of the day, we watched the top 3 male and female climbers compete in an on-sight final. I loved the radically different styles between climbers. In the end, only one climber reached the top. I had seen her at my gym in the mornings practicing super hard bouldering problems, trying and failing, trying and failing again, while her mother took notes.

Trying and succeeding. Trying and winning. I love seeing hard work pay off.

I also love all the fun events my gym puts on. What a great way to encourage member interaction and build community. Thanks PG!

I love my comp tee.

Tall Walls

Spent a couple hours on the top rope walls for the first time in weeks yesterday. Some observations on what it’s like to boulder for weeks:

Endurance, ugh. Power through!

I’m better at hugging the wall when needed. It got me all the way up a 5.11a with the tiniest (to me) of holds. Thinking about it now, I remember the bouldering problem that taught me that.

I used a heel hook mid climb without thinking about it. Worked beautifully. Yaaass!!!

I found myself looking at a mini leap 20 feet off the ground, realized I’d done this without a rope many times before, and went for it. Turns out it was it wasn’t even hard. Just mentally hard.

If it’s not hard it’s not fun?

Stubbornness, It Gets The Job Done

One month ago, I spent a morning doing this, over and over:

I must have jumped and failed 20 times that morning. I probably jumped and failed 20 more times both before and after that morning.

I refuse to admit defeat, so I kept at it. I thought about what I could be doing differently. Jump harder? Pull up more? Pull in? I was so close. All I needed was another couple inches to wrap my hand around the hold. I climbed it in reverse a few times just to get a feel for the body position.

I knew I could do it. I just had to do it before they refreshed the problems.

I watched many try and fail. I watched a couple succeed. They were just… stronger. Quite simply, they could jump higher.

I could be stronger too. But I also knew I could find an extra couple inches with technique. I just didn’t have that technique yet.

Last weekend, I watched a high school kid do the jump. He was super excited about having just figured it out, and was practicing it over and over.

His jump had a weird kink in it. What was that?

It got me thinking. Perhaps a single leap wasn’t what I needed. Maybe I needed to push with my feet, pull up and in with my arms, and then finish the move by pushing up with my left arm.

Three attempts later, I got my hand around the hold and hung on to finish.

Success! Joy! Relief.

Climbing has been a fantastic exercise in grit and deliberate practice.


I haven’t written about climbing in nearly 2 months. I make it to the gym about twice a week these days. Not often enough to improve by leaps and bounds. Also not often enough to totally stress out my hands. Often enough to keep things interesting.

I’ve mostly been working my way through V3s. I’ve had to work through many of the current V3s piece by piece, then put everything together. I find this process incredibly satisfying. I actually like it more than flashing them, because it makes me think and try and think and try and think and try again, sometimes over several visits. It’s great for honing technique, and learning to trust my abilities.

So no, I’m not climbing V5s yet, and that’s okay. I’m building a solid foundation for the day I do.


It’s the last day of the year. Let’s go to the climbing gym!

Flashed all new to me V0, V1, V2, V3, V3, V4 problems. Then I got stuck on all new to me V4, V3, V3, V2+ problems. Stuck as in, either I couldn’t figure out the right moves, or my hands were too tired for me to try certain moves near the top. Flashed a V1 to make myself feel better and called it a day.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, but how far into 2018 will it take before I can solve a V5? (I did touch a V5 today while considering it. It’s the first time I’ve even thought about climbing one.)

Until then, I’ve got a bunch of V4, V3, V3, V2+ problems to finish.

Nemesis Count: 0

I hadn’t planned to climb today. My thumbs have been hurting, so I’ve been trying to go easy on them. I went to my other gym, where I’d planned to swim.

When I got there, the pool was closed.

Despite intending to rest my thumbs, I’ve been driving around with my climbing gear all week. Good planning, me! I zipped on down to the climbing gym.

I figured I’d go easy, so I climbed a V0, V0, V1, V1, V2, V2+, V3…

I’m not good at going easy.

I realized if I was climbing V3s, I might as well try to finish off that V4 before it disappeared forever. I had a solution in mind after my last visit, so I gave it a couple run-throughs in my head, stared at the route, and resolved to finish it in one good hard go.

I got near the top, where I’ve bailed more times than I can remember. I pushed on, positioning my feet where I envisioned, then went for the final hold. Success!

Nemesis defeated.

I went to the other room, climbed an old V3, then super ugly flashed a new-to-me V4-. I say super ugly because I’m pretty sure the route setter did not intend for me to smear my way up the middle of the problem, but I did and it worked so yay me.

After that, my left pinky hurt, so I figured I’d work my way back down in difficulty. Picked a super weird V3 I’d solved eons ago, and could not figure out how to solve it again. After several attempts, my right pinky started hurting too, so I called it a day.

Now I have two achy thumbs and two achy pinkies. But I defeated my nemesis. Totally worth it.


Small observation from top roping Wednesday night: I’m learning to keep my arms straight, position my feet, and reach starting with my legs and body. It feels way more stable and effortless than reaching with my arms. Especially overhangs.

I’m really enjoying how swimming and climbing are teaching me basics of stable and efficient body movement.

I wonder, if I’d learned these concepts before picking up hockey, how much faster I could have improved on the ice.

I suppose I can still try out some of these ideas and use the ones that pan out for coaching.

Ow My Hands

Apparently, not climbing for three weeks means your hands and wrists hate you after you start again, either for not working them for so long, or for working them all of a sudden. Not sure which. Maybe both. Probably both.

Also, I forgot how to climb. I went into the bouldering room with the tricky-but-solved V2 / V3 / V4 problems and couldn’t figure out how to do any of them. Not a clue.

Afterward, I remarked to Aaron how quickly I forget how to swim and climb. They’re still new to me, and not ingrained in muscle memory like skating. I’ve gotten away with weeks and months long hockey breaks without missing a step, but 15 years is a heck of a lot more than (not even) 15 weeks.

15 weeks? If I put it that way, I’ve made great progress. :)


I noticed this weekend that they’d put up new problems in a large section of one of the bouldering rooms, so this morning I went to play on them.

Flashed a V0, V0, V1, and V2 on the warmup. Did a weird and fun V3 after piecing together a couple sections, then worked on its neighboring V4. I tried it a few times, getting stuck near the top, but closer each time. I then teamed up with the other guy in the room on it to figure out the finish. Victoly!!1!

I went to a different V4 after that. I tried that a few times too and kept getting stuck near the top. On my final attempt, I realized both my arms and body were too tired to work on it more.

Last Saturday I decided I needed more endurance, so I burned my way down. Flashed a V3, V2, V1, V0, V0, V0 with minimal rest, then called it a day.

I’ll be back for that V4.