Spring and Tension

I usually give my hands/forearms more than a day and a half of rest between sessions, but I wanted to practice what we learned Wednesday night at least a couple times before the next class.

Completed a V0, V0, V1, V2, V2. I also attempted two other V2’s, a V2+, and a V3, but the short rest meant my arms tired quickly.

All good, because the 2 V2 problems I completed were ones I couldn’t figure out a couple weeks ago.

One of them was the problem I had attempted over and over, falling off the wall over and over. I watched someone do it last week with a different move for the hold I couldn’t reach. I tried that move today, still couldn’t reach it, and fell off. I tried it again. With Wednesday’s class fresh in my mind, I used a foothold I would previously have considered uncomfortably close to my hands. This gave me just enough reach; I sprung for the elusive sloper, got my hand around it, and finished the problem.

The other was a problem where I couldn’t get stable/balanced enough to reach for the finish. I tried it again today, and again got stuck near the top. I sat on the ground and puzzled over it for a few minutes, then realized I could flip my hand on the last big hold and pull up. Once I did that, I had plenty of leeway to finish the problem. I have my technique book to thank for this one. I had just read a blurb last night about those holds and how to tension my body when I use them.

Yay for new techniques!

Balance and Technique 1: Footwork

Balance and Technique class 1 of 4 was tonight. So excites!

Today’s class was all about footwork. We started by discussing what parts of the shoe to use on footholds: the inside edge by the toe, the outside edge by the toe, the tip of the toe, and the heel.

Climbing shoes have edges! Just like skates!

Our instructor made it a point to say that we are never to plant the middle of our shoe on a hold. That reminded me of my little slip a few days ago. That’s exactly what I’d done. I had even known when I planted my foot that I should have replanted it, but laziness won… followed by gravity.

Next, we talked about using our legs more than our arms. Specifically, we talked about pushing with our legs instead of pulling with our arms. I’ve known this principle for a while and tried to follow it, but placing our feet accurately on a hold and properly shifting our center of gravity onto it makes it so much easier to trust and push off that foot. My arms weren’t even tired after two climbs in a row.

After that, we worked on switching feet on the same hold using three different techniques: sharing a hold, hopping one foot out from under the other, and peel-and-pasting from side to side on a hang. We practiced switching feet while climbing; it really helped adjust our body position and gave us more possibilities on the wall.

After switching, we learned about smearing. You can literally walk up the wall with no footholds. We practiced this on a climb as well, and I was able to comfortably smear my way up to footholds only a foot or two below my hands. Smearing is fun and magical and I lufs it.

We also learned about footwork for traversing, as well as when to hang on and swing our feet, but didn’t get to practice it. It’s a little advanced for where we are, but it was good to know about it.

At the end, we were assigned homework, part of which was to climb up a 5.2-5.4 route without using handholds. My partner and I wanted to try it right away, so we tied in and look-ma-no-hands climbed our way up a 5.3. It was excellent practice for feeling our balance point and learning to shift and rotate with just our feet.

Totally looking forward to next week!


Today’s bouldering completions: V0, V1, V2, V2, V3, V2+, V2, V1, V1

Didn’t finish a V2 whose final move, from what I could tell, was an all or nothing reach. I’m pretty sure there’s another move in there but I couldn’t find it up close and couldn’t visualize it from the bottom.

Had my first unexpected slip off a hang. It wasn’t bad at all. There was no panic, just a free fall recognition that my foot slipped because I had planted it poorly. Got up and tried again. Completed the V3.

That one was hard on my fingertips. They felt all throbby after.

I signed up for a balance and technique class that starts on Wednesday. I can’t wait!


Went to Mission Cliffs for some bouldering with Sam this morning. I hadn’t been here since April. On that visit, I maxed out on V1s.

Today, I started with 7 consecutive completions: V0, V0, V1, V2, V2, V0, V3. My first V3! Then I bounced around with a mix of sometimes-successful attempts, finishing a V2, V1, V1, and V2 as my arms tired.

I’m able to climb longer now. Previously, 10 attempts/problems would have been my max.

I’m also better able to grip (slightly) more difficult holds, and to trust that grip.

Played a bit on the slackline on my way out. It reminded me that I want one. Ooh, and someone is selling exactly what I want on Craigslist…


Hit the V2s in the other room today. Warmed up with a V0, V0+, V1, V1+, completed 5 new-to-me V2s, and finished with the V2 I climbed a week ago.

Either the route setters in this room graded their problems a lot easier than the ones I tried on Wednesday, or I’m missing some crucial elementary skill for the V2s I couldn’t do.

Still terrible at visualizing some routes. I stared at one of them for a while, couldn’t figure out how I was going to make it, and tried it anyway. It wasn’t even hard. I seem to have no concept of my body position and reach when looking at a problem. Maybe I should try visualizing after I do a route, to calibrate.

Not That Scary

Hit the bouldering wall this morning. Warmed up with a couple V0s, a couple V1s, then moved on to V2s.

There were 5 V2 problems in today’s room. I completed one right off the bat, another after 3 attempts, and couldn’t finish later moves of the other three.

Today’s progress wasn’t so much that I was working on V2 problems, it was that I was willing to try one of those problems over and over, go for a hold I couldn’t reach over and over, and fall off the wall over and over.

It’s not that scary.

GO Bouldering

In the dark ages before this blog, there was a period during which I top rope climbed every weekend. During the week, I’d try bouldering.

Try bouldering, not go bouldering. I could never get over the fear of falling off the wall.

Now, I go bouldering. I’ve been visiting my gym in the morning, before work. There are two bouldering rooms. On my first visit, I did all the V0s in the one of the rooms. The next time, I did them all in the other room. Then, I did all the V1s in that room. Today, I did all the V1s in the first room.

I finished with a V2, for a preview of my next session. It was easy. I was pleased and a little surprised.

What changed? I think the biggest thing was one of the technique videos I watched earlier this month about keeping my arms straight to conserve energy. It not only allows me to stay fresher on the wall, it also lowers my center of gravity and helps me stick better.

I’ve also started reading a book on climbing technique. The first chapter was all about balance and center of gravity. Today I used those concepts to analyze each problem before attempting it.

I’m getting better at analyzing bouldering problems. Before, I only looked at hand holds. Now, I consider the full set of hand and foot holds, as well as body position relative to balance and stability. I’m not yet at the point of being able to visualize moves, but that’s next on the list.

Climbing: Fun physical puzzles. Stoked to be doing this again.

Grape Finger

I’ve been climbing on and off since… before this blog came into being. Since before I have records in Google Calendar. Since 2000 or 2001. Since before hockey.

I’ve climbed a handful of times this year. Not enough to be in climbing shape. And that’s where I got into trouble yesterday.

Sent myself up the tallest climb in the gym, then sent myself up another. I’d just watched a bunch of technique videos the night before, and I was having fun trying new things.

Got off the rope after my second climb and looked at my finger. It was purple, swollen, and swelling more by the minute.

I had some how managed to blow up a vein in my left ring finger.

Nothing an icepack, some tape, and elevation couldn’t take care of. I just found it funny, because my body is not where my brain wants it to be.

I also found it funny because it’s the climbing equivalent of bruising my hand on my stick when I first started playing hockey.

Toughen up, fingers. You’re gonna get real good at this climbing thing.

– – –

Update 2017-08-10 @ 8:26 AM

I wanted to read up on taping my fingers for climbing (why and how) this morning, and it took me straight to pulley injuries. Based on the finger and bruise pattern, I think I actually suffered a pulley injury. Like a real climber. ;)

Note to self: Don’t forget to warm up next time.

Whoo, That Was Fun!

This afternoon, I returned to Castle Rock State Park for my first day of outdoor climbing since my first day on a rock. What a great park! Lots of big rocks to climb on. :)

Wow, I just searched my blog for a reference link to that first day, but there was none. That means it predates blogging, which means I have no idea when I first started climbing. More than 6 years ago, at least. 2000, perhaps? That sounds about right.

Anyway, this all came about because I wanted to find out whether there were more “trails” like the Rock Scramble from last Sunday. I asked bubka^4, an avid hiker whose fiancĂ©e (a.k.a. 203) is a former park ranger. I figured if anyone knew, he would. He didn’t, but we got to talking about climbing and the next thing I knew I was scheduled for an afternoon at Castle Rock with him and 203.

We hiked out to Underworld Rock, found a bunch of people already climbing there, and waited. And waited. I took pictures of bugs having sex to kill time.

Finally, it was our turn! We got set up and started climbing. I didn’t have my own helmet or belay device (I’m one of those pampered indoor climbing gym brats), so I got to borrow 203’s helmet and shirk out of belay duty. (Thank you, and thank you!) Well, that and I hadn’t belayed anyone in about a year; I don’t think I’ve forgotten anything, but I wouldn’t mind picking that back up in a gym environment.

In any case, I had a total blast. I’d never climbed between rocks before, so I found the routes here extra fun. That, and I got to see bubka^4, whom I hadn’t seen in years, and finally met 203. In all, it was a great afternoon with some great company. Huge thank yous to bubka^4 and 203 for taking me out there!

Yes, I brought my camera (it’s so nice to have a camera again), and I took a bunch of pictures.

Every time I climb, which, unfortunately, is not often, I’m reminded of how much I like climbing, and why. I hope I manage to do it more this summer, both indoors and out.

That reminds me, I seem to have found a sport for which I don’t have a helmet. I’d better get shopping!

Damn Those Boards

Yesterday, while climbing up and down (and all around) a bunch of boulders, I felt a pain in my back doing a certain motion. I told my physical therapist about it today. She had me do the motion, reproduce the pain, and describe it to her. Unlike the back-only pain we’d been working on, this one seemed to shoot from the back straight out to the front. We isolated it to a single front rib, which she proceeded to push on while I said “Ow” and made faces.

Strange, I thought, why this rib, and why now?

Oh yeah, I remembered later, I got a little too friendly with the boards Friday night.