ACC Rocky Mountain Section Performance Climbing Course

I was hiking back from a fun day at the Lookout in May with Matt Mueller. We talked about how cool it would be to run a redpoint course, a skill, many climbers don’t tap into to up their climbing standards . Turns out Matt, had organized this course already with the ACC Rocky Mountain Section and couldn’t run it, so he asked me to!

At first I was excited…then a bit nervous. I mean, I work on Redpointing a great deal in my personal climbing, but have never actually taught it, and battle the same fears and barriers that every climber does! It is also WAY harder to teach already experienced and talented climbers…how to be better, then to teach new climbers basic skills and movement.

I embraced the challenge though, and started to ask friends and read books. One very helpful book I found was Dave Macleods “9 out f 10 climbers make the same mistakes”. A very palatable book that covers everything from goals, to training and all the in between.

I sent out a survey to the 4 people on the course to get a better idea of where everyone was at and learned quickly that this would be a very strong and experienced group of climbers…but mostly still “onsighters”. Ahhh, the joys of working on Redpointing!

We met up and headed to Grassi the first day. Somethings that we covered on this day were the following (mostly from Dave’s book, my strong climber friends and some of my own experience):

1) Warm up: Dependent on your goal for the day, but should get you a bit pumped but not worked for the whole day. Common mistake is that people who want to climb 5.11, will warm up on 5.9 (won’t do a whole lot to warm you up unless it is steeper), then a 5.10a, then a 5.10b, then a 5.10c…and by then time they get on the 11 they are spent and too tired! Use your warm up as a learning experience as well- try to focus on a one or a couple of the following: footwork and body tension, dynamic movement (can even be subtle head bobs on face climbs), soft hands (not over gripping), First come first serve (making the most of your first hold you grab). Warm up enough to get a small pump and the blood flowing

2) Falling: Everyones greatest set back to performing better. You can never practice falling enough…even though you might hate it, it WILL help you improve if you take the time to practice it alot. One day of a couple falls will not cure your fear…likely a year won’t, but it WILL increase your confidence in knowing that you know how to fall when you are faced with it. Our group went to Meathooks and practiced a bunch with a bunch of catching practice too. Very hard for lighter climbers to get soft catches and takes practice to be good at it.

3) Redpointing: We picked routes that might not get redpointed that day…longer term projects. We focused on going bolt to bolt (or hard moves to hard moves). Taking the time to learn the route and not try to onsight or just get the rope to the top. Retry the harder moves, learn the most efficient way through cruxes, and take falls where it is hard and might hold us back. After first attempt, people took 5 minutes to stand back and relook at the climb and visualize. Try to lock in their sequence in their minds. Then take a second or a third burn as the day progressed. Set goals and purpose for each burn (are you trying to send? trying to learn more about the crux? trying to build endurance on getting through sequences?)

Everyone had a bunch of success this day and it was fun to watch people push themselves, get dynamic, take some falls, go past where they thought they could. Super inspiring!!

The second day we decided to brave the cooler temps at Lake Louise. The first goal of the day was to stay warm. A very important goal! If you aren’t warm, you aren’t having fun, and really hard to motivate. At first everyones reaction was to “tame down” the day, and just do easier routes…but I was confident that we could get and stay warm enough to get after it!…and get after it we did!

The focus today I borrowed from a great website that I found on Nicros:

I found this blog quite useful and interesting!

We warmed up trying to think of being as mentally conscious and present as possible, not get distracted by other people or our freezing digits:) Looking, feeling, learning about each hold you grab and place your foot on, helps you stay in the moment. If you find yourself starting to get distracted, stay on the hold you are on and really analyze them until you are back in the moment.

Steve maximizing a rest:)


Using some of Eric’s top 10 tips for redpointing we focused on (or tried anyway!):

1) Taking our project bit by bit, breaking it into smaller parts and smaller successes

2) Hang! Figure out our cruxes, take, lower, relearn…not be afraid to take our time and learn

3) Practice past the crux moves. Nothing worse then getting through the crux and realizing you don’t know how to get to the chains:)

4) Note subtle body movement of crux sequence. Just knowing the holds isn’t enough, you have to focus on exactly how your body moves and feels.

5) Take falls at the crux if safe so that you don’t fear it.

6) Stay warm between attempts, go for a walk and a mental break, then come back and rehearse mentally the moves before going for another burn.

7) foster expectation of success but accept failure!!

Detach yourself from your self image and prior climbing successes and failures. Every day is a new day and every move is in the present….easier said then done!

Thanks Steve, Jackie, Miles and Diana for 2 motivating, educational and super fun days out . Good luck on the Projects this year and PLEASE shoot me a line when you send!!!

2 thoughts on “ACC Rocky Mountain Section Performance Climbing Course”

  1. Great blog, Sarah! I especially like the idea of falling at the crux so you don’t fear it. Maybe some day we’ll do the Brewer crux again to see if my skills have improved.
    Mary Ann

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