Thursday, July 17, 2014

Santa Barbara's Hardest

One of the most popular articles in Allez was Steve Edward's "Southern Cal's Hardest" in issue #3. That was written in 1995 — before sport climbing died. Fortunately, there are a handful people refusing to acquiesce and just go bouldering like everyone else. Bouldering is more convenient, social, and (most would say) fun; but I believe sport climbing still offers many things that bouldering cannot. So, because history is important, and maybe some readers will take up the sport climbing torch, I'm writing an updated version of Steve's article.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ratings & Difficulty: Appendix

In my last article, I tried to take an objective look at ratings. By far my most popular post ever, it was also, mostly well received. There were several good questions and comments that I will now address.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ratings, Difficulty and the World's First 9c/15d

Antonio on No Skill (12c) Owl Tor, Santa Maria, CA

I guess 12c is a lot
harder than 12b.
 Antonio Labaro             

I've planned on writing something about ratings and difficulty for a while, but Antonio's comment finally motivated me to do the work. Antonio has been progressing through the grades at the Owl Tor and in April he redpointed The Hell of the Upside-Down Sinners, his first 5.12b. Full of psyche and energy, he moved on to No Skill, a 5.12c variation of two other routes. He's doing well, but he did notice: yes, in fact, 12c is a lot harder than 12b.
   But how much harder? And aren't ratings subjective? Most climbers talk about them as if they are. I haven't seen this done before, and I wish I had more data, but we need to start somewhere and try to have an objective discussion about ratings.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Foundation 2.0 & Owltoberfest 2014

I just completed my latest foundation phase and I'm so happy with it I'm dubbing it foundation 2.0. The refinements might seem minor, and I still need to find a better plan for climbing outside on the weekends; but overall, I resolved enough basic problems that feels like a solid step forward. The foundation phase I've been looking for involves training on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday with a large volume of campusing, fingers, core, pulling, and "prehab" shoulder training for 3-4 weeks. I'm a weekend warrior, and am 100% focused on sport climbing; hopefully, the handful of sport climbers left might find some of this useful. I still have one cycle to write-up, but these will be more productive if written while I'm in the cycle; so that's what I'm doing this week. I redesigned this phase by reviewing my previous ones , noting the problems, and testing alternatives.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The holidays are a bad time for training

Food, wine, traveling, family obligations - all of these combine to make training challenging around the holidays. While this might cause many to conclude not to attempt a training cycle, I see this as the most important time for structure. Sure, it might not generate the gains one would usually hope for; but the structure is a better defense against the onslaught of temptations. For a goal, nothing outside was too close and/or enticing, so I went with only campusing goals: 1:4-7 & 1:5-7 on the 5/8" and 1:5-8 on the 1". The first two were quite realistic, although both would be personal bests; but the third was definitely a long shot.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Campusing - Goals and Plateaus

Regardless of your campusing ability and experience, plateauing is a common problem. The main reason for this is that the next hardest move/goal is often much harder than the move you've just completed. I recommend having parallel goals on the same rungs and alternate goals on other (bigger and smaller) rungs. Clearly, trying a specific goal is one way to train for it. The next most obvious method is to simply try the goal on bigger rungs. This article covers the less obvious ways to train for a specific goal; the methods I cover here are: Drops, Component Moves, similar moves on the same board, and Stacks.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Campusing Base and Component Moves + Exercises Page

Maintaining Power
Regardless of if and how you cycle your training, I'm convinced that maintaining power is critical. Not at 100%, but at maybe 80-90% of your peak at all times. Power can disappear quickly: if I don't train monos, I lose my mono strength very fast. But campusing, is powerful by nature, how does one best incorporate it into a training cycle? This was the problem I faced in my current cycle. The approach I took was new - to me.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Old Articles, New Goals, and The Lord of the Rungs

I finally found the time to OCR the PDFs of my old articles from Allez magazine. I posted them under the dates they were originally printed (see topic: training.old.) They feel dated to me - they are 20 years old; but Steve Edwards agrees that they're still directionally accurate. They probably aid me more than anyone else, as I'm always reviewing my training past for ideas to test in the future.

Rubble and The Lord of the Rungs
After hitting my base fitness level in the last cycle, I had two big goals heading into the fall. First and foremost was Rubble (13b) at the Owl Tor. It's short: 12 hand movements and three clips. Second is the first ever Lord of the Rungs campusing competition. Micah Elconin's genius idea; we've talked about it over the years, but Micah finally generated the necessary spirit to make it real. The Santa Barbara team would be competing against Hans Florine's team from Diablo Rock Gym.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Training Cycle Structure

Revamping My Training Cycles
On June 3, 2013, I decided to make 1-5-8.5 on the 1" rungs my birthday challenge for next year (June 5, 2014.) As I mention before, I broke it into 3 waypoint goals: 2 months each to do 1-4-7, 1-5-7, and 1-5-8. That left me six months to do 1-5-8.5. 1-4-7 was also an appropriate goal for me at the time because it's what I would consider my normal "base" level of fitness, which I was not at.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Theories & Rules - Training & Chess

As I said, I'm going to write one introductory "theory" article but after this my format is mainly going to be "I wanted to do <goal> so I did <training>. In the end I <result> and I think that's because of <interpretation>." There are already enough people out there taking the "do this workout" approach, which is good, and necessary; but that's not for me, and it's not the audience I'm looking for either. I'm not a great climber but I have trained, pretty scientifically, for over 20 years; so I think I'll have something useful for people.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Building Your Own Sharp Stick

Without a doubt, my favorite "article" in all of Allez is Belt's "Detailed instructions for building your own sharp stick." The point being, as the great Todd Skinner said, "Never take climbing too seriously - have fun. Because no matter how much you train, and how long you climb, someday some kid you've never heard of is gonna show up and climb harder than you can imagine."

Friday, March 21, 2014

So Cal's Hardest (20 Years Ago)

By the third issue of Allez, we clearly didn't care if anyone else liked our style. I no longer remember the climb diagrammed on page 2, Steve? In contrast to American climbing magazines - which have a "What's the Best 5.10?" article every other issue - we did a write-up of the ten hardest climbs in Southern California. The hardest route on the list, G-String (14a) is still unrepeated; Scott Cosgrove is a total hero.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Let's Go Scrubbin'

I had completely forgotten the poem Todd Mei wrote for Allez's second issue; for most newcomers to the Owl Tor, it's as appropriate today as it was 20 years ago. I wish there was an equivalent to the "News" section; Climbing used to have a similar item for the major climbing areas, but I think that's been gone for a long time. It helped me identify who did the second ascent of Chips Ahoy: Ian Vickers. He and Paul Twomey were visiting from Scotland; they did a lot more drinking than climbing when they stayed with us. Ian had onsighted 13c at the time, so onsighting a 12d would have been a warm-up. My training article seems a bit erratic; but overall, the theories and principles haven't changed much. The addition of Belt as a writer for Allez was huge.

Friday, March 7, 2014


In June, 2013 I began a nearly impossible (for me) birthday challenge: campusing 1-5-8.5 on 1" rungs at Moon spacing (22 cm.) I also began exchanging emails regarding training advice with Steve, Micah, Will, Hans, and Normal Guy. Since tracking, discussing, and recording the logic behind various approaches to my workouts seemed like most of the work involved in writing a blog, I decided to restart this sucker. (I made 3 posts back in 2007.)