Touchstone Blog Archive
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
  How To Redpoint Better: Shaking Out the Nerves
John shook as he climbed into the crux of the granite route. The two small cams at his feet were more than ample protection. He had the moves well rehearsed from toproping the route a number of times. Still, he looked like an autumn leaf. As he moved off a hand jam and to the horizontal jug on Snowshed Wall's Panic In Detroit (5.12b/c), he whipped.

"I'm just shaky. Maybe I had too much coffee this morning," John said as he dangled twenty feet below the crux.

John pulled back on and smoothly climbed the rest of the route. I suspected that it wasn't the caffeine's fault he had fallen.

Rock climbing is scary. From climbing to the top of the climbing gym wall for the first time, to trying to redpoint a difficult route in Tahoe, climbing remains intimidating. It doesn't matter the difficulty, rock climbing can wreck your nerves which makes the climbing that much harder. Here's some tips on how to redpoint, to climb a little bit better., and maintain composure.

Breathe: This seems intuitive but a lot of people hold their breathe while climbing. I have a number of pictures of myself trying super hard on a boulder problem or route with a red face from not exhaling. It's important to inhale before moving and then exhale when executing a difficult move or sequence. A lot of athletes grunt when they exhale, giving a Bruce Lee "Da!" when they do something difficult. Giving a little shout or exhaling sharply helps and will make your reach go a little further.

Jens Holsten regaining his composure on Silver Bullet (5.12b/c) at Tuoulumne's Private Property Cliff

Relax: Last summer, I watched one of the best female trad climbers in the world send a difficult 5.11 crack in Index Washington while crying. She fought though the tears in part because, although she was scared and emotionally distraught, she was relaxed while climbing. Grabbing holds too hard is one of the biggest reasons people pump out. Their forearms fill with lactic acid from trying so hard. Relax your face. This sounds silly but a smooth face actually helps. Your body is more relaxed and it works more efficiently in this state.

Slow your heart rate: Consciously thinking about how fast your heart is beating and then trying to slow it down will help enormously. Some sport climbers have been known to wear heart rate monitors. While going to this extreme isn't necessary, next time you are trying a difficult route in the gym, stop for a moment and think about how hard your heart is beating. A slower heart rate will pump blood more efficiently and will help you move more smoothly.

John Schmid climbing smoothly at the Grotto in Sonora.

Have fun!: It's easy to get wrapped up in climbing a hard route but the most important part of climbing well is having fun while doing it. Natasha Barnes made a solid point when asked about what the most important aspect to doing well while comp climbing, performing under high pressure. "If you're not having fun then you're missing the point." Enjoy the experience and redpointing will come that much easier.

On his next try, John moved into the crux of the route. He placed the two small cams, breathed and then exhaled, grunting as he hit the hold. He moved solidly into the top crux of the route, relaxing his muscles, and only straining as much as necessary. At the top, he turned and looked out, remarking, "It is a really nice day." He clipped the anchors, making a successful ascent of the difficult crack route in a large part because he was calmer.

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