Improving in Climbing

Everyone wants to improve, to excel at their passion.

I dream of free climbing enormous walls. For the past ten years I’ve worked towards these goals.

My early climbing focused on getting up walls in Yosemite.  Ascents of Washington’s Column, the Leaning Tower, Half Dome, and El Cap all came together quickly.  Aid climbing involved a bit of gear and a lot of tenacity.  By purchasing the former and easily supplying the latter, I learned to dial my systems.  With my aid climbing skills in place, I focused on improving my free climbing enough to make free ascents.  My early climbing improved quickly.
Double Rainbow over Jailhouse- What does it mean?
I learned to crack climb, to clip bolts, and then to redpoint hard traditional lines using a combination of the two skills.  Improving my climbing skills slowed while my goals expanded.

The theme of improvement runs through the climbing community. Everyone wants to climb their best.  Alex Honnold voiced identical concerns.  When I asked if he had any clues on improvement, he laughed in response, saying, “I wish. I’ve been worrying about the same thing. I've basically been climbing 13+ for a decade.”
Cosmic Debris
Hitting plateaus presents an inevitable challenge in climbing. What can be done to break through? Train harder, remain positive, get motivated… Cedar Wright’s suggested something totally different. “I do have some advice on how to improve at climbing... move to Boulder... The water here makes you stronger.”  My attempt to move to Boulder stopped when my Saturn Station wagon aborted mission at Fruita Colorado. I returned my Saturn to California’s orbit.   Boulder water scares me but perhaps the mountain folks are clued into some tips towards improvement. 

For some, breaking through plateaus takes time.  Beth Rodden addressed the challenges of improving at climbing.  “I think it's just best to take it as it comes and be psyched with little victories and not let the other things get you down.”  The gains in climbing definitely shrink but slow and steady optimism helps through the slough.
Working Public Mayhem photo by the person with the huge watermark

For others, it’s about finding the correct motivation.  “There are many ways to improve on climbing, like training, weight loss,” said Randy Leavitt. “But I think the most important thing is motivation. I had lots of it because I loved doing new routes…. I found that I was more inspired to try hard and raise my game when new routes were involved.”
Clay Usinger on a boulder problem Stanley, Kenny, Clay and I put up behind Camp 4 this December Last of the Miwok v6
Luis “Lucho” Rivera added a similar note, ”I don’t really train, i just go climbing and try to have fun. What inspires me more than anything is new routing.”
Finding new routes in winter provides a challenge. Winter presents short days and poor weather in Yosemite, a hard time for first ascents.  Since my Yosemite season started this fall, I have struggled with climbing harder.  I track my ascents on an 8a score card, which is slowly thinning. In November, I came close to sending Cosmic Debris.  Bad weather shut me down.  Through December, I worked on bouldering harder and climbing at Jailhouse. I’ve had few successes this winter.  Still, in some small ways I must be improving. 
Walking out from Jailhouse
A few more days of Jailhouse and then I’m heading to Hueco for a couple weeks.  I’m hoping to send something before I leave, to find some sort of improvement in my climbing.

I like climbing.  I really like climbing well.  I do the former all the time.  It’s about making the latter happen all the time as well.  Then, I’ll be exceling at my passion and meeting some of my dreams.