• Coming Back From Injury
  • Get Trip-Fit Fast
  • Systems Wall and Symmetrical Training
  • Coaching Climbing - How To Train Juniors with Care and Caution
  • Grip Trainers - Gimmicks, or Worth the Money?
  • Hangboarding for Endurance: Not Just for Power
  • Simulation Training: How to Do a Move You Can't Do
  • Planning a Year's Climbing
  • Portable Training Rigs - How to Stay Fit on the Go
  • How to Keep Your Job and Family and Still Climb at Your Limit
  • Suspension Training for Rock Climbing
  • Eat Fat, Climb Harder - The Ketogenic Diet
  • Witness the Mental Fitness: Set Thought Aside to Improve Performance
  • Mental Training Made Simple
  • Counterintuitive Climbing Tips to Change Your Game - Part 2
  • Endurance Training Tips for Winter
  • Five Counterintuitive Climbing Tips to Change Your Game - Part 1
  • Staying Power - How to Last All Day at the Crag
  • Attack and Defend - Tips for Effective Resting
  • Change Up - Plug the Gaps In Your Strength Training This Winter
  • Training While Injured
  • The Hard Way, Easier: How to Cope with Redpoint Nerves
  • Climbing Literacy - Get Better Instantly by Reading Routes
  • The Numbers Game - How to Use Your Age to Your Advantage
  • Injury-Free Bouldering: 15 Tips to Keep You Healthy and Strong
  • Injury-Free Boarding: 14 Training Tips to Save Your Fingers
  • The Truth About Caffeine and Climbing
  • Pushing Past Your Training Plateau
  • Five Strategies to Sharpen Concentration and Climb Better
  • Five Ways to Get Better Without Training
  • Beat the Burnout: Only Ondra Should Train Like Ondra
  • Effective Gym Training Strategies (for Route Climbing)
  • Should You Add Weight or Use Smaller Holds on a Hangboard?
  • Map Out a Plan with the Radar System
  • Managing the Fear of Falling
  • Projecting 101 – 6 Tips For Sending
  • Slowing the Pump Clock - Three Strategies to Prevent the Pump
  • Training on the Go
  • How to Train for Compression
  • Nutrition: Eating Your Way to Better Climbing
  • How to Dyno
  • General Conditioning for Climbers
  • Transitioning from Gym to Crag
  • Staying Strong to Perform Your Best All Season
  • How to Lose Weight for Climbing
  • Building a Better Climber: Final Phase - Peaking
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 7 - Power Endurance Training
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 6 - Endurance II
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 5 - Strength and Power II
  • The Training Effect - Steve House and Scott Johnston
  • Training for Climbing: Injured? Train Your Core!
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 4 - Power Endurance
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 3 - Strength Training
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 2 - Low-Intensity Endurance
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 1 - Conditioning Phase
  • Gain Confidence by Learning Not to Fear Falling
  • Get Better When You Are Scared and Pumped
  • Never Get Pumped Again
  • Gutbusters - Core Exercises for Rock Climbing
  • Rest ... or Else
  • The Intuitive Approach to Training
  • Free Climbing Tips: Why Get Stronger When You Can Get Better?
  • Crank Like a Russian - How to Power Train for Climbing
  • How to Mentally Train
  • Boost Power With Eccentric Training
  • Tips for Better Onsighting
  • Should You Lose Weight or Get Stronger?
  • Is Protein Important?
  • Getting Strong After a Layoff
  • Does Running or Biking Improve Your Climbing?
  • Training While Hungry
  • How To Use Microcycles
  • How to Improve Slab Technique
  • How to Unlock a Crux
  • How to Use a Hangboard
  • Using a Weight Belt For Training
  • Training During Pregnancy
  • Maximizing a Small Home Wall
  • How to Stay Psyched
  • How to Prevent Bonking
  • Best Ratio of Resting to Bouldering
  • The Importance of Finger Strength
  • Regaining Confidence After a Fall
  • Overcome Anxiety and Send!
  • Maximum Training in Minimum Time
  • Dynamic vs. Static Stretching
  • Do Forearm Trainers Work?
  • Ultimate Strength
  • The Secrets of Warming Up
  • Periodized Training For the Year-round Approach
  • Resting the Perfect Amount
  • How To Recover On Route
  • Does Creatine Work?
  • Recovery Supplement Truths
  • Euro Training Secrets
  • Can Old Guys Get Stronger?
  • Training With an Injury
  • How to Beat Fear
  • How Often Should You Rest?
  • Warming Up Without Warm-Ups
  • How to Develop Sloper Strength
  • Beating the Lactic Acid Pump
  • Video Spotlight
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    Rooftown Vol. 2 - Featuring the Bouldering Exploits of Matt Gentile
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    Weekend Whipper: Alastair McDowell's Los Indignados (M7) Screamer

    Tips for Better Onsighting


    I'm going to Ceuse for three weeks this summer and aim to push my onsight / flash grade as hard as I can. I know that you've gone into detail in past articles about how to onsight on a route-by-route basis [see Ask the Coach, No. 184] but it would be really useful if you could cover a broader range of tactics that could be employed over several weeks on a trip.

    —Doug Hamilton | Bristol, U.K

    "Slabs may do wonders for your footwork but they are lousy for building strength." Alex Chabot shows how it is done on the steep terrain of <em>Libanos</em> (5.13d), Kadisha Valley, Lebanon. Photo: Sam Bie.First, make every effort to travel to different crags prior to the trip and onsight as much as you can. If you are confined to indoor climbing, then try to visit new gyms rather than lapping the same old routes. Another alternative is to do stick training (where your partner points you around the bouldering wall) or circuits to increase your repertoire of new moves. Even if the rock at your local crag is dissimilar to your destination, climbing outside should still be a high priority. Indoor climbing simply does not prepare you for using small footholds.

    The angle of the crag is more the issue than the type of rock when it comes to preparing for a trip. Slabs may do wonders for your footwork but they are lousy for building strength or endurance. If your local crag is low-angled, you will need to do plenty of gym climbing to help build fitness for the steep limestone of .

    Regarding redpointing: For less experienced climbers, a redpoint ascent is a great way to boost confidence and help you focus on technique. However, for mid-grade and higher level climbers, too much time spent redpointing can have the reverse effect, providing you with a false impression of your onsighting capabilities. Overall, it is usually best to focus entirely on onsighting, both prior to and during the trip, if that is what you wish to improve.

    For day structure, the 2 on, 1 off (or 3 on, 1 off) combination works well but only if you are fit enough to do this right from the start of the trip. If not then you will need to build up. Start by climbing 2 on, 1 off and doing short days or, better still, easier, mileage-based days. It is only when you go for something right at your limit and fail near the top that you are likely to burn out and feel the need for a rest day. You shouldn't be trying hard routes at the start of the trip anyway. The initial goal should be to gain as much experience on that specific rock-type, so go for mileage.  For example, if your hardest previous onsight is 5.12b then start by trying to do three or four 5.11d's per day (after a pyramid warm-up) for the first two days, then take a rest day and go for two or three 5.12a's.

    Once you are into your flow, by the middle of the trip you can not only expect to climb well the day after a rest day, but also on your second day on. You may feel slightly more tired on the second day, but you should also notice that you warm up more easily and feel like you are moving better -- this frequently compensates for accumulated fatigue.

    Get on harder stuff by the middle of the trip. Try to repeat your current onsight personal best, and it really pays to do this two or three times rather than leap-frogging and going for the grade above too quickly. You may be lucky and send, but if you keep getting shut down, then the demons of doubt can start attacking your psyche. If it's a short trip, then one route at your current limit may have to do as preparation for your goal of upping the ante. Once you've achieved an onsight at your current level you'll have the skill, the fitness and the self-belief to push to the next grade.

    The best time for attempting a personal best is the final third of the trip -- in your case, the last week. Consider trying to onsight a route two grades harder than your current limit. Although this sounds like a futile mission, it will have the effect of making your target grade seem easier (both physically and mentally) when you next try it. Note that the only time to do this is just before a rest day, or you'll just burn out and sabotage your chances of climbing anything else.

    Visit sectors of the crag that offer plenty of suitable routes. Don't put routes on pedestals. If you drop one then simply move on to the next.

    After you've fallen on a route, you will usually need to get to the top somehow in order to strip it.  In some cases, saving energy and skin will be the priority, so just grab each clip and hangdog your way home. At other times you'll want to boost confidence by proving to yourself just how close you were. In these cases, simply get straight back on and try to climb to the chains in a single push.

    I wouldn't advise lowering off and redpointing the route. If your goal is simply to tick a hard onsight, then you should save everything for that.

    Regarding warming up: do a pyramid-style warm-up, rather than leap-frogging from easy routes onto hard stuff. As to whether this should be on routes you know or on onsights, my gut instinct is to say that onsights are better. Sure, if you pick a sandbag warm-up route it could blow your day, but the benefit of onsighting as part of your warm-up is to summon your route-reading skills.

    Listen to your body throughout the trip and note how your warm-up requirements may change. At the start of the trip you may only be able to do three warm-up routes, but as you build fitness, then more warm-up routes become viable. Conversely, you may need to do fewer warm-up routes if your skin is badly worn or cumulative fatigue starts to set in.


    This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 188.

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