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Overcome Anxiety and Send!

I want to climb my first 5.13a but I keep getting bouted by the redpoint demons. Last year I abandoned a project because, after six days of effort, I ...

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I want to climb my first 5.13a but I keep getting bouted by the redpoint demons. Last year I abandoned a project because, after six days of effort, I started getting worse on it. Surely once you have a route really wired, after the first four or five days, then it either comes down to strength, fitness, or the luck of the dice? Do you have any tips for beating redpoint head stress? Ed Sams | Providence, RI


I agree that after four or five days, it often feels like you have the route wired, but refinements keep coming long after this. Even if you “know” the moves, there is almost infinite scope for executing them more efficiently. There is a point on some routes when redpointing simply comes down to fitness, but the metabolic reserves in the tank are usually much deeper than many people realize.

I can see why you think that luck might be involved. Almost every sport climber can recall a time when a successful redpoint came under the most unlikely conditions, perhaps when skin was thin or temperatures were poor and all hope had been abandoned. These experiences can leave you feeling as if you were simply lucky. Your success, however, is actually attributed to a temporary release from the prison of expectation. The ability to stay relaxed and positive is the most significant factor in redpointing—the most successful redpointers such as Steve McClure and Chris Sharma are also incredibly chilled-out characters who can enjoy the process without becoming fixated on the result. If the top dogs can clock up 30 or 40 days to send, then surely we can rise to seven or eight? I realize that it is a contradiction to ask you not to be that bothered about something that you desperately want, but this is exactly what you must do. In addition to letting go of expectations here are some concrete tips:

  • Over-work the route—don’t start your redpoint attempts until it’s almost a done deal. Wait until you’re ready and then work it one more time.
  • Do links from the top down. For example, climb it clean from half height to the top, then from a third of the way up to the top and then from quarter height to the top. This reinforces success rather than starting from the base every time and experiencing failure near the top.
  • Do other climbs. Take a break from your project and redpoint other routes, especially those of complementary style.