Sending a project is about as good as it gets. Few feelings trump that glorious moment when, with an outstretched hand clutching a bite of rope, you clip the chains of a climb you have put serious effort and thought into. But that tingling feeling that envelops your whole being for the next few hours wouldn’t be half as sweet without the struggle.
That’s why projecting a climb is so intriguing and rewarding. One day you’re having trouble even comprehending how to execute a sequence of moves, and then, after plowing through doubts and morphing physically, it happens … and suddenly you’re at the top of your project, experiencing that elusive wave of satisfaction.
Though there is no easy way to climb to the top of your project, there are methods and tactics you can use that will help improve your success rate. If you’ve pushed your limits before, you’ve probably already experienced the setbacks and failures that are part of projecting. However, have you ever noticed how some climbers seem to send more than others?
Ethan Pringle is one of those climbers. Though he has been crushing hard sport-climbs since the age of 10, Pringle is constantly challenging himself with new projects. For example, in 2008, he decided to learn trad climbing. Applying his already-honed projecting tactics, Pringle quickly sent some of the world’s hardest naturally protected routes, including the third ascent of the famed Cobra Crack (5.14) in Squamish, Canada.
Pringle reflected on his methods and provided his top 10 tactics for sending success:
1) Pick a Project You’re Psyched On
“Pick something that’s on your mind RIGHT NOW,” says Pringle. “Hopefully it’s something you fall in love with and you enjoy climbing on, because sometimes a line can be aesthetically pleasing to the eye or the ego, but if you’re having a miserable time climbing on it, it’ll be hard to stick with it for very long (unless time isn’t an issue, like it is for me right now on La Reina Mora).”
“This is the most important thing for me,” continues Pringle. “The organic enthusiasm has to be there. I can still climb something hard for me if my heart isn’t in it, but it can’t be near my limit. I can only get away with climbing something that I’m not in love with, that I don’t want to climb really bad, if it’s not too hard for me.”
(Photo: Alex Aristei)
2) Don’t Get Discouraged
“If your first couple times up the route don’t go as well as you’d expect, don’t give up. You don’t have to expect setbacks, but if they come, don’t let them deter you from sticking with it! I sometimes get discouraged or lose hope if I can’t do all the moves on a potential project on my first go around on it … but, that’s just silly! Think how few hard routes would get done if everybody had that attitude! Fortunately, if I’m drawn to a line enough, my psych will overrule my hopelessness and I’ll keep trying.”
3) Try Different Beta
“You might be falling because you’re trying the crux of your project using some method that your buddy insisted was ‘the best!’ Or maybe you’re wasting energy on a part of the route you don’t pay much attention to because you can get through it most of the time, but if you go back and refine your beta, you might have the slightest bit more energy to get through the crux. Slow yourself down and pay closer attention to where you’re using a lot of energy on the route. Are you skipping intermediates? Using really low or high feet? I find that refining beta and micro-beta is a part of redpointing a hard route, sometimes until the try before I do it.”
4) Pace Yourself on the Easier Sections, Punch it Through the Business
“This may seem obvious but sometimes you need to remind yourself to really turn it on and try hard through the cruxes but then take your time on the easier sections. Notice which holds you can relax on and which ones you have to just get past without wasting too much energy. The goal is to get your project so dialed that you can relax on and flow through even the hardest moves on the climb.”
5) Break the Climb Down
“Break the climb down into sections of boulder problems or cruxes. It’s a lot easier to handle the overall difficulty if you think about it as a series of boulder problems to get wired and link together.”
6) Learn The Rests
“Practice the route’s rests and learn how to milk them. Sometimes the easiest way to do this is to just hang on and try different positions and grips. Shaking out—the physical act of shaking your arms—isn’t always restful. The point of stopping to rest is to catch your breath, get
oxygen to your brain and muscles, and yes, also to move your tired and seized muscles to increase blood flow. Violently shaking your arms isn’t
going to do much for you. Sometimes hanging on with both hands gently and just breathing evenly is more effective. Turn your chest away from the wall at a 90-degree angle so you can take deeper breaths and get more air in your lungs. Are you able to really relax in the position you’re trying to rest in? Are you catching your breath? No? Then it’s not a rest—just take a quick breather, shake each hand and keep going.”
7) Think Positively!
“Or at least be open to the possibility that you can and will do it. Listen to what you’re telling yourself when you’re on the route, approaching the crux. Are you telling yourself that you’re going to fall? Maybe that’s the case because you have gotten into the habit of falling there. Try telling yourself that you’ve got this! You know this and all you have to do is stay calm and execute.”
8) Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
“Projecting is hard work and can turn from being something new and challenging and exciting into a chore or a job you have to clock into after a while, especially when the progress slows or stops. Give yourself a big pat on the back for your progress and gaining new milestones on the climb and go easy on yourself on the days when it feels harder or links aren’t happening and expectations aren’t met. Maybe it’s humid, or maybe the cosmos has it out for you? No worries!”
9) Enjoy Easier Climbing
“If you’re downright dreading the thought of getting back on your project and the excitement is absent, it might be time to take a little break and distract yourself with some fun, easier climbing.”
10) Stay Confident
“Do whatever quirky stuff you have to do to be confident. Brush the holds! Razor your shoes! Drink five cups of coffee! GET PSYCHED!!! You got this.”