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How to get past a grade plateau
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By JeffL
From Salt Lake City
Jul 2, 2014
I care way more about trad climbing, so that's probably one thing that's holding me back. I do however understand that sport climbing/bouldering is a key to climbing harder. Anyways my crack climbing ability has now become equal, if not surpassed my face climbing ability. It seems that I can send a 5.10d or below, usually onsight and work/eventually redpoint a 5.11b. After that, the moves become a real struggle. I've been at this grade ceiling for a while now and would like to eventually increase it a full number grade to 11+/12-

I'm not out there to chase grades, however climbing 11+/12- trad would open up just about any route that I'm interested in climbing. I'm on the heavier side of sport climbers at 6'0, 175lbs. I'm down 5lbs from last year, and think it could be possible to drop 5 more, but at this point I've cut most the the fat and would have to lose some muscle to get there.

I have read the SCC, I daily use techniques in the book and it has made me stronger/more consistent at my limit. I have been doing yoga for about a year, and have noticed an increase in flexibility, as well as head space. Where do I go next? I don't really care for bouldering, but if I have to boulder v3 before I can climb 11d then I might start. Oh and I have started climbing with stronger climbers than I am and have noticed a slight increase in ability.

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By Alexander Blum
From Charlotte, NC
Jul 2, 2014
How many days of effort/tries are you giving these .11b routes before you eventually redpoint them?

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By Jon Clark
From Philadelphia, PA
Jul 2, 2014
onsight soloing Atman
JeffL wrote:
I care way more about trad climbing, so that's probably one thing that's holding me back. I do however understand that sport climbing/bouldering is a key to climbing harder. Anyways my crack climbing ability has now become equal, if not surpassed my face climbing ability. It seems that I can send a 5.10d or below, usually onsight and work/eventually redpoint a 5.11b. After that, the moves become a real struggle. I've been at this grade ceiling for a while now and would like to eventually increase it a full number grade to 11+/12- I'm not out there to chase grades, however climbing 11+/12- trad would open up just about any route that I'm interested in climbing. I'm on the heavier side of sport climbers at 6'0, 175lbs. I'm down 5lbs from last year, and think it could be possible to drop 5 more, but at this point I've cut most the the fat and would have to lose some muscle to get there. I have read the SCC, I daily use techniques in the book and it has made me stronger/more consistent at my limit. I have been doing yoga for about a year, and have noticed an increase in flexibility, as well as head space. Where do I go next? I don't really care for bouldering, but if I have to boulder v3 before I can climb 11d then I might start. Oh and I have started climbing with stronger climbers than I am and have noticed a slight increase in ability.


How do you define awhile? A month, a year, more than a year?

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By kerwinl
Jul 2, 2014
I am 6' 175lbs as well, I think weight is a factor, but can be worked around by working on building climbing specific strength.

New convert to trad climbing (plugged my first piece of pro about a year ago), but have been able to onsight a few 11c's and redpoint a few 11d's. The only way I think this is possible within a year of picking up a rack, is because of my bouldering ability. I have been bouldering for about 7 years and can climb most v8's of any style.

Strength is the foundation for which everything is built upon, trad climbing often involves lots of experimentation with moves, gear, sequences. I think it pays to be wicked strong (so you can climb up and back down if necessary). A often overlooked insight is that increasing strength will also increase your endurance, by lowering the rate at which you work when doing easier moves.

For me, it feels like I am not close to plateauing on routes at 11d. Once I figure out a piece of beta or two, I often am able to redpoint the climb without feeling under duress. I thin the biggest difference is our bouldering ability.

Start bouldering more! When that stops working, start fingerboarding, and working into specific strength exercises.

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By kerwinl
Jul 2, 2014
Also would add the advice that you should aim to train in two out of three possible zones, read this piece:

powercompanyclimbing.com/2013/...

I think if most route climbers (sport OR trad), adopted a Hi/Low approach to training they would see significant improvement in their performance, instead of signing up for endless attempts on routes that are physically tiring, but not hard enough to produce a training effect.

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By Jon Zucco
From Denver, CO
Jul 2, 2014
yaak crack Red Rock Canyon, NV
I wish I could help, but I've been stuck in a rut atop a plateau for a while myself. I imagine the answer, if you have the time and energy for it, is to train more methodically. Try to commit to a training program, make goals, track your progress, etc.

If you want an easier answer, probably starting to hangboard, boulder, campus board, etc. regularly would help, even if you do so randomly/with no real plan.

Good luck

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By Anson Call
From Provo, UT
Jul 2, 2014
Profile pic
Just don't get hurt, man! I was right where you are, then started bouldering and climbing more regularly to boost my strength. I hit 5.12-, sent a few projects, and everything was great. Then, I pulled a tendon in my ring finger, and now I can't climb for at least a month. I know I'm not the only guy who's hurt a finger trying to break into higher grades.

In retrospect, I wish I would have jumped on many more easy routes before I started working on those real hard projects. I think that when you reach into those higher grades, maybe 5.11+ and up, it's just flat out harder on your soft tissue. You gotta be careful. I also wish I would have just let go and fallen off the split second I felt the twinge in my finger, then quit for the day.

So, yeah, my advice would be to mix hard climbing or bouldering with lots of volume at lower grades and plenty of good rest days. I would try a day of hard boulering or training, maybe some campus training, followed by a day of easy volume, followed by a good rest day. The day I got hurt was my 3rd day of hard climbing in a row. Don't get suckered in to climbing when you should be resting, even if your friends all head to the crag without you.

Anyways, sorry for the long post. I'm bored. Just be consistent and don't race to each successive grade as fast as you can. If you go too fast, you'll end up with 5.12 muscles and 5.10 tendons. Not good!

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By jonathan.lipkin
From Brooklyn, NY
Jul 2, 2014
Anson Call wrote:
Just don't get hurt, man!

+1 on that.
I was stuck at 5.11/v4 and thought I would start campusing to increase my upper body strength, which was in retrospect a bad idea at 46 years of age. I injured my rotator cuff in mid-december, and have been nursing it ever since. Four months of intense physical therapy, and two more of taking it easy, and I'm almost back to where I was before the injury.

Ramp your training up slowly. Also, I think it's the anderson brothers who advocate a redpoint pyramid - if you are trying to get to 5.12, do lots of 5.10s, some 5.11s, to build a 'pyramid' of easier climbs.

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By evan h
From Denver, CO
Jul 3, 2014
Troll Cave (V3), Three Sisters Park.
I would also advocate the conservative, i.e pyramid approach to building a strong base. I have super strong friends who have attempted to chase each subsequent grade without forming a proper base, only to be left with chronic and severely limiting injuries. It's very tempting to snag that next letter grade, but use restraint! I also would highly recommend you pick up a copy of the Anderson brother's immensely useful new training guide. I'm almost through my first season and the gains on rock are very clear. This is my first attempt at truly structured training and I'm very happy with the specifics that they outline. Have fun!

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By shotwell
Jul 3, 2014
kerwinl wrote:
I am 6' 175lbs as well, I think weight is a factor, but can be worked around by working on building climbing specific strength. New convert to trad climbing (plugged my first piece of pro about a year ago), but have been able to onsight a few 11c's and redpoint a few 11d's. The only way I think this is possible within a year of picking up a rack, is because of my bouldering ability. I have been bouldering for about 7 years and can climb most v8's of any style. Strength is the foundation for which everything is built upon, trad climbing often involves lots of experimentation with moves, gear, sequences. I think it pays to be wicked strong (so you can climb up and back down if necessary). A often overlooked insight is that increasing strength will also increase your endurance, by lowering the rate at which you work when doing easier moves. For me, it feels like I am not close to plateauing on routes at 11d. Once I figure out a piece of beta or two, I often am able to redpoint the climb without feeling under duress. I thin the biggest difference is our bouldering ability. Start bouldering more! When that stops working, start fingerboarding, and working into specific strength exercises.


I'm in the same height/weight class, and don't find it to be any real detriment. While people may consider this 'heavy' for a climbing, having an appropriate body composition with my build requires this weight. Keeping my body fat percentage at or under 10% and maintaining weight gives me the best performance.

I no longer do much trad climbing due to a nasty bone spur in my middle finger, but I do agree that bouldering and sport climbing are the best ways to improve your fitness for climbing. Learning the trad specific skills is clearly important, but you need the fitness base to use them effectively. Do all three, mix it up regularly and you will see big gains.

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By kerwinl
Jul 3, 2014
shotwell wrote:
I'm in the same height/weight class, and don't find it to be any real detriment. While people may consider this 'heavy' for a climbing, having an appropriate body composition with my build requires this weight. Keeping my body fat percentage at or under 10% and maintaining weight gives me the best performance. I no longer do much trad climbing due to a nasty bone spur in my middle finger, but I do agree that bouldering and sport climbing are the best ways to improve your fitness for climbing. Learning the trad specific skills is clearly important, but you need the fitness base to use them effectively. Do all three, mix it up regularly and you will see big gains.


Totally agree about the weight being specific to the climber.Ideal bodyweight will depend on height as well as bone structure. I have a friend who is 6' as well, he weighs in at 160 and does not look emaciated. If I start to approach 165, I look and feel like shit. I have adopted climbing habits and styles that take advantage of my large frame and muscle mass (in relation to most climbers).

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By JPVallone
Jul 3, 2014
Cut off a finger, It worked for Tommy!

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By Jon Zucco
From Denver, CO
Jul 3, 2014
yaak crack Red Rock Canyon, NV
It's a balance. Sure you want to be careful not to push yourself to the point of injury. But you will need to push yourself if you want to improve...

Definitely work on that pyramid / don't cheat yourself out of building a solid foundation, but don't be afraid to push yourself within reason. To know your limits, you must test them regularly.

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By slim
Administrator
Jul 3, 2014
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.
one of the things that i felt really helped when i was trying to increase my RP grade on gear was to increase my amount of effort on the tactical side. several ways to go about this.

if your current max is 11b, look through your local guidebooks and make a list of the 11c and 11d routes you want to do. figure out the sun/shade situation, best season, whether there are other routes that people will want to do if you need to drag them up multiple times. this helps to keep you focused on getting on the routes that you want to work pretty much all of the time. any day that you aren't climbing routes that are pushing you will be a waste of time.

when doing the route the first time or two, figure out what gear you need and where this gear needs to be placed. big tip here - write this down when you get back to the ground. also, write specific hand sequences (particularly on granite cracks - this is so helpful). i always keep a little notebook and a pen in my pack for this reason.

when you get home in the evening, review your notes a few times. try to do this at least daily until the next time you can get on the route. rack your gear in order so you can just fire it into the crack and go.

if you start doing these things i can pretty much guarantee you will increase your RP grade about 2 letters in practically no time.

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By kerwinl
Jul 3, 2014
Slim, glad to hear I am not the only crazy one out there that carries a notebook to write gear beta for climbs I am trying or have done. I find that the exercise of writing it down, makes me remember.

The experience of carrying a trimmed down rack, that is organized in order/sequence of placement is much better then a full double rack + slings swinging around on your harness as you pump ou.t

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By Moritz B.
Jul 24, 2014
Profile Pic
kerwinl wrote:
Also would add the advice that you should aim to train in two out of three possible zones, read this piece: powercompanyclimbing.com/2013/... I think if most route climbers (sport OR trad), adopted a Hi/Low approach to training they would see significant improvement in their performance, instead of signing up for endless attempts on routes that are physically tiring, but not hard enough to produce a training effect.

This is great advice. Your hard days are probably not hard enough and your easy days are probably not easy enough. Donīt waste your time with running. Most people, me included, are over motivated and easily train too much. Two hardcore sessions per week (Mix them up: One power endurance and one max Power for example) and REST for the rest of the week. Maybe add one third session of pure technique drill into it but donīt get pumped! You have to train hard enough that you need that much rest. This way you are also not likely to get injured. Get out of that "middle" zone. And most important: Have fun :-)

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By Ryan Watts
From Bishop, CA
Jul 24, 2014
Flatirons
When you say "the moves become a struggle" does that mean you've worked the route bolt to bolt and you just get shut down by a certain section?

If so, bouldering will probably help. On a 5.11d you shouldn't find any move/section harder than V3 (realistically most won't have anything harder than V1/2, just a bunch of them strung together). Once you know you can do all the moves, it's just a matter of wiring it in and linking them (oversimplification but you know what I'm saying).

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