Projecting Routes

Projecting is to spend an undefined amount of time climbing a route or problem at your physical limit.  The objective when doing this is to climb it clean. Even though projecting is generally focused at higher grade climbers, it is a fantastic mental challenge for beginners to learn and master. Eric Hörst provides the following tips to help anyone who is new to the projecting game:

6 Steps for working and sending your project

  1. Picking the right route is an important first step as you want to avoid getting bogged down in a long-term fight.  Pick a route that sits somewhere between two grades below and one grade above your hardest redpoint from the past six months.  Ideally you should avoid routes more than one grade above your limit, unless you find yourself on what you feel is the perfect route to go for a personal record.
  2. Chunk down the route into three to five manageable parts, defined by the best rest positions.  A sustained route with no good rests will need to be worked bolt-to-bolt.  Get to work solving each chunk as a mini-route of its own. The first (and lower) chunks will naturally get the most work, but be sure to wire the final chunk of the route so that there is no doubt you can send this closing section in a fatigued state. Falling off on your way to the anchors is definitely a form of self-torture!
  3. Once you identify the crux sequence(s), spend plenty of time investigating the best moves to overcome the problem. Be careful not to always accept other folks beta as the “best way” to do the crux.  Test out a couple of different sequences of your own creation. There’s nothing wrong with climbing up, “taking” or falling, lowering and doing it all over again a bunch of times.  Widen your view and search for creative solutions; look for sidepulls, underclings, hand matches, hidden footholds, heel hooks, and unchalked intermediate holds.  Discovering a new handhold, body position, or foot finesse makes an impossible-feeling move possible!
  4. Dial in the crux sequence to the point that it seems almost automatic. As a rule, you should be able to climb the crux chunk three times without falling before considering it to be redpoint ready.  A powerful learning strategy is to identify proprioceptive cues that will guide you through the hardest moves. During your practice burns, focus on the sensations (proprioception of your arms, legs, and torso) of doing the move successfully and compare these body sensations with those of your failed attempts. Noting the physical sensations of a correct move or sequence is a powerful resource for when you hit this crux section on your redpoint run.
  5. After working through the entire route, including climbing the crux chunk three times, take a thirty to sixty minute rest before going for the redpoint. Research shows that consuming a sports drink and engaging in active recovery can speed up your recovery time.  Take a mental break from the climb by going for a short walk and sipping a beverage along the way. After ten to fifteen minutes of strolling around, return to the base of the route and engage in some visualization to help pre-program a successful ascent.
  6. As you rope up for the redpoint attempt, focus your thoughts on a calm confidence and expectation for success.  Any nervousness that arises is a good sign that your brain is triggering a release of adrenaline to prepare you for a top-notch physical effort.  Finally, you can alleviate any fears of failure by pre-accepting a failed outcome should it happen. By accepting failure and simultaneously believing that success is inevitable with perseverance, you will massively increase the odds of success by eliminating the debilitating fear of failure. Now empty your mind, engage the moment, and let a successful redpoint unfold one move at a time.

3 Tips for working multi-day projects

  1. If the project doesn’t go down on day one, you will need to assess your mental and physical ability to send on day two.  You won’t be as physically fresh in attempting a day-two send, however your brain often makes up the difference with your subconscious mind guiding you through the hardest moves more efficiently.  For this reason, many tired climbers are often surprised with a miraculous day-two send!  With a less than full gas tank, you might only have one or two good attempts to give the route. If the send eludes you on day two, take a break for a few days or even a week before returning to the scene of the climb.
  2. If you have a home wall you could set a simulation of the project’s crux sequence. Work the simulator sequence several times per workout to develop the specific motor programs and strength needed to send the project. Supplement your physical practice with ten to twenty minutes of bedtime visualization. Make your mental movie as vivid, detailed and as bottom-to-top complete as possible.
  3. When you return to the project, resist the urge to go for the send straight off the bat.  Prepare both mentally and physically for a successful ascent by climbing the route bolt to bolt (or rest to rest). Strive to confirm the proprioceptive cues of successfully executing the crux sequence and be sure you have the final run to the anchors dialled in tight. Once you have worked through the flash-pump stage of getting warmed up, lower to the ground and rest for thirty to forty-five minutes before going for the send.

What to Do When Your Project Becomes a Prison?

Failing on a route for days or even weeks can damage your self-confidence and perhaps even destroy your motivation to climb. If you reach this point, or ideally before you reach this point, give the project a rest and shift your focus onto something else. The best way to regain your confidence and overcome a negative head space is to send some more routes! Dial your expectations back and go climbing for a few days (or weeks) with the only goal being to regain your mojo.   Aim to send routes three or four grades below the project grade. If your project is a 28, set out to send a slew of 24 and 25 routes. After a period of absence your heart will grow fond to the thought of returning to the project. You will know when the time is right.

Repetition

“We are what we do repeatedly. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit” – Aristotle.
By doing a task repeatedly the more efficient and accomplished we can become at that task. Repetitions are similar to projecting except the climber is attempting a climb one or two grades below their max and repeating it 3 or 4 times in succession. The idea behind this is the more you climb, the more energy you use, however this can be countered by finding a sequence that is effective, fast and suited to your ability. If you finish your climbs with minimal effort, increase the grade for strength or increase the reps for endurance. Another form of repetition is performing a crux move, rather than the climb itself, multiple times. This however should be reserved for climbers who are at grade 18+.

While completing your repetitions, focus on your movements. Stiff mechanical movement is a sign of poor technique and involves a high burn rate of energy, while smooth fluid movement is a sign of high economy. Ideally you should aim to get a perfect economy rate from your movements.

Eric Hörst (pronounced “hurst”) is a former world-class climber, as well as a coach and author of best-selling books such as Training for Climbing and Maximum Climbing: Mental Training for Peak Performance and Optimal Experience.