Pyramids and Fruit? Yes, I’m Still Talking About Climbing & Training…

After three days off from climbing and one day of total rest, I felt awesome yesterday morning, full of energy and with no residual soreness – exactly where I want to be to start my spring/summer training. I’m beginning my more structured training program with a gradual accumulation and build-up in weight training to prepare myself for some maximal-strength training when summer in Ten Sleep is in full swing. Soon, it will be far too hot to climb at the chossy steeper crags, meaning I’ll be back into the more finesse- and finger-oriented style of climbing in the canyon — a climbing style that allows me to push my body’s power and strength levels in weight training while still climbing somewhat for performance outside.

I decided to give the route I’ve tried a couple times that’s honestly too hard for current-me a rest for at least a week, and I may not get on it again until I’m stronger. I have sound reasons for this choice. Sure, climbing (or I should more accurately say, flailing my way up) that too-hard-for-me route will make me stronger, but I’m also giving up a ton of climbing/training days if every single attempt on the route makes me so destroyed that I need three or four days to recover from one pitch of climbing. I don’t regret checking it out, though — it gave me a good, solid insight into another level of climbing power and strength that I want to work hard to attain; it gave me an incredible on-the-rocks strength-and-power workout (twice!); and I really enjoy the more subtle technicality of the powerful moves on it, even though I can’t do many of them together yet.

As I see it, though, if I’m still getting pushed and falling off of easier climbs, and if I still have easier climbs available that I haven’t redpointed, I should probably try to send those climbs first, before ramping it up and trying a route repeatedly that renders me useless and destroyed for all climbing and training for days after a single effort. And I do firmly believe that building route pyramids is one of the smartest ways to progress through climbing grades. For me, of course, this has meant building an entirely new pyramid over the past few years, made up of routes featuring climbing styles I historically sucked at. I pretty much had a Ten Sleep pyramid (you can throw Shelf Road and other vert-tech areas in there, too) and an “everywhere else pyramid,” and the everywhere else pyramid was more like a random, tottering, structurally unsound Jenga building ready to crumble into dust at the slightest touch.

So I had to start constructing my new route pyramid at what felt like a relatively low level on the more popular sport-climbing angle of all styles of steep overhangs, from the endurance-fests of the Red River Gorge to the powerful dynamic styles of other steep areas, and everything in between. Since I set my mind to it and stopped obsessing about how much I “sucked” at this kind of climbing and how the grades were “so easy,” I’ve been hungrily plucking all of the low-lying fruit that I can to solidify my base. I’ve come to view each letter grade I add to my steep-’n’-powerful pyramid as a crucial building block indicating breaking into a new level. I then surround that block with many of its fellows, using the overall imaginary picture of a sturdy pyramid as evidence of my improvement and my expanding base of knowledge and strength.

And yet I still believe there’s merit in trying routes that are too hard for me (or you), in really pushing outside your current comfort/ability zone now and again. This can be especially worthwhile in your home area where the climbs are always there for you to try, and it makes sense, too, if you’re out of easier climbs to try at your local area, of course. When you check out a route that’s on the edge of your current ability, your eyes get opened up to what’s possible for you in the future – what you might be able to do in a year or two, with hard work and dedicated effort in training. It can be motivating, and it can also help put the difficulty of your current project(s) in perspective, making them feel easier. As always, it’s about balance and priorities – do you want to spend your time banging your head against the proverbial wall, or do you want to send lots of routes quickly, or something in between these two extremes? And do you want more climbing days, generally meaning you’ll have to try less-difficult climbs, or fewer climbing days characterized by much harder efforts?

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