Does it ever stop? The almighty forceful climbers of the world keep pushing the limits and smashing records, they keep improving and keep raising the bar and the rest of us keep reading about it, wishing we could bounce back to peak fitness and go on a rampage of our own. From the wet lands of Squamish, to Southern France, from the high hills of Swiss Chocolate to the South African desert. Paul Robinson crushes Mooisie Maise 8B+ in a two day repeat. Don’t ask me what that name means or how hard 8B+ is, but I think it’s somewhere in the V13/V14 range. So sick. Ethan Pringle comes bloody close to ticking the Cobra Crack, Adam Ondra (15yrs) ticks off one of the words most beautiful and enduring climbs, WOGU. A seven pitch limestone 5.13d/5.14a in the Ratikon range of Switzerland. Established by Beat Kammerlander and his legendary style of ground up ascents. Wogu is named after one of his good friends and inspirations (my own as well) Wolfgang Gullich. And Ramon Julien strolls up Realization 5.14d/5.15a. So what gives? Where are all these mutants coming from? And how in the hell did they get so fuggin strong? I’m not a kinesiologist, but I know rock climbing, (bin doin it for 12 years) and I’ve learned that it doesn’t take school or a flashy diploma to tell “us” what works and what doesn’t. Which reminds me, if you are learning to climb from the guy/or gal in the gym with a big University degree but little common sense, run away. You can’t put a price on mileage. Try to find a teacher or coach that can offer you both, a big brain and an even bigger box of life/climbing related experience. You won’t be disappointed.
So let us get back to those mutants. After some diggin, I came up with a few examples of what makes these climbers so accomplished. The one thing they all have in common is a strict diet of finger strength dedication. Going to the climbing gym and running laps on your hardest climb does NOT make you stronger, it makes you more FIT, yes, technically more savvy, yes, but stronger? Not a chance. Read the following blurbs and you’ll see what I mean…
“Adam Ondra reveals some of his training and sending tactics, including resting a full three to five hours between burns on hard endurance routes, and up to two hours between attempts on bouldery routes. Surprisingly for a climber who's most famous for his outdoor leads, Ondra trains in the off-season almost exclusively on a small bouldering wall. He says he visits indoor lead-climbing gyms only a couple of times each winter.”
“When asked about his number one tip for aspiring new climbers, Malcolm Smith says this – ‘Fingers, fingers, fingers. No World class climber has weak fingers but many can get away with weak bodies, and weak shoulders. Make finger strength the number one priority in your training, work on your weaknesses and never drink on an empty stomach.”
Wolfgang Gullich 1960 – 1992. After climbing Wallstreet in 1987, the worlds first 5.14b Wogu said this…”On Wallstreet there is a very difficult boulder problem. I discovered the problem and I thought it might be possible. Through the winter I went to this training center in Nuremberg, and with the help of a physical education professor I worked specific muscles, training intramuscular coordination combined with reaction time so that I would be able to do the moves for this problem.”
Not convinced? When I went to Boulder this past month, I found myself at the power house center of the WORLD. CATS climbing gym is a tiny wall in comparison to the glossy new gyms of Boulder CO or Utah. But it is perhaps one of the first indoor climbing gyms in the world, and to this day it remains a challenge for the worlds elite. Ty Landman, Daniel Woods, Paul Robinson, Emily Harrington. All these climbers go to CATS during the week and train power and contact strength. After one session at the famous gym, I could see why V14 is so piss easy. They use a 45 degree wall for the lower panel and then it converts into a 30/35 degree wall. It is the ultimate set up. If you are training for climbing you will never need anything more than this, I promise you. Of course, a good 25 degree wall is nice for warming up and a roof is great for having fun and practising toe hooks, but nothing will ever translate to rock better than this. Also, they have over 7000 holds bolted onto the wall permanently, so you’ll never run out of choices. EVER. My fingers are sweating just thinking ’bout it.
Joe Rockheads in Toronto has a very similar training wall, check it out, www.joerockheads.com. They cater to climbers needs. I once asked Bob (the owner) why it was so successful, he told me he thinks it was because he and his brother built the gym for themselves, for their own training needs and desires. Those selfish bastards. Makes sense. If you build it, they will come.