10 Do’s & Don’ts for Effective Redpointing

Age 49 1/2 and redpointing 5.12b at Ten Sleep Canyon, WY!
Age 49 1/2 and redpointing 5.12b at Ten Sleep Canyon, WY!

Projecting is the process of working a route near, or beyond, your current limit with the goal of solving and sending the climb as hastily as possible. On a near-limit project you might quickly put together a redpoint ascent in a just few tries following an hour or two of intermittent work and rest. Pick a limit-stretching project, however, and you may very well be in for several arduous days (or weeks) of working on, falling over, and training for the breakthrough send. Either way, effective projecting requires a thoughtful, strategic approach to solving the crux moves, connecting the sequences, and developing a belief that you can send the route. Here are ten do’s and don’ts to working—and succeeding—on your projects!

1. Don’t view the project as an overwhelming whole that must be attacked move-by-move from the bottom up. Do break down the route into three to five manageable parts (defined by rest locations or gear placements) and solve each chunk as a boulder problem of its own. Allow, and enjoy, feelings of positive expectation and eventual success to build with each chunk solved and sent.

2. Don’t rush to judgment on how the crux sequence must be done, and never assume that the sequence used by others is the best one for you. Do hang on the rope liberally so that you can test several different solutions to the crux section. Widen your view and search for creative solutions—look for sidepulls, underclings, hand matches, hidden footholds, heel hooks, and unchalked intermediate holds. It’s discovering a new handhold, body position, or foot finesse that often makes the “impossible” possible!

3. When struggling with a difficult move, don’t focus singularly on powering through the hard move. Do focus on the sensations (proprioception from your arms, legs and torso) of doing the move successfully and compare these bodily feelings with those of your failed attempts. Noting the physical sensations of doing a move or sequence correctly is a powerful resource to tap when you hit this crux section on your redpoint run.

4. Don’t overpractice the crux section or lower chunks of the climb at the expense of logging adequate practice time on the final chunk to the anchors (an approach that often leads to disappointing falls just short of the top). Do practice the final chunk of the route enough times to build a high sense of confidence in being able to cruise this closing section in a fatigued state.

5. Upon solving the crux chunk, don’t rush on to working the next chunk. Do immediately lower down and repeat the crux section a second (or even third) time to become doubly sure that you know the sequence and, just as importantly, the proprioceptive feel of successfully executing the sequence.

6. When working a safe (well-protected) climb, don’t let the fear of falling sabotage your efforts to effectively work the route. Assuming a safe-fall situation, do take a few practice falls from the very spot you fear falling from. Soon you will discover that the fear has evaporated and you can now work the route free or apprehension and anxiety.

7. When resting on the ground between practice burns, don’t just sit down and ponder your chances of redpoint success/failure. Do go for a short walk (active recovery) and take a mental break from the climb. Sip some water or sports drink; then after 5 or 10 minutes of strolling around, return to the base of the route and engage in some mental rehearsal of the ascent. Rest a total of 20 to 45 minutes between practice burns or redpoint attempts.

8. If you can’t send the route on the first or second day of work, don’t give up! Do return home and build a simulator of the crux sequences on your home wall or at the local gym. Work the simulator sequence several times per workout to develop the specific motor programs and strength needed to send the proj. Additionally, develop a one to two week exercise program that targets your limiting physical constraint on the project climb (power, endurance, crimp or pocket pulling, lock-off strength, or whatever). Supplement your physical practice with 10 to 20 minutes of bedtime visualization—make this mental move as vivid and detailed as possible.

9. When returning to the scene of the climb, after a break of a day or more, don’t just rope up and go for the send “cold.” Do climb the route bolt-to-bolt (or rest-to-rest) to physically and mentally prepare for a successful ascent. Work through the flash-pump stage of getting warmed up, and then rest 20 to 45 minutes before going for the send.

10. As you rope up for a redpoint attempt, don’t fall into the trap of feeling that you must send the route on this go—such thoughts create a pressure to perform that few climbers can harness into beneficial psychic energy. (For many climbers, the fear of failure results in an emotional weight that stacks the deck against a successful outcome.) Do foster an expectation of success, based on the knowledge that you’ve worked all the moves and perhaps even trained specifically for the climb, but also pre-accept a failed outcome should it happen. By accepting that it’s okay to fail—and by likewise believing that success is inevitable given perseverance—you 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.

Copyright © 2000–2015 Eric J. Hörst | All Rights Reserved.