Bouldering as Training

I hate to admit this but climbing at the gym has grown on me. Actually, nix that, bouldering at the gym has grown on me. A year ago that would have been an unspeakable thought but now I’ve learned to appreciate bouldering in the gym for what it is.

Since moving to Seattle I have been going to Stone Gardens on a semi-regular basis. One of the unfortunate side effects of moving to a new city is that I didn’t have a go to climbing partner. That has since been remedied but at first I was flying solo so to speak. Without a belayer I took up bouldering.

In the beginning it was rough. I would thrash and dangle on the easiest of V0’s and my forearms would pump out on even the slightest of overhangs. On the all day climbs in North Carolina my Mythos performed wonderfully but on the plastic of the gym my feet wouldn’t stick like they had on the east coast. It would’ve been easy to blame it on the rubber or the slippery holds but I knew better.

It was frustrating but it all changed the instant I learned the drop knee. When that happened everything just clicked. Soon enough I was keeping my weight over my legs. I could take the time to place my feet instead of thrash for holds. I was making progress and though it wasn’t the same as looking down on the birds on a long route in NC, it was fun.

Now that the weather is starting to turn in Seattle I am getting outside more. The single pitch stuff I’ve been doing hasn’t been fantastic but I find myself ho-humming up 5.9’s, dancing up easier 5.10 friction, and even sinking gear in a splitter 5.8 in marginal weather a couple of weeks ago. Even though these are moderate achievements, they are half past amazing for me considering a year ago I was barely sketching up 5.7.

Bouldering in the gym has allowed me to break through a barrier in my progression as a climber. Not only am I stronger but I have learned how to move, how to balance and how to visualize the sequence. In a couple of years I’d like to be able to TR 5.11d, I’d like to lead 5.10c and I’d like to be confident that I can pull through the bouldery crux thirty feet above my last piece of pro. Maybe I’ll get there, maybe I won’t. What I do know is that without the gym I’ll never get there only climbing two weekends a month.

Cheers.

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