Thursday, January 15, 2009

2009 Goals and Height Issues

Well the first naturally is survival. Given the economic picture, I feel fortunate to be working in public higher education where I am actually helping people acquire the skills they will need to better themselves. However the budget picture is bleak and Colorado colleges and universities will be doing a lot more with a lot less in the near future.

On the climbing front, I have two major areas to tackle. The first is to boulder at least at V12 by the end of the year, the second is to master my fear of off-the-deck/run-out climbing. The first seems well within sight but the second is much more psychological and harder to anticipate and control. I would really like to be able to tick a V13 but I feel I have some more work to do before that happens.

Speaking of off-the-deck, the "Dojo" cave at the Spot has been refinished and remodeled a bit at the top as well and is a huge improvement. However the new problems there need to be graded a bit more fairly. For example, I did a 4 minus that took at least 3 tries and felt more in the neighborhood of V7. The five minuses on the wall looked to be in the V10/11 range, having moves that I knew I would never be able to do, let alone link.

While indoor ratings are even more irrelevant than outdoor ones, there is the problem of knowing what you're actually up against that is the key to training. It's like trying to measure running times with an erratic stopwatch or against the world's best sprinter. You need a more objective measure or you can't tell if you actually are making progress. Since I care more about outdoor climbing, I want to be able to gauge my ability against consensus standards and not internal gym scales especially not ones that aren't a bit more internally consistent.

I also have to say, as I have before, that the formation is still a wee bit too high, a point that comes back again to training. Training is for building up your body to handle stress. However over time your body cannot handle the repeated impact of falls from 8-10 feet. There is no training that can offset the destructive power that is transmitted to your vertebrae and other joints, even in an ideal fall. No pad can fully compensate for the repeated trauma of falling regardless of landing position. Another climber there "demonstrated" to the crowd by jumping that falling from the top was fine as long as "you aren't scared." While it's better not to be scared than to be scared, the fact is that the human body is not designed to absorb those forces and it is foolhardy to purposely take a chance at long-term or irreparable damage and ensuing limited mobility and pain. Take a look at this paper for more. Note especially the table on falling. A 9 foot fall results in an impact force of 3600 pounds for an average worker with equipment!

The solution is a formation that allows climbers to climb hard on steep terrain without rising very high above it, the kinds of formations that are very common in many well-known bouldering areas. The classic example is the Automator in RMNP, a steep problem where you are never more than two feet above the ground. A shelf rises up behind you to compensate. In nature these formations are rarely ideal but in a gym they are easy to create. The roof at CATS is similar as well but is a bit too steep and monotonous in angle for ideal climbing. Anyway my point is that gyms should recognize that high walls, while cool to look at and fun to climb, especially at reasonable grades, are a potential long-term hazard for their users, especially those who don't want back or knee surgery at 35.


sock hands said...

agreed about the falls, peter... on balance, learning to top out the boulders at the spot with the natural features is an exceedingly important learning tool for climbers to commit and persevere on taller outdoor blocks. when folks freak out and eat it outside because they are not used to the exposure and such, the acute damage can obviously be intense.

i do think, however, that my midget wall in the basement helps preserve what's left of my damaged knees.

maybe it's just an educational issue... to tell the kiddies that they should not lob themselves off the tall gym stuff too much when just training mucles versus mind?

Anonymous said...

Peter, I agree with your assessment of the Dojo wall at the Spot. I was at the lip of the roof and took a back slapper the other day. Falls of that nature are just not worth it. Training should never endanger the athlete. CATS remains the best place to train for hard climbing in Boulder.
In regards to what JJ said, I agree. Having indoor topouts is a great instructional tool for learning to safely mantel, however the Dojo doesn't teach manteling nor is it safe. DAB.

Anonymous said...

Do you have a V12 project picked out yet?

Peter Beal said...

Thanks for the feedback, JE and JJ. RE CATS, while I agree that the terrain is more conducive to hard moves, the set-up is now too cramped for space to hold more than half a dozen climbers comfortably. Also the holds really do need to be changed more frequently.

The only good part of the Dojo is the left side but the topouts are still too high there and are often sketchy and slopey on the harder problems meaning out of control falls are a real possibility.

As far as V12 projects, locally there are some possibilities on Flag. I would like to do European Human Being and Secret Splendor in RMNP. I am still not convinced that Clear Blue Sky is really V12 but it is a beautiful problem. No More Greener Grass is harder for sure and another classic line.

Matt said...

Planet Granite in San Fransisco has an interesting set up. They have two levels of bouldering and next to the stairs is a 45ish wall with a ramp about four feet below it the whole way. This allows one to climb from the first to the second floor on a 25 foot 45. Not too shabby.

Peter Beal said...

Thanks I'll check that out