Last week in this post I talked about the training I did during my ‘base period’ while following Scott Johnston and Steve’s house advice in Training for the New Alpinism. This week, I am going to finish off the discussion with a review of what I did during my climbing-specific period, to taper, how I felt when actually climbing the objectives I had been training for in Patagonia. Hopefully some more anecdotal information gets you motivated to pursue your own training goals. I know that I am already back on the horse.
Climbing-specific period – What is it?
The climbing-specific period is all about preparing for your objective. Now that you have built up muscular strength and an aerobic engine to aid in recovery in the base period, you can now push your body harder while training and realize the benefits of a long term structured training plan. Its all about converting general strength to specific strength. In TFTNA, the chapter dedicated to this part of the regiment is called “Climb, Climb, Climb” – and so that is what we did.
Discussion of how we trained on the road
At this time, Jimmy and I were living out of my car on the road. As we travel the Bugaboos (early August) to Squamish (August/September) to Yosemite (October), and then to Bozeman and Idaho (November, early December). Our goal later in the year was to visit Argentine Patagonia. There we planned to do long rock and mixed/ice routes. Thus, during the next four months leading up to the time at which we began tapering, we did most of our training on the road. It comprised predominantly of cragging, a long route/day/link-up once or twice a week and some strength training on a periodic basis. We used the approach on longer days to maintain our aerobic base and went on easy runs or spent days with parents and friends for recovery.
During the entire trip, I tracked all the climbing we did and how I personally felt (see list at bottom of page). I was interested in using the data to better understand (or rather confirm) where I needed to place more effort training/honing skills. Not surprising to myself, all the techy stuff was fun, and I got scared whenever it got steep. Through this table, it is easy to see how we gradually increased the training load and size of the objective over-time, rather than overnight. Also, look how there are lap gaps between big objectives – the body needs time to recover.
8/9 – Becky-Chinouard in a day
8/20 – Angel’s Crest -> High Plane’s Drifter
9/3 – Aiding and hauling UWall, then the next day, freeing and hauling to Truck stop on Freeway
9/9 – Full Freeway + first two pitches on UWall
9/16 – FA in North Cascades w/ day long approach wrestling 60 degree slide alder either end
9/24 – Borderlines (11c variation) -> Angel’s Crest -> High Plains Drifter
10/3,10/4 – Rostrum followed by Washington Column the next day
10/7 – The Nose in 3.5 days
10/9 – The Rostrum
10/10 – Moratorium -> East Buttress of El Cap
10/22 – The Nose in a Day
11/9 – Myopia including walk from Redfish lodge (8 hours in boots
11/20 – Cherry Crack -> Dire Wolf -> Fails of Power -> Smashmouth -> Astafar Command -> The Headache, Zion National Park
After Zion, we headed to Hyalite to refresh our ice skills on the little ice existed anywhere in the states (trust me, we looked around pretty hard!). We really wanted to ramp up in this domain before heading to Patagonia. We did about 8 days in Hyalite over two weeks. Each of these included about an hour approach and descent, and then 4 or 5 pitches.
The one thing that we tended to sacrifice in the name of fun climbing was leg work. About every 2 weeks one of our climbs involved a very long hike or approach with a heavy pack, but, other than that, we didn’t do a lot to maintain max strength or muscular endurance in our legs. I periodically did single leg movements and squats with weight when we had access to a gym near the end of our time on the road. We were definitely well-trained enough for the short approaches and very technical climbing in Patagonia but if we went to a range with greater requirements for endurance slogging uphill, I think we would have been at a disadvantage.
Overall during my climbing-specific period, I did a lot of pitches: ~400 on rock or on tools. Here is what I learned:
Lessons from training during this period
I saw how important the base period was. I was amazed each day about how much climbing we could do without getting tired. I could climb many pitches near my limit without slowing down. Having spoken to Scott Johnston recently about some anecdotal evidence here, I now understand this is because of my body’s trained ability to recover. I could recover while at the belay on a multi-pitch, or holding my rope for a friend while on the ground. Because of my strength reserve, I wasn’t digging deep into max strength muscle fibers very often.
You can train technical skills quickly , but you cannot train fitness. I am not a great ice climber. When comparing myself to Jimmy (easy to do, I spent nearly everyday with him), I was well aware of the number of days he has on ice. Probably a magnitude of ten difference. BUT, given my fitness level and strength, I was able to quickly step into that arena and ramp up to leading some of my first water ice 5 pitches and mix routes. This occurred over the course of just a few days. I had the capacity to climb several pitches in one day and return the next without even feeling fatigued. Jimmy made a similar progress on rock. He had not done a lot of rock climbing while guiding during the last year, but was able to make quick advancements back to his previous skill level due to his strength and aerobic capacity for the same reasons.
The impact of a large strength reserve and high muscular endurance was really visible on long hard routes or days out. For example, I know that Jimmy was climbing about a letter grade below me (working easy 5.11 versus working easy 12s – Squamish grades!). The difference in strength reserve became really clear when we climbed the Nose. I was working at an aerobic, all-day pace and still felt like I had gas in the tank 3/4 of the way up. Only as an anecdotal example on training, I’ll note that Jimmy was lagging at this point. The weight room (max strength) and repetitive, targeted movement (muscular endurance via auto-belay laps with weight, steep uphill with weight, etc) during the base period had paid off. This worked because the moves on the Nose (french-freeing everything) were well below my strength reserve.
Taking it to Patagonia
Upon arriving to Patagonia, we had a bunch of routes in mind that required LONG days on mostly moderate terrain, each fronted by a big approach the day (or night) before, and then by another few hours to get to the base of a climb the morning of. We both felt very confident coming into this knowing how fit we were – we could feel it. We were both also very sure to taper for a good week or too while spending time packing and preparing to jet off.
I would say about a two to three weeks passed between big outings in Patagonia climbing or some of our last “training” days. This taper period left me feeling great, even after 8 months on the road, climbing as much as possible. With a huge pack on walking into Niponino over talus that seemed to be sitting on ball-bearings, I felt springy. Conversely, a few funks stumbled in to base camp like they had just been hit by a train. If at that point I still hadn’t bought into Scott and Steve’s training advice, I certainly would have finally been made a believer.
While in Chalten, we didn’t need to acclimatize due to the low elevation, but warming up the body a little bit did help. We took advantage of days of bad weather to scout approaches and stash gear. These little missions helped us to get into shape for the longer ones.
Finally some of the climbs we had been training for were in condition and we went for it. If you have read any of the other posts on my site about those days out, you’ll know how they finished – bad weather, rockfall, too many parties, poor conditions, etc. On the other hand, we were never turned back or limited by fitness. That was an awesome feeling!
Looking back on the entire year of training
After seeing the power of building the base before diving into hard training, I don’t know if I will ever go back. I am already a month into a new training plan that will endure through the summer and into the fall. There are a few things I have found really enjoyable about the training process and benefits present by Scott and Steve in their book:
- Having a strong aerobic base, that is noticeable even after just a year of training following the advice in TFTNA, makes it really easy to just go be active at a moderate intensity level. I can join friends for hikes, go on bike rides, walk the extra distance, whatever it is, without feeling like I need a cliff bar afterwards.
- Creating a well-defined training plan for myself, and planning in advance, actually helped me to eliminate boring days at the gym, repetitive workouts, and aimlessly wandering around the weight room at the boulder project, feeling like I should be slamming barbells down like everyone else. Because I have a plan that I know works, I am comfortable sticking to it. I don’t feel guilty resting on a rest day, walking the past moon-board to do general strength, and I know exactly what I need to fit into my schedule when I’ve got a big training week ahead.
I hope these two articles have made it a little more clear how to take the technical information in TFTNA and turn it into action. If I can help clarify what I did, just reach out, otherwise, go build your base!
Table of all the climbing I did over the year, tracked to better understand progression.
|Climb||Pitches||Max grade||Location||Date||Partners||Send quality||Style||Notes|
|The Passenger||8||5.11D||WA Pass||7/31/2016||Chris, Ben||B||Bouldery, steep, fingery||Onsighted 5.11d crux, trouble at lower 5.11c boulder move|
|El Capitan||4||5.10+||WA Pass||8/3/2016||Chris, Jean||A||Strenuous, hand-crack||Kangaroo Wall|
|Unknown||2||5.10D||Mazama, WA||8/4/2016||Chris, Jean||A||Techy, fingery|
|Unknown||1||5.10C||Mazama, WA||8/4/2016||Chris, Jean||A||Bouldery, steep|
|Unknown||1||5.11-||Mazama, WA||8/4/2016||Chris, Jean||A||Bouldery, steep||Onsighted, before taking massive whipper due to snake|
|Southern Man||6||5.11+||WA Pass||8/5/2016||Chris, Jean||B||Strenuous, steep||Hung on gear at crux of steep 5.11 pitch|
|Liberty Crack||9||5.11+||WA Pass||8/7/2016||Chris, Jimmy, Mikey||C||Strenuous, techy||Pulled on lots of gear through strenuous upper 5.11 pitch|
|NE Ridge, Bugaoo Spire||4||5.8||The Bugaboos||8/8/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Would solo in future|
|Becky-Chouinard||12||5.10+||The Bugaboos||8/9/2016||Chris, Jimmy||B||Strenuous, fingers||Felt ran-out, pulled on gear during crux pitch (variation)|
|Paddle Flake Direct||4||5.10c||The Bugaboos||8/10/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Strenuous, hand-crack||Linked 5.10 pitches through crux|
|Flaming-Hack Arrete||3||5.11+||The Bugaboos||8/11/2016||Chris||A||Finger-crack||Linked top 2 pitches|
|Liberty Bell Traverse||22||5.10+||WA Pass||8/20/2016||Chris, Jean||B||Fingery, steep||Very tired and mentally fatigued during West Face pitches|
|Angels Crest||10||5.10-||Squamish, BC||8/20/2016||Chris, Jimmy, Meg||A||Bouldery||Onsight|
|High Plains Drifter||2||5.11C||Squamish, BC||8/20/2016||Chris, Jimmy, Meg||A||Techny, bouldery||Onsight|
|Rock On||4||5.10A||Squamish, BC||8/21/2016||Chris, Jimmy, Meg||A|
|Werewolves of London||1||5.11A||Squamish, BC||8/21/2016||Chris, Jean||A||Finger-crack||Onsight|
|Crime of the Century||1||5.11C||Squamish, BC||8/21/2016||Chris, Jean||A||Finger-crack||Cruised|
|Clandestine Affair||1||5.10D||Squamish, BC||8/21/2016||Chris, Jean||B||Steep, roof, strenuous||Took a second to figure out steep crux|
|Power Windows||1||5.11B||Squamish, BC||8/21/2016||Chris, Jean||A||Techy, slab||Onsight|
|Unknown||1||5.10A||Squamish, BC||8/24/2016||Chris, Jimmy||Bogwall|
|Horrors of Ivan||1||5.11C||Squamish, BC||8/24/2016||Chris, Jimmy||C||Strenuous, steep||Scared|
|Millenium Falcon||10||5.11A||Squamish, BC||8/24/2016||Chris, Eric||A||Crack, techy, sport||Onsight|
|Claim Jumper||1||5.12A||Squamish, BC||8/25/2016||Chris||B||Bouldery, finger-crack||RP after|
|Perspective||1||5.11A||Squamish, BC||8/25/2016||Chris, Jimmy||B||On-sight|
|Unknown||1||5.8||Squamish, BC||8/25/2016||Chris, Jimmy||Bogwall|
|Penny Lane||1||5.9||Squamish, BC||8/26/2016||Chris, Jimmy|
|Sunny Days in December||1||5.12c||Squamish, BC||8/26/2016||Chris||C||Technical, bouldery||Stumped at first crux, took a bit to commit to seond|
|Kangaroo Crack||1||5.11a||Squamish, BC||8/26/2016||Chris, Jimmy||B||Bouldery, strenuous||Too tired|
|Seam near Kangaroo||1||5.12b||Squamish, BC||8/26/2016||Chris||D||Bouldery||Couldn’t even get up, lots of hanging|
|Green Drag-on||5||5.9||Index, WA||8/31/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Aid|
|Unversity Wall||8||5.9||Squamish, BC||9/3/2016||Ben, Lindsey, Chris||Aid|
|Freeway -> Truck stop||4||5.11C||Squamish, BC||9/4/2016||Chris, Ben, Lindsey||B||Technical, steep|
|Thriller off the void||1||5.11B||Squamish, BC||9/5/2016||Chris, Lindsey||A||Technical, sport||Onsight|
|Orphan||1||5.8||Squamish, BC||9/5/2016||Chris, Lindsey||A||Onsight|
|Block and Tackle||1||5.11B||Squamish, BC||9/5/2016||Ben, Lindsey, Chris||C||Strenuous, steep, roof|
|Burning Down the Couch||1||5.11D||Squamish, BC||9/8/2016||Chris, Jimmy||C||Strenuous, steep, fingery, sport||Bailed early off climb|
|Pleasant Pheasnt||1||5.11A||Squamish, BC||9/8/2016||Chris, Jimmy||B||Sport||Onsight|
|Zoe||1||5.10A||Squamish, BC||9/8/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Techy, sport||Onsight|
|James and the Giant Reach||1||5.11C||Squamish, BC||9/8/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Techny||Onsight|
|Freeway||11||5.11C||Squamish, BC||9/9/2016||Chris, Jimmy||C||Strenuous, steep, roof||Fell at roof due to nerves|
|Sunset strip||10||10D||Squamish, BC||9/11/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Crack, chimney, sport||Onsight|
|Octopus’s Garden in the Shade||1||5.8||Squamish, BC||9/11/2016||Chris, Katrina||A||Crack||Onsight|
|Hairpin||5||5.10A||Squamish, BC||9/12/2016||Chris, Katrina||A||Crack||Onsight|
|Act Like You’re Having Fun||8||5.10+||North Cascades, WA||9/16/2016||Chris, Eric||A||Strenuous, steep, dirty||Onsight after VERY long approac the day before|
|Neat and Cool||2||5.10A||Squamish, BC||9/20/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Slabby finger crack||and down-climbed|
|Flying Circus||1||5.10A||Squamish, BC||9/20/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Steep, crack||Onsight|
|Jangling Ball Wall||1||5.11A||Squamish, BC||9/20/2016||Chris, Jimmy||D||Bouldery||Couldn’t make up|
|Health Hazard||1||5.10A||Squamish, BC||9/20/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Slab||TR Onsight|
|Quarryman||1||5.8||Squamish, BC||9/20/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Crack||Onsight|
|Yorkshire Gripper||2||5.11B||Squamish, BC||9/20/2016||Chris, Jimmy||B||Bouldery||First day back, falls on lead due to fear, then RP|
|No Name Road||1||5.11B||Squamish, BC||9/22/2016||Chris, Katrina||C||Sustained, sport||Mind-fucked|
|Heavy Petting Action||1||5.10C||Squamish, BC||9/22/2016||Chris, Katrina||A||Sport, easy||Onsight|
|Even Stevens||1||5.10D||Squamish, BC||9/24/2016||Chris, Katrina||B||Steep, crack, face||Slow but onsight|
|Borderline, Angels Crest, HPD||14||5.11C||Squamish, BC||9/24/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Techy, strenuous||Onsighted 5.11C variation, tired with pack on HPD|
|Perspective||1||5.11B||Squamish, BC||9/27/2016||Chris, Jimmy||B||Strenuous||Still hard!|
|Nightmare Overhang||1||5.11B||Squamish, BC||9/27/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Traverse, strenuous||Followed Jimmy|
|Sentry Box||2||5.12A||Squamish, BC||9/27/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Technical fingers||Red-point then top-rope|
|Cerberus||3||5.11D||Squamish, BC||9/29/2016||Chris, Katrina||A||Techy||On-sight!|
|The Rostrum||9||5.11C||Yosemite, CA||10/3/2016||Chris, Jimmy||B||Steep, hands, power||Fell of crux, good effort on rest of route|
|Washington Column||11||5.11A||Yosemite, CA||10/4/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Short-fixing, steep 5.10 gear pulling||Flying!|
|The Nose||27||5.11A||Yosemite, CA||10/7/2016||Chris, Jimmy, Lindsey||A||Short-fixing, steep 5.10 gear pulling||Flying!|
|The Rostrum||9||5.11C||Yosemite, CA||10/9/2016||Chris, Ben||C||Steep, hands, power||Fell off crux, lacking power|
|Moratium + East Buttress||15||5.10B||Yosemite, CA||10/10/2016||Chris, Jimmy||C||Steep, powerful||Flying but couldn’t do the wet crux|
|Central Pillar of Frenzy||3||5.9||Yosemite, CA||10/11/2016||Chris, Jimmy, Meg||A||Hand-crack, steep||Flying!|
|The Nose in a Day||27||5.11A||Yosemite, CA||10/22/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Short-fixing, steep 5.10 gear pulling||Flying!|
|Salathe (p1, p2)||2||5.10A||Yosemite, CA||10/24/2016||Chris, Austin Bowlin, Jimmy||A||Finger-crack||Followed on everything|
|Tatoosh||1||5.10B||Index, WA||11/5/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A|
|Thin FIngers||1||5.11A||Index, WA||11/5/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A|
|Japanese Gardens||1||5.11C||Index, WA||11/6/2016||Chris, Jimmy||C||Technical, powerful, layback, sustained||had to work out cruxes on TR|
|Godzilla, City Park, Slow Children||3||5.10D||Index, WA||11/6/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A|
|Myopia||9||5.11A||Elephants Perch, ID||11/9/2016||Chris, Jimmy||B||Steep, stemming, balancy||Felt weaker after no climbing, altitude|
|Tatooine||15||5.11A||Zion National Park||11/15/2016||Chris, Jimmy||B||Ran out of energy, food, water|
|Shune’s Buttress||9||5.11C||Zion National Park||11/17/2016||Chris, Jimmy||C||Steep, off-fingers||unable to commit to hard moves above gear|
|Scarlet Begonias||1||5.11A||Zion National Park||11/18/2016||Chris, Jimmy||C||Steep, roof, layback||unable to commit to hard moves above gear, tired from Tatoonine the day before|
|Dire Wolf||1||5.12A||Zion National Park||11/20/2016||Chris, Jimmy||C||unable to commit to hard moves above gear|
|Cherry Crack||1||5.9||Zion National Park||11/20/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A|
|Fails of Power||1||5.11C||Zion National Park||11/20/2016||Chris, Jimmy||B||TR. steep, off fingers|
|Smashmouth||4||5.11A||Zion National Park||11/20/2016||Chris, Jimmy||B||Steep, fingers||Followed Jimmy on entire route|
|Ashtar Command||2||5.9||Zion National Park||11/20/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Technical edging, climbing at night||Led in one pitch|
|The Headache||3||5.10A||Zion National Park||11/20/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Hands, steep||Led in one pitch|
|Twin Falls||5||WI3||Bozeman, MT||11/28/2016||Chris, Jimmy||B||Fat, wet|
|The Matrix||2||M5||Bozeman, MT||11/29/2016||Chris, Jimmy||C||Run-out, grovely|
|Mummy II||1||WI4||Bozeman, MT||11/29/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Steep, flow, curtain||Led in rush, best of season|
|The Sceptor||1||WI5||Bozeman, MT||12/1/2016||Chris, Kevin||A||Steep, hooks, pilar|
|Mummy II, III||2||WI4||Bozeman, MT||12/1/2016||Chris, Kevin||B||Rotten||Fell on TR lower down|
|Magically Delicious||1||M3||Bozeman, MT||12/4/2016||Chris, Kevin||A||Led, 3 pieces, fat ice|
|The Good Looking One||1||M4||Bozeman, MT||12/4/2016||Chris, Kevin||C||Grovely||Followed Kevin|
|The Thrill Is Gone||1||M4||Bozeman, MT||12/4/2016||Chris, Kevin||A||Run-out, chimney||Led, minimal gear found due to iced cracks|
|The Hangover + L/R||3||WI4||Bozeman, MT||12/5/2016||Chris, Jimmy||A||Wet||Solod with Jimmy|
|Black Magic||1||5.9 WI4||Bozeman, MT||12/6/2016||Chris, Jimmy||C||Mixed, chimney, thin!||Bailed on thin curtain|