Got a project route? If not, go look for one now. What’s a project route? It is basically a route you are trying to red-point. It is usually a grade or two above the grade you are comfortably climbing. For instance, if you are comfortably climbing grade 6A, you should work on a challenging 6B or 6C route. The route should be sufficiently challenging but not physically out of your reach. That is, you want something with a crux that you can’t complete, although you know that with a bit of work you could eventually nail it. A route that you can get to the anchor, albeit you have to hangdog, is not a suitable project route – it is too easy.
What does a project route do for you? It helps you to refine your climbing skills and work on an area that you are weak at. In a weightloss program, it would be like focussing on a particular area of your body, like your abs, or your thighs. With your project route, it may be a particular crimp, or sloper, or pinch that you just can’t hold, or it could be a short series of moves that is beyond your current physical ability. Given enough time, you should be able to work through it and red-point the route.
If you have been working on it solidly for a couple of weeks and you clearly aren’t making any progress, drop the project and look for another. It may be that the route you have chosen is way too difficult for your current climbing abilities. You can always return to this project again at a later date after you have clocked up more climbing hours.
The great thing about a project route like this is that it helps you “see” your improvements. When you are climbing every week, sometimes it can feel as if you aren’t making any progress at all. It may feel that your climbing has hit status quo and you don’t seem to be able to improve no matter what you do. Fear not, it is just temporary. Many climbers I have spoken to have experienced this at some point where they have been training but nothing they do seems to make them climb any better. They hit a plateau phase that seems to last forever until one day, they suddenly make a leap and start climbing beyond their perceived abilities.
When you feel that this has happened to you, go back to that project route you had to put on the shelf and try it again. You will be surprised how much easier it suddenly seems. It was quite similar for me when I first attempted two 7A routes – “Pear” and “Stupid With Manners”. When I went back after several months of additional climbing under my belt, it was suddenly possible for me to work both cruxes. Likewise, with “Chess”, the first time I ever climbed it was on top-rope. I remember thinking how impossible the route was and I honestly never thought I would ever be able to complete the crux, but I eventually red-pointed it, too.
Project routes like these can bring an enormous satisfaction when you are finally able to climb them. Never rule out anything as impossible. Just give it a go and see how you go, but know when to quit and call it a day.
Below: The only picture I have of me on Stupid with Manners and it had to be on top-rope…