Projecting – how a redpoint changes how you think about climbing
The term redpoint or pink pointing a climb is also commonly known as “crushing” or “sending” it. An awkward, but convenient catchall term originating from across the pond.
Projecting is about trying to lead climb a route in one ascend from the bottom to the anchor without falling or resting in your rope or using any technical assistance to climb it. Kurt Albert from Frankenjura in Germany left a red point under each route that he (free) climbed. And the “rotpunkt” (redpoint) was born.
How it began and why so long
For many years, I climbed for the sake of its graceful moves, being outdoors and finding opportunities to get to all its beautiful places. It wasn’t a crime, I loved it. It was comfortable. At the same time, it kept me fit. Every now and then, I would bring home a climb or two. And that was it.
A dramatic fall trauma in the early years left me mentally disabled to want to improve my lead climbing abilities. Hand in hand with a “fear of the fear”, lots of excuses and leftover acrophobia, I found myself crawling into a shell that led nowhere. I faced stagnation and perhaps a little boredom.
Our trip to Leonidio changed many things. I looked so forward to this. The sun, sea, the beautiful greek walls, the charming greek people – they gave me strength. I was so inspired by the walls and caught a new bug at an instant.
It felt good to have time, to collect experiences, to let my fears go and led climbs. It was so scary. I knew I had two backups. One with two legs and one with just one. If they didn’t turn up fast enough, I had to fly.
The last week in Leonidio saw me going back to these routes once more. So much satisfaction when the redpoint magic happened! And it snapped.
Back home, I was determined to change the way I climbed, and top my previous levels. Eventually, I found a route that I wanted to work on and …
a PROJECT was born
This meant, coming back here repeatedly to try to redpoint the route above my usual level. Again and again, until I succeed. Having this as a goal meant changing a few tactics of how I was practicing it. Was Frankenjura going to be the right playground for me? Is my partner going to play the same game with me?
Does it matter?
It depends on you. Both styles are legit. Stay convenient forever or get a dose of dopamine now and then.
My biggest foe in lead climbing is FEAR. Fear of falling far and deep, fear of defeat, fear of being not strong enough, fear of being an embarrassment, fear of not being able to finish off the route and being a nuisance to everyone, fear of pressure, fear of not being able to reach the next bolt, fear of the unknown. The fear of the fear was a monster!
The good news: the more often I worked on a project, the more confident I became. After a while, I realized I was focussing more on my betas and technic than the fear. “Poco a poco”. Felt so good.
Yes, I wanted to rid of this as quickly as possible!
Ironing out the Beta
With each attempt, you learn what your body needs to do to be successful. More finger strength here, more dyno there, better endurance, better feet technic, cooler conditions, how to stay focussed… many factors make or doom your success.
How much salt is still missing in the soup? Is there still room for improvement?
- The best method that helped me succeed so far is actually by climbing that route repeatedly. No other sport or route can replace the muscles used specifically. Each time you climb, your body grows stronger and develop the muscles and confidence you need to redpoint it.
- Building up finger strength, core and flexibility can be easily done in an indoor gym. It is one of the most effective and fastest way to get yourself in shape.
I started doubling up the number of routes I climbed outdoor by repeating them in toprope, and then I started working out on steeper routes to gain endurance. There were days when I was just drilling on many different routes, days when I work on steep, bouldery routes. I stopped saying a lot less, that “this route is too hard for me”.
Suddenly, I had my own drill program outdoors. It brought me to a higher level quite quickly without the plastic.
- Once you’ve found your project, you need to know where and what’s in the crux. (= problems that make you fall) Is the route your style? Is it the endurance or boulder a problem? Is there another solution to simplify your moves? Are overhangs, crimps, MONOs or friction your thing?
How mental is the crux? Do I need to work on my finger, biceps, core to getting stronger? Am I flexible enough? Are all my finger ligaments, shoulder or knee strong enough for this route? (Injury alarm!) Are there any rest points along the way?
- Sometimes, the climbing trip ends too early before redpointing the route, and you are so focussed on coming back to get it done. Reconstructing the sequence as similar as possible in your training gym or at home can be a solution. Adam Ondra was a fine example when he projected “Silence” 9c ( catch the video on YouTube ). The next time you return, you can see if your hard work pays off.
- Look for solutions that suit you. Betas from a person that is 20 cm taller might work well for them but not for you. Do it your way.
Break down the route in pieces. Work from bolt to bolt. If getting to the crux leaves you too pumped to have enough strength to work out the crux later, it’s better to pick out just this sequence and work on it specifically. Similar to bouldering. Try clipping the bolt after the crux, and going back down to work out the right moves. Don’t forget to link each sequence and make sure they overlap.
Where’s a good hold to clip the quickdraw? What’s a good position? If I fall, can I do this without injuring myself? Why not try it out – controlled and safe (i.e. jump multiple times ) to know what’s in the soup. So scary!
(btw. pushing someone to climb a crux above his limits in terrain which is unsafe to fall is NOT always advisable. In this case, it’s better to ask him/her to retreat before a bad accident happens – Belayers, this is your show!)
- Topropes are for wimps? Not really. This is one of the slowest ways to tackle a project, but it helped me get over my fear without my brains freezing up and it saves me a lot of strength while checking out the beta.
Note: On a crowded day, don’t block that climb just for yourself. Be kind. Share and do let others in too.
- Stop making excuses. Think positive! Think it fun! Whatever you can’t achieve today, see it as training. The only person whom you are defying is yourself. Sports climbing is a sport where you compete with no one else but yourself.
- Train with people who motivate and knows how to push you without making you feel like a wimp. You need to succeed, not run back under your shell. Sometimes, searching for such people takes a lifetime. Go climbing in groups. Socialize. Open up your horizons, listen to critics, learn from them and Chaka!
The “Send” attempt to redpoint
Just before my attempts, I get often nervous with a stomach full of butterflies. I could run back into my shell and toprope forever.
I kept reminding myself to try to eat the cake in single pieces – not the whole cake at once. Since it’s like, „I will never be able to remember all the moves and problems!“ I try to focus only on the moves from each section. The smaller my expectations, the bigger the joy when I pass each section successfully.
- Stay focused on your beta. Don’t forget to link moves after the crux
- Start on a new day or after a good rest. Leave 20-45 mins between your tries.
- Warm-up on an easier route. Making your muscles turn sour in the first attempt in your project will pull down your performance for the rest of the day. Also, you will be prone to more injuries.
- An empty bladder does wonders for the mind. Every gram of weight off the body counts.
- Breathe! Oxygen is good food for the brain. Exhaling can bring the muscles to tense down when they start freezing up.
- Be motivated. Don’t grasp the next hold by thinking this is too far for me. Think positive. Fight! You have a battle to win!
The biggest plus while working out your moves, is a patient belayer that goes through thick and thin with you. Be kind to your belayer. Don’t fall into hysteric tantrums or scream spells too often. It can be intimidating and it’s definitely not sexy.
Good and bad days.
If all your attempts fail, leaving you exhausted, depressed and bad-tempered, take a break. Take time to build up your confidence again by climbing other routes that you can succeed, send or onsight. Eventually, you will know you are ready to return to attempt on your old project once again.
Go for Gold! A redpoint makes you climb harder!
Summing it up, the biggest hurdle is to want to achieve the next level yourself.
YOU and no one else.
Getting there is a process that can be taken in little or big steps. For me, it was a long process to win back the self-confidence, to gain experience in technic and to build a good portion of strength to achieve a level where I wanted myself to be. Being stronger also means being better physically prepared for harder routes. At this point, the mind grows with the confidence and with practice the fear will start to fade away.
It’s really never too old to start.
Venga! Come on, let’s go get it !
What are your methods to redpoint a route? How would you do it?