ATTACKTICS: Projecting, Part 3: Working.

Part 3 of this series comes at a good time for me.  After sending a few mini projects this season, I'm 2 days into what will likely end up being my major fall project, Transworld Depravity.  My goal has long been to do 5.14 before turning 40, and time is running short.  I'll be 39 this October and have yet to settle my sights on any particular line.  Now that I've spent a few days on this beast, sussing and making some good early links, I think I'm ready to commit to really starting the working process.

Which brings us back to this post.  You've done the moves, or can at least come close to the hardest ones, and have made some of the obvious, easier links.  You've made the tough decision to commit.  Now it's time to really hunker down, break the route down into working sections, and start building.

As there are an infinite number of route types, styles, crux locations, etc.., it would be impossible for me to tell you with any accuracy the best way to work your project.  I can, however, detail a few ways to efficiently work a route in general, all of which can be tailored to suit your needs.

But first, a quick note on one thing you should always remember when projecting.  This may seem obvious to many of you, but I've seen many people hanging on a project with neither of these necessities.  While working on a project, ALWAYS carry a draw that you can use to clip in direct to a bolt, and while you're hanging, ALWAYS be brushing.  Yes, that means the jug rests too.  They get ridiculously caked with chalk, so it's up to you to keep them clean.  Your belayer will be far more likely to catch you again on another hour long burn if you give them less work to do, so don't forget that extra draw.

Now, to help you break this thing down to an inevitable send.


This thing, this project... it's not just a route.  It's a set of boulder problems and/or smaller routes that when connected together create this monster you've set your sights on.  I know all too well that a major project can be overwhelming.  We've already talked about deciding on the obvious checkpoints.  Now really break those sections down further, and give them grades of their own. Hell, give them names if that helps you.  Lets say your project is a 13b called "To Kill A Mockingbird".  It breaks down nicely into an opening, low percentage V5 boulder problem to a good rest at the 2nd bolt (Lets call this section "Boo Radley"), followed by a 3 bolt pumpy 12c crimpfest up a black streak to a good shake for the right hand, and crappy one for the left (This one, "Tom Robinson").  After the quick shake you head directly into the crux, a nasty, thuggy, off balance V6 ("Bob Ewell").  With no rest, you immediately launch into the steep 11+ hero jug hauling to the chains (hmmm, how about "Atticus Finch"?).

Now you can focus on sending and dialing in "Tom Robinson" rather than linking "the middle 3 bolts before the crux".


You've established the individual sections, and they make up nice, neat little routes of their own.  It's going to be very easy to fall into the trap of making only the obvious links, between rests or checkpoints, and then moving straight to redpoint attempts.  This isn't always the best approach.  Oftentimes, particularly if the route is extremely sustained or a real giant, you'll want to overlap your links.  Now you can start linking "Tom Robinson" to "Bob Ewell", as well as "Bob Ewell" to "Atticus Finch".  You are likely to find during these big links that you'll want to change beta on the fly so you can cop a shake, or make a move more high percentage.  Keep an eye out for these and don't be afraid to alter your beta if it makes sense to do so. Make several big overlaps before you move on.

Ground Up, Top Down, or Both?

Different routes will dictate different ways to begin the final working push.  This is where the infamous "one hang" will likely happen.  The traditional, maybe naive way to try a route is to start from the bottom and try to get to the top.  If the route in question has a tough boulder problem guarding the chains (or in our case, guarding the hero jugs) then your best bet is to start out by working top down.  I'm going to assume that if you're new to projecting, then this method may seem foreign and counterintuitive.  Lets say you've done the "Bob Ewell" to "Atticus Finch" linkup.  Now move it down a bolt into "Tom Robinson".  Take it easy getting to that starting point....go bolt to bolt or even stickclip through.   Once you've sent that, move it down another bolt.  Before long, you're sending from the jug that ends the "Boo Radley" boulder problem, and if you can get it all back there, then you're money.

Some projects, however, are going to work out better for a ground up approach.  If you're route is more like  "Boo Radley" to "Atticus Finch", but "Boo Radley" is at your bouldering limit, then starting on the ground is the way to go.  You send "Boo" and you just have to contain your excitement long enough to clip the chains.

There is still another option... the "Up Down" or I've heard it called the "Moving One Hang".   This method is best applied if your project is something like "Boo Radley" to "Bob Ewell" to "Boo Radley".  Basically, if it's a series of boulder problems separated by rests, this is where to put your money.  I'll assume that by this point you've done the route in 2 sections, possibly even overlapping a little.  Now every attempt will start by going for a high point.  From that high point, you'll then lower to the rest below your "low point", which is the lowest point from which you've sent, and attempt to go to the top.  Keep attempting to advance your high point while also retreating your low point, and you'll soon have done the project in two giant, overlapping sections, at which point a send is merely a formality.


"Boo Radley" isn't so bad.  "Bob Ewell" is still a pain in the ass that you aren't particularly fond of, but you understand that it's a necessary evil.  "Tom Robinson" is blue collar climbing at it's finest, and you are in sync with the movements like you set them in a gym.  And "Atticus Finch", well, what's not to like?  The more intimate you become with your project, the better you'll understand it.  You'll more likely see the best ways to break it down and be more creative with your links.  Stay flexible and open to the option of better beta, should it arise.  Get in tune with this project, because you two are going to be spending alot of time together, so you might as well enjoy it.

Coming next:  Part 4:  Redpoint Attempts