It's the new buzzword that's been around forever: sandbagged.
"That 10c is definitely more like 11b!"
"That CAN'T be 12a... I NEVER fall off of 12a!"
"This is WAY harder than the other two 13a's I've done, so it MUST be 13d! At least!"
Or more precisely...
"BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH!"
Funny, I never hear, "Damn, that 10d kicked my ass. I guess I've got some things to learn," or, "That 13a felt pretty hard to me, I guess I should actually work on slopers for a while."
Nope. Instead, we blame the grades. The numbers. The proposed suggestions of vague measurement.
You're kidding yourself. Worse, you're stunting your growth. Holding yourself back. Even worse than that, if your friends believe your bullshit, you're holding them back as well.
First off, let's look at the word "sandbagged." Actually, don't. Some of the definitions are a little crazy. Best to just leave those alone.
The two definitions I find most appropriate to climbing are these:
1."The act of undermining someone else's opinion subtly, yet in a public area, to make him/her appear foolish."
2."When you're tricked into doing something because you weren't given all of the information you needed to make a good decision."
Was the route graded low to intentionally make people look stupid? Doubtful. I, for one, have never seen it. Not in Vedauwoo, not in Joshua Tree, not in the VRG. The grades seem pretty much the same to me across every area I've climbed in, and when they don't, I just assume I'm missing a key ingredient, and I go back to the drawing board.
Were you tricked into something? Probably not. At least not directly. Maybe your gym's setters have an overinflated view of their abilities, and the V5/6 problems are actually much closer to V3/4. In which case, you go outside and THINK that you should be climbing V5/6. When you get shut down on that classic V4 that 30,938,349,087 people have done and reached a consensus on, you feel sandbagged, and you need to protect your ego by proclaiming it loudly. I don't blame you. I get it. I sympathize, (not really). But the grade isn't sandbagged. You were sandbagged by your setters. Blame them. Better yet, blame yourself for falling for it and putting so much weight in their proposed suggestions of vague measurement. Measurements that are faulty to begin with because your setters climb outside twice a year and get sandbagged on EVERY rock climb they try. See the pattern?
Bob Scarpelli, of Vedauwoo offwidth fame, is often considered by many to be the world's biggest sandbagger. Frankly, I didn't find his routes to be sandbagged at all. Did they feel ridiculously hard? Yes. Fuck, yes. But when I watched Bob climb them, it became obvious that his technique was light years ahead of mine. As I learned from Bob and got better, the routes felt more like the given grade. Had I just blamed the grade, I might never have gotten better at offwidth climbing.
When you're hanging there on the end of the rope, or crumpled in a heap on your crashpad, incensed that you've been sandbagged by this clearly undergraded rock climb, before you look stupid for voicing your thoughts, take a breath. This is an extremely valuable moment.
It's an opportunity to learn something. An opportunity to better yourself.
See, you have the tools to change yourself. You have gyms. You get to watch better climbers all day long if you wish. There are great coaches out there, (did I mention that we build machines?). You can get better. And best of all, you know EXACTLY what to work on.
You can also change that grade on your 8a scorecard, but you didn't get better as a result of it, did you?
When we get geographically close to the top of a boulder, we believe that means we're close to the send. Sometimes yes. Oftentimes, no.
When you do a rock climb, no matter what grade you give it, or what grade the guidebook gives it, the difficulty of said rock climb does not change. It's exactly the same amount of challenging for you no matter what number anyone attaches to it.
How often do you give 100%? REALLY give 100%? I make my living coaching climbers, and I seldom see a climber try their hardest. Myself included.
Let's face it, there are some really bad ideas out there. Myths that people cling to. New methods of "training" that just aren't thought through. Trends that are fun to jump into, but really aren't helping you.
Of course, there are two types of "Beta Sprayers." Those with good intentions, and those who just want to hear themselves sound smart. You know the latter. Ignore them. But the ones with good intentions might also be harming you.
Around here, we like to use the hashtag #webuildmachines. However, I'm acutely aware that you could just as often substitute with the hashtag #webuildmonsters, and I don't mean that in a positive way.
It's the new buzzword that's been around forever: sandbagged. "This is WAY harder than the other two 13a's I've done, so it MUST be 13d! At least!" Funny, I never hear, "That 13a felt pretty hard to me, I guess I should actually work on slopers for a while."
Fact is, I train hard. I train smart. Most of the people I work with do the same, and I'm not shy about telling them that if they are taking shortcuts, they are only hurting themselves. But here's where it goes wrong...
Recently "Rock and Ice" posted a video from Daniel Woods and The North Face and like everyone else, I watched. At first I just dismissed it, but the more I thought about it, the more I needed to rant a little. There are loads of pro-climber "training" videos that are, at best, silly, and at worst, irresponsible.
Here at The Power Company, we don't often talk about the differences between climbers who choose to mostly climb on routes and those who choose boulders. I'll go ahead and call that neglectful on my part, because there are some fundamental things that are different about the two.
You aren’t training. You’re working out. There’s a difference.
If you're cross-training for fun - because you like it or want to excel at it - or because it simply makes you feel good, then by all means keep doing it. If, however, you do it because you believe that you'll become a better climber, keep reading.
Danger is everywhere. I’m not talking about the kind of danger that we as rock climbers put ourselves into. I’m talking about the kind of parasitic danger that searches you out. There are two main types that thrive in the chalky environment in climbing gyms: The Lurker and The Exspurt.
There are three components you must have if you expect to improve your climbing. There are lots more you could use, but without these three, none of the others will mean a damned thing.
But Sharma doesn't train... Or does he? If you will, allow me to hypothesize. Chris Sharma, through the course of his normal routine, is in fact training, despite merely calling it "climbing".
I get it. Talking is easier than doing. Talking is far easier on the ego than trying and failing. What it isn't, however, is nearly as satisfying.
My friend Nate Drolet, asked his belayer if she wanted half of his banana. Of course she did - who wouldn't? Rather than peel it and break it off with his chalky, dirty fingers, or dig in his pack for a knife, Nate snapped the banana in half. Clean break, right through the middle. Like a ninja.
You can almost always find a reason to continue training the short-sighted way: if you get attached to your method of training, the method that has worked for years and gotten you to where you are (and where you've been for 5 seasons), then you're probably missing out on some great advice.
There is NO single workout that any group of people can follow to get the optimum results for each of them. If your goal is to get stronger, then your workouts MUST reflect your own individual needs. Not mine. Not your partner's.
Let me start off by saying that I still believe that periodized training is the way to go for anyone with specific goals that require them to perform at the upper limits of their abilities. Now that I've said that, allow me to tell you what I think right this second... when dealing with the unpredictability of weather in this region of the country, periodized training can kiss my ass.
I hear them coming from every corner of the gym. From the mats beneath the boulder. From 30 feet up the lead wall. I hear them in the lobby before I even make it into the gym. No, not the voices in my head. What I hear are excuses.
The fact is, you WILL NEVER get to within earshot of your potential if you don't have a complete skill set. No matter how hard you train, no matter how much blood, sweat, and tears you contribute to the cause, you'll never get the job done without the tools. So what are you waiting for?