I'll come clean. I'm a defender of "soft" grades. In my opinion, they not only matter, but they are necessary for growth and balance. Does that mean I'm against "stiff" grades? Not at all. In fact, if we didn't have soft grades, wouldn't stiff grades just be "normal" grades?
Honestly, I'm bothered a little every time that I hear someone disparage or choose not to do a certain climb because it's considered soft. I should just let the ridiculousness of it float away in the breeze, but it's a tough one for me to let go, for whatever reason. I feel the same defensiveness when Sierra Blair-Coyle is brought up, but that's a different story for another blog post.
Here is a fact for you: When you do a rock climb and log it on your 8a, 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 you, or anyone else, attaches to it.
So let's talk some of the reasons why soft grades should remain exactly what they are:
For the sake of progress, we need soft grades. The next logical step from a stout 12a is still a soft 12b, no matter what your ego wants to do. I've seen dozens of climbers spend months adding half pound weights to each successive hangboard workout, and then want to jump to the next stout grade when they get outside. Why throw out the logical progression when your time is limited and it matters most? Is your ego controlling things?
You know what? Some of those butter soft 12b's are REALLY FUCKING GOOD. And some of those super stout 12b's REALLY FUCKING SUCK. Frankly, I'll take a 5-star inflated V7 over a 2-star sandbagged V9 every single day. Don't get me wrong - I'll climb both - but I'll recommend the V7 over and over again, and the V9 will just be another tick. Grades have absolutely nothing to do with quality ratings, and for me, quality is a far better reason to climb something.
Let's be honest here: grades are already confusing enough. Let's imagine if we tried to consolidate so that all grades are solid. We'd have to create a new grade range for those climbs at the low end of each spectrum. 12b-? V9a+? It's only going to get more complicated with further delineation. I suppose if you really want to, you should just go ahead and do it. You're free to grade things however you want, with whatever system you so desire. Just don't be surprised when nobody wants to discuss why that V6 you just did should only get V5d.
So maybe all of you who are staunch supporters of the stout should just acquiesce to the existence of soft grades. I mean, without them you'd have nothing with which to prop up your ego.
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?