Smoke Signals: Proof of Progression Isn't Always in the Numbers.

kris hampton on smoke signals

We measure our sport in numbers.  A silly concept, really, but it's what we've got, and I've come to accept that.  However, as an individual, I reserve the right to measure my own progressions however the hell I want to, and often times, the numbers don't quite reflect what I know to be the truth.  

This past winter, for the first time ever, I focused my efforts on doing hard boulders.  I hadn't climbed V10, and I wanted to, because the number represented the next level in my progression.  Coming off of major shoulder surgery less than 9 months earlier, I trained using our Kettlebells for Climbers plan (see link at end of post), rings, and very short, very difficult boulders.  I zeroed in on tension moves that required me to full crimp, since that is by far my weakest grip.  Quickly, I climbed my first V10, albeit a soft one, (nothing wrong with soft grades - without them there couldn't be stiff grades!) called "Honeycomb Roof" in Dayton, Tennessee.    

Photo by Joe Segreti.

Photo by Joe Segreti.

That wasn't enough.  I trained more.  The next month, in two quick sessions, I sent my next V10, "Hustle and Flow" at The Hospital Boulders in Alabama.  

Still, I felt my progression hadn't necessarily been reflected.  I had climbed two V10's, and while that was a new level for me, I knew I could do more.  V11?  Maybe, and I will, but there was a harder (for me) V10 that needed to be next.  

"Smoke Signals."  Red River Gorge.  

I had tried it prior to injuring my shoulder, and couldn't do several of the moves.  It was going to push my shoulder to its limits, so I approached with caution and reverence.  Slowly it revealed its secrets, and I made steady progress.

I pulled on to work the initial moves, the hardest for me, and before I knew it, I was facing the final big move, the one that most threatened to dangerously disengage my shoulder.  I breathed.  I tightened my core.  I believed.  I executed.

I was on top.

My third V10.  Same number, big progression.  

We use numbers to measure our sport.  I'll use perspective to measure my progress.

Featured Training Plan:

Check out our Kettlebells for Climbers plan that I used to prepare for V10.  It's a great introduction to a versatile training tool that you can begin using with only a small investment, and virtually no loss of space.  If you're interested in hearing more about kettlebells and how they can help your climbing, be sure to listen to my talk with Paul Corsaro, co-author of the plan.