Is 5.11 really that hard


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from out where the anecdotes roam
Dec 9, 2012 - 06:28am PT
the opportunity to watch, attent enough to really see, masterful technique is the binder for all the good advice above. modeling involves opening up an osmosis channel in the presence of brilliance. put some faith in that immersion, find a way to sustain the experience of it.

unwrap the word hone and apply it as regards efficiency, economy of motion,
rightsizing effort, releasing extraneous tension, perfecting your rests.

observe the effect of discipline, adopt it and adhere to form when you enter the dojo.

hard to do on the ragged edge surrounded by strugglers, so filter and replace in a deliberate way. consciously watch yourself putting it back together with breath.

i hope you get many a chance to really absorb a fine session, and shine in return

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Dec 9, 2012 - 09:07am PT
Hey Mike,

My two cents:

Climbing by the numbers is fine in my opinion. People climb for all kinds of reasons, and mastering difficulty is one of them. Runners run for distance, for time, for terrain and for fun. The same is true in climbing.

All climbers reach a point where their natural talents fade out and progress is dependent on learning. We don't all have the same skills at the rate that we learn, but thoughtful practice can increase your skills and fun.

The art and science, for lack of a better word, of practice has to be learned: it doesn't matter what number grade you are starting at. 5.11 was the top grade when I started climbing and only a few climbers where capable of climbing at that level. The biggest jump in climbing difficulty in the 70s occurred because of practice (hangdogging, well protected leader falls, and lots of repeats).

Some thoughts on practice: Don't practice mistakes in any way. If you repeat a mistake enough times, you will always repeat it and will never progress. If any foot, hand, finger, body position slips or fails, even if you recover (a good thing) consider it a practice failure. Practicing practicing is not the same as making it. Hard climbing takes precision. Practice precision on stuff you can do. The best way to do this, inside or out, is to repeat hard moves until they feel natural, smooth, and secure. Set up a video camera to film yourself on hard moves, placed from behind with a full body picture showing body position and all the holds you are using. Once you have figured out the sequence, repeat it several times and compare the videos. Look closely and compare the exact position of your hands and feet as you move. Look closely and compare the position of your hips, knees, elbows, head and trunk. Remember exactly what each body movement felt like. Pantomine. Practice doing the sequence exactly the same way several times. Remember this is practice. Your precision will improve, and you will be able to anticipate the required hand, feet and body positions on stuff that you haven't climbed yet.

As an aside, if you have never learned the art of practice in another activity--sports, crafts, music, etc, then find a book on handwriting and learn a different way to write. You can do this in private and when you cannot practice climbing. If you handwriting is flawless now, learn a different style. What you will find is that your current automatic ways of writing take over unless you concentrate, and speed only comes with practice. This is exactly the same process that occurs when you practice climbing with the added constraint that if you go slow in climbing you get pumped. When we get scared or desperate or tired or rushed, we revert to what we already know. The mental dialog always is the same, "Yeah, yeah, I know that I am not concentrating and applying my new skills, but this is desperate. I'll think about the new skills and stuff as soon as I finish this hard part." Then you fall.

I am not sure how far to push this practicing handwriting to prepare for climbing, but the art of practice is pretty much the same for any activity. Also you have to be motivated. That said, I am pretty sure that if you cannot practice something simple like handwriting you will not be able to practice climbing, at least not in this way.

If you watch videos of top notch climbers, they move smoothly and look secure (at least until they reach their limit). If you are not graced with the ability to move smoothly, then practice moving smoothly and use a video camera to watch yourself until you can tell if you are moving smoothly or not. You should also consider taking dance lessons--modern or ballroom. There is a reason that many of us refer to great climbing as "danced."

On strength: Increasing you strength will be important, but it is a poor substitute for skills. Moving fast between rests (relative speed) is also part of strength. In my opinion, it is best to improve your precision--lots of good ideas in the posts above--then learn to move quickly, then worry about strength. If you are serious about building strength, then follow a "scientific" plan such as laid out by Eric Horst in his excellent books. Climbing strength is very specific and if not done right, you run a high risk of causing damage to yourself.

I don't know of any climber who has not succeeded in climbing harder stuff if they worked at it along these lines.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Dec 9, 2012 - 09:28am PT
Figure out what it takes for you to get dialed. It's different for all of us.

I'm 56 yrs old and have done very little climbing this year, recipe for disaster eh?

On the other hand it's been a very successful aerobic fitness year and I've stayed fairly lean. An obsession with pull-ups (which, fortunately don't damage me the way they do many of my contemporaries) has helped as well.

I've climbed a fair amount this fall with weekly gym workouts and lots of running (two half marathons thanksgiving week) and mtn biking. I don't do booze or eat mammals. I Eat Greek yogurt most mornings. 5'10" low 150's which is skinny/lean for me.

Yesterday I climbed a 5.12 ow (just tr) adroitly, that had shut me down six months ago.

Your own formula will be different but it is out there. Good luck!

Gym climber
Dec 9, 2012 - 09:49am PT
Jay that's good stuff.

Op listen to Jay you'll get there. I have been 195 for most of my life. Then my forties hit and well a 3 year old and two business and now I'm 225 and I have as much fun now as I have ever had climbing. I don't climb 5.11 anymore but I have a ton of fun just climbing.

Enjoy and do not go to Donner Summit if your looking for soft 5.11


Dingleberry Gulch, Ideeho
Dec 9, 2012 - 11:04am PT
Climbing numbers don't tell you what you can or can't climb. They tell you what you should climb.

Dec 9, 2012 - 11:15am PT
Dave MacLeod's book is the best training book out there. Not fancy, no glossy photos of 5.14 climbers, just 164 pages of text, but it is all there. He covers everything and he also tackles the big questions in a way no other book does. He also avoids the guru approach, i.e., "do it this way, it is the only way, you must follow my routines step-by-step or you are wrong.

Personal coaching is also a good option.

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Dec 9, 2012 - 12:05pm PT
One arm pullups... that's so 1980s

'70's actually, but I take your point.

Somewhere out there
Dec 9, 2012 - 12:13pm PT
Some seem easy, some seem impossible.
Some you're done before you finish, some never seem to end.

My advise: Work them until failure repeatedly. At some point you'll become used to the pain (and may even find enjoyment in it, of it… the pain that is.

Eventually you'll notice that they are not that much of a problem (this may take months, this may take years…. depends).

In the end you may wonder what all the fuss was about because you had it in you all the time. Because with hard work and great focus anything is possible

Dec 9, 2012 - 12:53pm PT
Some things not appearing above.
1. Cardio pulmonary is critical. interval training.
2. Good calluses knock stuff down one grade.
3. Most important muscle is located between your ears.
4. Find out what your best weight is. 147 was mine. 143 was bad. Forty years later I am 148.
Get a good weigh scale. Eat Smart has a scale using piezoelectric sensors. 0.1# precision
It actually works.
5. Minutes spent talking ratings is time wasted.
6. A challenge you don't enjoy, is the one that will stop you.

Trad climber
Dec 9, 2012 - 01:09pm PT

Your last comment, "a challenge you don't enjoy, is the one that will stop you" is packed with emotional meaning.

I really liked that statement, since it seems that I'm dealing with that issue, more and more.

Social climber
Los Angeles currently St. Antonin, France
Dec 9, 2012 - 02:15pm PT
Some good advice so far for sure. i think regardless of grade when you're at your limit the ability to shake out is key. I mean you're going to get pumped on anything but the shortest power routes, so being able to recover and shake out, especially sneaky quick little shakes , just enough to keep believing in the next move, has always been the difference in sending and not sending on a given day.
How hard is 5.11 though? I sort of forget, but here in France 6c technical limestone slabs can still grab my attention for sure.


Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Dec 9, 2012 - 02:48pm PT
+1 on Jstan's analysis.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Dec 9, 2012 - 03:13pm PT
Just for the record, John, jstan, is one of the first to climb 5.11, Foops, in 1967. The second ascent, by Henry Barber, was five years later.

This thread would have had an entirely different slant if it had been posted in 1966.

Trad climber
schaumburg, il
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 9, 2012 - 03:53pm PT
Hey all thanks for all the amazing advice. I know someone ask how long i have been climbing and it's been just over three years. A Lot of good advice here and things to consider and put into effect. It also helps to hear that 5.11 is hard and not something that comes easily.

Social climber
An Oil Field
Dec 9, 2012 - 04:49pm PT

Climbing 5.10 opens up some of the greatest climbs in the world for you.

Just climb a lot, and all of the different types of climbing. Hell, get some crampons and go do some easy ice climbs.

With those skills and experience, you can travel the world and do some of the best climbs on Earth.

You don't have to climb 5.11 if it is a brick wall that you can't get through. If you can solid up on 5.10, all kinds of things are there to do, including some really famous routes. Long ones, though. Most of them have long stretches of easier climbing and a short crux where you can just yard on gear if you need to.

No kidding. I was kind of stuck at 5.10 for ages, but I was solid at 5.10 and could solo all kinds of stuff up to my ability.

You can go climb some of the best alpine routes on the planet if your other skills, such as speed and organization for speed are learned. That part is easy. Go light and don't dick around. Period.

I was lucky to learn from a climber who was an efficiency freak. I see parties on the Nose with so much crap that all it does is slow them down.

Just climb a lot. A LOT.

That said, these days you can teach a little girl to climb 5.11 in the gym in a month.

Dec 9, 2012 - 05:21pm PT
One arm pullups... that's so 1980s

Uh . . . make that 1950s.


Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Dec 9, 2012 - 05:58pm PT

Ya got us on that one, Mr. Gill. Actually, it was when I got my copy of Master Of Rock in '77 that I got serious about that particular parlour trick. By '78 I could yard 'em like a champ, and my climbing took off like an X-15 on a zoom flight.

Dec 9, 2012 - 06:03pm PT
6. A challenge you don't enjoy, is the one that will stop you.

True. Rich Perch once told me: "If you want to climb hard, you will."

Trad climber
Dec 9, 2012 - 06:16pm PT
That said, these days you can teach a little girl to climb 5.11 in the gym in a month.

I resemble that! Never could crack 10d. Then again I was never more than a weekender.

Some people have it, some don't. But it takes time on the rock to float it. The people that climb hard don't get there without putting in the dues.


Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Dec 9, 2012 - 07:32pm PT
5.11 is just a number, the climb you are on with that particular number can be hard for you or not hard as the case may be.
Messages 41 - 60 of total 73 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
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