At this year’s Hueco Rock Rodeo, I saw a slide show presented by the prolifically esoteric Dave Graham. One of his primary topics was the method he follows when working a hard boulder problem. The Process, he called it. In short, it goes something like this: clean all the holds with a brush, place tick marks on critical or hard to see grips, imagine the sequence you are going to use, try very hard to flash the problem. If you don’t flash it, try to send it second try. If you do not send it second try, work out all the moves individually, do the top out, then try from the bottom.
He emphasized two points, which I found the most interesting.
1) Each time you pull on, know what sequence you are going to try and do not deviate from it. Hesitation wastes time and energy. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be perceptive to new beta, but each time you try to send you should know what you are going to do so that the only thing you have to think about is execution.
2) Learn the top-out; do not fall there. Nothing wastes energy like falling off the end of a climb. I know from years of personal experience that this is true.
My lack of patience is a detriment to my climbing. Too often, I get excited about a possible ascent and ignore things like memorizing the top-out or resting an appropriate amount of time between efforts. I really want to be on top of the boulder, and it is difficult for me to take it slow and make sure everything is in check before I go for it. This tendency of mine leads to lots of failure on non-crux moves or blown top-outs, what many refer to as punting. Punting leads to anger, and anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the dark side.
The solution to this problem is following The Process. Every time, on every boulder, follow The Process. Even in the gym, it is possible to prepare yourself mentally in the same way you would for an outdoor climb. Obviously there are no top-outs to learn, but the rest is all the same. Know where every foot hold is, know what sequence you are going to use, know what draws you are going to clip. Repetition is how we train our bodies and brains, and I know that if I follow The Process every time I climb, it will become second nature to me, and hopefully I will spend less time punting and more time sending. That would be nice.