Most of the new routes you tackle need training, and if you try hard routes you will almost never climb the first try. Look at the pros when they redpoint climb a route (unsure what redpoint means, read my article), they almost seem the flow through the route. Precise legwork and sequences of moves are not just coincidence, top climbers spend hours and days of work to study the route and perfectly execute every tiny move. I’ll write about some of the tips that have helped me in the past, to make projecting a bit easier for your future new climbing goals. If you’re unsure how to project most efficiently, read on.
Misconceptions about projecting a route
Working on a project route is not just trying the route time after time until you can climb it “somehow” to the top. Projecting a route is an art, and I’ll break the process in different phases and steps. A lot of the thoughts also apply to boulder problems, so feel free to apply the knowledge there too.
Climbing new routes and understanding that your resources are limited
If you climb, it’s all about how you manage your resources. Climbing is a big game of resource distribution and dedication after you understand the basic moves and trained them enough. Strength, energy and mental focus are precious and limited, and if you burn them up on the first feet of a route you’re doomed for failure. That’s why you need to allocate these resources in an effective way – it pays off! Some of these strategies took me a while to learn, but when I did it clicked.
Step 1: Learn the beta in order to learn how to project
Beta is all the knowledge about the route you can get. This does not necessarily mean to deliberately start scrambling and going full power to reach the anchor. Instead, it can be smarter to tie in toprope and have a look at some of the difficult sections. Think about how you would place yourself ideally for maximum efficiency. Are there any holds that could support these positions? If not, can you change a position a bit, to make it possible to hold it, sacrificing some efficiency but gaining a new way up the wall? Once you figure out a good position, find consecutive holds, maybe even write them down in a notepad. After a while, you will have a sequence which you can then link together with other sequences already found.
Step 2: Get rid of your ego
Whatever you do while researching a route, get rid of any false ego you might attach. This is research mode, there is no room for ego games or a false sense of pride. Use your clip stick, and possibly top rope wherever possible. When you approach a route this way, it will feel awkward initially. You will hang there in toprope like a beginner, but you need to escape from this feeling. After a while, you will check different ways to grab holds, connect moves and sequences, and your climbing will become more efficient. Make sure to take all the time you need in step 1, and don’t worry if you look stupid while you do it. Fewer people will care about it than you think, and if you send the route later on – it was worth it!
Step 3: When you have a sequence, work through it
If you find a sequence that feels good, try to climb it in one approach. Your route will actually consist of a sequence of sequences, divided by really tricky moves and rests. So, make your way through the sequences and use the rests to rest up.
If you completed this, and have a mindmap of cruxes, sections and rest points you can continue with step 4.
Pro tip: Take a break from your project
Continually working on single moves or hard sequences wears you down, not only physical. Make sure to take a break from your new project every now and then. Don’t be afraid to leave your project alone for some days. It’s better to stay away from a project for some days, then letting it destroy your optimism and fun.
Step 4: Success is a chain of small accomplishments
Every hard section in your project can be considered a route in its own regard. Begin with the easiest sections and work your way up, ending with the hardest parts. Once you can do all the sections isolated, try working on connecting them. Doing it this way keeps you in the loop for repeated accomplishments, and you stay motivated. And it’s easier to analyze failures too, as you see which part of the route is hardest for you.
You can then start optimizing your approach for that section.
Step 5: Divide the route into 2 parts and finish them isolated
If you can do all the single sections, and also worked on connecting them, it’s time to divide the route into two sections and do it this way. Only once you are able to finish the route successfully this way, you should move on to try sending it in one go.
Step 6: While you work on the send attempt, if you fall that’s most likely your personal crux
Since you are able to do the sections individually, and also in two parts, if you still fall while redpointing the route, this is your personal crux. You need to work on the section where you fall again. Chances are high that you need to work on endurance of mental focus, as you can tackle the section when climbing it isolated. The easiest way is by using overlapped climbing. This means you start below the crux, and make your way to the next rest, and then again to the top.
You also might need to find a more efficient way to climb it when doing the route in a redpoint attempt. What works for isolation mode or two-section split, might not work for redpointing.
When you finish the overlap climb, increase the overlap, that is starting from further below the hard part. The logic behind this approach is that you usually never start a hard section fresh, but with some built-up fatigue, so it makes sense to train that way. Continue to grow the overlap until your overlap starts from the ground – voila, you’re now redpointing the route.
Step 7: Isolation mode
If you need to work on an isolated part of the route, keep things like bodyweight placement in mind. Are you using the holds the right way? Should you flag instead of going frontal?
Step 8: Tackle mental issues and problems by freeing yourself from your beta – change is good!
Sometimes you can train and practice as much as you want, but you still fall in the section when trying the redpoint. This can have multiple causes, maybe something physical needs to be changed? Your beta might also not be correct for a redpoint, so step back and approach the route in a different way. Someone once said that a crazy person tries something the same way over and over but expects different outcomes. This is especially true for climbing and bouldering. You need to realize that your way of trying a route is not always the best. Some of your moves are only in your sequence because you started the route with certain moves. If you change your beginning, you might end up finding a smarter way up. This applies for the complete route, so stepping back from your tunnel-vision or “perceived the only solution”, talking to other climbers and just brainstorming will help you out of this rut.
Manage what you expect and relax
Don’t always expect to send a route. It’s about the process, not the outcome. If you master the process and get used to accepting the perfect execution of a smart process as a reward, ultimate success will come over time. Your goal should be to do your best to try and climb hard and smart. Relax into a redpoint attempt, nothing good ever came from overly stressed tryhard climbing. Instead, remember why you climb: To be outside, tackle hard problems and have fun.
Working on projects to redpoint is necessary when you become a better climber. Keep yourself motivated, and follow the mentioned tips, and sooner than you think you’ll be able to climb harder routes than ever. Read my other guides about training like the post about edging, how to prepare for climbing and bouldering and my post about systematic training for people if you have a busy schedule.