Breakthrough Bouldering Clinic with Peter Beal, Daniel Woods, and Courtney Sanders
On Tuesday, February 21 Peter Beal, Daniel Woods, and Courtney Sanders held a Breakthrough Bouldering clinic at The Spot. The clinic was free for members and ended up running about twice as long as originally planned because, well, because the ins and outs of climbing are a pretty vast subject.
“Climbing is a marginal sport. The margin for error in every level of difficulty is very very slim. The difference is between making the job reasonable or unreasonable.”
~ Peter Beal
The clinic started off with introductions from Daniel, Courtney, and Peter, followed quickly by names and goals from the 8 participants and 3 Spot staff who attended. It turned out that most of the participants had been climbing anywhere from a few months to a few years, and the Spot staff and clinic instructors Daniel and Peter have all been climbing for between one to three decades. Courtney is the exception, as she’s only been climbing for 3 years but has already progressed to elite status with an entire bouldering World Cup season under her belt as well as several V11 sends.
“Have confidence in yourself. Try hard.”
~ Courtney Sanders
After intros Peter addressed one participant’s concern that she was unable to get out of her 4- spot plateau. He suggested that most climbers don’t think very clearly about what they are doing at any given moment. He said that if you watch most climbers you will see things they could be doing better that would help them get up a problem or route, and that examining all aspects of your own climbing can help you improve your own weaknesses and stack the odds in your favor. The closer you can get to perfect movement, Peter suggests, the easier the job will be.
All the pros mentioned the importance of other factors, like strength, technical ability, and training physical weaknesses as well as mental. Each had different opinions about the most important factors, and it was clear that a balance of all is necessary for optimum performance. Of course, Daniel made a point that is hard to refute:
“The most important thing for climbing hard is hand strength on rock.”
~ Daniel Woods
Considering some of the group’s climbing goals, Peter reminded everyone that factors such as season and weather could affect one’s climbing goals. For example, if a climber’s goal was to be strong enough to climb Gobot at Rocky Mountain National Park by the end of summer, the climber should consider that Gobot has a scary landing that is made safer by a big pile of snow and that a big pile of snow is more likely at the beginning of summer. Therefore, it might be more reasonable to make a goal to be strong enough to climb Gobot by the beginning of summer or by the beginning of next summer, when conditions are better for a safer experience. Courtney pointed out that goals come in many forms.
“Set little goals and long term goals. Even if the little goal is just to do a certain move on a problem with one hand position vs another.”
~ Courtney Sanders
As for competitions, Daniel and Courtney both said the biggest thing is to keep trying. You don’t always win, and sometimes you fail big time, but it is good experience for the future.
And for training? All agreed that different things work for different people, but it is important to work your weaknesses, whether physical or mental, and set goals so you keep progressing. Core was one of the main topics of discussion, with Peter asking the group what the term “core” really refers to, and everyone giving opinions on what core is and how it helps your climbing. Daniel’s perspective in particular was helpful:
“Everyone has to develop a static core and a dynamic core. The static core is when you need to keep tension. The dynamic core is for when you’re swinging around, and cutting your feet. You need both.”
~ Daniel Woods
The evening ended with a discussion about the importance of warming up followed by a comparison of different types of shoes and a walk around the gym to try different techniques for footwork and falling. Lots of valuable info was flying around, and I wasn’t able to record all of it, so make sure you stay tuned for future clinics from the Spot. After all, as Daniel said, everyone can stand to improve their own climbing and no matter how hard you climb you never stop learning.
“Take apart every assumption you have about climbing and examine it.”
~ Peter Beal
About the Instructors:
Peter Beal is the author of the popular Mountains and Water blog and also Bouldering: Movement, Tactics, and Problem Solving which can be purchased from The Spot front desk or online.
Daniel Woods and his wife Courtney Sanders are professional rock climbers.