The Art of Projecting and Climbing Development

Hey Guys!

I have just completed my first project in Spain! I am so happy right now, I have been falling from the last move loads of times over the past couple of days and have been getting rather frustrated at the continual denial with the chains so close in sight, but I suppose I wouldn’t be learning as much if I was getting to the top of everything first go : P

I thought I’d talk a bit about my experiences of projecting and what I have found works well for me when attempting them. I remember, the four biggest projects I’ve had in my climbing career so far:

Climbing "Toadal Recall" (8a) at Malham Cove

Climbing “Toadal Recall” (8a) at Malham Cove

    1. Raindogs (8a) – Malham Cove


    1. Rollito Sharma (8b+) – Santa Linya


    1. Gaia (8b) – Kalymnos


  1. Preventiva (8b) – Disblia

Raindogs was a big thing for me when I was trying it. It would have been my first 8a at the time but I was having major issues grabbing those chains! On my first ever day trying it, I managed to make it all the way from the ground to the last move, but just couldn’t stick it! A few weekends more trying to latch those chains and still no success. I could practically lap the route until the chains but each time would be spat of with nothing more than a tickle of those glistening metal ringlets… DAMN!

I was all set for a trip out to Spain and left the UK having not ticked Raindogs yet. My coach Neil Mcgeachy had said, “get an 8a ticked out in Spain and come back and see how Raindogs feels afterwards”, so out I headed to seek my first 8a! Low and behold, within the first week I had ticked my first 8a “Trio Ternura”, a bouldery 8a at the Santa Linya cave. After returning to the UK, Neil and I organized a weekend at Malham for me to try and finish of the project. Within the first session back on Raindogs, I ticked the bloody route without so much as a sweat. The fact that I had overcome the 8a grade in Spain meant that my anxiousness towards climbing that grade had been settled and no longer was I thwarted by lack of confidence at the chains. This was a huge stage in my development as a climber and is definitely a huge factor in all my climbing achievements since! Confidence is a massive player in a climbers performance, and its not just your ability to say “I can do this route”, it is an intrinsic idea that needs to have manifested itself from success on previous routes. Why do you think once you climb one route at a grade, a lot more come so soon after? Its not coincidence…

Paul Williamson making the 2nd Ascent of my link up "Raptors Maw" (7c+), Kalymnos

Paul Williamson making the 2nd Ascent of my link up “Raptors Maw” (7c+), Kalymnos

Rollito Sharma was the next big lesson in my climbing career. I tried this route for three weeks solid! I got so close to completing it but unfortunately had to retreat and return home without the tick : ( In some ways, I look back and think, what a bloody waste of time! If I’m honest, I wouldn’t do what I did with Rollito again i.e. constantly try one route for 3 weeks or more. I think it was a learning stage for me, I realized what I was capable of, but also that climbing is more than just grades and ticking a bigger number, and in order to see improvements, you must experience the mileage throughout your development. I have had a think about the different stages of my development as a climber and what type of climbing I was into at each stage, and it looks a bit like this:

Stage 1 (Outdoor Climbing Starts) – Mileage on lots of varying styles of routes at an easy grade level of 6a-7a (I had climbed 7b/+ indoors at the time)

Stage 2 (Developing my Outdoor Climbing) – Onsight mileage i.e. climbing lots of routes at just below hardest onsight grade. At the time was climbing 8a redpoint indoors and 7c onsight so was aiming to onsight lots of 7a-b+’s outdoors and any I didn’t do onsight I would do 2nd or 3rd go.

Stage 3 (Consolidating Onsight Grade Outdoors) – Harder Onsight Mileage i.e. Attempting to onsight at total limit! Still had only onsighted 7c indoors but was now going for 7c and 7c+ onsight outdoors and any I didn’t do onsight I would do 2nd or 3rd go afterwards!

Have a look at my 8a scorecard in 2008 to see what I got up to during this phase (

Stage 4 (Consolidating Redpoint Grade Outdoors) – A couple of years later and I start to consolidate my redpoint grade and deal with mental strategies and the mind as my limiting factor in performance. Have now onsighted 8a indoors and redpointed 8b so outdoors I am aiming for quick redpoints i.e. nothing that will take longer than a week (8a+ – 8b+) – This is the stage I am currently in…

Its amazing looking at this on paper now, it is a natural progression for a climber to take and I am positive that the majority of climbers out there will be on a similarly progressive developmental structure. Looking at the two younglings out with us here in Spain right now, Ross Kirkland and Calum Forsyth, it is evident that they are doing exactly what I have done only at a slightly different pace and grade level.

Anyway, the next big project that stood out was probably “Gaia” in Kalymnos late last year. It was something that I had seen being attempted years before by one of Britains top climbers and it even spat him of for several days! “Gaia” is very short and powerful, probably my anti-style to be honest, so this was very much a “is this possible for me?” kind of project. It took me a few days of hard work, but in the end, I saw the fruits of my labour and sent it. I think that it was necessary for me to establish my redpoint grade in a style that I wasn’t strong at, and because I did with “Gaia”, I am now more confident than ever of my abilities to climb hard in different styles as well as even harder in the styles that suit me.

The final big project for me was of course “Preventiva”, which I did only a few days ago. This was another big thing for me, not because of the grade really, but because of the style. It is very bouldery with good rests in-between. The final section of climbing is solid and it leaves the hardest move of the whole climb right until the end, a burly move from big undercuts and bad smears out right to a good jug. The reason why I was adamant to complete this route was merely the fact that the last section was so hard. It was amazing climbing until the final crux and probably about 8a+ to get there. I had what I refer to as “Raindogs syndrome” here. I fell at that last move about a million times, I could more or less lap the route to the last move, then I would fall. The beautiful thing about my attempts on this though wasn’t that I was learning new climbing techniques, but I was dealing with my redpoint stress better than ever before! Although I would be angry for a very brief period after falling from the final move, I would quickly calm down, and be psyched out of my mind ready for the next attempt. This is something I have been striving to achieve all my climbing career, a mindset where I am totally at peace after failing again and again from the final move on a route and be ready to give 110% to the next effort without feeling the effects of redpoint stress (something I have suffered from heavily all my climbing life). The funny thing with me which you will certainly notice if you are at the same crag, is that I take massive paddy’s when I fall of a hard redpoint… I am sorry if you are there for it, but it’s an unfortunate habit I have. I tried to control it but its something I can’t help and I feel that its almost become a part of my routine as a climber to do when I fail. The funny thing in the past was that I would be angry and stressed for at least an hour after failing and when the next attempt on the route came round, I would be dreading it even to the point of getting shakes and a feeling of illness. This was taking it way too far and I needed to sort this out! Now when I fall, I have at most 5 minutes of frustration with myself, then I come to my senses and become more psyched than ever to crush the route into submission next time round!

Tom Bolger, Neil McGeachy and myself discussing important Redpointing tactics!

Tom Bolger, Neil McGeachy and myself discussing important Redpointing tactics!

I believe that we as climbers are always developing, from when we are children until old men and women. We can always learn more about ourselves and how we approach climbing and only by striving for perfection will we continue to improve. Right now, I have made huge leaps in my ability to deal with stress on redpoints, but I am positive I have so much more to learn and will not stop developing until the day I die (unless they have crags in the afterlife?). The next step for me is to continue to develop my confidence climbing in the 8b-8b+ grade range and possibly to move onto a harder project – 8c? I have already checked out the Rollito Sharma Extension (8c), which definitely seems like something within my limits right now… We will see : ) I’m just going to enjoy climbing out here in Spain for as long as I can and everyday push my limits!

Keep up the crushing guys!

Post A Comment