Leon broke his gym record with 18 routes today! It was awesome!!! Lou, man…I wish I could borrow his brain. He’s such a wealth of information! He’s got great climbing stories, too!!! First, we warmed up on a green 5.5 in the corner. “Every day, depending on how you feel, you need to decide whether it’s going to be a project day or a practice day. Most of the time, you should only have a project day about once a week. The rest of the days should be practice days.” That made sense. One really all-out day a week on a project. Next, we went to the old side of the gym and Lou taught me to stem. It was a mixed-holds climb, but it was a very odd feeling. The wider the base of support, though (i.e. your feet), the more you can get the weight on your legs and off your arms so that you can place gear. We went back over to the corner to practice the movement on a face wall. Using all the holds on the wall, I stepped up with my left foot at center and put my right foot out to the right for a wide stance. To move up, I moved my right foot back to center and up, and moved my left foot out left for a wide stance. Again, to move up, I moved my left foot back to center and up, and moved my right foot out right for a wide stance. Right-to-center and left-out, left-to-center and right-out, right-to-center and left-out, left-to-center and right-out. This stemming pattern is for leading so that you can place gear. It also forces one hip into the wall each time you switch sides! Another thing you want to do is reach across your body for handholds and pull across your body. I went almost all the way up the wall with that pattern!
Next, Lou taught me an Austrian technique for my feet to get my weight more on both feet than my arms and one foot. You place your foot on the hold and twist it a little bit, as in “mashing the potatoes”, or as Leon puts it, “squishing the bug”. This is to weight the hold and make sure your foot is solidly on it, and it works! Lou took some photos of me sending a blue 5.6 for the second time using that technique. He showed me the photos and I was shocked. “You climb well and you climb very smoothly. You have very smooth movement. You climb with intent, like Alex Huber. He was known for climbing smoothly and with intent. Have you heard of Alex Huber? Look him up. He was one of the greatest climbers of all time.” As Leon climbed, Lou continued, “I’ll teach you a way to improve your intent even more. Do you know what visualization is? You know what muscle memory is, right? With visualization, you stand and face the wall. First, you just go from bottom to top with your hands. Think about where your hands go. Then, you do it again, with just your hands. Then you do it with your hands and add your feet. When you get really good at it, you can say, ‘That’s a good hold, that’s a good hold, that’s a pull, I have to get that hold and get through that, so I’ll have to go fast…’ You actually start to feel the movements. Then, when you’ve done that – visualized it – you get on the wall, and it’s muscle memory.”
Lou talked to me about my friend who wants to train me. He said I’d learn much more from an alpinist than just a boulderer, which I agreed with. Fortunately, my friend is an alpinist and bolts routes in the Eastern Big Horn Mountains.
Another thing he wanted to talk to me about were my goals for the Challenge. “I think you need more goals. You have big goals, but you need to have more goals.” Like the pyramid (100 5.7’s, 20 5.8’s, and then up to 5.9, etc.). “Yeah. You have big goals, but how are you going to get there? Be specific. That’s the key. Be specific and have a lot of goals.” Intermediate goals. “Yeah. You notice I have a lot of goals. I might not get all of them, but I’m going to get some of them.” He talked about the eight principles of the Europeans’ 7th Level quest in the 1920’s. He said he should write about them. After having heard them, I definitely agree that he should!!! We talked about getting together to climb the Flat Irons in Colorado outside Boulder next spring, too, which would be fantastic!
As far as my swollen ankle went, Lou told me to get some oil, put it on my lower leg, and rub up my leg to my upper calf from my ankle where it’s swollen to relieve it. If I keep doing that, I’ll get more blood circulating through there and it won’t turn into an Achilles tendon problem or a knee problem. Lou would certainly know about ankle problems! He broke his ankle and had to get the swelling out of it before it caused a torn Achilles.
Leon, Lou, and I went to Applebee’s for some much-needed dinner before I left for Billings again. Tomorrow, we boulder!!! Updates pending!