How I trained power for Shine 5.14a(part 2)

Let’s get one thing straight. I am an endurance athlete, always have been, always will be. Being able to endure pain for long periods of time is my specialty. Ever since my days as a long distance runner in high school and later a competitive cross country mountain bike racer, the longer events catered to one of my strengths. Decades later, it doesn’t surprise me that when it comes to rock climbing, I have always enjoyed the mega long sport pitches. I have to say, my style, and what I love the most, is that “fight” to hang on. Now with a large number of very difficult routes under my belt in the 30+ meter category, the long and pumpy routes have become my favorite.


Routes like Snake Watching(5.13a) at Overhang rock, which requires the full length of an 80 meter rope just to get back to the ground safely or a climb like Choose Life(5.13d), which is a 100 foot long endurance testpiece in the Flatirons, is what pushes my buttons or trips my trigger. Even though I sent Choose Life a few years back, the experience sometimes feels like it was just yesterday. I remember very vividly what it was like climbing through the v6 crux section of Choose Life all the way at the top of the climb, pumped out of my mind. Stupid pumped, silly pumped, the kind of pump where you can’t even hold onto a gigantic jug if your life depended on it. I love that feeling.



Dan Levison on the super long and super pumpy Choose Life 513d

Primo Wall in Clear Creek Canyon outside the bustling city of Golden, is the polar opposite of that climbing style. Housing some of the hardest routes in all of Clear Creek, condensed into a small 100 foot section of cliffline, routes at Primo wall simply put “pack a punch”. All of the routes at this wall, topping out at no more than 50 feet, have wicked hard moves that cater to the climber who has power and bouldering strength. Power is the name of the game at this wall. Shine(5.14a), a route put up by Peter Beal around 1997, still stands as one of the canyon’s hardest lines nearly 20 years later. I remember when I first got on the route years ago to test the waters that I got shut down hard. It is the vicious boulder problem at half height that I could never do, not even close. This same boulder problem over the years has thwarted the attempts of many strongman. To my surprise, I revisited Shine back in the fall after finishing another 5.14 project and quickly stuck the single hardest crux move that I could never pull. I can probably attribute my progress on Shine to two distinct factors.


Housing Clear Creek’s highest concentration of difficult sport lines, Primo has become a mecca for the aspiring 5.13 and 5.14 climber…

The first factor was simply the sheer amount of time I spent on Thunder Muscle(TM for short) in the Flatirons. Despite coming super close to TM back in May 15′, I came up short and the warm weather of summer started to set in. I more or less let go of the route entirely for the summer. Once September hit, I started going back to TM a lot. And I mean A LOT! For the most part, TM was the only route I climbed on for virtually the entire fall season. Being on a route as difficult as TM, clocking in at 5.14, would be the best training that I could have ever done for my climbing. Power, something I clearly lacked since I have never been strong at bouldering, was something that TM addressed first hand. The moves and boulder problems were difficult. Let me rephrase that, the boulder problems are some of the hardest I have ever done in my life. Whether I actually sent the route or not, I knew it was working a weakness so I stuck with it. Fuel for the fire, that’s all it was…


Training power on Thunder Muscle’s V8 crux proved valuable


The process of working and ultimately sending TM proved quite valuable to my overall abilities as a climber. I always had the endurance as I stated in the beginning of this article but the one thing that dramatically changed for me was my overall power and bouldering strength. TM has crux sections in the v8 range that I must have done several hundred times by themselves. Think about what doing a v8 several hundred times would do for your climbing? Sometimes I did the moves over and over, essentially doing a v8 multiple times in a single session. What do you think that would do to my climbing? You guessed it, I got strong. Very strong.

The second factor which helped me develop more power in my climbing was the amount of high intensity/ hyper-gravity bouldering I did at the gym. As soon as the cold of winter set in, sometime around mid- December, I started to do some bouldering with a weight vest.  Hyper-Gravity training as it’s often called is hands down one of the fastest ways to increase power and certainly grip strength. Most, if not all the bouldering I did training in the gym between the start of the year and the time I sent Shine, always involved climbing with more weight than just my body. Now several months later after training in this very specific way, all I can say is WOW! Never in my life did I think I would ever be able to boulder in the V double digit’s or have the ability to climb a 5.14 that’s only 50 feet tall. Basically, for the grade, the shorter it is the harder the moves are going to be.


Many years ago ascent of Flying Cowboy’s, one of the many powerful and classic routes at Primo Wall…

When I started the hyper-gravity bouldering back in January, I was only using about 4 pounds of added weight. Slowly over time I built up to using about 7 pounds. It may not seem like much but I can certainly say that it made a HUGE difference on how difficult everything would feel. If you have never tried hyper-gravity training before, I suggest you give it a whirl. Your body in a nutshell adjusts to the excess weight during your workouts and slowly adapts to the added stress. Fingers, forearm and bicep muscles get strong. Bottom line, when the weight vest came off, I crushed in a way I never had before.

The biggest overall gain in my personal climbing(in the way of power) was clearly achieved by these two factors. Hyper-gravity training with a weight vest was immensely helpful. I have also heard pro climbers in the past talking about consistently working a route at a difficulty level your trying to break into. For me, it was the ever elusive grade of 5.14. I could have climbed 5.13b all day every day but it wouldn’t have helped to send a 5.14. If I wanted to send a 5.14, then I would need to be on a 5.14 ALL THE TIME. I did and fortunately all the stars aligned and I sent TM back in the fall. Now, with Shine, it was just climbing another route of the same difficulty I had already done. No more mental block. No more asking myself the rhetorical question, “Could I really climb at a 5.14 level?”. Frankly, Shine, although given the same grade as TM, felt worlds easier to me. Could it be the fact that I am that much stronger than I was before I trained all of my weaknesses?

Only time will tell…




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