Disclaimer: I have not climbed V15 … Yet. But, I am fairly certain I can. Here's a recap from France...
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My hypothesis: Any climber with an athletic disposition, dedication, time, appropriate training and proper diet can climb V10. Climbing double digits is an attainable goal for any serious climber. You just have to want it badly enough and put in the training hours to get there.
As with any worthwhile goal, know that it’s not going to be easy. It will require sacrifice- but it’s possible. The same goes for me and my goal of climbing V15 before I get too fat, consumed with work, and “settle down.” I have been climbing in the V13 range for the past 8 years, but I have never taken the necessary steps to achieve the next level both mentally and physically. I recently made a conscious decision to achieve this seemingly impossible bouldering milestone. I can usually climb V12-V13 in a few sessions, so why not really dedicate myself to a project, and try to elevate my performance to achieve something greater? I mean, V15 didn't even exist when I started climbing!
Here is my guide to climb V15 –a plan I made to provide a systematic approach to tick this elusive grade and place myself in the ranks of super-human, bouldering idols. If I can pull it off, it might just help you achieve your bouldering goals too:
Pick a Goal
Find a V15 (or a V-whatever) somewhere in the world that you think you can do. This is the scariest part of the process and it takes guts to share the idea with friends, because verbalizing your goals makes you accountable to them.
My choice? "The Big Island" (V15) in Fontainebleau, France. It’s my style, I have a partner to train and try it with, it gets me psyched, and IT’S RAD.
Jon Glassberg working on "The Big Island" (V15).
Believe that you can do this climb, because you can.
This goes way, way farther than you can imagine. When I first envisioned this project, I could visualize the end goal but not the process it would take to get there. For me this meant sacrificing time, relationships, comfort, and money so I could be dedicated and single-minded. This is actually harder to do than I expected and you have to be mentally prepared to make those sacrifices from the beginning. For example, you might really love roping up every now and then. Stop! You’re a power-hungry boulderer now. Focus!
Work with a trainer and get on a plan that will get you in top shape for your choice project. Find a partner to train with- you’ll need him or her for mental support, motivation, accountability and most of all, a little healthy competition.
Once I felt prepared to commit to the goal, it was time to get to work. First, I assembled a team: Steve Maisch agreed to train me, and Danny Ciavarro became my training partner. That’s really all you need: someone to give you a routine, to strive towards, and a partner with similar goals who is willing to put in the time by your side. Especially through those low self-esteem, depressing “I suck” moments.
My training plan was simple: 16-weeks designed to optimize power, compression strength, core strength, and injury prevention. I became hell bent on being able to do 5-7 incredibly hard, consecutive moves, and becoming a compression specialist. My workouts consisted of weighted hangs and weighted bouldering, interval bouldering, pyramid bouldering, and a core routine to balance my overall fitness, and injury prevention.
Here’s an example of one of my training weeks:
• Sunday: Weighted bouldering (climbing at my 75% max difficulty, with 10lb weight vest), weighted hangs, core routine
• Monday: Rest
• Tuesday: Boulder Pyramid: 10 up - 10 down (V5 to V11) in 1 hour
• Wednesday: Rest
• Thursday: Intervals, followed by projecting a boulder indoors (V13 range)
• Friday: Rest
• Saturday: Project an outdoor boulder (V13 range)
This routine required discipline, shrugging off stress on bad days, trying to chart long term progress, and keeping the sessions focused and intense. Seeing progress was key for me and I saw it the most on the sandbagged and notoriously difficult training tool, the Moonboard.
My first training session on the Moonboard looked like this:
December 1, 2016: 5x V8s, 4x V9s
Three months later:
March 1, 2017: 6x V10s, 4x V11s
I gained huge confidence from such obvious gains and clear progression both mentally and physically.
Seriously though. If you don't eat well, your climbing will suffer.
I used to eat like shit and I knew it. Lots of sugars, carbohydrates. My diet was inconsistent; I skipped meals, and I didn’t eat for recovery. This needed to change if I ever wanted to level up, so I contacted my friend Neely Quinn (Nutrition Therapist, and host of the Training Beta Podcast) and begged her to fix me. She helped me form a meal strategy that was focused on high protein, high fat, and low carb. It worked. I lost 10lbs in the first 2 weeks and immediately felt the benefits of scheduled meals and better nutrition. I felt my power go through the roof. To boulder at my limit, that’s I wanted: POWER.
Force yourself to rest and listen to your body.
Arguably the hardest adjustment for me was learning to chill out. For the better part of 22 years, I have climbed as often as possible, usually 5 days a week, with an emphasis on volume. For my goals, this wasn’t the best strategy and I had no idea how beneficial rest could be until I started to see long-term effects. Listening to your body and taking extra rest days when you feel like you should is almost always the right move. It is remarkable what an extra rest day can do for your psyche, strength, and overall well-being. You won’t see big gains in strength if you climb all day, every day.
Proper Planning and Execution
Don’t compromise- be comfortable when you travel, allow yourself amenities and be selective when choosing partners.
While preparing for my trip to France to try "The Big Island," I tried to be smart in anticipating my routine. I arranged a comfortable place to stay, lined up great partners, and booked my trip during the ideal season. Even if you do everything else right, neglecting one of these factors can sabotage your chances of success. To climb the hardest boulder problem of my life, everything else needed to be perfect.
Most elite climbers in the V13 range can find a V15 project that suits them. With the right amount of training, dedication, and a little luck, it can happen. I asked myself- isn’t there one V15 somewhere that is your style, that would be doable for you given the right conditions? Why aren’t you going for it?
I used to hate projecting. It takes time, and with time you need mental strength. I went to Fontainebleau and put my training to the test. After my first few days on "The Big Island", I had only done half of the moves and was feeling pretty discouraged. After six serious sessions on the boulder, I had completed all the moves and done the boulder in two overlapping sections. That’s when I knew it was possible.
In the end, I left France without the elusive V15 tick BUT, I also left knowing that, one day, I could do the boulder. That realization is all I need to put in the time over the next year to return and send, and stand on top of this climb victorious.
Until next time, I’ll be rehearsing the beta, over and over, and over.
"The Big Island" (V15) Beta
• Start right hand crimp, left hand crimp, left foot on best foot, right heel over hand just left of start hold.
• Cross right hand over to good crimp (feet stay the same).
• Slap left hand to arête (low) and right hand to sidepull quickly (don't hesitate), left hand bumps to the “upsidedown”.
• Make sure you grab the “upsidedown” as upside-down as possible with thumb engaged.
• Right heel slides up to the “nipple” (best spot for heel on right rail, left toe slides up the wall slightly, away from best foot.
• Adjust left hand to maximize undercling with thumb.
• Big move to right hand sloper (get it down pulling or slightly side pulled).
• Keep right heel and swing left heel on to left side of wall (extended).
• Squeeze with inner thighs, try not to black out.
• Throw left hand to crimp (feels impossible, just go for it, you'll stick it).
• Take a breath.
• Don’t move your feet and bump right hand to best part of side pull on sloper with index finger third knuckle resting on nipple.
• Squeeze like your life depends on it and slide right heel out to toe hook then slide same right heel to key right toe while keeping left heel engaged.
• Release left heel and squeeze holds into juice.
• Toss left hand to the lip with left foot dangling, not on any hold.
• Cut feet and heel hook lip with left foot.
• Left hand bump to sloper on middle section of lip.
• Right hand toss to visor sloper on the right side of the lip.
• Left hand back to jug.
• Right foot up to small crimp near crux sloper (Don’t fall here).
• Rock over heel.
• Top out.
• You did "The Big Island!" Celebrate with champagne.
Photos: © Jon Glassberg
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jon Glassberg is a member of the La Sportiva Climbing Team.
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