If I would’ve told you 6 months ago that I would spend the whole summer training for a climbing trip almost exclusively on the same 5 boulder problems + hangboard combo, you probably would’ve told me not to get my hopes up. And I probably would’ve agreed with you. It certainly wouldn’t have been my first chocie, but Covid 19 pretty much destroyed most everyone’s first (and second, and third) choices in these past few months.
Summer Climbing Recap
Let me back up. For those of you that might not be aware, our family’s big quarantine project was putting together a Treadwall from Brewer Fitness. We bit the bullet back in March, and after multiple delays, we were finally able to climb on our very own home wall on May 15. (For a detailed analysis on why we went with the Treadwall over other popular home options, check out CragDaddy’s guest post HERE.) Mid-May is also about the time things started opening up for us to be able to climb outside as well, and with a couple of casual day trips, psych was restored and spirits were lifted after the longest hiatus we’d ever taken in our almost 15 years of climbing.
The early weeks of summer featured surprisingly good climbing conditions, and we were able to take advantage of it several weekends in a row at Hidden Valley, VA. We all got settled back into the rhythm of weekend adventures, and CragDaddy and I were able to work our way back up to 5.12 again. This is also when our 10 year old decided he was ready to start lead climbing (!!!!), and he was able to amass a rather impressive tick list in just a handful of days, including his first 5.10 (Tidy Bowl, 10a.)
But then the ACTUAL summer came, and with it, all the oppressive heat and smothering humidity summer climbing in the Southeast is known for. We tried to keep on keeping on, but while Big C was able to continue his sending streak at various local crags, CragDaddy and I were melting off anything slightly harder than warm-up level.
Treadwall Training Programs
Now back to the Treadwall. As our sole form of mid-week climbing since early March (our gyms are still closed), our “Dreadwall,’ as we have affectionately named it, has been absolutely invaluable in gaining back, and then keeping fitness.
But how exactly do we train on it? Depends on which of us you ask, b/c we all use it in a slightly different way. But first here’s the breakdown of our current set-up. For the record we’ve had a really hard time grading these. 18 feet is way too short for a route, but the sustained nature of the climbing would make for a beastly long boulder problem. We tend to use a combination of the two, knowing that once we start stacking problems on top of each other, the YDS grade will shift upwards. That said, here’s what we’ve been working with, in order of difficulty.
- Green: V1/5.10
- Blue V3/5.11
- Big Move Black V4/5.11+
- Orange V4/5.12
- Pink V5/5.12
- Gaston Red V6/5.12+
If you are interested in seeing some of these problems in more detail, you can check them out on the Eat Spray Love app and search for Dreadwall or videos posted on instagram (see instagram usernames below). Here’s how each of us has been using the wall:
Cragmama’s Training – @CRAGMAMA
While the harder problems took me a session or two to send, I primarily use this wall for endurance/power endurance. In the early weeks, the goal was to send the harder problems and progressively add multiple laps to the easier ones, until I could comfortably handle several sets of 3-4 lap combos of varying difficulties. Nowadays, my typical workout begins with a few triple/quad laps of various green/blue combos before moving into some single lap lock off drills. Then I’ll try for some harder double lap combos – some that I can consistently send, others not so much. For example, I can pretty much always double up on Orange, but am hit or miss with Red into any color, because I’m not 100% on sending even one lap of Red. If I’m also doing a hangboarding workout that day (repeaters on 3 different hold types), I’ll probably do 5-7 or so sets of these double links, then head to the Hangboard. If not, I’ll probably just try the Red link up a few times before going directly into some sort of Power Enduro work. Since I already had good fitness with the easier problems, the goal here was to increase time under tension with the harder problems, ie pink and orange (red is too hard at this point to include.)
I started with “On the Minute” drills (something I picked up from training with Power Company Climbing.) For these, I would start a problem at the same time I started my stopwatch, then rest until it hit the minute mark, then go again. I would climb 6 single laps this way (I worked up to 3 pink and 3 orange, although initially I had to throw in some Blues and Greens.)
I then moved to traditional 4x4s with a 5 minute rest between sets (climb a single lap, hop down, chalk up, climb another problem, etc for 4 single laps.), Just recently I switched it up a little to 4 triple laps on Orange, with 5 minutes in between. These are SUPER HARD and I am failing miserably by the end, BUT seeing progress each time!
Cragdaddy’s Training – @SHOCKSLL
According to CragDaddy, “Everything about our Treadwall setup works my weaknesses.” The size of the wall forces him to climb in a much “smaller box” than he is accustomed to, the 36 degree angle wall is his anti-style, and the hold size limitations combined with his bigger hands size makes the jugs feel “less juggy” compared to how they feel for Big C and I. He has progressed from barely doing a single lap on Green to comfortably doing doubles, and even the occasional triple. His fave link-up is Big Move Black into Green, and he is super close to a double Blue link.
CragDaddy’s typical workout consists of playing around with some of the above mentioned link-ups before projecting Orange, which he was recently able to send last week. After several working burns on Orange, he will move to the hangboard, on which he has made a ton of progress.
Big C’s Training – @CANAAN_CLIMBS
Honestly, out of all of us, this kid by far looks the best on it. While the moves on the appropriately named Big Move Black are a little too long for his wingspan, and he has yet to send Gaston Red, he manages to make all the others look super casual. In addition to playing around with various link-ups, the most effective training he has had on the wall has been clipping practice!
With all that said, we’ve been working hard…but will it be enough? Our fitness is high, but our limit bouldering has for sure suffered without a gym. And does hangboarding alone replace the finger strength we are missing out on from all those little crimps on the vertical/slightly overhanging gym walls? Time will tell. One thing that I do know is that this treadwall has already gotten us back on track way faster than we ever would have guessed, and we have been super thankful for it. Next week at this time the kids and I will be taking the scenic route through Rocky Mountain National Park on our way to pick up CragDaddy in Casper, Wyoming. But for now, the countdown is on! Only 10 sleeps til Tensleep! If you would like to follow our journey, I will be posting as much as I can on social media!