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Comp Psyche, More Bozeman climbing.

Date: 17th December 2013

Competition Mindset



Important competitions are always big experiences for me. I’m there to do my best with what I’ve got, and I become incredibly focused on doing that. The “stress” meter is always pegged; sometimes that stress can be positive, sometimes negative, but I’m always operating on a “high voltage” setting near an important event. Over the years I’ve learned to not just accept but really embrace, even revel, in this feeling; right before I walk out to compete I’m ready to rip doors off their hinges and crush the holds with my bare hands, or at least I believe I can. In the last hour before the finals at Bozeman I did my decades-old mobility/stretching routine, danced to old Ministry, juggled, paced circles, and generally got into the state I compete in best. It’s taken me a long time to learn where I need to be to compete well in climbing comps, and I look forward to finding that state and then, after the comp, look back at it with wonder about who I can become. I’ve had good comps (Bozeman difficulty this time and last) and bad (the speed comp at Bozeman this year), but if there’s one thing I love about competing it’s getting rid of all the bullshit and just doing my best. Really stripping my mind and body down until the only course is action, climb or fall, succeed or suck, but no more talking, just doing, with an intent to spit blood and see black before I let go. Yeah, that’s melodramatic, but it’s also the truth about where I perform well with dry tooling either in comps or on hard routes. As my friend Ben Firth says, “To succeed on a hard drytooling route you’ve got be ready to try absolutely and fall upside down, tools flying, rocks in the face, all that, before you tie in. Are you?” There is a pure transcendent beauty in focused action that I find only in meaningful physical movement. I keep reflecting back on Bozeman, and while I placed second I sent the route solidly, and I lost to a better competitor. I can not only live with that but actually really love having lived the experience, it was full-on and I fought hard… A lot of the work I do with athletes is helping them find their ideal performance states, and it’s not the same for everyone, but without an idea of what a solid performance state is then it won’t happen. Performance can be created, shaped, and directed, but it takes blisteringly honest self-examination about motives. I like going there.

DTS, figure fours, modded tools in comps and outside.

Yesterday a bunch of us went back up to the Bingo Cave and happily thrashed ourselves with competitors from the USA and Japan. Everyone was going for it, in the total commitment state, and it was awesome. Ryan Vachon sent House of Daggers, and I ran laps on Inglorius and House using different styles to train. Many French competitors are running “DTS” style, which means fast, no figure 4s, and very dynamic climbing to make the long moves. I did Inglorius in DTS, and it was damn hard. I’d rate Inglorius  M12- with figure fours, and M12+ DTS style. Same with House of Daggers, although House felt easier to the end as it’s shorter (and I fell at the very end when I blew a hold, did it again figure four style). But do the grades change with different styles? With spurs I felt they did, just like finding a new knee bar or something, but I think what’s happening on harder mixed routes is that it’s all boiling down to style, and the grades are increasingly irrelevant. Modded tools, spurs, no modded tools, DTS, all figure fours, it’s all good. On moderately overhanging routes I think DTS feels the best to me; it’s fast, fluid, aggressive, athletic, technical and generally cooler than figure fouring the big reaches. But on horizontal routes like those in the Bingo cave it’s pretty awkward and hard on my shoulders, it just feels a little contrived to totally avoid figure fours in that terrain. Figure fours feel more natural, and I’m going to use ‘em on flat roofs or whenever they make the movement flow better So I’m not an absolutist on any dry tool style, just give ‘er and be psyched on your climbing.

On really hard routes that make the media we need to be very clear about what style we used, as, in the words of Mark Twight, style does matter. So does equipment if you’re playing in the pub(l)ic recognition zone. If you’re making the “news” section of the climbing or general interest magazines/sites then you’re automatically open to public examination; playing a weak “accomplishment” as something rad may get some justified push back. If Adam Ondra rated a route 9a and suddenly it was clear that it was 8a then there would be a collective, “WTF mate?” Mixed climbing inherently has a lot of “WTF” in it, so it’s extra important to play the game with a high level of integrity.

I still think extra long custom-built “stilt” tools made to fit into the UIAA “box” are kinda lame. They make long reaches a lot easier, that much was clear watching people climb with them in Bozeman. But in an interesting twist nobody who placed well in Bozeman used stilt tools.  I think that’s pretty cool; the top competitors basically said, “nope,” and competed without them. I respect that decision, it just seems legit to me. A few competitors did have them, but none of them made the finals. I believe Pavel set the routes to take away some of the advantage of the long tools, but I’m not sure on that–they aren’t an advantage on sideways presses, and the routes had a lot of ‘em, good route-setting for sure!

My main take-aways from the last week is that drytooling and mixed climbing are awesome, those who create events like Bozeman are awesome humans adding collective stoke to the world, placing second can feel pretty damn good, and that I am PSYCHED to take it all as far as I can this winter. I’ve trained my ass off to be where I am, Bozeman was a nice step but only the first step on the winter plans, yeah! Here we go…


Posted in: Blog


  1. jf   December 17, 2013 2:40 pm

    “pubic recognition zone?” Public? If that’s intentional, it’s hilarious. If not, well, it works either way I guess!

    Great post – I agree, sometimes, standing on top of a boulder or hanging from the chains I feel a similar re-attachment followed by the “whoa, who was that guy?” thought.

  2. mercier   December 18, 2013 11:39 pm

    DTS family just say : MERCI Mister Gadd.

  3. Leigh   December 21, 2013 1:59 pm

    Good read. Loved it!

    Stripping life down to simple binary decisions is awesome. It doesn’t apply to everything in life, but when it does, it’s amazing!

    As the amazing Sharon Wood once said: “Commit, or Go Home, but don’t hesitate.”

  4. Jay   January 7, 2014 7:32 am

    Thanks for the stoke!

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