Climbing and training in 2020

Climbing and training in 2020

2020 was fucked up, that doesn’t require much explaining. With all the lock downs and limited travel it was obviously also not the easiest year to improve at climbing. Looking back, it still turned out to be not all bad, and this post goes into the good bits.

Training with Lattice

I started a Lattice premium plan end of summer 2019, and continued training with them throughout 2020. British crusher Jen Wood has been my coach, which has been great. With the Lattice plan I get a detailed training plan for each week, normally designed around a three-month training cycle. Each week has a mix of climbing, bouldering, hang boarding, strength and mobility sessions. In a typical week I train for five days, with two days rest.

The main benefit of having a structured plan is that it helps training the right amount, and focus on the right things.

The 2020 lockdowns obviously threw a wrench in the training plan. Without access to a climbing wall, or even outdoor climbing during the first lock down, the original plan was no longer possible. Lattice coach Jen quickly modified the plan to work with the equipment we have at home; basically a pull up bar, hang board and barbell/weights. Of course actually climbing more would have been more productive, but this way I was at least still gaining (finger) strength. When the local park re-opened again I send my first 5.11d/7a, the extra finger strength definitely being a factor.

With gyms opening and closing multiple times during the year, the plan was always updated to get the most out of what was available at the time.

Climbing locally

The local climbing area is Castle Rock. Castle Rock is 20 minutes from where we live, and all sandstone. The climbs are all short and often “cruxy” with distinct stopper moves. There’s also quality bouldering. Because the climbs are short, I hadn’t actually climbed much in the area, even while it’s so close by.

With gyms being closed it forced me into exploring the area more, and it turned out to be much more fun than expected! We started going 2-3 times a week and ticked of many of the climbs. Most of them not world-class, but definitely worth doing! I would probably not have tried many of them that turned out to be really fun. This also helped to build a good base of many more 5.11 climbs.

Donkey Dong 5.11d Donkey Dong 5.11d. Click for video of a failed attempt.

At the end of the year I started trying Clamydia 5.12a, and managed to link all the hard moves. During a red point attempt just before the end of the year I climbed through the crux, but slipped out of the crucial knee bar because that section was wet. I’m impatiently waiting for some dry days to get it done!

Lover’s Leap

I’ve spent a lot of days climbing at Lover’s Leap during summer. Highlights include Surrealistic Pillar Direct, my first 5.10b on gear, (and whipping on it on the first attempt), Hospital Corner 5.10a and Traveler Buttress 5.9.

Surrealistic Pillar Direct Looking up a Surrealistic Pillar Direct 5.10b.

The cam that caught my first fall on gear The cam that caught my first fall on gear, while trying Surrealistic Pillar Direct for the first time.

Hospital Corner Almost at the top of Hospital Corner 5.10a.

Traveler Buttress Pitch two of Traveler Buttress, a 5.9 offwidth.


At the end of August we had a heat wave that also resulted in the massive wildfires in California. Right around that time I had a trip planned for Yosemite. After being without electricity at home for 50 hours, and suffering bad air quality for weeks I was ready to just give up on the trip. Luckily we decided to just give it a try, even with the odds stacked against it being a good experience.

We got super lucky, and while the prior and following weeks were really bad, the whole week we were there we had reasonably clean air in the Valley. Although it being really hot, we decided to start the trip with Central Pillar of Frenzy, a sustained 5 pitch 5.9 crack. The climb requires a variety of crack techniques, from fingers to offwidth. Not the hardest grade I’ve done on gear, but definitely the hardest climb with it being so long and sustained.

Central Pillar Pitch three of Central Pillar of Frenzy. Nice hands into a roof into an offwidth. Also, no barber for 5 months…

Looking down at the twin cracks of pitch 2 Looking down the twin cracks of pitch 2 on Central Pillar of Frenzy

The other highlight was the 2000ft Royal Arches, making it back to the ground with some daylight left to spare!

Royal Arches Looking up the blank slab halfway up Royal Arches.

We also did a repeat (my third time) of Cathedral Peak in Tuolumne, clocking in the 700ft climb in under 2 hours. It’s an easy climb, but it’s so beautiful that it’s totally worth repeating.

Cathedral Peak The top of Cathedral Peak, much nicer than last year’s thunderstorm.

Smith Rock

After a long summer of mostly trad climbing it was finally time for some good sport climbing in Smith Rock in October. The trip started off not great, with my wife Qiushi breaking her foot on day one, landing her in the emergency room.

Qiushi Climbing Qiushi killing it at Smith Rock

Qiushi in the emergency room Qiushi a few hours later….

Because it was four of us on the trip, we continued climbing the rest of the week. I was hoping to climb my first 5.12a, and picked the 33 meter “Bolt From the Blue” route. After three sessions I came very close to sending, but ultimately didn’t make it. It was such a fun route to try though!

Bolt form the Blue Bolt from the Blue 5.12a

I love climbing at Smith, there are just so many good routes to choose from. I’m definitely hoping to go for another trip in 2021.

The backyard board

As soon as lock down started in March, I started thinking about building a home wall. I actually had been thinking of this already, but it seemed the perfect time now. Unfortunately it was very difficult to find holds, so I put off the project until I would be able to buy holds from Tension Climbing. This finally happened just before the Smith Rock trip. Instead of building a board I found someone who was moving out of state willing to sell their board. We managed to transport the whole thing and re-build it in one evening!

The Tension board has been extremely helpful during the following lock downs. Training on the board 2-3 times a week helped me gain a lot of power already, which has been very apparent on my new 5.12a project.

Tension Board The Tension Board in all its glory

Final thoughts

From the perspective of climbing, 2020 wasn’t all bad. With the help of Lattice I’ve still made pretty good improvements and had some very memorable climbing experiences.

Looking at the numbers:

  • Sport: 5.11a -> 5.11d (and very close to sending 5.12a)
  • Trad: 5.9 -> 5.10b
  • About twenty 5.11+ routes.
  • ~100 pitches of trad

Let’s hope 2021 will allow for more climbing to put that extra strength to use!