Suc­cess sto­ries from our Climb a Grade Harder course.

Climbing - - CONTENTS -

WHEN CLIMB­ING MAG­A­ZINE teamed up with the “Climb­ing Sen­sei” Justen Sjong in 2016 to pro­duce our first- ever on­line education class, Climb a Grade Harder: 5.9 to 5.11, we knew we had a win­ner. Sjong is a re­spected climb­ing coach known through­out the US for his con­tri­bu­tions. Coach­ing since 1995, he’s trained the likes of Alex Puc­cio, Emily Har­ring­ton, and Daniel Woods. He brings a deep well of ex­pe­ri­ence to the ta­ble, with VI 5.14- big- wall first free as­cents and a 5.14c sport FA.

One of Sjong’s clients, the Bay Area soft­ware en­gi­neer Donn Good­hew, can tes­tify to the ef­fec­tive­ness of Sjong’s coach­ing. Af­ter 29 years of climb­ing and stuck on a plateau, Good­hew sent U-Haul, his first 5.14a, at Jail­house Rock, Cal­i­for­nia. Af­ter a cou­ple of in-per­son ses­sions, Sjong gave Good­hew a cus­tom­ized gym work­out that also en­cour­aged re­flec­tion on his progress; the two have fol­lowed up with monthly Skype calls. “When I re­turned to Jail­house in the 2016/17 sea­son, I im­me­di­ately matched my old high point, even in bad con­di­tions,” says Good­hew. “By the time con­di­tions had cooled down that De­cem­ber [2016], I was pre­pared, and cap­i­tal­ized on a cold day, red­point­ing my first 5.14a at 48 years old.” Good­hew also went on to dis­patch the Vir­gin River Gorge, Ari­zona, turbo-5.13c Dude, a climb that had eluded him 25 years ear­lier.

Climb a Grade Harder: 5.9 to 5.11 has been so pop­u­lar that we’ve fol­lowed up with a se­quel—Climb a Grade Harder: 5.12 and Be­yond. In this next-level course, Sjong teams up with pro climber Nina Wil­liams to of­fer the skills, drills, and men­tal-tough­ness tech­niques to help you crack the top grades. We also fol­lowed up with two stu­dents from the orig­i­nal course who, like Good­hew, have seen mea­sur­able gains thanks to Sjong.

KEN HAMEL

A climber of eight years, Ken Hamel, 57, lives in Bris­tol, Rhode Is­land, where he works for a rope/rope-work com­pany. He started climb­ing af­ter a cou­ple trips to the gym, and cites Lin­coln Woods, Rhode Is­land; the Gunks; Rum­ney; and the crags of cen­tral Con­necti­cut as his fa­vor-

ite hangs. Be­fore the course, he was lead­ing easy-5.10 sport routes and 5.6 trad at the Gunks; he’s since seen his sport per­for­mance jump to hard 5.10, and his Gunks game jump to con­sis­tent 5.7. Af­ter com­plet­ing the course, says Hamel, “I got a lot stronger, which al­lowed me to work harder routes, fig­ure them out, and be more com­fort­able with in­creased en­durance and strength.”

WHAT IN­SPIRED YOU TO TAKE CLIMB A GRADE HARDER?

I have al­ways had a “train­ing plan” and/or coach in other sports. When I saw the Climb a Grade Harder ad, I quickly de­ter­mined this could be a mech­a­nism to have that kind of guid­ance. I knew I needed a more spe­cific, ex­act­ing train­ing plan.

DID YOU SEE IM­ME­DI­ATE GAINS?

I found the early work­outs tir­ing, but I liked that. I knew they would be my base­line and pre­pare me for even harder work­outs, spe­cific to the course goals. Some work­outs ver­i­fied my in­crease in strength. Re­peat­ing a hard route three times in a row was some­thing I had never con­sid­ered, so the work­out it­self showed me po­ten­tial I didn’t know I had.

WHICH TEACH­INGS DID YOU CON­NECT WITH THE MOST?

All of them—I liked the at­ten­tion to de­tail, and the fact that there were a lot of ex­er­cises to make strength and en­durance im­prove­ments, cou­pled with ex­er­cises to pre­vent in­jury.

WHAT SORT OF GOOD HABITS DID THE COURSE HELP YOU DE­VELOP?

Breath­ing and warm­ing up prop­erly, and get­ting my­self men­tally pre­pared to suc­ceed.

HAVE YOU CON­TIN­UED TO SEE IM­PROVE­MENT?

I have. It’s been slow progress, but I am climb­ing a lit­tle harder and am a lot more com­fort­able each year.

WOULD YOU REC­OM­MEND THIS COURSE TO A FRIEND?

I would, and I have. One can waste a lot of time just climb­ing—and by not hav­ing an or­ga­nized plan, es­pe­cially if they have a job, a fam­ily, etc. Mak­ing the most of your work­out time—and know­ing there will be quan­tifi­able re­sults—is so im­por­tant!

DR. ORSOLYA ERDEI

Dr. Orsolya Erdei, 41, is a ded­i­cated climber, de­spite her full-time job as a le­gal pro­fes­sional in Bu­dapest, Hun­gary. She got into climb­ing 11 years ago af­ter a friend took her to “one of the worst crags I’ve ever vis­ited,” a cliff not far from down­town where the rock was so slick she only got six feet off the ground. Still, she was hooked, and dove into the sport, tak­ing up lead­ing four years ago. Her pre­ferred type of climb­ing is over­hang­ing sport routes, and one long­stand­ing goal has been the leg­endary tufa climb Rodeo (5.11d) in Misja Pec, Slove­nia. Be­fore the course, her hard­est red­point was 5.11c and her hard­est on­sight was 5.11a. Shortly af­ter­ward, she flashed 5.11d. Af­ter another year of hard train­ing, she’s now climbed 5.12b. Erdei calls Climb a Grade Harder “the best in­vest­ment of my life.”

WHAT IN­SPIRED YOU TO TAKE CLIMB A GRADE HARDER?

Prior to Fe­bru­ary 2016 (when the pro­gram be­gan), I never trained for climb­ing specif­i­cally, just en­joy­ing it with friends. I didn’t evolve at the de­sired pace, although I wanted to climb 7a [5.11d] to widen the range of routes I could try.

DID YOU SEE IM­ME­DI­ATE GAINS?

The first ses­sion, af­ter tak­ing the self-test, I re­al­ized how low a grade I could ac­tu­ally climb. But I kept my eyes on the prize (send­ing Rodeo), which kept me go­ing for­ward. Wed­nes­days (fit­ness days) were chal­leng­ing, but as the weeks went by I got used to the ex­er­cises. The big­gest gain was the mo­ti­va­tion from day one: the promised +1 grade I was look­ing for. Half­way through, in March 2016, I was climb­ing on Rodeo with un­prece­dented con­fi­dence, be­ing able to ex­e­cute ev­ery move, whereas four months ear­lier I was mov­ing like a bag of pota­toes.

DID YOUR PART­NERS NO­TICE YOUR IM­PROVE­MENT?

Of course—friends asked me all the time what I was do­ing when they saw me push­ing the timed ex­er­cises. When I sent Rodeo in April 2017, I be­came a rock­star! This was fol­lowed that June by Port­land Dorset, a 5.12a in Kis- Gerecse, Hun­gary, I’d been pro­ject­ing for three years. I be­came a bet­ter ver­sion of my­self. My self-con­fi­dence grew; my fin­gers be­came stronger.

WHICH TEACH­INGS DID YOU CON­NECT WITH THE MOST?

The men­tal part was fun­da­men­tal: “Be a war­rior, go­ing into bat­tle, not fear­ing death” be­came my mantra. It truly boosts self-con­fi­dence, not only at climb­ing but in all parts of life.

WHAT SORT OF GOOD HABITS DID THE COURSE HELP YOU DE­VELOP?

First, it put my head in place. I re­al­ized I was self-sab­o­tag­ing be­fore even start­ing the climb. I wouldn’t say I al­ways start a climb with a per­fect state of mind, but I recognize when I don’t and try to nip it (fear) in the bud. Sec­ond, con­sis­tency: I’ve used train­ing plans ever since. And third, an­tag­o­nist train­ing is in­dis­pens­able to in­jury preven­tion, no mat­ter how bor­ing.

JUSTEN SJONG HELPS NINA WIL­LIAMS FO­CUS ON MOVE­MENT AND TIM­ING ON THE SYS­TEM WALL.

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