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Late Season Projecting and Maximizing Fall Climbing

Knowing how to project difficult climbs can make or break your fall season. It's more than brushing holds and taking rest

Across the country, temperatures dropped well below this summer’s highs. Although much of Canada did experience record or near-record heat waves, Canadians got out on the rock and back in the gym. With three months of training behind them, athletes turned toward the outdoors to begin another season of projecting. Fall is every climber’s favourite season.

At its core, projecting revolves around climbing something at your limit. In the gym, this idea becomes skewed by the frequency of resets. This frequency makes it difficult to look at projects that last more than a few weeks. For something that exists at the limit, projecting will take a little more time.

With that said, it does make sense to start with a smaller project. A boulder problem or route where you can do almost all the moves in a session allows the climber to experience working out the moves, feeling nervous and completing the line.

This small scale approach builds well into a larger project, as the physical and mental challenges associated with each are the same. The greatest differences exist within the scale of these challenges. The mental aspect of linking all the moves on a limit project is often as challenging as the physical component. The internal pressure and desire become distracting.

Picking Projects

If you can do all the moves on your first session, the line is not at your limit. This presents a difficult question. How hard is too hard? Realistically, no problem is too hard. All climbs have a similar process revolving around strength and technique that take the climber to the top.

With that said, some projects offer greater difficulty than others. If the goal is to complete the project in a season, ensuring the movement is possible given your current strength abilities is important. Begin by holding the positions. If you can hold all the positions, it means that you should be able to climb the problem with flawless movement and technique. It then becomes a question of refining ability.


In competition climbing, athletes have a small amount of time to climb something confusing or difficult. Although beta can be forced, even forced movements provide space for different smaller techniques. These techniques, or micro-beta, are the changes in attempts between the first and final goes. It generally comes down to body position and momentum.

With that established, consider the movement. You have secured every position, and now it has become a question of movement between positions. The first goal should be reaching the next hold. In comparison to completing the move, this is easy. The second goal is to hit the hold with your fingers in the right place. This is also relatively easy. The third step provides a greater challenge.

This step asks the climber to complete the move. Working backwards from the established position becomes a helpful technique. If you can hold the position, consider where every portion of your body lies when you establish. Then consider moving your body into that position on the movement.

After each attempt, consider what allowed you to approach the move and what pulled you away from hold. If you are unsure, film your next attempt with your phone. Reviewing footage can prove helpful, as climbers often imagine the movement in their head and execute with different form. For athletes that have trouble keeping their hips to the wall, this technique offers a huge advantage.

In this case, knowing just how much further the hips need to come to the wall provides the climber with the ability to measure that distance and immediately correct for it. The movement may not go immediately, but the footage should offer insight into the problem.

Theoretically, the climber will have to do this until they can throw their body into a position where they can overcome the fall, or where they can hit the hold without momentum. Even on momentum-based dynamic moves, climbers can kill the momentum that runs against their direction to the hold.

This might come across best in terms of run-and-jumps where athletes must throw themselves up so they can land down on their foot, killing much of the lateral momentum, by providing a greater downward momentum upon to foot plant. Naturally, there exist few run-and-jumps outside, but the same method can be applied to a dead point.

Linking Movement

Once the moves go, it is likely that some sections will be more easily linked than others. Overlapping links refer to sections of the climb that the climber can move through without falling. In a 40 move route, perhaps the projecting climber can move through the first 30 moves before falling. They may try to then climb the last 20 moves without falling as well. That would mean that 120 overlapping moves are shared between the two links. Increasing the number of shared moves between links brings the climber closer and closer to completing the whole route.

Take this 30:20 example once again. Another way of looking at it is that the climber has sent the climb from 20 moves in. They may then try increasing the number of overlapping moves. The result could become, having sent the climb from 10 moves in. As they have already linked the first 30 moves, we can be assured that the first moves are not too difficult to complete. As the climber has already sent the climb from 10 moves in, via this overlapping links technique, they can psychologically approach the route with greater certainty. Theoretically, if they can complete the route’s first 10 moves without much fatigue, they should send the climb.

Whether the climb is three moves or 40, microbeta allows for an endlessly expandable series of links.

Head Game

This part could be a piece all its own. In short, climbers will have to determine their own approaches to battling the mental barriers put up by climbs. Canadian crack climber Will Stanhope has talked about a delicate balance of trying hard while not wanting it too much. This idea comes through in bouldering just as it might in crack climbing.

Maintaining the desire to climb the rock is important, but if you associate too much self-worth or urgency with any single burn, perhaps that will take you off the wall. With that said, something should be said for forcing the burn. Sometimes, you have to force it. No matter what, trying hard is necessary. Sometimes that presents through consistency, and sometimes that presents through gripping the holds as hard as possible. For more on trying hard, click here. To that effect, conditions also become important.  For more on conditions, click here.