Noon Patrol: A Better Climbing New Year’s Resolution

By Kevin Corrigan ,

Some climbers wake before dawn to climb at empty crags. Kevin Corrigan sleeps in and shows up when those people go home. Noon Patrol is his monthly column about how climbers should have more fun, be nicer, and take the sport less seriously. For Kevin’s humor columns, see Unsent.

“The weight room is going to be crowded for the next six weeks.”

Chris Wall, the head trainer and coach at the Boulder Rock Club in Boulder, Colorado, sees this cycle repeat year after year. People commit to New Year’s resolutions. They set lofty goals. They tell themselves they’ll work hard for front-lever abs and walnut-crushing fingers, while losing 20 pounds eating only bok choy, and then climb 5.19—all in the new calendar year. Six weeks later motivation wanes, cheeseburgers beckon, and things return to the way they were—sitting on the couch, watching fingerstyle guitar covers of pop songs on Youtube, trying that new IPA you bought based on the label art... or your version of that.

Most New Year’s resolutions aren’t fun to complete. Having six pack abs is fun. But holding a plank for two hours a week is not fun, so we quit. If your resolution sounds like these, you’re not going to complete it:

  • Climb four grades harder
  • Drop BMI to a negative number
  • Log 10,000 vertical feet per day in the gym
  • Increase forearm diameter two inches; decrease thigh diameter four inches
  • Send Tendon Exploder (5.Hard X)
  • Hang at body weight from dimes glued to the rafters
  • Complete any one item from Magnus Midtbo’s daily training routine

When’s the last time you had the willpower to do something that sucked for an entire year? All of these difficult resolutions share the same goal: to help you climb better so you can enjoy climbing more. But don’t you already enjoy climbing? Isn’t that why you’re on a rock climbing website reading this article?

I’d thus like to propose a different kind of goal for 2018. This goal is fun to complete. It’s not about sending a killer line, breaking into the next grade, or acquiring fingers of steel, though those may be side effects. Your goal is simply to climb more. That’s it: go outside and go climbing. As one of my old climbing partners used to say, any day out climbing during which no one gets hurt is a good day. This year, challenge yourself to have more “good days.” Easy! I give you permission to ditch your current resolution and just go climbing. Think of it this way: If you really wanted to pursue one-armed pinky pullups, you wouldn't have waited until January 1 to start.

This resolution, however, should not be a passive pursuit. Goals need to be quantifiable. Count how many days you climbed outside last year. Beat that number this year. Then next year, beat this years’ number, and so forth. If you succeed, then I guarantee 2018 will be more fun than 2017.

One morning a couple years back, I woke up at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m. to drive to Rocky Mountain National Park and climb ice. We hiked in circles around Nymph Lake for four hours, post-holing, wading through chest-deep powder, and double-checking our GPS. We never swung a tool, because we never found the ice. Maybe it wasn’t in. Maybe the low-angled flow was buried under snow. It would be easy to call the day a failure, but I had a great time. The misty air in the early-morning light was stunning. I’d never seen RMNP so beautiful. The iPhone photo below is #nofilter because this is what it looked like in real life.

I don’t post Instagram photos from days spent festering on the couch; nobody does. If I hadn’t forced myself out of bed on that cold February morning, I would’ve slept until 10 a.m., spent an hour in bed checking Facebook, then celebrated by going out for coffee and a bagel. I wouldn’t remember it today. And that’s the point. Fun happens when you go climbing outside—even when you don’t get to climb.

It's important to remember that this time of year, when it's cold and you need a headlamp to walk your dog at 5 p.m. It's too easy to make excuses biased toward staying warm under a blanket—getting out at all on a winter‘s morning is an achievement. Everything that happens after that, be it a hike or climb, is a bonus. But really, we should treat every day like that. When spring rolls around and you find yourself getting frustrated because temps aren’t perfect, or the rock is choss, or you’re flailing, remind yourself how great it is that you get to be outside flailing at all. You may be failing on your route, but you’ll be succeeding at your New Year’s resolution.

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