Climbing Courses We Wish We Could Take

Most climbing clinics have boring agendas of played-out rope skills. Here are the clinics we actually need.

Photo: Jeremiah Watt / Red Bull Illume

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Most climbing courses cover fairly suburban topics. They are vanilla, or maybe french vanilla at best—lead-climbing classes, movement clinics, gym-to-crag workshops, and so forth. These are all well and good, and will probably suffice for the fledgling climbers among us, but they’re not exactly industrial secrets. Climbing actually has an entire batch of them, from footwork with Paige Claassen to powering up your fingers with Jonathan Siegrist, and more, much more.  

There is a gap in knowledge that climbing clinics can address. It requires imagination, flair, and the promise of esoteric learning. Climbers are a notoriously miserly bunch, after all, so in order to capitalize on the cash-strapped, these clinics need to get weird. Here are some suggestions:

Booty Retrieval Master Class

In almost every campsite, there’s a climber who has been there too long. Seriously, way too long. They don’t even climb anymore, their motivation faded like so much alpine tat, but one can quickly summon their former vigor with two mere syllables.

Booty is the trigger word which fires the synapses of this sleeper agent, essentially the low-budget (or rather no-budget) Jason Bourne of climbing. Their training kicks in, and they’ll march off with some rope-solo equipment and an arsenal of hand tools. That welded brassy or overcammed #4 Camalot doesn’t stand a chance.

Imagine what you could learn from this venerable guru! They’ve removed more stuck gear than you’ve had hot dinners and their secret techniques are legion. That said, even they can’t help you retrieve that Link Cam you panic jammed into an undersized crack. They’re a specialist, not a magician.

How to Crack Climb

How to Cultivate and Maintain Non-Climbing Relationships

Do you have any non-climbers in your life? Me neither, but I imagine they could possibly enrich my existence and might do the same for yours. The problem is that since I began climbing, I’ve accepted an alarmingly low standard of personal grooming and adopted a bizarre pidgin dialect comprised of words like gaston, munter, boink, and gobie. 

These characteristics make it hard to relate to non-climbers effectively. Rehabilitation can be achieved in this series of workshops and support groups where you’ll learn how to integrate into a wider cross-section of society. Focus areas include:

  • Conversation Starters (that don’t involve route beta or gear selection)
  • Haircuts and Bathing – theory and practical
  • Dinner Party Recipes (using food that doesn’t come from bins)
  • Jargon-free English lessons
  • An examination of suitable introductory routes for your non-climbing friends/family/romantic interest (Hint: the grades may not have a letter at the end of them)
  • Group Discussions on basic social mores, so you can really hash out why your cousin was pissed when you wore approach shoes to their wedding.

The Essential Bouldering Toolkit

The glib slogan that declares bouldering “the purest form of climbing” is either tongue-in-cheek or willfully ignorant, because the modern practice of the sport utilizes more tools than a small construction site. This clinic forms an introduction to these tools undertaken over two modules. 

The first module of this climbing course is a familiarization with your local Home Depot where one can procure ladders, hand tools, battery-operated fans and lighting, and industrial-strength epoxy. The second module is a familiarization with crutches, walking sticks, and other mobility aids for the inevitable lower limb injuries you’ll sustain from repeatedly hitting the Earth from height. What, is this one too real?

Athletic male climbs outside on a boulder in a grassy, rocky landscape
Paul Robinson clearly hasn’t attended the “Essential Bouldering Toolkit” yet…not a step ladder in sight! (Photo: Getty Images)

The Wonders of Stick Clip Witchcraft and Wizardry

I recently demonstrated how to protect the spicy opening gambit of a steep trad route by placing a wire with a stick clip. My audience, a certified Trad Dad with a significant crust quotient, was truly amazed. The thought had simply never occurred to him, because back in his day, you either placed the gear on lead or died in a pool of cerebral spinal fluid “like a real man.” Some might regard such tactics as a concession to purity, but I think that not cratering is ace, so I’m gonna keep doing it if the situation warrants. 

Thing is, when it comes to wielding a stick clip, I’m merely an enthusiastic amateur. I’ve witnessed extraordinary acts of mastery, including but not limited to quickdraw removal, cam placement, aid climbing efficiency, and some jury-rigged improvisational hardware that would impel MacGuyver to give a standing ovation. I even heard one guy claim that he had fought a bear with one. Now that may or may not be true, but I’d sure love to see him demonstrate. 

Please note: No refunds in the event of instructor fatality.

Offwidth Resilience Workshop

Pete Whittaker suggests that offwidth climbing is only 5 percent pain tolerance and the ability to suffer. Thing is, Pete is a much better offwidth climber than you. Straight facts. You, oh humble wide-crack neophyte, should expect pain and suffering in a much higher percentile.

Fear not, the Offwidth Resilience Workshop is here to help. Over several sessions, our experienced instructors will emulate the physical and emotional rigors of offwidth climbing in order to supercharge your tenacity. I confess, this is just marketing language, and what it conceals is that you’ll be dragged across concrete and wailed on with a 2×4 for hours. Now, that might sound like a terrible idea, but it’s functional, relevant, and you’ll never be scared of an offwidth again. (BYO Carhartts and Vicodin.)

Climbing a sandstone offwidth crack.
Pat Kingsbury stacks at Arch Canyon, Bears Ears National Monument, UT, USA. (Photo: Jeremiah Watt / Red Bull Illume)

Scurvy Treatment and Prevention

A clinic in the truest sense of the word. Here, you’ll receive medical intervention for the symptoms of malnourishment caused by a dirtbag diet of stale bread, tinned beans, and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Your fatigue and bleeding gums will be alleviated by a team of caring medical professionals as they force you to eat a damn orange.

Understanding the British Grading System

This is a Bachelor’s Degree with a four year period of study, throughout which you will develop highly specialized mathematical knowledge in order to solve complex grade conversions. This program includes majors in statistics, calculus, and linear algebra with minors in quantum mechanics and computer science highly recommended. It should be noted that the knowledge gained is largely theoretical, as application is extremely limited globally and nobody will really understand (or even give a shit) if you try to explain it to them.

Route Sommelier Course

Is your route appreciation rudimentary and uncultivated? Do you struggle for superlative synonyms when describing routes on your Mountain Project profile? Is the content of your climbing log bland and colorless? Or, worse still, do you froth with reckless abandon at any piece of grid-bolted choss? 

Refine your palate and hone your descriptive powers with the Route Sommelier Course, a craft borne from the tradition of wine tasting. Learn how to objectively assess route quality and apply labored, wanky, weirdly anthropomorphic terms like “austere” or “flamboyant” or “elegant” or “opulent.” Soon, you’ll acquire the art of rock snobbery, qualifying you to look down your nose at the majority of routes with a level of disdain generally reserved for the professional wine connoisseur sampling a cleanskin. 

A Simple Strategy For Doing More Pull Ups

Urination Tactics for the Modern Female Climber

Many years ago, I was known to frequent the Alaskan ranges with various international friends, one of whom was a lovely French woman. Of her many talents, none was more impressive than the ability to pee into a bottle without ever leaving the confines of her sleeping bag. She never spilled a drop (or so she claimed, I never sought proof) nor did she have to endure the frigid temperatures outside the tent. 

To this day, I am unsure as to how this is possible. Thing is, so are exactly 100 percent of the women to whom I’ve subsequently described the scenario. Clearly, this is highly coveted knowledge. 

Far be it from me to mansplain the curriculum, though it would surely include those plastic pee funnels, locating appropriate stations for multi-pitch urination (also known as Pee-Lays), and, of course, whatever the hell she was up to in that sleeping bag.

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