Long-Term Projecting: 7 Keys to Unlocking Success

You’ve tried your project over and over again. Falling—internalizing that as failing—you’re ready to approach it differently. You want to send this route. You’ve put time into the process, and now you want your time to pay off.

Maybe instead of attempting your route mindlessly, you try to shift your awareness, placing more intention behind what you’re climbing. Not to say you haven’t been focused, but let’s face it: when we are projecting, we are climbing at or slightly above our limit. This, in turn, pushes and challenges us a great deal.

Because we are going through an experience of challenging ourselves mentally, emotionally, and physically to the max, perhaps we should approach it with greater intention. What does that mean? Let’s talk about the keys to sending your long-term project …

1. Know the moves, both macro and micro

Start to learn the moves on your climb; not just performing them, but also aiming to understand the intricacies of the route and its movement. Understand how each move feels physically and mentally. During your first few attempts on the route, spend time working the moves individually. Try them multiple times while you hang on the route and take your time to find the best possible way to use the holds and position your body.

Simply put: try to find the easiest path to the top. So often we can get stuck in the idea that our climb is a hard grade and as a result, climb it in a way that makes it harder than it needs to be.

Try this

Climb your route and with each attempt, find a new way to utilize each hold or perform a certain move. Eventually, shorten your list of ways to do the move until you find the easiest technique.

2. Identify the true cruxes

For the most part, the true crux of a route is usually the same for everyone, but sometimes the true crux is a different aspect of the climb. Can you do the crux moves easily? Is it the clip or placing a certain piece that is actually the hardest part for you? Is it the true redpoint crux that is going to get you? What about the climbing after the crux? What does it feel like when you have climbed through the crux?

Identify the true crux for yourself and rehearse it.

Try this

Similar to the previous activity, spend time at the crux section and repeat the crux moves one day, five times at once. Do it once, lower down to the start of the crux, do it again, and repeat this five times. By doing this, you will begin to develop muscle memory for the climb’s movements and you’ll learn to perform the moves in a fluid, faster push.

paul-roberts-climbing-mount-charleston-min-1
Paul Roberts climbing at Mount Charleston, Nevada. Photo: Kris Ugarriza

3. Identify the best rests

Just as important as identifying the crux is identifying the rests, and failing to do so can keep even the strongest climbers from progressing beyond their personal limit.

When you identify a rest, figure out the best body position to allow yourself to hang with straight arms. This gives you an opportunity to comfortably shake out each arm one at a time.

It’s important to breathe deeply and slowly at rests. This will allow your heart rates to slow, supply your pumped muscles with more oxygen, and help you focus on the task at hand.

When at a rest, take a minute to do exactly that—relax for a second and don’t lose focus; instead, hone it in. Keep your eyes fixated on the task at hand, utilizing task-relevant eye targets. Look at what is coming up next: where are you going? What is the next move? The next three moves? Four moves? Eight moves?

Try this

Get on the wall and experiment with rest positions. Move around at a rest and see what feels the most restful for your body. Everyone’s body is different and will require its own unique position.

Try to move your legs around to reposition your body according to which arm you shake out. When you shake out, shake two seconds on one arm then switch, then five seconds and switch, then 10, all the way up to 15-25 seconds on each arm. Count out loud or use a mantra to keep your focus on what you are doing. Get it back and fire. 

4. Identify breathing points

What? You want me to breathe?

Yes, this is the voluntary and involuntary function in our bodies that keeps us alive and can have the most influential power of any technique when it comes to performance.

So, don’t just mindlessly keep exhaling and inhaling, holding your breath, etc. Put intention behind it. At the crux, identify and experiment with inhaling and exhaling on moves, finding what feels the best. When you’re clipping, take slow-forced exhales and deep inhales. Learn more about how to breathe properly while climbing here.

Once you have tried the route a few times, just like you did with rests and cruxes, identify the parts of the route where you can hone in your breathing. Figure out at what points you need to exhale or inhale to keep moving fluidly. This is the goal here: to utilize your breath as a tool to keep moving smoothly and keep your heart rate at a steady pace to avoid getting too pumped.

Try this

Put intention behind your breath. At the base of the climb inhale through your nose deeply, exhale out the mouth completely. By pushing the exhale out as much as you can, you will be forced to inhale. Do it slowly and through your nose.

Repeat this three times before you start climbing. At every clip, utilize this full-exhale exercise, and at the rest of the climb use this to get as much oxygen as possible back into your system.

Try to perform this breathing exercise 3-4 times on the climb regardless of its grade or length. Intention is the key.

5. Visualize

Now that you know the moves, have ingrained the crux in your muscle memory, made every other move as easy as you can, know when to rest on the climb to recover energy, and you know when and which type of breathing you are going to use … what’s next?

Visualize the process. Visualization can increase our performances up to 30%. Check out this article for more information about visualizing.

slack-for-ios-upload-min
Drawing out your project is a useful trick to improve route visualization.

The key with visualizing is to see yourself in a first-person perspective climbing every single move in detail. Try to visualize the pain of the crux holds, how good the jug near the top feels, and all of the little micro details. The more detailed the visualization, the more it will benefit your actual performance.

Visualizing can be extremely hard to do in full detail from the ground to the chains, but you should make it a goal to try to visualize the entire route without interruption three times.

Try this

Take a blank piece of paper, draw out your project, and write the movements down—including the crux movements, which hand you use, where your feet will go, where you clip, where you rest, where you breathe. It will be like drawing a treasure map to your own summit goals.

Internally visualize, but also try to draw out your climb. It will give you a realistic test to see how well you are visualizing.

6. Believe in your abilities, but do not falsely lie

Having the confidence that you can do the line is huge. Don’t fall into the swell of doubt and negative self-talk unless it is real and true. Have you done all of the moves? Have you gotten to the top of the route? Then you can do it. Acknowledge the work and effort you have put into the line—appreciate your preparation.

After I have tried a line six times, I usually get an understanding of how to do it and what I need to do for the redpoint. Sometimes that turns into 10 times, and if it’s a boulder, sometimes it turns into 100 times.

Believe in your preparedness and look back into all of your climbing experience; every climb you have ever done has led you to this project.

Now for the final overlooked key to sending …

7. Sleep, eat, drink, rest

You’ve heard it since you were a kid and it’s absolutely true in climbing: you need to get quality sleep to send.

If you’re serious about sending your project, take all aspects of your life seriously. Go to bed at a reasonable hour, attempt to get eight hours of quality sleep. Eat healthy foods that will give you back what you lost on your climbs; protein and vegetables are essential.

Drink a gallon of water every day and rest. Rest means not climbing eight days in a row. Instead, take the days between your climbing days to actively rest, use recovery tools, get a real massage, drink water, eat, and let those muscles fully recover.


Want more climbing content? Get our awesome climbing newsletter, delivered weekly.


Explore more

Tags from the story
More from Paul Roberts

Long-Term Projecting: 7 Keys to Unlocking Success

You’ve tried your project over and over again. Falling—internalizing that as failing—you’re...
Read More