Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Ice Climbing Website:

It's been pretty frigid in the New York City area these last few weeks, which has got me thinking about ice climbing.  I have very little experience in it and I don't own the gear, but I'm eager to get out a few times this winter.  Given how cold it is all this week, there might be some good lines in this weekend in the the Catskills and the 'Dacks. 

It has just come to my attention that there's a brand new website dedicated to ice climbing in the Catskills:  In addition to regular conditions updates (which you can also find at the Alpine Endeavors website and on's forums), the creator of the site is adding guidebook features including topos to the most popular ice climbing areas.  It looks like a site worth watching, and I'm adding it to my list of links over on the right side of my page.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gunks Routes: Oscar's Variation (5.7), Strictly From Nowhere (5.7), and Shockley's Ceiling (5.6)

Strictly From Nowhere (5.7) and Shockley’s Ceiling (5.6) are both great classics. But both have flaws.

Strictly’s has a fantastic first pitch, highlighted by the final bit of climbing up into an overhanging corner, and then around right to a bolted anchor. The easier pitch two begins with nice juggy climbing to the GT Ledge, but unfortunately this is over quickly, and then the rest of the way to the top is undistinguished and dirty.

On Shockley’s, the third pitch is the real business. The climbing through the namesake ceiling is followed by a fun dihedral and then another, smaller roof crux.  It is a world-class pitch, with great protection at the crux and very exciting moves at the moderate 5.6 grade.  But the two pitches that precede it involve pretty forgettable 5.4 climbing, in my opinion.

As I (and others) have noted before, by combining these two climbs, doing Strictly’s to the chains, then doing a short 5.easy pitch up and right to a belay beneath the ceiling, and then finally doing Shockley’s third pitch, you get one of the best moderate multipitch climbs in the Gunks. But I recently went back and tried Oscar’s Variation (5.7) just to the left of Strictly’s, and I think the addition of this variation to the climb makes it even better.

Oscar’s Variation is easy to find. Only a few feet left of the start of Strictly From Nowhere is a prominent left-facing corner that goes up about 50 feet. Oscar’s variation climbs the corner. The pro is great; There is a crack in the back that will allow you to place gear at will. The climbing is very good, and I thought a bit stiff for 5.7. There are a couple of bulgy moments where the fingers are locked into that crack, but the feet are thin, and a committing step up is required. Remember to make use of both walls. When in doubt, stem!

In Williams’ guidebook, he suggests doing Oscar’s Variation as one pitch, and then doing Strictly’s from that point up to the chains as another pitch. But there’s really no reason to break the climbing here into two pitches. It is only 100 feet from the ground to the chains, and when I led it recently there were no drag issues created by doing Oscar’s and Strictly’s together in one pitch. Putting them together makes for a much more sustained and varied start to the climb, and I recommend it highly. You don’t lose much from Strictly’s if you start on Oscar’s.  You’ll still climb the part of Strictly’s everyone comes for: the overhanging final moves to the anchor. I don’t really have any advice to offer about this part of the climb except that you should just place some gear and then keep on moving. The holds are great, don’t worry.

Now, the other week when we did this climb, I was sending my partner Adrian up from the chains to do the crux pitch of Shockley’s. It occurred to me that there was no reason to stop and build a belay before the crux roof. I was pretty sure you could go from the chains on Strictly's to the top of Shockley’s in one 60 meter pitch—it couldn’t be more than 200 feet from the chains to the top of the cliff, right?  It turned out I was right, but not by much.  My partner Adrian made it to the top and had enough rope left over to build a belay on a tree set back ten or fifteen feet from the cliff edge.  But he used the entire length of the rope to do so.  It is a rope stretcher of a pitch, and of course the actual length of various 60 meter ropes will vary, so your rope might not make it with quite so much room to spare.  With a 70 meter rope you wouldn't have any stress about the rope length at all.  Another caveat:  I wouldn't do the crux pitch of Shockley's this way if I were being followed by a new climber who might have trouble with the crux ceiling.  It might be wiser in that circumstance to build a belay right after the ceiling, as Williams suggests in his book. 

Doing Oscar's to Strictly's to Shockley's as two outstanding pitches is to my mind one of the best moderate climbing experiences the Gunks has to offer.  You get crack and corner climbing, followed by juggy steepness, and then a classic roof problem followed by still more quality rock to the top of the cliff.  It just doesn't get any better than that.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Help a Climber: Rich Romano

I only know Rich Romano by his reputation as the primary developer and caretaker of Millbrook cliff in the Gunks.  Known as "The Manager of the Bank," Romano has essentially single-handedly developed this cliff, putting up countless 5.10 and 5.11 R-rated routes over the decades without placing a single bolt.

Romano had a serious accident recently in Idaho.  Richard Goldstone, another legendary Gunks climber, has started a campaign to raise some cash for Romano's medical bills.  I reprint his appeal in blue below:

Rich Romano, one of the most prolific climbers in the history of the Shawangunks and the primary developer of the Millbrook Cliff as well as other outlying areas, recently had a serious accident at City of Rocks, Idaho. His rope, which was too short for the pitch he was lowering off, ran through the belay, resulting in a serious fall.  Full details about the accident and his recovery are on the thread

Rich's insurance is supposed to cover the enormous helicopter evacuation and hospitalization costs, but it does not cover his ongoing post-ER visits and the various co-pays and deductibles, all at a time of lost income from the inability to work.

A few of us have have started a project to raise some cash for Rich for his ongoing medical expenses and at the same time provide some value to climbers, based on Rich's extensive and in many cases exclusive knowledge of Millbrook. We are producing a series of "harness route cards" for "The Bank," Rich's affectionate name for the cliff. These are 4 X 6 cards, laminated, with a cord loop that can be clipped to a harness. The cards will have two or three classic routes on a high-resolution photo. The photos we are using afford nearly straight-across views that show superb cliff detail, at an angle that is easily interpreted by a climber at the base of the routes. There is no comparison between the photos we are using and the aerial photos in any of the current guidebooks, which are exceptionally hard to interpret and which, because of the time of day they were taken, fail to reveal even massive features of the cliff.

In large part because of Rich's efforts, Millbrook is one of the "traddest" cliffs in the country. There isn't a single bolt anywhere, and perhaps a handful of fixed pitons, just about all of them from the early soft-iron days of climbing in the U.S. Almost every route is in the same condition as it was on the first ascent. It's steepness, functionally remote location, and the seriousness of many (but not all) of the routes makes Millbrook one of the premier destinations for high-level trad climbing in the country.

The route cards are an attempt to make some of the mysteries of Millbrook just a touch more accessible without, we fervently hope, reducing the cliff to the modern paint-in-the numbers beta-fest that now dilutes the trad experience worldwide. In keeping with the adventurous spirit of Millbrook climbing pioneered by Rich, the cards show clearly where the routes go, give their grades, but leave all the other details of the ascent to the climber.

We are planning on producing a combination of classics at various levels of difficulty, some of which do not appear in any of the Shawangunk guidebooks. The first card is now ready. It lists two of the best and most accessible routes at Millbrook, Westward Ha!, among the best 5.7's in the Gunks, and Cruise Control (a Romano Route), a superb line at 5.9-. On the flip side is a schematic map of the best trail approach to Millbrook from the West Trapps parking lot and the location of the standard rappel tree.

We are selling the cards through Rock and Snow for $5. Because of the support and generosity of Rock and Snow, every penny of the $5 price of the card goes to Rich. Please feel free to add an additional donation if the spirit moves you. We can only handle either cash, if you want to send it through the mail, or a personal check made out to Rich Romano. Send a stamped self-addressed envelope big enough to hold a 4x 6 card to

Romano Fund
Rock & Snow
44 Main Street
New Paltz, NY 12561,

Or stop by Rock and Snow if you are up at the Gunks.

Have a safe and happy holiday season, and remember to tie a knot in the end of your rope whenever lowering is involved.

12/13/10 update:  there are some nice photos on the Supertopo thread Goldstone started about Romano.  Also Goldstone has created a paypal account from which you can purchase the route card or make a donation.  Just follow the above link to paypal and make the payment to this address:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gunks Routes: Asphodel (5.5), Credibility Gap (5.6) & Welcome to the Gunks (5.10b)

A few summers ago, when I was just getting into leading, my friend Greg suggested we do a project together in which we would climb every 5.5 in the Gunks.  I had just started leading 5.5s, so it seemed like a good idea to me at the time, but the project barely got under way before we abandoned it.  We did most of the best 5.5s fairly quickly, and after I had several under my belt I'd had enough of 5.5 and wanted to move on to 5.6.  Greg then got very busy at work and he wasn't available to climb much.  I moved on with other partners and the project fell by the wayside. 

One of the climbs we did get to that summer was Asphodel.  I haven't been back since, and there's not too much I remember about the climb.  The large corner it ascends is impressive.  I recall enjoying the first pitch, and even though I was a pretty green leader I found the climb straightforward and well protected.  Really I mention the climb here for one reason:  there is an error in Williams' guidebook.  He puts the first pitch of Asphodel at 90 feet long, which might lead you to believe you can rap from the end of pitch one with a single rope.  But the pitch ends at the belay tree for Welcome to the Gunks (5.10b), which is 160 feet off the ground.  Now, Asphodel starts around the corner a little bit uphill from Welcome to the Gunks, so the first pitch of Asphodel is probably a little shorter than 160 feet, but believe me, it is way more than 100 feet.  I was well beyond the halfway point of our 60 meter single when I finished the pitch.  Whatever the actual length of the pitch, in order to descend from the Welcome to the Gunks tree you need two ropes, unless you want to angle to climber's right as you descend and use the ubersketchoid anchor for Laughing Man (5.11b) as a second rappel station.  Do yourself a favor and use double ropes; then the descent from the tree is easy.  If you only have a single I'd advise you to climb something other than Asphodel.  The Laughing Man anchor does not inspire confidence and your other option, the second pitch of Asphodel, quickly turns into a bushwhack to the top, as Greg and I discovered a few years ago.  I remember not liking that pitch at all. 

Another climb subject to the same issues is Credibility Gap (5.6), which is just to the left of Asphodel.  The first pitch of this climb also ends at the same tree, and thus also requires two ropes to descend after pitch one.  Williams again makes an error and inaccurately lists the pitch as 80 feet, even shorter than Asphodel, even though both climbs start and end at the exact same place!  My speculation is that Williams eliminated some intermediate belays when he updated the descriptions of these routes for his latest guidebook in 2004, but neglected to update the pitch lengths.  It is rare to find this kind of error in his books.  Nobody's perfect.

I led Credibility Gap during the same year in which I led Asphodel, but my memory of Credibility Gap is much sharper.  What I remember most is that I pondered the crux a good long time before I was willing to try it.  The pitch starts out with that Gunks rarity, a vertical finger crack.  Williams rates this part of the pitch as 5.5; it would be a major draw if it were a little longer.  The finger crack is nice, but it is over quickly and then some easy moves up a slab, around a corner, and left up a ramp lead you to a dead end in a right-facing corner capped by a roof.  The crux involves a blind move out around the outside corner and onto the face.  The airy, intimidating position is similar to the crux of the second pitch of Moonlight (5.6), but this crux, unlike Moonlight's, offers you great gear.  The hands are good too.  You just have to commit to that left wall, step to the corner, and it's all good, cruiser climbing to the finish. 

Of course, it helps to know beforehand that it will all work out fine.  I remember the deliberate concentration with which I placed two perfect cams before I made the crux move the first time.  And the way I panted with relief after I made it around that corner.  It was thrilling to me at the time.  But when I returned to Credibility Gap a couple weeks ago, I couldn't find that feeling again.  The crux seemed routine.  Just one little step and then there's a great foothold at the corner, nothing to worry about.  It was good.  It was exciting for the grade, with all the backhandedness and condescension that the qualifier for the grade provides. 

Will I one day feel this way about the harder climbs that have excited me?  About Dry Heaves (5.8), for instance, or Ants' Line (5.9)?  

I'd sure love to feel that way one day about Welcome to the Gunks (5.10b), but I doubt that's in the cards.  We did this on top rope after doing Credibility Gap, and I tip my helmet to anyone who can calmly lead it.  It is difficult, varied, and sustained, and two of the five cruxes are not well protected. 

Before I talk about the climbing, I should address the mechanics of top-roping this climb.  The belay tree is, as mentioned above, about 160 feet off the ground.  This is too far for a slingshot belay with either a 60 or 70 meter single rope.  There are two ways to deal with this issue.  You can just belay from above, lowering each climber in turn to try the route.  Or you can tie two ropes together and belay from the ground, but then you have the troublesome problem of passing the knot while a climber is mid-pitch.  We were a party of three, so we tied two ropes together and passed the knot by having the third person take over the belay as the knot approached the belay device, which may sound complicated but actually works quite well.  Also, the route is to the climber's left of the rappel tree, and it helps to place a directional.  We placed one in the chalked-up horizontal to the left of the final roof on the climb. 

When you look at Welcome to the Gunks from below, it is hard not to be intimidated by all the roofs.  They are large and numerous.  And the kicker is that the roofs are not the only cruxes on the climb!  The diciest parts of the pitch for the leader, in fact, come on the faces below the first and second roofs. 

I had the benefit of watching my two partners try the route before I went at it.  None of us did the route clean in one go, but I thought given my preview of some of the moves I might have the best shot at it.  I made it up crux # 1, the initial slab below the first roof (scary and unprotected for the leader).  Then I made it up crux # 2, the giant first roof, which has some pretty acceptable crimps and good feet at the lip.  Then I was thrilled to get through crux # 3 (the 5.9 R section for the leader), which is the thin face leading up to the second roof.  I was starting to think I had this climb's number.  But then crux # 4, the second roof, shut me down several times.  Once I unlocked it, it seemed doable, more strenuous than technical.  I also fell once at crux # 5, the fourth roof, but then went up to the left the second time instead of to the right and thought it wasn't that big a deal.

Welcome to the Gunks is packed with good, hard climbing, and not just for the grade.  I really enjoyed working on it and hope to return.  I could see coming back and sending it next time, so long as I attack the second roof correctly.  But I remain intimidated by the R section just below that second roof.  The insecure slopers just before the good holds will probably forever keep me from leading this route no matter how much I might rehearse it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Getting With The Program

I used to love to ride my bicycle. 

I came to it late in life, in the spring of 2006, around the same time I started rock climbing. I realized if I was going to get better at climbing I needed to lose some weight and improve my general fitness.  It seemed like a good time to buy a road bike. Once I did, I discovered that I really enjoyed cycling.

I started out just riding for fun, first in the city parks and eventually in New Jersey and Westchester County. I was no speed demon but I loved the feeling of freedom that came with cycling. I was amazed at how with only my legs and two wheels I could escape the city and find myself in beautiful environments with rolling hills and wildlife. It was like I'd stumbled into a whole new world. I found it most enjoyable if I rode hard most of the time, but I didn't use any special tools to keep track of how much effort I was putting forth. I loved riding for its own sake and tried to squeeze in time on the bike whenever I could, both before and after work. And since I was basically starting from nothing I improved constantly. I was always getting faster, riding longer, feeling stronger and thinner. Before I knew it I'd lost a ton of weight. I went to buy some new pants and discovered my waist size had shrunk by two inches. 

Then one day in mid-2007, my friend Greg, who was also a cyclist, told me he was thinking about entering a local bicycle race. This was something I had never considered before. The idea of riding in a pack of cyclists, just inches away from my competitors, was frightening to me. I had seen these groups in the city parks and they had seemed like an elite species far above my level. But ever the joiner, I decided that if Greg was going to do it than I might as well try it out as well.

I couldn't keep up with the pack in my first few races. In cycling the term for it is "getting dropped." I got dropped several times and in the process I learned that nothing motivates you better than getting dropped. I started working harder in my rides and before the year was out I was able to hang on in the races that were held in Prospect Park. Don't get me wrong, I was no great talent. I did not come close to winning any of these races, and the people I was racing against were all beginners like me who'd never won anything in their lives. But I could complete the races and finish with the main group, which was in itself a great thrill. The first time I was in the thick of it at the beginning of the final lap, wooshing by the line with the official's bell ringing in my ears-- I'll never forget that feeling. It was an adrenaline rush unlike anything else I'd ever experienced. 

The next season I continued racing, finishing with the pack most of the time, feeling like I was in pretty good shape. I was still highly motivated. I would regularly get up at absurd hours in the morning to get two-hour rides in before returning home to help get the kids ready for school. But in spite of all the effort, I wasn't really improving much any more. I'd reached the point of diminishing returns. I was using a heart-rate monitor for training now, but crudely. My workouts weren't varied or periodized; I just identified a few zones and tried to work out in different zones on different days of the week. In races, I felt like I could move about the pack at will, but it seemed clear that on my own I was never going to get myself strong enough to outpace the pack or beat several fast guys in a contested sprint. I realized that if I wanted to do better, I had to train smarter, and I needed someone to impose more discipline on my training schedule. 

So when Greg told me at the end of the 2008 racing season that he was considering joining a team, I was already on the same wavelength. With some real coaching and teammates to work with, I figured I could keep improving, and maybe place in a race the next year or at least play a key role in helping a teammate win.  We bot ended up joining a team that was dedicated to introducing cyclists to racing. The team provided intensive coaching with daily instructions and feedback, and regular weekend rides together to work on specific racing skills and strategies. 

Joining this team turned out to be my big mistake.

There was nothing wrong with the team. The coaching was amazing. We each had personal access to the team guru, who gave us assignments every day, and who also set up a team strategy for every race. His approach was totally sound and within the mainstream of current thinking on how to train best for bicycle races. 

The problem was the relentlessness and monotony of the training schedule. We were generally expected to ride six days a week. (The seventh was optional!) Most of the riding, especially early on, was low-intensity endurance riding, designed to build a good base for the season. I found this kind of riding dull. Doing it outside was not a lot of fun. As it got colder and I had to do my endurance riding on a stationary trainer, it became positively mind-numbing. Nevertheless I stuck with it. Through the winter I did more riding on a trainer indoors than I ever had before, and as winter turned into a very rainy spring I did more riding in the rain than I ever would have imagined possible. By the time the racing schedule really got under way in March and April of 2009 I was already feeling burnt out.

As the year wore on, I got more and more tired of the never-ending training, and my results in races were not spectacular enough to make it all seem worthwhile. I was definitely a better racer than ever before. While in prior years I had just been keeping up with the group on good days, now I could actually rest and recover while keeping up, and expend extra effort from time to time but still stay with the pack. My cycling instincts also improved and I felt more comfortable in the field, especially on descents, which had always terrified me in the past. But I was still no threat to win anything. I couldn't sprint to save my life, and I often struggled even to do the jobs I was assigned in races by the coach. I would chase down a break or two and then be spent, just hanging on at the finish instead of helping to set up one of my teammates. In out-of-town races, which always featured much tougher hills than the races in the city parks, I was regularly dropped. 

By the time the season wound down in September and October, I was half-heartedly doing my assigned workouts, cutting it short on many days and feeling guilty and inadequate most of the time. Nevertheless I planned to stay on the team for 2010. I hoped after some time off to recharge my batteries I could build a great base for the next season and maybe have a better year. 

Then I broke my ankle in late October and took a much bigger break from cycling than I'd planned. And after about a month off the bike I realized that somewhere along the way I'd lost touch with everything I loved about cycling. I'd lost all desire to ride. Instead, even after my extended holiday from cycling, I now looked at my bicycle with dread. Whereas in prior years I had enjoyed simply riding around in the park, now, after countless thousands of trips around that stupid park loop, I couldn't conceive of such a feeling. Imagining riding had become like contemplating parking my car, or doing the dishes. There was no fun in it any more. I had to make a change. I decided I had to quit racing and hope that if I just started riding again for fun the love might eventually come back.

I'm sorry to say that even a year later the love hasn't returned. I don't really know how to ride for fun any more. If I don't monitor my heart rate while riding and stick to a zone the whole thing seems pointless. All year I've resolved to get on some sort of regular schedule of riding for fun and fitness but it has been an enormous struggle to motivate myself to get out of bed to ride. So I've gone through the year riding in fits and starts, getting a bit better from time to time but then taking whole weeks off and falling backward again. I am slow and weak and I don't enjoy my time on the bike. It remains a chore.

By now you must be wondering why I am writing at such length about cycling on a climbing blog. If you're still with me I applaud your patience. 

Here is the connection:

For four years I have climbed for fun and I have improved greatly without making any particular effort to get better. I have just climbed routes that seemed fun, and I have improved pretty steadily. But not so much recently. I reached the point of diminishing returns quite some time ago, and I think if I wish to get better I have to change the way I go about it. 

I want to train with more purpose. But I worry. I do not want to ruin myself for climbing the way I inadvertently spoiled myself for cycling. I enjoy climbing at the gym. I dearly love climbing outside. I don't want any of my climbing to become just a chore. It has to stay fun.

I own two well-regarded books on climbing performance, The Self-Coached Climber, by Dan Hague and Douglas Hunter, and How to Climb 5.12, by Eric J. Horst. I would like to say that I've read them, but I've really only skimmed through them several times, considering a few tips and strategies until, inevitably, my eyes have started to glaze over. 

Part of the issue for me, I think, is that I don't really care if I ever climb 5.12. It would be nice but I would be satisfied with much less. Really my goal is to be a solid 5.9-5.10 Gunks climber. I'd like to lead MF (5.9), Le Teton (5.9), Feast of Fools (5.10b) and Directississima (5.10b). I'd like to take trips to climb Epinephrine (5.9), the Regular Route on Fairview Dome (5.9), The Yellow Spur (5.9), or even the Casual Route up Long's Peak (5.10a) and feel like these climbs are straightforward and well within my limits. I think there exist a lifetime of climbs like these out there in the world and that I would be satisfied, given my limited climbing time, with these sorts of climbs as my objective.

The best way to achieve these goals, of course, would be to climb outside every weekend. But that is never going to happen. This year I was very lucky and got outside as much as a family man with a job could possibly get out. And in a good month I got two to four days on real rock.

Given my objectives I don't think I need to do relentless conditioning of my crimping muscles. I don't think I need to do tons of monotonous campus training. I don't think I need a rigid, periodized schedule. But if I want to keep getting better I need to improve my general physical condition and train with a bit more purpose. And I need to lose weight. So I've identified a few goals, along with the methods by which I intend to achieve these goals.

Goal # 1:  improve endurance. There are two things I can do that I hope will make a big difference in this area. The first is that I have to make myself start cycling regularly again. Even if it is just for one hour, three or four days a week, if I do it regularly it will make a big difference in my overall fitness. I have considered other sports and given the time constraints I have, and my antipathy towards running, I think it's cycling or nothing. So I just have to make myself do it. The second thing I intend to do is to take a portion of my gym time and reserve it for endurance work. I don't intend to devote my entire gym session to it for weeks on end-- that would risk misery and burnout. But maybe once every two weeks I will spend a session simply trying to stay on a wall at the gym without pumping out for long periods, traversing on an easy bouldering wall for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. 

Goal #2:  lose weight. Here again I have two ways I intend to make progress. The first is, again, to get back to cycling regularly. When I was at the height of my cycling mania, I was starving all the time. I was constantly burning calories and constantly losing weight even though I ate like a teenager. And I weighed at my best about a dozen pounds less than I do now. I know I will not get back to the same amount of cycling I used to do. But if I ride regularly I will make progress. The second thing I intend to do is to improve what I eat. I won't go on some fad diet or eliminate all bread from my meals or anything crazy like that. I am fortunate in that I currently eat tons of crap that I can easily eliminate from my diet and still be left eating reasonable food. I can stop eating potato chips with lunch, stop snacking on candy that people leave around the office, stop having ice cream in freezer at home, and I think these steps alone will make a huge difference. The main thing, I think, is to get myself motivated to do better on a daily basis. So I have purchased a bathroom scale and I think I will start keeping a log of my exercise, diet and weight, just to try to make myself do some basic, regular things to get fit. And I may start bringing healthy lunches to work from home so I can avoid the temptation to eat some huge deli sandwich or pizza in the middle of the day.

Goal #3: improve pull muscles and core strength. I hate lifting weights and I don't own a hangboard. But I do have a neglected pull-up bar and there are many simple exercises one can do at home. At first I plan to just try to do some of Horst's recommended strength exercises after every cycling session-- pull-ups and crunches three or four times a week. Since I am currently doing no strength exercises, I believe adding these two regularly may make a real difference. If at some point I want to add more, then fine. Additionally in the gym I can make it a point once every couple weeks to devote a session to repeats of very overhanging routes, and maybe even to campusing easy (V0-V1) boulder problems. 

Goal #4:  improve my climbing skill set. This will require a shift in my attitude more than anything else. I believe I am in a bit of a rut at the gym. When I climb roped routes, I gravitate towards the 5.10s. When I boulder, I tend to do V3s. I do these routes because I usually can do them. I try harder routes and sometimes I am surprised and find them easy. Most of the time they are hard for me, but only on rare occasions do I take a route that is hard for me and work at it until I tame it. I see other people take a different approach. I have seen a climber struggle on a V3 bouldering route I have found easy, but then I have seen that same climber move on to a V5 that I have never even considered trying. The difference between that climber and me is that that climber believes anything is possible, while I am held back by an imaginary ceiling. I want to break through the imaginary ceiling and devote at least one of my gym days every week or two to taming routes that are harder than my current level. 

So now you know my plan. I hope it adds things to my program that will improve my climbing, without making my climbing sessions into a never-ending chore. I'm sure you'll be relieved to know that I won't be posting my daily progress here, but as the months go by I will let you know how it's going!