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  • Writer's pictureJeffrey Shor

Practical Projecting Tips | The New River Gorge Weekend Warrior

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

By: Kristi Buckley


 

Kristi Buckley on a Slash and Burn  (5.12d) crux move at Kaymoor in the New River Gorge.
Kristi Buckley on a Slash and Burn (5.12d) crux move at Kaymoor in the New River Gorge. | Photo Credit: Jeff Shor

Last year I decided to set a big goal for myself: send “Slash and Burn,” a 5.12d at Kaymoor, in the New River Gorge.


If I had to describe the New River Gorge stylistically with one route--it would be this one. It’s sustained, technical, and features a series of long reaches between small holds.


I spent two full seasons projecting this route, making it the longest I had ever spent on a project before.


Not only was this line beautiful and challenging, but, it was the first of the grade for me, making it an extra proud send. ☺️


I’ve been living in the New River Gorge for a little over 6 years now, and I spend a good majority of the year here just projecting.


Of course, it’s always fun to go out with friends and climb some familiar, easy pitches, but for me--projecting is where all the fun is!


I love the challenges that it provides and the continuous opportunities for growth and learning. Not only that but it is SUCH A VULNERABLE process in which you are able to learn more and more about yourself and your climbing as time goes on.


Despite the fact that I live in the New River Gorge, I’d say that my situation is still quite similar to that of a “weekend warrior.” The only difference being that my “weekend” falls during the weekdays when everyone else is at work.


I work as a remote climbing coach, which allows me to work with athletes from all over the country, but most of which primarily climb outdoors on the weekends. In short, a lot of what I do is help those with limited time and/or resources, dial in their training and tactics so that they can send their projects on the weekends!


A lot of climbers really enjoy projecting; it is an opportunity for us to really watch the impossible go from probable and then magically POSSIBLE over a few short weeks, months, or years. However, some climbers absolutely dread the idea of going back to the same climb again and again.


Whether you love or hate projecting, here are some practical projecting tips that you can use when it comes to projecting outdoors!



 

Climber: Jack Rodenas | Photo Credit: Jeff Shor


PICKING A PROJECT


When we think about the ways we can set ourselves up for success on a project, one of the first things we think about is training.


“Gotta start training for the project!”

Of course, this is important, but there is a lot that goes into preparing for a weekend out on a project that we often overlook or neglect--like just picking the project in the first place!


How you go about choosing a project is up to you, but here are a few tips that I may give athletes when it comes to picking out a project for the weekend:



Tip #1: Decide whether it’ll be a short-term or a long-term project.


A short-term project might be something you’ll finish in a weekend or two, whereas a long-term project will require multiple weekend trips, and maybe even months' worth of effort. So it can be helpful to decide ahead of time just how invested you are.


Personally, I find that short-term projects can provide more of an immediate reward but the payoff of a long-term project is worth all the frustration and extra time.


If you know that you’re not going to be able to get back to the crag for a few months, or even a year, it may be in your best interest to choose a short-term project. Perhaps something that is a bit closer to your current redpoint limit.



Tip #2: Choose something that excites you and challenges you!


Don’t just pick something because “it’s what your friends are working on”--choose something that authentically excites you that you are going to be willing to TRY HARD on.


Of course, it helps if you have friends who are also working on it. 😉


Also keep in mind that the bigger the challenge, the more effort you are likely to put into it.



Tip #3: Choose something that is accessible.


I’m all about shooting for the stars & setting the bar high, but we also have to be reasonable with ourselves. Choosing a route or boulder that is accessible to you will help you to set yourself up for success.


Here is what I mean by accessible:

  • It’s approachable

  • It’s relatively easy to get to and come back to if needed

  • It’s a route or boulder you can easily find a supportive partner for

  • The climbing conditions make sense for when you’d like to try it


Of course not every route or boulder problem is going to meet all of these requirements AND be something we are excited about, and that’s perfectly okay. Sometimes we have to be willing to make compromises or go with our plan B, but ultimately it helps to keep these things in mind.


Tip #4: Do your research.


Gather as much information as you can ahead of time!


This could look like watching beta videos, asking friends for beta or insight, or even just reading the guidebook or mountain project description and trying to wrap your head around what is in store.


Figure out when would be the best time for you to go there given the weather conditions. What time does the route go into the shade? Be thorough in your investigation.



 

Sharon Maning Anderson on Essence (5.10c) | Cotton Club at The New River Gorge | Photo Credit: Milana Ortega
Sharon Maning Anderson on Essence (5.10c) | Cotton Club at The New River Gorge | Photo Credit: Milana Ortega

TRAINING FOR THE PROJECT


As a personal trainer and climbing coach, I could talk a lot about training for a project and what that might look like. The truth is that it’ll look very different depending on the individual and of course the climb that you’re projecting.


One question I get a lot from athletes is, “how should my training look the week leading up to my trip?”

The truth is, depending on your situation, it probably won’t look much different than your “normal.”


If you’re in a performance phase or trying to redpoint on the weekends, I’d recommend scaling your strength training down a bit and focusing on maintaining the strength that you’ve built up during a previous training phase.


We can do this by lowering the training volume, & keeping the intensity relatively high.


Many of us who are climbing outdoors, primarily on the weekend, tend to be in the gym Tuesday and Thursday, making sure we rest on Friday before heading out to the crag for the weekend.


However, I find that some athletes, myself included, can actually benefit from some low to moderate intensity climbing the day before getting on a project.


It can help us to get reacquainted with moving on the wall, get some of the jitters out, and prepare ourselves mentally for what’s to come.


It doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s worth exploring.


Finally, in the week leading up to your trip, make sure that you’re taking good care of yourself. This may not sound like training, but it is. Aim to keep your stress levels low, your intake on point, & your sleep quality superb! 😁



 


TACTICS & MINDSET


This is where most of us struggle when it comes to projecting; tactics & mindset.

Here are three of the biggest mistakes that I see climbers make, & some advice on how to avoid them:



Mistake #1: Not making the most out of each attempt.


Here in the New, the climbing conditions are best in April, May, October, and November. If you just count the weekends, that’s 32 days in a year.


Now if you subtract the number of days that it rains, which is probably at least half of them, you’re down to 16 days in a year that is going to be THE BEST conditions for sending.


Let’s assume you go to the project only one of the days during your weekend trip, you’re then down to 8 days in a year.


Imagine you give a project 3 burns in a day, you’re looking at no more than 24 total attempts.


The point is, time is limited. You better make every attempt count.


Spend as long as you need to on each attempt, hang on the rope, clip your way through sections, top rope it, stack pads, dial in the beta, rest well between burns, make sure you’re fueling yourself for each session, & take advantage of each & every moment you spend on it.



Mistake #2. Always trying the route or boulder from the ground, with the intention to “send.”


Most of the time it makes sense for us to try it from the ground, but if we don’t have to expend energy in certain areas, especially when we already have it dialed, save yourself the time & energy while you work through the rest.


As I said before, if you can clip past sections to work others, or stack pads--go for it. Use every resource you have, and don’t worry about people judging you because you’re using your resources effectively (e.g. a stick clip).


The biggest issue here is the “intention to send” and what that could mean for our headspace. Simply having the thought in the back of my mind, “this is the send go!,” can really hinder my performance by putting way too much pressure on myself to send. Instead, try to go into each session with an open mind and focus on what you can learn from each burn. Hope for the best, and be thankful for each opportunity you’re given to learn.



Mistake #3. Getting too caught up with “failure.”


I could talk about this all day, but in short, it wouldn’t be a “project” for us if we were able to just do it right away.


Each perceived “failure” is a teacher in disguise, or an opportunity to learn and grow. Rock climbing isn’t easy and if it was, you probably wouldn't be here reading this or trying to improve as a climber.


Rather than focusing on what went wrong every session, think about what went well, what you learned, and what you’ll aim to do “better” next time.


Oh, and don’t forget to celebrate every small win. Collectively that’s all sending is--a series of small wins.



 

REFLECTION & BETA MEMORIZATION


John Ngyuen Climbing essence (5.10c) at Cotton Club at The New River Gorge
Climber: John Ngyuen | Photo Credit: Jeff Shor

Weekend climbing trips always seem to fly by quicker than we want them to. Sunday evening rolls around and then we are back home gearing up for the workweek, leaving our projects unsent for another weekend.


A large amount of what we do after we’re done trying our projects on the weekend can play a huge role in our success later on.


Here are a few quick tips to help you learn from each of your sessions, & remember beta for the next time:



Tip #1: Keep a climbing journal & spend some time after each session or weekend reflecting on how things went.


Here are a few things that I like to make note of, and I recommend my athletes to do the same;

  • How you felt BEFORE & AFTER the session

  • Your intention for the session

  • What went well for you

  • What you’d like to work on for next time

  • & at least 2-3 things that you’ve learned


Just setting aside the time to actively think about and reflect on how things went will do wonders for your personal growth as a climber & your success on the project later on!



Tip #2: Practice visualization!


Some people like to write out the beta on their projects, move by move, or even draw them out in their journals.


Personally, I find the best practice for me is to visualize myself doing the movements starting from the ground and working my way up.


If I am struggling with a particular section, I might focus primarily on it--but I find that visualizing the whole route in my mind not only helps me to remember beta, but it can also help me to see myself succeed and thereby increase my confidence and mindset over time.



Tip #3. Get video footage of yourself climbing!


Don’t be self-conscious and don’t worry about what other people are going to “think” when they see you setting up your phone camera before you tie in.


The truth is, they respect you for being smart enough to take the time to get the footage & reflect on it afterward.


Being able to actually watch yourself climb is a total game-changer for your climbing. If you can take an objective look at what it is exactly that you are doing and LEARN FROM IT, your performance will skyrocket. Money-back guarantee.


Watch the footage later when you get home. This will help you to remember the beta but also be able to look and see what areas you might be able to improve upon later.



 


Slack line at the American Alpine Club Camp Ground at The New River Gorge | Photo: Jeff Shor
Slack Line at the American Alpine Club Camp Ground at The New River Gorge | Photo Credit: Jeff Shor

IN CONCLUSION

Projecting is such a unique process for everyone, and quite frankly projecting itself isn’t for everyone and that’s perfectly okay.


Do what makes you happy and have as much fun as you possibly can!


The next time you find yourself gearing up for a weekend on the project, or even project shopping--keep these tips in mind and try not to make the same mistakes I see everyone else make.


Your personal growth depends upon it.



 



How can we help you?





 

Kristi started climbing in 2012 while completing her Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After experiencing a bouldering injury in 2013, she decided to shift her focus from bouldering to sport climbing & yoga, completing her yoga teacher training in 2015. Upon graduating from college, Kristi moved to West Virginia to pursue her passion for rock climbing.


She has spent the past 6 years climbing in the New River Gorge, WV and works seasonally as The American Alpine Club Campground Manager. During her “off-season” she spends her time traveling & exploring different climbing destinations around the country. In 2019, Kristi became a Certified Personal Trainer receiving her certification from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). In 2020, she completed her certificate in Strength & Conditioning as well as Sports Nutrition through the ISSA & continues to further her education via online courses & workshops around the U.S.




 

While the New River Gorge is a great place to climb, it's one of many close to the D.C. area, check out other local spots here!





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