The Climbing Clinics We Need

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Most climbing clinics cover fairly suburban topics. It’s vanilla, or maybe French vanilla at best – lead climbing lessons, movement clinics, cliff gym workshops, and the like. These are all well and good and will probably suffice for the novice climbers among us, but they are not exactly trade secrets.

There is a knowledge gap that climbing clinics can fill. It takes imagination, flair, and the promise of esoteric learning. Climbers are a notoriously stingy bunch, after all, so to capitalize on the lack of cash, these clinics have to get weird. Here are some suggestions:

Loot Recovery Master Class

At almost every campsite there is a climber who has been there too long. Seriously, way too long. They don’t even climb anymore, their motivation has faded like so many alpine tattoos, but you can quickly regain their former vigor with just two simple syllables.

Booty is the trigger word that fires the synapses of this sleeper agent, essentially the low-budget (or rather no-budget) Jason Bourne of escalation. Their training begins and they will leave with solo rope gear and an arsenal of hand tools. This welded or overcam #4 Camalot doesn’t stand a chance.

Imagine what you could learn from this venerable guru! They removed more stuck material than you had hot dinners and their secret techniques are legion. That said, even they can’t help you recover that Link Cam you got stuck in an undersized crack. He’s a specialist, not a magician.

How to Cultivate and Maintain Non Climbing Relationships

Do you have non-climbers in your life? Me neither, but I imagine that they could possibly enrich my existence and could do the same for yours. The problem is, since I started climbing, I’ve accepted an alarming level of self-care and adopted a weird pidgin dialect of words like gaston, munter, boink, and goby.

These characteristics make it difficult to relate effectively with non-climbers. Rehabilitation can be achieved in this series of workshops and support groups where you will learn how to integrate yourself into a wider cross-section of society. Areas of intervention include:

  • Conversation starters (which do not involve route beta or speed selection)
  • Haircuts and bathing – theory and practice
  • Dinner recipes (using foods that don’t come from trash)
  • English lessons without jargon
  • A review of suitable introductory routes for your non-climbing friends/family/romantic interest (hint: notes may not have a letter at the end)
  • Group discussions on basic social mores, so you can really understand why your cousin was pissed when you wore approach shoes to his wedding.

The essential bouldering toolbox

The flippant slogan that declares bouldering “the purest form of rock climbing” is either ironic or willfully ignorant, as modern day sport practice uses more tools than a small construction site. This clinic is an introduction to these tools carried out in two modules.

The first module is familiarization with your local Home Depot where ladders, hand tools, battery operated fans and lights and industrial grade epoxy can be purchased. The second module is familiarization with crutches, canes and other mobility aids for the inevitable lower extremity injuries you will sustain from repeatedly hitting the Earth from above. What, is this one too real?

Paul Robinson obviously hasn’t taken part in the “Essential Bouldering Toolkit” yet… not a stepladder in sight! (Photo: Getty Images)

The Wonders of Stick Clip Witchcraft and Wizardry

I recently demonstrated how to protect the spicy opening gambit from a steep trad road by placing a wire with a stick clip. My audience, a certified Trad dad with a high crust quotient, was truly amazed. The idea had simply never occurred to him, because in his day you either placed the equipment on lead or died in a pool of cerebrospinal fluid “like a real man”. Some might consider such tactics a concession to purity, but I think not cratering is an asset, so I’ll continue to do so if the situation warrants it.

The thing is, when it comes to wielding a stick clip, I’m just a keen amateur. I have witnessed extraordinary acts of mastery including, but not limited to, quickdraw removal, cam placement, the effectiveness of assisted climbing and improvisational gear rigged by the jury that would push MacGuyver to give a standing ovation. I even heard a guy claim he fought a bear with one. Now, that may or may not be true, but I’d love to see it demonstrated.

Please note: No reimbursement in the event of the instructor’s death.

Off-width Resilience Workshop

Pete Whittaker suggests that off-width climbing is only 5% pain tolerance and ability to suffer. The thing is, Pete is a much better climber than you. Straight facts. You, oh humble wide-cracked neophyte, should expect pain and suffering in a much higher percentile.

Never fear, the Offwidth Resilience Workshop is here to help. Over multiple sessions, our experienced instructors will mimic the physical and emotional rigors of off-pitch climbing to boost your tenacity. I admit, this is just marketing language, and what it hides is that you will be dragged on concrete and cried with a 2×4 for hours. Now, that might sound like a terrible idea, but it’s functional, relevant, and you’ll never be afraid of a lag again. (BYO Carhartts and Vicodin.)

Climb an overwidth sandstone crack.
Pat Kingsbury confronts the notorious belly full of bad berries (5.13a), Indian Creek, Utah. (Photo: Jeremiah Watt / Red Bull Illume)

Treatment and prevention of scurvy

A clinic in the truest sense of the word. Here you will receive medical intervention for symptoms of malnutrition caused by a diet of stale bread, canned beans and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Your fatigue and bleeding gums will be alleviated by a team of caring medical professionals who will force you to eat a fucking orange.

Understanding the UK grading system

This is a bachelor’s degree with a study period of four years, during which you will develop highly specialized mathematical knowledge in order to solve complex note conversions. This program includes majors in statistics, calculus, and linear algebra with minors in quantum mechanics and computer science strongly recommended. It should be noted that the knowledge gained is largely theoretical, as the application is extremely limited globally and no one will really understand (or even care) if you try to explain it to them.

Route Sommelier course

Is your appreciation of the route rudimentary and uneducated? Do you struggle to find superlative synonyms when describing routes on your Mountain Project profile? The content of your climbing notebook is bland and colourless? Or, even worse, do you skim in reckless abandon at any grate-bolted bit of choss?

Refine your palate and sharpen your descriptive abilities with the Route Sommelier course, a craft that stems from the tradition of wine tasting. Learn to objectively assess the quality of the route and apply laborious, bizarre, and oddly anthropomorphic terms like “austere” or “flamboyant” or “elegant” or “opulent.” Soon you’ll acquire the art of rock snobbery, qualifying you to look down on the majority of roads with a level of disdain typically reserved for the professional wine connoisseur tasting clean skin.

Urination tactics for the modern climber

Many years ago I was known to frequent Alaskan Channels with various international friends, one of whom was a lovely French woman. Of his many talents, none was more impressive than the ability to pee in a bottle without ever leaving the confines of his sleeping bag. She never spilled a drop (or so she claimed, I never looked for proof) and she didn’t have to endure the freezing temperatures outside the tent.

To this day, I don’t know how this is possible. The thing is, exactly 100% of the women I’ve described the scenario to are afterward. Obviously, this is highly coveted knowledge.

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

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