Integrating Rock Climbing Training Into an Annual Plan

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  • #64783
    Erik Norseman

    Hi lovely people,

    I’ve been thinking about doing one of Josh Wharton’s rock training plans. I’m currently at the end of a transition period and beginning a base building phase as I approach the summer alpine season. I’m relatively un-trained but fit. I’ve done a few half-assed training plans with the TFTNA plan over the past 2 years and hoping to really do it right this time. Alpine climbing is not my priority this season, but I want to instead focus on my pure rock climbing in anticipation of a guides exam at the end of next season (ACMG Apprentice Rock Guide).

    To be clear, this does not mean just sport red-pointing, although that may be good training. But this season I’m hoping to develop the fitness and confidence to readily/easily climb 8-14 pitches of 5.10/5.10+ on gear (plus make the approaches easy with a pack). I currently am comfortable leading around 5.9+/5.10- on gear and need to bump that up a bit, and work within this season or the next toward ultimately being comfortable with 8-14 pitches on 5.11/5.11+. Other otes: I live in the southern Okanagan in BC and am blessed with a 9 month outdoor rock season with 1000+ routes 15min from my house in Skaha!

    In order to comfortably guide 5.10+, it would be better if I was climbing/trying 5.11+ gear routes and probably achieving ~5.12 sport redpointing ability, so my longer term plan would be to work towards that level as an apprentice before challenging the full exam. I’m also open to suggestions from rock guides here on whether I need to be even stronger, as these initials goals may still be a bit low. Whatever grade I’m at, I know I need to be 100% solid at that grade, and so I will be likely be prioritizing technique and being super solid, climbing with a pack, etc., over red-pointing at my limit.

    With that background, I’m wondering how people would suggest integrating a 4- or 8-week rock training plan into the normal annual plan prescribed by TFTNA? For example, would it make sense to go through with a 20+ week base building period and then use one of Josh Wharton’s plans as my specific training period? Is that going to be a super effective plan, or will it be too much running and aerobic work to really help my climbing? Even a 20 week base period will leave a number of months of prime rock climbing season (August through October) so I’ll have a few months still to time my peak/performance climbs and see what level I’m feeling good at then.

    Other option: would I want to be spending more time in the base building period working on more rock oriented training? Like making Josh’s plans part of the second half of the base period perhaps and making the specific period more about actually doing some 8+ pitch climbs? It seems clear that the base building period should be more general and less specific, but if I know now that my goals are fairly specific (I’m okay to prioritize rock performance over alpine climbing and mountaineering), how do I plan a “rock-specific base building period?”

    For anyone with specific questions on the level I need to achieve in rock, here are the prerequisites I’m working towards:

    Thanks for your thoughts and wisdom!


Posted In: Climbing

  • Participant
    David Thompson on #64926

    Hi Erik,

    From the sounds of it you have good access to rock for a lot of the year. So that sets you up well to be prepared for the RGE. If you want to break this down into specific periods, there are two factors that you can use to guide you: your climbing volume (how many pitches you climb), and the intensity of the climbing you are doing (basically the grades you are climbing at). Whatever period you are in, you want to have the intention of increasing your movement vocabulary.

    For a ‘base period’ you will want to amass a considerable amount of volume over the weeks and months. Work up to ~20 pitches/week, and go past this if you can. Also, over this time you will want to do a high variety of climbing — not the same routes over-and-over. During this period take note of routes that feel harder or easier and identify why. Take note that it’s not necessarily grades of climbs, but what they demand. You can do this for 8-12 weeks.

    For a specific period, focus on two things. 1) climbing that is as similar as possible to the demands of the RGE. 2) the routes that you took note of in the previous 8-12 weeks that were personally challenging for one reason or another. You can also focus on this for 8-12 weeks.

    Also, at least a couple of days a week, get out and do a long aerobic effort. This could be a long climbing approach or a big multi-pitch day, a long hike in the mountains with added weight (20-50#), or a long jog/run. Vary the amount of weight you are carrying, and don’t run long distances with a lot of weight on your back.

    Hope this helps.

    Erik Norseman on #64970

    Hi David,

    Thanks for your thoughts. This is helpful! Are you a rock guide or aspiring to be one?

    My sense regarding the Josh Wharton program is to keep it in mind and integrate it into my training down the road when I’m either losing interest in the training or it becomes monotonous and I want to switch it up. It could serve as part of the max strength period in the base building period, or muscular endurance. Without seeing the plan exactly it is a bit hard to say, but I feel that it would be a good option to try mid-way through the base and possibly during the overlap of base/specific.

    I’m currently building a list of practice climbs in the area (Interior BC) and getting stoked! I hope to be working these routes June/July onwards! There are some wonderful 5.10- routes to get on!

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