Basically my life is training. I spend half of the year living in Yosemite working for the Search and Rescue team, and the other half I spend traveling and climbing. When it comes to training, this is what’s kept me in good shape and on my toes:
Yosemite Search and Rescue is often jokingly referred to as the ‘human tow truck’. Being on the team we are tasked with the most unexpected and challenging scenarios… carrying injured people down busy trails, technical El Cap rescues, body recoveries and wild land fire fighting are just a few of the more common situations. Sometimes you get called out to go help someone in the middle of the night and end up running around until the sun comes up. Endurance and strength are a byproduct of the job, but that doesn’t come close to the reward of helping people.
Carry people’s things:
One of the best ways I’ve found to stay in shape while living in Yosemite is to help climbers carry huge bags of gear off the top of big walls. It’s kind of a clever way to get tips and when you’re living in Camp 4, every little bit counts. I’d run to the top of El Cap, pick up one of the bags, and return it to the owner on the ground. It’s intense cardio and great strength-training for ascending fixed lines because your legs get worked.
Climb What You Aspire to:
My thinking has always been this; if you want to train for big walls, go climb big walls. If you want to train for alpine rock climbing, go alpine rock climbing. What better way to train for something other than doing the exact thing that you want to accomplish? This is what has helped me, but I understand it may not translate to all types of climbing. For example, the type of climbing that MHW athletes Ethan Pringle and Angie Payne do, which is mostly bouldering and sport climbing, requires the ability to do insanely difficult moves while holding on to the smallest edges on the planet; they need a lot of repetition and technique.
What has inspired me most is to climb big adventurous objectives quickly. I’m never actually climbing that hard, but climbing at a mid-grade level for a long time. It has been more important to have alligator-wrestling strength apposed to ninja force ballet skills. Lifting weights, or even gym climbing seems to drain my stoke, and I have a hard time focussing if I’m indoors too long. I will admit that my life won’t forever allow me to do this, but I’ve chosen to live in the dirt in the back of a campground to be able to do it.
Two years ago, I started training for an expedition that I ended up going on last spring. I knew that I would be spending multiple days/weeks to climb a big wall first ascent in the arctic. The terrain would likely be steep, difficult, with sections of poor quality rock. My thinking was that the best way to train for that would be to climb smaller first ascents on big walls in my home of Yosemite.
Train the Brain:
For me, all of the most difficult routes I have climbed have been successful because my brain was in the right headspace. It’s not like “ok I’m fit, now I’m ready to go for the send”. It’s usually my mind that shifts first, then I train, and if I’m still stoked, and my mental state is fully ready, then it happens. That’s also what makes it so difficult. Sometimes I think to myself about how much of a better climber I would be if I didn’t regularly have to work through anxiety and stress, and even depression. This is also true for my creative work with shooting photos and working on films. It is all so hugely emotional for me which is absolutely incredible at times and a nightmare at others.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how real what is happening in your brain is… I’m not sure how it all works, but when you think and feel something, even if it might not be the truth, it’s still real or close to it. It doesn’t matter how strong you are, if you feel weak or think you’re weak. Mental state is everything.
In writing this, I can’t help but think about the things that disrupt your mental state and what can actually be done to train the brain? This is the hardest part, and it’s a continuous learning experience. I’m slowly working through it, and I know that the biggest limitations are in the mind, not on the wall. Acknowledging that has been a powerful thing.
Good People Train You:
For me, it’s important to surround myself with people that inspire me to get out and move my body whether it’s climbing, running, exploring or just relaxing outdoors. Being in an inspiring place to do all of those things is hugely important for me as well. To do the things I love and live where I live requires a lot of sacrifice. I dropped out of school, I don’t drive a nice car, I don’t have an impressive savings account, in fact I don’t have running water or electricity. But I do what inspires me. The best training I can think of is to do what makes you the MOST stoked… go out, and just try it!