To Wobble or Not to Wobble?

Throw a wobbler (phrase):

To get really angry. Have a tantrum. See also screaming fit, berserk, rage.

Perhaps my favorite bit of slang I’ve picked up via the climbing community is the phrase “toss a wobbler.” I can’t remember the first time I heard it used, but I do remember the first time I witnessed a climber in the midst of wobbling. I was clawing my way up one of the few sub-5.12 climbs in Rifle Mountain Park when I heard a hoarse, primitive howl reverberate through the narrow canyon. At first I thought someone had sent their project, but the string of eloquent curse words that followed seemed to indicate otherwise. “That will never be me,” I thought.

Like baseball, skateboarding, and panning for gold, climbing involves a lot of failure and a healthy portion of pain and frustration; most of the time the bear eats you.

In order to succeed on a personal limit climb one must invest oneself in said climb. You gotta psych yourself up for those gnarly crimps, yo. You must put your pain in a box, lock the box and throw away the key. One does not simply earn victory by showing up. There are no half measures. Do or do not, there is no try. You get the idea.

The point is, I used to see someone toss a wobbler and think “get a grip, man.” Climbing is fun and I couldn’t understand how anyone could get so upset doing something so enjoyable. But as the years passed and I focused on climbing as hard as I could, I found that it is not always so fun, not always so enjoyable. Sometimes you rip a flapper, sometimes you pump out at the chains, sometimes you miss the pads, and failure is never fun.

So about investing oneself in a climb… Success at the highest level of your ability takes complete commitment to the end result; you gotta *go for it.* When you’re going for it and you fail, it is natural to be frustrated and, speaking for myself, the only way to commit entirely to another attempt at the rig is to vent that frustration. Enter the wobbler.

My go to is the chalk bag toss (though I’m always careful to close the bag first…leave no trace and whatnot) usually accompanied by a quiet-but-severe expletive or two. Ten seconds or so of venting and I’m good to go. By nature I am not an angry person, and I definitely understand the necessity of respecting other people’s space and enjoyment of nature. This is just my way of letting off steam so that I can pour myself back into the task at hand.

While I find Adam Ondra’s outbursts excessive to say the least, I now understand where those outbursts come from and can appreciate how hard he tries and how much of himself he puts into climbing at the absolute highest level.

Naturally, you are entitled to your own opinion on the matter. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment and we can work it out.

Dr. Dre’s Cure for Elbow Tendonitis

Back in the days when I was a teenager (before I had status and before I had a pager), there was an entirely different approach to my climbing. As is common with the youthful sect, patience, planning, and strategy were not arrows in my quiver. I wanted to be on top of the boulder and I did not give a hoot in hell about conserving energy, utilizing prime conditions, or injury prevention; I just went for it.

That was a long time ago. Dre put it best when he said “things just ain’t the same for gangstas, times is changin’, young (gentlemen) is aging, becoming old G’s in the game and changin’ to make way for these new names and faces…” Not sure if the Doctor was referring to climbing, but it’s all the same to me. My body is older and slower to recover. Climbing hurts more than it used to. Working has taken over a larger portion of my time and rising gas prices coupled with a growing sense of financial responsibility have made tri-weekly trips to Chaos Canyon and beyond things of the past. So it goes.

I strive to maintain a high standard in my climbing, and I understand that to remain at the level I am accustomed to adjustments to my training routines, climbing schedule, and overall strategy need to be made.

Problem: When I climb too much my elbows, fingers, and skin hurt, among other body parts.

Solution: I climb less now than at any point in my career. However, when I do climb it is focused on specific goals. By decreasing the volume of climbing while increasing the intensity I am able to get stronger while limiting exposure to overuse injuries. Five hour gym sessions are no more, in their place are two hour training blocks that work a particular facet of climbing, be it power, core strength, finger strength, endurance, technique, or general fitness.

Problem: I can’t spare the time to climb outside as much as I used to.

Solution: Make it count! I used to go to my project whenever I could, regardless of conditions or freshness. Now I am more selective, only attempting projects on days when the weather will cooperate and I feel well rested. You have to give yourself the highest probability of success that you can; good temps and fresh muscles help a good deal in that area.

Problem: It takes my body longer to repair itself after a rough day of climbing than it used to.

Solution: Again, make it count! Proper stretching, a protein drink and decent meal after climbing go a long way towards not feeling like death the next morning. More importantly, and this is especially hard for me, make fewer attempts on the project and rest longer in between burns. Once you have dialed in the movement, there is no reason to try a climb if you do not feel with a high degree of certainty that you can send. If I still feel a little pumped or my skin still stings a bit, I sit back down and wait until I feel completely ready. Take the time to clean any part of your shoe that will touch stone. Is there a tick mark on the hidden topout jug? Better take a minute and put one on there. While there is something to be said about the power of sheer will and determination, in my experience this has gotten me up a boulder far less often than proper rest and preparation. Leave nothing to chance…

None of this is to say I am old or anything. Far from it. However, with every passing year I am more aware of the aging process and how it effects physical performance, and with that awareness comes an ability to adapt and progress. I eagerly anticipate the next ten years of climbing to be better than the first.