Retour Aux Sources

This is the first in a series describing my journey to get stonger for climbing in a semi-scientific way.

I think it’s fair to say that, in terms of sport science, climbing has lacked behind most other common sports for a while now, only relatively recently have the international teams started taking a scientific approach to training. Some of that knowledge has started to trickle down to us regular folk, for example and the excellent These means we can now take a more scientific approach to our own training and use some fancy words like periodisation and punted on the way.

It’s a bit pointless to train for something if you don’t have an end-goal in mind, with running it can be as simple as to run a mile faster. With climbing it’s a bit less precise, sure you could just say climb harder, but every one that has ever climbed knows that grades are a subjective thing. It’s better to have a concrete (or in this case sandstone/quartz) goal.

My hardest boulders to date are around the 7a (Fontainebleau grade) mark, that feels like a long time ago and I feel that my current level is around 6b. At age 33, whilst I feel I’ve got room to improve on this grade, it’s not a ‘sky is the limit’ type scenario. I think a realistic limit, and one I’d be happy with, is 7b within a year. Sure I could set a lofty goal of 8a, but I don’t see that at all realistic.

We moved to Chamonix about 3 years ago, when I was probably at my peak climbing fitness. “You moved to the alps, and you got….weaker?” — yep. The thing is with places like Chamonix, is that there too much other stuff to do (that’s a first world problem, if ever I heard one). We started a whole bunch of new sports (ski touring, mountain biking) as well as some other varients of climbing (sport and multi-pitch). Whilst all immense fun, none of them really get you in bouldering shape.

So with all that in mind, it was time to pick some actual boulders as goals. The first is this blogs namesake, Retour Aux Sources in Fontainebleau, it’s a beautiful 7a and I had the chance to try it this month. Whilst I could do some of the moves, it definately highlighted a lot of weaknesses for me.

Every science experiment needs a control, in this case to make sure my training is not too specific, after all the real goal is to get strong, not to complete an individual boulder. For this I have chosen Beetlejuice(7a+). I have tried this boulder a few times in the past, it is an amazing line with very fingery strong moves and is a very different problem to Retour Aux Sources.

Both of those I would like to do within the year, but I’ve decided to set an ultimate, harder goal of 7b+ which probably won’t happen within a year. That is Carnage, in the circus ring (aka Bleaujob square) that is Bas Cuvier.

So there you have it, that’s the introduction to this little journey. In the next post I’ll be writing a bit more about the problems above and the type of training I’m going to hope is going to get me there.

The images in this post are from the excellent Rawktawk

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