Big Day Climbing Tips

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The spring season brings longer days and bigger plans for many climbers. Moving faster and more confidently on big days requires a bit of strategy, planning and preparation. If you’re getting ready for a big Yosemite climb, here are a few tips to make things move smoother.

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Fuel Well– Many climbers eat big dinners the night before a big climb. Packing in all that food makes sleep difficult and eating in the morning becomes a chore.  A better approach is to eat a large lunch and then eat lightly at dinner. Sleep comes easier and in the morning, you’ll wake up hungry and able to digest food for the day. While climbing, eat light foods when leading.  Energy gels and shot blocks digest quickly.  When you have a chance to rest, eat some real food like a nice sandwich.  Give your body plenty of time to digest.  Make sure you are eating and drinking after each pitch.  

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 Move Efficently– Diablo Rock Gym manager, Hans Florine offers some of the best advice for big days of climbing. “Start off fast, just won’t last.  Start off slow then go, go, go!” Running to the base of a climb, or bolting up the first pitch sounds like a great idea for getting up a route faster but this strategy will tire you out quickly.  Climb slowly and be efficient.  Having a plan before blasting off the ground can save significant time and prevent problems.  Most epics come from poor decision making.  Give your plan some thought before executing.  30 seconds of thought can prevent you from an hour of epic. 

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Look at the weather– Knowing when to go for your climbing objective can be crucial for success.  A slight chance of rain can be ok if you are comfortable with bailing. The clouds can provide a pleasant relief from the blistering sun. Avoid climbing in the middle of the day, if warm. Good temps make climbing easier. Make sure to make the most of them. Mid day heat can be exhausting. The sun will burn the stoke right out of you. Check the route the day before for conditions and know what they mean. A dry route but snow on the top might translate into a very wet climb the next day. I made that mistake this morning. From the meadow, El Cap looked perfectly dry but the next morning, it seeped again. Whoops! The 3:30 alarm was a few days premature!

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Be Comfortable– Become confident in your ability to bail. Not that you want to bail but bailing should be a non-issue. Knowing that retreat can be quick and easy is relaxing. Be confident on the terrain as well. Knowing that you can easily dispatch all of the pitches makes any impending storm easier or difficulty easier to handle. Learn to get off your hips at each anchor. Hanging in a harness will wear your body down. Take every chance you can to escape harness rash. Rest on ledges and then push through hanging belays. Being efficient at belays and making quick changeovers will help minimize your time hanging in your harness. Sometimes it takes longer to go down than to go up. Be comfortable with either.

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 Have Fun– Chances are you’re in a beautiful place high off the ground with a good friend. These experiences are few and far between. Enjoy the moments that you get out climbing. Having a good attitude and keeping morale high will help things move significantly smoother.