How to Climb 5.12 Clinic

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Home of Partner Parties and On-sight Nights, The Studio Climbing staff can’t help but invent and host one-of-kind events and clinics tailored for its loyal climbers. The latest is a “How to Climb a 5.12” series brought to you by the legendary Charles “Swoll Chuck” Chang of Great Western Power Company. The first (and only so far) 5.12 clinic at the Studio is a series of three specialized classes geared to address and improve the skill level of avid climbers aiming to pass the 5.11-5.12 threshold more efficiently and with more control. Going into the first session, all of the students had everything they needed to climb harder, including capability, desire, focus and intent and strength. So what was preventing them from climbing 5.12s? That’s what this class was created to answer.

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Charles said the clinic wasn’t about training for power or endurance because these climbers were capable doing that on their own. Rather, he focused on helping the students recognize their climbing inefficiencies by feel and finding ways to make it better. “Toward the end of the class, students were able to not just better recognize where they were inefficient after they have climbing something (to the top), but knew before making a move so they can find different ways,” says Charles. He also went over beta for sending a route that weren’t exclusive to climbing, such as breathing techniques used for deep water diving to improve lung capacity and keeping a low heart rate.

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“Breathing was cool!” says Logan Cummings. “We went over remembering to breathe during hard sections and the importance of breathing to aid recovery during rests.” Logan also mentioned he learned to stay mindful about his climbing, like when to slow down, be aggressive or dyno past a crux. “The hard thing for me was to slow down and back off if I was climbing sloppily.”

For student Eric Andersen, concentrating on perfecting each move was the most challenging part; he worked on focusing on individual moves rather than just making it to the top. “I never paid much attention to the tension being created when climbing between my arms and legs, but Charles was able to explain this concept very clearly and taught me how to use it to my advantage,” says Eric. “I’m not just grabbing holds and climbing blind anymore, but studying the route, making precise, purposeful moves.”

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Charles had the team of climbers practicing holding still poses on the walls and making solid, thoughtful moves on bouldering problems before roping up on 5.12s.
“I had little problem with the start, a tricky compression move when we bouldered it,” says Logan. “But as soon as I roped up I was flat unable to make it. Charles worked with me on the rest of the route, which I got good practice on, and got super pumped. Later he had me try the start again off rope, still pumped, and I was able to do it again without difficulty. This was a good demonstration of the power of your environment, set, setting, etc. to affect your performance. I’m working on that.”

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Student Racquel Esqueda said everything she thought she knew about climbing was readdressed in the clinic. She said she grew frustrated at times, catching herself slipping into old habits and the urge to just make it to the top rather than embrace Charles’ static-versus-dynamic climbing methods. “What I learned is that there is no magic class that will instantly transform me into a better climber, but Charles offers a unique style of climbing that has been eye-opening for me.  If I am able to forget everything I know and focus on developing the skills offered, I can see myself getting over the ceilings that I set for myself.  Before I felt that I should be improving, but I was spinning my wheels climbing the same way on the same grades, but now I see how I am climbing and why I am stuck at the same grade and why The Studio Climbing is a great place to practice these new techniques.”

This clinic is offered at The Studio Climbing in San Jose and Great Western Power Company in Oakland. Stay tuned for the next clinic date.