Nick Bradley in Bishop

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Nick Bradley started climbing at 8 years old in 2005. He has podiumed at the SCS Youth National Championship from 2010 to 2014, and won in 2011 and 2013. A full-time college student and Touchstone Athlete, Nick’s been keeping busy crushing both books and boulders. We caught up with him about his latest trips to that SoCal bouldering Mecca: Bishop. Read on to get acquainted with some of Bishop’s hardest testpieces and Nick’s thoughts on projecting with style. 

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photo by William Bazargani

Having done my usual endurance training routine ever since I started competing, around summer of last year I decided it was about time to really focus on training for power. For the most part, this just meant spending time trying hard moves in the gym or outside, and setting up a flexible workout routine that I could do at the gym or at home. Progress seemed a little slow until early December, when my send of Chinese Connection (V13) at Mortar Rock proved the efficacy of my new training regimen. A few days later, my friends and I headed out to Bishop for a week-long trip and I was feeling confident.

I had two climbs that I was really psyched on: The Buttermilker (V13), and Mandala Sit Down Start (V13). These two V13s are polar opposites in style, and doing both would be a huge personal achievement for me and proof of adaptability. The first day we headed over to Mandala I made a big link through the stand start on my first go, but I felt a tiny tweak in my finger. I had previously hurt my finger on the same climb, so I decided not to push it—instead, we to went over to The Buttermilker for some slopers.

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I’ve always seen my climbing style as slow, precise, and more oriented towards tick-tacky crimps, but I wanted to be able to adapt to any environment in climbing, especially as someone who competes regularly. It may be just one climb, but quickly figuring out the moves on The Buttermilker felt like a demonstration of that adaptability, and again, it seemed that my training had paid off. On our second day I did the stand start, but what ensued from that ascent was a mental battle of the sit. I spent almost the entire time we had left in Bishop getting frustratingly close, but it never went. On our last day, we made the decision to try something else.

The Swarm (V14) was something that I had always dreamed of climbing. I’d seen videos of it countless times and always thought it looked like the perfect climb for me, but I never had the confidence to even try it. When we walked up to it I was immediately impressed. I went over to some easier climbs to warm up, and our friend Boz started looking for the ideal angle to shoot. I tried the end moves a bit to finish my warm-up, which led to me doing the infamous shoulder move second go. Gaining confidence, I immediately started giving goes from the start. I was getting closer and closer to sticking the second move with each attempt, and within about 2 hours I stuck the second move for the first time and took it to the top. It’s not uncommon for me to get through the crux moves of a project and then fall on moves I had dialed, so being able to just try hard and top something out quickly was definitely a nice change. I was even expecting to fall on the top (which is a terrible thing to admit), but that made topping it out that much better.

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The Swarm ended that trip for me, but I came back just a couple weeks later for some frustrating projects. It’s pretty rare for me to ever get visibly frustrated with climbing, and I can clearly remember the handful of times when I have. For example, two years ago, I fell off the last move before the anchors of Omaha Beach (5.14a) at the Red River Gorge. I swore at a rock as I took the whipper, immediately felt silly, and apologized to my friends because I was so embarrassed. It may not seem like a huge deal, but I often think back to that moment and never want to repeat it. I climb because it’s what I love to do, not because I need to do hard climbs. Yet whenever I have a project I’m consistently hard on myself, and it can definitely hold me back. During competitions, all I have to do is execute each move as it comes. Projecting is a whole different beast: even after dialing every move, at a certain point it feels like I’ve hit a wall where it seems like a project will never go, regardless of my ability.

Frustration was very present the second trip, and I was getting way too far on my projects without doing them. Halfway in, I decided to just enjoy climbing, take pictures, and clear my head. I did both Saigon Direct (V9) and Stained Glass (V10) that day, and dropping the intensity definitely helped me realize why I was there—to enjoy it. I took a rest day, decided to just focus on one project, and call it a trip. When the last day came, I finally did The Buttermilker Sit, and celebrated with a circuit of easy-to-moderate classics around the Milks for a satisfying conclusion to the trip.

Looking back, that was the strongest month of climbing I’ve ever had, and the mental battles were just a part of the process. For now, I’ll start training for the Touchstone Climbing Series, but I think I could use another year of bouldering…
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Photos by Alton Richardson, IG: agrphoto.