Sending Secrets To Steal From A Pro Climber

So you’re psyched to head out in the morning and charge your way to the crag. You hike in, rack up and start… But you get stumped and you’re not even 25 feet off the ground. The guidebook says to bring a “standard rack,” but you already wish you had three .75s. What gives? How did that kid who just floated your dream line crush with nary a hiccup?

I’m about to share with you a few secrets of the pros.

Do your research.
There is a vast wasteland of knowledge out there and, no doubt, the sweet line you’re hoping to pluck has had some narcissistic teenager with a go pro and a selfie stick post a video online. Watch it. Period. This isn’t 1972 when you had to stay up until 2 a.m. tripping on acid, then have two Olde English 800s for breakfast for your send to count. Bonus: If you’re a number chaser (admit it, we all are) you can easily find out what routes at what crags are soft (read: easy) for the grade—it’s called your partner go first.

This one is great. Having your partner go first not only gives you firsthand knowledge of gear and sequences, but it also cleans the route up a bit and most likely leaves a trail of white chalk for you to follow. It’s amazing how much more fun a route can be if you know where the rest is or that there is a great jug to place gear from just out of sight. Not to mention the comic value of watching your partner hang right below where you’ll slide that sinker knee bar in and oh-so-casually toss down your shirt.

Stash the gear.
If your dream route is a backcountry gem, consider heading in and cruising a “warm up” route on the same formation to get acquainted with the approach and particular style of climbing. You can also stash your gear, thereby allowing you to hike in for your send with nothing but a couple almond butter sandwiches, your GU and some water. Just remember, there are time limits for gear left in the backcountry, not to mention the fact that your gear could be difficult to find or even disappear.

Skip the bivy.
By following secret #2, skipping the bivy becomes more realistic. If you typically toss and turn the night before the big send, just think how much worse it’ll be below the face and how much more fatigued you’ll be from lumbering up the trail with a sleeping bag, tent, stove and the requisite food to fuel your mission. One word: CAR TO CAR (I guess that’s three).

Clean up your act.
By doing the above research, you’ll see that there is no need for two cordalettes, 6 locking biners, prussiks and a rappel line. By searching the comments on sites like, you’ll see that a single 70m or often times a single 60m rope is sufficient for descending. And maybe that all belays have just been updated with 1/2” bolts. Also, you don’t need two belay jackets and six liters of water; share that puffy and stash water at the base and even at the top if it’s feasible. The last time I climbed the Diamond on Longs Peak, I carried nothing but my harness, shoes and some food up to the Broadway ledge. And believe you me, I was far less fatigued starting up Full House V 5.12 than when I first dry-heaved my way up the Casual Route IV 5.10 after humping a pack full of climbing gear up the North Chimney.

Good luck, be safe and, most of all, be smart. Using these tips will not make up for being ill prepared or ill equipped, mentally or physically.