When I can’t sleep, I don’t count sheep. I visualize my project and rehearse the beta, move by move, until I either clip the chains or pass out.
I imagine vivid sensations: How that one sidepull digs painfully into my skin. How standing up into that undercling tweaks my shoulder. How that one foothold has absolutely no texture—but don’t think about it; just place your toe and keep moving.
Sometimes the visualization is so realistic that I feel pumped—and take.
Learning how to climb doesn’t just take place at the gym or crag. It also takes place at night in your head—in the inspired right hemisphere of your brain. In your dreams.
Have you ever experienced the miracle of dreaming up new beta for a crux sequence on your project—only to discover the next day that, holy shit, it works!? Dreams play some sort of organizing function, sorting out thoughts had during the day. Many famous scientific problems have been worked out during these lucid-dreaming states of mind. The three-dimensional double-helix structure of DNA was “discovered” by James Watson when he dreamed of a spiral staircase. Paul McCartney dreamed “Yesterday.” Mary Shelly dreamed “Frankenstein.”
We climbers dream beta. Sometimes our dreams are so strong and surprising that I wonder if we have the magical power to physically create holds. It’s a fun, whimsical idea but it’s much more likely, however, that our subconscious has registered the existence of a hold or sequence our conscious minds were too overloaded to notice. This info sometimes only comes out at night.
You put in work at the gym and crag not only to get strong but to learn technique and practice these very complex climbing movements. How to really stand on footholds. How to really furl your fingers over that crisp granite ripple. How to position your body and move your weight between holds that all face the wrong directions. When you’re physically out on the rock, the star of the show is the linear left hemisphere of your brain.
But it’s equally important to return home to rest—and sleep. Because it’s here that the creative right hemisphere of your brain comes to life and goes to work, etching these newfound skills into your being in such a way that they become completely natural and intuitive. In other words, you no longer need to think about the beta. You just have to climb the route.
Through this process you begin to climb like your head and soul are on fire.
With full focus and commitment.
And with no hesitation.
About The Photo
Daily Stoke Caption: Dave Graham, who often climbs like his head and soul are on fire, flows up the epic tufa of Humildes pa Casa (5.14a), Oliana, Spain.