What I Got for Christmas

Christmas came a week early for me this year.  While driving Logan home from downtown Denver to see the impressive light display at City Hall, I received a call from my friend and publisher Jason Haas.  The “Proof” of the Rock Climber’s Training Manual had arrived from the printer!  The proof is a collection of various test-printings of the completed book.  In our case, it included:

  • The finished, laminated cover,
  • Two large sheets of glossy paper each showing 8 “representative” printed pages (printed with the actual ink that will be used, on the actual paper that will be used)
  • The entire 304 page book (printed with inexpensive paper & ink)
  • The entire 1-season Logbook (printed with inexpensive paper & ink)
  • The entire 1-year Logbook (printed with inexpensive paper & ink)
The two large sheets showing the finished look of 16 representative pages.

The two large sheets showing the finished look of 16 representative pages.

The purpose of the 8-page sheets is to verify that the printed colors look “true” (that is, they look they way we want them to look).  It’s actually not that easy to get printed material to look exactly the way it does on a computer screen, and its more art than science that often takes some trial and error to get dialed-in correctly.  One reason for this is that computers use “RGB” format (literally Red-Green-Blue) to represent colors, and printers use CMYK (Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Key (black)).  That, and every computer monitor is slightly different, is adjusted differently, and displays the same image slightly differently.

All 304 pages of the book.  These are printed in 16-page "Signatures", which are then bound together to form the book.  The RCTM has 19 signatures.  As you can see by the color marks at the top and bottom of each page, these haven't been cropped to actual size.

All 304 pages of the book. These are printed in 16-page “Signatures”, which are then bound together to form the book. The RCTM has 19 signatures. As you can see by the color marks at the top and bottom of each page, these haven’t been cropped to actual size.

The low-fidelity printed books are used to verify that all the columns of text, figures, pictures, numbering, etc, are properly aligned and ordered.  Apparently it’s not uncommon for a page to appear multiple times, out of order, or in some other whacky configuration. 

I went over to Jason’s house Thursday night to check out the proof.  It was really exciting to see the entire book printed in actual size.  It’s one thing to scan through a PDF; it’s quite another to hold it in your hand.  The first thing I noticed is how visually stunning it is–there’s something interesting to look at on virtually every page.  We put a lot of effort into the figures and they look excellent.  There are also many, many stunning images from some outstanding pro photographers, and the photos look great.  There was one slight problem with some of the trasparent blue colors in our figures appearing lavendar.  We will bring this up with the printer to see if it can be improved, but its probably not a showstopper.  Our primary concern is that the photos look good and they do.

The Fixed Pin brain trust examining each page of the book for errors.  Ben on the left, Jason on the right.

The Fixed Pin team examining each page of the book for errors. Ben on the left, Jason on the right.

We found various nit-picky errors like text boxes that weren’t properly “justified”, but nothing major.  We made notes of all these and Jason has already corrected them and uploaded a new master file to the printer.  The covers we received were printed in “matte” rather than laminated, so we will ask for them to re-send laminated covers.  Aside from that the covers looked sharp.

The cover proof.

The next step is to discuss our feedback with the printer, then they can start pringing actual books.  They will overnight the first copy off the press to us so we can make one last check that everything looks good.  At that point we should have a good estimate of a release date for the book.  With the holidays in full swing we probably won’t hear much for at least another week, but I’m excited for the press to start churning out books in the near future.

Hangboard Resistance Data Analysis

As promised, here is some hangboard resistance data from my recently concluded Strength Phase.  This was my first full phase using the Rock Prodigy Training Center.  I thought it would take a while to get the loads dialed in correctly but I was able to get pretty close to the right resistance during the first workout.

RPTC Grip Identification

I trained the following grips, in the order listed below, performing 3 sets of reps (7 reps for the first set of each grip, then 6 reps, then 5), except where noted.

Grip Order Table

The below chart shows the resistance added to body weight during the final set of each grip (the Large VDER is omitted since this is a warmup grip and the resistance rarely changes). 

This chart shows the resistance added (to body weight) for the third set of each grip, for each workout.

This chart shows the resistance added (to body weight) for the third set of each grip, for each workout.

If I complete every rep of all 3 sets for a given grip, I add 5 lbs (to each set) during the next workout.  For example, during the first workout, MR 2-finger resistance was:

 -10 lb. for the 1st set,
    0 for the 2nd set and
+10 for the 3rd set.

During the first workout, I completed all reps of each set of that grip, so for the next workout the goal resistance was:

   -5 lb for the 1st set,
  +5 lb for the 2nd set and
+15 for the 3rd set. 

So you can infer from the above chart that if the 3rd-set-resistance increased between workouts n and n+1, then I succeeded in completing the prescribed sets (at the prescribed resistance) during workout n.  If the 3rd-set-resistance did not increase, you can infer that I failed to complete all reps during workout n.  I almost always complete the first two sets of each grip, so one can further infer that if I failed to progress, I failed on the third set.

Some interesting “conclusions” can be drawn from this data. 

  • You can see where I started to plateau, between the 6th and 7th workout.  After the 7th workout I struggled to make progress between workouts on most grips.  I’ve experimented with trying to burst through this plateau by performing more and more workouts, but it never seems to work.  Usually by the 10th workout or so I won’t see any more improvement (I’ve done as many as 12 workouts in a phase)                          
  • The earlier grips in the workout progressed much more than the later grips.  The most improvement over the course of the phase was seen in the Mono, Thin Crimp, and MR 2 Finger (the first 3 grips completed).  The least improvement was seen in the Pinch, IM 2 Finger and Small VDER (the last 3 grips).  This is typical in my experience, and this is why I suggest working the most “important” grips early in your hangboard workouts.  Here is another way to look at this phenomenon:
This chart shows the total improvement in Third-Set-Resistance over the course of my Strength Phase.  The grips are shown in the order performed.  As you can see, for the most part the grips performed early in the workout improved the most, and the grips performed at the end improved the least.

This chart shows the total improvement in Third-Set-Resistance over the course of my Strength Phase. The grips are shown in the order performed. As you can see, for the most part the grips performed early in the workout improved the most, and the grips performed at the end improved the least.

  • The Pinch grip was a disaster!  After the second workout I flatlined, then after the 6th workout I actually got worse! This is somewhat exaggerated because after the 6th workout (and several straight workouts of failing on the third set), I purposely reduced the resistance in the hopes of jump starting this grip.  That worked once (workout 7), but then I plateaued at a lower level.  Part of this is because this is the last grip of the workout.  However, you might expect that I would at least get better at managing fatigue, and thus would show some improvement.  You certainly would not expect that I would regress.  So what is going on here?  Each workout is a little bit harder (overall) than the preceding workout.  This is because initially the loads applied are conservative, so early in the Strength Phase many sets are completed with relative ease, leaving more energy for the later grips in the workout.  Later in the Phase, the loads applied are much closer to my limit, and I really have to scratch and claw to complete each set of every grip.  Thus I’m much more tired when I arrive at the last few grips of a given workout.  The amplitude of this effect increases each workout within a phase.  So while the loads applied in this example are more or less constant, the apparent difficulty of completing three sets at those loads is increasing each workout.  A question worth asking is, does training this grip improve my pinch strength, or would I be better off ending my workout after 5 grips?  I don’t know the answer to that question, but I think it does make me stronger (or at least better at managing fatigue), even though the accumulating fatigue prevents me from capturing that improvement “on paper”.

Moving on, the first chart I posted illustrates only the load applied during the third set of each grip.  There are many other ways to slice the data.  During each set, I strive to perform a certain number of 7-second dead hang repetitions (7 for the first set, 6 for the second set, 5 for the third set).  Often I reach the end of the third set, having completed each rep without failing.  In these situations I usually try to perform a 6th rep at the end of the third set (in rare instances I will add extra reps to the second set, but only if it feels really easy).  On the other hand, often I fail to complete all of the prescribed reps.  For example, I might complete the first 4 reps of the third set of a given grip, but my fingers fail 5 seconds in to the 5th rep.  Capturing these variations and plotting them provides slightly more fidelity into apparent plateaus:

This chart shows the total "Time Under Tension" (TUT) for the 2nd and 3rd sets of the Pinch grip for workouts 2-6 (I omitted the 1st set TUT because it was a constant 49 seconds for each workout).  The load applied (-5 lbs for the 2nd set, +5 lbs for the 3rd set) was constant for these five workouts.

This chart shows the total “Time Under Tension” (TUT) for the 2nd and 3rd sets of the Pinch grip for workouts 2-6 (I omitted the 1st set TUT because it was a constant 49 seconds for each workout). The load applied (-5 lbs for the 2nd set, +5 lbs for the 3rd set) was constant for these five workouts.

The TUT for each workout in the above chart “should be” 42 seconds for the 2nd set (6 reps times 7 seconds per rep) and 35 seconds for the third set.  As you can see, there was a good deal of variation between workouts despite a constant applied load.  The problem with looking at the data in this manner is that it only works when the load applied is constant.  Another option is to look at the “Volume” of a given set.  Qualitatively, Volume = Intensity x Duration.  However, coming up with a practical quantitative Volume formula can be challenging. 

The most simplistic method is to simply multiple the hang duration (TUT) for a given set by the load applied.  However, the load applied is only a fraction of the load on your fingers.  It makes sense to add body weight into the formula (so Volume = (Body Weight + Load Applied) x Duration.  The below chart shows this data for the 3rd sets of the IM 2 Finger grip.

This chart shows Volume, defined as Volume = (Body Weight + Load Applied) x Duration, for the 3rd set of the IM 2 Finger grip for the entire Strength Phase.

This chart shows Volume, defined as Volume = (Body Weight + Load Applied) x Duration, for the 3rd set of the IM 2 Finger grip for the entire Strength Phase.

The problem with the above metric is that it “values” duration much more than load.  It’s easy to achieve a high Volume figure by using lower loads and performing extra reps.  For example, during the first 5 workouts of this phase, I managed to complete all 5 reps of each 3rd set, and then at least attempted a 6th rep.  During the last five workouts I only completed the 5th rep once and never attempted a 6th rep.  As a result, the “Volume” on the left side of the chart (the first five workouts) is greater than the Volume on the right half.  This is not what we want to strive for as athletes.  We want to strive for higher loads, more so than extra reps, so it would be nice to use a Volume formula that “rewards” higher loads.  Another option is to consider the Volume of the entire grip, not just the Volume of the 3rd set.  This method gives you “credit” for the extra load used later in the phase in the first two sets of each grip.

This chart shows the sum of the Volume for each set of the IM 2 Finger grip.  The formula for this chart is Total Grip Volume = [(Body Weight + Set 1 Load Applied) x Set 1 Duration] + [(Body Weight + Set 2 Load Applied) x Set 2 Duration] + [(Body Weight + Set 2 Load Applied) x Set 2 Duration].

This chart shows the sum of the Volume for each set of the IM 2 Finger grip. The formula for this chart is Total Grip Volume = [(Body Weight + Set 1 Load Applied) x Set 1 Duration] + [(Body Weight + Set 2 Load Applied) x Set 2 Duration] + [(Body Weight + Set 2 Load Applied) x Set 2 Duration].

The Total Grip Volume method of calculation is an improvement.  The Volume for workouts 7-10 is greater than that of workouts 1-3, but it still implies that my workout 5 performance of 5 reps of 7 seconds and 1 rep of 6 seconds at +30 lbs. is “superior” to my workout 10 performance of 4 reps of 7 seconds and 1 rep of 4 seconds at +40 lbs.  Maybe it is, but I can tell you the latter seems much more difficult to do, and it would be nice if the “Volume” calculation captured that.  So there is room for an improved Volume formula.

Finally, for the “fun” of it, below is the Total Workout Volume (the sum of the above volume calculation for each grip):

This chart shows Total Workout Volume = [((BW + S1AL) x S1D) + ((BW + S2AL) x S2D) + ((BW + S3AL) x S3D)]Grip 1 + [((BW + S1AL) x S1D) + ((BW + S2AL) x S2D) + ((BW + S3AL) x S3D)]Grip 2 + ... + [((BW + S1AL) x S1D) + ((BW + S2AL) x S2D) + ((BW + S3AL) x S3D)]Grip n.

This chart shows Total Workout Volume = [((BW + S1AL) x S1D) + ((BW + S2AL) x S2D) + ((BW + S3AL) x S3D)]Grip 1 + [((BW + S1AL) x S1D) + ((BW + S2AL) x S2D) + ((BW + S3AL) x S3D)]Grip 2 + … + [((BW + S1AL) x S1D) + ((BW + S2AL) x S2D) + ((BW + S3AL) x S3D)]Grip n.

At least it seems the Volume is more or less increasing each workout, and this shows some indication of a plateau appearing around the 9th workout.

I know I’m not the only spreadsheet nerd out there, so if you have a novel way of analyzing your training data, please share in a comment below!

Bouldering for Power

Power is an essential element of climbing performance.  One could argue (and many have) it is the most critical physical aspect of climbing performance.  As Tony Yaniro famously said, “if you have no power, there is nothing to endure”.  If you cannot execute the hardest individual moves on your goal route, everything else is moot.  It’s certainly true that every performance-oriented climber can benefit from improved power. 

Last year, I discussed at length how to use a Campus Board to improve power.  While highly-effective at developing pure power, Campus Training is only moderately specific to climbing.  Bouldering can provide ultra-specific and effective  power training, provided it is done “properly”. 

Gratuitous bouldering pic: Starting up the classic Bishop highball High Plains Drifter, V7

Gratuitous bouldering pic: Starting up the classic Bishop highball High Plains Drifter, V7

Bouldering can be great fun, and that can present a problem for climbers-in-training.  The casual nature of the activity makes it easy to get side-tracked on problems that are unique and challenging, but perhaps not ideal for facilitating improvement.  As discussed here power training must be extremely intense and brief to be effective.  Many boulder problems have far too many moves to provide effective power training.  The challenge of such problems is not in executing a single powerful move, but in linking several moderately-difficult-yet-pumpy moves.  This is Power Endurance training at its finest–it has its place, just not in your Power Phase!

This is where Limit Bouldering comes in.  Limit Bouldering is climbing short boulder problems that feature one or two realistic moves right at the climber’s physical limit.  Effective Limit Boulder problems are characterized by:

  • One or Two crux moves
  • Dynamic cruxes (such as a long move to latch a small edge, where core tension is required to keep your feet on small footholds)
  • Cruxes close to the ground, so pump and fear are not factors

Above I hinted at the other major pitfall of bouldering, when I wrote that Limit Bouldering should feature realistic moves.  It is well-known that training must be “specific” to be effective.  That is, if you are training for a route whose crux involves half-pad crimps up a 10-degree overhang, you would be best served training on half-pad crimps, and Limit Bouldering on a 10-degree overhang (if you climb routes in North America, it is quite rare that you ever climb anything steeper than 30-degrees overhanging, even at crags like the Red, Maple, and Rifle).

However,  many indoor bouldering venues devote only a tiny fraction of their terrain to walls that overhang 30-degrees or less.  Instead they favor terrain that is just plain too steep to be realistic.  Steep terrain is really fun, and everyone wants to be the hero swinging monkey-like across the horizontal roof.  There is no doubt such problems are enjoyable, and many are quite challenging; it’s easy to see why they are so popular.  The problem is, in order for us mortals to climb these too-steep features, we require enormous holds that are too big to properly stress the finger flexors (instead emphasizing shoulder, upper arm, and back strength).

Holds like this are skin-friendly, fun to climb on, and minimize the risk of finger injury.  Unfortunately they don't exist in the real world, so they offer little training value.

Holds like this are skin-friendly, fun to climb on, and minimize the risk of finger injury. Unfortunately they don’t exist in the real world, so they offer little training value.

This situation would be dire enough, but often the lack of realism is further compounded by exotic hold shapes (massive volumes, slopers, jugs, and other protruding features that are easily pinched).  The third strike comes in the shape of relatively enormous, incut footholds that encourage huge moves and minimal core tension.  Put these factors together and the result is a smorgasbord of problems that are a whole of fun to climb but provide little training benefit to actual rock climbers.  Hard rock climbing in America is about pulling on small edges and pockets, while standing on tiny footholds on near-vertical terrain.  The ability to campus from one lightbulb-shaped protrusion to the next has no relevance.

The North American sector of the Real World is mostly covered in small edges and pockets.  Train accordingly!  Fred Gomez crushing the Hueco classic Baby Face, V7

The North American sector of the Real World is mostly covered in small edges and pockets. Train accordingly! Fred Gomez crimping up the Hueco classic Baby Face, V7

Fortunately these bouldering pitfalls are easily avoided.  To maximize the specificity of your Limit Bouldering terrain, set or select problems that include these elements:

  • Realistic steepness (rarely steeper than 30 degrees for climbers in the US)
  • Realistic hold spacing (smaller holds, spaced relatively close together)
  • Realistic hold sizes (small handholds AND tiny footholds)
  • Realistic hold shapes (rounded edges, sharp edges, pockets, and intricate footholds that demand precise foot placements)
  • Holds that cannot be pinched
  • Holds that do not inadvertently result in large footholds when used as sidepulls/underclings/pockets (or mark such holds “off” for feet)

If you train at a public facility where you are unable to set your own problems, talk to your routesetters &/or gym management and encourage them to set problems that facilitate effective training.   Gyms want to make their customers happy, so tell them what you want.  They may even allow you to set some of your own problems.  If that fails, make up your own problems linking in situ holds, or use the gym’s System Board to create your own problems (often System Boards are covered in a variety of realistic holds).

For those that set their own problems, below are a few recommendations of some of my favorite hold sets.  If your local gym is lacking, consider recommending some of these sets to the routesetters.  One general piece of advice: invest in high quality holds, especially if you have a small climbing wall.  Good holds will keep you psyched much longer, and allow you to make the most of your training time.  You’ll get far more mileage out of 10 good holds than you will out of 20 low-quality holds. 

All of the sets described below feature realistic shapes that will be challenging on wall angles of 0 to 30 degrees overhanging.  For each hold type, these are listed more or less in order of preference.  The grade ranges are rough approximations and will vary greatly depending on orientation and spacing:

This pic of one of my "Comfy Crimps" says it all.  You know a hold is good when you see 12 pieces of tape next to it!

This pic of one of my “Comfy Crimps” says it all. You know a hold is good when you see 12 pieces of tape next to it!

Moderate Edges:

1. e-Grips “Comfy Crimps”   These were my first set of holds, and they’re still one of my favorites.  These edges are easy on the skin and rather incut.  These are great for 5.12-ish climbers on a steep (~30 degree) wall.

2. e-Grips “Midnight Desert Crimps”   This set includes a variety of sizes and shapes, that are generally a number-grade or so more challenging than the Comfy Crimps.  Most of these holds are ideal on vertical-to-slightly-overhanging terrain, though some of the larger holds can be used on the steeps.

3. Entre Prises “Super Tweaks”   These holds were the secret to my speedy ascent of To Bolt Or Not To Be. The north wall of the Lazy H is dead vertical and plastered with these irregular, sloping edges.  These are nearly impossible to pull out on, so they require great balance and footwork.  Perfect for improving technique on a vertical wall.  These will challenge climbers form 5.11-5.14 depending on how they’re used. 

Super Tweaks: These make challenging hand and footholds, depending on how they're oriented.

Super Tweaks: These make challenging hand and footholds, depending on how they’re oriented.

 
Heinously Difficult Edges:

1. e-Grips “Ian’s Tribal”    These guys are brutal–the most challending set in this list–they will transform you into a crimping fiend, assuming you can pull off the ground.  These are 5.14 holds when mounted on a 30 degree overhang.  Nearly all of my hardest Limit Boulder problems feature one or more of these.  The pocket that comes with this set is also my favorite two-finger pocket (when oriented horizontally) and my favorite mono (oriented vertically).

Three of my favorites: 2Tex Pure Crimp in red, Ian's Tribal in green, and Supertweak in blue.

Three of my favorites: 2Tex Pure Crimp in red, Ian’s Tribal in green, and Supertweak in blue.

2. e-Grips “2Tex Pure Crimps”   These edges are awesome.  They feature glassy-smooth texture on the backside so they are impossible to use as footholds.  These are ideal when you want a sidepull or undercling that won’t produce a huge foothold.  Most of these aren’t very incut, so they’re 5.13/14 holds on steeper walls, but 5.11/12 on less-steep walls.

3. e-Grips “Buttons”  These are generally small, but very incut edges.  Some of these can be used as footholds, some as handholds, but they work best overhanging terrain.  These can be in the 5.12 range when used on a 10-degree overhang, up to 5.14 on a 30 degree overhang.

4. e-Grips “Hueco Patina Flakes”  These are small but very incut edges.  They’re much more irregular than most edges, which can provide a nice change of pace.  Often you can get your fingertips “behind” the incuts on these, making them ideal for steeper terrain.  These are generally a bit bigger/easier to use than the buttons.

Pockets:
1. e-Grips “Fossil Pockets”  These pockets are smooth, deep, incut, and ergonomic.  They’re on the large side, making for 5.12/13 terrain on steeper walls and 5.11/12 terrain on less steep walls.
 
2. e-Grips “Limestone Pockets”   These are much more challenging than the Fossil Pockets, and the set includes a couple of mono pockets.  When oriented slopey-side-down on a steep wall, these are 5.14 holds.  When used right-side-up on vertical to 10-degree overhangs these are in the 5.11/12 range.

Drop Art Footholds: Many options for orientation, and some can be used as wicked hard crimps.

Drop Art Footholds: Many options for orientation, and some can be used as wicked hard crimps.

Footholds:
1. e-Grips “Double Disks”   These are highly intricate footholds that require very precise placement and good core tension.  Some of these holds can be used as hand holds too.

2. e-Grips “Drop Art Footholds”  These are intricate footholds that aren’t quite as hard to use as the Double Disks, but they each offer many foothold surfaces so you can rotate them as they wear out.  A few of the larger holds in this set can be used as vicious crimps.
 
3. Screw on Jibs.  These are available from various manufacturers, including Revolution and Metolius.  They’re cheap, easy to install and offer some very challenging shapes. Unfortunately they’re beginning to vanish from the market as gyms adopt elaborate wall surfaces that won’t accept wood screws.

Screw on "Jibs" are always a great choice too.  They're cheap, easy to install and offer som very challenging shapes.  Unfortunately they're beginning to vanish from the market as gyms adopt elaborate wall surfaces that won;t accept wood screws.

Small, sloping jibs like this one from Revolution are great for vertical walls and “kick plates” below steeper walls.

4. Atomik “Bolt-On Feet”  These holds are a bargain, but still offer some really interesting and challenging shapes.  They all require accurate foot placements, and a few of them can pass for handholds on vertical walls.

Atomik Bolt-on Feet offer a lot of variety at a low price.

Atomik Bolt-on Feet offer a lot of variety at a low price.

Recommended Reading – Revelations by Jerry Moffatt

The holidays are upon us, which means friends and relatives will soon be pestering you for your wish list.  If you don’t already have it, I highly recommend asking Santa for a copy of Jerry Moffatt’s outstanding autobiography Revelations.

RevelationsJerry Moffatt was probably the best climber in the world for most of the 1980s, and he continued to push standards throughout the 90’s.  He was integral to the explosion in free climbing standards that occurred during the 1980s.  He was also a highly accomplished trad, headpoint, and solo climber and perhaps the best on sight climber of his generation.

While Moffatt’s story is a fascinating and entertaining read in itself, I mention it here because the book also offers countless insights for the performance-oriented climber.  Moffatt was among the first climbers to really embrace training, and he goes into considerable detail explaining how he trained for different objectives.  He also recounts the legendary characters (like Bachar and Gullich) that influenced his ideas on training, while discussing his thought process when developing training plans for different goals.

Moffatt possessed legendary focus and determination.  He dreamt big, but he backed up his dreams with hard work and tremendous effort in the moment of each ascent.  His book describes in detail how he approached stressful performance situations (like the first On Sight ascent of the Gunks’ Supercrack and World Championship competitions).  Any climber, of any ability, can benefit from these lessons.

ANY climber can benefit from Moffatt's considerable wisdom!  Photo: Nick Clement

ANY climber can benefit from Moffatt’s considerable wisdom! Photo: Nick Clement

While Moffatt was often head and shoulders above his peers, he was not superman.  He provides a glimpse into an elite world that most of us will never experience, yet his story is very relatable.  He frankly describes his various injuries and accidents, humanizing himself while tackling the frustration and despair that comes with any setback.  He confronts many of the same challenges we all face on our own paths to continuous improvement, giving us real hope that we can overcome them too.

I’ve read the book cover-to-cover three times now, and I will surely read it again.  Its hands-down my favorite climbing book.  His trials and eventual triumphs never fail to motivate me, and should give you the extra boost you need to fire up your winter training sessions.

For those who’ve already enjoyed Revelations, here are some other recommendations.  None of these are technical manuals; they are entertaining reads that also impart random snippets of climbing wisdom:

Wolfgang Gullich: Life in the Vertical by Tillmann Hepp.  This biography of the world’s most beloved climber is now out of english print and therefore correspondingly rare and expensive.  However, if you can get your hands on a copy you won’t be disappointed (check your library or ask around–the AAC Library in Golden has a copy).  In addition to recounting Gullich’s countless ground-breaking ascents, the book also discusses his training methods, tactics, and attitudes, including several interviews and short pieces penned by Gullich himself.

Beyond the Summit by Todd Skinner.  This book describes Todd’s quest to free Trango Tower, but also details his development as a climber and other groundbreaking ascents like the Free Salathe Wall.  As a training tool, this book will help you with goal-setting and motivation.

Full of Myself by Johnny Dawes.  To put it simply, Dawes was a rock genius, in the sense that he was an artist of completely unique ability and vision.  He was never the strongest climber, but his talent for movement was incomparable.  His book goes neck-deep into what it takes to become a technical climbing master.  If you’re unfamiliar with his work, consider viewing his legendary film Stone Monkey to get an idea of his abilities (in fact, if you can find the DVD, you might just ask for that instead of the book!):

A History of Freeclimbing in North America: Wizards of Rock by Pat Ament.  This tome is an encyclopedic catalogue of noteworthy ascents from 1869 to 2001.  It’s not the kind of book you would normally read cover-to-cover, but many of the entries include long, first-person accounts from the players themselves.  It’s absolutely essential for any lover of climbing history, but it also has some good insights for the performance-oriented climber, such as interesting training and tactical tidbits from legends like John Bachar, Tony Yaniro, and Alan Watts.  Ament’s occassionally editorializing on style comes off as petty at times, but it’s generally easy to ignore.

If you have any other recommendations for books that offer a bit more than an entertaining read to get us through the long winter, please post them in a comment below.