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Posted on 08. Nov, 2010 by in News

Carlo Traversi, an American currently climbing in Switzerland has been climbing very well, with ascents of The Dagger V14, in Cresciano, The Never Ending Story V14 and Booglagga V13, among others. He has been updating his blog regularly and he wrote something recently that caught my eye. He writes at about watching Dai Koyamada, the famous Japanese boulderer, working on Big Paw, an unrepeated V15 in Chironico. Here is what Traversi said:

As the sun went behind the mountain and the temps dropped we headed down to Boogalagga 8B for some attempts and to watch Dai Koyamada try Big Paw 8C (the low start). He’s very, very close and will climb it any minute. I’ve been very impressed by his style of climbing and the way that he projects hard boulders. His beta and movements are very calculated and precise, and it’s a pleasure to watch. Hard climbing at it’s finest.

A few things about this struck me. First of all, Dai is one of the best boulderers in the world. He has done the FA of The Wheel of Life (9a route grade), the second ascent of The Story of Two Worlds V15,

Action Directe 9a route, Angama V15 FA in Font and numerous other V14 and V15s around the world. There are several things that stand out about what Carlo says he saw. First of all, Dai is climbing on the problem in the evening, when the temperatures drop. The importance of good conditions when trying to send something at your limit is paramount. It can only be a difference of 10 degrees that can change things from failing to sending. I spent most of the summer waiting for the temperatures to drop for several key projects. This weekend I went to Mt. Evans, and climbed Chrome V12, a very sloping lip traverse. I had tried Chrome earlier in the fall when it was in the 60s. The holds felt ok, but I was sliding around and it wasn’t happening. Instead of throwing myself at it over and over, I sat back and patiently waited for weeks. When I went back on Friday the temperature was around 35. The slopers felt tacky, my hands were dry the entire time and I felt energized with the cold air in my lungs. I climbed the problem quickly. This didn’t happen by chance and when I read what Carlo wrote it sounds like Dai has gone through the same logical thought process. Not surprisingly it works if you’re trying to climb V15, V13, V12, V9 or V5.
Secondly, Carlo writes that he is impressed with Dai’s “beta and movements” and that they are “very calculated and precise”. He also comments on “the way he projects hard boulders.” This has nothing to do with Dai’s strength. It has everything to do with his ability to apply logic to an objective goal, and then carry out that logic to presumably send the problem. It’s a fair presumption to make given his track record of hard ascents. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dai was also cleaning his shoes, cleaning the holds, making good tick marks, using liquid chalk, and taking well thought out rests between each burn. Should he climb Big Paw it is clearly not just an achievement of the body, but one of a well working brain. It’s obvious to me that this is how things should work, but it’s rare that I see this applied at the crag. Perhaps the difference between, for example, Dave Graham, Angie Payne, and Dai is not their fingers, but their ability to apply their minds in a logical way. For the sake of the argument, I would go so far to say that this may be the only reason they are better than everyone else. Deciding to go to Switzerland at the appropriate time, to try the hardest problems there, to put yourself there at the coldest time of the day, to refine the beta and movement so much that Carlo (who has climbed several V14s) is impressed says a lot about how important Dai thinks thinking is. One may argue, “well Dai is so strong, of course he will do it.” I would counter with the idea that Dai is probably training in the same well thought out manner, and it is his mind that is preparing a program and motivating him to do so.
I think another great example is Angie Payne and her ascent of The Automator. Ange would be the first to admit that she is not as strong as Alex Puccio physically, but her commitment to pick a project, refine the beta, continue to stay motivated, wear the right shoes, go when conditions are good, etc., etc., all demonstrate that her climbing The Automator was an achievement of the mind, and I think anyone who knows Ange would agree. And she reaps the benefit of being the first woman to climb a confirmed V13 in the world.
Finally, both Ange and Dai have the confidence to know that they can climb this hard, because they have traveled around the world and built a base of hard climbs to stand strongly on. I don’t know for certain that these ideas are correct, but I would love to hear if there are other ideas about why Carlo was so impressed and why Dai and Angie are two of the best.

34 Responses to “Update”

  1. Kaelen W

    08. Nov, 2010

    Climbing is a mystery. It’s such a mind@#$%$ to watch someone flail on a climb I can flash, then realize that there are people that can flash things that I can’t send after days of trying.

  2. Chris W

    08. Nov, 2010

    Jamie, I totally agree with your assessment. There is a reason that projects, no matter what grade, happen when they do. The projects go when everything comes together as it should with respect to beta, strength, friction, and motivation. There is no doubt, that Dai, Angie and many other of the world’s best climbers accomplish the challenging sends they have to their credit because of both strength (which in my opinion also develops most effectively when a disciplined mind is at work, and thus is a function of a use of your brain power) and an amazing application of brain power. The ability to exercise the power of your mind over problems is what allows for the most effective use of one’s ability. Often, it can be something as simple as how a toe is pointed, or staying just that little bit tighter. But even more than that, taking the time to rest and analyze your previous attempts between routes, so as to maximize the next attempt, while a simple idea, is one that requires great discipline and focus. I think many climbers, myself included, would benefit dramatically from making more effective use of one of the most powerful muscles we have at our disposal!

  3. Jumbo Fitzgerald

    08. Nov, 2010

    Angamma? Could you maybe post a link to some info on the problem?

  4. B3

    08. Nov, 2010

  5. Markku Laine

    08. Nov, 2010

    Jamie, could you correct the names of these two climbs in your article in order to avoid confusion:
    * Action Direct –> Action Directe (
    * Angamma –> Angama (

  6. rabah

    08. Nov, 2010

    mental strength is definately more important than physical strength. its how you push your personal limits.

  7. Nate

    08. Nov, 2010

    Check out this interview of Dave:
    In a round about way he is discussing the power of the mind in climbing. I would like to mention two other ways in which the mind impacts our climbing. One is our belief that a problem is possible or impossible. Too many times have I written off a problem as “impossible” because of my limited vision. I have unlocked sequences to many of my projects when I was exhausted. This was because I was unconsciously forced to listen to my body. The second way extends from the first. Being able to listen to your body when trying something at your limit. In many situations are preconceived notions get in the way of listening to our body tell us how to climb a problem. I agree with Jamie’s idea of not wasting time with crappy conditions.


    08. Nov, 2010

    good points, jamie. no offense by this, but to many, these points seem so self evident as to go without being said…. confusingly, it is so easy for new climbers AND veterans to forget these simple points.

    how many times have people’s feet slipped off holds and they have cursed the heavens, yet not wiped the bright white dusting of chalk off their shoes?

    how many times has someone (me x100) been pressed for time and not stopped between burns to rest for more than 10 seconds within an “hour of power” session.

    no wonder why v7 can feel like v11, i guess.

    we do it to ourselves because we do not tune into the keys to maximize success. we are blinded by the urge to succeed immediately.

    so, after lying awake in the night re-thinking each failed attempt on an “in the bag” send that slipped away, we remember these details…. rest, clean shoes, clean holds, temperature/sun, etc. we get crazy detail oriented and manic for the next session. we eek out a send and stand victorious…

    until our friend walks the rig in blown out traddie shoes without chalk, in the full sun, and after having stood in the mud.


  9. Thresh sets

    08. Nov, 2010

    Jamie Ive been a big fan of your blog and really enjoyed this article. Your analysis was spot on and a great read!

  10. peter beal

    08. Nov, 2010

    Not to mention not having to work a normal job for a living and being able to travel and try these problems more or less at will. Despite your previously mentioned example of James Litz, are we seeing the end of amateur “weekend warriors” being able to achieve levels of difficulty regarded as interesting?

  11. B3

    08. Nov, 2010

    “good points, jamie. no offense by this, but to many, these points seem so self evident as to go without being said…. confusingly, it is so easy for new climbers AND veterans to forget these simple points.””

    More often than not I see climbers failing to follow through with what you say is obvious. Apparently it’s not so obvious. Justin, do you recall the time I told you to take a longer rest, that it might help and you said I made you feel like a victim? Ridiculous case in point. And what was the result of your victimization? A send. One point I’d like to get across is that when you see climbers with sloppy footwork, or climbers who aren’t resting long enough, or haven’t brushed the holds, or aren’t wearing 5.10s, or aren’t giving a maximal effort, it’s obvious they could be putting more thought into what they are doing, and in doing so would have a better chance of sending.
    Peter, I think this is a great point. I often think of my self as a “recreational” climber or a glorified weekend warrior. Without more time, money or freedom, I can’t push things much farther than I have. As impressive as Litz is he is still just shy of the cutting edge of difficulty.

  12. Christopher

    08. Nov, 2010

    Interesting post, Jamie! I would like to play devil’s advocate, though, in response to your comment “for the sake of the argument, I would go so far to say that [their ability to apply their minds in a logical way] may be the only reason they are better than everyone else.”
    I find this line of thinking interesting because it seems to be representative of a growing number of climbers who hold mental and technical training to be not only of greater efficacy than physical training, but also to be of greater intrinsic value. And while I think that the question of efficacy in regard to training focus can and should be debated for the sake of progress in the sport, I’m very curious as to the reason for why one form of training can be called intrinsically better than any other.
    For example, if we took two different climbers at the same base level of, say, V3 ability, and we had one of them train with an emphasis on mental and technical ability, and the other one on physical ability, and then at some point(s) in the future each of them was able to climb at a V7 level, isn’t it true that most people would say that the mental/technical wizard is the “better climber”? Why is this? Don’t the two climbers both get up the same pieces of rock? Didn’t the physically emphasized climber work equally hard (albeit possibly longer) than the mentally/technically trained one? I don’t think that we should be so quick to hold one climber’s attributes as “better” than another’s if they can both climb the exact same things.
    The reason I say all that is because I think that this faulty line of reason tends to lead to a complete dismissal of anything that can’t be affected and changed by this valuable, conscious, mental effort (i.e. sheer genetic ability). However, if we take this line of reasoning to it’s logical conclusion, then we must admit that the only reason Dai or Dave or Angie is any better than the super-psyched, mentally brilliant, logically-driven paraplegic is because they can “apply their minds in a logical way.” And this seems to be quite a clear logical contradiction, don’t you think?

  13. Mark E

    08. Nov, 2010

    Good thoughts. I was a bit surprised to read that climbers who “aren’t wearing 5.10s” need to put more thought into what they’re doing. Is the brand of climbing shoe really that crucial? Maybe … I’m not in a position to argue the finer points of V-hard sending. Just seemed odd from a blogger who usually avoids product endorsements.

  14. campusman

    08. Nov, 2010

    just climb stretch & eat


  15. Cape Elizabeth Danny

    08. Nov, 2010

    “One point I’d like to get across is that when you see climbers … [who] aren’t wearing 5.10s, or aren’t giving a maximal effort, it’s obvious they could be putting more thought into what they are doing, and in doing so would have a better chance of sending.”

    yea nobody sends hard in sportivas…buhuhuhuhuhuhuhuhuh!

  16. Peter

    09. Nov, 2010

    Good points. About temperature – I climb in the mornings a lot because the temps are better. Although climbing in the evening seems popular, you get better temps (and weather) in the mornings.

  17. seth

    09. Nov, 2010

    i completely agree Jamie. I witnessed similar results from non-fulltime climbers (Blake comes to mind with very difficult ascents up the Poudre and Park) due to his very methodical approach to bouldering, paying very close attention to conditions, and refining beta.

    As an aside, he would certainly argue (and has with me) that 510 shoes aren’t needed (he was climbing in montrail climbing shoes for years, and I would ridicule him mercilessly)

    Great post.

  18. B3

    09. Nov, 2010

    I made a generalization. Clearly, someone who thinks logically and analytically won’t out climb Daniel, if they have no arms, but the only way they will climb anything is by overcoming their handicap with the power of the mind. They can be the best they can be given the circumstances. For fully functioning climbers, I think this may still hold true.

  19. B3

    09. Nov, 2010

    Also, one harmless plug for Five Ten, who has been very loyal to me is a small thing to put up with. Especially when I think that their shoes are the best and have helped me send countless problems.

  20. Pat

    09. Nov, 2010

    While I certainly understood your comment as a bit of humor, and sponsor recognition, I think that in the interests of this topic, it is more important to stress the importance of generally good shoe fit, regardless of the brand. Again, not trying to be critical, because I did find the comment entertaining.

  21. campusmang

    09. Nov, 2010

    dont put up with online fools

    upset them until they cant take it anymore


  22. B3

    09. Nov, 2010

    I think, after much deliberation, that 5.10 is the best brand and their rubber is the stickiest. There was nothing general about any of it.

  23. matt

    09. Nov, 2010

    First off I really enjoy the discussions and points that are brought up on this site. I think this is a great forum for discussing all things bouldering!

    B3 how do you define cutting edge? I’ve read about Litz’s difficult first ascents and how quickly he dispatches hard problems where ever he climbs.

    Are you suggesting Litz or anyone else who climbs at his level must be traveling and repeating other hard problems to be considered on the cutting edge of difficulty?

    What if all he does is stay in his hometown and puts up countless FA’s that are just at or above what is considered to be cutting edge for the grade?

    If all these FA’s go unrepeated for years like many of his problems have I would consider that the cutting edge of difficulty. Would you not?

  24. Mark E

    09. Nov, 2010

    Regarding the 5.10 plug … fair enough. It’s your blog and you’re certainly entitled to suggest that those shoes are the best available. It just struck me as different than the other advice in your post, which is excellent and applies well to all kinds of climbers. For me, that brand doesn’t fit my foot as well as some others. Minor point.

  25. joeyjoejoe

    09. Nov, 2010

  26. campusman

    10. Nov, 2010

    more about the liquid chalk comment
    .Since I climb pretty much exclusively in Grand Ledge we don’t worry about slipping off holds, even on a hot day (Our friction is hands down the best)… but did break down for a comp and got some of the liquid chalk because I knew it was going to be a hot comp (because I was there). The stuff I got contains aluminum which is toxic so I never used it. I’m hoping to get an exchange for the Mammut stuff next time I’m at the gym.

    tests show that bison makes the best block chalk

  27. seth

    10. Nov, 2010

    @ jemerson 510= the stickiest of the ickiest, no diggity.

  28. campusman

    10. Nov, 2010

    im so lost and confused now

    510+C4= B3 ??

    please clarify

  29. meatpie

    10. Nov, 2010

    I believe Dai uses different brands of chalk depending on the condition as well. Also, check out the number of custom made shoes he brought along for the trip.

    I think there’s something we could all learn from this man

  30. Atticus

    10. Nov, 2010

    Jamie makes some good, obvious points, but I don’t believe that he really highlighted what Carlo was impressed by. I lived in Japan and have watched Dai Koyomada climb. As Carlo points out, he is calculated and precise. He knows how to move very efficiently and uses his core very well. His beta is creative and, when he executes, it’s as if he’s done the problem a 100 times. He doesn’t hesitate, and he moves smoothly through difficult transitions. His footwork is impeccable. Dai could be climbing a V0, and it would still be impressive.

    I have watched Angie Payne climb; again, she has great technique. She knows how to get the most out of her body. She can outclimb strong women and men, not because she tries harder, but because she took the time to learn how to climb. She knows how to grab the rock, when to rest, how to breathe properly, how to weight her foot, etc…
    Sure, trying hard is a factor and is always essential to success, but it’s knowing how to try hard that makes the difference between a mediocre climber and a great one. It is essential for a climber to learn how to train, how to move, how to figure out sequences, and how to improvise in order to reach full potential.

    Climbing is a technique-based sport, and Americans are not known for their great technique. They will jump, campus, and claw their way up the wall by any means necessary. Having control and fluidity is generally not their biggest goal. Dave Graham, Fred Nicole, Dave Macleod, and Francois Legrand have all addressed this issue. This style of climbing may be efficient at times, but a fully developed climber should be able to adapt his or her body to many different styles of climbing. What is impressive about people like Angie Payne or Dai Koyamada is not that they can project difficult problems; it is that they have learned to move. So, the next time you see Angie climbing, pay attention. You might learn something.

    “Its not what you climb, but how you climb it”- Lynn Hill

  31. best of the east

    12. Nov, 2010

    what i found the hardest in bouldering is how to rest enough beetwen attempts. i wonder what Dai is doing if he rest for an hour inbeetwen each try?!

  32. Translator

    13. Nov, 2010

    I think you’d be interested to know that in the video, Dai speaks about how he admires Wolfgang Gullich…about his intense training as well as how he uses his mind and climbs in a logical/rational way.

  33. B3

    13. Nov, 2010

    Thank you so much for the translation. That is awesome to hear!

  34. poobear

    13. Nov, 2010

    Dai did the 2nd ascent of Big Paw yesterday as well

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