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Crimper: Does Targeted Training/Age Effect The Performance of Climbers Over a Specified Course?

Submitted by metoliusmunchkin on 2002-03-17

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The large debate that has arisen over the years, has been between the younger climbers, and the older, more experienced climbers. Although, to better understand this debate, one must know the particulars of some situations, in the climbing community of today.

Traditionalists, are rock climbers who place temporary protection upon the rocks (protection to prevent from falling from the rock face to the ground). This protection is later removed by the climber after he/she has completed the climb. The population occupying the status of ‘traditionalist’ (or ‘trad climbers’) are climbers, particularly over the age of 30. These older climbers resent the fact that the younger climbers (mostly ‘sport climbers’ - ‘sport’ being, that while climbing, the protection the climber will place upon the rock face, is permanent, and is left for later use) are dominating the harder climbs (they can climb a higher level of difficulty than most traditionalists).

For instance, I have conducted a poll on (the largest rock climbing database on the entire Internet) of people all across the globe, seeing what average grade of difficulty (using the Yosemite Decimal System*) is climbed by traditionalists, and by sport climbers. I have discovered, that the average grade, climbable by traditionalists, is at the 5.10 range, and that the average grade climbable by sport climbers, is at the 5.11b and above range. This has proven, that a large majority of sport climbers, can in fact climb harder grades, which would lead us to conclude once more (taking into consideration the fact that most sport climbers are young, or below the age of 30) that the younger climbers, can climb at a higher level of difficulty.

Assessing the facts made above (before beginning the experiment), allowed me to intelligently theorize the outcome of my testings, without having to resort to my own personal opinions.

Yosemite Decimal System:

5.0 5.4 5.8 5.10a 5.11a 5.12a 5.13a 5.14a 5.15a
5.1 5.5 5.9 5.10b 5.11b 5.12b 5.13b 5.14b 5.15b
5.2 5.6 5.10c 5.11c 5.12c 5.13c 5.14c
5.3 5.7 5.10d 5.11d 5.12d 5.13d 5.14d

* The Yosemite Decimal System is a system used to grade the difficulty of a climb. The numbers range from 5.0 (being the easiest climb – the equivalent to walking up a hill – it is quite rare the one will ever see this grade) to 5.15b. Once the rating reaches 5.10, a letter is added to this decimal, to create an even more accurate grading system.

The first three columns (ranging from 5.0 - 5.9) are the beginner to intermediate level routes, while the second grouping of ratings (ranging from 5.10a - 5.11d) is reserved for the advanced climbers. The routes in the third grouping of ratings (ranging from 5.12a - 5.13d) are solely for expert climbers, with a complete accented ability to climb hard routes. The fourth grouping of ratings (ranging from 5.14a -5.14d), is for those who acquire certain amounts of unnatural climbing abilities, either caused by an enhanced muscle strength at birth, or from an extreme combination of training and practice. And finally, the last column (ranging from 5.15a - 5.15b), is reserved for mutants. The climbers who can even come close to achieving the ascent of such a grade deserve a level of our utmost respect.

There has been much controversy over that finale column over the past few months. For years climbers have been attempting a grade, higher than that of 5.14d, although have never been able, using the Yosemite Decimal System, to declare it for certain. Although, now that the grade of 5.15a, and possibly 5.15b have been declared, there has been much speculation among the climbing community. Has the goal really been achieved? The answer, in most peoples opinions (including the members of is yes. The grade of 5.15a was achieved by Chris Sharma, of Santa Cruz, California. The route, entitled “Realization” has been graded among the rank of 5.15a, and is located in Ceuse, France. A truly memorable event in climbing history. [page]

Aim: Does targeted training/age effect the performance of climbers over a specified course?

Subjects will climb over the selected specified course (course remains the same throughout experiment). I will then assign the subjects to targeted training to be done once a day, over a span of four weeks - they will be tested every Friday. (This specified course is an outdoor course. In utilizing this outdoor climbing course, we can then presume how the relatively cold weather conditions affect the performance of the climbers as well. There is also a large age gap between my two subjects, this is to see whether their age affects their performance level on the course).


As all creatures become older, their performance in all activities (gradually) begins to diminish. Climbing is a rigorous action causing the strain of muscles, in order to pull one’s own weight in an upwards motion. As Subject One is 13-years-old, and Subject Two is 50-years-old, this would lead me to theorize that the younger subject would perform at a higher level than the older subject. To factor in the variable of training, I would have to thus hypothesize that the younger subject will have a greater improvement rate than that of the older subject (even though they have done exactly the same amount of training, using exactly the same training rubric. In addition, as the climbing course is outdoors, one must consider the winter temperatures, and resume hypothesizing that the younger subject would perform at a higher level, even under the colder outdoor environment.


  • One (1) Outdoor Climbing Course (Campus Board, equipped with slats, and jugs).

  • Two (2) Subjects of differing age (an age gap of 37 years).

  • Two (2) large hand presses of equal resistance.

  • One (1) Camera (to record observations).


    1. Have subjects climb the wooden Slats (hand holds) on the campus board (specified course) for the first time.

  • Now have subjects climb the Jugs (hand holds) on the campus board.
  • Record the distance they have traveled upwards for both the Slats and the Jugs using a chart - later to be turned to a graph (to measure distances traveled by each subject) - and taking pictures.
  • Find the average length of the two climbs (one upon the Slats, and one upon the Jugs) of Subject One, and Subject Two.

    2. After recording Subject One and Two’s efforts upon the wall, each subject will be given a sheet, containing the specific training routine to be done once per day. (See below to view Training Rubric).

    3. One week later, after the two Subject’s have completed their 7-day training, repeat step One.
  • Be sure that each Subject has been doing their training for the whole week, before the next testing.

    4. Continue this pattern for the next four weeks. Finalize all observations on charts and graphs.

    Training Rubric:

    To be done once per day:

    a. 3 sets of 10 pushups, with a 2 minute break between sets.

    b. 3 sets of 20 situps, with a 2 minute break between sets.

    c. With right hand, squeeze the large hand press to the maximum of your capability, before releasing. Continue this pattern until 20 reps have been done. Repeat with left hand.

    d. With right hand, squeeze large hand press to the maximum of your capability, and hold it at this point until failure. Repeat with left hand. Do this a total of three times with a 2 minute break in between each rep.


    I have correctly hypothesized the outcome of my subject’s testings. I had earlier theorized, that Subject One (13-years-old) due to his young age, will perform at a higher level, and have a much greater improvement rate, than Subject Two (who has turned 50 since the conceiving of the hypothesis).

    Subject One has not only performed at a higher level than Subject Two, but has also greatly surpassed Subject Two’s improvement rate. Subject One had an overall average improvement rate of 38.75 % since his first performance. Subject Two on the other hand, only obtained an overall average improvement rate of 12.5% since his first performance. As you can see from the graphs and charts provided, Subject One has proven to be quite superior, when it comes to climbing a specified course with the aid of targeted training.

    The most obvious point one would have to make, is that Subject One, because of him being 37 years younger than Subject Two, has performed at a higher level. Although, to add to Subject One’s feats, we must factor in the cold weather (an unfortunate, uncontrollable variable) that my subjects were forced to climb in. My two brave subjects were coaxed into climbing in - 30 degrees Celsius (the lowest temperature during testing). Because the two subjects had done such rigorous and demanding testings, Subject One, had caught a cold. This must have, to some degree, hindered his abilities to climb, especially under the harsh conditions present. Yet, he still managed, with this disability, to outdo Subject Two. This experiment might have been better conducted if the variable of weather could have been controlled.

    The younger subject has proven to perform better and improve faster than the older subject. [page]


    After the climbing testings of Subject One and Subject Two, we can most certainly conclude that Subject One, due to his younger age, his superior climbing performance, and his superior overall improvement rate, that, younger persons, with the aid of targeted training, and despite extreme cold, performs better upon a specified course. Seeing as both subjects received the same amount of training (an identical training rubric), and climbed over the exact same course, in the exact same conditions (the same conditions for each testing, for they were tested at the same time - same day), all of the variables have been controlled. This although, will have to exclude the uncontrollable variable of weather, however, seeing as both subjects have climbed at the same time (within the same half hour), they were tested in the same weather conditions of that particular day.

    We can now lay to rest one technicality of the age old climbing debate. It is now a possibility to state that under colder conditions, with targeted training as an aid, younger climbers will perform at a higher level than older climbers.


    As I have concurred that older climbers do not perform as well as younger climbers under cold weather conditions, it would be of the older climbers’s best interests, to climb in warmer areas of the world, once the reach they age of 40 (or to simply take special precautions of staying warm, to increase their performance level, when climbing in colder areas).

    Throughout the ages, climbers across the globe have been envisioning different fashions of improving climbing’s overall enjoyment, and its advance in technology. In the last 100 years, climbing has seen a great improvement in the design of climbing shoes, nuts, bolts, advanced ropes (static, and dynamic), new and innovative sorts of temporary protection etc. With the information taken from my experiment, climbing visionaries can now conceive new improvements for its vastly expanding community, such as: Technologically advanced winter climbing gear specifically made for the warming of an older persons biological structure. This winter climbing gear, such as coats, gloves, boots, and other outdoor winter alpinist gear, would be specifically built for keeping persons over the age of 40, warm and comfortable (this adaptation for those over 40, would not only be the gear’s fit, yet also its way of specially insulating an older person’s body). [page] Variables

    Seeing as my testings deal with the improvement of climbers, over a specified course, there were in fact some obvious variables, that, in order for the experiment’s results to return conclusively, must be controlled.

    One of these was the amount of training that each of my subjects had undertook throughout the course of the four-week testing period. Both subjects, according to my method, had to undergo a specific amount of targeted training, and, to make sure that each of my subjects had the same amount of training, I had designed a training rubric, to be given to each of them. (This training rubric stated the exact exercises my subjects had to do, including when they had to do it, and the number of reps for each exercise).

    The second of these, was the specified course my subjects had to climb. In order to control this variable, I needed first of all, a climbing course, specifically designed for what my subjects would be tested on. In this case, the specified course would be a campus board, containing both campus slats, and jugs. This is the specified course. To make for certain that the campus board remains exactly the same for each testing (its physical condition), the two subjects were tested within the same half hour (of the once per week testings).

    The third and final variable that was impossible to control was the weather. As the campus board was outside, in the height of the winter season, it was quite hard to control the weather, so that at each test, once per week, would have the same temperature, wind velocity, precipitation etc. However, the campus board was in the shelter of my car port, and this could provide, to some degree, a level of controlled environment that my subjects have climbed in. Each test was done within the semi-confinements of my carport, this must have, to some degree, sheltered the subjects for each test, and thus being the closest way of controlling the weather as I could have possibly come.

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