Let me tell you a little secret: when it comes to climbing it’s not how hard you climb that’s really important, but how hard you climb in comparison to your mates.
Nothing is more important than this. And, as they say, knowledge is power (and power is where it’s at*). Armed with this knowledge you can begin to think more laterally when it comes to improving, or, should I say, getting better in relation to your mates. You can begin to see that whilst improving your personal performance is one option, another (and arguably an easier) option is to make your climbing partners shitter.
This leads to the obvious question: how do I make this happen?
Is it just a matter of short-roping them on a critical clip during their redpoint burn or is there more to it? Well, just like training for climbing, the answer is complex and multifaceted and requires some dedication. But let’s start with the basics.
If you ask any climber what’s the simplest way to quickly improve then they will tell you it’s to improve your power-to-weight ration – lose weight. So it logically follows that to make your mates shitter the quickest and easiest path is to make them put on weight – get fatter. Now, there are a number of ways to go about this, you can make them feel worse about themselves (neg them, more on this later) so they get depressed and eat more, or – my personal favourite – you can feed them. Yep, if we follow the revolutionary ‘eat less’ maxim to shed kgs the corollary is also true – eat more lardarse.
By way of example, I will give you exhibit A: my co-editor here at Vertical Life (who I lovingly refer to as El Burro). Two things have been happening lately, first up El Burro has been rapidly improving his climbing (from a low base, obviously). Secondly, I have been getting worse because I had a child and having a child is terrible for your climbing. Things were getting desperate as El Burro’s performance slowly started to rival my own.
My time to do extra training is limited because of said child, so I had to think outside the box, what we referred to earlier as ‘laterally’. I work all day with El Burro, so I began to introduce some sweet treats into his life, maybe a chocolate biscuit with his coffee for a start, then every increasingly regular snacks throughout the day – crumpets with butter, chocolate croissants, McDonalds, chips – slowly building his addiction to salt, sugar and saturated fat. Sure, it was expensive, but it quickly paid dividends as El Burro slowly went from svelt to portly and developed a third chin (prior to this experiment he already sported a second due to his having a weak jaw).
The results were best shown at the crag. El Burro was carrying an extra five kilos, mostly housed around the middle, which meant he was getting pumped quicker, plus he had lost power, while the extra weight meant he was more likely to get injured. In fact, the results were so good I actually took a month off training.
Given my success at making him put on weight, I started to think even more laterally than the box about how he could get worse. Then it struck me, climbing is nothing if not a mental game; I needed to fuck with his head.
So it was that I began to chip away at the foundations of his psyche. And it’s here that I must acknowledge a debt to the dating book, The Game, which first introduced me to the concept of negging – sapping the confidence with the use of low-grade insults (which is, coincidentally, also how I met my wife).
At first I started with things El Burro is naturally weak at, like meeting girls, editing and writing, running him down about his lack of a female companionship, confusing the genitive case and his woeful spelling mistakes (he is quite the looser).
Then I accelerated the negging by questioning some of his bigger choices, like what was he doing with life? Why did he cut his own hair? Why the hell would you tell people about your love of unicorns? Pretty soon El Burro was second guessing every decision he ever made. And not only that, but his growing weight problem fed into his downward spiral of negativity.
And once again all my hard work paid dividends at the crag. Not only was he overweight and weak, but he totally lost his head for leading, he was grabbing ‘draws instead of going for it, berating himself for his many failures (negging himself!) and generally making me look awesome. It was great.
The only negative outcome of the whole process is now that El Burro’s climbing is getting so bad he is actually not that keen to go away. That wouldn’t be a so bad, except for the fact that for some reason I am having lots of problems finding other partners to climb with.
*Beautifully illustrated by my second favourite Stalin quote: “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?”