Lattice Blog

Interview: Alice Hafer on breaking in to 5.14

© Irene Yee/@ladylockoff

Firstly Alice, I want to say a massive congratulations for breaking into the 5.14 club! I think you’ve got to be really proud of the hard work and consistency that you’ve put in and that it’s all been despite an injury set back along the way – impressive! Certainly it’s been inspiring to be a small part of the process here with the Lattice team.

The primary reason why I was set into action for interviewing you was a post that I saw you place on our Lattice Community Facebook group. You’d asked whether other climbers also struggled with the ability to turn high bouldering grades into equally high route levels. I’m right in saying that you were unsure about how you could have ticked multiples in the V10/11 range yet your hardest redpoint was 5.13b/c? I ask this, because I know that you were indeed successful in turning that route grade into 5.14 this past month! What happened?!

Well, it all started when I met Molly Mitchell and we started climbing together. She’s a really strong climber (RPs at 5.14) and in training together I felt we were close in strength, and she encouraged me to try something harder as I was currently climbing about 13b/8a.

It was as simple as that? Just try a harder project?

There’s more to it than that of course! More than just going climbing together and trying a hard project, we also picked 5.14 projects next to each other at the same crag this Spring. We both knew we had time to climb 2-3 days outside and then we’d train together indoors afterwards.

Ah so you had a really nice partnership of projecting and training? Sharing the process together?

I think crucially for me, she was so encouraging through the whole process. She’d just done her first 5.14 the year before and I trusted her opinion. I also felt like the support of the other friends I’d made in the local Vegas climbing community was so important – a number of friends were also very encouraging, saying that it’s ok to flail around and try what you want to try! I always felt too intimated to fail on harder grades before.  

Do you think in your mind that 5.14 seemed too lofty a grade? Something impossible?

It felt like such an outrageous goal – I’d previously done 13b/c. But everyone here had such a good attitude and would always reassure me that I could do it. When I’d climbed previously on hard grades, there were so many people watching and providing external pressure and I found that really held me back and I would always give up.

Huh, that’s interesting! I think I see the same quite a lot here in the UK at the crags where it’s packed all the time and everyone knows everyone (or of them). It’s a full public viewing gallery and that watching doesn’t always feel supportive when everyone silently looks away when you fall off. It’s definitely happened to me plenty!

In different circumstances, I’d come across people who’d suggested I go up through the grades so slowly. I’m not sure that’s always the right way to go about things. It can be good to break out of that mold.  

Tell me about how the finger injury in Febuary affected you.

It’s kind of hilarious, but my injury brought to light the truth about sport climbing. I was bouldering V4 in the gym and that was my max and then I did an 8a while still recovering from an injured finger! I suddenly realized that I was a third as strong as I used to be and I could still do 8a sport. That was a major eye opener. It wasn’t my strength, it was fitness and using efficiency!

How did you find the training we gave you? Anything in particular make a difference?

The fingerboard protocols that I did at 40% and 60% made a big change. I would climb awfully straight after, but then a couple of days later I would suddenly feel an increase in endurance. I also trained on the project –  I would climb the lower portion before the crux faster and faster (30m) and I would get pumped intentionally…. So basically I developed specific endurance on the project. This was also combined with the “Boulder Circuit Combo Session” and other power endurance exercises to get me into shape.

It’s cool to see that you managed to get on ok with the inside-outside combo and made improvements all the way through it. We’re really keen with most of our clients to show them how it’s possible to keep making gains whilst being outside. It’s just a balancing act!

Yeah for training + outdoor projecting, I found it turned into a bit of a recipe. I dropped my power endurance training to just a single day a week when I started redpointing as I was a bit too tired from training to perform well. I do think that it may have made the project process last a bit longer but I ended up fitter and stronger in the long run. For me, just climbing on the project, wasn’t enough physical stimulation. I always ended up adding in the extra loading and doing the rings and shoulder stability to continue to improve on some of those things that are so important to my long term plan. In fact, I know that Molly fingerboards before she goes on projecting everyday, but that was more than my fingers could handle straightaway after my injury.

Hey Alice, thanks so much for taking to time to talk through your own process. I’ve enjoyed seeing you learn about the training, develop your own management skills for the climbing-training and in the end crush so very nice projects. Very, very psyched for you!!  

Final round up…. So one thing I wanted to leave you all with, is a few of my own “take home” messages that I think we can learn from Alice and the process she’s been through.

  1. Don’t hold yourself back from trying stuff. You will never know unless you at least spend a few sessions on something that felt unrealistic.
  2. Finding supportive climbing partners is utterly key. Personally, I know I’d be nowhere near as effective without Pete Whittaker to train with.
  3. If you’re only having 2-3 redpoint burns on a project 2-3x a week, think about adding in extra training! Talk to an experienced coach/trainer and ask them whether they think you’ve got the training history to support it!
  4. Specificity is key. Once you’re deep in the project, make sure the energy system training you do compliments both the intensity and duration of your goal.

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