Learning the Grrr

Yelling to Stick the Move=Part of my Beta (photo by Jody Mayer) “You are one of the quietest climbers I’ve ever seen,” commented another climber to me, some years back. And I was, no doubt about it. The climbing style I’d developed the greatest expertise at—technical face climbing on tiny holds—required such delicate precision yet such relatively little explosive pulling power that I never really moved dynamically. I also simply did not possess the power to unleash, instead always moving slowly, carefully, and in control, balancing and crimpy my way up the slightest little edges. I also thought when people yelled climbing that it was sort of a put-on, a show aimed at making everyone look and see how hard they were trying. I hadn’t realized yet that by limiting myself to a comfortable and familiar style of climbing, I was only experiencing a tiny slice of what climbing has to offer, like a dieter’s meager slice of birthday cake with the icing scraped off. I didn't know that if I opened up my eyes (and trained my butt off), I might actually learn to appreciate a whole new planet of sport climbing and bouldering that I’d never yet experienced.

Fast-forward to now, two-and-a-half years into a relatively consistent process of training pull power on my part (and the consistency has gotten stronger and stronger since the start). Gradually, I have started dynoing more and more, and much to my astonishment, becoming a much noisier climber. It started with routes where I’d get powered down and not be able to pull smoothly from hold to hold any longer—I would start throwing for the next hold, relying on my stronger hands to compensate for my weaker pulling ability, and letting out an unintentional shout with every toss. Then, inside my head, I’d be like, “Whoa, what’s up? Why am I yelling?” And I admit, I felt embarrassed by it…it just seemed so strange that suddenly I was the climber making all the noise and drawing attention to myself.

This spring, during a trip to Skaha, I realized that I finally had enough power for what I think of as the “single-move grrr.” Before, I only could apparently tap into this need to shout when I was already powered down, and could no longer pull elegantly from hold to hold, locking each move off in turn. But now, I found, I not only could pull off the full-force, one-move, try-hard effort, but also, I couldn’t stifle the yell even if I tried (I tried once as an experiment, and it came out as a strangled half-yell, half-yelp, making me laugh after hitting the hold).

A couple days ago, on my first project of the year in Ten Sleep Canyon, I encountered a pure ‘n’ simple yelling move, no question about it. I hung and contemplated the giant distance between the two holds. I tried the move a couple times with no yell. Then, I observed to my friends—a little tentatively, I admit, because I still feel sort of odd about this sometimes—“You know, I think this may be one of those moves that requires a yell?” I trailed off in a questioning tone, wondering if they’d know what I meant, and received an overwhelming wave of support. I went for the move, with a yell of effort, and found myself completing it for the first time.

With every yell that results in success, my conviction grows that yelling is a climbing technique that everyone should try to master early on, with no self consciousness whatsoever. It really does help, and it really isn't to get attention. I see much more grrr in my climbing future, and I’m loving every minute of learning to harness and unleash this amazing technique.