CATS Ethics

What I am addressing here is heel hooking and matching on holds.

Climbing at CATS is not rock climbing.

A small Facebook thread is what motivated me to write this. Basically it came up that "there's a gym in Boulder that doesn't allow heel hooking". This prompted responses such as:

"WHAT?! No heel hooking?! How will you climb? Not to mention, what a bizarre restriction!" 
"That's craziness!"
"WTF? that makes no sense"

Now I will give them that there is probably a certain level of misunderstanding, as perhaps they think it is a completely enforced, defacto rule in a standard climbing gym, such as no swearing. That is not quite the way that it works in CATS. If you happen to stop in or are not terribly experienced we are certainly not going to pull you off the wall for heel hooking. However there is certainly confusion, and negativity coming from those who do understand that it is a matter of ethics here at CATS and not a true "gym rule", partially given that CATS is only part climbing gym and does not employ any full time staff exclusively for climbing purposes.

Although the end purpose of getting stronger often differs greatly, for instance Ryan Silven, Angie Payne and myself all climb in CATS to get stronger, but for different reasons. But again climbing in CATS or any gym is not rock climbing. People are not completing problems here to tick off a list, post on 8a.nu or brag to sponsors. You climb in the gym to train, especially at the Colorado Athletic Training School. And although almost tangential, I would like to point out that the primary usefulness of gym climbing is in training strength, not technique. If you want to be able to rock climb well, you had better climb on rock. Climbing in Movement for months is only going to prepare you so much for understanding how to move through Spanish limestone. However doing constant laps and suicides at Movement can give you the basic endurance to not be completely overwhelmed.

We try to embrace making things harder not easier and becoming stronger climbers at CATS. It should be no ones goal in the gym to claw your way up a boulder by whatever means. This makes no sense, to me at least. All gym climbing is incredibly contrived, at a gym with the hold density of CATS 99% of holds on the wall are "off" for whatever problem you are working on. It is not some quantum leap in contrivance to not allow heel hooking. We want you to become a better climber.

When you are climbing on crimps you are training finger strength, when doing long moves on bad jibs we are training core tension. When you heel hook inside what are you training? To even say you are "training" heel hooking I believe to be quite a stretch, heel hooking outdoors is completely different than heel hooking inside. Yes indoor crimps are not shaped the exact same as outdoor crimps, but your ability to hold onto a small edge is the same regardless; it is a basic strength. Heel hooking rarely come down to whatever the hell muscle in your leg is needed. Heel hooks are much more subtle, involving positioning and specific torque. This makes "training" heel hooking quite impractical and something much better learned on the specific problem you are trying outside.

The next point to make is that of priorities. If you were given the choice of training: calf raises so your legs would not pump out as easily on slab climbs or campus boarding. The obvious answer would be campusing as it builds a much wider and more useful set of strengths. In this poor example you can of course choose to do both. However when on a climb you cannot choose to do both. You can choose to train heel hooking, but when you choose to heel hook, depending on the move you are choosing to make a sacrifice in training finger strength, power, lock off, or most frequently tension. Or you can choose to not heel hook which will require more from you and make you a better climbing. Again the goal should not be to make things easier.

The last point I will make regarding these end results is in the process of climbing your projects and your personal best. Lets say you find a project you would like to do with a hard heel hook, and you have not been "training" heel hooks. It will feel hard at first, someone who has been heel hooking in the gym does it faster lets say. However it is still putting your heel on a hold. You will figure out how to place it, how to torque it, how to use it. In the second scenario lets say you want to do a hard project that does not have a heel hook in the crux. I would say if you are not strong enough to grab a small hold, isolate it off of one foot and do a long pull. It is certainly much more difficult, if not impossible to learn those strengths in any sort of realistic time period. And heel hooking does in fact impede the progression of finger strength (and others) because you are just putting your body weight on your legs and bone structure which are use to that stress.

I feel like the points to be made against matching on small holds are even more obvious and I will not go into depth. It is the same basic principle as mentioned previously. Although to clarify this in regards to matching as an intermediate (bring a  hand into match on a hold and then move with that hand again). But first I think an easy question to ask to help explain, and show the errors of matching is simply: Why?? Why would you choose to match on that hold? The only possible thing I can think of is "to help me send the problem". Well why are you trying to send this problem? We have already established this is not rock climbing, this is not in the middle of a competition with money on the line. You are trying to complete this problem in the gym to become a stronger climber. I think it is pretty clear that in simple campus board perspectives it is maybe V6(??) to go from rung 1 to rung 5, match and then go to rung 9. While it is about V15(??) to go from 1 to 5 to 9 without matching. Matching as an intermediate greatly reduces the number of muscles groups and strength required to do a move.

Do we still have fun in CATS even though we do not match and heel hook? Certainly! We are not all sitting around with stopwatches and protein shakes. I think it is universal that people enjoy progressing; being able to do more climbs, send projects and move up to harder ones. We at CATS enjoy that the most as well. Heel hooking itself is not that fun, we would rather progress and become stronger climbers.

45 comments:

  1. ON POINT, James! I can't wait to come back to CATS soon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. you guys don't know what progression tactics are do you.....

      Delete
  2. I have no quarrels with _indoor_ climbing as a means of improving _outdoor_ climbing. Indeed, at the gym one can knock out in two hours what could otherwise take a whole day outdoors. Also, being able to control the angle as well as the holds makes it ideal for training, as is the case with a system wall - which is what you are talking about.

    What I'm trying to say is, when you're done doing campus crimps, do get off the high horse with your elaborate law of, "Indoor climbing is not rock climbing." If you mean that plastic != rock, well then right you are! Let us create a new sport and call it plastic climbing! There will be no plastic climbing at CATS!

    Unless by "climbing" you mean the ascending of a given surface, in which case even campus... Ah, hell, never mind!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is incredibly pretentious and annoying. If I want to heel hook, I'm gonna heel hook. If my hands are small enough to match on a small hold (and they usually are) if it gets me to the finish, that's what I'm going to do. No one is calling any indoor gym Yosemite.

      Delete
    2. If you want to match on whatever hold you can and end up at the top of the green problem be my guest. It is simply not the best way to utilize CATS.

      Calm down.

      Delete
    3. You have to ask yourself what you enjoy about climbing.... For me, its the movement of the sport! Progression from hold to hold and executing the moves with interesting and funky technique. And for me, this happens regardless of whether I'm inside or outside! Climbing is meant to be fun to some extent at least, so why bother if it's not!!!

      Delete
  3. To be perfectly honest I have a hard time following your thoughts here. First stating a simple fact "Indoor climbing is not rockclimbing." Should not be a point of contention. It is not an opinion, it is simply reality. I also do not see how stating this places me on a tall horse.

    There does not need to be the creation of a "new sport" it is climbing, climbing in a gym, not rock climbing. One climbs a ladder and one climbs Mt. Everest, but these things also are not rock climbing. I am trying to explain why it is nonsensical to translate rock climbing norms indoors, they are not the same thing.

    Hmm, still do not quite understand your point . . .

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is total bull shit and you sound so dumb. I can't wait for my next trip to colorado and on a rest day im going to CATS and im gonna heel hook everything you chumps. Im also really pumped at how you don't care about making money as a gym either here bc with dumb rules like this you will never make money. You may come at me with the argument of it being fun and I will say how can this be fun when you can't heel hook. I bet all ya'll wear Shamans.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are glad that people who think these are dumb rules stay away. Meanwhile the gym that has trained Tommy Caldwell, Daniel Woods, Emily Harrington, Katie Brown, Paul Robinson, Robyn Erbesfield, Angie Payne, Seth Allred and countless others will continue on just fine without you.

      Delete
    2. Haha. Please come visit. We could really use the money. No one seems to climb here these days because you can't heel hook! What a deal breaker.

      The funny thing is that sure, you can heel hook all you want at cats. What you put into your session at cats, heel hook or not, will be what you take away.

      I find it humorous to say that "heel hooking is not allowed" because sure you can walk in here and heel hook the poop out of everything and I don't think that you would be "in trouble" or asked to leave for that matter!! lol.

      It's just suggested that you don't heel hook in order to build strength. Just as someone chooses to climb open hand in the gym over closed hand to build crimp strength. So if you heel hook everything, go heel hook everything. Have a blast... heel hooking.

      Yea and you're right, not being able to heel hook I am totally miserable at cats. Sometimes I feel so miserable I feel like I can't breathe and then bring an inhaler. The paper bag works well too.

      Delete
    3. And to the "you are so dumb" might I add,

      "You are really dumb–for real- we got your t-shirt. You done left fingerprints and all- You are so dumb. we gon find you!
      So you can run and tell that, homeboy"

      Delete
  5. I think what it really comes down to is the fact that most people who go to a climbing gym are not "training," they are simply there to climb. And there's nothing wrong with that, but what I hear you saying is that, hey, when you are ready to train for real, come to CATS. Makes sense to me.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This kind of post makes me want to stay as far away from Colorado as I can. What you've just wrote is ridiculous for so many reasons. First and foremost, what makes you think you have any right to to tell others how to climb or train.

    Climbing is about finding the best and most efficient way to the top. Sure you can get strong enough to simple crank your way through the holds, but in my opinion this cannot even begin to compare with the feeling of efficient movement. My goal in climbing is to become the best climber I can be, which does not translate to being the strongest.

    The climbing at CATS doesn't lend itself to heel hooks anyway. 90% of the time heel hooking is not an option, so what do you think would stunt a climber's progress more? Constantly looking for the opportunity to use hooks and then eventually finding and successfully using one (on one move of one problem), or totally ignoring them and hoping that when it comes down to climbing outside you'll have it no problem? Yea you shouldn't have much of a problem with the most obvious hooks outside, but what about the unobvious ones? If you can't see it in the gym what hope do you have of seeing it outside. Many of the strongest climbers I know are also the ones most trapped inside their own conceptual boxes of what is possible.

    Finally, what you say about training hooks inside is simply not true in my experience. I consider myself quite good with both heel and toe hooks as well as drop knees. And you know what? I didn't gain those skills outside. I gained them inside, trying them over and over again in as many situations as possible.

    I completely agree with you that best way to get physically stronger is to tax both your muscles and fingers to their absolute limit time and time again. Additionally I give you the freedom to train however you want to. I don't even mind if you offer your opinion on how to train, even if I think it's misguided.

    But please, resist the urge to tell others how they should climb.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just chill, it's their gym and they can form indoor ethics any way they see fit.

      Delete
    2. Although the poster above me says much of what needs to be said, I would still like to address

      "Climbing is about finding the best and most efficient way to the top."

      Well at best that is what rock climbing is, although this is untrue 90% of the time as you can simply get to the top using the downclimb/walkoff.

      In gym climbing this is even less true as the easist way to the top is whatever V0 is taped. So why are you not climbing that V0??? Because you want a challenge, you want to become stronger. Climbing in the gym is not about getting to the top.

      Delete
    3. So basically, Colorado is a horrible state because people tell you what to think when you go to their sites and personal blog posts and read what they have to say about _______.

      Delete
  7. By this logic, why bother using footholds at all? The foot-jibs inside are rarely like the smeary contours of outside, so why bother? Forgo the feet entirely and think how much stronger your hands will be! No hooking, no matching, no feet! Brilliant!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do that quite a bit actually. But it is impractical to do 4-5 times a week.

      You can easily train tension in CATS using footholds. Tension is important. Even TECHNIQUE IS IMPORTANT, CATS and indoor climbing is simply not the best place to train it.

      Delete
  8. It is thinking like this that made me jump 6 letter grades in a year after 11 years of climbing. +1 to both Jamies. It isn't at all about numbers... unless you want to climb the most aesthetic routes in the world. There are amazing V15's, V1's, V5's. But yes, some of us would like to achieve our athletic potentials, and while some would find that abhorrent because it is not a value they share and such it is a way to distance us ("my" team vs. "your" team) and further the tribe mentality that mankind seems so awesome.

    Greg Davis

    ReplyDelete
  9. i like the use of the word "tangential". Not just climbers, but scholars!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Not really a question of ethics. I do not think heel hooking and matching is really a question of right and wrong behavior. Rules? A Game? Silliness? All accurate descriptions.

    You may as well just agree not to crimp, not to toe hook, not wear good climbing shoes, not use chalk, not brush holds... all in the name of getting stronger... because that is the ONLY reason we climb in the gym. In fact you should only campus all problems.

    Climbing in the gym will not make you a good climber outside? Only climbing outside will do that? ONLY.... please. Stop with this nonsense. So many kids today are learning most of their technique inside with a coach. Turns out they transition to climbing outside pretty quickly and crush pretty hard.


    How about quit with the rules, set really hard stuff, work hard to figure it out, and enjoy the movement regardless of whether it is on plastic, a rock, a tree, whatever.

    I really wish I lived in Colorado sometimes, then I hear about stuff like this. Quite the SCENE you have.

    Last comment: I find no satisfaction in getting to the top of a project indoors. I mean... I can't even post it on 8a... why did I even do it. /sarcasm

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know this is the internet, so I try to keep expectations low, but wow.

      Not using chalk, not brushing holds, not using your feet? These are not the best ways to train; without chalk and without brushing it is impossible to utilize very poor holds which need to be trained. We use feet to train tension. Also one cannot only campus because you need to be fresh and have plenty of fast twitch available to train campusing effectively and that cannot be done 4-5 days a week for hours and hours. Your "logical" extensions are not only a very poor way to try to make a point, but they simply do not even make sense with what I have explained in my post.

      I love how you use the word "only" in all caps as if it refers to my beliefs. I in fact no where say that climbing outside is the only way to get better at climbing outside. The best way to utilize CATS is to become stronger. We have a well proven training facility here.

      Scene?! There is so much presumption and ignorance in your post. You should not speak of what you have no clue about.

      Delete
  11. Your training yourself to ignore heel hooks... awesome for your intuitive climbing sense.

    ReplyDelete
  12. lord mark of leekshireFebruary 24, 2012 at 4:34 PM

    wow i love these rules,im writing this on the plane now,im coming over from the uk.you sound like a right bunch of dudes to practise sending with.
    im sooooo excited im frothing at the mouth

    ReplyDelete
  13. Stop crimping you Nancy boy Yanks, thumbs make you weak, infact cocks in bolt hole with no feet is the only way real men climb.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I hear where you're coming from, but,

    "the goal should not be to make things easier"
    seems like a bit of a daft argument
    because
    agreed, using tricks (like heelhooks etc)typically reduces the amount of force needed to use a given hold, but that means I'll be using a shitter hold because of the 'trick' (for want of a better term).... surely? Using heels and toes still requires tension (not all hooks are bomber), right?
    Trick or no, I can be pulling at my limit, which is what (some forms of) hard training come down to, right?

    Also

    Majority of posts in opposition have been bud light biliously weak,
    and
    For my own training I eschew the above argument and insist on only the shittest of feet, no hope hooking a screwin on a 45....

    Keep it real people

    ReplyDelete
  15. Don't take this too seriously people. The truth is, people heel hook at CATS all the time, and it is totally fine. While James disagrees, a lot of people do go in there to project hard problems and not simply to "train". It may seem illogical to waste your time in an indoor gym for these reasons, but I do it all the time and I know many others do too. Some people don't have the time to go climbing outside, or the energy, or simply don't enjoy it that much to begin with.These people should have every right to go to climbing gyms and climb for whatever reasons they want.

    While I agree that CATS is most useful for simple and systematic power training, that does not mean that it can't be used to train technique as well. I have used plenty of difficult hell hooks in there that have improved my climbing abilities outside. Too much focus on pure power training can have a negative affect on your climbing style, especially as a beginner.

    Keep in mind that James does not work at CATS, he just climbs there a lot. The actual staff, as well as the other climbers do not care if you use heel hooks or not. This is not a "Colorado" or "Boulder" thing, it is just James. If Rob, the owner of CATS, had a problem with heel hooks, I would say "OK it is your gym so I will respect your rules." But James has no real affiliation, so take this post with a grain of salt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. First to say I have no real affiliation is not true.

      Secondly the no heel hooking rule was created by the owner: Rob Candelaria, who has trained the world's best. He has pulled people (his friends) off of the wall. This is not just me, it has been the way CATS has oprated before any other gyms in the country even exsisted.

      Thirdly, no matter WHO the anonymous poster is, they do not climb at CATS half as much as I do. So when I say heel hooks are few and far between they are few and far between.

      Delete
    2. Hmmm, from the post I at first assumed it was someone who has been to CATS, but to say this is just me, and the other climbers do not care means you must not climb at CATS. Which means you really should not post things that are simply untrue.

      Delete
  16. So now we now why people like Daniel Woods are so ridiculously strong but still get their asses handen to them in international competitions or by Adam 'I can't do a single one arm pullup' Ondra

    ReplyDelete
  17. I heel hook my cat all the time, he loves it and allways gives a pur. Infact not hooking a cat is considered cruelty in many countries, I don't mean hooking cats with a hook that would get the RSPCA on your arse and I dont mean hookin like that Meth lady on the corner. De de der hooker cats away.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I've seen Woods use hookers before but it was round the back of cats after wildly over grading something. He ain't no JG that's for shizzle yo

    ReplyDelete
  19. im the best climber on hereFebruary 25, 2012 at 2:40 AM

    You guys must be turd on real problems with real heel hooks yo. Though that would involve operating in the real world.

    ReplyDelete
  20. it explains why Woods climbing like a mong

    ReplyDelete
  21. I just got back from the climbing wall with a bust finger, really depressed at the idea of no climbing for a few months. Somehow, I found my to this page and suddenly my life feels a little brighter. Thanks for making me laugh guys!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Bwah hah!

    Fucking yanks eh?

    No heelhooking, no swearing? ...

    Wankers!

    ReplyDelete
  23. This is the biggest load of BS to say that heel hooking and matching will either make me a better or worse climber. Climbing is a personal activity. To dictate how someone "should" climb under the contrived notion that it will make them stronger is ridiculous. It implies that someone should climb a certain way, when in fact that is the antitheis of climbing. Making recommendations to help someone get better is one thing, but these rules are as lame and contrived as eliminates.

    You know what makes you a good climber? Climbing and in the style that works best for you.

    And a list of rules isn't "ethics". Ethics are a philosophy of right and wrong conduct, values and morals. No matching and heel hooking are rules, like no chewing gum.

    ReplyDelete
  24. This really makes no sense at all, following your logic, you shouldn't allow more than one finger on a hold at a time since you're trying to make things as hard as possible. Maybe you should only allow campusing as well since using your feet is taking weight off your hands. Matching and heal hooking are esential tools to use when climbing, and you need to be able to learn when and how to utilize ALL techniques available to you.

    ReplyDelete
  25. You spend a huge amount of time saying "indoor climbing isn't rock climbing" and "getting stronger is all that matters", but you have entire pages of this blog where you keep track of the FA's and ascents of problems in the gym (which, as I am aware, would be considered absolutely ridiculous anywhere else in the country). This is fucking hilarious. You are bad and should feel bad.

    ReplyDelete
  26. "Daniel returned from somewhere amazing and on his flash burn stuck the pinch with his feet staying. I was pretty mind blown, I had not even considered having your feet not cut."

    Funny.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Wow James...

    I read every comment to see if you could save face.. sry but you are such a tool. I would never want to train with people like you. By the way you gym looks absolutely horrendous with that density. I will never come to CATS as long as there is The Spot..

    Kids these days.. Absolutely ridiculous

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you understand so little about how to train and are so close minded, I am quite happy that you keep climbing at the Spot with the rest of the college kids.

      Delete
  28. I'm a bit disappointed by all the negative comments. I found your post to be quite interesting. Though anonymous internet comments probably don't mean much when the climbers at CATS find your arguments convincing.
    Thanks for laying out your thoughts so clearly. I enjoyed the read and I'll think about this post the next time climb plastic!

    ReplyDelete
  29. This makes perfect sense to anyone who's devoted a ton of time, thought, and effort to training for rock climbing. I'm surprised by how thoroughly your points are misinterpreted in the comments -- it's not that skills are irrelevant, it's that in the gym, the rate of return on strength training is orders of magnitude greater than the RoR on skill training. You are better served picking up skills on the rock, and strength in the gym.

    Anyways, next time I'm in CO I'll check out CATS. Seems like my kind of gym.

    - D

    ReplyDelete