Dyno pain, dyno gain.

Some of us don’t have the optimal strength-to-weight ratio for rock climbing.  In fact, others might suggest that we should stop fighting nature and just stick to activities to which our bodies are better suited (e.g. ‘ground walking’).  I’d say I do pretty well for myself given my strength limits – I’m pretty comfortable climbing in the 6a+/6b range, and now and then I’ll tick a 6c by relying on good technique, flexibility and balance.  However, as anyone with my not-so-climbing-friendly body type will understand, a power move can be the soul-crushing determining factor that takes a climb from clean to red point (or no point).

When faced with a dyno, the muscularly-challenged climber has a few options:*

  1. Continue the jump-miss-jump-miss cycle until your muscles fail and you turn into a useless blog of flesh, thus ruining your chances of climbing anything other than a ladder for the rest of your rock/wall session.  Or better yet, allow your frustration to build until you’re forced to stop climbing due to a self-inflicted fist/rock contact injury.  Don’t forget to take out your frustration on your climbing partner!
  2. Find some other genius way to do the move that takes advantage of your own climbing strengths – slowly balance your way up to the next hold, bridge across to a side wall, take a super high step, etc.  Note that this is not always possible, but when it happens it has the potential to be very ‘interesting’ and entertaining for spectators.
  3. Admit (short-term) defeat, and switch to a climb with less powerful moves.

Now I’m as competitive as the next guy (moreso, in fact!), but I’ve recently realized that there’s no shame in going with the third option.  Dave McCloud may disagree with me**, but rather than continuing to flail for a dyno, each attempt more pathetic than the last, sometimes you gotta know when to fold ‘em.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that weak climbers should just give up or never try any hard power moves, but there’s a skill to knowing when you should keep at it vs. when you should call it a project and come back to it next time.  That threshold is different for everyone, so the skill is really in knowing yourself.

Thanks for the video, YouTube!

*Any other options that I haven’t listed?  Please let me know in the comments!

**In his book 9 Out of 10 Climbers Make the Same Mistakes, Dave McCloud says (and I’m paraphrasing here) that what separates a great climber from a good one is the extra 2% effort, trying that move one more time when anyone else would give up, etc.  I’m a big fan of this book and highly recommend it to climbers of any level.

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