Many components come together to make a great climbing trip such as exploring new areas, new rock, and new cultures. Having great company, great food, and cooperating weather also contribute. Walking away with a badass tick list may not be the main focus of a successful road trip, but climbing at your best is a subject that inevitably comes up. Here are some tips to help climb at your best while on a trip. These are meant for moderate length trips of a few weeks to a month although they can be generalized to any duration.
Don’t Waste Daylight
If you're visiting a new area, make sure you get out and explore even if you don’t plan to climb. Use travel days and rest days to scope out approaches, crag conditions, and potential projects. This ensures that you spend climbing days actually climbing instead of getting lost on trails, staring confusingly at topos, or realizing the routes you had picked out are wet or just don’t look that inspiring in person. There’s plenty of time to drink beer and sit by the campfire after the sun goes down.
Checking out a new wall on a rainy rest day. Upon realizing I was not at all inspired by this wall,
there was no need to hike up here with climbing gear and waste a climbing day.
Jump in the Deep End
Get on the hardest thing you intend to work on during the trip right away, the first day ideally. There will be plenty of time to get on the easier routes on your tick list as the trip goes on. This gives you enough time to work on and actually send your project or find more realistic projects if your initial goals were too ambitious. You can also use working burns on the project to get used to the rock and the climbing style without blowing potential onsight attempts of easier routes before you are ready. Hard climbs also better prepare you for climbing in the area because they force you to adapt to the climbing style more than easy climbs do.
Taking my own advice and epically trying to get the draws in on Cous Cous 5.14b first day at El Chorro.
Don’t Get Frustrated
This can be a tough one if you get on hard routes right away. Chances are, unless you're special or travel a lot, you will suck your first couple days. It doesn't matter how much you've trained for this trip or how in shape you feel, it takes most people a few climbing days to a week to get used to the rock, the nature of the climbs, the holds, the bolt spacing, and climbing outside if you've been mostly climbing in the gym. You may also be weary from travel and trying to adjust to a new lifestyle. Continue trying hard climbs and fight through the frustration of not climbing as well as you may have expected and before you know it, you will start performing well on the rock.
Resist the urge to abandon working on the project and getting on easier routes too soon. It's hard to truly assess the feasibility of sending a route until after at least a few days of effort so hopefully you picked a fun route, and either way, working on a hard climb at your limit is the best way to get in shape to an area quickly.
By waiting until you gain confidence and have a feel for the area before attempting the easier routes, you give yourself a better chance to onsight or collect valuable flash beta if you have no intentions of onsighting. The experience from the hard climbs should allow you to take down easier routes faster and leave you even more time for the project.
Try not to get too fixated on specific climbing schedules such as the classic 2 on 1 off. Many climbers waste beautiful days resting and go climbing on terrible days because that’s just how their climbing schedule works out. Check the forecast, be flexible, and try to make sure you are getting out on the best days.
In summary, starting out on easy routes and working your way up can be a more enjoyable way to build up your climbing and confidence, but it will likely mean taking extra tries to send easier routes and not leaving enough time to take down your redpoint project. If your objective is to build the best tick list you can, a better strategy is to start working on the hard routes immediately while saving easier routes for the tail end of the trip. Hopefully these ideas work out for you on your next trip!