The term Redpointing originated in Frankenjura, Germany during the 1970s. A local climber Kurt Albert would draw a small circle at the bottom of routes that he had not successfully sent. When he finally sent the route clean he would fill the circle with red paint. Therefore, becoming a Rotpunkt in German or Redpoint in English and so Redpoint Climbing
So what is the difference between a redpoint and an onsight? A redpoint is where the climber takes more than one attempt to send a route clean, an onsight is where the climber sends the route clean first go. Where clean means without resting on the rope, without grabbing quickdraws and without using any other method of aid to successfully climb the route. Both redpointing and onsighting have their place within climbing. If you want to progress through the grades you will need a good sturdy base of onsight climbing and a well thought out pyramid of redpoint climbing above this. Please visit Route Pyramid to find out more about how they work.
Redpoint projecting will make you a better climber, it really will if you work it right. Redpointing a route should be hard work and that’s the point. You will be finding your grade limit and pushing on past it, its got to be hard. Apart from the success you get from the eventual send, on the way you will find weaknesses in your climbing. You can work to improve them both during redpointing and through specific exercise back at the climbing wall.
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Redpoint Climbing Tactics
Visualise – Stand back and take a good look at your intended redpoint route. Look for sequences of holds and moves, where are the cruxes, bolt clipping holds and stances, where can I get a rest or at least a shakeout. Nowadays this is made easier due to the amount of chalk on the holds of most routes. But don’t get sucked in, the chalked sequence could be wrong or maybe it just won’t work for you!
Redpoint or Onsight – Always a dilemma as we all like to get an onsight! But you could be wasting a lot of energy when it would be better spent on the redpoint. If the route is at the top end of your route pyramid then definitely just redpoint it. If at the bottom of your route pyramid then go for the onsight, in the middle depends on how you feel on the day! Please visit Route Pyramid to find out more about how they work.
1st Attempt – Other than if going for the onsight, you will probably have to go bolt to bolt especially at the cruxes. Take your time, learn everything you can, try different sequences until you find one that will or might eventually work for you, mark difficult to remember or difficult to see holds with chalk. Go into the bolt with your cows tail and take the time to rest and look, this also gives the belayer a rest!
Clipstick – Don’t be afraid to take and use a clipstik to get past difficult crux sections to the next bolt. In the UK we have many routes that have the bolts placed miles apart. This is fine if you are a climber who is already climbing the grade. But you are undoubtedly not or you would be going for the onsight! Sitting on a bolt for ages trying to get past the crux to the next bolt is inefficient. Look at it, sequence it, try it, then get past it and sort the rest of the route to the chains.
You will undoubtedly get some clever clogs trying to put you down for using the clipstik, “Look he’s using a cheat stick” or suchlike! But the laugh is on them as when you have sent your project the may have sent their crux only to fail at the last moves as they didn’t learn them because they never got that far! One rider here, whatever you do don’t use the clipstik to get over your fear of falling as this will only hold your climbing improvement back!
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Chunk it Down – If you are used to redpointing you may be able to do this successfully from the ground. If not then you can do it when on the route. Try to break the route down into 3, 4, 5 or 6 manageable chunks. This may be by counting the total number of bolts and dividing it up or maybe something like easy section to crux, crux section, easy section to chains. Over time these chunks will change and get less in number as you link them up.
Top Down – Get to the top of your project by whatever means, climbing, bolt to bolt, clipstik. Then lower down one bolt and climb back to the top. If successful lower down two bolts and climb back up to the top. Carry on like this until you can climb from the bottom to the top in one go. You will obviously hit sections that you can’t yet climb through and get to the top. These you must work until you can get through them and get to the top. What this system does is to ensure that you have climbed the upper sections more than the lower sections. You will now have the upper sections fully wired. When at the top of your redpoint burn, fatigued and pumped you will sail through as if on autopilot!
The Crux – The crux needs not only to be learned but trained for also. When learning the crux sequence first look at the possible options. Try climbing each sequence and see if one might work, if not then look some more. Remember that you are looking for the most likely to succeed sequence for you and not what others have done. Remember also that it may be the right sequence, just that you are maybe not strong enough or flexible enough to do it yet.
Obviously, you can try climbing the crux from the bottom up, but also from part way up or even down climbing. The top-down method discussed above allows you to lower to any point in the crux and climb back up. This means that you can chunk the crux itself down into micro-chunks and practice these bit by bit. Top down also allows you to safely downclimb a crux sequence. Downclimbing is a powerful way of unlocking the crux sequence but is a much-neglected tactic. You see foot placements that you previously didn’t, you position your body better, your balance point improves. Try down climbing next time it might just work for you!
When to go for the Redpoint – If you are using the top-down method discussed above then this point will be obvious. If climbing from bottom up with one bolt hang, then start your redpoint climbing burns.
Rest – With redpointing a major point is to rest, rest between practice climbs, burns and days. Take 30 to 40 minutes rest between practice climbs or burns, but remember to keep warm in between. Rest at least one day between redpoint sessions, maybe even two days if you worked really hard.
In the end, there is no real shortcut to getting better at climbing, it’s a matter of putting in the work. But above all have fun!