Projecting into the Unknown: Sending My First V6

A few weeks ago I started projecting boulders outside. That means choosing one particular line on a boulder and working out the moves over several sessions (days). It’s a similar idea to practicing “YYZ” on Guitar Hero II until you nail it, or training for a half-marathon.

It’s a process, one that takes time to figure out the intricacies and/ or to build up the strength needed to climb the line. A project should be something a bit beyond your current abilities.

So far in climbing, it’s not something I’ve tried. Rather, a typical day at the crag would consist of jumping on a bunch of routes, and maybe re-trying one I’ve done before. I’ve rarely gone back to the same route, or wall or boulder over the past year.

Because I had only been attempting V4 and V5 boulder problems, grades I could reasonably get in one session, I firmly believed that was my level. I was “a V4/V5 boulderer.” I’d jump on an occasional V6 or V7 at the end of a session, make some progress, but never return.

After seeing a friend send a 5.12 sport route that he had worked over seven sessions, I wondered, “What could I send if I gave it seven days?”

So, three weeks ago I started going to Pawtuckaway with the intention of projecting V6 boulder problems. Specifically, Ride the Lightning, Terrorist, and Bulletproof.

A curious thing happened:

  1. I wasn’t sending them in one session.
  2. I was making progress each session.
  3. I felt like I belonged.

Reiterating point one, I didn’t send any that first day, but I was able to work many of the moves. I thought I might be able to get them the next week, when I was fresh.

V6 #2: Bulletproof. Photo by the author.


Turns out, that’s true. In week 2 I sent Terrorist (my first V6!) and in week 3 I sent Bulletproof (my second V6!).

I got me wondering: What might I be able to accomplish if it did take a full seven sessions?

A V7 or V8? Hell, there’s a V9 I’ve been eyeing at that looks doable. That’s way beyond what I would have considered for myself just four weeks ago.

From a different angle, have I been arbitrarily holding myself back because I didn’t think to work harder problems? Without consideration, I was constraining myself. Perhaps subconsciously I even thought these grades were “beyond me.”

In some sense, I don’t know what the boundaries are or what my limit is. This matters because growth happens at the edge. Food for thought as I continue my own climbing career.

Considering the bigger picture: What could you accomplish if you actually started projecting something at your limit?

You’ll probably be surprised.