Bouldering Veteran's road to V11 - Introduction

The US is undoubtedly a rock-climbing paradise, full of fantastic climbing areas. Whether it's big wall climbing, endurance sport climbing, crack climbing, or bouldering, you're sure to find something for yourself. However, since it's such a vast land, it's often necessary to travel extensive distances to get to the most popular and well-known crags. But it's only sometimes required to travel far; incredible climbing could lurk just around the corner.

This is the story of Paul Gennaro, a New Yorker who recently climbed his personal best at the local climbing area of Shawagunks [1]. Earlier this year, Paul reached out to me asking if I thought a 40-year-old veteran could still make some strength gains to leap from V10 to V11 outdoor bouldering. I was instantly intrigued - there was something about his drive and systematic approach to hard training that I found extraordinary. Of course, I tried to help, but truth be told, Paul did all the work himself, and I learned from him as much as he did from me, if not more.

When he wrote to me, he was getting close to sending one of the few premier lines in the Gunks called Venus in Scorpio, graded V11, and in this post, Paul will tell how he managed to stick the final dyno and ultimately tick off his first outdoor V11. If you'd like to learn more about Paul's bouldering training methods, go ahead and listen to our recorded podcast, where you'll learn how to leverage the Finger Strength Analyzer to monitor your fingerboard strength training progress [2]!

Video 1: Training for hard bouldering with Paul Gennaro - StrengthClimbing conversation [3].

A few words about me - Paul Gennaro

I am a 43-year-old gym rat who lives in New York City and works as a motion designer. This past year, I began training for outdoor climbing after 15 years of experience. As a gym rat, I was satisfied. I enjoyed spending time outside but only ventured out here and there. However, there were moments when I climbed in Central Park a lot or traveled to the Gunks with my next-door neighbor. Occasionally, I would even travel with friends to Rumney, New Hampshire, for sport climbing, but all for fun. Truth be told, I’ve always enjoyed getting more volume and a better workout inside. However, as Covid, gym closures, and comp-style boulder problems popped up more and more, I decided to make a change and venture outdoors.

When I first started climbing in 2007, it was all about getting strong, having fun, and pulling hard. But climbing meant more than fun and fitness as I became older. It was a lifestyle, an outlet for stress, and a way of tackling life. It was how I synthesized my problems on and off the wall. In many ways, I thought climbing mirrored life, and life mirrored climbing. So why not learn and take from climbing, and apply accordingly?

bouldering in Shawagunks
Photo 1: Paul Gennaro in front of Venus in Scorpio.

Why do I climb in the Gunks?

There is a ridge line about one hour and a half outside New York City called the Shawangunks (also known as the Gunks). Purity, ethics, and bolt-free lines are the hallmarks of this place. Although it’s known for its fall beauty, its history is second only to Yosemite. Compared to other known or popular climbing crags, it is a small place that packs a punch. Despite its size, it is home to some of the finest trad lines in the country. This place offers a range of X and R-rated routes, as well as boulder problems. If you want to cut your teeth on challenging trad lines and boulder problems, here is the place. But, beyond its lines and overall development, its history sets it apart from all other crags in the region.

What is Venus in Scorpio?

It is Ivan Greene’s classic V11 benchmark, established in the early 2000s, that became viral in the region. Featured in Sender Films’ Dosage Volume 2, it became one of the most coveted lines in the Gunks. The climb offers endless possibilities, making it a true full-value climb [4]. For example, even the first ascensionist climbed Venus in a way that appears to be humanly impossible by mono-ing to a crimp below the dyno.

The climb starts with two amazing jugs that lead to a crimp rail. Depending on your finger size, the rail will feel like an 8 to 10-millimeter edge. As you transition, you step up, stab your opposite foot into a smallish hole, and hit a V10-ish span to a glassy side pull. The span is the first crux. If you don’t slip off, the foot move that follows, in my opinion, is more challenging than the span itself. Near the first hole, there are a series of small holes arranged in a row. While holding the span and holding crazy amounts of body tension, you need to release your left foot and slide it to the furthest hole. Then, it’s a sprint to the finish, with a dyno at the end. In isolation, one of the easiest parts to mess up is the dyno. But the moves before the dyno are equally challenging, involving unimaginable holds. Since this is a friction-dependent problem, putting the whole climb together requires a lot of mental stamina.

Video 2: Jesse Grupper on Venus in Scorpio V11, Shawagunks [5].

My strategy for Venus in Scorpio V11

Over the course of seven months, I spent ten sessions projecting Venus. April 27th to November 26th of 2022 to be exact. In my first three sessions, I had the climb in two links minus the dyno. By the fourth session, I was able to include the dyno in my upper link but made no further progress. There was another session in May, but the weather was hot. In terms of strategy, I would rest for 5 to 10