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Date: August 20th, 2015

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About Ben Moon

Ben Moon is an iconic climber from England who’s accomplished much in his 40-year climbing career. He’s 49 years old and just sent 9a (5.14d) this year, after having put up the first of the same grade in 1990 (“Hubble” in the UK). He’s bouldered up to V14, and he does all this while running a successful climbing company called Moon Climbing and raising a child with his wife. He also created the classic Moon Board and the Moon Fingerboard, designed for the stronger, more massochistic among us.

I wanted to talk to this legend about how he’s achieved all of this, and he kindly granted me an interview. By the way, there are 2 Ben Moon’s in the climbing world: this English Ben Moon and the videographer/climber Ben Moon who lives in the U.S. and recently made a video about Denali the dog.

What We Talked About

Here’s what English Ben Moon and I talked about:

  • His history as a climber
  • Hubble, the first 8c+ ever, and how it got upgraded to 9a
  • Training for and sending 9a at age 49
  • How he trains in general
  • His thoughts on the Moon board and the Moon Fingerboard
  • Whether he’s just genetically gifted or if he has to train hard
  • Training and projecting on a tight schedule
  • How he’s doing on Northern Lights, another 9a

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Transcript

Neely Quinn: Welcome to the TrainingBeta podcast, where I talk to climbers and trainers about how we can get a little better at our favorite sport. I’m your host, Neely Quinn, and today we’re on episode 31 where I talk to English Ben Moon, as opposed to the videographer in the United States named Ben Moon.

We talked about his accomplishments as a climber over the decades, having sent the first .14d back in 1990 and having done a .14d again this year, at the age of 49. I was really interested in hearing about how he trains, how he approaches climbing, and that’s what we talked about.

Before I get into the interview I want to let you know that FrictionLabs, which is a partner of TrainingBeta and my personal favorite chalk company, by far, they’re giving you guys a discount. If you guys go over to www.frictionlabs.com/trainingbeta there’s some pretty awesome discounts on their chalk so you can try it out or – yeah, see for yourself how good it is.

Having said that I’m just going to jump right into the interview. Here is Ben Moon. Enjoy.

 

Neely Quinn: Alright, welcome to the show, Ben. Thank you very much for gracing us with your presence.

 

Ben Moon: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, and where are you talking to me from?

 

Ben Moon: I’m talking to you from Sheffield, just at home in Sheffield.

 

Neely Quinn: Right, and that’s where you’ve been for awhile, right?

 

Ben Moon: Yeah, pretty much 30 years or something. I moved up here in 1983, so 30 – or more than 30 – 32 years.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, I think all of the British climbers I’ve talked to have been talking to me from Sheffield.

 

Ben Moon: Right, I know there’s a lot of us here.

 

Neely Quinn: Okay, so for anybody who doesn’t know who Ben Moon is, can you give us an introduction?

 

Ben Moon: Oh, I don’t know really. I’ve been a sort of rock climber. I’ve been climbing for, well, pretty much full time since I left school at age 16 and I’m 49 now. I’ve sort of traveled quite a bit around the world climbing and was a professional climber for probably about 10, 15 years. Now I have my own company called Moon Climbing and continue to climb. Yeah, that’s about it really, I guess.

[laughs]

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, and in that time you’ve done quite a bit with the climbing industry and, you know, setting new standards for difficulty. I would love to talk about that.

I want to ask you one question, and when somebody asked me to interview you, actually I’ve been asked a bunch of times to interview you, I figured out at that time that there were two Ben Moons. I’m wondering, do you get confused a lot? Or mistaken for the the other Ben Moon a lot?

 

Ben Moon: Um, it has happened, not that many times, but it has happened a few times. I’ve had some emails before that were obviously not meant for me, they were for Ben, so someone who’s got two Ben Moons in their address book, they sent it to the wrong one. Not too many times, which is quite surprising, really, but it’s weird.

 

Neely Quinn: It is weird because he’s a videographer and you’re obviously not.

 

Ben Moon: And he’s a climber.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, yeah, it’s just a funny coincidence. Okay, so let’s talk about your early climbing days. How did you get into climbing and how did it go for you in the beginning?

 

Ben Moon: I got into climbing, or I first went climbing, when I was seven years old when I was on a walking holiday in the Lake District, which is this mountainous area in the north of England. Pretty much straight away I was kind of taken by climbing and wanted to do it. Back in those days it was pretty hard to get into climbing, you know. There weren’t climbing walls around and not many people climbed. It was also traditional climbing so you needed to know what you were doing, really, but I probably sort of started to do it on a regular basis when I was about 14 at school. I formed a little climbing club and then, as I said earlier, full time when I left school at 16.

 

Neely Quinn: So at 14, I mean, what kinds of stuff were you doing when you were 14 years old?

 

Ben Moon: We were top roping. Mainly top roping and a little bit of leading. I went to school in the south of England and there’s the little sandstone outcrops about an hour’s drive from the school where it’s all top roping. They’re only about 30-foot high or something, basically bouldering, really, on a top rope. We did quite a bit of that which was good fun and probably pretty good for me as well because it was sort of fingery and quite technical. Then, a little bit of traditional climbing in the mountains in north Wales, leading sort of on mountain routes.

 

Neely Quinn: Then, when did you get into – I mean, did you – there weren’t competitions back then.

 

Ben Moon: Well no. I left school in 1982 or 1983 I think and sport climbing didn’t even exist in the UK at that time. Like I said there weren’t that many climbing walls, competitions, yeah – they were not for another five or six years so yeah, it was mainly traditional climbing. That was sort of quickly – well, I started to change in ‘84 or ‘85, really, when I went to France with Jerry Moffatt. We met a lot of the sort of top French climbers down in places like Buoux and Verdon and saw what they were doing over there and sort of started copying them back in the UK, really. We probably didn’t start redpointing proper until 1987, 1988, that kind of thing so we were still doing things more the American style, really, yo-yoing routes, not practicing them on a top rope.

 

Neely Quinn: So you were really focused on long routes? Multi-pitch routes?

 

Ben Moon: No, not multi-pitch routes. It was still single, mainly single pitch routes but not redpoint style so basically you’d climb from the ground upwards and when you fell off you maybe would just dog the moves a little bit where you’d fallen off then lower back down to the ground again. Then, try again and try to get a bit higher up. I call it yo-yo style, really.

 

Neely Quinn: I guess I hadn’t…

 

Ben Moon: Maybe younger people hadn’t even heard of that style.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, I mean I’m not even that young and I haven’t really heard of that. So how did it change after that, once you started hanging out with these French people?

 

Ben Moon: Well, I suppose like I say, towards the end of the 80s we started sport climbing proper, just basically working the whole route top to bottom until we were ready to redpoint it then trying to redpoint it. The style changed, really, and with the style I think the grades started moving upwards pretty quickly as well.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, because you were giving yourself more time on the routes to just piece out the little nuances.

 

Ben Moon: Exactly, and you’re working the whole section, the whole route, as opposed to just small sections and then trying again from the ground. Obviously, you’re just practicing over and over again, really.

 

Neely Quinn: Then, by the time you were 18 you were climbing pretty hard.

 

Ben Moon: 18, I think when I was 18 or something, which was more or less the sort of top level at the time, back in ‘84. I think there were maybe a few 8a+’s around in 1984, I think, but yeah – I was 18 when I climbed 8a.

 

Neely Quinn: And was that in France?

 

Ben Moon: It wasn’t actually. It was in the UK. I put up a first ascent called Statement of Youth, which was one of the first sport climbs, actually, in the UK. That was 8a and no, it was not in France. I did, just before that on a trip with Jerry to France, I spent about six days trying to do this route at Buoux called Fissure Serge which got 7c+ at the time. Jerry did it in a day and I spent the next five days falling off the last move and never managed to do. Well, I didn’t do it that trip but that turned out to be 8a. I think I did it a couple of years later or something.

 

Neely Quinn: Then, so when did – you put up the first 8c+, correct?

 

Ben Moon: Yeah, well it gets…

 

Neely Quinn: It gets 9a now.

 

Ben Moon: Well, it’s 9a now. It was 8c+ when I did it. It was either, well, it was definitely the first 8c+ but it was probably the first 9a as well, actually.

 

Neely Quinn: So is it 9a now because something broke on it or because people just can’t do it?

 

Ben Moon: It’s because people can’t do it that it’s been upgraded. A lot of people have tried it and, I don’t know – there’s quite a few routes in the UK that have been upgraded now. I mean, Jerry’s route at [unclear] is another route which he did about a month before I did Hubble. He gave that 8c and that’s now been upgraded to 8c+. Hubble, at the time, was given 8c+ and that’s now upgraded up to 9a. There’s some other routes as well, things like Sea of Tranquility, some of the hard routes that we did back in the 90s that have been upgraded.

Adam Ondra said Hubble was 9a, or definitely was 9a, so I’ll take that. [laughs]

 

Neely Quinn: I mean, that’s saying things.

 

Ben Moon: I always said it was the same grade as Action Directe, which was what was supposed to be the first 9a so I guess, yeah – they were either both 8c+ or both 9a.

 

Neely Quinn: And out of curiousity what kind of rock is that on?

 

Ben Moon: Limestone.

 

Neely Quinn: Okay. So, how did you train to do that and how did you figure out how to train to do that?

 

Ben Moon: Well bouldering, really. That’s my main form of training, really, and it has been ever since probably 1984. I’d say along with bouldering and campusing, those are the two main things that I’ve focused on, really, when training.

I mean Jerry – I became good friends with Jerry Moffatt in the early 80s and climbed and trained a lot with him. He was a bit older than me at the time and he’d traveled quite a bit and been to America and hung out with John Bachar and Ron Kauk and people like that. Bouldering was big over there and they were doing a lot of bouldering. Jerry brought that back to the UK and that tended to be what we did.

The weather over here is not really good and grit stone dries quickly and there’s good limestone bouldering in the Peak District that tends to stay dry in the winter months, so that’s mainly what we did, really.

 

Neely Quinn: So you were just bouldering outside. Did you have an indoor facility at all?

 

Ben Moon: There weren’t any climbing walls. The first climbing wall was built in 1992, I think, so before that it was just bouldering outdoors and on a few sort of artificial stone walls and that kind of stuff, or on buildings and things. There was a place called Broomgrove [spelling?] wall which was like a little sort of vertical stone wall that we did a lot of traversing on and technical, fingery boulder problems.

Then probably in 1988/1989 a few people started building some form of basic, wooden training boards in their houses, generally in a sort of basement or in garages. We started using those as well which was definitely a step forward and – yeah.

 

Neely Quinn: But you had been campusing before that. Were you campusing outside?

 

Ben Moon: No, I didn’t start – at this point I wasn’t campusing. I didn’t start campusing until, well, I didn’t build my own campus board until 1991 I don’t think. I remember going to Wolfgang’s, training on Wolfgang’s campus board at the campus gym in Nuremberg, probably in the very late 80s but I didn’t start training on one of those until 1991, really.

 

Neely Quinn: Okay. So you were bouldering outside mostly and were you doing specific things on those boulders in order to build up endurance for these routes that you were doing?

 

Ben Moon: I mean, it sort of changes depending on what my sole focus was, really, but I would say mainly it was focused on difficulty, so short boulder problems. Actually, that’s not true. It was a mixture, really, but I’d say mainly on short, hard boulder problems with a bit of traversing in as well.

 

Neely Quinn: Well, that’s pretty impressive. It’s pretty impressive what you did with just climbing outdoors.

 

Ben Moon: I don’t know, really, because I still think, for me, bouldering is my main form of training. Different types of bouldering so in a way I’m not really doing anything different from what I was doing, you know, 25 years ago although I probably know a little bit more about what works for me and the facilities are obviously much better now and there’s more of them so there’s more variety. I still, if anyone asks me what the best form of training for climbing is, I’d say bouldering, really.

 

Neely Quinn: To build up power and strength?

 

Ben Moon: Yeah, and sort of strength endurance as well.

 

Neely Quinn: It sounds like, from what I’ve read, a lot of the hard routes that you’ve done have been shorter, powerful routes.

 

Ben Moon: Yeah, well no, I’d disagree with that, really. I mean, I think yeah, a lot of people may think of me as a boulderer or someone who does sort of short, hard routes but I don’t think that’s the case. Back in the late 80s I did some of the hardest routes in the world at the time and some of those were endurance routes so I feel sort of versatile, really. I’m quite good at both, really.

 

Neely Quinn: So, I’m assuming that when you were doing those long, endurancy routes you were kind of training while you were working the route in order to get such endurance, or do you think that you just have natural endurance/power endurance? Or strength endurance?

 

Ben Moon: Well I think I definitely react well to training so I adapt quickly but yeah, I would agree that I tended to get the endurance whilst working on the routes. I would say even for Rain Shadow, which is a 20-meter route which is a 9a I did earlier this year, which requires both strength and endurance, I tended to focus through the winter on strength and a little bit of strength endurance and sort of left the endurance that I would need, well, I got that from working the route and making bigger and bigger links, really. So yeah, I would say I tended to get the endurance from working on routes, really.

I mean endurance, for me, I feel like comes quicker than strength anyway so I would say I’m definitely more focused on strength.

 

Neely Quinn: Do you do cardiovascular training at all? Like, do you run or bike?

 

Ben Moon: I don’t run at the moment, no, but I did run quite a bit when I was last sport climbing. Basically, I packed in my sport climbing in ’96, 1996 or something, and then I just went bouldering but when I was sport climbing in the late 90s I was running, probably two or three times a week but only short runs, maybe 30 minutes or something.

 

Neely Quinn: What was the reasoning behind that? Like, what did…

 

Ben Moon: What, for running?

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah.

 

Ben Moon: A friend of mine, Marius Molstad [spelling?], a Norwegian guy, told me it would be a good thing to do. I think it is a good thing to do as long as you don’t overdo it. It gives you a good sort of heart and lungs, which has got to help you for route climbing, I thought.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, and so now I would love to talk about how, specifically, you trained to do the route that you did this year.

 

Ben Moon: Yeah.

 

Neely Quinn: As a 49-year old person, obviously you’re not old but it was something that was noteworthy, to climb .14d at 49. I mean, do you think that you’ll climb .15a?

 

Ben Moon: [laughs] I don’t know. I’ve never been on a .15a so I’ve no idea.

 

Neely Quinn: You’ve never been on a .15a?

 

Ben Moon: No. Well no, not really. There’s a route here in the Peak District at Raven’s Tor, one of Steve McClure’s routes called Mutation, which he gave 9a but I think he did it in 2002 or something and it’s still unrepeated. I’ve had a look at that and I don’t know. I’ve never been on a 9a+ but that surely must be 9a+ because you have to do one of Jerry’s routes, Evolution, which is like 8c+ into a Font 8A boulder problem with no rest. I just think that must equal 9a+.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, and is it something that you’re interested in doing?

 

Ben Moon: Uh, yes. I mean, I’d like to do Evolution first but yeah, I’d get Evolution out of the way and then have a think about it. It’s in the back of my mind. [laughs]

 

Neely Quinn: Alright, so how did you train for this? Did you just boulder in the gym in Sheffield?

 

Ben Moon: Yeah, pretty much. It’s pretty simple, really. A lot of bouldering, really. I probably started, I mean, last year I didn’t do much climbing because I had some elbow problems and I started getting back into climbing again in probably September/October-time last year. I did some sort of easier sport climbs outside. I did an 8a+ sport climb, so started building up a sort of/a little bit of an endurance base and then, yeah – just went bouldering from probably November/December through to February when I first started trying the route. I continued bouldering in between trying the route until I got to a sort of redpoint stage and then packed in all training, really, and just focused on trying to redpoint it.

 

Neely Quinn: And how long is Rain Shadow?

 

Ben Moon: 20 meters, about 60 moves.

 

Neely Quinn: Okay.

 

Ben Moon: It has an 8a+ route which is probably about 10 meters to a sort of poor shakeout and then you’ve got a 12-move Font 8A boulder problem into another 10-meter or 12-meter 8a+ route with no sort of rest, so yeah. It’s a mixture of sort of, sort of like I said, endurance and strength, really.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, strength endurance.

 

Ben Moon: You need to be able to boulder to a reasonably high level.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, and that was in England, in Yorkshire?

 

Ben Moon: In Malham, in Yorkshire, yes. It’s a Steve McClure route.

 

Neely Quinn: Man. There’s a lot of climbing in England.

 

Ben Moon: There is, yeah.

 

Neely Quinn: Americans don’t know these things. [laughs] Well, I don’t.

 

Ben Moon: Malham is world class. Malham would be world class in any country as a crag.

 

Neely Quinn: Sorry for the interruption here but I need to take a moment and let you know that FrictionLabs and TrainingBeta have teamed up and FrictionLabs is giving you an awesome discount, or a few of them actually. If you go over to www.frictionlabs.com/trainingbeta you’ll find what they’re offering to you there so that you can try out their chalk and hopefully be as happy as a customer as I have been.

Their chalk is made with more magnesium carbonate than any other chalk brand out there and magnesium carbonate is the stuff that makes your hands sticky and dry and feel good while you’re climbing. It also is what makes the chalk a little bit more expensive but in my opinion it’s totally worth it. It’s completely worth it for me to not have to chalk up as much, for me to feel more secure on holds because my hands aren’t sweating off, when I start a climb with chalk covering my hands evenly a lot of times now I come down and the chalk is still all over my hands, so it’s pretty amazing stuff.

Once again, if you just go to www.frictionlabs.com/trainingbeta you’ll find the discounts that they’re giving you guys exclusively.

Alright, now back to the interview. Thanks for listening.

 

Neely Quinn: Okay, so do you know Alex Barrows?

 

Ben Moon: I do know Alex, yes.

 

Neely Quinn: Cool. So, I interviewed him and – do you guys train at the same gym?

 

Ben Moon: Yeah, we train at the School Room a bit together sometimes, when I see him down there and The Foundry as well.

 

Neely Quinn: He talked a lot about how he did circuit training because he was working on an endurance route himself so he wanted to be on the wall for a certain amount of time doing a certain difficulty. Is that something that you do or are you just doing projecting, having fun while you’re bouldering?

 

Ben Moon: No, I’m quite specific. I know what I’m going to do when I go down to the gym and stuff. I have a plan. It’s not written down or anything but I know what it is that I want to do. I’m not exactly sure what type of circuits Alex was doing. I mean, I wasn’t doing circuit training. Quite a lot of interval training, I’d suppose you’d call it, and hard bouldering, really.

 

Neely Quinn: Can you describe the interval training that you would do?

 

Ben Moon: It’s pretty basic, really. I guess there’s all sorts of different types of interval training but it’s basically just doing a problem a number of times with a certain amount of rest between each go. Then maybe doing multiple sets of that. So, for example, I might have a 10-move boulder problem that I do three times, maybe with a minute or two minute rest in between each repetition and then maybe have a 20-minute rest and then repeat it, or it might be a 20-move or a 25-move boulder problem done in the same format with maybe a slightly longer rest or something. That kind of thing, really.

 

Neely Quinn: So how many days a week would you say you train?

 

Ben Moon: I train about – well, I climb or train probably about four days a week I would say.

 

Neely Quinn: Do you do basically the same thing every time or do you [unclear] sometimes?

 

Ben Moon: Well, I do different things. For Rain Shadow, in the early stages, I was focusing mainly on strength so it was a lot of hard bouldering, 3-5 or 7-move boulder problems at or above your limit and then as the weeks progressed or the months progressed I would start to lower intensity and increase the volume so do longer boulder problems, so that kind of thing, really.

 

Neely Quinn: What about weight training?

 

Ben Moon: No, I don’t do any weight training.

 

Neely Quinn: Have you ever?

 

Ben Moon: Yes, I have. I’ve done quite a bit but the thing is, there’s only so many hours a week I can train. There’s only so many sessions I can have so I tend to think, ‘What sessions are going to give me the most benefit?’ I tend to think bouldering or campusing so it doesn’t really leave time to do other stuff.

 

Neely Quinn: So when you campus is that on days when you’ve done the interval training?

 

Ben Moon: No, it would be on a different day.

 

Neely Quinn: Okay, so you would just do solely a campusing session.

 

Ben Moon: Just a campus session, yeah.

 

Neely Quinn: Why is that?

 

Ben Moon: Well, it would be too much in one day for me to do a bouldering session and then a campus session. I mean, I did use to. Back 20 years ago I used to do a bit of both but I think if you have a decent campus board session then you’re going to have to sort of ease off on the bouldering if you’re doing it in the same session or vice-versa, if you’re going to – you’ll have to ease off on the campusing if you want to have a good bouldering session.

I mean, I did listen to Adam Ondra’s interview which you did with him. It was interesting and he was talking about having multiple sessions in a day, which sounds good from a practical point of view for me. I’m not sure it would really work but I like the idea of two or three sessions, 45 minutes per session, in a day. It does sound good but it just doesn’t really work with my lifestyle and business and family and that kind of stuff, so I tend to do just single sessions in a day and they vary between about an hour, probably, to two and a half hours, four times a week.

 

Neely Quinn: That’s not bad. I mean, that’s not excessive.

 

Ben Moon: No, you could definitely do more and I’m going to try and do some more this winter. It’s funny – I like to keep a training diary and I write everything down so I can look back and see what I’ve done. You know, when I jot up the days per month when I’m either training or climbing it doesn’t seem that much but I suppose it’s 50% of the time.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, so with weight training, do you feel that you made big gains when you were doing that? Like, when you did have time for it.

 

Ben Moon: It’s such a long time ago now. I’m not really sure but I definitely think it’s good and I’ve heard a lot of people talking about it, their deadlifting and the Olympic lifts like clean and jerks and squats and stuff, and I think that yeah – working those big muscle groups would be good but obviously you’ve got to fit it in with the other stuff as well.

 

Neely Quinn: Right. Can we talk about the Moon Board?

 

Ben Moon: Yeah, sure.

 

Neely Quinn: Tell me how that came about and what you think of it now.

 

Ben Moon: Yeah. Well, a friend suggested the idea to me years ago, actually, to make a board that was a sort of standardized bouldering wall and to make these holds with a number on them and a compass dial so you could basically set the holds in a particular position and anyone who had a Moon Board could then recreate it.

It took quite a long time to get going but it seems pretty popular now, really. I’ve got/we sell sets of Moon Board holds to people all over the world. There’s probably about 100 or so Moon Boards registered on the website and I think it’s a great thing. It definitely is/the holds that you use are very basic, simple shapes and quite fingery so it’s very good for training your finger strength. Also, it’s good if you live in a very isolated area or you live in not a climbing community to where you’re sort of being connected with other people.

 

Neely Quinn: Because people can go online and record what they’ve been doing.

 

Ben Moon: Yeah, exactly, or they can download problems that other people have set so you don’t have to make up your own problems. You can climb on and train on other problems that people have made and you can change the board around. You can change your set-up around every five or six weeks so you’re not climbing on the same boulder problems all the time. You get a bit of variety in your training.

 

Neely Quinn: Would you say that you have to – I don’t know this and I feel stupid now, but does it have to be at a certain angle?

 

Ben Moon: It’s 40०. Yes, it has to be at a certain angle. Well, it has to be at a certain angle for the grades to be sort of relevant. I mean, you could have it steeper or less steep but the problems would possibly be easier or harder. I mean, some people email and ask if they don’t have the height to set it at 40० can they set it at 45० or whatever, or can they just shrink it a little bit. Yeah, you can do that. It’s no problem. The problems will be the same kind of problems, just the grade will change slightly.

 

Neely Quinn: Right. I mean, from what I’ve seen, the problems are really difficult. Do you have to be at a certain level of boulderer?

 

Ben Moon: Well, the grades are hard. The grades are tough, definitely. [laughs] It’s best to just sort of forget about your ego when you go training on the Moon Board, definitely. I mean, I get shocked sometimes at the grades some people are giving problems but it’s best to just ignore the grades, really, and just use them as a sort of rough guide. I would say unless you’re Font bouldering sort of Font 6B+/6C minimum, it’s not really worth having one. Well, you could have a Moon Board but you would probably want to put some different holds on it.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah – wait. I’m trying to translate that. What’s 6B+?

 

Ben Moon: 6B+/6C is, oh god, I don’t know, V5, V6?

 

Neely Quinn: Oh okay. Have you spent much time in the states, climbing?

 

Ben Moon: Yeah, well I did live in Salt Lake City for about six months or a bit longer than six months so I’ve climbed quite a bit in Utah and California. I’ve done it but I’m not super familiar with the V-grades. I always have to convert them to Font grades. I know V11 is 8A so I have to work back from that, so…

 

Neely Quinn: It’s just a long way back. So, do you use the Moon Board ever?

 

Ben Moon: Yeah, I do. Definitely.

 

Neely Quinn: Do you have one in your house?

 

Ben Moon: We’ve got one in the School Room. We’ve got a Moon Board, got a couple of other sort of old – well, the original School Boards from the original School training room, and then a bigger wall, and a campus board, and weights, and stuff so everything, really.

 

Neely Quinn: So you don’t get bored of it.

 

Ben Moon: Of what?

 

Neely Quinn: Of the Moon Board.

 

Ben Moon: Well no. You can change it around, change the problems around, so there’s always new problems and new challenges.

 

Neely Quinn: That must be pretty cool for people to boulder with Ben Moon on the Moon Board. What about your fingerboard that you guys make?

 

Ben Moon: What about it?

 

Neely Quinn: What do you think about it? How do you [unclear]?

 

Ben Moon: It’s cool. It’s just a nice fingerboard. There are a lot of sorts of fingerboards out there and yeah – I don’t know what I can say about it. It’s basically pretty simple, really. It doesn’t have any sort of fancy holds on it. It’s pretty sort of basic but I think, to be honest, that’s all you need. I like to keep things fairly simple, really, and in terms of training as well.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah. It seems like it’s definitely one of the most difficult hangboards out there.

 

Ben Moon: Yeah, it doesn’t have any big holds on it. [laughs]

 

Neely Quinn: [laughs] I think it’s probably a good one for you and other really strong climbers. Do you fingerboard ever?

 

Ben Moon: You know what? I don’t, no. I used to a long time ago but, again, it’s the same as with the weights thing. I’ve only got time for a certain number of sessions a week and I tend to sort of focus on either campusing or bouldering. Having said that, I might do some fingerboarding this winter.

 

Neely Quinn: Why is that?

 

Ben Moon: Just because I haven’t done it for a long time and I did a sort of assessment recently, like a sort of fitness assessment, and I did some sorts of strength tests and endurance tests and stuff. The chap, Tom Randall, who tested me said there was room for improvement in my fingers so…

 

Neely Quinn: He’s kind of the trainer around there for people, it seems like.

 

Ben Moon: I don’t know. There’s plenty of trainers but it was quite interesting. I hadn’t met him before but he does live in Sheffield and he does quite a bit of coaching training and I had heard all good things about it so I did one of his assessments, which was interesting. He’s tested a lot of people and he’s collected a lot of data and stuff so he can compare people’s data and stuff, which is interesting.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah. So you think it might help you send your projects next year?

 

Ben Moon: Yeah, exactly.

 

Neely Quinn: Let’s talk about your projects next year a little bit more. Are you going to spend most of your time in England or France or where do you think you’ll go?

 

Ben Moon: Probably England, I thought. Depends on – yeah, England, just because there’s sort of time restraints again. I’ve got family and a six-year old daughter who’s at school and stuff so I can’t really get away like I used to when I was younger all the time. I’m mainly focused on climbing in the UK really.

I’m trying a route called Northern Lights at the moment, which is at Kilnsey, which is an old project of mine that Steve McClure did, which is another 9a. I’d like to try and get that done. If I don’t get it done in the next few weeks then maybe next year.

 

Neely Quinn: Oh. You’re working on it now.

 

Ben Moon: Well, I’ve been working on it for the last couple of months, really.

 

Neely Quinn: So how is it going?

 

Ben Moon: Well, it’s going good. I feel sort of close, really. I’m sort of at the redpointing stage but just at the very start it’s got wet in the last couple of days so it’s a bit notorious. The cliff that it’s on, the north buttress of Kilnsey, tends to seep a little bit so I don’t know how much time I’ve got left really.

 

Neely Quinn: When you’re working on something like that do you sort of assess your weaknesses and strengths and try to recreate those or work on those when you’re in the gym?

 

Ben Moon: Oh yeah, definitely. All the training that I do or anyone does has got to be applicable to what it is you want to do, what your goals are, really. So, yeah – that is the approach I took with Rain Shadow and it’s what I’m doing with Northern Lights and yeah.

 

Neely Quinn: What have you found on Northern Lights with your strengths and weaknesses?

 

Ben Moon: Northern Lights is different, really. It’s a 50-meter route as opposed to 20. It’s about, I think, 40 moves long and it doesn’t have as hard a crux as Rain Shadow so probably only Font 7C/7C+ but it’s got probably about four of those stacked on top of each other so really sort of endurance. There’s no rest on it, nowhere to chalk up, and you climb it all in about three minutes. It’s like a sort of sprint so it’s different to Rain Shadow which probably takes 5-10 minute to climb. Less endurancy and more strength-endurancy, maybe.

 

Neely Quinn: Are you going out there on the weekends?

 

Ben Moon: I try and avoid the weekends because I try and go during the week, really. I try and get up there a couple of times a week if I’m redpointing.

 

Neely Quinn: And then you’ll continue to train even while you’re trying to redpoint it?

 

Ben Moon: No. If I’m going twice a week, if I’m redpointing twice a week, I wouldn’t train, no.

 

Neely Quinn: Oh, not at all?

 

Ben Moon: No, not really.

 

Neely Quinn: So you’re not going into the gym right now.

 

Ben Moon: No, not really.

 

Neely Quinn: Oh. So, that’s quite a bit of rest. I mean, I think that’s great.

 

Ben Moon: Well, if you have a hard day redpointing – I mean, I’m pretty beaten the next day so I probably wouldn’t want to or certainly wouldn’t want to train the next day. You could do some active rest but I probably wouldn’t even bother doing that. Maybe do something very light on the second day then maybe a rest day then back on the route again and repeat, so it doesn’t really/I don’t really see how there’s room for training if you’re redpointing twice a week.

I mean, both of those redpointing days you want to arrive feeling fully recovered in peak fitness. Obviously the downside of that is if you’re doing that for, say, four or five weeks then obviously you are going to start losing strength and fitness but you’re getting to know the route better.

 

Neely Quinn: So it’s kind of a fine balance.

 

Ben Moon: Yeah.

 

Neely Quinn: Would you…

 

Ben Moon: Actually, with Rain Shadow I basically gave myself a six-week period to try and redpoint the route and if I didn’t do it I was going to leave it because I was trying it twice a week and not training. I think six weeks to try and redpoint a route, if you haven’t done it after six weeks then it’s probably time to sort of go away and train, really.

 

Neely Quinn: That’s kind of the cut-off point for you?

 

Ben Moon: Yeah, and I would say just in training terms, doing anything longer than six weeks is a waste of time and you need to change the stimulus on your body.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, that makes sense. Where are you in your six-week period of redpointing?

 

Ben Moon: Probably, well it’s been a bit. I had a trade show in Germany for a week then I was in Italy for a week so I’ve had more rest than I would have liked so I’ve certainly got another four weeks or so but it could possibly be wet in four weeks’ time. The route could be wet, so…

 

Neely Quinn: Well, good luck with that. I hope you do it.

 

Ben Moon: Yes.

 

Neely Quinn: That would be pretty awesome.

So, as a 49-year old person – I talked to Bill Ramsey who’s older than you but he had some things to say about how his training has changed over the years, things that he needs to do differently like stretching a lot more and taking care of himself in ways that he didn’t necessarily when we was 25. Are there things that have changed for you? It sounds like your schedule is different so your training is different but anything else?

 

Ben Moon: No, I would say the main thing that I do differently now, which I probably would have still have done back in the day, is not going to failure so often when I’m training.

TrainingBeta is a site dedicated to training for rock climbing. We provide resources and information about training for routes, bouldering, finger strength, mental training, nutrition for climbers, and everything in between. We offer climbing training programs, a blog, interviews on the TrainingBeta Podcast, personal training for climbing, and nutrition for climbers.


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