Hi, I'm Sean McColl, ask me anything.

In 2012, I won the Overall World Championships in Paris coming 2nd in Lead (with ropes), 4th in Bouldering (without ropes) and 43rd in Speed.

Ask me anything.

My website can be found at: http://seanmccoll.com

Twitter (with proof): https://twitter.com/mccollsean

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/seanmccoll1987

I've made a few training videos that can be found here:

First video here

Second video here

Alright, 2am and almost 9 hours later, I'm Exhausted. Hope you got some cool answers.

Comments: 426 • Responses: 82  • Date: 

Salacious-35 karma

Cool topic for an AMA.

  1. Most difficult climb you've ever done?

  2. Most serious injury ever sustained?

  3. How do you find sponsors? Do you have an agent or something that books them for you?

  4. How did your family first react when you told them that this is what you wanted to do for a profession?

  5. What do you plan to do for a living in the future?

SeanMcColl68 karma

  • 1) I've redpointed 5.14d, V15 (took me more than 1 try) I've flashed 5.14b, V13 (first try of my life)

  • 2) I had a huge "cracking" sound on my left knee. Took a few days of no walking followed by 1 month of climbing followed by 4 months of physio 3-4 days a week

  • 3) I've never had an agent. As climbing is a relatively small sport, I have to find all my sponsors by myself.

  • 4) My family has supported me since I was very young. It helped that at 12 years old, I was (at the time) the youngest person in the world to climb a benchmark climbing grade of 5.14a

  • 5) If climbing goes to the Olympics, then the chances of staying in climbing for my whole life is possible. If not, I have a diploma in Computer Science so I might pursue that path.

the_birds_and_bees65 karma

For non climbers: 5.14d, 5.14b etc are grades to tell you how hard a route (climb where you need a rope) is. V13, V15 etc. are grades to tell you how hard a boulder problem (a short climb where you can safely jump off) is.

To give you an idea of how hard V15 is, this boulder problem is rated V15:


and this route is rated 5.14d:


As a climber, these are seriously impressive numbers!

Salacious-13 karma

Thank you for the context, I really had no clue what he was talking about.

SeanMcColl19 karma

Sorry about that, thanks for the context.!

jeremy17019 karma

What is your favorite programming language?

SeanMcColl24 karma

  • Java for OO
  • C for procedural

Balticataz7 karma

No love for C#?

SeanMcColl16 karma

Meh. Made a few games in C#, but spent a lot of time using Java. It's like running around a nice padded room.

Reso4 karma

What was the diagnosis on your knee?

SeanMcColl7 karma

Ended up being some type of sprain. Nothing ripped or anything and the crack I heard was some type of fluid? Felt like my knee just broke and then felt like jelly after. It hurt to pronate the worst, even weeks after.

ServerGeek30 karma

what's the most dangerous situation you've ever found yourself in?

SeanMcColl98 karma

This one is a Squamish Legend. First day outdoor climbing of my life - 11 years old. 3 guides (one being my coach), me and my parents. Finish some multi-pitch up the chief and have lunch on BellyGood ledge. After eating, 2 of the guides went to setup the rappel and the 3rd one showed us how to rappel. She slung the rope over a large boulder and was started leaning back on the rope. The rope worked itself up over the top of the rock and when it finally slipped over the top, it shot her backwards. She stumbled backwards a good 5-6 meters until going over the edge. (we are 320m (1000 feet) in the air). My dad dove for the rope, grabbed it as it started sliding through his hands, slowed her a bit, but couldn't hold on.

My mom (nurse) and one of the guides did a speed rappel, they got to her in under 5 minutes and a group of other climbers saw her fall and were already there. She had fallen 100 feet (30m) onto her back and landed on a small ledge 5m (15 feet) wide, destroying a small bush on impact. Over the next ledge, was 900feet (300m) of air.

She suffered only small cuts and felt good enough to walk in 30 minutes. We didn't let her, she was airlifted to the Squamish hospital and discharged shortly after her xrays were all negative.

vtjohnhurt16 karma

I'm surprised that you did not say "My parents are crazy. I want my Gameboy!"

SeanMcColl22 karma

I think the fact that she suffered only mild scratches and bruises saved me on this one.

carrotfueled26 karma

Thanks for doing this Sean! You're an inspiring athlete. My questions might be a bit specific for r/IAMA since I thought you'd be doing this on r/climbing..

Since you just released the campus video, I figured I'd ask a couple questions about that.

  1. You seem to eschew the 1-5-9, which for many boulderers is considered the paragon of power training. You also seem to do multiple laps of doubles. I'm wondering if these two deviations from the norm are because you split your season with sport climbing? Obviously a video of you campusing is not gospel for your training regimen, I'm just grasping at straws here.

  2. Any thoughts on the original Wolfgang method of campusing, i.e. a small concentric contraction is immediately followed by a full-power eccentric contraction. For instance, clutching down a rung, and then immediately trying to skip 3 rungs with one arm. A non-climbing example would be athletes holding an air squat, and then immediately doing box jumps or similar.

  3. You obviously do a ton of physical training.. but you've also flashed a V13 and regularly flash very hard routes in competition, so you must also have excellent decision-making skills. Do you do any movement training or technical drills? Or just lots of competing and onsighting?

  4. Do you do isolated finger strength training (weighted fingerboard, heavy finger rolls, etc) or do you always train in a movement scenario?

  5. You are clearly very serious about your training. IIRC, you're training with the French national team? Do you have a separate personal coach? Any idols or training gurus you look up to? What would you say the basis of your training is? Also, I just want to say that going to train in Europe is clearly cheating, since they are leagues ahead of us!

  6. Since those are all probably way too boring and specific, here's an easy one. Favorite boulder problem ever? In the USA? I'll be in Squamish for the first time this season, what's your favorite problem there? (maybe around V11 or 12... I'm only mortal.)

I also want to say I really enjoy your style of blogging where you go into a lot of depth about the competitions, each specific decision you make and how it affects your performance. I'm not a competitor, but there are lots of similarities with climbing outside - deciding what to try, what to give a serious flash attempt, which beta to choose, blah blah. Thanks for your contributions to our little community!

SeanMcColl24 karma

Yes a big one. I didn't know where to do it, I figured I'd put it on r/IAMA and then answer specifics and let the newer crowd learn as they went along! I even linked it from r/climbing... anyways...

  • 1) Funny enough, I never even thought of the 1-5-9, the biggest reason is because none of the campus boards I've been on in the last year or so have been standardized. I've noticed more and more than they're all different, so doing 1-5-9 might be impossible, or maybe too easy. I like doing doubles because I find going up and down at the same time not only builds muscles but everything around those muscles like the fast twitch of being mid air and having to latch two hands at the same time. The training that I do is not only about what I do, but how well I do it and how seriously I take it. Re-read that last sentence, I mean it.

  • 2) I had to read that a few times to understand what was going on, but I would say that I've never even tried it so don't really have an opinion on it. I understand he's trying to bring two different aspects together, but I don't combine fast and slow exercises. I focus on one or the other and harmonize them while I'm training actually bouldering training.

  • 3) I strongly believe that competition climbing comes down to good decision making. Yes, you need a base of strength to physically climb the routes, but after that, I find I rely on my good decision making to climb so fast during lead. It's something I work on all the time. When I'm at the gym and I see someone who is doing a move differently than how I envisioned it, I try to figure out why they picked that way, sometimes I even ask them. It doesn't matter about their climbing level. Whenever someone points out a method or different way to do something, I take it in and add it to my vocabulary of climbing movements. I'm constantly learning and I hope I will never stop. I hope that made sense...

  • 4) I've dabbled a bit in it, but not a lot. I don't do weighted stuff until I'm so strong I get pumped doing exercises I'm good at. I generally just make it hard enough not to add weight. Take for instance dead hangs, if I can do it with two hands, I'll go down to one hand before adding weight with two.

  • 5) I don't actually train with the French National Team, I've been invited to a few of their training camps, but then not to their "official" ones because of media presence. I haven't had a coach since I was 18 or 19, but I take exercises from all sorts of sources. French, Austrian, Canadian programs and some I just make up because I thought it was hard to do. I'm always in a constant stage of change, always looking for a new way to train. I always do core things like bouldering, lead, circuits and ab training but always looking for other random things to try. I don't want my body to get used to training, I always want to be pushing it. The way I train is by far not the most number of hours in the gym. There are many climbers that train many more hours than me per week, I feel that maybe they don't try as hard, or are just so ingrained in a rhythm of training that they've lost sight of why they started it in the first place.

  • 6a) Fav boulder problem in the USA. = Right Martini (Hueco Tanks)

  • 6b) Fav boulder in Squamish (V11 - V12) = Summoning Sit

Glad you like my blog, it's comments like that that make me continue to write like that. I know that sometimes I ramble, I try to keep that part to a minimum...

swarmthink20 karma

Training question: To become a better climber and to climb harder, what is the best way to spend time in the gym?

Is simply going to the gym and climbing for a couple of hours at one's current level (like most of do) a good use of training time?

Are drills, circuits, etc, a better way to spend time in the gym?

SeanMcColl15 karma

For one, it's about being motivated at the gym. I've seen kids train 3 days a week at the gym for 3 hours a session and not get any better. You have to want to be there. To get better, you always have to be trying to level just above what you can do. You always have to be pushing your limits. There's nothing wrong with completing those hard problems, after you do a few of them, it's time for the next level! If you're really serious about getting better at climbing, I would take these steps

  • Get a training partner
  • Set a define schedule
  • Stick to your schedule
  • Always try hard
  • Don't forget to have fun

It's all about getting better, having small wins and seeing your next goal. At the beginning, those steps are the key things. When you're trying to get better at a higher level is when you need to start doing very specific drills. The drills you need to do while pushing 5.11 to 5.12 is mostly about how to climb better with what you know how to do.

tinyOnion5 karma

have you seen his two training videos?




swarmthink5 karma

I have, but I would guess that those represent only a portion of his training regime.

SeanMcColl7 karma

Those two training videos make up over 50% of what I do atm. Other 50% is hard boulders, some stretching, etc.

Ontop119 karma

Are you hoping for climbing in the Olympics or is it something you could do without? Do you think the Olympics would be good for the sport?

SeanMcColl34 karma

I would love climbing to be in the Olympics because I've always dreamed of representing my country at that high of level. There's a lot of people that think that it might take a wrong turn if it ever became Olympic but I think it would just further grow the sport. Even now, climbing isn't a recognized sport in Canada, getting it into the Olympics would jump start that process. Yes - I think it would be good for the sport.

sterlingarcher00699 karma

How would you like to see climbers compete against each other? By speed. By difficulty. Should climbers be able to plan their route or should they just climb by instinct?

SeanMcColl12 karma

Difficulty, I'm against speed (it just happens to be the "best" way to split ties atm). Climbers plan their route as much as they can but have to be prepared to go on instinct because if they planned wrong, they're not just going to let go are they...

xuchen14 karma

How difficult are the lead climbs in most competitions?

5.12? 5.13? 5.14???

SeanMcColl14 karma

Men: (my best guess and on average).

  • Quali: 5.13c
  • Semifinal: 5.13d/14a
  • Final: 5.14b


  • Quali: 5.13b
  • Semifinal: 5.13c/d
  • Final: 5.13d

TimW00114 karma

As a fellow Canadian I have to ask, greatest Canadian, Colin Mochrie or Wayne Gretzky?

SeanMcColl21 karma

I love Hockey - 99, the great one

ifuckedup1313 karma

  1. What is your favorite type of food?

  2. What is your climbing diet?

  3. do you have a smoking hot climber girlfriend?

  4. boxers or briefs?

  5. what is the best color gatorade?

  6. what are your top 3 tracks on your climbing "get pumped the fuck up playlist"?

  7. Favorite place to climb in France

  8. Favorite place to NOT climb in France.

  9. Kickass!

SeanMcColl26 karma

  • Fav type of food: Sushi
  • Climbing diet consists of lots of cereal, baguettes, vegetables, some protein, potatoes, pasta and rice. Add in whatever seasonal fruit is in the markets. (apple, nectarine, mango, orange)
  • Yes
  • Boxers
  • Skratch One
  • Scream & Shout, Mr.Saxobeat and It Is What It Is
  • Fontainebleau
  • DisneyLand Paris


How much do you get paid?

SeanMcColl15 karma

Unfortunately I'm not allowed to share numbers like this... I will say that I get paid enough to cover rent, food, living expenses in Toulouse France for the whole year. Here in Toulouse I have a car (so insurance), cell phone, everything that goes with an apartment.

itrichs3 karma


SeanMcColl3 karma

J'ai un visa de longue sejour en France pour 1 an. C'est un visa touristic alors je peux pas traviller ou aller a l'ecole quand je suis la. Chaque annee, je peux re-nouvler le visa alors c'est assez facile.

ifuckedup1310 karma

on this note...

How DO you get paid?

do you live off of competition winnings or does La Sportiva etc pay you? i always assumed that you just got paid in new climbing shoes every month, but you cant exactly eat shoes for dinner.

btw. you are a really inspiring climber! your training videos really show how committed you are to improving. It is something i try to emulate in my life. Thanks for the AMA!

SeanMcColl14 karma

Some of my sponsors give me money monthly (in different amounts). I also get product included in the contracts. If I do well, I get money for doing well in competitions. In IFSC World Cup competitions, there's a set amount for getting paid. Prize money in world cups are as follows:

  • 1st 3050 €
  • 2nd 1900 €
  • 3rd 1100 €
  • 4th 550 €
  • 5th 400 €
  • 6th 300 €

On top of that, some sponsors offer competition, photo/video incentives. Every contract is different.

N61b5Y13 karma

Hi, I was wondering what is your favorite sport climb? Why have you concentrated on competitions as opposed to hard outdoor climbing and trying to push the sport further?

SeanMcColl30 karma

  • To answer this blatantly: I'm an extremely competitive person.
  • Fav sport climb: Dreamcatcher, Squamish

To answer it a bit further: I choose competition rock climbing because over the years, it's what is appealing to me. I love climbing outside as well, but with the world cup seasons being so long, I don't have enough time in the year to do everything. I've also always had the thought that "the rock isn't really going anywhere" but I won't be able to compete, train, travel and maintain this competition level my whole life. I've always thought that when I pull back from competing, outside climbing whether it be bouldering or lead will fill that void.

henchmanzero2 karma

Regardless of your current competition-oriented goals, do you compile a tick list of routes/boulders that you want to climb? If so, what are some highlights (and why are they so special)?

SeanMcColl6 karma

If I plan an outdoor trip somewhere, I always put together a list of things I want to try. It helps keep me motivated and determined while I'm there. I'll choose between aesthetic and hard climbs. One that has always been inspiring to complete is Biographie (Realization 5.15a) 9a+ in Ceuse. It's a bit one because of its history, benchmark and beauty. Here's a list of climbs I've tried and couldn't complete on that trip http://sendage.com/sendlists/view/4d879ced73264

theextremist0411 karma

When did you get started climbing and what were you originally interested in? At what point did you realize you might turn pro and what made you realize that? Thanks again!

SeanMcColl17 karma

I started climbing at 10 years old with my family. My dad got money from his work to keep his family "fit/healthy" so when our tennis club shut down, we tried climbing. I joined the local climbing team 2 months after I started and had my first competition 1 month after that.

I realized I could turn pro in the last 5 years. It's hard to put a mark on this, I just always want to get better. Even now, I strive to be better. Nothing really made me think "oh I got this" because there's not enough money in climbing where I'm like "oh yeah, just signed that 8mill contract over 4 years"...

theextremist046 karma

Awesome! One more question: what's your favorite place you've ever been climbing in the world? Any places on your bucket list still?

SeanMcColl21 karma

It's not always the climbing place but the people that are with me on the trips. I've always wanted to return to The Red River Gorge.

Aaronplane11 karma

Have you ever considered auditioning for Ninja Warrior?

SeanMcColl18 karma

I've thought about it, it's something I might try to do this year. It's mostly finding the time to make the video of replicating the same exercises from the show.

lillefrans10 karma

  • How do non-climbers usually react when they learn that you are a professional rock climber (and one of the absolute best even)? Do they usually get impressed and curious or do they mostly just stay indifferent?
  • Also, when you visit different climbing gyms, do climbers often recognize you or can you climb "in peace"?

SeanMcColl25 karma

  • Mostly people are inspired that I've continued a sport this "far". Lots of questions about what's different from other sports, or how much money you can make, or if its in the olympics. People are usually impressed when I show them what I can do (like a front level, or a few one-arm pullups).
  • I never expect people to know who I am, because I am completely against that. If people say "hey, are you Sean McColl", i say yes, ask them what their name is and shake their hand. I think of what I'd want if I met one of my sports heroes at the gym. Some ask a question or two others just watch. I'll have to be honest that it gets me into a lot of climbing gyms for free though :)

initials10 karma

What is your favorite food to bring to the crag?

ClimbingWolfBear10 karma

Hi Sean! I have a few questions for you:

What is your favorite type of hold (besides jug, of course)?

Are you planning any outdoor trips right now, or are you training for the next competition season?

What tips would you have for making compression problems easier? I always seems to lose it on bigger moves to get out of the compression.

Thanks for doing an AMA!

SeanMcColl10 karma

  • Fav type of hold: small crimp big enough for my 4 skinny fingers, with a small lip to sink the skin behind (flat against the wall so I can use the wall for friction)
  • I'm in full training. I decided not to go to Hueco or any "longer" trip until the competition season starts.
  • Compression is my favourite style and I think it's due to playing soccer "football" while I was young so I have strong legs. To make it easier, have a super tight core. Abs, shoulders, chest.

dailybunny9 karma

Are there ever times where you reach a point of great height and it freaks you out a little? As someone who has a huge fear of heights I can't even begin to imagine doing something like you xD

SeanMcColl10 karma

Yes, it happens sometimes. Usually it's an exposure thing. I'll be climbing outdoors (even indoors) and I won't be conscious about what's around me. It's a bit weird, but I'm not actually afraid just a little uneasy we could say. I have such faith in climbing equipment that almost everything I do is 100% safe. It's never happened in competition as I'm inside my own head while competing.

climblesroches9 karma

What is it like having giant metal claws protruding from your knuckles?

SeanMcColl21 karma

hurts every time

tradotto8 karma

Do you feel like the sport of rock climbing contributes to society in any way? How?

What is the coolest thing you have seen or experienced in all your travels around the world?

SeanMcColl10 karma

  • Contributing to Society, I think the sport is too small at the moment to answer that to any extent. If you think of babies growing into kids they will (most in this order) crawl -> climb -> walk -> run, so it kind of makes sense. I mean they climb in the sense that they'll climb up the side of a chair to stand up, or onto the next stair!

  • Coolest thing... oh man, I don't remember... Ill rack my brain

Doomtastic8 karma

A few questions : - when doing crack climbing, do you tape up? - whats the most pitches you've ever free climbed? - have you ever deep water soloed and if you did, did you do the jump down or did you rappel? - what are some classic climbs in canada? I've only done climbing in red rocks, mexico, spain, illinois, and the gunks in new york - on an ideal day do you prefer climbs with tiny pockets for fingers or spackled feet?

SeanMcColl7 karma

  • I've only ever taped up once, it was at a gym because my coach wanted to practice for his rock guides exam.
  • Most pitches I've free climbed, well I've done a few routes on the Grand Wall in Squamish but I don't actually know how many in a row I did before the bolt ladder. I've done Angel's Crest, The GrandWall and a couple others I can't remember names of...
  • I deep water soloed for the first time last year and I never fell... was too scared of being pumped which could lead to not swimming well so I never tried anything too hard. We downclimbed into the base and topped out so no rappel required.
  • Classic climbs in Canada. Well I've only really climbed in BC so... Squamish (Diedre, The Grand Wall)
  • I am not a fan of tiny pockets, so the latter.

JohnWesely8 karma

Hi sean, you probably know me, I'm a pretty big deal around here. Anyways just wanted to say sup.

SeanMcColl10 karma

But do you have as many leather bound books as me...

GloveQuickPacket8 karma

My girlfriend always says that climbs are easier for me because I'm taller than she is, do you think that being taller helps? How tall are you?

SeanMcColl4 karma

I'm almost 5"7. Yes being tall helps for a while. The most likely reason that your gf is right is because the route setter at your gym is probably about your height. So if the route setter doesn't add an extra foot, the move will seem much harder for shorter people (your gf). I've seen it happen and it doesn't change.

mtbegbie8 karma

What is life like with all the fellow competitors when on the climbing circuit? Since you're only one of the few who boulder, sport and speed climb in the IFSC; who is your main competitor? It seems like there are very few overall athletes that compete with you.

Anglais ou francais?

SeanMcColl7 karma

Je parle Francais aussi, mais mon ecrit est assez horrible. Usually the competitors try to focus on one or the other concerning disciplines. There are only a handful of competitors that actually enjoy competing in both. Most of the them just do a coupe here and there for practice and for giggles. Jakob Schubert from Austria is one of the only active climbers right now that compete in both Lead and Boulder. Jorg Verhoeven from Netherlands is another. It's also quite painful trying to train for both disciplines mid way through the season, one will always take a hit.

U96008 karma

Thanks for doing this :D

What's your favourite discipline and why? Also what do you do for speed training? Trying to train for speed but not really sure how to :P

SeanMcColl18 karma

My favourite is between Lead and Bouldering.

I can never pick between one because I honestly don't know which one I'm better at. I've won two IFSC world cups in Lead and never in bouldering. I've also won the Adidas Rockstars and been on the podium 7 times in boulder (4 silver, 3 bronze). I enjoy Bouldering for half the season and then I get sick of it. Oh Hey, it's Lead season now great!! Then the opposite happens 6 months later, it's awesome :)

For speed training, it's the same training I do while browsing reddit: none.

tinyOnion7 karma

What's your favorite algorithm.

SeanMcColl5 karma

I don't know if I have a favorite, but I loved programming them in school. I actually liked it when they gave us a problem and said to invent an algorithm without searching on the internet. Once we solved the problem, go and find the best one and compare results.

Crazyants6 karma

Will you be coming to Tour De Bloc nationals in Edmonton? Love ya sean, be great to see ya down here :D

SeanMcColl6 karma

As of right now, unfortunately not. They put it on the same weekend as the world cup in Millau France. I told them this half a year ago and the Tour wouldn't budge on their Nationals date. They said there were other events on either surrounding weekends so i wouldn't work.

climbing_musician6 karma


SeanMcColl13 karma

  • Started climbing at 10 with my family. (I'm now 25)
  • How to become professional: determination, hard work, great coaches, great teammates, failures, success, more hard work, great friends, 10000 hours in the gym. (not necessarily in that order)
  • The only way to redpoint V6 it to go and try things harder than V5! You will do it. (believe in yourself)

blaked12266 karma

Hey Sean,

In all of your travels, where is the coolest place you have ever climbed and why? Also, I saw you training video a few months ago... Let's just say, wow, I am blown away with how strong you are! Keep crushing!

SeanMcColl7 karma

Coolest - Kalymnos (because it's like climbing in 3d with all the tufas)

creepy_doll6 karma

I remember watching a couple of the world cup videos and noticing you have a very powerful style of climbing... Where some of the other athletes would do some crazy acrobatics sometimes you would just power through it with a one-armed pullup or similar.

Is this an active personal choice, or is it something you do when your original plan for a section didn't pan out, rather than faffing about trying other methods? Have you always climbed like this?

SeanMcColl7 karma

My strength in lead climbing is to be quick, efficient and adaptive. I've also noticed that I can climb 2 minutes or so on any type of moves without getting too pumped. My theory for this is climb as fast as you can while still conserving neccesary strength and I'll be at the hard part and hopefully not pumped yet. Whenever I screw around at the bottom of the routes, I get pumped too fast and I fall early. So screwing around with my feet for 5 seconds and doing a move easier is worse for me than just jumping at something. It comes down to decision making, when I think I'll save more energy in the long run by jumping or powering my way through a move I don't think twice and I do it. I like to think that it works more than it doesn't...

pisan3145 karma

Sean I'm a huge fan and am always inspired by your achievements in competition and on real rock. Thanks for all that you do for the climbing community!

As someone who competes at the top level at both bouldering and sport climbing, is there anything in particular that you do to transition between the two? I've been spending the winter season bouldering primarily and am going on some longer sport climbing trips this spring. I'd love to get some endurance training tips from a master!

SeanMcColl3 karma

If you already have your bouldering problem, the hard part (i find) is already done. Think of it this way: Because you're so strong, there won't be a single move on the routes that you are trying that are physically too hard. Because of that, you are always going to fall because you are pumped, that's all we have to work on.

So work on it. Start with 15 moves circuits ----> then 20 -> then 25. Work up 5 moves a time every week until you hit where you want to be.

The first two weeks are hell. It gets slightly better.

Voluptuousn5 karma

Hey man! Very cool AMA.

My question is: what would you recommend for the avid beginner to train on, other than bouldering itself? And in bouldering, what would you say are the best kind of problems for a beginner to improve with?


SeanMcColl5 karma

Find the part of climbing that you like doing. Maybe you like route climbing more. The first step is to actually like the sport you're doing. If you've picked bouldering remember to move both your feet once for every 1 hand movement. As for specific boulder problems, try to remember to use your feet, it's not just about your arms although they can sometimes just force your way through the move.

doomglobe5 karma

Sean, you told us earlier that there is no difference between caffeine and chalk. What kind of caffeine delivery do you prefer for training, and what form do you prefer for a competition event?

SeanMcColl8 karma

  • During training (actually every morning) it's 1L of coffee in a French press. (only two medium scoops, probably equivalent to 2 espresso)
  • Morning of a competition (as much as I can on that particular morning). I also drink a lot of water with my Skratch mix in it. So I go pee, and the other one to make sure my dinner isn't in my while climbing, but I'm still hydrated.

Drinking hot beverages relaxes me and I find it comforting. It's nice that it also makes you go to the bathroom to make sure I don't retain the (insert weight of dinner here) in my system while climbing.

teejay934 karma

Hey Sean,

What are your thoughts on Adam Ondra (I know you've had all sorts of comps with him) and him sending two 9b+s. Is there just something different about the wonderkid?

SeanMcColl5 karma

Adam Ondra has a special sort of determination that I haven't seen in other people. I think his big strengths are how he conserves all his momentum/energy and he also has excellent decision making skills and memory. Throw on the determination I mentioned at the beginning and the patience to try a route for 9 weeks and voila, 9b+. He's a great guy, and will keep pushing the limits of climbing for a while. How far....?

MrBlackbelt4 karma

Have you thought about doing Ninja Warrior?

SeanMcColl4 karma

yes, might go through the hoops this year. hardest part is showing them you can do "their" course as I barely have enough time to climb outside....

joedeltron4 karma

Are you Canadian Native? As an Alaskan Native climber it can get a bit lonely climbing with white folks all the time...

SeanMcColl4 karma

Born and raised in Vancouver. One of the most beautiful cities I've ever been to.

rdpman943 karma

Hi Sean thanks for the AMA, I have two questions for you:

You started climbing at age 10 and climbed 5.14a at age 12! Was this a project that was maybe a ways ahead of your ability at the time that you just worked extra hard on or were you at the 5.14a level and had climbed many 13 bs cs and ds?

I was also wondering if you had any advice on wrist instability. My wrist is fine most of the time while climbing but when I'm on macro slopers it seems like my hand kind of disengages from my wrist if I'm not super careful about how I put my hand on the sloper (and it's hard to be careful in a dyno or campus move!). It seems to suck my motivation because I wonder if all the training I'm doing is useless if my wrists wrists will hold me back from climbing at a top level. I was wondering if you know any pro climbers that have the same problem (like why does akiyo noguchi tape her wrists?) or if you had any strengthening advice for wrists? anything would help thanks alot!

SeanMcColl4 karma

The 5.14 just fit my style and I was so young I didn't get pumped the same. For me, it wasn't 5.14, it was just some route that was hard for me, I had no idea about the grading system really. I skipped from 5.12c -> 5.13d -> 5.14a then filled the gaps in years to come.

For the wrist, I have no idea how to work on that. Even I get that sometimes on slopers, I don't even know what to suggest because I have no idea, sorry. Taping the wrist will only be temporary, I'd seek out a physio and take their advice. I would take a wild stab at it's how you position your hand on the sloper. If you keep your wrist locked in a position and are strong enough for the sloper, I find it would stay in place.

Good luck

WhatMichelleDoes3 karma

Have you ever been to Devil's Lake in Wisconsin?

It is so beautiful and the first place that I experienced real climbing!

SeanMcColl3 karma

never been there...

ofthisworld3 karma

Hi Sean,

thanks for helping to put climbing on the map. As someone who's been climbing for over a decade, but stuck in the flat swamp-lands of Houston for the past 4 years, I've regularly been making my way to Austin for decent outdoor routes, and will be moving there within a month to pursue it further. I'm excited to watch pros like you in action because it helps me understand the limitations (or lack thereof) of the human physique.

Before I die, as reddit is my witness I will finish a 5.14.

SeanMcColl5 karma

Hard work, determination and a goal is all you need.

phyllidae3 karma

What's your diet like? What's your favorite breakfast? Thanks for the inspiration, Sean.

SeanMcColl4 karma

I try to eat as healthy as possible. I also cut out candy, pop, chocolate and alcohol. It may sound easy, but I can polish off 2L of Coke and a bag of candy easy in an hour if I want. My favourite breakfast is a French Baguette with melted butter and a bowl of cereal.

diego-fer3 karma

Any advice on how to avoid injuries?.


SeanMcColl4 karma

Always warm up well. When your body physically says it wants to stop, you probably should.

doomglobe3 karma

Do you have a beard?

SeanMcColl3 karma

anaerobe3 karma

Hey Sean!

Do you ever hit plateaus in your climbing? If so, how do you do to get past them?

SeanMcColl3 karma

Yes I've hit plateaus in climbing and they're quite annoying. If I feel like I've hit it, I drastically change my climbing habits. Maybe I'll feel weaker for a week or something, but it'll come around eventually.

josefish1233 karma

Do you do any other sports besides rock climbing?

SeanMcColl9 karma

I love playing almost all sports! Sports I played on teams:

  • Baseball (a couple years around age 10)
  • Basketball, Volleyball (on elementary school team)
  • Soccer (age 6-20)
  • Piano (completed grade 9 royal conservatory)

twigman29353 karma

Hey, thanks for doing this!

My question is a bunch of little ones wrapped up in a larger question.

Mainly, what was progression like for you?

How young were you when you started? When did you realize that you were pretty damned talented? What were some of the plateaus you hit along the way? How did you break through those barriers? How long did it take you to progress through the lower grades?

Again, thanks! I ask these questions because many people (like myself) are always trying to progress and its nice to get a little insight from someone like you.

SeanMcColl8 karma

Well I started climbing when I was 10 and I had a pretty easy progression. By 12 years old, a week before my birthday I became the youngest climber in the world to redpoint the benchmark grade of 5.14. When your 13 and sponsored by a couple of companies, I found it easy to stay motivated. That last sentence is also what kills a lot of young climbers in the USA but I had the right formula of coaches/friends around me to keep me in check and equally motivated.

While competing as a Junior from 14-19 I won Jr. World Championships 4 times in Lead and Twice in Speed. Those ones kept my motivation high and one of the biggest struggles from going from Jr into Adult. I didn't know if I could do it and I spent a few years getting better and figuring out how to do it. I finally got enough of my life figured out and moved to Europe. From there, my climbing kind of just took off and I'm now where I am now. There were a lot of failures along the time which is the only way to learn. There were more victories which kept me motivated. I had great coaches and even more friends that have helped me along the way. My parents always supported me and still do.

I just read a good article on Michael Phelps and it's heavily based around the concept of "small wins". A small win can be anything that makes you feel good while preparing or training. All those small wins are leading up to your ultimate victoria. One thing to remember about small wins is

“Small wins do not combine in a neat, linear, serial form, with each step being a demonstrable step closer to some predetermined goal”

I've been doing this for many years without knowing it, and now that I have a way to express it, I couldn't have found better words myself...

flembdog3 karma

Hi Sean,

1) What is your Favorite Book?

2) Favorite Movie? Climbing/or otherwise

3) What brand of chalk do you use?

4) Do you use any additional products for skin care/callous care? Have any tips or tricks?


SeanMcColl5 karma

TricksR4Hookers2 karma

How's your brother doing?

Do you ever climb with him these days?

How did your relationship with him mature as he figured that he would likely not be able to keep up with your climbing ability? (given that the two of you are extremely competitive.)

SeanMcColl6 karma

My brother is good, he completed his degree in English in Canada and then went to the UK and did a degree in Law. I saw him tons over Christmas and New Years back in Vancouver but he stopped climbing while over in the UK and does it purely for fun when he goes now.

As for me being better at a young age, I surpassed so many people by age 12 that he didn't even care. He still had people to compete again his own age and we were never in the same age category. He excelled well and went to Jr. Worlds a few times with me. We could train together which was also nice. Although he wasn't always at the same level, we stilled enjoyed being together and both doing something we loved to do.

atmosphere3252 karma

Who are your climbing idols? Sharma is the posterboy, but I've always looked up to Tommy Caldwell.

Also, any tips for finger injuries? I have a stress fracture that's been pestering me for almost 2 years.

SeanMcColl4 karma

I look up to Tommy Cardwell for his dedication to the sport after losing half a finger. I often wonder if I could compete where I am today in Tommy's position. I know I'd try that's for sure! When you have a finger injury, find a physio that you actually trust and follow his guidelines. When he finally says its ok to climb again, I do double warm up for a month. Yes sometimes I'd warm up for over an hour.

arabbidpenguin2 karma

Do you think competition is good for under 18 climbing or do you think it can sap enjoyment out and cause talented climbers to drop out?

SeanMcColl3 karma

Yes, I think it's healthy. I think it also depends on your peers. I was fortunate enough to have great friends, family and coaches to keep me in check. I always try to remain humble and remember what it took for me to get where I am today. It makes me sad when the pressure and fame makes someone lose the passion in their sport.

eldy_2 karma

Have you ever met Alex Honnold?

SeanMcColl3 karma

you betcha. and if I see him ever again, I'm going to take a picture with him and post it to r/climbing saying I met a celebrity.

crimpingainteasy2 karma

You're a beast, Sean. Think you'll be hitting witness the fitness anytime soon?

SeanMcColl3 karma

It seemed like that boulder would be very fitting to my style but yes I heard it unfortunately broke... I'll wait for more news whether it's even possible anymore before flying down under.

thejakester12342 karma

Hey Sean! Thanks for doing an AMA! 1 Have you ever climbed in Colorado? 2 Where is the most spectacular place you have climbed? 3 Who do you think makes the best shoes? (Or are you not allowed to say haha)

SeanMcColl2 karma

I climbed in Colorado a pretty decent amount, but many years ago. Mostly in RMNP while I was staying with Daniel Woods. Most spectacular is probably Kalymnos because I hadn't climbed that style before (3d style). Best climbing shoes are Sportivas!

FourFiveGrim2 karma

Hey Sean,

First of all, congrats on doing so well on the world scene. You make a fellow Canadian very proud. This is a long shot, but can you come to Joe Rockhead's in Toronto to do a clinic or something cool? Your training videos are also pretty awesome.

SeanMcColl3 karma

If I'm ever around the Toronto area for longer than a week I will try to fit it in. I like doing that sort of thing!

dr_spacelad2 karma

How do you feel about free solo climbing, and the people that are into that sort of thing?

SeanMcColl4 karma

I feel like it's something that I shouldn't do because I push myself so hard that I force myself to fall and fail.

Hwy61Revisited2 karma

how would one get into rock climbing as a hobby?

SeanMcColl3 karma

Find somewhere or someone to go to climbing with and set a loose schedule. Can be simple as Wednesday night climbing at blah blah.

VladimirStrelok2 karma

I tore my mcl climbing last year and am having trouble getting back into it. Any advice for an newbie?

SeanMcColl3 karma

Find a partner, set a schedule, remember to have fun.

Death_proofer2 karma

Do you ever climb a mountain mission impossible 2 style? Or is that just complete bullshit.

SeanMcColl4 karma

It's complete BS. Sometimes we face the crowd though.

Zachkamran2 karma

Do you have any climbers you look up to? Also who are the coolest people you've met through climbing? Thanks! Your a beast man

SeanMcColl4 karma

I'm exhausted so my brain isn't working so well right now. I dream of one day meeting NHL or NBA star athletes and have them actually be psyched to meet me... :)

magicbullets2 karma

As a kid were you ever afraid of heights? If so how did you overcome it?

SeanMcColl7 karma

I'm afraid of heights if I'm not attached to a rope. Like at the edge of an abyss, I'll probably crawl up on my belly. If I'm attached to a rope, I'll walk and lean over.

afrosam862 karma

easy dude, Just wanted to know whether you do any other sports and if so are they aimed towards training for climbing (e.g. running/cycling for endurance training)? Any top tips for for conquering a fear of falling? Cheers bro, keep up the good work!

SeanMcColl5 karma

I've never done any other sports with the goal of training for climbing with the exception of general "cardio". My favourite is stationary biking. I have bigger legs from playing soccer and I love biking like that.

I hate running on pavement

For conquering fear of falling, just go and take practice falls. After doing a few controlled falls, your body will come to realize that it's very safe when your body knows how to react to the falling part of it. Over time, you get more and more used it, like muscle memory!

gigamosh572 karma

Do you have any relatively easy projects that you keep on your list just for fun? What is your favorite long easy climb/place to climb long easy stuff?

SeanMcColl2 karma

Yeah, all the day. I'll warm up in Squamish sometimes and just repeat 40 boulder problems in an hour or two. It's a great way to climb awesome problems and warm up at the same time.

thejakester12342 karma

Favorite music to get you stoked?

SeanMcColl3 karma

Hip/Hop, rap and some mainstream top40 music.

sheepweevil2 karma

What's your favorite type of move? Do you like it when they set wacky stuff at bouldering comps like bat hangs, 360 moves, etc? What's the craziest move you've done?

SeanMcColl6 karma

I love compression moves, or longer moves where the hard part is sticking the hold and not getting to it...

Yes I like it when they set things that are outside the norm, it makes the climbers actually think and not just animal their way through.

Craziest move I remember doing is a few years ago at the T.A.B.: I did a huge ROSE move into the last hold and realized I couldn't let the hand go without falling. I managed to jam my head between the hold and the wall to take off enough weight to match the final hold...


This Move - Matching feet mid move

Deimor2 karma

  1. Out of interest, what kinda grade boulders do you warm up on? I'm currently at like 5+/6a so I assume you could do those using just your pinky haha.

  2. How do you prepare on the day/the day before for each of the 3 different comp events?

  3. I've read a few contradictory things regarding the Olympic bid, and since you were a part of it, could you clear up exactly which discipline(s) were bid for?

  4. I noticed you said you're living/training in Toulouse. How long you been living there? Did you speak French before going?

Thanks for the AMA man, if you're ever in Caen, Basse-Normandie (before June anyway) I'll buy you a drink. :P

SeanMcColl3 karma

1) Depends on how warm I feel going into the gym. Sometimes I need to grab absolute jugs for a few minutes before doing anything. Sometimes i could walk into a gym and climb V5

2) I have a mental script that I go through which is always the same. This article on Michael Phelps best describes what I go through.

3) They proposed an overall event of all 3 disciplines. They would do all 3 events and there would be one gold medal each for men and women going to the overall champion. So someone might win lead, but if they didn't do well enough in boulder and speed might not even be on the podium thus giving them no olympic medal.

4) I've been in French Immersion since K. Although I wasn't fluent when I got here, I could understand it all. Living in France has made my talking sound much more normal. My writing in French is still atrocious. I've been living here for just over a year now!

AsksAboutMatrix2 karma

What if it turns out your incredible feats are due only to our living in the Matrix?

SeanMcColl7 karma

I'd drop the red pill.

saint_maria2 karma

Can we have pictures of your arms for /r/forearmporn?

SeanMcColl4 karma

i'll keep this in mind for when I'm doing an actual workout and is worthy.

WabbajackedMan1 karma

Cheers for doing this. Have you done/thought of doing any hard trad or developing it? If not, why? Is there a large trad scene outside of Britain?

SeanMcColl3 karma

I've never tried anything hard on trad because it scares me to place gear I could be falling on. As for developing, it's something I see in the future but I've never done it so I don't know what I'm missing or what not.

sommersc11 karma

Do you think climbing grades will reach a maximum difficulty? IE. Is V16 the hardest boulder that will ever be climbed? How about sport climbing, is there still much room for harder sport climbs into the grades of 5.15+ or 5.16-?

SeanMcColl3 karma

I think the curve is cubic, so eventually there will be an absolute, but I see it more as a steady shift rather than a limit.

seanbastard11 karma

In your campus training vid you don't do any "one big move" style stuff - 1,4,7 & 1,5,8 etc that I see in a lot of other campus workouts. It seems more geared towards power endurance (I think). Do you do that kinda stuff separately.. Or is it just too easy now for you and you don't get any gain from it? I climb around v7/8 and tried your workout yesterday, obv i was miles away from being able to complete it, but it kicked my arse and I can see te scope for progression, so thanks for putting it up. Last question - how often do you do it? I can hardly move today haha.. Hopefully the recovery gets easier..

SeanMcColl5 karma

I described why i don't do 1-5-9 above but basically because I do the big move then back down then switch arms. I do this workout 2-3 times a week for 1-2 months while in power mode.

KingPupPup1 karma

When did you first start using campus boards, and around what grade level should one consider using a campus board in your opinion?

SeanMcColl3 karma

I would say at the very least V4, 5.11 level. There are some campus lats that are 30mm wide which is where you should start.

redninja241 karma

Where is your favorite place to climb outside of North America? Also what is the best campsite you have ever stayed at?

SeanMcColl3 karma

My favourite place to boulder is in Switzerland, the rock feels like home, maybe stickier. I can't pick out a best campsite, but it just has to have a hot shower with decent pressure and a flat site for my tent. The rest I can deal with.