Drawing the Line: Projecting vs Onsighting

Drawing the Line: Projecting vs Onsighting

Onsight: The style of climbing a route on your first try without any beta.

There is something to be said about trying really, really hard for an on-site, but projecting something long-term has a much larger pay-off for me. It is certainly harder to on-site a climb. When you’re actually on the wall every next move feels so much harder, because of the unknown. There is also the thought looming in your mind that this is all or nothing. There is no second try, so I am constantly walking the line of too much versus not enough commitment. If I don’t commit I won’t be able to execute the hard moves, but if I commit too fast I end up missing key beta and making it way harder for myself than it should be.

Project: The route that you are currently trying to redpoint.

bat cave

Redpoint: Climbing a route without falling or resting on gear after previously rehearsing the moves


The reward for a redpoint is much greater than when I am on-sighting something because the process is longer and I have to work harder. I find that I enjoy delayed gratification. There is a buildup of expectation that comes with the struggle for what you want. If I go out and climb something, even if it’s really hard for an onsight, it’s less rewarding than when I have to work for a long time on a climb.


I don’t really train for onsighting. The only thing I really do to get better at onsighting is do it. I go out and try to onsight everything. I train almost solely for my projects and let it overlap with my other climbing. I do long circuits, hangs, deadlifts, campusing and other things specific to my project when I am training, but I do not train just to get good at campusing or hanging on a small edge. I train for the specific project. My project gives me the direction and purpose to do the work that is necessary to send. It is the fuel to focus me at the end of a training session when my body is telling me to stop. It would be easier to cut some of my sessions short and not put in that last burn on my circuit, but I have been through this process before and I know how my project will feel next time I get on it if I don’t put in the time that it requires. The motivation and drive during a long term project and being able to focus on it while I’m training is really important to me.

Mental Effects

The onsight is stressful during the brief time that you are making the all or nothing attempt, but my project comes home with me. Each movement lives in my daydreams as I rehearse them over and over and over again. The longer something takes me the more and more I want it and the more it consumes my thoughts. I start dreaming about

Bat cave climbing

climbs and thinking about them when I’m in school and at work. It’s all I want or care about. After a while, though, the failure gets in and those constant drifting thoughts transform from a longing into a depression. All of a sudden, it’s not, “I want to go climb that,” it’s, “why haven’t I climbed that yet, “why am I so weak?” I’ve found that with every long-term project I’ve worked on, the process is the same, and the longer and longer it goes the worse it gets. It gets so bad I don’t even really want to try the damn thing because I’m so scared of the inevitable failure. I’m sure I’m not painting a good picture for projecting, but I think you can live a lifetime with a climb and this is all really healthy. It’s been a huge lesson in mental control, and really finding the silver lining when I am challenged both mentally and physically.

From Helsinki to the Punk

Before sending Helsinki (5.14d) it felt impossible. It was a linear process for me. When I first tried it, I was maxing out on every move and then it gradually became easier and easier. With The Punk it was the opposite. When I was bolting it I was very bummed because it wasn’t going to be as hard as I wanted and I didn’t think it was going to take me very long to climb, but every time I go to climb it I feel like I am taking a step backwards. Helsinki has rejuvenated me on the prospect of sending The Punk, but I fear that I may be taking another trip down project lane.

Ben HannaTo find out more about Ben Hanna check him out on Instagram  @hanna_smash

Climbing definitions from this article where found here:

http://eveningsends.com/climbingclimbing-definiti… by Andrew Bisharat

Photos: Philip Quade@philip_quade

Todd Bukowski@tc.bukowski

Drew Smith@drewsplan

Butora Altura Climbing Shoes