Dan Turner On The Projecting Process

Dan Turner On The Projecting Process
Dan Turner on Bloodsport V13 Photo: Rowan Spear-Bulmer

Dan Turner on Bloodsport V13 Photo: Rowan Spear-Bulmer

British climber Dan Turner is making a movie. A tough one. He's attempting to capture his ascents of the five of the hardest problems in the UK. But in a country with famously terrible weather and rock types like gritstone that take their toll on the skin, that's no easy task. 

There's no doubt climbing and filming five V13 to V14 problems in Britain takes strength, but more than that it takes commitment.

Creating the narrative around your attempt to climb specific problems is an interesting approach. Do you find that has added to the pressure to perform and get them done to complete the film or has it made you appreciate the process more?

Maybe a little recently, but I have always wanted to climb these. I put a lot of pressure on myself regardless so the process always turns out all bit stressful, which without doubt affects performance. However, I think you need to have that approach, determination and tenacity to do them. The reason for this project was to try and get some really nice footage of these amazing boulder problems as I felt up to now no-one has really done them justice. There is no budget, no deadlines, no expectations from anybody. So it's super chill. I just want to create something really cool that people will enjoy and get them psyched for British bouldering.

That's a great way to develop it. The stress of projecting is something all climbers feel. How do you prepare for hard projects mentally? What goes through your mind as you work them?

The mental side of climbing is where I fall to bits, it is something I really struggle with and I think it's something people don't really like to expose about their climbing, especially in the media. You often only hear about the success. However, my determination to keep on turning up - willing to drive two hours through rain on your weekend, blazed from work, on the off chance it could be dry and in good nick, is a strong mental point. My favorite part of working a project is when you finally do all the moves, then you know it's possible. Also trying to maintain some kind of forward momentum when projecting is good, but the more sessions you have the harder it is to convince yourself you are making progress.

Indeed, it's easy to focus on strength as being what gets you through projects but the mental part underpins everything. How do you balance that mental struggle with the belief that in fact it is possible for you?

Yeah as you say, if it was all about strength then these things would have been repeated multiple times, there are plenty of people out there capable. I just try as much as possible to have as little expectations as possible. I always say to myself, 'you've gotta just keep turning up and try and be present'. It will happen eventually.

I think I get the most benefit from just climbing consistently on a steep board, trying as hard as possible

Do you find that the commitment needed to turn up and try those problems time and time again takes any toll on the rest of your life?

Yeah totally but I guess it depends on your perspective. My fiancé is super supportive and I think having a job and something else going on means thats its not the be all and end all. However, I would dread to think how much financially better off I would be over the years if I hadn't spent all my money traveling across the country and world to climb small rocks. Maybe I would have a nice TV and a front door that closed properly, who knows.

How do you train for different projects, some of the problems you are trying to get down for your film are very different in style. Has that affected your regime?

I guess you could say I don't really have a conventional approach to my training. My priority is rock climbing, always has been always will be. So I try and train mid week after work while climbing both days on rock at the weekend (rarely happens). I think I get the most benefit from just climbing consistently on a steep board, trying as hard as possible. I toy with TRX, hang boarding, rings and the other usual stuff but it makes up very little of my "training". Yes, trying hard uk boulders, especially on the grit basically makes you weak. Take voyager for example. You have 5 good goes at the weekend. Your skin is mush, Monday your skin is sore, you can't try that hard, Tuesday is better. Wednesday you're a v3 climber. Thursday you are panicking that you aren't rested enough and your skin is still shot. Friday rest. So yeah you end up not doing a lot of quality or quantity of climbing or training.

I always try and remind myself, don't worry about the things you can't do, worry about what you can do.

Living in the UK, how much does the weather affect your ability to project problems?

Why is it always nice weather on Thursdays? Yeah add in working full time, leaves you with few opportunities. But hey, its the nature of it and probably the reason that the hardest blocks have all got sub 10 ascents. Grit is the hardest to get right!

You've started documenting the projecting process through your video blog. What made you decide to take that approach?

There was a few reasons, I kind of got sick of only ever hearing about success on social media so I thought I would try and represent the real process (if you aren't Jimmy Webb). Also, I was really bored of the general media content coming out, so figured try this out as didn't think many others were doing it in climbing. Finally, in my day to day life, I think my creativeness is kind of lost, I love making videos, like This Is Yorkshire, but I would only maybe two movie edits a year so this was a good excuse to use my camera and see if I could improve my skills.

It definitely comes across as a break from the norm within the bouldering movie genre. With the history of high level lying in climbing as a sport, do you think its also important now to capture that process and eventual send not just for posterity but as a kind of proof?

Yes. In the past I have definitely felt the pressure to prove and validate ascents, less so now. It's a shame we have come to this situation though, I guess I am lucky enough that I enjoy making movies. Personally, I don't think you have to video yourself doing boulders but the scene seems to.

One of the great things about climbing is that no matter the level everyone goes through the same process. What advice would you give to anyone embarking on a project?

Go for it. Try hard and don't give up too easily. If you aren't there at the boulder you aren't going to get up it. Whatever level, seeing people try hard and giving it everything, whether that's at the wall or on the blocs - that's what gets me hyped.