Lucid Dreaming: Trials Evolution And The Climb

Lucid Dreaming: Trials Evolution And The Climb

“My name is Paul, I’m mostly into really, really hard movements. Movements that have never been done before, and may have been deemed impossible in the past.

“My goal… in my mind, is to make every movement perfect. I want every movement to feel really, really easy. And when I can do that? That’s the best satisfaction for me.”

Paul Robinson is one of the best rock climbers alive today, specialising in short, incredibly complex climbing routes known as boulders. In 2010 he completed his long term project ‘Lucid Dreaming’, a staggeringly difficult route — arguably one of the most difficult routes in the world today — one of a handful of boulder routes graded at the almost unheard of V16 level. To date, no one has repeated the ascent.

I sit at home, with an Xbox 360 controller firmly pressed into my palms. I’m playing Trials Evolution. Having just come home from the gym, I’m still wearing my climbing gear. My fingers are covered in tape, to suppress the tendon pain in my digits. My palms are doused in chalk. My hands are littered with calluses.

These days I find myself spending a lot of time climbing, trying to build the kind of physical strength and technique that might allow me to glide up sheer rock like Paul Robinson. I’ll never be able to climb routes at his level — that would be impossible — but every climber has his or her own personal ‘Lucid Dream’, and that’s the beauty of it.

These days I spend a lot less time gaming and more time climbing.

But Trials Evolution feels a little different.

I click ‘back’.

‘Back’ is the button you press when you want or need to restart a level on Trials Evolution. You restart mostly because you want the perfect run. Anyone who has played Trials Evolution with a personal competitive edge understands the imperative. A single fault on most tracks means that, upon completion, you’ll receive a silver medal — not a gold medal, and certainly not a platinum medal — and when every single player on your friends list has a gold medal, you don’t want to settle for second best.

It’s about challenging yourself; it’s about testing your own boundaries. As soon as you finish the level, your time is compared with those of all Trials Evolution players around the world. Most likely, I’ll never be able to compete with those at the very top, but I’m determined to outdo those on my friends list. Every one has their own ‘Lucid Dream’.

My brother calls me on my mobile; all he wants to talk about is Trials Evolution.

“I’ve never gone for perfection in any other part of my life,” he says, and he uses the word ‘perfection’. “But in Trials Evolution, I want to be perfect.”

I suspect he’s slightly drunk.

“If I think I’ve started slowly, or I think I can go faster, I just restart.”


I had been struggling with one climb for weeks. Most of the people I climb with had already finished the climb, but I had yet to complete it. It just wasn’t my style.

I can remember every single move from memory.

The first move is a left-hand reach, from a sit start, then a semi-dynamic move up to a right-hand jug. I match the hold with my left hand, then shift my weight to prepare for the next movement. From the beginning I had this part of the sequence down perfectly. Even at this precise second I can visualise the exact movements necessary.

The next move is the crux, and there are two ways I can solve it. I can skip a hold and use my strength to bump straight up to a pinch finish, or I can make a reachy move out right, take my feet off the hold and try and use my core strength to restrain my body weight from swinging off the wall before moving up for the finish.

But my pinch strength is weak, and I’m short, so my reach is a problem. This climb does not fit my own personal climbing style, not in the slightest.

I swing out right. My left foot slips. I hang on for a second as my legs barrel beneath me and I fall to the mat below.

I push ‘back’ and restart.


In Trials you can watch replays of the fastest times. In fact, if you’re serious about Trials, and you want to improve, watching these replays is mandatory. It’s the only way you can improve in any significant way — to figure out the best routes, when to accelerate and push your body weight forward, when to decelerate and land on your back wheel.

Climbers call this ‘beta’.

‘What is the sequence?’ Where should I put my feet?’ ‘Should I go up statically for this hold, or is the movement dynamic?’ Climbers talk and share information because every climb is different. In bouldering, a specific form of climbing that focuses on short, difficult movements, routes are referred to as ‘problems’. Some people call Trials Evolution a puzzle game.

Finally I ‘solve’ the crux. The solution is frustratingly simple in hindsight — the sign of a good problem. My footwork is good, so I find a hidden hold — the jug I matched earlier — and use it flag my leg all the way left, shifting my centre of gravity to a position where I can easily reach for the final hold. It feels effortless.


The chalk remains on my hands. My grip on the controller is secure. Skin peels from past efforts; I rub my thumbs across blisters and remember how they got there.

Trials Evolution often feels like an incredible effort. Through practice, you acquire skills and techniques that allow you to adapt to the radically different set of challenges it consistently throws at you.

As I sit in my climbing gear, I feel an overwhelming sense of familiarity. The initial struggle and the attempt to overcome that struggle. The need to learn something new, and the joy that comes from learning something new. The need to learn routes, then execute them perfectly — so that movements you once deemed impossible suddenly feel easy and light.

The reward from climbing is the same — exasperation, relief, a short sense of exhilaration, then on to the next seemingly impossible challenge.

Hi, my name is Mark, and I’m mostly into really, really hard movements. Movements that have never been done before, and may have been deemed impossible in the past.

My goal, in my mind, is to make every movement perfect. I want every movement to feel really, really easy. And when I can do that? That’s the best satisfaction for me.

Sometimes it feels a little bit like Lucid Dreaming.


  • Soo… damn… awesome…

    I want to be perfect at trials too…

    Also – i think this was just a good excuse to write about climbing 😛 lol

  • It was a bit rocky to begin with, but I grabbed tight and climbed on, eventually I peaked when I read the article. It was quite a trial. An evolution some would say.

    But good article Mark!

  • I don’t wanna be “That guy” but I can’t resist.

    “I sit at home, with an Xbox 360 firmly pressed into my palms.”

    Would probably be easier to play with the controller, but maybe that’s just me.

    “‘Select’ is the button you press when you want or need to restart a level on Trials Evolution.”

    I do not know of this Select button of which you speak, My Xbox 360 controller has a Back button.

  • I agree completely. I have never perfected anything in my life. Im ok/good at everything but not really special in anything. But there is something about Trials that I love.

    But oh man, that feeling of perfecting a run is amazing. It’s my drug atm actually. I got a platinum run on out of the pit a few nights ago and it was one of the best feelings. I may have fist pumped a few times!.

    Everyone has their own goals. When I first started playing Trials, my goal was to complete every track and that I thought was too difficult, then to silver every track, then gold and then onto platinum. I seriously looked at those extreme tracks and thought that they were impossible. After many MANY hours of practice, I actually made it in HD where those impossible track were easy and effortless. I was going back to extreme tracks for fun now!

    Im really enjoying Trials Evolution now so much more because I feel i’ve gone backwards. I have to re-learn the tracks and get back to that point, and Im loving that journey. This game is always about the journey for me, about the personal achievement much more than beating my friends or topping leaderboards. I just want to push myself to be the best i can be!

    At the moment, my goal is to get all platinum on all tracks and I still think this will take me another month or more! But I am loving every second of it!

  • I love Trials, I played the first one to death and got platinum on every track and I’m working my way through Trials Evolution getting platinums. I’ve got all these other games I should be playing, The Witcher 2 is gathering dust, but I just keep playing one more track and before I know it my day is over.

    I’m obsessed with the hard tracks, I’ve mostly ignore the easy tracks and skipped straight to Extreme tracks as soon ans they unlocked. So far I’ve got platinum on the first 3 and gold on the last. I just can’t stop playing.

  • I am a Trials noob, but I am addicted! The game reminds me of Elastomania – a game I played to death at High School. I didn’t play Trials HD – I made a concious decision not to do so at the time because I knew I would get sucked in. I have not been so strong with Trials Evolution. I think its mainly to do with how much everyone is talking about it! I want to be a part of it all!

    I have to admit I am a bit rubbish, but I am getting better. That being said, I didn’t even know there were platinum medals, so that just shows I’m not good enough to have got one yet. I only have few people on my friends list playing at the moment, and I’m guessing they are new to it as well because our times are pretty close together on most tracks.

    I can see myself losing so much time to this game! I am already starting to neglect other games and my pile of shame will never get any smaller whilst I continue to play Trials Evolution. But I love the feeling of not wanting to play any other game but one – and it’s a feeling I don’t seem to get too often these days!

    Anyways, if anyone wants to add an inexperienced Trials player to their friends list, my GT is – buckE AU

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