In around 2000, being the obsessive type, I charted out in Excel the 5.10s, 5.11s, and 5.12s in New England (not including CT), using area guidebooks. It takes up a few pages. This is my tick list. I formatted my chart with columns by letter rating- big blocks of 5.10a, 5.10b, and so on throughout the rating range. The six columns are headed like so: guide book rating, alphabetical route name, crag, star rating, sport or trad, and date.
My personal policy is to write in the date if the route,s been either on-sighted, flashed, red pointed, or pink pointed (free soloing would be included, if I were more of a manly man)- I consider a route climbed once I do it in any of these styles. Top roping, working a route, hang dogging, resting on gear, and yo-yos don,t count. Over this several year block, it has been a lot of fun to check off routes that I,ve done, and I,m happy when I,ve worked a route for some weekends, and am able to succeed on it. Of course, the portions of the list in the upper end and in areas that are far from home are still mainly empty, but that,s all right- the routes will be unaltered by erosion for the foreseeable future, and maybe I,ll get stronger- or more ambitious.
When I started the list, I had been climbing for a while, so I filled in the qualifying routes that I had already done over prior years, estimating the date. This was a gratifying move.
Anyway, this list has been pinned on my bulletin board over my desk at work for over five years and I,ve quietly enjoyed knowing its up there, not understood by my co-workers. It keeps me honest in my climbing, helps me remember the route names, and it brings me a kind of a cool nostalgia effect when I look at it- usually when entering a newly done route, or when I realize its time to start a new one. The list also gets me motivated to always be trying new things, because my natural tendency would be to slide towards lethargy and the familiar. I know the list helped my climbing skills to broaden- what with always tackling new shit.
Often I,ll be trying a route that,s real hard for me for a few weekend days as I work or fail on it, rest, and am able to get back to it. While that fight is going on, because of the list, I might also be mindful of one or two routes in the area that are conceivably in my on-sight range. During a well executed climbing day, I usually do two or three warm-ups, try the hard thing two or three goes, then step back to something a bit easier (which might be the on-sight prospect), then cool down with a couple laps on something light. Sometimes the on-sight prospects become projects also, if they prove to be harder than I hoped. Generally I only work routes up to around five separate days any given year, at that point, if I haven,t done it and the route is that hard for me I shelve it for the time being- just so I,m not obsessing too long and miss out on other fun stuff that year.
It helps to find partners that have similar interests. A good partnership with a friend that has similar climbing goals and comparable strengths will lead to more success as you work together.