How to Climb Better

When you climb, move like you mean it.

If you’ve been climbing for some time now, you’ll probably identify with me when I talk about the route with a crux that scares you witless every time you go near it.  You’ve gotten beta from everyone, you know exactly what you must do and how the move goes, but you’re gripped.  You’ve climbed flawlessly to the crux through a sequence of moves that you can now do with your eyes closed.  You’ve rested your arms as much as you can and feel that you should be ready to tackle the crux now but something holds you back.  You figure it’s now or never and you make the move only to fall short of what you had hoped to achieve.  Soon you’ve called for a tight rope and you’re left hanging, wondering what went wrong.

So what did go wrong?  You hesitated.  You didn’t believe.  You doubted yourself.

Could it really make that much of a difference?  Yes, it can.

I can remember one of the routes I had been projecting that had me feeling this way almost as if I had just climbed it yesterday.  The route was called “Jah Lap Climbing” and the crux was a mini roof about two thirds of the way up.  Getting to the crux was easy and there was even a nice little rest point you could relax at just before moving into the crux.  Entering the crux involved the use of two crimpers and a very polished foothold. 

Now crimpers have always been my specialty and ordinarily I loved them, but not when it involved going over a roof with only a slippery foothold for help.  The climbers below were calling up beta to me and all of them involved using that one and only foothold – no wonder it was polished! 

I remember placing my foot tentatively onto the foothold and rubbing my toe against it.  My shoe slipped off as if I had been skating on ice.  “No way!”  I thought.  “There had to be another way.”

It wasn’t until I could get my mind around the idea that if I applied enough force and conviction in my step, I could get my shoe to stick to that polished bit of rock, before I was able to red-point that route.  Because I doubted, my foot did exactly as I expected it to – it slipped off.  Once I had that route nailed, everything just fell into place and I can’t for the life of me understand why I had trouble with that foothold.  Every time I climbed that route after my red-point, I could move through the crux without a second thought to that foothold.  My foot would stick just because I know it will.

When you hesitate, when you doubt, you’ll get exactly what you expect – a failure.  If you can hold back your thoughts for a moment and just go with the flow, you’ll climb a lot better.


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