When you first start climbing, you may progress rapidly through the grades. But whether you’re climbing indoors or outside, at some point you’re going to hit a plateau. If you want to make it to the next level, here are five tips to improve your climbing grade.
Get the Mileage In
As with anything, the more you do of something, the better you’ll get. This is particularly true with trad climbing. If I haven’t trad climbed for a while it takes me twice as long to pick the right piece of gear and I tend to be more cautious and place more gear than necessary. The slicker your gear placements, the more energy you save and the harder you’ll be able to climb.
It’s sometimes said that climbing is the best training for climbing. This is partially true, but whatever level you’re climbing at, you should see an improvement in your climbing grade with a structured training programme. This needs to be specific to the level you’re climbing at; if you’re a beginner then jumping straight onto a fingerboard is a recipe for injured fingers!
Focus on Footwork
One of the key signs of a beginner climbing at the wall is shoddy footwork. It’s tempting to think you just need to get stronger to climb harder, but learning good technique is just as important as strength. By focusing on improving your footwork, not only will you be able to climb harder, you will become a better climber. Your strength may ebb and flow, but good footwork will stay with you for a lifetime.
If you find yourself kicking or scraping the wall when you climb, practice these seven drills to improve your footwork.
Don’t Be Afraid to Fail (or Fall)
I’d hazard a guess that the fear of falling is one of the most common things that stops people climbing to their full potential. The times I have climbed my hardest routes on both trad and sport are when I have been able to control my fear to a certain extent. To put it bluntly, if you’re terrified of falling off, you won’t push yourself to your physical limit. This means you won’t get as strong as you could do or climb the grades you’re capable of climbing.
Fear of failure also holds us back. Many people have a mental barrier in their heads around a certain grade. For example, they may be super confident climbing VS, but the mention of an HVS is enough to send them into shakes halfway up the route. You can often climb a lot harder than you think you can. Though please don’t take that as an invitation to jump on an E7 when you’re only climbing VS! Part of becoming an experienced climber is knowing when it’s safe to fall, and when it isn’t.
Learn From Climbers Who Are Better Than You
Perhaps the best tip to improve your climbing grade is to climb with people who are better than you. Seconding harder routes allows you to push your body to the limit without having to worry about placing gear or falling off. But don’t just hold your partner’s rope – watch how they climb. Look at what holds they use, how they position their body and how they rest on the route. Then, try and emulate this when you climb.
Even if you don’t have the opportunity to get out with better climbers, you can still watch how they climb and learn from it. Bouldering walls are great for this. If you’re struggling to figure out a particular problem, take a break and watch how other people climb it. Do they climb it differently depending on their size and strength? Experienced climbers will often know the best sequence for a problem just by looking at it. Once you’re fully rested, try climbing it their way and you may be surprised how much easier you find it.