Tips and Techniques for Pushing Your Climbing Grade
Words by Lost Earth Adventures’ Instructor Ruth Jenkins
During the 90’s I was a semi -professional climber, climbing for the British Climbing team and at the time I climbed the hardest route by a British woman. I moved to the Peak District which offers some of the best climbing in the country with a mixture of stunning gritstone edges and steep over hanging limestone cliffs. Around this time, Britain’s 1st big commercial climbing wall opened in Sheffield and people flocked from all over the country to try it out. Since then climbing has changed dramatically and nowadays climbing walls are often people’s first experience of climbing and more recently Bouldering walls have sprung up almost everywhere.
How to Make the Transition from Indoor to Outdoor Climbing
If you climb indoors, you’ll be used to following routes with bolts and big coloured holds and so when you climb outdoors for the first time it can be daunting. In fact, even identifying which route is which is a challenge and then the thing that most people find hardest is route reading (looking at the route and knowing where to go and how to do the moves). Climbing outdoors involves technique that can often only be learned through experience in that environment.
If you have enjoyed your first climbing experience outdoors (and most people love it), you’ll then need to learn how to keep you and your partner safe before you are let loose on your own. Climbing outside involves technical rope work and gear placements that you’ll need to learn if you want to lead climb and even as a second you must feel confident that you can tie your own knots and belay in more complicated scenarios. A couple of sessions with a qualified instructor may be the best approach as you will gain a wealth of knowledge in a short period of time. Climbing clubs are also great places to meet enthusiastic members who can show you the ropes – British Mountaineering Council have a list of clubs in your area and useful advice on their website. You could also try looking for climbing partners at your local climbing wall.
Once you’ve been climbing for a while, it’s easy to plateau, how can you progress?
Once you’ve reached a certain grade it’s hard to progress unless you practice and train – this could be indoors or outdoors. It’s easy to go to the wall and just stick to things you are good at, however, if you really want to progress you’ll need to identify your weaknesses and work on them. Why are you failing on harder routes? Is it because you’re not strong enough? Are you getting too tired? Is it your technique that’s letting you down or maybe it’s your finger strength? Once you’ve identified your weakness, you can then decide the best training – this will depend on the type of climbing you enjoy, the time you have available and the facilities that you have at your disposal. A climbing coach or instructor could help you identify your weaknesses and suggest ways you can improve or even write you a training programme. It’s always good to have a goal, for example a route or boulder problem that you really want to climb; this will help keep you motivated. Above all, keep it enjoyable, maybe find some climbing friends who will offer advice and spur you on with friendly competition. Sometimes improvements come naturally when you are enjoying yourself and having fun.