10 Climbing Tips From the Head Routesetter

“Ah! This route is impossible!” Check out some climbing tips below from The Rock Club’s Head Routesetter, Matt Raue.

Warm up

Take the time to get properly warmed up. Either do laps on a very easy climb, or do some kind of quick (ten minute), light cardio. We have to warm up our muscles before we can stretch, squeeze, pull and leap as is often required in our sport. After a general body warm-up, climb a succession of climbs that are well within your range, utilizing a variety of hold-types. Feel out your body, note how it is responding to the stress of climbing on that particular day. A long, mellow warm up is crucial to injury prevention.

Warm up the MOVEMENT. If you don’t warm up mindfully, trying to make every move perfect on the easy stuff, you won’t be ready to really push it on your projects. Warming up is mental as well as physical.

Read the route

Look up at the entire route, not just the first three or four moves. Visualize what you will be doing to progress through the rock climb. Notice all the details including the types and directions of the holds, the size and placement of the feet, the wall angle, clipping positions if leading… Notice EVERYTHING so you don’t have to go through it while you’re trying to on-sight the climb. Read the route!

•Spot rests, find places where you might be able to stem across a corner, or even perch on a high-profile hold. Large jugs can be used to alternately “shake-out” each hand.
•Spot cruxes (harder moves or sections of the climb). Try to notice where the route is most challenging, and make a specific plan for that area of the climb. Make two plans!
•Read the positions and the movement, instead of simply noting all the handholds
•Double check that you are aware of ALL the holds on the climb

Stay low on your arms (Spend most of your time looking down)

This is a basic tip on technique. Try to climb with your arms straight, and your center of gravity close to the wall. Figure out how to back-step effectively, and how to conserve energy by “sinking-in” and moving with your legs and hips, not your biceps and shoulders.

Breathe Consciously

Think about how to maximize your performance through breathing alone. Find a good breathing pattern for what you consider easy climbing, and figure out how conscious, deep, consistent breathing can help you move through cruxes. Learn how to lower your heart beat and calm down through resting on the wall combined with deep belly-breaths.

Go for it!

The indoor climbing environment is perfect for full commitment. Warming up is incredibly important, so as long as we are ready for the holds and the moves, we can really give it everything in the climbing gym. Risk is low, so find out what you’re capable of pulling off!

Try everything

We have bouldering, auto-belays, top ropes and a huge lead area. Try everything. The best climber is a well-rounded climber, who knows when to employ the proper move or technique, or apply pure power when appropriate. Top roping and leading is great for endurance, while bouldering is great for focusing on movement, and working on power and finger strength. The key to unlocking your project in either area, might be to start working on its “opposite.”

Ask for help, Ask questions

One of the greatest things about the climbing community in general is the (sometimes overly eager) willingness to help one another. This can be technical or safety-related, or just be advice on how to grab a hold or position a foot. While unsolicited advice may not be quite what you’re looking for, a request for some advice or suggestions will not be rebuffed! And of course the staff at the Front Desk or any TRC instructor would be happy to try to answer your question, or find someone who can.

Watch other climbers, watch your climbing partners

Experienced and inexperienced climbers alike have plenty to teach you. Just by watching critically, noticing details and analyzing why someone did well or poorly can teach you a tremendous amount about how to climb BETTER, not stronger.

The same goes for watching yourself! Have a partner (who isn’t also belaying you) film you with a smart phone or similar device. Watch your footage and pick apart your climbing with an open, constructive attitude.

Be nice you yourself

Remember that getting to the top doesn’t mean the climbing was its best, and that falling doesn’t have to be considered a failure. While it’s perfectly normal to holler, curse, maybe throw a fist in the air if you fall off your project, remember to come back to the climbing and examine what happened. Allow yourself to go through the emotional process, and then with a cool head, try to remember what went wrong about the climb, AND what went right!

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