As I have been climbing and watching other climbers with an attention to detail for over 20 years, I have come to a few conclusions about leading traditional, sport or highball boulder problems.
Erik Weihenmayer and I before his ascent of the Marmaloda via Don Quixote 5.10+.
Leading routes can be a treat or the bane of your climbing day. Often times we get distracted by the spacing between bolts or gear. Sometimes we loose focus due to the difficulty of the moves and other times due to the conditions (exposure/wind/temperature…).
Part of leading successfully comes from practicing. That could be done on easier routes or boulders indoors, but that rehearsal sometimes doesn’t transfer over to the outdoors. Part of leading successfully comes from having the proper mindset. That can come from how you take on challenges, your persona and your successes in overcoming challenges be it physical or mental.
No matter what the reason, I feel that there is one that should be looked at closely if you are having issues leading. Ask yourself this question, Are you climbing to the next bolt/placement or are you climbing the route? It seems like a simple question but I know that my fear/anxiety builds significantly once my focus changes on the route from executing the moves to getting to that next bolt/placement. Once I can switch my thought process from making that clip or placing that piece to just climb and do the moves, I am able to take control of my actions and proceed. Focusing on the climbing can bring back that comfortable feeling that you may have when you climb easier routes or problems and transfer into success on the current climb. Often times when I am really just climbing and being in the moment, I climb past bolts or placements and feel so comfortable that I wonder why I was sweating it in the first place.The ways in which I focus on the climbing are the following:
- When on a route that has been climbed before and I am onsighting, I constantly tell myself that if it was dangerous that no one would be climbing it.
- I remember that normally the most run out portions of climbs are the easiest sections and that I am a competent climber on all types of terrain and that this is no different.
- I look back to my rehearsal (if I am projecting the climb) and just focus on the successful attempts and execute each movement perfectly at the perfect time.
- I smile, because I tell myself that “this is fun!”
- I commit to going for it because I know that there is normally a good hold or stance to clip or place from.
- I remind myself that growth comes from discomfort and trying new things and that coming out of my comfort zone will only promote my mental and physical growth.
- I tell myself that this is why I came climbing today.
I hope that some of these ways to cope will assist you with your climbing progression.
Get out there and have an adventure! Piz : )