Psychology of climbing

So something I plan to read into more in the next few weeks but a topic I seem to have discussed a lot in the last week or so.

Every climber has had it, the thoughts before you even pull on to a climb…’I can’t do this’ indoors ‘it’s above my usual grade’ halfway up a climb… ‘I can’t make this TAKE’

None of this is entirely true, how do we know we cannot complete a climb, what do grades really mean if you haven’t tried them, do we always yell take when we at our physical limit or is it our mental limit. I just finished reading a book by Alain Robert, you may know him as Spiderman, amazing guy but there is a section in his book where he discusses failing on a climb he should do easily. What is amazing is not that he failed but that he was thinking exactly the same on a solo 7c+ as I think on a highball 5+ and it is what links all climbers intrinsically, us average climbers can feel EXACTLY what the top guys feel just at our own grade.

At the end of last week I had my worst session for a long time, in The Works in Sheffield, I couldn’t complete problems I’d done a few days before,I couldn’t move anything above a 6a yet what was different? I was as fresh as ever, feeling strong, was in the right mental frame when I arrived….. I was climbing with someone different. Someone who didn’t push me, asked me why I was trying things I clearly could not finish, why not just climb the grades I could do….? The change in my ability was vast.

the following day I took another climber to The Depot, someone just pushing into the black grades, by the end of the session she had completed most of the black circuit, afterwards she thanked me for pushing her, not just helping her route read but yelling at her to get on the next hold, telling her to try things…. she improved a grade in a single session, not because physically she was stronger but mentally she believed she could do it.

Psychology…… I need to know more.


3 thoughts on “Psychology of climbing”

  1. An interesting and well written article. I did a bit of climbing in my youth – not too much and I can’t really remember many names except ‘Josephine Direct’ in Ilkley Quarry springs to mind – sadly now fallen down (I believe). I was more a caver – which is a bit like climbing, only wearing wellies and usually under a waterfall. Still – each to their own. I am enjoying reading your blog and wishing I was 40 years younger and a couple of stones lighter 🙂


    1. You’re never too old to climb, and it would knock those couple of stones off too. Most of Josephine is still there, just a little shorter. S Crack is still the horrible challenge it always has been


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