The Mind and Body

When Your Grades Plateau – My Tips and Tricks!

We all hit this at some point in our climbing lives. For the first few years, you make massive gains and practically fly through the grades. As your confidence grows, so does your ability and you feel like you’re on the fast track to a climbing world cup position. Until you hit the plateau.

Suddenly as the months go by all you see from your past to your future is a flat landscape with countless v4s and v5s boulders dotted around here and there.

Is that all I’ve done? Is that all I will ever do?

For runners during a marathon, some of them hit the wall; for us climbers during our sessions, we hit the roof. We continue going up and up and up until we hit a roof so blank and so perilous it would even make Tommy Caldwell shiver in its presence. And it’s all in our minds.

This roof is there to separate the determined and strong, from the hesitant and weak. But for those of you despairing, never fear, I may have the solution! I have only just started to tackle this beast, and with no actual send but the odd hard move done here and there, I have to say I feel the strongest I have ever been.

My secret? Get over the grades and just try hard.

As we gain more experience climbing, I noticed that I stuck to a certain grade range, believing myself too weak to try anything harder.

Oh, I’ll try that route when I’m stronger! After doing all the ones within my ability of course…

Sound familiar? I said this to myself countless times.

Also, I had a mini epiphany when I was climbing not too long ago. You can sit on the mats all day, thinking about trying that hard, but good looking, route and yet still work on that harder than average “easier graded” route, even though it has some ridiculous holds on it (you know, the supposedly easier routes that trip up even the most skilled of climbers, never to be done – yeah, those knobheads). You know what I say? SACK THOSE OFF. They don’t make you a better climber, they just add insult to injury. Honestly, yesterday I watched people trying an “orange” route (yellows and oranges are mid grade difficulty) and it had this ridiculously small crimp on it. I didn’t even try it. Instead I tried a black route next to it (red and blacks are one tier up) and even though I didn’t send it, I felt so much happier on it than I would have on that orange one!


Because I knew that I would fail on that orange multiple times and feel really crap about it (isn’t it supposed to be in my grade range?). Instead, I put all my effort into a harder grade range and felt so psyched anytime I got a move or figured out a little piece of beta. The result of that effort put into that route was so much sweeter than the turmoil I would have faced on that orange.

This made me realise that I needed to let go of the colours (wouldn’t gyms be better without them?) because all the colours ever did was trap me in a grade range I was too comfortable in. Kept me soft and placid. Well.. No more!

I’m ready to start banging my head against harder routes now!

In the meantime, here’s a video of me trying to infiltrate the “strong climbers only” club.


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