Climbing Smarter = Climbing Harder

Reverse flag, gaston, arête—oh my! If you’ve visited the Longmont Climbing Collective, you’ve surely heard this technobabble flung around a time or two. As with any sport, having a strong understanding of and being able to correctly utilize a plethora of techniques is a game-changer. Let’s discuss why technique skill-building is the #1 way to improve climbing performance for beginning to intermediate level climbers.

How many times have we all been told that climbers have to possess great upper-body strength in order to be successful? To be clear, getting stronger through systematic strength training is a great idea and is a crucial component for advancing through grades, so be sure to check out Taylor’s training classes. But strength isn’t everything. The idea that climbing is only for the super strong has led to many being too fearful to even give the sport a try, and it’s time this adage be debunked. I can truly say that the climbers I have enjoyed working with the most are the ones who threw this silly idea into the dust bin and tried it all the same. My greatest joy comes from their beaming smiles and lightbulb moments when they overcome struggles to find success.

So, how did these climbers without bulky upper-body muscles manage to not only have fun, but also be successful? They learned to utilize proper climbing technique. If you get the chance, watch multiple climbers navigate the same route. Some will seem to pull hard and power through the moves, while others will look as if they’re gracefully floating up the wall with minimal effort. Also take note of the “veteran” climbers. They know that muscle is harder to maintain with age and those powerful moves don’t jive so well with aging joints, so they must compensate with technique in order to maintain their skill level. Also consider slab routes with tiny or sloping holds, where the only option is using technique.

We’ve all been told at one point in our lives to take the path of least resistance. In climbing, this means utilizing a wide variety of techniques in order to use the minimum amount of muscle, energy and power to reach the top. Think about it—muscle is heavy and weighs us down. In a sport where we are literally fighting gravity, being lighter is highly beneficial, which is why almost all professional climbers are very lean and have exquisite technique. Using more energy and power than is necessary is simply inefficient. The next time you’re climbing, pay attention to your hand tension. Are you using the minimum amount of gripping force in order to not slip off the hold? I can assure you that using more than the minimum is directly related to fear, lack of confidence, or shoddy technique.

Now let me address my fellow ladies. Please, let’s collectively decide to stop allowing each other to use “I’m too short” or “I’m too weak” as excuses. These, and many other so-called challenges can be overcome or lessened by climbing with proper technique. In fact, technique can transform these challenges into advantages. Case in point- try sticking someone over six feet tall in a compact sequence of moves that can’t be skipped. Being tall can certainly turn one into a pretzel in this scenario! Small climbers and those with pinpoint technique accuracy can also expertly navigate seemingly too-small holds and keep their feet from popping off of dime-sized edges and slabby pancake nubs.

Hopefully by now you’re thoroughly convinced of why it is imperative to master that technobabble and start climbing more efficiently. So now the question remains, how do you learn this mythical unicorn technique? You could watch skilled climbers float up the wall and puzzlingly attempt to parse out what exactly they did. Or, you could fast-track the process by attending a class at the Longmont Climbing Collective! We offer a co-ed Bouldering Level I class on Mondays designed to teach you the essentials of climbing as well as a place for women of all levels to support each other’s learning through the Lady Crushers class on Tuesdays. Visit us online or speak with a staff member at the front desk for more information and to sign up.

Are you ready to transform how you approach climbing? I thought so! Register Today for Bouldering Level I or Lady Crushers to learn how to climb smarter so you can climb harder.

Rebecca Allison, AMGA Certified Climbing Wall Instructor & Lady Crushers Coach