Focusing on Success

Our ability to focus on the task of rock climbing, often means that we can utilise all of our technique and tactics to succeed on our chosen route. It is often a question of being able to focus on the right things, and not the things like feelings of anxiety or negative thoughts that will adversly affect our climbing performance.

Many people see focus having two major polar dimension, one of those is a wide versus a narrow focus of attention, whilst the other is an internal versus external focus of attention. This gives us four possible zones of attentions (See Diagram). In climbing just a single pitch of climbing we might visit all four of these focuses of attention.

Four Focuses of Attention
Four Focuses of Attention

Narrow/External: We may use this zone when placing a wire or actually making a move, often thought of as the action zone.

Narrow/Internal: We may use this zone to think through the crux of a route, often looked at as the problem solving/visualisation zone

Wide/External: We may use this zone to look at the route, and get an overview, often looked at at an awareness zone

Wide/Internal: We may use this to emotionally deal with exposure or position, often looked at as the analysis of the situation zone

In order to work on your focus it is first necessary to develop and awareness of your focus, then try to develop a sort of control in everyday life before trying to exert some control in your climbing.

Exercise One – Awareness

Several times a day spend 10 minutes on seeing what you mind focuses on. See if you can attribute the point of focus to one of the four zones we talked about earlier.

Exercise Two – Wide/Narrow

Whilst sitting down, try and switch your attention between a single object and the whole room.

Exercise Three – Internal/External

Whilst in a room or situation switch your focus from internal feelings to external atmosphere.

Exercise Four – Maintaining Focus

repeat exercises two and three, but try and maintain focus for as long as possible before switch your attention.

Exercise Five – Working through the Zones to Action

Stage 1 – use a wide external focus to become aware of a situation or route

Stage 2 – switch to a wide and internal focus to analysis that situation or route

Stage 3 – switch to a narrow and internal focus of attention to visualise/problem solve the situation or route

Stage 4 – enter the narrow and external focus of attention and act on the situation or climb the route.

This last process of working through the four zones will help you both before and during a climb. The important areas are that you are rational when you look at the awareness and the analysis of the situation. It is in these areas that we can adversely effect our performance by focusing on the negatives of a situation. It is here that we need to help focus on the positives of a situation, or see a way out of it, like a gear placement or a ledge or jug somewhere you can see a way to. See or search this blog for Self talk for some ideas for remaining positive.

As you develop the awareness of where your focus is at a given moment on a climb, you might see that there are times that it is better to focus on the narrow and external or action zone, rather than on internal thoughts and feelings.

Snowdonia Mountain Guide Courses

Learning to Lead Climb Week 10th -14th May 2010

This course is design to teach you the essential skills and techniques required to lead on traditional leader placed protection in the UK, and beyond. During the week we will cover movement technique on rock, placing runners, making belays, reading guidebook, and the tactics for efficient lead climbing.

Cost £500 – Non-residential only. 1 to 2 ratio

Performance Rock Climbing Coaching Week 24th – 28th May 2010

This course is for people who have already been lead climbing, and have reach a plateaux and need to find a way to move through the grades. Ideally you will have led severe graded climbs or harder, and during the week we will look at finding your weaknesses and choosing routes that will help you to develop your tactics, technique, confidence and become a more efficient climber.

Cost £500 – Non-residential only. 1 to 2 ratio

The Complete Climber Weekend Workshop 29th – 30th May 2010

This weekend workshop looks at developing all aspect of your climbing through series of workshops that on the Saturday will help you to develop the technical skills of good footwork, balance and body position, along with some ropework. The Sunday look at developing the mental skills that climbers require for success.

Cost £150 – Non-residential only. 1 to 6 Ratio

Big Wall Climbing Workshop 17th – 18th April 2010

Learn the essential skills and techniques for big wall climbing, in places like Yosemite.


Private Guiding and Coaching – Throughout 2010

As well as set course we also run private guiding and instruction. These course can last any length of time and can include any number of routes like the Gogarth classic, Dream of White Horses or the iconic British sea stack The Old Man of Hoy. Alternatively you might want to have a personal coach on your next European sports climbing holiday. What these day will get you is straight to the heart of some of the best routes in North Wales and beyond, whilst at the same time learning how to climb harder and safer than ever before.

About Snowdonia Mountain Guides

Snowdonia Mountain Guides is run by Mark Reeves, a qualified Mountaineering instructor with over 10 years experience of teaching rock climbing in Snowdonia. As well as the Mountain Instructor Award, Mark has also attended several courses aimed at his continual professional development, including the BMC Fundementals and LTAD2: Learning to Training Workshops, The Plas Y Brenin Coaching Processes for Mountain Instructors Course, and most recently complete a Two Year Part-time Msc in Applied Sport Science, looking at the physiological and psychological demands of performance rock climbing and effective way to coach climbing. In the past five years as well as these academic and practical coaching courses, Mark has acriued hundreds of days experience of teaching rock climbing at various level for Plas Y Brenin, as well as performed to a very high standard on Rock, leading up to E5.

Staying Motivated

If we want to improve at anything we need to work at it, usually over an extended period of time. What is key to maintaining our work rate and pursuit of our aims, goals or ambition, are maintaining high levels of motivation. Motivation is the activation or energiazation of our goal-oriented behaviour. What is interesting is that we are all slightly different in how and where we find our motivation. With a key focus being the individual differences of personality.

For example a person high in levels of consciencousness would be more likely to keep to a training regime, whereas as someone with high levels of narcassism might be more motivated to train if there is somewhere there to impress. Neurotics might be motivated to train to avoid worrying thoughts, and someone with alyxthimia might well be motivated to climb to feel some form of emotion. Others might train to please others like parents, friends or siblings.

In general, as humans we are often motivated by reward, so in climbing the reward could be seen to be feeling different or better about oneself than in ‘normal’ everyday life. Achieving success or winning acceptance from others. But in pleasing others we can please ourselves. Generally we part-take in a leisure activity because of how it makes us feel. If climbing made you feel bad would you carry on climbing?

A key to staying motivated might be to acknowledge just what motivates you, or why you climb. This will allow you to work on maintaining your motivation, by understanding where it comes from. As goal-orientated behaviour, motivation requires a goal, inparticular one that is maybe a long-term goal or dream for the year. This gives you a focus for all your climbing or training. A way to maintain momentum towards your goal is to have a series of smaller goals or stepping stones that lead to the bigger goal.

What these smaller steps do is keep help you maintain a positive behaviour, by allowing you to feel that you are constantly making progress towards your goal. The closer the goal feels the more your behaviour will change to pursuing it. There comes a point when the goal appears to be so far out of reach that you behaviour towards achieving may stop. However there are people who might respond to getting so far away from there goal that they face becoming there ‘feared self’ and motivation for not becoming the person or climber they fear can become a motivation.

Above all you need to have a realistic goal or dream, and one that you have a real desire or passion to achieve, and rational reasons as to why this is achievable. A way that you can mentally monitor progress and an understanding of what makes your reward centre tick.

Big Wall Climbing Course

Setting you up for Yosemite!
Setting you up for Yosemite!

I have just set up the following dates for a Big Walling Course, which will operate at a maximum of 1 to 4 ratio. The course will be based in and around Llanberis on the weekend of the 17th & 18th April.

The course is designed to set you up with all the basic big walling skills, so you can go out and tackle giant routes like the Nose of El Cap or the Regular Route on Half Dome. The course will cost £150 per person, and is non-residential. If you would like to find out more than please visit Snowdonia Mountain Guides or contact me via this website.

How To Climb Harder: Book Photos

Looking like a gimp racking a sling over shoulder
Looking like a gimp racking a sling over shoulder

Well a couple of weeks ago i pent a day taking pictures with Pete Wood from Pesda Press at the Beacon Climbing Centre, I am now down to five images to finish the book, so will have to get those next week, then it is just a matter of time. Yesterday I ran a new CD, the first was corrupted, of those images so Pete can finalise the layout. Hopefully soon it will be ready to show my colleagues at work, and friends what I have done.

Anyway I have got some of the images here. Try not to laugh!!!

I am ready for my close up now Pete!
I am ready for my close up now Pete!
Clipping a quickdraw
Clipping a quickdraw
Laybacking an arete
Laybacking an arete

Choosing a Project

Some people are goal orientated, I know that I am more focused when I have a either an overt or covert goal to aim for. For me I have two goals this year, one get fit enough to clibm the Nose on El Cap, its been a while since I was last Big Walling however I feel like I could go there tomorrow and get up it. The trick is now to keep that focus and maintain it until September. My second goal is to climb F8a, now I have been training like mad at the beacon over the winter, and feel physically ready, so now I have to choose a project.

For the last week I have been doing just that. For a route of this grade I feel that i need it to work my strengths, rather than use it to battle my weaknesses. As such I have been looking around the Slate quarries and getting on hard sports routes on a top rope, and giving the moves a go. I am just about 5’10” if I stand very tall. Unfortunately many routes are designed (quite literally in some cases) for people over 6′.

Whilst i have yet to try the last route I have discussed my options with a friend, James McHaffie, who although small, is very, very strong. As such my shortlist of projects for the coming months are Gin Palace a F7c chimney to a powerful crack in the headwall, The Dark Destroyer a strenuous F7c+, Menstrual Discharge a fiercely technical F8a+, The Medium a desperate slab route F8a and Forsinain Motspur a bouldery and technical F7c.

In choosing these routes I have climbed another 4 or so routes that simply seemed wrong for me. Whereas the one I choose have all felt like given enough commitment I could do and eventually link all the moves. This to me gives me a psychological advantage, because in my head even after one attempt on a rope they ‘feel’ possible.

I have spoken about goal setting here before and the need to set a difficult yet believable goal, can and I hope will change my behavior when it comes to climbing these amazing routes. I am already looking forward to getting on these routes, unfortunately I will have to find some very good friends to belay me on them, as I sense it might be a long and drawn out affair with some of the routes.

So what are your projects, and how are you going to reach them? I have tried to do something almost everyday to reach these goals. Even if it is something as small as one less cake at dinner time, an extra lap of the Castle when out for a run or one more lap of a circuit at the wall.