I Boulder V5 why do I struggle on HVS?

I plugged my book to a potential buyer today, and he went on to send me an email asking a few questions. I thought it would be of interest to answer some of his questions on my coaching blog, as I have been asked similar questions in the past, and certainly come across many climbers with similar issues.

At the moment the climber can flash V4 and climbs V5 after about 3 attempts and has made inroads to the V6 grade but is not consistent at V6 yet. All this is on indoor climbing. In theory the climber believes and has been told that this bouldering grade can translate to E5 outside, but is struggling on HVS when outside.

On his first lead for 12 months the climber on-sighted his first VS, and was instantly too tired to lead again, so top-roped a HVS and became severely pumped. He was wanting advise of Strength Endurance training.

So first of all I want to look at the relevance of bouldering indoor to trad climbing outside. I don’t know where the climber trains, but at its simplest level some walls can be generous with their grades. Secondly when indoor climbing most holds can be pinched in one way or another. By using the thumb we make our grip stronger, and can often holds much smaller holds as a consequence. Next time you at the wall, try to climb a problem or route without pinching holds. Outside it is often harder to find a way to pinch holds instead we have to rely on crimping or other way to hang a hold without the aid of the thumb. As such comparing indoor and outdoor bouldering grades is a tricky business. Often if you climb more outside you will climb harder outside and if you train more inside then your grade will be better inside.

Inside climbing is often a lot steeper than outdoors, as such the relevance to ‘real’ or outside climbing can be lost, unless you are climbing of 40 degree overhanging cliffs, which generally get very large sports grades! As such there is a problem with making indoor training specific to climbing outside.

If we look at outdoor trad leading there are very many skills that we need, of which local muscle endurance in the arms is in my mind only a very small part. First you need to be able to read a route so as to climb it in the right way, secondly a good rack and a very good understanding of where every piece of gear is clip to you and having an eye for a placement will all save you energy. On top of this placing gear from an appropriate place, so you need to be able to find hands off rests or respites in order to save even more energy.

Technique for outdoor climbing is also key, just watch a good climber climb, you’ll see that they make it look effortless, as they use good technique to make upward progress rather than strength. It is often when a climber realizes this that they make rapid progress through the grades, as it is in saving energy that we can make the most progress rather than getting stronger or better endurance.

Leading outside often takes a long time so rather than strength endurance, whose energy system will get you through about 2 minutes before you reach failure. Instead you need to work on you aerobic endurance to aid recovery. Running and lots of easy route (so easy you don’t get pumped) will help you recover on ledges or at rests when on route.

Finally there is a great deal of tactical and planning techniques that can be used on the ground before you climb and when climbing that can help you save energy. Similarly the real danger of lead climbing can lead to the effects of anxiety, which often lead to catastrophic drops in performance, as you pull harder than is necessary as your brain tries to overcome the reduced cognitive processes brought about when you become overly anxious.

In answer to this typical climber, who also ask what my book how to climb harder will do for them. Well it has a long section of how to learn proper movement technique for outside climbing that is more often than not performed on slabs or vertical rock plus a whole section of developing hands off rests and techniques for keeping a tidy rack.

In terms of the idea of using the mind to plan and prepare for a climb it covers many different ways to start applying this to both indoor and outdoor climbing. There is an entire chapter on the psychology of performance and how to overcome a variety of things that can impact on your ‘normal’ performance. One of the worlds leading sport psychologist who is also a UIAGM Guide thought is was a breathe of fresh air to see the psychological side of climbing taken so serious and using the latest research when I sent him the chapter.

There is also advise as to identifying your real weakness, rather than working on your strengths or your perceived weaknesses. In general most people don’t need to get any stronger to increase there grade, good movement technique and relaxed and thoughtful approach to climbing will see a much better return for the time invested.

Oh and one last answer for the climber who sent me the email, yes there is some advise on training for local strength endurance, it is hidden at the back of the book under training. I put the movement, tactics and mental approach before it for a reason though 😉

If it makes you feel any better, I once knew a V12 boulderer, who failed to lead a VD! This phenomenon is often referred to as ‘The Gap ‘, and it is very common for good V grades not to equal good E grades!

New Starting Out Article

I have just put together a short article on a first trad climbing rack over on my Snowdonia Mountain Guides website. It covers the basics of what you will need and the quantities for equipment for a beginners lead climbing rack.

As well as this article, I have also started migrating some of the Climbing Coach posts that are more like articles across to a a new section on that website. Hopefully it will be more user friendly as you won’t have to dig deep into the archive history of the blog. They fall under the Coaching Articles in the menu

Rope Rescue Skills for Rock Climbers Course: 28th & 29th August

Probably one of the most least understood of the climbing skills, are those that we may only need in extreme circumstances that we spend the whole of our climbing lives trying to avoid. Be it benightment, be caught in a storm, stuck at the base of a sea cliff; all the way through to what to do if the very worse happens. This course aims to spread some light onto the Dark Arts of Rope Rescue Skill for Rock Climbers.

Taught in a very progressive nature, this courses thats you right from the very basics all the way through to more complex systems that you might need to get yourself quickly and safely to a fallen climber, and rescue them.

The course is run by climbing coach Mark Reeves, who has several years of experience on Llanberis Mountain Rescue team, and holds the Mountain Instructor award, that looks at teaching essential mountaineering skills, like those required for Rescuing yourself or another climber from high on a route.

The course will cover:

Tying off the belay palte

Basic Hoists

Escaping the system

Snatch and counter balanced rescues

Ascending a fixed rope

Traversing problems.

To find out more you can contact mark here or visit SMG for more details