There is a system to tell any given wannabe climber how tough a route is gonna be. REI has a bit of a breakdown here. 5.1-5.4 is easy. Like, you (the person reading this) could most likely do a 5.1 right now if you were capable of climbing a ladder. Once you get to 5.5, you could probably do it, but you’d need to have done something like it before *OR* have someone who has done it before coaching you or, like, be 12 and fearless and just willing to go for it.
My gym has a handful of small 5.4 walls for first-timers and beginners and, once you’ve got the gist of how to do that sort of thing, a handful of 5.5 through 5.14 routes on the main floor. The lower number ones use primarily easy to describe hand holds (jugs, crimps, underclings) and the higher number ones use easy to describe ones but sound like the speaker must be kidding (gaston, sloper, pinch).
Well, I hit a milestone while going for a different milestone.
When I was doing a big reach to grab a simple jug, I slipped. My foot slipped off of the jib and gravity took over and I fell and I swung for a second or two. Now, six months ago, I would have responded to this by freaking out, having my feet turn into fists, and me demanding to be brought back down to the floor as quickly as possible (but that wasn’t letting gravity do it). Instead, I responded by thinking (paraphrased) “CONSARN IT!”
My buddy expected that I would demand to be brought back down to the floor and started giving me a bit of rope. “I’M NOT COMING DOWN! I’M NOT! I’M NOT!”, I yelled using my outside voice even though I was inside.
And I got back on the holds and put my feet on properly and I grabbed the right ones to grab and, this time, I successfully reached the hold that I slipped from a moment before and went on to complete a 5.7 route. It was an easy 5.7… but it was also my very first 5.7.
Eight months ago, I was having trouble climbing all the way to the top of the kiddie wall. Now I’m doing 5.7s.
More importantly, I’m falling without thinking “AUGH I’M GOING TO DIE” but instead thinking “THIS IS A SETBACK THAT RUINS MY MOOD AND MY CONCENTRATION!”
As the link says, this is stuff that beginners and intermediate climbers should be able to do (5.9, from what I understand, is where you seriously have to start using technique rather than enthusiasm) but it’s something that I would have scoffed at a mere six months ago. Not the climbing part (though I wouldn’t have believed you) but the “not freaking out part”. I mean, to the point where I wouldn’t have believed that I would have reached for a rock if I wasn’t absolutely certain that my feet weren’t solidly on top of a thick foundation that I could count on not slipping on.
So I don’t know how I changed my mind from that to “dang it! I fell!”
But if I can do it, you can do it. If you’ve been thinking “I need a new way to work out that doesn’t feel like a chore…”, see if you have a local rock wall gym and see if they have a system where you can try the gym out before you have to commit one way or the other. I got my blood pressure under control, I’ve lost weight, and, most importantly, I’ve learned how to not mind failing to make it to the hold I wanted.
So… what’s on your docket?
(Image is “Play” by Clare Briggs. Used with permission of the Briggs estate.)