How to Climb Three Grades Harder
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Mick Ward has been a climber for 43 years. As a psychologist, he has helped many people improve their performance/develop their potential. He is published in over 25 countries. He has written dozens of articles for specialist magazines, e.g. Climber, Climbing, High, Mountain, On The Edge, Irish Mountain Log, Summit. During the last few years, he has made over 100 First Ascents.
“How a Middle-Aged, ‘Distinctly Average’ (“Bog Standard!”) Climber from Sheffield Accidentally Discovered a Formula for Climbing Success, where You Can Quickly Learn How to Climb Three Grades Harder.
He Improved by Six Grades – from F6c (5.11b) to F7c (5.12d) and Others Have Done Much Better. One Climber Went from F4 (5.7) to F7a/7a+ (5.11d/12a) – About 10 Grades!!!”
My name is Mick Ward and, in the next few minutes, I’m going to show you a way by which you can improve your climbing standard by three grades (or more).
So called ‘gurus’ say that, on the internet, you should pretend to be American (to chase US sales.) Well, I’ve never pretended to be anything in my life… and I sure ain’t starting now!
Total honesty is what you deserve; total honesty is what you get. So, for the record, I’m an Irish climber, based in the UK, writing for fellow climbers wherever they may be, US, UK, Denmark, Canada, South Africa, Australia, etc, etc.
Most of the time, when discussing grades, I’ll use American/French sport grades (e.g. 5.10b/6a, 5.11d/F7a). These days, climbing is international; it crosses all frontiers, all boundaries.
These are, quite simply, the most used grades. (So, if you’ve not used them before, this will give you some useful practice!) And, where it’s applicable, I’ll use UK traditional grades, (e.g. E1, E2, E3, etc).
The truth is that the grading system doesn’t really matter. What matters are the principles and how you use them – because they apply across all countries and all grading systems.
But is climbing just about grades? No, of course not! Climbing is about joy, the joy of movement. But if a climber tells you they’re not bothered about grades, well, are they really being honest?
It’s basic human nature to want to do better. We’ve gone from living in caves to exploring outer space. We now know that the only limits to human progress are self-imposed ones.
Self-imposed limits in climbing? You may have heard a few. You may even have used them yourself…
“I just can’t seem to get any better!” Well give me a new quickdraw for every time I’ve heard that one! Hell, I’ve even used it myself… (And I was using that old “too old” routine back in 1974, when I was a mere 21.)
OK, let’s take the first reason. Recently, I met a Scots climber in Spain . He’d started at the local climbing wall and found some buddies, before deciding to enrol his long-suffering wife in the cause. He climbed F6b and had led one 6b+. Night after night, he moaned into his beer, “I’ll never be able to climb 6c! I’ll never be able to do it…”
One night, I finally got fed up with all this crap and tersely asked, “Why the hell not?” His reply was, “I can’t. I just can’t, that’s all.” “So how many 6cs have you tried?”
I asked. “Well I haven’t tried any,” he muttered, glowering, as he belatedly started to get the message. “So then how do you know you can’t do them?” Ouch!!! The plain fact was that this guy hadn’t even tried. And one thing’s for sure:
It’s fair to say, though, that this guy is the exception. In my experience, most climbers try to improve but fail miserably – because they go about it in the wrong way. When I used to train at a major climbing wall (The Foundry in Sheffield , UK ), on a busy night, there might be 120 people trying to get better the wrong way and 5 people (if that!) getting better the right way.
While such trying may be commendable (at least you’re making an effort), it’s misplaced effort. It’s just setting yourself up for eventual failure. Some people get so frustrated with lack of progress that they give up climbing altogether – which is absolutely tragic!
In the USA and the UK , the ‘average’ grade seems to be about 5.9 or HVS/E1. Certainly, in climbing walls and gyms, the most popular grades seem to be F5 to F6b (sport, i.e. ‘French’ grades) That’s about 5.9 to 5.10d.
My experience is that, for people operating in this mid-range, gains of at least three full grades are perfectly reasonable. For instance, somebody operating at 6b(5.10d) could… Read more…