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Stuck at leading 5.10! How do I improve leading past 5.10?
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By slim
Administrator
Jun 20, 2012
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.

i think JLP is in the right direction; given how long and how much you have been climbing, along with your other commitments, 5.10 is doing pretty good. particularly if you are doing 10's at beacon, that is fairly respectable.

i also agree with JLP's estimate of the typical amount of effort/maintenance that will be needed to climb consistently at the 11 level. with your other commitments, you are going to need to be creative with your time. any day that you spend climbing less than 10- or maybe 9's is going to be a waste.

also, agree with willS - vantage and smith (not to mention trout creek) are all within the scope of a weekend. this may mean that you will have to work out some sort of plan or agreement with your wife to make this a reality.


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By s.price
From PS,CO
Jun 20, 2012
 Morning Dew ,self portrait

Burk, whoever taught you to not lead routes that you can't finish must not understand the meaning of having a project. Get on some hard routes, take some whippers. Open up that mental block. Good luck


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By Josh.Wood
From New York City
Jun 20, 2012

Try toproping a 5.11 that you can't lead. If you get pumped near the beginning, then maybe you need to work on your stamina. If you can send the route, then maybe it's a physiological thing, and you're scared to lead fall.


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By BurtMachlan
Jun 20, 2012

scary how many people I have met who are in medical school that lack all common sense.... This isnt rocket science!


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By chuck claude
From Flagstaff, Az
Jun 20, 2012
First climb after knee surgery <br />

It may not be rocket science but improving is a whole lot more difficult then say distance running. Climbing involve strength/power/endurance, technique and the mental game. I find that there are people who are a whole lot stronger then I am, but can't climb even close to what I do. The same goes with myself, I'm a whole lot stronger then many, but they climb a whole lot harder then I. To really understand where you can best improve climb with someone who is a much better climber then you and ask and be ready to receive advise constructively.

If you are out of shape you probably now this and this is the easiest to fix.

If your technique is lacking, find areas to climb, when the time and opportunity presents itself, and find routes that do not allow you to cheat. For cracks, this would be harder routes at Indian Creek. Face climbing, Smith is rather technical in nature. Be honest with yourself when you fail, is it a lack of power, or a lack of technique.

The mental game. The first part is believing you should be doing certain climbs ( and actually carrying through and getting out on these climbs. The second part is understanding fear and if it's real or perceived.

I have to say that the mental game is the most difficult part to work on, and is what holds most people back in maximizing their potential ( and I'll be honest, it is the area that I have the most work on to maximize my own potential).

If you want to improve you gotta be honest with yourself


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By Burk S.
From Lebanon, Oregon
Jun 20, 2012

BurtMachlan wrote:
scary how many people I have met who are in medical school that lack all common sense.... This isnt rocket science!


I hope I don't lack ALL common sense. I will work on that too. :)


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By Burk S.
From Lebanon, Oregon
Jun 20, 2012

famatandi wrote:
Maybe you also need to find the type of climbing that plays to your strengths. I can onsight 11s at Smith, but get shut down on hard 10s at Ozone. I'm a short girl with no power so the crimpy, balance-y routes at Smith play to my strengths more than the long reachy, power moves at Ozone. I'm working on getting better at routes that need more power than finesse, but I'll always climb a grade or two harder on routes that are my "style."



I agree, I have actually noticed this and I am the exact opposite, where I have done some 10s at Ozone (I totally recommend "Carrots for Everyone"), but have struggled with some other 9 and 10 face climbs at Smith. I have actually tried doing more of the ones that I struggle with to over come my weakness. We shall see how this goes.


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By Tyler Quesnel
Jun 20, 2012

I have been there, stuck at 5.10, but bouldering V6. What pushed me up and beyond was really just experience. There was a mental factor, but I found the best way to deal with that was experience. I started leading everything I was mostly comfortable with, slowly bumping up the grades I led, while simultaneously toproping 'hard' routes (12's). I also got more motivated to go out for a day and get in as much climbing as I could and get on new climbs (not just 4 pitches on the same ol' routes), broadening my experience base and increasing my stamina and endurance.

There is no single solution that everyone knows to get past their plateau. The best thing to do is work with a goal in mind and a means to reach it. If all you're doing, as another poster said, is 'putzing around' then you're going to improve very slowly. Again nothing wrong with this, but as you recognized improving your skill opens up a world of new climbs. I could write for hours with different activities and exercises, different techniques and mental approaches etc., but I would probably be infringing on copyright laws. If you're not afraid of a read, as I imagine a med student would not be, check out The Self Coached Climber. I've read a few climbing 'how to' books and this is by far the best. At around $25 it is well worth it, and I can guarantee you will start improving the minute you start reading the book.

In the mean time here are a few other tips:
1. Find a partner who will help you reach your goals, equally as motivated because they won't want to just be your belay bitch for long
2. Broaden that experience base, note the climbs you've done and find ones you want to do just out of your current comfort level
3. Learn to climb efficiently, this is best done on easy routes when you're fresh (warm up), practice making the route as easy as possible by using your legs and hips to get yourself up not your arms, planning ahead helps
4. Don't be afraid to take a whipper. I always retain a little fear, just enough to push myself a little harder, but not enough to keep me from going for that crux move way above the bolt
5. Lastly for now, enjoy the experience. Enjoy the climb, the view, the rock, and really enjoy the challenge. Climbing is not supposed to be easy.

Good luck and keep at it! Have fun and be safe.


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By Finn the Human
From The Land of Ooo
Jun 21, 2012
Mathematical!

Andy S. wrote:
Flail your way up a couple well protected 5.12 sport routes and all the sudden the 5.11's wont seem so hard anymore.


As someone who has been dealing with lead head (that almost sounds sexy...) for a while, I think this is great advice. It's also vitally important (as others have already mentioned) to have a belayer that you fully trust.

The best thing you can do to get better at leading is to just get out there and do it.


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By Rajiv Ayyangar
From Portland, ME
Jun 21, 2012
Cut! Sadly my flash attempt met with dismal pump-failure two bolts later.

Burk S. wrote:
Hey Jake this is really helpful advice. I do not have acrophobia, but I do get nervous when I climb above the bolt at the start of the season and when the fall is bad. I can say that at some point I have said yes to all the other questions. I also was taught not to climb anything on lead that you don't know you can finish; perhaps breaking this is key to moving to the next grade.


You should absolutely be nervous when the fall is bad. No shortcuts there except learning to have confidence in your movement and stick-clipping.

However when the fall is good, you can use the clip-drop exercise to get comfortable with falling:



It's not a hard and fast rule not to climb stuff on lead you can't finish. The reason most people don't is because you might have to leave a bail biner to get down, if you can't finish the route.

The simplest solution is to climb with someone stronger than you who is willing to finish the route if you can't, or even to "rope gun" a toprope so you can work the route. There are also a lot of sporto tricks that can be used (pulling on draws, rodeo-clipping up, stick-clipping, etc.) that vary in their safety and ease. I'd recommend Andrew Bisharat's book on Sport Climbing.

For most people, climbing is a series of plateaus, and a constant search for the key to the next level. It's different for everyone, and will change over your climbing career.

If you get intimidated by a route, remember that you are a strong boulderer. 12a's will never have a problem harder than V4, for example. Treat routes as a series of boulder problems, and if possible, find routes that are bouldery to play to your strengths. At the gym, see if you can link problems together - e.g. climb a V4, then a V3, then a V2, then a V1. (This could be a pretty solid 12-something outside).

Practice clipping quickdraws, if that's holding you up.

Another thing to try is choosing projects that are inspiring to you, even if they are harder than you think you are climbing. My first 5.12a was essentially a V4 boulder problem, and I'd only climbed one 5.11a before that. I have a friend who climbed 13a before 12c. There's no set path to getting better - so feel free to do what you're most psyched on.


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By berl
From Oregon
Jun 21, 2012

Burk S. wrote:
I agree, I have actually noticed this and I am the exact opposite, where I have done some 10s at Ozone (I totally recommend "Carrots for Everyone"), but have struggled with some other 9 and 10 face climbs at Smith. I have actually tried doing more of the ones that I struggle with to over come my weakness. We shall see how this goes.


As noted by others, Ozone, Broughton and gym bouldering are completely different styles from Smith face climbs. If 10+ face climbs at Smith are your goal, try focusing on what really matters on those climbs: moving your body position on tiny holds and good footwork. practice these things even when you're on easier climbs. However, if 5.11 anything is your goal, try routes that translate better from the gym (Toxic or Blue Light Special come to mind at Smith).


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By Kai Huang
From Thornton, CO
Jun 21, 2012

If you want to get better at sport climbing, you should just do more sport climbing.

Step 1, Stop bouldering.
Step 2, Lead every route you can in the gym, and STOP TOP ROPING.

Keep your 2 days a week in the gym and do just that. You will be on your way to 11s in no time. There might be limited amount of routes you can lead in the beginning, but don't let that be your excuse. Just repeat the routes, and lead climb only. I repeat, DO NOT TOP ROPE. By the time that you can lead all the routes that you can and are getting bored of them, you will be working on harder routes naturally.


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By Devin Krevetski
From West Woodstock, VT
Jun 21, 2012

Hey Burk S,

What is the hardest route you have onsighted?

When you say you can "climb" 5.10, what exactly do you mean?

I tried looking for words like onsight and redpoint, but I can't seem to find any.

Do you fall a lot climbing?


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By Eric Fjellanger
Jun 21, 2012
Me on top of Chianti Spire

Kai Huang wrote:
STOP TOP ROPING... lead climb only... DO NOT TOP ROPE


yyyyyyyyyyyup. OP doesn't really clarify what "can't lead" means, but this is the answer.

Also agree with what was said re: not making excuses. Get out a lot, you'll get better. If you can't, maybe you won't.


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By Burk S.
From Lebanon, Oregon
Jun 21, 2012

devkrev wrote:
Hey Burk S, What is the hardest route you have onsighted? When you say you can "climb" 5.10, what exactly do you mean? I tried looking for words like onsight and redpoint, but I can't seem to find any. Do you fall a lot climbing?



The hardest route I have onsighted (i.e. lead up with out beta and no rest) was probably at Smith. It was a 10a face climb that was fairly technical. I was next to the buckets routes. I don't remember the name.

When I say I climb 5.10 it means that I can lead up most sustained 5.10a/b with little problem (as long as I don't lose it mentally) and I can sometimes lead up a sustained 5.10c with one fall and a sustained 5.10d/511a on top-rope with some difficulties at the crux. I know that I climb basalt much better then the face climbs at Smith. I almost top roped and 11d at the Student Wall at Smith, but got stuck at the crux. But like I said, when there is an awkward (not hard, but awkward - and there is a difference) move or ledge to fall on I get sketched out on an easy climb. It's totally irrational (kind of like getting eaten by a shark when surfing), but it is still limiting.


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By Burk S.
From Lebanon, Oregon
Jun 21, 2012

Burk S. wrote:
The hardest route I have onsighted (i.e. lead up with out beta and no rest) was probably at Smith. It was a 10a face climb that was fairly technical. I was next to the buckets routes. I don't remember the name.


I should also note that I have onsighted other climbs that where 5.10a, but this was the hardest for me.


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By Heather V.
Jun 21, 2012

do you work on your stamina at all? if you're just bouldering during the week and not getting out climbing much, you could just be running out of steam.

i used to just boulder at the circuit all the time, which helped me break into 11s, but then i'd need to take tons of hangs because i was so pumped. once i started adding laps and longer gym routes into my routine, i started onsighting 11s.

if i can't make it to the gym for some rope climbing, i'll just do the traverse at the circuit over and over again until i'm totally pumped, and then climb every single v0-v3 over and over without any breaks until i can't climb anymore. then i'll rest and start working on my v6 projects.

and i agree what people have said about the mental thing. just remind yourself that v6 is pretty hard when you're leading. i got shut down on house of pain at ozone (11a) until i pulled my head out of my ass and told myself that it's only really a v2 and i would have no problem pulling that move at the gym. next time i sent with no problem.


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By Burk S.
From Lebanon, Oregon
Jun 21, 2012

Burk S. wrote:
I lead routes 5.9 (trad) to 5.10 (sport) both sport and trad, but I seem to be stuck! My bouldering has improved dramatically from VB to V6. I'm starting to think I have a boulder-type body. I should also note that I don't get to climb outside frequently (1-2 times a month), but I do frequent the gym about twice a week. Has anyone else been stuck here and improved? Any recommendations on how to move past this range when leading are welcomed!



Ok, after all of your help I think I have found why I cannot move past this and some solutions.

Causes:
1. I do not find the appropriate rest spot when clipping because I don't climb high enough above the bolt (if needed).
2. Fear sometimes causes me to grip harder than necessary, causing me to pump out early.
3. The gyms I go to don't have lead climbing (except when you rent out the gym, which is pricey).
4. I boulder more then I sport/lead climb.
5. I don't have a consistent partner that climbs higher then me.

Solutions:
1. Man-up, take some well protected whippers and keep climbing.
2. Find a gym that does lead climbing rather than bouldering.
3. Find a partner that climbs better then me.
4. Build a climbing wall in my house and focus on my weaknesses and get in some climbing on busy days.
5. Lead routes that are above what my grade and bring a junk quickdraw to leave behind if necessary.
6. Read some good climbing books and apply the advice.

Thank you for all of your help. Most of you were really helpful and understanding. I think I can do this even with my crammed schedule and family obligations.


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By Burk S.
From Lebanon, Oregon
Jun 21, 2012

famatandi wrote:
do you work on your stamina at all? if you're just bouldering during the week and not getting out climbing much, you could just be running out of steam. i used to just boulder at the circuit all the time, which helped me break into 11s, but then i'd need to take tons of hangs because i was so pumped. once i started adding laps and longer gym routes into my routine, i started onsighting 11s. if i can't make it to the gym for some rope climbing, i'll just do the traverse at the circuit over and over again until i'm totally pumped, and then climb every single v0-v3 over and over without any breaks until i can't climb anymore. then i'll rest and start working on my v6 projects. and i agree what people have said about the mental thing. just remind yourself that v6 is pretty hard when you're leading. i got shut down on house of pain at ozone (11a) until i pulled my head out of my ass and told myself that it's only really a v2 and i would have no problem pulling that move at the gym. next time i sent with no problem.



Thanks for the advice, I think this will be really helpful. I typically boulder at the circuit so I know what you are referring to. I don't really work on stamina as much as I should. I always thought it was technique holding me back, so I kept trying harder bouldering routes, but what you said makes sense. Thanks for the advice!


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By JLP
From The Internet
Jun 21, 2012

devkrev wrote:
When you say you can "climb" 5.10, what exactly do you mean?

I'm wondering at this point what the V6 part really means. The rest of this sounds like someone who's been climbing for 1-3 months - or the equivalent stretched out over 3-4 years.

These posts are certainly helpful, but in this space right here -> [] <- picture me cut-pasting everything ever written to print and the web on how to improve at climbing. It all applies. You don't learn it overnight, you don't cram for it, you don't climb "smarter not harder" (or whatever) - you have to carve out the time, show up motivated, and pay your dues.


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By s.price
From PS,CO
Jun 21, 2012
 Morning Dew ,self portrait

You can do it Burk. Good luck


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By berl
From Oregon
Jun 21, 2012

Burk S. wrote:
I typically boulder at the circuit


There is very little overlap between the kinds of climbing at Smith and at the Circuit. Like famatandi said- if you want your time at The Circuit to translate into sport climbing improvement in the 5.10 range, you have to be disciplined and take care of business while you're there. hanging out with friends and flailing on a V6 every once in a while isn't a very efficient way to reach your goal (climbing .10+ at Smith or whatever).

note: to me, most vertical problems in the "V4"-"V5" range at the circuit correspond to crux moves on 5.10c/d at Smith.


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By Heather V.
Jun 21, 2012

Burk S. wrote:
Thanks for the advice, I think this will be really helpful. I typically boulder at the circuit so I know what you are referring to. I don't really work on stamina as much as I should. I always thought it was technique holding me back, so I kept trying harder bouldering routes, but what you said makes sense. Thanks for the advice!


i would find myself on routes, get halfway up, and ask myself "shouldn't i be done now???" bouldering is great but doesn't build stamina unless you specifically try. i do a lot of sitting around shittalking at the circuit and not as much climbing as i should. i find that i have to make an effort to do laps, and climbing/downclimbing v2's and v3's isn't nearly as much fun as working a v6 but let's be honest i'm not going to be projecting a 14 anytime soon, so working a bunch of 2's and 3's will probably do me more good.


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By JLP
From The Internet
Jun 21, 2012

berl wrote:
note: to me, most vertical problems in the "V4"-"V5" range at the circuit correspond to crux moves on 5.10c/d at Smith.

That sounds like an interesting rating system. This thread is making more sense to me now. Everywhere I've been in CA, CO, V4/5 is what you'd typcially find at the crux of mid 12 up to mid 13ish. The PRC book claims To Bolt or Not to Be at Smith is never harder than V5. OP's got it - just follow a few of these nifty tips on fall training and go for it.


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By Rajiv Ayyangar
From Portland, ME
Jun 21, 2012
Cut! Sadly my flash attempt met with dismal pump-failure two bolts later.

Burk S. wrote:
Thanks for the advice, I think this will be really helpful. I typically boulder at the circuit so I know what you are referring to. I don't really work on stamina as much as I should. I always thought it was technique holding me back, so I kept trying harder bouldering routes, but what you said makes sense. Thanks for the advice!


Both technique and stamina will help. It's hard to know what will be most helpful without seeing you climb. I suggest asking one of the better climbers at the Circuit what they think - they would be more familiar with the routes over there and also be able to see you climb, which is a huge amount of information.


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