"Climbing doesn't get any easier, you just get better at trying hard."


Original Post
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Overheard this at a crag the other day and I thought it was an interesting quote. Not sure if I agree with it, but I'm curious what others think, particularly those of you who have been climbing for longer and/or climb hard. As you improve, do grades that used to be your limit feel casual, or do you simply develop a greater "grit"? I know Honnold has described 5.12 as "easy" and 5.11 basically feels like scrambling for him, but he's a freak. Is there a certain point where climbs will feel hard no matter how strong you are (I.e: even if you climb 5.15, 5.13 is still going to feel hard)?

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 100

Well, I suppose if you stay a 5.8 climber long enough 5.8s will get easier. If you up the grades as you progress then, yeah, it probably doesn't seem to get easier, but you learn what's required of you at each grade as you go along. Same can be said for rock types - if you learn on one for years and then switch to a radically different kind of rock, you could be in for a steep, if not rude, learning curve.

King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 200

Its one way to put it. But the first statement is somewhat belied by the second.

You do train your ability to see and read routes and imagine solutions just like you train other types of fitness. The more experience the more you can imagine and then focus on executing, that you now do better with improved motor programs learned in the old cerebellum.

I was always struck by how featured the "blank routes" of my youth were festooned with holds later on when seen with educated eyes. You have to imagine to see.

But being fitter definitely helps too. You often can only see what you have the strength to use and more grit won't get you up v8 if the holds are too small for you to use.

I have run into more than one climber that has no conception of how much strength and endurance they have gained over time. They think they just got better technique...but reality is they can use holds they couldn't touch when they started.

BigB · · Red Rock, NV · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 5

A version of that saying gets used in cycling a lot...
"It never gets easier, you just go faster"

Brian L. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0

I'll agree with the first part, the grade is the grade and while there are variances, and while you move up in grades, the difference isn't just trying harder.

Conditioning, learned technique, and mental comfort all play a role. I think of "trying hard" as your determination/motivation to climb, and not give up, and that certainly can increase, but you can also try just as hard at climbing 5.6 when you start as you do when breaking into 5.12.

Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 95

Of course things get easier. Maybe at the upper limits, you are able to get better at trying harder, but isn't that making things easier? If you are pushing yourself to the limit in terms of strength and endurance, it is really, really hard. As you pick up one or the other (or both), the route itself isn't easier, but you are physically able to work harder on it, so the act of climbing gets easier.

Technique also plays a huge part. I am flailing at some of the classic 5.9s on Tahquitz, in part, because I am not good with direct crack technique. So I climb to what are my strengths, doing liebacks and working face moves. If I improve my technique, the climbs should get easier. Or rather, I will have an easier time doing the moves that caused me issues previously.

Ken Noyce · · Layton, UT · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 2,037
Ted Pinson wrote:Overheard this at a crag the other day and I thought it was an interesting quote. Not sure if I agree with it, but I'm curious what others think, particularly those of you who have been climbing for longer and/or climb hard. As you improve, do grades that used to be your limit feel casual, or do you simply develop a greater "grit"? I know Honnold has described 5.12 as "easy" and 5.11 basically feels like scrambling for him, but he's a freak. Is there a certain point where climbs will feel hard no matter how strong you are (I.e: even if you climb 5.15, 5.13 is still going to feel hard)?
Personally I think it's some of both. Climbs that were at your limit do get easier, but you also get better at trying hard. Personally I have found that grades that were once my limit do now feel easy and I don't even have to try, but I also know that I am now able to try much harder on routes that are at my limit. In the past I would try a route that fealt nearly impossible and I'd just give up, but now I find myself redpointing routes on my second or third try that fealt nearly impossible on the first try since I am now better at trying hard then I once was.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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