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Route reading

Original Post
Yannick Gingras · · On the road, mostly Southwest · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 10

I want to improve my route reading.  I thought about drawing the topo of a route before going on it to improve the recall.  It works to some extent, but mostly for route finding.  UIAA topographic symbols are good to represent macro features that will help one identify where the route goes and where to stop to build an anchor, but they offer very little notation for micro features.  For example, I would think that highlighting the good pocket and the sharp but solid crimper would be key to build a visual language that helps you memorize a tricky sequence, but I could not find any formalized notation for such granular information.

What mental language do you use to describe a sequence of moves?

How do you improve your route reading?

JulianG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 130

How big of route? Something like this?  Also there is a sections in the rock climber’s training manual. Take photos and circle/label the holds 

For single pitch it takes me a couple of years to forget the moves once I’ve done the route. I find it easier to keep looking ahead at least a couple of moves from my hand holds. Or to plan my climbing from rest to rest. 

 For long routes getting lost is part of the adventure. 

Pavel Burov · · Russia · Joined May 2013 · Points: 50

@Yannick, for me the most beneficial was to keep it at bare minimum. Indoors gym, a brand new problem at or slightly below my flash ability. Explain to my buddy the whole sequence (be as exact as possible) and then execute it. And I mean "it" — execute the precise sequence I just explained. Even if I feel l can make it better on-the-fly. Execute exactly what has been told. Sometimes for the price of failure due to route reading mistake. It's OK — the goal is to develop route reading skills, sending yet another piece of plastic shit is not a goal.

Pavel Burov · · Russia · Joined May 2013 · Points: 50

Yet another powerful tool is your smartphone. Stive to film any and every ascent (or try). And watch all that shitty vidz attentively. Video is of a huge power — everything has been done has been filmed, anything has not has not. It is as objective as objectiveness could possibly be.

Yannick Gingras · · On the road, mostly Southwest · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 10

Julian, I like that ridiculously detailed topo!  I would definitely go for something lighter most of the time, but I can see how that would be helpful for a very hard project.

Pavel, I like doing that (telling my partner what I think the sequence is) and developping a verbal language for moves and transitions.  I was hoping that I could also have a visual language for the same moves in order to improve recall.

jon bernhard · · grand junction, co · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 288

Keep life simple,...follow the chalk

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 483

For alpine routes the less the better, micro route finding beta is easy to get lost trying to follow.  

For a sport red point project I will work out a variety of ways to work a sequence and write it out each move with a pencil (easy to change when your beta does). For the most part there is no need to describe the actual route when doing this, I'll naturally know where to go. On the particularly tricky holds, say where fingers are spread or there is a thumb catch, I'll make an illustration of the hold itself. I don't write all this down because I need to read it before doing the red point go, it simply helps me remember more clearly. 

Franck Vee · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 30

For single pitch sport...

I would say climb both onsight, and redpoint. Be deliberate about which one it is you are trying to do this time - if I'm trying to onsight, I'll never take. If I'm going to redpoint, then I try to never get too pumped the first couple times. There's just no point.

On onsight, you'll be climbing slower but that's fine. You'll be actually reading the route. You have to find a good balance between taking time to do smart enough moves, but then on onsight good enough is good enough and perfect is the enemy (of the onsight). Because you're doing it only once, you can try a lot of routes in a day, meaning you practice that skillset for quite some time. It forces to identify decent rests if there are any and make good quick decisions.

On redpoint, you'll be taking a lot and then once you have it figured out you'll climb a lot faster. Ideally, you don't want to be "thinking" about what you'll do next - you largely/completely know it. Unless you're going for the redpoint, just take & redo the sequences. I tend to see working a redpoint as kind of like a chain of boulder problems. I find redpoint to be similar to bouldering actually (except for the dealing with pump part & the actual redpoint).

I think they unlock different skills, but makes for a more versatile climber. For example, if your redpoint attempt doesn't go as planned (you mess up the sequence, foot pops off, more pump than usual) then having good onsight training comes in handy. You may not care as much that shit's hitting the fan and try to turn off the proverbial fan, instead of gawking at it and taking it in the mouth.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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