The Top 5 Performance Mistakes Climber Make

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I’ve spent years observing how climbers approach the sport, and, for the most part, each could improve his or her performance by avoiding at least one of the following common mistakes. There are other, lesser mistakes to be sure, but in my experience if you become proficient in these skills you’ll be well on your way to realizing your potential as a climber. 

1. Learn to learn

Figuring out and memorizing sequences, movement nuance, rests, clips, and all the other beta required to send a route is an acquired skill. Most climbers never really engage in an effective route learning process prior to making redpoint attempts.Douglasrecently wrote on this topic (Tactics and Mistakes We Don’t Know We’re Making) so I won’t belabor the point.

 2. Learn to train

A typical “training” session might consist of going to the gym, hanging out with friends, and doing a few routes or working that boulder problem project. Learn to separate training from performance. Get systematic with your training. Come up

Are you an inattentive belayer?

with goals, create a plan to get you there, and then follow the plan. An often overlooked component to training is documentation – keep a journal so you can gauge your progress. Training programs aren’t easy to create or follow, but they are very effective at improving performance. We’ve written voluminously on this topic including two books; the information is out there for the taking.

Be sure your plan works on your weaknesses. This is where you can make the biggest improvement in the shortest time. And while we’re on the subject of training, don’t short yourself on movement skills; leave time to practice efficiency.

3. Learn to boulder

I’ve often witnessed route climbers that boulder either too little or too much. Bouldering is an essential training activity for all climbers. It’s hands down the best way to build strength but too many route climbers routinely avoid bouldering. At the other end of the spectrum are those that aspire to improve their route climbing but focus too much energy on bouldering. You’ve seen these folks, they can send V6 but not 5.11.

Both endurance and strength are important attributes to the route climber. You need to boulder but not to the point where you’re excluding route climbing.

4. Learn to use your gear correctly

Ready for that sport route?

We’ve all witnessed the classic example of the climber that refuses to leave any gear on the ground carrying belay devices, cordelettes, and all other manner of equipment up sport routes. Using the wrong gear or the right gear incorrectly costs you efficiency. We cover this topic in great detail in Redpoint as have others; get appropriate equipment and use in correctly.

5. Learn to belay properly

The belayer’s role in a successful redpoint is often undervalued. Too often I’ve witnessed inattentive and uninterested belayers who perform at a mediocre level. More than simply the climber’s safety net, an effective belayer can often assist the climber by remembering sequences or offering helpful advice. In addition, the effective belayer can help the climber maneuver efficiently while learning a route by actively working the rope. Change your mindset such that you view the climber and belayer as a team and not simply two individuals performing two independent tasks.

2 Responses to “The Top 5 Performance Mistakes Climber Make”

  1. BrianNo Gravatar says:


  2. Geoff BrennanNo Gravatar says:

    After reading your list of 5, I feel like certain elements were missed out on or needed further elucidation. Learn to boulder, should probably be learn to boulder elements of your sport route, the hardest bits.
    Or for example, #4 states use correct gear is certainly correct but far too broad. I found that on my hardest redpoint to date (admittedly only 5.12, but still limit testing,) that I was able to send once I used my rope, my quickdraws, was warm-up’ed, in a great mental state with awesome friends. The great mental state, allowed my to climb with less confusion and more conviction (although a preponderance of working burns on the route also helped with that.) I also ended up extending with alpine draws two spots that had been producing a great deal of drag in the later stages of the route (a realization that was more from my trad climbing background and from being calm.)
    Hence, I would put being able to relax (or be focused, but not anxious) as a performance mistake above having a proper belay (not that I think belay’s aren’t important, but I find usually other psyched climbers understand the line to walk of encouragement, giving slack, and generally being present.)

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