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Many of you have asked for some climbing tips for novice and intermediate climbers, so I wanted to share some wisdom from climbing coach and strong man, Kris Hampton.

If you’re new to climbing and feel like you’re hitting a plateau, or just want to know what mistakes to avoid,¬†then this is the article for you. Also, any jokes about novice climbers are just that… jokes.

Don’t take them too personally ūüôā

Beginner’s Guide to¬†Climbing Harder

By Kris Hampton

I made brief mention in my last post that I most often get the question: “How do I get better faster?” from beginners.

Then, in typical fashion, I answered the question for pretty much everyone but beginners, only giving one paragraph to the newbies.

Well newbs, rejoice!  You get a whole post.  A short one, but your very own set of training wheels.

Yeah, yeah, I know. ¬†I was a newb once too. ¬†But I’m not anymore, so I can make fun of you all I want.

In all honesty, sometimes I envy your position.  It was fun seeing massive gains every week.  Now I fight for months to eke out half a letter grade.

Now that I think about it… you really DON’T want to get better faster. ¬†It’s just setting you up for earlier obsession over training minutiae. ¬†And maybe depression.

Nah, forget it.  Take up golf.  Scratch that.  Golf is even more depressing than climbing.

Ok, so if you actually want to do this, here’s how:

Stop trying the harder problems.

Not altogether, but stop spending your entire well of energy throwing yourself at a problem that you KNOW you look ridiculous on, just because it’s a harder grade than your friend just struggled up.

If I were you (which I’m not, thank goodness), here’s how my time in the gym would look until I could regularly onsite 11b and consistently climb V3 or V4 without jumping, campusing, whining, crying or my feet flailing around like an idiot:

1.  Warm up

Warm up for an hour on very easy climbs.  Do them perfectly and smoothly.  DO NOT adjust feet after looking away from them, blindly searching for a better part of the foothold.  EVER.

True, you have a point… Chris Sharma barely uses his feet sometimes. ¬†That’s because he can. ¬†When he does use his feet, you’ll never see him blindly readjusting them.

2.  Try more than once

Give 3 or 4 attempts at a route, or spend 45-60 minutes on boulders that are a few letter grades above your onsight level.  These routes or problems should take 5 or 6 attempts max to send.

Once you’ve sent, be sure to repeat them regularly. ¬†Getting better isn’t a fluke… so don’t be scared to ruin the “feeling” of sending something hard for you. ¬†Eventually it will be a warm up.

3.  Build a solid foundation

All other time….Volume. ¬†Mileage. ¬†If route climbing, link several easy climbs. ¬†Climb at every angle in the gym. ¬†Crimps. ¬†Slopers. ¬†Pockets. ¬†If bouldering, do ALL of the problems that are easier than your top grade.

Again, do them all perfectly.  None of that muscling through.  Mileage, mileage, MILEAGE!  All these moves have to become automatic for you to access them at a moments notice.  Your bag of tricks can never be big enough.

[Extra tip from Aicacia]: I’m gonna sneak in here in the middle of Kris’ wisdom and say that if you’re currently stuck between grades (as in, you can send every V3 and below¬†with ease but you get punted off of every V4), then you can add to this step by making your easy problems a little harder.¬†

This means climbing your easier problems using only natural feet, skipping holds when possible, and (like Kris already mentioned) climbing as slowly and smoothly as possible.

This will help you get strong enough to at least start projecting the next grade. I learned this trick from my climbing mentor, the Guilbeau-nator, and it definitely helped me back in my newbie days!

Okay, back to Kris…

4.  Get shut down every now and then

Two to three times a month, allow yourself a night to try something really hard.  Get bouted.  Get a glimpse of movement you can barely understand.

When trying something hard, come up with your own solutions, but always pay close attention to how the better climbers do it, particularly those who appear to float through moves you can barely muster.

Try to emulate their movements.  Yes, I know that your way works for you.  Try it their way too.  Why not get better at both ways?


In fact, this is roughly how my sessions were laid out until I could consistently onsite 12b, had redpointed 13b, and flashed V7.  I might have waited a little too long to change things up.

You won’t make that mistake, because I made it for you. ¬†I know it’s hard. ¬†The temptation to get sucked into flailing with your friends will be constant.

It might even happen that you won’t send a specific problem as fast as your friends who don’t take my advice. ¬†But you’ll send all of the problems, and in style, not just that one.

You’ll be able to do them over and over. ¬†And a year or two down the road, when your friends are still only sending one problem of the grade, every once in a while, you’ll have moved on to your very own, shiny, big kid bike!

Originally posted on Power Company Climbing