/ Learning to trust your feet?
Spent lots of time working on slick changeovers at belays (I lead all pitches).
I'm still in the very early stages of leading, but feeling really comfortable with it so far, happy to lead up to Severe. At the moment I'm trying to avoid leading anything that I couldn't solo, just until i'm more smooth with my placements (there's still quite a lot of faffing about just now!).
Everything was going really well until we got on to the second pitch of Secretarie's Direct, which is a really slabby route which follows a very thin crack. The holds are very small, but are quartz and give good grip.
There isn't any gear immediately above the belay, so I needed to gain a bit of height to get my first bit of gear in. I've got no problems climbing above gear, but really started to flake when I couldn't find a solid foothold to get in a decent position to place gear. I ended up bottling it and down climbing back to the belay after getting pumped.
I know in my head that my feet will stick, but that all seems to go out the window if I get in a stress. I don't think I'm able to put enough trust into my feet at the moment to allow me to get comfortable on slabby routes like that.
Are there any ways I can work on knowing and understanding the limits of grip I have? I was thinking about seconding some really slabby routes and just trying to find my limit? Or are there any tips for building up confidence in your feet when relying on friction rather than a nice foot hold?
Practising on lead when I've not got any gear in to protect the belay doesn't seem to be the best place to start learning where my limits are!
When I started out I would get to a hard bit and want gear then try to place it from small holds/smears for feet. Would it have been possible to downclimb a bit, place gear, then climb through the section with no footholds? Or, failing that, to climb past the slightly run out section and place gear?
Learning to trust friction comes in time and it does help if you have a good handhold to place gear from.
Bouldering might help - lots of opportunities to try delicate moves on slabs without much penalty for falling off. My footwork improved massively after I went to font.
(I'm in the same situation, by the way.)
You're right, learning how to trust your feet when trying to protect the belay is not the best idea.
I suggest you do the following every time you go climbing, especially when at the climbing wall or out bouldering:
Find a boulder problem:
1 Examine its footholds and look for the perfect part of the foothold to use.
2 Think about the best part of your foot to use on that foothold
3 Place your foot on that foothold slowly and deliberately, making sure you use the part of the foothold and your foot that you decided on in stage 1 and 2.
4 Count the number of scuffing noises you make when doing the boulder problem.
5. Repeat, trying to reduce the number of scuffing noises to = 0.
Once you manage to reduce this to 0 then find a new boulder problem to do this on. Pick boulder problems of every imaginable style and you will develop a wide repertoire of different types of footwork. E.g. do it on slabs one day, walls the next, overhangs the day after.
This exercise is called silent feet, if you apply it diligently for a while then placing your feet in this way will become automatic. I imagine that you'll be able to do moves 3 technical grades harder.
I think that you are well on the way to sorting this out simoly by acknowledging that you have a weakness. This means that you will automatically be focusing on your footwork everytime you climb. You can set out to train it, but a lazy persons approach is also useful - just play about with your footwork. For example, when you are at the bottom of the crag waiting for your partner to find his sandwiches, find a bit of rock and try walking up it or using a particular foothold, or find a few good holds for your hands and try using only smears for your feet. When you are seconding, try the to use the obvious footholds perfectly, taking as much weight off your arms as possible, then (as you improve) try to avoid the obvious footholds and use tiny ones next to them. Focusing on your footwork everytime you are on rock will give you some really rapid gains in ability.
Thanks guys, that's really helpful.
I'll definitely try that bouldering technique, I like things that I can work on to a specific aim, rather than it just being a case of "try to climb better" :-)
Part of the problem may also be my rock shoes. I spend all day standing around in them so they are slightly bigger than they could be (the instructor my girlfriend and I use did point out that my shoes were a tad too big). Not much of an issue on long, easy multi pitches, but it's certainly more noticable on delicate holds.
They're getting a bit trashed now anyway (DWS and gabbro rock aren't a great mix for shoes!) so perhaps I'll treat myself to some new ones for indoor stuff over winter.
Glad we were of help :)
Might be good to save the old shoes for indoors and have nice ones for outdoors in the Spring?
Playing around on slabs of rock/slabby boulders is really good for finding out what holds work.
Take a trip to Ailefroide - you'll go from smearing reject to slab supremo in less than a week*
* caution - mild trauma may be experienced during the learning phase
Go grab a weekend or more at Font. I've just had two days there and my footwork has come on immeasurably.
Similarly, when I feel the panic coming on, if I actually vocalise it (eg with a muttered "I'm feeling scared"), I find it subsides enough for me to relax enough to work on my moves. The brain is a funny old thing.
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