/ do people who climb E11 7a have natural talent?

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BolderLicious - on 10 Jan 2013
Do people who climb E11 7a (which is difficult and dangerous)
have natural born talent? Can the rest of us just train harder and be them?
Does training give confidence or is confidence on these climbs something you have to be born with? I used to bottle out of many grit climbs
because I did not have the stamina to hold on for long on a climb of sustained technical difficulty.I reckon stamina gives confidence.
But what gives you the confidence to do a climb like Braille Trail
at Burbage edge where a slip from the top holds is a certain trip to hospital whatever your stamina levels!
Jonny2vests - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:

I think genetic luck and a good head trump 'talent', whatever that is.
mikekeswick - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious: It's like any 'sport'. Most people could get within 90% of the maximum/fastest/highest/longest etc with true dedication but that last 10% often comes down to genetics.
teflonpete - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:

I'd have thought that to operate at that sort of level, one must have natural born talent in addition to commitment and training. There are plenty of people who could not physically do 7a moves, regardless of the head game, simply by virtue of their range of joint movement.
mikekeswick - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to teflonpete: Maybe but 6c is possible for virtually anyone. It's so easy to say 'i could never do that' and the reason is likely not to be genetic but mental.
GrahamD - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to mikekeswick:

I'm not sure you can divorce mental attitude from 'genetics'. I think the mental ability to train hard is part of the 'gift' that top performers have.
Jonny2vests - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to teflonpete:
> (In reply to BolderLicious)
>
> I'd have thought that to operate at that sort of level, one must have natural born talent

Yeah, but I think talent needs a defining. I can understand the phrase 'talented snooker player' more easily than 'talented climber'.

annak on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:

I listened to a great podcast about this ages ago:
http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blog/2010/jul/26/secrets-of-success/

I particularly liked the bit about Bill Gates (starts at 12:48).
Some innate talent - but a *lot* of hard work.
1poundSOCKS - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious: I thought Rhapsody was considered fairly safe, at least it was by Steve McClure?
john arran - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:

While never having climbed E11 7a I used to get asked this kind of question quite often and people seemed surprised by my response, so I wrote the following article to explain how I felt I had got close to the top of the sport without having shown any early promise:

http://www.planetfear.com/articles/How_to_Succeed_without_Talent_or_Ambition_890.html

On dangerous routes it's clear to me that people vary enormously in their approach; some keep a good margin by being way stronger and technically better than they need, others tune their judgement well so they can perform very close to their physical limits. Both approaches work but for different people with different strengths.
BolderLicious - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to john arran:
I think you are right when you say believing you can do climbs of a high
difficulty is important but practise gives confidence and helps a lot with self-belief.I have good finger strength for slabs and walls but have never climbed an extreme grit overhang because I am not skilled (practised) enough at jamming.I live in warwickshire where there are no crags.
People who live in sheffield for example can spend time on gritstone crags and boulders after work most days if they want to.I think training for specific rock types is important.
flaneur - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to john arran:

I liked this article, possibly because it mirrors my experience almost exactly (subtract a grade or three). This is a regular question here and usually an opportunity for people to queue up to justify their mediocre performance with the old 'lacking in natural talent' canard. Legitimizing laziness by calling it an inherited characteristic is frankly laughable.

Hazel Findlay talking about training boldness through graded exposure (she doesn't call it that, but that is what she is doing): http://www.thebmc.co.uk/hazel-findlay-fear-of-falling
BolderLicious - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:
I saw him falling from Rhapsody on the Committed dvd and he did not seem scared at all and he says he doesn't like dangerous climbs.
The E11 7a grade must be for sustained technical difficulty on this climb.
But if you see James Pearson fall on the dvd from Walk of Life he sounds
very worried indeed!
Robert Durran - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to john arran:
> On dangerous routes it's clear to me that people vary enormously in their approach; some keep a good margin by being way stronger and technically better than they need, others tune their judgement well so they can perform very close to their physical limits. Both approaches work but for different people with different strengths.

But presumably to climb E11 you need to be both technically brilliant and very strong and then perform very close to your limit as well.

1poundSOCKS - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious: Can you train boldness? For sure. Can you train strength/fitness? For sure. Can you train both to climb hard & bold routes? If you have the desire, you probably can, it's just that most of us don't think the effort & risk are worth the reward.
john arran - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Robert Durran:

That's what they would have said about climbing E9 a dozen or so years ago, and about climbing E7 some years before that. Now people are often dismissive of E7 headpoints as they're seemingly possible by anyone willing to put in a bit of effort and practice. There's no reason why the same won't one day be the case for E11, although I don't expect that day will come any time soon.
Offwidth - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to john arran:

Sorry John but you're being too modest. Inate talent I'd say is almost imposssible to spot from first efforts at climbing. The combination of the ability to respond to good training without injury and develop the psychological strength needed for hard bold routes are not contained within everyone.
In reply to BolderLicious:

Back when I started climbing the few naturally talented climbers stood out from the rest of us, they did hard things and stayed in control in highly dangerous situations, whilst we (the majority) were more circumspect - we didn't want to die!

Fast forward 45 years - with superior gear, bouldering, sport climbing, training, indoor walls, headpointing etc, etc, etc everyone gets the chance to do hard stuff - but I bet there aren't any more naturally talented climbers around!


Chris
john arran - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

Good point but seemingly virtually impossible to say with any certainty after the fact how much chance played a part and how much could be classed as innate talent. I know of lots of climbers who I would have said had far more innate talent than I but who were never able to reach their apparent potential due to overtraining, accident or environmental factors.

My theory is that I never was strong enough to injure myself in training! Needless to say I ended up concentrating more on the hard, bold stuff to compensate.
Neil Williams - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to mikekeswick:

I would imagine most people could train themselves for the "bold" part of it if they are so inclined, but the physical side will be a combination of training and genetics.

Might be excuses, but there are certain moves I'm just not built for - 18st (overweight, but I reckon my ideal weight is about 15st or thereabouts, which is still not light!) with long legs in proportion to arms which seems to make certain sit-starts disproportionately difficult, say, particularly where they involve friction rather than actual holds.

The skinny waifs with super strength and a more monkey like build (longer arms and shorter legs) definitely seem to have genetics on their side...

Neil
mikekeswick - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Offwidth: No they aren't contained in all of us but they are in most of us.
Reading and then applying all the info in 'Training for Climbing' and 'The Rock Warriors Way' will get you close to your physical and mental limits.
At the end of the day people have to decide the whats,whys and wherefores of the things that they do. We all have the potential to do amazing things and quite often the only thing that limits us is ourselves.
Neil Williams - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

Can you train body shape? Not really, or not beyond increasing and decreasing the levels of fat and muscle.

The question is - on hard routes are there moves that suit every body shape, or do certain shapes have an advantage. My observations are that a more monkey like shape (not me, then!) has a definite advantage simply because of the physics of levers and the likes, and more weight (even if muscle) can be a big disadvantage because you don't get more friction on vertical or overhanging rock just because you're heavier.

Neil
In reply to Neil Williams:
>
>
> I would imagine most people could train themselves for the "bold" part of it if they are so inclined,

I would say the very opposite, you can train and boulder and redpoint 'til the cows come home - but if you haven't got it 'upstairs'.......


Chris
1poundSOCKS - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Neil Williams: I agree that some people have a physical advantage, I suppose it's just how much that limits your physical climbing, and how much is down to other factors.
PeterJuggler - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to mikekeswick: I don't think genetics comes into it that much. I think the last 10% comes down to the age that you started. Much easier to become one of the best if you started when your body and mind were still developing. If you start later in life (after around 20yo) then I think it's very unlikely that the tendons in your fingers will ever become strong enough without injury.
BolderLicious - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs:
I agree with this.I think you have to the brains to know how to train properly for a given route,have a good memory of how to do certain kinds of moves and and the ability to tell yourself that you have a high probability of making a move successfully because you succeed on that type of move nearly every time in a bouldering situation.
But I think at the very top end of climbing difficulty knowing that
you are establishing the hrdest route in the world may help motivate
you to take a little bit more risk than you normally would.
TraverseKing on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious: interesting topic. Im 33 and Im started climbing last year in Semptember on my birthday, top ropes some bouldering. Im doing lead climbing for 1 month now and can do 6b+, 6c with little effort. never done any climbing or anything like this before. no coach, no trainer, no fear of falling. Am I a natural talent??? people wont believe me that I climb only for few months???
Robert Durran - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to john arran)
>
> Inate talent I'd say is almost imposssible to spot from first efforts at climbing.

I disagree. I take lots of kids to the wall for the first time. Some "have it" straight away. Others don't and probably never will. The occasional one even seems, very annoyingly, to have been born with the sort of finger strength I can only dream of.
Neil Williams - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs:

Might be a question to ask the Army, as I guess a big part of their job is to train people to perform well when under great risk to their life?

My personal take on it is that I can actually perform very well under that kind of pressure, but I don't like to deliberately end up in that position. So I wouldn't set out to climb something that was very run-out (I don't even overly like falling off leads indoors where it's as safe as it'll get!), but I have ended up inadvertently in that position by having started to climb something that looked OK from the ground without reference to a guidebook, then found it was quite run-out, but what gear there was wasn't good enough (in my view) to lower off, so left with very few options (and being not very good at downclimbing) I decided to finish the route. While it wasn't stupidly difficult, I was making moves I wouldn't make above the clip in an indoor wall where lowering off would be an option, even though falling off would have seriously hurt.

Psychology is a strange thing...

Neil
1poundSOCKS - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to benky1979: Interesting. No fear of falling is important, I have to train it, but I always see improvement when I get used to falling (lead climbing indoors/sport has been a bit on/off so I've had to do it a few times). I guess you have a good strength to weight ratio. What do you do for a living? Did you train at anything else before you started climbing?
ads.ukclimbing.com
Neil Williams - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to benky1979:

Here's a comparison, then - I'm 33 as well, started climbing regularly when I was about 31 (though I'd done the odd taster type session a few times before that e.g. in Scouts).

I tend to end up at the wall about once a week, though sometimes a lot more than that, yet I seem to be toproping about 6a and leading 5+ (though I have got as far as 6b, mainly on slabs - overhangs are a massive weakness) and having great difficulty getting much above that - not that I'm not trying!

So I suspect there is some sort of difference there.

Neil
PeterJuggler - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Offwidth)
> [...]
>
> I disagree. I take lots of kids to the wall for the first time. Some "have it" straight away. Others don't and probably never will. The occasional one even seems, very annoyingly, to have been born with the sort of finger strength I can only dream of.

More likely that the good ones have already spent a lot of time climbing trees or their local climbing frame.
TraverseKing on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to 1poundSOCKS: 70kg 182cm, done some mountain biking, running a lot but nothing really for the past 6 years. Im working in a printroom, sitting behind a computer :-)
GridNorth - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Robert Durran: Not sure that it's valid to use kids as a benchmark. They have agility, suppleness and a strength to weight ratio that adults can only dream of. I do agree though that some show more potential than others.
TraverseKing on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Neil Williams: Same as you, I started with a taster session and since then I never looked back, I just love it. I wish I started a lot earlier then this.
Neil Williams - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to benky1979:

Same again. I kind-of had the feeling I wanted to as a kid, but I also got scared very easily and so wasn't sure.

It was only when the Pinnacle opened in Northampton (and Big Rock in MK very shortly afterwards) that it was feasible to get a climb in in the evening without a long drive, so I had a good chance to get into it regularly.

Neil
GrahamD - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to flaneur:

> Legitimizing laziness by calling it an inherited characteristic is frankly laughable.

'Inherited' maybe so but its quite obvious even with kids that some are naturally much better on concentrating on tasks than others.

People are different in their innate mental ability just as much as they are different in their physical ability

Offwidth - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to john arran:

I'm pretty sure you can tell as there is plenty of research on this subject for various elite sports training. I do agree with pretty much else you say, especially that having the talent goes nowhere without the right training and hard work.
1poundSOCKS - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to benky1979: I'll have to stop using my desk job as an excuse then. I climb 6c/+ max, I would probably say I only climb 6a/+ with little effort. What sort of grade is your max then? Sorry for all the questions, just interesting how people progress differently.
Offwidth - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Robert Durran: So John and quite a few other serious high performers I know saying they were nothing special when they started climbing are deluded? How many of those you taught who 'had it' are now performing at an elite level out of interest?? I've seen one friend with amazing inate finger strength who got to British bouldering team level but there is clearly more to inate talent than that.
BolderLicious - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to flaneur:
I climbed Heartless Hare at Froggat with the E3 siderunner only after an
american climber who had already done the route and fallen told me what gear to place.When I believed the gear would hold I did the climb.
Franco Cookson on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to mikekeswick:
> (In reply to BolderLicious) It's like any 'sport'. Most people could get within 90% of the maximum/fastest/highest/longest etc with true dedication but that last 10% often comes down to genetics.

This is very true with sports based purely on performance. Climbing is luckily as much about the mental imagination as the physical though, so body type is really no excuse. We're miles off the limit.
1poundSOCKS - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Franco Cookson: Do we know this is true, even for performance sports?
TraverseKing on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to 1poundSOCKS: overhangs 6a - 6b+, straight walls 6c+. not tried anything harder, I think Im just not ready yet, well my fingers are not at least and I dont like climbing a route I cant finish. I believe my technique is holding me back a lot as well because of a lack of experience and training . you cant pick up everything just from watching dvds and videos from youtube :-).
joel182 - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Neil Williams:
> Might be excuses, but there are certain moves I'm just not built for - 18st (overweight, but I reckon my ideal weight is about 15st or thereabouts, which is still not light!) with long legs in proportion to arms which seems to make certain sit-starts disproportionately difficult, say, particularly where they involve friction rather than actual holds.

If 15st would be a BMI of 20, I reckon this makes you about 7 ft tall?
Neil Henson - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious: One thing that has not really been covered is desire. Desire to spend your evenings hanging from a fingerboard when your mates are down the pub, desire (willingness is probably a better word) to put yourself in a life-threatening position with a reasonable chance of a very bad outcome etc....
Neil Williams - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to joel182:

6' 4" but quite heavily built, particularly in the legs from a lot of cycling.

You're making the mistake of assuming that the middle of the "OK" range is where everyone has to be. It's a range to take into account body types.

So at that height it suggests a range of 78 to 92kg, ish, using the graph at the below URL, which is (quick Google) between 12.28 and 14.4 stone. So maybe 14 is a better target, though I did once manage (before I climbed) to get down to 13.5 and a lot of people said I looked unhealthily skinny. Since I've climbed I have bulked out a lot on the upper body, so I suspect that low would be really unhealthy and would definitely require a loss of muscle mass.

So maybe I should aim at about 14 stone 7 rather than 15 stone.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/5297790.stm

Neil
joel182 - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Neil Williams:
Wasn't trying to suggest that was where you had to be, just pondering! (My BMI isn't 20 either!)
stewart murray - on 19 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious: But what about aptitude? While we can all train to develop strength and stamina, two of the most important attributes for climbing are co-ordination and spatial awareness. I'd maintain that these are far more innate and while you will inevitably improve them through practice, this won't make up the deficiency if you don't have much in the first place.
BolderLicious - on 19 Jan 2013
In reply to stewart murray:
I agree with you:some people are naturally better coordinated than others for certain tasks:I could not shuffle a deck of cards and split them like a poker dealer can no matter how much training I do.And some people
have an aptitude for figuring out the right sequence of moves on a climb.
A lot of climbers who find holds they canrt see on dyno moves amaze me!
mockerkin on 19 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:
> Do people who climb E11 7a (which is difficult and dangerous)
> have natural born talent?

>> How about a variation on this post? How many E11 7a climbers can find their way from point A to point B on a high hill, in poor conditions? Can they navigate in fog, cloud, heavy snow etc? I thought that this was a mountaineering site, but perhaps I have been mistaken. Your post suggests that is is a gymnastic site.

Kevin Woods - on 19 Jan 2013
In reply to mockerkin:
> (In reply to BolderLicious)
> [...]
>
> >> How about a variation on this post? How many E11 7a climbers can find their way from point A to point B on a high hill, in poor conditions? Can they navigate in fog, cloud, heavy snow etc? I thought that this was a mountaineering site, but perhaps I have been mistaken. Your post suggests that is is a gymnastic site.

Almost a troll.
BolderLicious - on 19 Jan 2013
In reply to mockerkin:
This is the rock climbing section of the forum!
mockerkin on 19 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:
> (In reply to mockerkin)
> This is the rock climbing section of the forum!

>> Point taken

mockerkin on 19 Jan 2013
In reply to Kevin Woods:
> (In reply to mockerkin)

> Almost a troll.

>> Thank you for the "almost" but my point remains.
Kevin Woods - on 19 Jan 2013
In reply to mockerkin: A bit of a non-argument. E11 7a climbers don't necessarily need to know how to navigate etc etc. And why should they? But if you know much at all about the most prolific of E11 climbers then you'll know he knows the lot.

Seems an unnecessary dig on your part.
Jonny2vests - on 19 Jan 2013
In reply to mockerkin:
> (In reply to Kevin Woods)
> [...]
>
> [...]
>
> >> Thank you for the "almost" but my point remains.

What point? Do people who can handle a bit of shitty nav have natural talent? Of the three Raphsody ascentionists I know of, I reckon they've all had their fare share of that.
Jay81 - on 20 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious: Yes they do.
Howard J - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:
What we call "natural talent" in any activity is mostly an inclination to put in the thousands of hours of work and effort it takes to become really good at it. To be that motivated you probably need to have some kind of physical and/or mental aptitude for it as well, but most of it is down to sheer hard work. Of course, if you really enjoy what you're doing then a lot of it won't feel like hard work.
hwackerhage - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:
Climbing ability, as so many other things, is down to nature (genetics or variations in the DNA sequence) and nurture (training, nutrition) and for many sports the ration is 50:50.

It is clearly not only 'thousands of hours of work'. Take NBA basketball players. The key 'talent factor' is body height and even with millions of hours of work that does change minimally at best. Also researchers have tested the grip strength in a million Scandinavian subjects and I recall that the difference between the strongest and weakest was 20-fold. Thus if you are at the lower end then E2 is probably the upper ceiling whilst you need to be at the higher end to have an E11 ceiling.
stevez - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:

Haven't read the whole thread but go and read Matthew Syed's book 'Bounce' who discusses the whole natural talent vs hard work & training debate. Very enlightening.
as646 on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to benky1979: I'm much the same. I started in September, and have done almost exclusively bouldering. Recently, I tried leading however. First time at the wall I did a 6a, the following time I did a number of 6c's and a 6c+ without a whole lot of difficulty. None of the moves seemed particularly hard in comparison to bouldering problems, it was just the clipping I had trouble with! I'd like to try a 7a next time I go...

I come from a very sporty background, so it could be I had a better amount of strength and body awareness than others when I started out. I think it probably also has to do with attitude towards training though; I will get out every chance I have, and prioritise climbing over most other things.
Ian Patterson on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to stevez:
> (In reply to BolderLicious)
>
> Haven't read the whole thread but go and read Matthew Syed's book 'Bounce' who discusses the whole natural talent vs hard work & training debate. Very enlightening.

Haven't read the book but have heard him interviewed and thought his arguments came over as a somewhat simplistic and his conclusions appeared be given an unwarrented degree of certainty.

Interesting critique here:
http://www.sportsscientists.com/2011/08/talent-training-and-performance-secrets.html



John_Hat - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:

My general view in climbing, as in many things, is that utter bl**dymindedness and refusal to give up and accept defeat even when the odds are so far against you it would be insane to continue beats talent, focussed training and ambition any time...
Howard J - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious: Having a genetic disposition isn't the same as "talent". It may give someone an advantage to have the optimum physical characteristics for a particular activity, but unless they put in the effort then they won't achieve the highest standards.

Tall people may have an advantage at basketball, but being tall doesn't make you a good basketball player, and being short doesn't mean that you can't become one. However when starting out, tall people may find that they enjoy basketball because their height gives them an immediate advantage over other novice players, and that may encourage them to find the motivation to put in the work to become good at it.
nigel pearson - on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to Ian Patterson:
interesting article
BolderLicious - on 23 Jan 2013
In reply to Ian Patterson:
Ten thousand hours of practice to become extra talented!
Albert Einstein said he only achieved what he achieved because he worked harder than others.He made himself a genius.
But he also took the right advice and got help from
great mathematicians and read the right books by certain philosophers.
It is also possible that some luck came into his life and that his was the right mind at the right time for the right problem.The current outstanding
problems of physics have not be resolved in more than 50 years since his death despite more and better educated people being around.It is thought
that the mathematics required to solve the outstanding problems of physics
has not been invented yet.Perhaps it will created by a lucky dicsovery one day.Apparently einstein could not understand the most complex mathematical arguments of his day.
But I reckon as far as sport goes some people have naturally got superior
stamina and balance and power.My flat mate tony could smoke and run 5 miles after no problems .I dont smoke and could not run five miles no problems and am not particularly unfit.But I do believe that most people can do most things in life better if they have the right training method and encouragement and desire to succeed.And I think for most of us we have to enjoy the training or we wont persist with it.Persitence is a big deal.

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