/ Indoor climbing & outdoor climbing: similarities & differences

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Rest Jug - on 05 Jan 2014
Hello!

I'd like to know people's opinions regarding the style and "feel" of indoor routes compared to rock climbing.

From what I have heard, many people consider indoor routes to be too continuous compared to outdoor routes of the same grade.

I wonder if this is a legacy from routes in competitions, but I've heard that indoor routes that are two discontinuous (i.e. crux, then rest, crux then rest) would end up having climbers staying on the wall for too long, which would be a problem at peak times...

Could/should indoor routes be made to be a better preparation for outdoor climbing, given that just a very, very small percentage of those who attend walls do comps while quite a few seem to climb on rock too?

I'm interested in hearing any kind of reasoning over these topics.

Thanks : )
SteveoS - on 05 Jan 2014
In reply to Rest Jug:

Holds outside are not bright green. Requires less concentration on foot placement IMO.
Jon Stewart - on 05 Jan 2014
In reply to Rest Jug:
It's definitely a good thing that indoor routes are set to be sustained rather than cruxy, and don't have ledges.

3* routes outdoors tend to be sustained - it's a desirable quality in a route. Ledges are bad; yes, if you're unfit they give you a welcome rest, but they're not very good if you're going to fall off. And they're also not good if you're trying to get fit, which is what most climbers use the wall for.

The idea of indoor climbing is not, and should not be to replicate outdoor climbing. What makes rock climbing rock climbing is the rock and surrounding environment - you can't replicate the experience. But you can have steep, sustained climbing at any grade you like. Which is why that's what you get in climbing walls.

Also, climbing walls are short. You're trying to get the most bang for your buck in 12 or 15m of wall, so adding rests in the middle of routes just means you may as well go the bouldering wall. Indoor routes are about endurance, not about having rests half way up. Bit different to a 40m trad pitch where a rest half way up is seriously welcome!
Post edited at 23:33
Kevin Woods - on 05 Jan 2014
In reply to Rest Jug:

Indoor routes tend to have one obvious way of being climbed essentially. Often there's predictable footholds just where you need them, and often they stick out or are so big you just plant your foot and go.

Outdoor rock is often so featured, there are often multiple ways to do anything, different ways of doing a move.

The best indoor routes I ever found imo were ones that there wasn't the obvious R-L-R-L ladder, but a sequence of holds with an unpredictable and inventive sequence. The best indoor routes I've seen have that quality, which is the same as outdoor, but to answer your question they shouldn't need to be any more like outdoor than they already are. The only thing that could be better in some places is quality route setting.
Dave Flanagan - on 06 Jan 2014
In reply to Rest Jug:

I would be surprised in route setter sets route that are quick to climb to ease congestion at peak times. Never know though.
Dave Garnett - on 06 Jan 2014
In reply to Rest Jug:

On an indoor wall you can either reach the next hold or you can't (although I agree that you can usually reach further than you think, if you are strong enough). On real routes if can't reach the next hold you can nearly always climb up to it.

Rest Jug - on 06 Jan 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Replying to your points:

1 - It's totally debatable whether a sustained route is more desirable than a non-sustained one. I believe it's the beauty of the movements and the quality of the rock that make a route "quality". Plus non-sustained doesn't necessarily mean something with ledges so big that you can sit on and have a complete rest. A big jug you can shake out for some 20 seconds could be enough to break the continuity a bit without feeling like you lowered back to the ground.

2 - I can see many people climbing lower grades (say, below French 7a RP?) getting frustrated by the fact that they can't convert their indoor training on rock very easily. A common complaint I hear is that they have trouble sending routes because outdoors footwork is harder and routes would have harder sequences compared to the same-grade indoor counterpart. They rarely fail to send because they get too pumped in the traditional sense. If we can agree that rock climbing is "the original thing" (and I don't mean to debase indoor climbing), I can't see why indoor routes have to differ so much from the outdoor routes. A 50-50 mix between between sustained routes and discontinuous routes for climbing gyms would be ideal I believe.

3 - Are you aware that some of the world's best competition climbers (i.e. people who have superhuman levels of endurance) such as Ramonet, Mina Markovic and Ondra train endurance exclusively on boulder circuits and climb indoors with a rope very rarely, if ever? Doing circuits is a better way to isolate the endurance aspect of climbing, although it doesn't train you as much mentally because you are not at heights, you don't have to clip etc.
Likewise, the experience of committing, bouldery moves on a run out and high up on the wall can't be offered by mere bouldering 2 metres above a soft mat. But that's something that happens often on outdoor routes and that you get no preparation from a climbing gym.

Again, I'm not advocating for a complete change in style in indoor route setting, but a more equal split between the two antithetical styles.
I'd love a gym where I can have routes that train my commitment to a relatively easy move for the grade that comes after a long and continuous series of relatively easy moves that made me pumped.
In the same way, I'd love routes that train my commitment to dial in moves that really are at my limit and from which I might fall not so much because I am pumped, but because the sequence was actually a hard one to pull.

I tend to agree to those who said that the footwork is different/more difficult outdoors. I believe this is also connected to the desire to have sustained routes. These would tend to have medium sized holds for the grade, which I'd be led to believe tend to be of medium difficulty for hands (even more so if you discount the "pump" element) but really, really easy for feet. Bouldery cruxes on indoor routes might entail smaller-than-average-for-that-grade holds, which might make footwork a bit more of a challenge too.
It can also come down to the choice of holds. There are holds out there which make decent holds for hands but terrible for feet (slopers with a crack that can accommodate fingers but not a feet) which I'd like to see more often indoors.

Anyway, thanks for the feedback, I'd like to see more also in response to these other points I have raised now.
GridNorth - on 06 Jan 2014
In reply to Rest Jug:

Indoor routes that make use of moulded features feel more like real outdoor climbing to me and certainly more enjoyable. If routes were set totally independent of each other they would also be better but that is possibly not making best use of the available space. Making a route wander around a little also feels more natural but suffers from the same problem.
Jon Stewart - on 06 Jan 2014
In reply to Rest Jug:

> Replying to your points:

> 1 - It's totally debatable whether a sustained route is more desirable than a non-sustained one.

I'm just going by the stars in the guidebooks, aka the consensus.

> A big jug you can shake out for some 20 seconds could be enough to break the continuity a bit without feeling like you lowered back to the ground.

Yeah, the odd big jug in a hard route could provide a shake out. There quite often are at the walls I climb in. Not really going to change the indoor climbing experience much.

> 2 - I can see many people climbing lower grades (say, below French 7a RP?) getting frustrated by the fact that they can't convert their indoor training on rock very easily...

No amount of putting big holds into harder routes is going to change this. If you want to get good at climbing anything, then you have to climb that thing. Indoors doesn't help at all with grit, it can be used to gain fitness for trad, and to to gain PE for sport. There is no problem that needs to be solved.

> 3 - Are you aware that some of the world's best competition climbers (i.e. people who have superhuman levels of endurance) such as Ramonet, Mina Markovic and Ondra train endurance exclusively on boulder circuits and climb indoors with a rope very rarely, if ever? Doing circuits is a better way to isolate the endurance aspect of climbing, although it doesn't train you as much mentally because you are not at heights, you don't have to clip etc.

So what. I don't see the point in "but Ondra does..." arguments, it's totally irrelevant to punters down the wall. Practically speaking, circuits are bollox for endurance training because you can only get one person on them at a time - you need a very quiet climbing wall.

> Likewise, the experience of committing, bouldery moves on a run out

Indoor run-out!?!?

> and high up on the wall can't be offered by mere bouldering 2 metres above a soft mat. But that's something that happens often on outdoor routes and that you get no preparation from a climbing gym.

You can't train commitment indoors.

> Again, I'm not advocating for a complete change in style in indoor route setting, but a more equal split between the two antithetical styles.

> I'd love a gym where I can have routes that train my commitment to a relatively easy move for the grade that comes after a long and continuous series of relatively easy moves that made me pumped.

> In the same way, I'd love routes that train my commitment to dial in moves that really are at my limit and from which I might fall not so much because I am pumped, but because the sequence was actually a hard one to pull.

> I tend to agree to those who said that the footwork is different/more difficult outdoors. I believe this is also connected to the desire to have sustained routes. These would tend to have medium sized holds for the grade, which I'd be led to believe tend to be of medium difficulty for hands (even more so if you discount the "pump" element) but really, really easy for feet. Bouldery cruxes on indoor routes might entail smaller-than-average-for-that-grade holds, which might make footwork a bit more of a challenge too.

Once you'd got to the jugs at the end of the crux, that's when your feet would be on the small footholds, so it wouldn't work.

> It can also come down to the choice of holds. There are holds out there which make decent holds for hands but terrible for feet (slopers with a crack that can accommodate fingers but not a feet) which I'd like to see more often indoors.

I just think you're asking too much of indoor climbing. It's crap and boring and nothing like climbing outside and never can be. The subtle changes you suggest might make it more fun for you, but more annoying for someone else. There's no way I'd want to climb an easy route with a boulder problem above a clip at the top, it would just be really annoying and ineffective for training.
Rest Jug - on 06 Jan 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

"It's crap and boring and nothing like climbing outside"

This narrowminded opinion of yours says a lot about the bias and lack of open mindedness of your other answers, for which I nevertheless thank you.

Looking forward to hearing more from less polarised individuals.
alooker - on 06 Jan 2014
In reply to Rest Jug:
I find that outdoors you can be more creative with your footwork, just about anything can be a foot hold on many routes, knowing where and how to place your body is much more important when doing 'real' climbs. Indoors you have fewer holds, so you have less of a ticket to be creative (doesn't mean you can't be though).

One of the biggest things I've noticed that wall-bred climbers do is use the biggest footholds they see, rather than using the ones best suited for the movement.

Also, the sustained nature of indoor climbing is needed IMO. For me it's a training facility to get stronger, on short walls it's best not to have too many rest ledges and so forth. Most sustained routes have somewhere for a quick shakeout or similar. I much prefer sustained routes with few rests indoors, I think indoor bouldering does me for more cruxy routes outdoors.

Edit: Just another note, I reckon that indoor routes are easy for the grade below 6b/+ or so and hard for the grade above that. I think this is because above this level outdoors the climb is usually red pointed, below it's graded for the onsight (there are too many holds on climbs in the low 6's and I get taxed just looking around them all!). If you compare a route indoors that is 7a to a similar one outdoors I find that indoors is generally more physically taxing - but I know where the holds are because they're bright green!
Post edited at 14:20
GridNorth - on 06 Jan 2014
In reply to alooker:

Another thing indoor climbers do is that poncy thing with the hands, simulating what they think they will do on the climb. I'm not convinced by it a) because climbing should be more about feet and b) certainly outdoors you have no idea what may be required. What with that and young dudes sending routes it's all getting too much. :-)
alooker - on 06 Jan 2014
In reply to GridNorth:

You should try it, it's all about the exaggerated flick of the wrist
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Kieran_John - on 06 Jan 2014
In reply to Rest Jug:

I do that stupid simulated hands thingy. I've no idea why, 9 out of 10 times I'm barely paying attention when I'm doing it.

It's as bad a habit as my nervous chalking.

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