/ Setting Personal Targets
I just had my previous post deleted before I had a chance to respond to any of the comment, I should probably have read the posting guidelines before I started.
I understand from someone who was kind enough to email me that there were some pretty negative comments on my target of leading an E1 in my first year outdoors. Some people feeling it was too ambitious and some not ambitious enough.
How do other people set their personal targets?
What types of targets do you set? highest grade? highest on sight lead?
Is it stupid to set a target at all in something like climbing?
They say, don't they, that setting a target you are 50-50 to achieve is the most motivating?
E1 in your first year climbing outside is a perfectly reasonable target, neither especially ambitious nor especially easy.
You do need to be aware that how you do it makes a big difference. There's a huge gap between a rehearsed lead and on sight. I expect you know that.
The most important task is to find some friends who climb that grade. If you can do that, you will also climb it.
In trad, as opposed to sport, climbing I don't see much value in numerical targets, rather than wanting to do this route or that route. But perhaps it's different at the beginning.
A target is zero use if you don't really believe that you can do it and really try your best to get there. Set it high - I think E4 in the first year of trad is possible, but you have to really try. If you're going to get frustrated when struggling on 5a moves, then the whole thing is pointless. You have to enjoy the battle and enjoy doing the routes correctly (but also scraping through them ;)). It's a whole world of paradoxes, but if you stay motivated, then you can achieve a lot.
JCM: I think the biggest decision to make is whether to set a rehearsed lead or on sight target and I'm minded to set both.
I think of routes I want to climb. I'm not a very target-driven person. My first routes and problems at a certain grade are not treasured memories, unless there was something amazing about the climb.
It's very easy to tick an E1 if you pick one that's actually about VS. If you did, say 2 Sided Triangle (a crap, escapable one-move-wonder at Froggatt) after a go on a top-rope, that wouldn't be much of an achievement. If you did alternate leads on Astral Stroll (a serious sideways sea cliff expedition and perhpas the best E1 in the UK - try practicing that one on a top rope first!), that would be a superb effort.
If I was you, I'd have a think about what kind of climbing you want to be doing in a year. Do you want to be redpointing hard sport routes, doing a bum-scraping traverse inches off the deck, having an adventure on a big multi-pitch sea cliff, moving fast on mixed ground in the Alps? When you know what you're inspired by you can work towards it.
Sport climbing lends itself very well to chasing numbers. For me trad climbing is all about the specific routes and the experiences they offer. What's motivating for improvement is looking in the guidebook at the amazing routes at the next grade.
Thanks Franco, I'm not so worried about the complexity of the moves but endurance of climbing longer routes outdoors is going to be quite a challenge. I was stood under an E4 ("God Forbid")at Roache Rock in Cornwall a couple of weekends ago and it would be great to be climbing that difficulty by the end of the year, as you say a lot of it is going to depend on the amount of time I can put in, and dare I say it - the weather....
Just take 2 grades off for onsight. Mind you that's the only one that counts.
Also don't pick an established soft touch - and really you should be aiming to get established at a grade not just do 'one of a grade'.
Remember too that hard-HVS is mush harder than mid-grade E1, the boundary is very blurred.
A better way of approaching climber is flip through guide books and coffee table books and get inspired by awesome photos, history and route description. Then get good enough to do those routes (onsight of course). There lies a lifetime of frustration, satisfaction, adventure and wonderful memories.
I did reply to your previous post, in a someone negative way it has to be said.
I suppose I was questioning your motivation for setting a goal which you don't really know anything about at this point, not having led anything outside. It strikes me that you would be better off just getting out there climbing on the lead before you set a goal of that nature.
One of the things that I, and others, said was that by setting a goal of E1 you are in danger of missing out all the enjoyment of working through the easier (but by no means "easy") classics in your quest to get to E1. Which, frankly, seems a bit sad when there are so many great classics to enjoy over all the grades.
I also said (as JCM mentions above) that you need to understand, if you don't already, that leading an E1 after top-rope practice does not mean that you have really led a route at that grade. The E1 grade (or any grade for the matter) is given for the onsight ascent ie. you walk up to the route with no prior knowledge (other than the quidebook description) and lead it cleanly (no falls, rests etc) at your first attempt. To do otherwise is effectively cheating and don't kid yourself that you have actually led an E1 (you will simply have brought the route down to your level and led a route which happens to be given an E1 grade for the onsight but in poor style). That is not to say that, with care and consideration, top roping cannot be a valid part of your progress (although be under no illusion that many would frown upon it).
Given you are moving from the indoors world to climbing outside (and good on you), I would have thought that a better objective initially would simply be around learning to lead onsight and maybe create a tick list of classics routes in your area over a spread of grades (from Diff/V Diff upwards) and work your way through them. Maybe a good objective would be to tick a certain number of those classics rather than pick a specific grade. As others have said, it is the line (the route) itself which should inspire, not the grade. Also, it is often time on rock which counts and will speed up your progress so making yourself focus on mileage would be no bad thing.
Finally, I think I would take some issue with JCM's inference that you perhaps have a circa 50:50 chance of leading an E1 within the year. Whist some people do go on to do that, I would say that your actual chances of that are much lower and you have set yourself a very ambitious goal. Various surveys have found that the average climber never leads harder than VS, which would suggest that VS in a year might be a better 50:50 objective perhaps if you wanted to set a grade goal.
Anyway, have a great time out there whatever approach you decide to take. After all, part of the great thing about climbing is that there are no real rules (only ethics....) and you can ignore all this "good advice" and do exactly as you want.
Amazing thanks Jon, I think you've just hit the nail on the head, maybe I don't yet know what excites me most about climbing yet. Hopefully over the course of this year I will work that out and can set a much more educated target for next year.
I saw Astral Stroll in one of the guidebooks and it looks amazing. Magical Mystery Tour on Berry Head looked awesome too, although DWS.
Franco has given you some great advice, listen to what he says.
E4 like he says should be achievable if you TRY.
Before you've even begun you've come up with three excuses why you might fail. Endurance(relatively easy to gain compared to technique), lack of time and the weather.
>One of the things that I, and others, said was that by setting a goal of E1 you are in danger of missing out all the enjoyment of working through the easier (but by no means "easy") classics in your quest to get to E1. Which, frankly, seems a bit sad when there are so many great classics to enjoy over all the grades.
Well, that doesn't follow. If, as you rightly say, there are more classics at every grade than we'll ever climb, then there's nothing sad about climbing any one grade rather than another. In any case, people enjoy different things. This 'trying to climb hard is sad' stuff, invariably produced by people who can't, is bollocks.
I am reminded of asking a friend of mine who was really quite a good climber what her first VS lead had been. 'Gosh', she replied, 'I don't think I've ever led a VS'. I don't believe she enjoyed climbing any less for it.
>Finally, I think I would take some issue with JCM's inference that you perhaps have a circa 50:50 chance of leading an E1 within the year. Whist some people do go on to do that, I would say that your actual chances of that are much lower and you have set yourself a very ambitious goal. Various surveys have found that the average climber never leads harder than VS, which would suggest that VS in a year might be a better 50:50 objective perhaps if you wanted to set a grade goal.
You mean my implication.
As to the 50-50 stuff, it's a self-fulfilling set, isn't it? (that's not English, but you know what I mean) In other words, people who set out to lead E1 in a year are probably more ambitious than the average climber, who, in my experience at any rate, doesn't try a yard.
Also depends why you like climbing. I enjoy the challenge and the puzzle. I don't overly enjoy stuff that makes my hands feel like they are going to fall off, nor stuff where I look down and think if I fall off I'm likely to die or be put in a wheelchair. Others do like both those things. I don't see a problem.
Just like there are people who enjoy a kickabout, and people who want to be professional footballers.
Without more information knowing if E1 is a suitable goal is impossible to answer, but I have to say that very few people I've climbed with have managed E1 in the first year of climbing.
How long have you been climbing for?
What is the hardest lead and top rope you've done to date both indoors and outdoors?
How fit are you?
How overweight are you?
How old roughly are you?
I think it would be worth you filling in your UKC profile a bit more.
I've always wondered, in general terms, if it isn't best to set goals in terms of training and effort put in rather than achievements got out - eg "I'll try to go climbing, indoors or out, three times a week" or "I'll try to lose some weight by not drinking during the week" or "I'll try to get on at least one route at my grade every time I go outdoors rather than slacking off on easy stuff"...
But that's idle speculation rather than "how I got to climb E4 in six months" or anything.
>but I have to say that very few people I've climbed with have managed E1 in the first year of climbing.
Self-fulfilling. You think it's hard, therefore they don't do it. It isn't hard.
If you enjoy climbing for it's own sake just get out and do a load of it. You'll soon find your current 'level' whether it's V diff or VS. Practice at this level for a while, when you're comfortable do some well known top end ones at the grade, then some well known soft touches at the next grade. Rinse and repeat.
It's a natural progress that way and a huge plus is that you actually get to do some rather good climbs.
Who on this thread has managed E1-E4 in their first year?
I didn't actually say that though, did I. I said there were lots of great classics at all grades. Many people do indeed find they effectively run out of routes at their normal operating grade if they climb in a limited geographic area and end up filling in the gaps and going back and doing those easier routes they skipped.
I never said, or actually implied, that either. You've got a good line going in mis-quoting/representing me there. Granted, I don't really climb "hard" (whatever that really means).
I think the real point, and apologies for coming over all Zen here, is that there is something to be said for enjoying the journey for it's own sake, and not just to get to a specific goal. Given that E1 in a year is in fact quite an ambitious goal (though not impossible I quite agree), I'd have thought there was little point in setting out on the journey if you weren't going to enjoy the steps along the away. Hence my suggestion of setting what are effectively lots of intermediate goals (picking classics in the area up the grade range) which are enjoyable/successes in their own right on the way to E1 or whatever end goal (which will inevitably move).
I did the Plum (a favourite 1st E1 I think) almost exactly a year after my first lead (a grotty VDiff at Llangattock) but I did have an apprenticeship of a year on Southern sandstone before that. Not exceptional at all given the opportunity to climb a lot.
How long have you been climbing for? 13 months
What is the hardest lead and top rope you've done to date both indoors and outdoors? This is difficult as I know the grades vary massivley between different indoor walls. I've been to a few different ones and my hardest is about a 7a top rope and 6c lead indoor. Outdoor I have only climbed a couple of times and climbed mainly S.
How fit are you? Pretty fit, previoiusly my focus was coastal path walking and a 35-40mile day was pretty normal.
How overweight are you? I'm 172.5cm tall and 68kg
How old roughly are you? 26
I'll update my profile this afternoon
I did, and so did plenty of people I've climbed with. I've seen someone lead The Strand (on someone else's gear, admittedly) on their first day outside, and someone else lead E5 within a year of walking into Mile End as a beginner. Physically, it's just not that hard. The difficulties are psychological.
I've always been one to set a goal before I've started. I guess it's a personal thing as to how much that goal drives what you do?
With that profile I reckon E1 should be easily achievable but you have to get that trad mileage in!
Really like the idea of making a tick list. I'll work on this with some friends down here who are much more experienced climbers than me. The last thing I want to do is miss out on great climbing but like some of the other people who have replied on here I'm a very goal driven person and wanted something there to help drive my climbing forward.
Nothing wrong with some negative feedback, these forums are meant for discussion.
Not trying to make excuses only factor in what might happen over the course of the year.
It's a given if you want it and approach it the right way. Good luck!
I think I did E1 in about a year. I'd only been climbing a few months when I fell off Goliath's Groove, and I did my first E1 as soon as I recovered from my injuries.
I think your progress is quite a bit above average. If you can top rope F7a indoors it's likely you'll be able to transfer some of those skills to outside fairly rapidly, you just need to get the mileage on real rock.
Limestone & schist are the most similar rocks I've climbed to indoor climbing so it could be worth considering to push your grade here, however if your goal is gritstone cracks you may well find your self still struggling at HVS or lower by the end of this year, don't underestimate how different some outdoor climbing is to indoor and how much there is to learn.
Have you done much sport climbing outside? If not I'd consider doing some of that as it will allow you to transfer what you know inside to outside faster than soley learning trad this year as you can concentrate on the physical stuff rather than not dieing.
Placing safe protection is a very personal thing, some people I've climbed with, one in particular I have serious reservations if he will ever be able to protect him self properly trad climbing, even though he's been at it over 10 years, others take to it very quickly almost instantly.....
I think you could potentially have a goal of leading E2 this year onsight perhaps more, but only if you really knuckle down and climb a lot and pick a route that suits your style and you take to leader placed protection at an above average pace.
Fear would you say? Or perceived (lack of) ability?
Well, yeah, both of those. Plus generally being arsed to, y'know, actually try, as opposed to going to the wall/crag and just mucking about with mates. Not that there's anything wrong with the latter, which is why having mates who think doing whatever grade you want to do is all part of mucking around is all-important.
In reply to the OP:
You will remember, I am sure, that setting the goal of leading grade x is all very fine and large, but that the true goal is to lead grade x with some degree of competence and safety. Many of us overlook this to some extent when starting out, but really it's not wise.
I've been gonig out in the rain to practice gear placement but there is no doubt that I still have loads to learn. A few days seconding for some far more experienced friends should help me to learn how they place gear and what is going to keep me safest.
I would love to do some Sport climbing but as I understand it there really isn't very much in Cornwall. I'm sure we will travel to climb a bit this year (just bought a van) so maybe there will be an opportunity to do some sport climbing over the summer.
There is some sport climbing in cornwall try using the Find Crags option under the Logbooks section.
Without wishing to introduce an overly pessimistic note, it's likely that at some time in the distant future your progress through the grades, having peaked and maintained a plateau for a number of years, will have started to gain momentum in a downward direction. Many of us who have achieved this phase of our climbing careers will, I am sure, confirm that this can present an ideal opportunity to "mop up" all the classics of their grade that you overlooked while progressing apace in the opposite direction many years earlier - provided, obviously, that you don't leave it until they're actually too hard again. If the onset of senility is complete you will also be able to enjoy again the ones that you already did first time around; you will have forgotten any details, including whether you've actually done them before or not.
I think it's called "planning ahead"!
Haha thanks Ian.
Profile sorted now, will start a log book and wishlist later this week.
I find the idea that physically E5 isn't that hard odd really - safe E5s like London Wall, Barbarella, Dinosaur, Trilogy etc are bloody hard work!
I onsighted my first E1 about 15 months after I started climbing at an indoor wall and I'm a fat old punter with a reasonable head for a runout. Get plenty of practice on trad and get your gear placements solid. If you can regularly onsight 6c indoors and do the odd 7a clean on a top rope then you should have the technical ability to knock off trad E1s, you just need to get your trad experience and head in the right place. As others have said though, onsighting a few at the grade in different styles is what counts you as a climber of the grade. I've done a few E1s on Pembroke limestone, sandstone and grit but I'm rubbish at steep crack climbing HVSs on grit so I certainly wouldn't call myself an E1 climber.
Just checked your profile.... F7b best onsight lead.... Hmmm above on this thread you said best ever top rope F7a and best ever lead F6c, assumedly they were not onsight (if they were you could probably climb harder as a red point). Also you seem to be confusing leading with top roping. I think more correctly you should have put F6c in the worked grades (as there is no section for best top rope)
Setting targets is a good thing to get you motivated etc. But it seems to me you don't really have any idea of how hard you can climb outside yet, and what's a 'SMART' goal, because you haven't done enough outside climbing?
If I was you I'd make my short term goal getting some proper experience on real rock, then set a SMART goal at an appropriate grade, in an appropriate timeframe. In your first year you can improve loads - with the right focus on the right things. In my opinion, you should focus on climbing outside as much as possible, getting mileage, and technique, every session, indoors and out. Also practice falling as much as possible on indoor leads (where appropriate and safe etc).
Embedding technique and getting used to falling off is what I wish I'd done in my first year of climbing, instead of trying to crank as hard as possible as soon as possible.
Was that Liam Halsey by any chance?
Apologies, I wasn't clear, don't normally use French grades. Changed my profile
But you still have your best onsight lead as F7a? I thought you said your best lead was F6c? and was that onsight or did you try it first a few times (in which case it was worked NOT onsight)
Worked grades are not meant for top rope ascents they are meant as red points / head points.
Okay thanks, changed it again.
In any case if you can top rope F7b (F7b+ wasn't it?) with practice after 13 months climbing its fair to say you are unusually good at this, indoors anyway....
If you take to trad and real rock you'll be rather good at it I reckon.
Thanks Stevo, sorry to cause confusion around the indoor grades. There is such a big varation between the grades at different walls, I'm a bit nervous about claiming anything.
It seems that JCM is confusing the fact that he and some of his friends/acquaintances are quite good with the idea that this means your average climber should also be similarly good. Of course all he is doing is selecting examples of people (including himself) who are good and coming to the - incorrect - conclusion that everyone should find it easy. Maybe John simply has no idea how hard your average person finds it so can't understand that.
This has been said very often on UKC by John and others but few will challenge it, probably because we rubbish climbers don't (or shouldn't) feel worthy to comment on such things. Of course, John tried to play this card with me higher up the thread.
One related thing that is often said is that any reasonably fit person should be able to second/climb E1/f6a'ish on day one. Again, "it's just not that hard". This is just such a load of old bollox it's untrue. Just go down your local climbing wall and look at all the reasonably fit novices flailing away on 4's and 5's. It's not simply that they aren't strong enough, it's a question of technique (and in some cases strength). I've seen one person with very limited climbing experience second a proper E1 outside but he was an ex Olympic athlete and he still struggled.
Some suggestions in your area:
Black Slab (D)
Little Brown Jug (VS)
Demo Route (HS)
Right Angle (HS)
Terriers Tooth (HS)
Top post and so true. I have once seen someone on their 1st day on rock, 1st day climbing, get up an E1,on a very tight top rope, with several falls.
There are videos of me starting out climbing on You Tube (no you can't have the link), and frankly they're embarrassing. Some folks just don't have it.
Or maybe you are confusing the level of expectations of your circle of acquaintances with what anybody can reasonably expect to achieve.
I started climbing round about the same time as JCM - early 80s - and in the same climbing club. The normal/expected punter level was around HVS/E1, and there were plenty of role models around who were climbing quite a bit harder - the likes of Simon Richardson, Sean Myles, Mike Dawes (and gradually rumours of Mike's eccentric younger brother started to circulate ..). So climbing in at least the lower E grades was normal, expected, and done by most of us.
OK, we were young blokes with plenty of time to train and climb - although with sub-rudimentary training facilities by modern standards - but I for one had no previous athletic background or natural climbing ability, and had led HVS within about six months - although E1 iirc did take a bit more than a year.
I recently got back into climbing after a long family-related layoff, and the the average level of the group I mostly climb with is around 6b/c sport. And voila, that was my level for a couple of years. Then I recently started climbing with somebody who redpoints 7c and lo and behold, I've started getting on harder things myself and finding that they aren't the end of the world.
So to the OP: don't be dragged down by other people's low expectations of themselves. E1 in a year is an ambitious but not at all unreasonable goal, provided you find suitably capable and motivated partners and get out enough.
Who is to know the truth here but I would again point you at the actual statistics such as they are known. This tells you what actually happens ie. your average climber never leads harder than VS.
I completely agree that how you approach it and setting high expectations can lead to a better result. No question and I have not said otherwise.
This almost seems to prove the point that you are talking of a self selecting group of motivated people with the time to put into it. Did people of lesser ability simply not join, escape your notice or drop out quickly perhaps?
I've tried quite hard not to come across as negatively as you seem to suggest. As it happens I led VS within a few months of my first touch of rock and with quite intermittent trips during that period. I didn't get to E1 in a year but, I agree, with the right partners and attitude I may well have.
All I have tried to do is inject a bit of realism into this. About the likely outcome (John's 50:50 point), other ways to promote and measure progress and to find enjoyment in the journey. Interestingly, hardly anyone has cautioned (though admittedly John did reappear to make the point) that leading E1 is not simply about getting up it, it is about doing so in a way which doesn't have a high chance of putting you in hospital or worse.
I don't know where you're getting your statistics. I would certainly agree from my own experience, and observation of others, that HVS is a level that starts to require a bit of effort, commitment and motivation. The OP doesn't seem to lack willingness to put those in.
I could quote some statistics too. I recently saw a poll of bouldering levels on ukb where the median was around 7C - a level that I personally find unthinkable, but clearly hundreds of people don't. And I recall seeing that the median level on 8a.nu is somewhere around 7c. Granted these are samples of the keen and motivated, but there's nothing wrong with being keen and motivated. And I know, e.g. from looking at the bloke I was belaying last weekend, that you don't have to be super-athletic or train every waking minute to redpoint 7c. You do have to be willing to put a fair bit of effort and climbing time in.
I don't mean to disparage anybody who is perfectly happy climbing VS and has no interest in climbing harder. More power to them. But I don't see why they should want everybody else to be the same. I personally happen to find grade chasing an enjoyable and satisfying aspect of climbing (even though I'm crap at it)
Some comments on here are quite worrying. I wonder how JCM or Franco would feel if later this summer they had to pick up the pieces of a damaged OP at the bottom of an E1 (or E4!) that he was attempting before he had built up his trad experience sufficiently. Or, perhaps the more likely outcome, if he fails to make the target and gives up climbing at the end of the year believing that he doesn't have what it takes to be a "real" climber.
It's only later in the thread that we learn that the OP has already climbed F6c/7a indoors, which does move the goalposts (though indoor sport is not outdoor trad as many have said). Advising someone about whose starting point one knows nothing, except that they have no trad experience, that they should target an E1 lead within one year is IMO bordering on irresponsible. The time to give that sort of advice is when they have a good few easier trad leads under their belt, by which time they can probably make their own judgement anyway.
They're only saying what they think is realistic for a suitably skilled and determined individual. I think it's clear that the OP makes their own decisions on the ground, as per usual!
You're being a bit of drama queen. You know perfectly well that there are hundreds of E1s that are easy to protect well, and that falling off a well protected E1 is generally safer than falling off a well protected VS on account of there being fewer & smaller things to hit.
Of course always remembering that every year people who think they know what they are doing get hurt falling off 'well protected' E1s, VSs and VDiffs,
I'm certainly curious how many got to E4 (on-sight) in their first year.
I seconded a guy on his first e4 when he'd only been climbing less than a year. His first e6 wasn't long afterwards. My own start wasn't nearly so good, but I led a vs as my sixth ever lead.
With hindsight, I now believe that us Brits hold our trad routes on a bit of a pedestal and it is only really psychology borne of the weight of history and opinion of older climbers that stops most of us operating regularly in the e grades. I'm still struggling to shake that off after 15 years, but I'm much less fit than I was and climb far less but my grade hasn't dropped on trad, only on sport and bouldering.
It's only well-protected if you have the strength, stamina and experience to place the gear.
I do find leading E1 hard John, but I can only climb to F6c occasionally and very rarely onsight, my pretty reliable but still pushy onsight grade is F6a+/ easy F6b but I don't get them all and its not in the mind. If you equate that back to trad you can see why I struggle onsight leading E1 which can typically be around F6a as you still have to stop and place the gear, route find etc. We aren't all as good as you but it doesn't make it any the less enjoyable.
Yes I do, and after nearly 50 years of climbing I have a pretty good idea how to protect them (without, I hope, becoming over-confident). I certainly didn't have that knowledge in my first year of leading.
I think Alan has a point. In almost any endeavour your expectations are to some extent set by those around you, and in performance terms it is beneficial to be surrounded by driven people, working hard, who are better than you.
As I spend most of my time with bumbly hillwalking types of climber that's what I am. I'm fine with this as climbing is, to me, just a nice thing to do outside.
I reckon those who can get to E4 in a year must be outliers though, with the right physical abilities, mindset, lifestyle and peers.
Rather depends what you mean by "operating". I agree with the (possibly older) climber earlier on the thread who defined "trad" climbing as on-sight, no falls, and no weighting of the rope. That's the standard I measure myself against. I could probably "operate" a couple of grades harder if I abandoned that approach, but it wouldn't give me the same satisfaction.
Which a keen, motivated person can easily acquire in a year if they spend a lot of time in that year learning from people who are already competent at it.
I knew at least half a dozen people who led E1 within their first year *thirty bloody years ago*. (Sadly I personally wasn't one of them) Gear was crap then and so were training facilities. It's a perfectly reasonable and realistic thing for a keen beginner to aspire to.
That's my definition too!
Ha, if you get up God Forbid in a year, I'll give up climbing.
Not to be disparaging to you, But I imagine there's far easier E6s out there.
Try this BMC survey from 2010. According to this snapshot, only 12% of active climbers lead at E1 and above.
There have been quite a number of surveys over the years which have shown that the average trad climber peaks at leading VS.
I agree that someone with aptitude and who puts effort in should be able to get into the E's quite easily. God knows, I managed and I have no natural aptitude so far as I can tell.
As someone else pointed out, many of the early comments were made before the OP gave his indoor sports grades, which does put a rather different complexion on things as far as physical aptitude goes.
Yes I think he has already put himself in the top 12% of indoor climbers in the UK never mind after 13 months climbing!
I did, but I was introduced to climbing by a bunch of people who operated in the high Extremes, so i never knew any different.
I led stuff like Delicatessen, Rasp, FBD, Harvest!, which were well protected and I did a really physical job back then so I was dead strong.
The big advantage was seconding hard routes all the time and watching my mates climb. They also introduced me to systematic training (admittedly at crap venues like Altrincham and Hucknall Leisure Centre back in the day)
I suspect that part of the 'problem' is that these days climbing is very accessible; there are many climbing walls, and it is perfectly reasonable to go climbing once a week, quite gently, with a friend who also started to climb with you. There should be no problem with this; people should be able to do as much or as little climbing as they want, and it is good that people (who may have busy lives) can get enjoyment and exercise out of a little bit of climbing every week, and perhaps the occasional trip outdoors. This will not make you zoom up through the grades though (or possibly even get you above 6a TR indoors).
I suspect that 30 years ago this was not the case, and perhaps you had to be a little 'weird' to be a climber, and also know the right people? You may have had to be a bit more determined, since climbing was probably not so accessible, required you to be a lot more self-reliant in terms of gear and guidebooks etc, and was probably not a good thing to do casually once a week indoors or on a few summer day trips. The end result was that presumably less people climbed in the past, and perhaps it was not (just?) that climbing then made you more dedicated, just that you had to be more dedicated to be a climber.
It is perfectly possible that the average climbing grade has gone down, even while the number of people who can climb each grade has increased (although I have not studied the statistics).
This could all of course be nonsense :P
PS I have been climbing 17 months or so, and have done two VS routes. The other major factor currently limiting my outdoor climbing is the weather...
If you count TPS (which I don't!) then I managed E1 in a year. If you don't then it was 13 months. That's on-sight (mainly as I live in London so don't get time to work routes). Given my location and therefore reasonably limited time on real rock I'd say if you put your mind to it you should be able to get to E1 in a year with a little application.
That said, my most memorable experiences are definitely not my hardest climbs. In my opinion the main benefit of pushing the grade at which you climb is the number of routes it brings into scope for you to climb. Once you get to VS/HVS you've got so many classics to try it's great.
I had four months off to climb in 2013 and my grade didn't move up much but I did tick loads of absolute classic routes I had on my wishlist and got to be a "solid" HVS leader which I was very happy about.
Just get out and climb as much as you can and the grades will look after themselves.
Does this really happen, or does it just slide your climbing 'window' along? If you are leading E4, there's not much fun to be had in leading a diff?
Are there more routes at a particular grade? or plenty at all grades?
was that 13 months from starting climbing or 13 months from starting outdoors?
I think it changes as you get to higher grades but in the Diff-HS range you are pretty limited in terms of choice on a lot of crags and you'll find some great crags pretty much entirely out of your reach. Lower grades also often mean more traffic so my experience when I started out was that a lot of classic lower grade routes suffer badly from polish (more so than mid-grade classics).
For me, when I got to VS I felt the quality and choice of climbs got much better and I was never short of good lines at most crags. That's not to say there aren't great low grade routes (climbing Troutdale Pinnacle is still one of my best climbing experiences) I just think there are less of them.
That was from starting trad. I'd climbed indoors for probably a year or so before that and had a few low grade sport routes under my belt.
Its pretty clear that some climbers could lead E1 as their first lead outside and not struggle too much, as difficulty is relative to ability.
So really you lead E1 after about 2.5 years of climbing.
Good summary. And of course what was possible for the dedicated thirty years ago is still possible for the dedicated now, the presence of large numbers of the non-dedicated notwithstanding.
To quote the original post...
"I understand from someone who was kind enough to email me that there were some pretty negative comments on my target of leading an E1 in my first year outdoors."
The key point being first year outdoors.
If you look at the OPs profile he's in a similar position to me when I started outdoors so I think it's fair advice?
"I have been climbing just over a year and recently made the move from climbing indoor to outdoor."
But yes, I agree, learning to climb indoors first is obviously a big advantage. Though I had only been leading indoors about 2 months when I started outdoors.
I once did a day climbing in cubs when I was 7 so technically it's E1 in 22 years if you're getting picky :)
Yeah I don't count my years of climbing since I first climbed southern sandstone with the scouts at age 12 either even though we went several times.
I think the OP's situation is quite different to you, your best logged onsight sport lead to date is F6a+. If bolted some E1's would be this hard, he has a much larger margin for error and would be more akin to him leading E3 in his first year.
I'm not sure if we're talking at cross purposes here? I was responding to the OP who asked if leading E1 in his first year outdoors is a reasonable target. In response I said that in 13 months from starting leading outdoors I lead E1 (and I was leading nowhere near 6c indoors when I made the transition to outdoors) so I think it is a reasonable target.
I then added my personal thoughts about grades not being the most important thing.
"so I think it is a reasonable target."
sure I agree and have said so on this thread.
I'd onsighted (soft) E1 in my first year of outdoor climbing, followed by onsighting (soft) E2 a couple of months later and my one and only E3 a couple of months after that. I couldn't lead 6c indoors then (and I'd still find it pretty pushy now!). I just climbed a lot and climbed with people who didn't think that anything harder than VS was the living end.
WRT Skyfall's post earlier, I don't think I know anyone who's never led harder than VS!
OK, so I'm confused why you took exception to my original reply!
The point that I find a little strange is why the OP even assumes he will enjoy leading trad. A lot of people who are quite good climbers in other respects just don't. So, to me at least, it seems odd to set a target on something about which you know very little. Hence all my prattling on about enjoying the journey. But I do understand that the OP also gets motivated by goals, so each to their own I guess.
Anyone remember that about 10 years ago or so someone posted with similarly little experience and wanted to climb a route on El Cap with his g/f. If I recall, they were both gymnasts and so probably had both the physical and mental aptitude but were looking for tips and confirmation they weren't mad. I think the conclusion was they probably had a decent chance if they went about it the right way ie. the climbing might not be that hard for them but learning big wall skills on top of that would be a challenge. Unfortunately we never got to hear how they got on.
Er, would that be because of who you climb with? I know lots who haven't, and lots who have. Possibly evenly split more or less.
I'm not sure if you say this as an interesting fact or are disbelieving. Do you disbelieve that survey for example, which is pretty stark? It's not very clear what the question was precisely, but only 12% of climbers were operating at E1 or above at that time. I accept some of those who were below that standard may at some point have led harder. However, I distinctly recall previous surveys (again 10 years or so ago probably) where it was clear that the majority of climbers never got past VS. This "fact" is/was oft quoted on UKC but seems to have been forgotten, hence why I dug up that more recent survey.
This is quite interesting in a way because your own, Alan and John's experiences seem to show that good climbers (and yes there will be a mutually beneficial effect) will form groups. Even from my limited experience of climbing clubs, it was clear that the better climbers took themselves off and largely climbed together (no criticism intended incidentally). I wonder if, looking back, you have simply forgotten the also rans who either dropped out (they were still climbers for a while) or who dropped out of your group?
I don't think my usual climbing crowd is particularly composed of hotshots, it's just normal people who climb regularly.
My problem with that survey is that it's not clear what question was actually asked. There's a difference between asking what someone's best onsight is and what their average grade is. Many people's average grade is VS but it doesn't mean that they don't lead harder routes. Plus, I'm also not convinced by a survey where the majority of respondents were primarily hill walkers as I don't think it's particularly representative of climbers as a whole.
I agree with you - I replied to the original thread. While I agree that its quite possible to lead E1 within a year, it just seemed a strange way to think having not climbed outdoors at all, and very goal motivated which negates, IMO, a lot of the enjoyment of climbing.
Good on him if he does it, and I hope he doesn't get hurt chasing the numbers without building his skills and experience in a sensible manner.
Whereas I know a lot of normal people who climb regularly and don't climb that hard. Is that too difficult to understand or accept?
That is exactly what I said. However, you have to admit, only 12% leading E1 or above at a snapshot in time (which is how I interpret it) is a small percentage. As I have also said several times, there were surveys done a number of years ago now where the best onsight was given as no more VS by the majority.
Given your comment about hillwalkers (how dare they climb also), are you surprised that I see you as being a little elitest?
IMO a more pertinent question would be what's the hardest grade you've lead in the last year.
The average grade logged on ukc is HS http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/graphs.html
But it would be much more interesting to know the average max grade each user has logged in a year which I would think would be around 2 grades or so higher.
It's not elitist at all (and so what if it is?) - it's just that it's hardly unreasonable to assume that unless your main interest is climbing, then you're not likely to be in the category of people who actually try a bit and who go on to actually achieve stuff on rock.
Yakkety yak. What a load of bollocks. Just because you don't enjoy setting and achieving goals doesn't mean someone else won't. Stop inflicting your values on others.
Last year my two best days out were a day on Scafell ticking classic mid-extremes and a day in the Gorge du Tarn where I scraped two hard (for me) redpoints on the same day. I'd struggle to choose which one meant the most to me.
That doesn't imply just because your main interest is climbing your are going to be able to lead well in to the E grades either though does it.
Out of interest do you think climbing E5 is achieving stuff on rock but VS isn't? Neither are very impressive by modern standards really are they and there are plenty of climbs at VS standard that would be way more impressive leads compared to short grit E5s. Take the North Ridge of Piz Badile compared with many of the E5's at Burbage North!
I'm not inflicting my values on anyone - the OP asked for an opinion and that's mine. I couldn't give a f*ck if he takes it or not.
And who said I don't enjoy setting and achieving goals?
The hillwalker stat is from the survey itself - the majority of respondents said that was their primary interest. Most of the climbers I know are focussed mainly on climbing. Maybe that explains the discrepancy between my personal experience and the survey.
Anyway, my main point is that if the OP is keen and climbs regularly then it would be fairly easy for him to be able to lead E1 within a year of starting to climb outdoors.
Not really - I was thinking more along the lines of those climbing harder sport (8a-up). Although climbing E5 still requires more time and commitment than leading VS and it's hard to imagine someone reaching that standard without climbing being their primary interest.
OK, here's a link to a climbing participation "survey of surveys" from 2003. Hidden in there it says that 82% of climbers from a BMC survey climbed no harder than HVS. Again, not a "best lead" but pretty consistent with the later survey. If I read this right, 90% of those surveyed were climbers.
You said you thought a goal orientated approach negated a lot of the enjoyment you got from climbing - I assumed from that that you didn't like setting and working towards goals (in climbing at least). Apologies if I misinterpreted your post.
Interesting, I personally think the figures for the previous years best lead are way more pertinent than best ever lead as that's not representative of what most climbers can currently climb.
Not intending to be able to Tom, it looks pretty damn hard....
I think best lead last year is a good barometer of the current standard of climbers but best lead ever is relevent to Skyfall's assertion that the majority of climbers will never lead harder than VS.
To be clear, I only "assert" this on the basis of previous survey results which probably pre-date the ease of access of information via the interweb. Also, I only trotted that out as a response to JCM saying that the OP had a 50:50 chance of leading E1 in a year (before we were aware of his indoor grades). However, my guess is that this stat is about right. As we all know, trad is largely a headgame and HVS is probably where it starts to get quite tough - so I can well imagine most people can get to VS but can't make the jump to HVS/E1 territory.
So, ignoring whether or not I can dig up anything to prove that particular statistic, do you believe the other surveys? If so, it's pretty clear that the average climber (some of whom also do other activities such as hill walk, take photographs etc etc) isn't leading E1, never mind after one year.
I'll try to keep my logbook on here up to date so that anyone who is interested following this post can see my progress.
Genuinely, that would be great, and good luck (you might need it with all this weather!).
Wrong, read it again. The survey asked them to list their primary activities from that list and 86% included hill walking. It was not the main/only activity of 86%. I would still say my main activity is climbing of one variety or another, but I would have also ticked hillwalking as many climbers and mountaineers obviously would. It's like a venn diagram thing.
So, do you put any more faith in that BMC survey now?
I imagine you're a pretty keen climber if you've got to climbing f7a indoors and have bothered to set up a climbing blog. Half the battle of climbing is having the will and drive to succeed. With your already good base of indoor climbing you'll have no problem getting stuck into E grades once you've developed your trad climbing experience.
One thing I would say is that having a goal of E1 is pretty meaningless at the moment as you have no real gauge to determine how hard climbing an E1 is. Perhaps once you've started developing your trad climbing you may raise or lower the goalposts.
I climbed E1 in a year and after 5 years have managed to onsight the odd E4 and have only ever climbed f7a indoors twice (and I climb indoors a lot). I've never headpointed a route as I only ever onsight but most climbers I know who are at my sort of level would be headpointing around E6.
Most of the guys I climb with who are operating at around E1 climb around f6b indoors so just get out there, get lots of mileage and work your way up to E1. Try not to overcomplicate it and stay safe. :)
I don't climb e4, but even when I've been climbing solidly at e1 I've had some excellent days out in mountain diffs and vdiffs, and I used to enjoy soloing lots of easy routes on grit crags.
More people said that it was one of their primary interests than who said climbing though, and the frequency stats show people hill walking more frequently than climbing.
Your second survey does seem a bit more likely - I know people who've never led harder than HVS, just none who've never led harder than VS.
I just don't think either survey tells you anything useful about what a keen climber can achieve - just because most people can't be arsed trying doesn't actually mean E1 is hard.
I find that quite offensive for some reason
Why do targets always seem to be about 'grades'?
Shouldn't it be about the 'routes' you want to climb, not the 'grades'?
By just chasing grades, your going to miss out on some fabulous routes - routes which will stay in the memory banks long after that rehearsed E1 you obsessed about, has faded away.
I'm not sure why, it's perfectly fair. A keen climber is out several times a week, pushing themselves, bouldering, sport climbing, training indoors etc. You'd have to have absolutely no aptitude at all for the sport to keep that up for a couple of years and not get to E1.
Someone who isn't doing that simply isn't a keen climber (even if they'd like to be but have other priorities).
I could be loads better if I tried harder. I'd have to do things like:
- go climbing more
- get good at sport climbing
- try harder routes
- fall off more
- train properly
And I can't be arsed. So I'll remain a low-E grade plodder and not progress to E5.
simply because a lot of people can be arsed and don't get close to E1.
That's about as right on as I get but I do object to that attitude. She and others (you?) are simply judging by your own standards and abilities.
I don't believe that people do what I define above as being arsed and don't get to E1.
Climbing a few times a week, pushing yourself. Really?
you really have no idea
Are you saying that you know people who either have flexible jobs that allow them to climb several days in a week, or who climb after work several days, who go to the wall say 3 times a week all winter, who really push themselves when they do go climbing but just can't climb an E1 despite doing that for a couple of years?
What is it that holds them back?
Variation in climbing talent must result in something like a normal distribution of outcome (i.e. grade) for any given amount of effort. I think I'm somewhere below the mean (but hopefully within 1 SD) as in, most people who climb as much as I do are better.
For the level of effort I specify, what would you guess the mean grade would be after a couple of years? I'd guess at around E1/2.
What I know is very difficult for many people is actually doing that much climbing. You need to have a flexible life without a great deal of responsibilities and live near a lot of decent climbing. If that isn't the case, then putting the effort in is probably not going to happen. But that's priorities for you. If you prioritise your career and relationships above your climbing such that you can't go climbing a few times a week, you're by definition not that arsed about climbing. Nothing wrong with that, but it's got nothing to do with talent, it's just about how you prioritise your life.
Do you ever look beyond your own experience of life?
I know that you have MET people who climb, who have not led harder than VS.
Are you reading what I'm saying?
You have a different idea of what being arsed means, which is fine, but you haven't specified what it is. I suspect you mean people who are passionate about climbing in some way. I've specified what I mean by that i.e. going climbing several times a week, including training and pushing oneself - and that means organising a lot of your life around that.
As I've said in the final paragraph of the previous post, I can see many reasons - chiefly jobs, families, responsibilities - that many people's lives aren't conducive to doing that much climbing. It's rather coarse to say that people with those different priorities "can't be arsed" as they might really be passionate about it so it's a poor choice of words.
The point is that it's not a matter of natural talent, it's a matter of being out climbing a lot. Yes some people will fall at the tails of the bell-curve on both sides, but I'm pretty certain that for the amount of climbing I specify the mean is somewhere in the region of E1/2 after a couple of years.
The stats you see reported of the average being VS is made up of people who don't climb anything like as often as is relevant here. VS is not the average grade of someone who goes climbing, pushing themselves, training 3x per week. It really isn't.
Um. At what point did being a climber, even a keen climber, equate to "training 3x per week". Or not being slightly disadvantaged in a physical or mental sense, or simply having taken to climbing late in life, which means that you are never going to find it easy or perhaps possible to get to VS/HVS/E1. Are those people any less of a climber than you?
That is the reality and, when the OP first posted, he was an unknown quantity and could easily have been at any part of that spectrum.
This debate then went well past that in considering what is normal/average - as you well know. So please don't pretend that suddenly we are only looking at people who are fit, motivated, mentally adapted, and climbing 3x per week.
Appologies but I haven't read the whole thread as I got bored of reading a debate.
My personal view is that yes you should definitely make targets, its quite healthy to have something to aim for in life, something to achieve, its a great feeling when you do achieve it!
I have set many different targets over the years, and yes some of them have been grades but this is because I use the grade as a tool to be able to climb the routes that I really want to climb.
Sometimes it can take years to get where you want to be, and a lot of effort. Having said that your personal target can reflect that by choosing a target that is easier to achieve in a shorter space of time. Every time you achieve a target you build on you're confidence.
For me personally i climb as often as i can both indoors and out!i see indoors as a training session and a chance to socialise and meet new people.
The best way to achieve you're targets is to climb as much as you can getting the mileage in, and just by doing this you should notice the improvement!
I hope my view has been of some use to you.
Obviously it depends how one defines " being arsed" , but as others have suggested the key is getting out at least twice a week ideally x3 on rock. As a fellow cornish climber u might find that logistically harder in cornwall as tidal cliffs, long walk ins, multi pitch and the recent weather all make it harder to get the mileage in compared to say living in sheffield. Depending on where u are getting to a wall can be expensive on petrol / time. But if u r keen and organised and have a flexible job or better still no job E1 is perfectly achiievable and i will follow yr blog with interest.
I do think that is true in most cases, but not all. I've climbed for over 20 years, all over the world, australia, jordan, america, sinai, europe climbing every week. All of my holidays are climbing holidays. And yet I've never led E1. I guess I can't be keen!!
I take your point, that if leading E1 were a priority to me, then it would be possible - I've seconded plenty. And I think that many people who have climbed as much as I do would easily be leading E1. But I think there are basically two types of people - those who are goal driven and those who are more than happy to bimble about forever. And I'm not very goal driven. To me, climbing is a bit like going for a walk and doing a crossword puzzle at the same time!
But at the same time, if you are a goal driven person, then go for it, and set challenging goals for yourself!
Agree. The question "can I achieve E1 in a year" (or questions of that nature) isn't answered by looking at a survey that asks people what they do achieve.
What people do achieve is limited by the practicalities of life, their drive, their ambition, and so on.
What people can achieve is a function of their individual drive, motivation and circumstances (and natural ability, at some level) not what the average level of those things is.
It's the same question really as those "can the average climber climb 8a/E5/etc" threads - the average climber quite clearly doesn't, but that doesn't actually have any relevance on whether, if they optimised things, they could.
There's no reason why a climber has to achieve the average, if they set out from the word go to be more goal oriented and put in more training and climbing time than the average. They're more likely to achieve the average result for the subset of people who have a similar approach and training time (and, perhaps more importantly, training specificity and training quality - lots of people put plenty of hours in at the wall over the winter, but it's very low relevance and quality) to them.
I'm sure I've met people who haven't led harder than VS, at UKC meets and the like. I was thinking about the group of climbers I am friends with, not every climber I've ever been introduced to. And of that, I am only including people who lead routes.
When I defined what I meant by being a keen climber:
"A keen climber is out several times a week, pushing themselves, bouldering, sport climbing, training indoors etc. You'd have to have absolutely no aptitude at all for the sport to keep that up for a couple of years and not get to E1."
You could set the bar anywhere, it's arbitrary. You could just as easily say that "keen climbers" are those operating at E5+ since there are plenty of them. Or HVS or whatever. I set that bar as I did because it was appropriate to someone wanting to achieve E1 in a year.
If I ever do make a judgement about whether is someone "more" or "less" of a climber, it would tend to be after meeting them! You do, annoyingly meet people who climb E4s and E5s who don't have much experience and don't seem to have much more passion for the sport than they do for any other thing that they also excel at, but that's life. On the other hand, you meet people who've spent a whole life consumed by climbing, but who haven't climbed particularly hard. But I don't think this "more" or "less of a climber" stuff is relevant here.
Yes and no. "I want to climb E1 in a year" gives a clue.
I set that bar as soon as I entered this bit of the conversation. I haven't changed it. If you had missed that and were relating my comments to a different definition of "the keen climber", which is of course arbitrary it just needs to be defined, then fair enough.
My irony-meter just exploded.
I'm pretty sure, however you choose to define it, that a 'keen climber' isn't someone who'd rather go hillwalking than climbing!
Not by the "going out several times per week, pushing yourself" definition, no. But by another definition, yes.
That's probably not the outlook of someone who wants to get to E1 in a year! I'm not very goal-driven, but I am passionately experience-driven. The experience of leading at my limit is the buzz that I chase. As time goes on, in order to lead at my limit I have to climb harder routes to get the same buzz. It's more like 'increasing the dose' than achieving a goal!
In fact having now read your OP properly - "Leading an E1" is perfectly doable, as this is a much easier target than "Leading E1" esp if you are allowing yourself to practice on t/r, pre-place gear etc.
Yeah, sorry, I didn't mean to come across as my usual pedantic arse self, but I was sincerely puzzled by your wording on this one! Maybe blame the context of the thread itself.
Don't listen to all the grumpy old armchair climbers on UKC - most of them scrambled up a few diffs 40 years ago and look back on themselves with a rose tinted image of them being climbing gods.
I climbed E1 within 6 months of starting climbing (not just outdoors - I was a total beginner) and onsighted E3 after a year. Get yourself some keen and experienced mates and commit to climbing and there's no reason you shouldn't be climbing E1 soon.
To answer your questions -
My targets are to continue to enjoy climbing, which fortunately involves training hard and enjoying myself and I feel there is no harm in targets so long as you're sensible and realise that occasionally it doesn't matter if you don't succeed.
Good luck and keep enjoying climbing,
Then again, quite a lot of 'grumpy old climbers' on here, did a little bit more than that, and some of us knackered old has been's - the terminally wrong side of 50 (and beyond) - are still cranking out E4 and F7a onsight!
I would disagree with that definition of a 'keen climber'. One can be a keen climber without wanting to improve significantly. Similarly many are keen to get out on big routes in good weather at weekends but like yourself are less keen for messing about on indoor walls, sport climbing, bouldering, 'training' etc.
I think most 'keen climbers' will have things they want to achieve (goals) but getting better won't necessarily be at the top of the list.
Ha! I'd expect nothing less from you. I guess I wasn't very clear in my post so should have expected someone to pick up on it.
As I say, it's arbitrary, I just picked a level that I thought was appropriate in the context of trying to reach E1 in a year.
There seems to be this urban myth, that unless you progress to climbing hard routes, you're not a keen climber.
People enjoy climbing for all kinds of different reasons, and for many, climbing 'hard' isn't one of them.
Two of my older climbing friends were hugely keen and enthusiastic climbers, but rarely did much above VS/HVS, but they were out all the time in all weather all across the UK - they just didn't want to climb harder.
However, I don't think I've ever seen two climbers get more enjoyment and happiness out of their climbing, and at the end of the day, that's what it's all about.
If some folk want to progress to harder and harder routes, then fine, but just because others don't, doesn't make them any less committed or keen, or any less a 'climber'.
I'm not on about being goal-driven. I just wonder what people are up to if they're out climbing all the time but not getting any better?
Maybe they're just out enjoying themselves at grades they feel comfortable with.
Also, this notion that if you climb regularly, you will automatically progress through the grades is another urban myth - hence why the average grade climbed today is not that much harder than the average grade climbed 25 years ago - despite the improvement in equipment.
One of the most enjoyable days I've had on the crag was Agags Groove, on a rare, warm, sunny, cloudless summer day. I still smile when I think of it, and I was leading E5 at the time!
Oh come on, for the first few years, if you remain at the level you started at while climbing loads, you must have some sort of medical disorder, as the human body is built to learn and develop to meet demands. I agree you don't keep automatically improving forever, which is obvious (and not an urban myth).
Pretty much all the memories that really stand out are where I've been reasonably close to my limit, as these are the intense experiences that cause you to lay down vivid memories. Obviously I've really enjoyed some easier routes too, but they're not as memorable.
Jon there are two things to take on board
First, there's a plateau everyone hits where no amount of exposure or training will get you past a ceiling which is genetic/morpho/talent limited. I know my top end exactly, and no amount of training etc gets me past it. This has been the same for more than 30 years, even when I've had the opportunity now and again to climb full time.
Second, give us old farts a chance! Some of us are fighting a rearguard action to stay where we are let alone improve, and that's coming from a 'keen' climber.
All this said however, mid E1 5b has been a reasonable target for most reasonably active reasonably fit climbers I've known over the years, and is below most people's achievable ceiling.
My first trad lead was an HS in 1992.
I still back off the occasional VS, and my climbing high point last year was a single HVS onsight. I once headpointed a very soft touch E2. But I would have to describe myself as a "VS climber"
I go to a bouldering wall several times a week, and some indoor leading too, and when the weather is OK I do in fact get out on rock and bimble around getting scared on VS routes and some HVS if feeling lucky.
What medical disorder do you think I have, Dr. Jon?
Between 1992 and say 1995 did you go climbing 3x per week (outdoors and indoors) and progress no further than VS?
Or have you been going climbing outside very rarely for all that time? After all, bouldering indoors with the occasional routes session is not likely to do a lot for your trad grade, is it?
A lot of people from yesteryear, started at Diff, therefore ending up a few years down the line at VS/HVS is hardly standing still.
Also, when it comes to trad, the 'physical & technical' difficulty is not the whole story, as the 'head' factor plays a very big part. I've known people who can cruise E6 when seconding, but struggle to lead E3.
Personally, it's been the 'routes' which have motivated me, not their 'grades'. I wanted to climb harder so I could climb the 'routes', not because of their grades. If Right Wall was E2, I'd still have wanted to do it. If The Freney Pillar was TD, I'd have still wanted to climb it.
I find memories, like life, fall into many different categories, each as good as each other, but in different ways.
Overcoming serious climbing challenges at your limit, is of course a deeply intense and at times 'euphoric' experience. But then again, those less intensive and challenging routes can provide memories every bit as rich and wonderful - just in a different way.
Taken on board. As I said to Goucho, I'm only talking about the first few years of climbing a lot. After that, it's all about standing still. I'm now worse at grit and bouldering than I was a few years ago (but better at staminafests).
Me too, if I wanted numbers, I'd go to Europe and climb on bolts!
I think if you climb for a long time you can still improve. You just have to do different things. The people I see who climb a lot and don't improve much tend to always do the same things at the crag or the wall - i.e. whatever they do the most of, they keep doing more of.
I think at almost any age and experience you can improve by changing your focus. I really believe that you can always break through a plateau - but you'll have to break through your comfort zone to do it.
I must admit that actually, the people that I have known who have been pretty grade focussed in their climbing and who like to have goals to aim to on the whole no longer climb, but have moved onto alternative sports...
It gradually takes more and more work to get further returns and so if this is your thing, there comes a point when the work outweighs the returns.
Mind you - you can keep on getting good returns for quite a few years! I'm not saying that it is a short lived thing! And there are plenty of other sports out there to keep people focussed...
One thing I love about climbing is that you can continue to develop without increasing your grade. For example, going from being able to climb E1s on grit to being able to turn up at any UK crag, open the guidebook and climb any E1 could conceivably take years of development without change in grade.
I love as well, that you don't need to be an amazing climber to do some pretty amazing climbing, through unbelievable ground! And that it is possible to use cunning to work out much easier ways of doing routes.
However, I do also understand that people are all different and some people would find what I do pretty boring! I know people who like to make a challenge out of going for a walk, how many tops can they bag, how far can they go? They will always achieve more than me - I just don't have that sort of personality. I'm more of a plodder, but I can keep on going and going! I'm the same with everything I do - I don't try to cycle faster, I don't time how fast I cycle, I don't log my climbing routes, I'm not even certain what the hardest grade I have bouldered is!
OK the 1992 is a bit of an outlier / red herring, as I didn't lead again for another ten years!
Ditched climbing when I went to uni. Picked it up again slowly as a postgrad, using trips as a means to socialise and get out of London occasionally - the climbing was incidental. Circa 1999-2000 I just top roped or seconded stuff without really bothering to even learn the grading system (but - seconding - could sketch my way up wet Tremadog Severes and cold blowy Pembroke HS both in hiking boots, and in climbing shoes it was time for slippery chossy 5a laybacks on Southern Sandstone...). Started going to a wall once every 6 weeks or so in 2000-2001, gradually increasing frequency of visits. This was Mile End and I didn't look at their boulder grading, just used their colour scheme.
Tentative first leads around 2002. 2003 saw me set a goal to start on VS, which I did (three quarters of my first 4 VS leads are now graded HS!). I wasn't going to climbing walls so much by then, as I'd left London and academia and was busy adjusting to new life in new location.
2004 busy buying a house, not so much climbing but I was still getting out when I could. It was a nice sunny summer that year. By 2005 I thought my lead grade had "rusted" so on a Pembroke trip I decided to progress "from the bottom", getting a few basic V Diff and HVD under my belt and was cruising some relatively bold HS just before falling off a silly Severe and busting my ankle.
2006, started at "base level" again after ankle recovery, and found too many off-putting rounded Peak V Diff horrors time and again, a wasted year. Decided to skip all the Severes and go straight onto HS which had been my old comfort grade, and this was fine. Started regular trips to relatively nearby indoor bouldering wall.
Bimbled on trad for a couple more years, out and about more and more regularly, with plenty of opportunity (I can drive to any Peak grit edge in 1h15m and I have a broad circle of climbing friends and acquaintances). But I didn't push my grades. 2010 saw my first two HVS onsights but I still didn't feel rock solid at VS. So I was around VS/HVS through 2010-2012 (and the E2 headpoint happened in 2011) but also becoming more cautious. Dogging my way up P1 of Suicide Wall at Cratcliffe was a good and humbling lesson.
Late 2012, bouldering wall opened up a mere 10 minutes' jog from my front door, so I am quite a regular there.
Yet what did I do last year? A few VS, one HVS.
So, what do you think is medically wrong with me?
btw you hit the nail on the head with this:
"One thing I love about climbing is that you can continue to develop without increasing your grade"
THAT'S exactly the improvement I've seen in myself in this time.
A very common condition called "not going climbing enough".
What I said was, if you go climbing loads (meaning the 3 times a week, much of it outdoors) for a couple of years, you'd have to have some sort of medical condition not to improve. Sounds like you've never done that (although you don't specify what you mean by "regularly").
Let's take "me" and my autobiographical essay out of the equation for now. I had been genuinely interested in this "medical condition" you keep mentioning. Does it apply to other sports e.g. swimming? I'll assume not, as I used to see plenty of people (including myself) at my local pools, more than three times a week, who never "improved".
There's nothing wrong with you, but your just not a particularly keen climber (in the context of the thread).
I'm making an assumption here but I reckon most of the people I climb with will do more routes in a year than you have probably done since you started climbing (even if they are glorified boulder problems on grit). :)
Surely you can see that if you were climbing throughout this time a few times a week, particularly outdoors you'd be onsighting that E2 rather than headpointing it?
This isn't an attack, but the OP was looking for advice on wether personal targets where beneficial to climbing goals and for most of us yes they are.
There will always be climbers like tlm who enjoy the lower grade stuff and are happy being a self confessed bimbler But in the context of the OP, a young keen lad who wants to put a lot of effort into his climbing (of which he's already proved his determination by climbing f7a indoors) will have no problem at all getting into E grades.
Also the swimming example is a bit of a red herring in my experience. Again they're probably just not motivated to perform well at swimming. Yes they're swimming every week but are they taking part in training sessions, working with a coach, entering swimming races or reading ukswimming.com every night. Probably not.
edit:reading that back it comes across like i'm having a dig at you. I'm genuinely not :)
Climbing is a proprioceptive skill, in which you learn how different body positions affect your success and failure, so by climbing a lot you instinctively get better at it. That's how the body works. It also places great strain on the muscles, and if you do it a lot, then the muscles become stronger. Furthermore, these muscles aren't ones which are generally well developed without climbing. The combination of these things mean that if you climb 3x per week for a couple of years from a novice baseline, you'll see dramatic improvements unless there's something wrong with your body's ability either to learn from the proprioceptive feedback going through the cerebellum, or to strengthen muscles in response to regular demand and rest.
With swimming, there isn't the same degree of proprioceptive skill, so I'm guessing you'd plateau quickly, although one should expect to see substantial improvement for at least the first few months of swimming from a novice baseline (at a guess).
I think most people have a risk limit which cuts in before their strength/skill limit and probably roughly corresponds to where regularly falling off becomes part of the game.
When does regularly falling off become part of the game?
Yeah I agree, but that comes a long time after your first couple of years of fast improvement (unless you're very good).
Most low-E grade plodders like me don't push until we're falling off. Last season I took 2 big lobs (on routes I thought I would do onsight). Normally I'd say I take 1 per year.
When you're not climbing on grit!
Well that's not gonna happen.
Although on the rare occasions I climb on other rock types I still don't ''regularly' fall off.
I know - hope you're enjoying it all!
Nor do I, but if I was going to push myself to falling point, it would be somewhere like St Govs or the Leap - the less adventurous crags down in Pembroke.
Most days on grit you'll see someone dangling under something too hard for them, the reason you're not falling off on grit is that you're either soloing or on some bold slab.
If we're only counting trad routes (obviously sport and bouldering are going to be fallen off loads) I bet something like FBD is the most dangled route in the UK.
Tell me about it :(
Nah - that's Chequers Crack! :-)
I've done it but i've never seen anyone else on it.
Unlike FBD which might as well have an auto-belay on it.
haha, that wasn't aimed at you.
I didn't fall off that one (but I led once I was fairly happy at E2). I did it again after a trip to Pembroke and it was harder than all the E2s I did down there.
I'll add these to my wishlist Skip, thanks for the recommendations
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