I have been climbing for around 10 months. 80% indoor leading, bouldering. Some trad experience and equal outdoor bouldering on Southern sandstone. I really enjoy sport climbing at the minute so my summer focus will be on that with a little trad.
It may be an ambiguous question for some but what would you change in your climbing journey so far? Any mistakes not worth making? Tips for us new ones on sport and trad (safety, training ect.)
Anything you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?
For instance, a big guy in the gym and a natural bodybuilder (used every single weight available on the leg press type wild man) once said to me: 'if you wanna get strong, just pick some excercises and get good at them'. That stuck with me and working with that simple routine after 5 or so years I can squat over twice my body weight.
I know there is a lot more factors in climbing so that's why I asked for 5.
Oh and I stay away from yellow snow and always remember to tie a figure of eight not a shoe lace bow ha!
In reply to Donnie: Definitely this, you only think about injury prevention once you get injured and by then it's too late.
Get a warm up routine in place and a set of good shoulder and elbow stretches and exercises (along with any other potential problem areas that you think you might encounter) and try and stick to them - forever.
Also, be nice to your fingers, they are a bugger to fix.
Buy comfy shoes, don't get into the mindset of needing the tiniest shoes in existence to climb better, you'll climb better in a decent fitting pair of shoes even with a tiny bit of slack in them than if your toes are so painful you can barely stand, let alone push hard onto tiny holds.
This one is a personal choice and others might not agree, but get a travel rug and keep it in your outdoor climbing bag. Always having somewhere dry to sit (or even lay) makes any outfoor trip infinitely more agreeable to me, you can even use it as a tent on scorching hot days...
Don't read the guidebook description before doing a route. Check the location and the grade, sure, but I have been put off many decent routes because the author clearly climbed it on a bad day, or wasn't a fan of a certain style of route. Plenty of no-star routes are well worth the effort. (You will of course occasionally climb an absolute shocker but just think of it as character building)
If I could tell myself 5 things when starting out climbing they would be these:
1. Buy 'The Self-coached Climber' and focus on the technique section.
2. Do fall practice every time you do sport climbing/leading indoors.
3. Focus on bouldering twice as much as anything else.
4. Do 'antagonist' exercises to counter-balance climbing and sort out your posture. Particularly shoulders as instability here radiates down to elbows and fingers.
5. Improving is good, but don't let the quest for improvement get in the way of having fun. When you're starting out, climbing more is better than climbing hard.
- KISS. "Keep it simple, stupid". Understand what you are trying to do rather than get sucked into systems which sometimes (often) lead to dangerous cluster f*ck.
- CONCENTRATE when tying in. Don't let anyone distract you.
- Look at the route you are about to do - don't just do it because of the guidebook grade/stars.
- Sometimes you really, really have to concentrate because falling off is NOT and option
- Early bird and all that. If its something you really want to do, give yourself the best chance by being organised in the morning
Unless you want to win indoor climbing comps, don't think that training is all about the hang board etc. If your goals include climbing El Cap, or summits in the Alps and Dollys, or even Left wall, then you need a whole set of different skills. i.e. your head, feet, rope and lungs, and mountain skills.
Most of us will not climb many routes that exist because the first person to climb them trained their finger strength or climbed on plastic. Therefore is makes little sense to spend most training time fingers if your goals lie in a different direction.
So, one tip might be: keep asking yourself in the next couple of years, what do you want to climb?
This has taken me most of my climbing life to work out!
1. As other have said - injury prevention.
2. If you think you might like alpine, don't leave it too late. The skill/risk/fitness requirements don't favour a late entry to the game.
2a. 'Dryish' glacier crossing? Focus and a bit of paranoia may save your life.
3. Don't treat it as a game (win/lose?). Treat it as a life-style (hate that word, but you know what I mean).
If you are a British climber, get into trad. Sport is great, but there is far more excellent trad available in the UK, particularly at lower grades. The more you avoid trad, the bigger deal it will seem, when the majority of the time it can actually be very relaxing, safe, and enjoyable.
If you are based in the south, get to know other local climbers (via a club?) and share lifts and make use of huts/camping to get to the rock for the weekend.
- Go if you're going - don't dither, get on with it.
- Don't bail on a partner at the last minute - surefire way to lose friends.
- Cake, bacon and tea.
- From ice climbing, stay positive - Probably one of the most obvious, but often forgotten when the pump sets in. An optimistic mentality and positive thoughts really do take you places you never thought you would go and really add to the experience.
- Learn the art of the one handed clove hitch.
If I could tell myself 5 things when starting out climbing they would be these:
1. Never climb indoors
2. Bouldering is pointless
3. You can still climb when it is raining
4. Grades are not important, enjoyment is.
5. The most important thing about climbing is not what, or where, but who with.
4 and 5 come from the fact that early in my climbing days, I lost friends while 'tick' chasing, the biggest regret in my life.
> (In reply to megamonkeyman)
> If you are a British climber, get into trad.
I would say, if you're a British Climber, get into everything, bouldering, sport, trad, winter. There's a wealth of all facets of climbing in this country and enjoying all disciplines means you'll have more opportunities to get out there and enjoy yourself.
> - From ice climbing, stay positive - Probably one of the most obvious, but often forgotten when the pump sets in. An optimistic mentality and positive thoughts really do take you places you never thought you would go and really add to the experience.
A good example of 'survivor bias'. Many people with an 'optimistic mentality and positive thought' found that 'the place you never thought you would go' was a grave and sadly aren't around to provide some more balanced perspective on the 'experience'.
In reply to crossdressingrodney: nope, I mean between the stopper and the end of the rope, if you've left maybe 7-8 inches tail. A rookie mistake and easily fixed by keeping the tail much shorter! Luckily my climbing partner told me immediately.
I wrote this list of tips for my club newsletter and then never published it:
0 - It's all about footwork. Seriously. That upper body strength you
have? It's useless if you can't move your feet right.
1 - When abseiling, check everything, then check it again, with a
backup sling still attached weight the rope and make sure it's all ok,
check everything again and then just for luck you might as well check
it again. Remove the sling and carefully go. On long abseils that
don't reach the ground knots in the end are a good idea. Just make
sure you take them out when you pull the ropes.
2 - When tying knots, always make sure you tighten and dress the knot
properly. Always leave long enough tails (as some knots will pull
some rope through when you tighten them up) and tie a stopper.
3 - If you have to bail from a single pitch route, then put a decent
amount of gear into the lower-off, I'd actually setup a proper belay.
You can always walk/scramble/climb an easy route to get to the
top of the cliff and setup a belay so you can abseil down to retrieve
the gear. Don't ab off a peg and a thread cause you can't be bothered
to do all that, it'll be the worst abseil you'll ever do.
4 - On overhangs/traverses always extend the gear. Lots. No, more
than that. Yup, little bit more. This is where having 5-6 slingdraws
on your rack is essential. You don't want to reclimb Osiris after
fluffing the overhang to see your backup piece on the overhang has a
mashed wiregate. Yes, that's happened to me. On the upside I sent
the gear to DMM for testing and open gate it still failed at over 11kn
(supposed to be a fair bit less than that) and they gave me a new
5 - Before setting off on that hard lead, check your knots, check
you've got a belay device, nuts, cams, quickdraws, slings and locking
krabs. Clean your shoes properly so there's no mud on them. Check
your second's belay device.
6 - One solid runner = good. Two solid runners = better. Especially
if the next few meters look like the crux. Allows you to 'go for it'
on those cruxes where there's no point hanging around to put gear in.
7 - Knowing when to 'go for it' is a tricky skill to learn. On one
level it'll get you up stuff in safety. On another level it can put
you in a very bad place. If you're in a bad place, don't think about
the outcome, think about getting yourself safe. Stay calm. Commit
fully to every move you do. Allow no self-doubt to creep in to your mind.
8 - Linked to the above the most important skill you can have on trad
is the ability to downclimb as well as you can climb. Never do a move
you can't reverse. Best to downclimb as then you've not blown the
onsight if you don't weight the gear.
9 - On most popular well travelled UK trad climbs up to about HVS
there are good rests every few meters. An important skill is finding
them and using them. If it's a sport route, there is no resting, try harder you wuss!
10 - Belayers, check your leader has everything. Make sure the ropes
are the right way round in the belay device (easier said than done).
Check your gate is done up and the device is the right way round. Pay
attention. Don't talk to your mates (well saying 'hi' is ok, but just
don't spend 20 minutes catching up with the). Conversly, don't spend
ages chatting to people belaying people. Don't sit down. If the leader
looks iffy, you need to get right close into the bottom of the route.
Make sure you know what 'unzipping' means with regards to nut
Yeah, it's 10 points. Meh. They're good I reckon (if they're not, please tell me why!).
Nothing wrong with Sitting down belaying, Often stops Inexperienced Belayer moving about tripping up and pulling you off.
Some of best belayers ive trusted can hold conversations with Others, watch something else at same Time, roll fags, and Drink a beer. You just Know theyre on the case and theyll hold you no Matter what.
If runners are Liable to unzip the Leader should negate with up pull runners at start of Pitch.
All criticism gratefully received. I'd agree with you about point 10, some people are fine (but no one can actually multi-task) but as it's an advice article, I'd rather err on the side of caution.
As for runners unzipping, I think it's the responsibility of both. The leader should make sure it can't happen and the belayer should make sure it doesn't happen. Also it's not always possible to put in pull/multidirectional runners at the start of a route.
Linked to the above the most important skill you can have on trad
is the ability to downclimb as well as you can climb. Never do a move
you can't reverse. Best to downclimb as then you've not blown the
onsight if you don't weight the gear.
I don't think there is a problem doing moves you can't reverse, if fact, on a lot of routes it's pretty unavoidable. Just need to make an assessment of the ground and protection above.
> 9 - On most popular well travelled UK trad climbs up to about HVS
> there are good rests every few meters. An important skill is finding
> them and using them. If it's a sport route, there is no resting, try harder you wuss!
I think learning to rest on sport routes is probably at least as important as on trad routes?
In reply to megamonkeyman: I have been climbing a bit less than 2 years. My advice is as follows:
1) Go climbing.
2) Go climbing.
3) Go climbing.
4) Go climbing.
5) Go climbing.
Somehow I managed to spend quite a lot of last summer not climbing; not a mistake I intend to make this year. If the forecast is good, go climbing, even if you are supposed to be going next week, because next week it might be raining. If it is raining, go indoors :P
Oh, and 5b) extend your trad runners, because getting a rope stuck is Not Fun.
It has probably been said already but make a habit of checking your own knot and harness PLUS YOUR CLIMBING PARTNERS, just before you set off. You don't have to say anything to them when you do so, as some people might think you are fussing or being a bit too keen, but hopefully it will give you both peace of mind and one less thing to worry about so that you can focus on the climbing. It is also a way of telling your leader that you have got his back and your attention is now focused on him/her while they are on the sharp end, and when you spot the first buckle not doubled back or one instead of the normal two harness tie in points used, you will make yourself a climbing buddy for life.
Yeah keep them coming! I have just been reading through every tip on this thread and I think all have given some really good advice. Cheers!
The trends seem to be injury prevention and general attention to detail regarding safety/possible epics.
Mentioning buddy checks. Its funny because a guy I climbed with recently would adjust/make neat my figure of eight/stopper and really check it over. At first it annoyed me a little and felt a little condescending...they say 'pride comes before a fall'.
The idea of keep it simple stupid (and just climb) appeals to me.
Some mixed views on bouldering, for and against. It does seem to aid the learning curve of doing hard moves for me.
As for trad, if the gear is good then I am happy (so far). Not sure if I would climb as hard as with sport though.
One thing mentioned was 'take falls every gym session'. Recently had a good 'fall session' and it has boosted my confidence immensely. That's a tip I would give aswell.
1. Don't become a climbing bore. There's more to life than climbing.
2. Remember your friends who don't climb. One day you might not be able to climb!
3. You won't get to be a better climber by reading books. Save the money for something else.
4. There's more to life than climbing. It just doesn't seem that way to you now.
5. Learn to tie a bowline properly. I've never seen any climber, ever, tie it the right way.*
*( if you want to know the right way, ask someone whose been in the navy)
In reply to megamonkeyman: don't buy expensive clothing, spend the money on diesel/flights instead.
always put a runner in before that loose top out.
don't always use a prussik loop when abseiling, they have their place but they also make people very nervous and slow the process down no end, on a loose sea cliff yes, on solid single pitch crags no, your partner doesn't use one when lowering you off a sport route do they?
first down a multipitch ab, check the ropes run
learn to place cams correctly, pay particularly close attention to direction of pull
In reply to megamonkeyman: Pretty trad-centric from me.
When placing gear, particularly belays, don't think "meh that's good enough". Assume your second is going to take a fall and the belay will be tested, or assume you'll take a fall when leading it and that bit of gear is going to have to stop you. Yes sometimes perfection can't be reached but I think this is a useful mindset!
Learn and practice in a safe and controlled environment self-rescue skills. Tying off the belay device and escaping the system and setting up a pulley for starters. You don't want to realise you should have done this when you suddenly find yourself needing to use these skills for real.
Multi-pitch routes always take longer than you think they are going to (or it could just be me!).
Take advantage of being child-free while you can do loads of trips, there may come a day when suddenly a weekend in North Wales has to be planned MONTHS in advance.
Don't assume that because you find something easy your partner will.
That's my 2 cents!
Edited to add - hindsight did not teach me the first or second of these but I think they are valid advice nonetheless.
In reply to megamonkeyman: When abbing start with one hand above and one below the belay device until the system is fully loaded. If the rope pulls through because it isn't through the crab then you'll be able to hold yourself!
This happened to me despite checking. Complete brown trouser moment with no prussik. 70ft up and nasty landing zone. No-one else at the crag. I had a helmet on.
A few days later I re-enacted the mistake at the wall to see if could have held myself with one hand on the rope below the belay device. Nope. You drop a couple of feet, spin around and the jerk is too strong to hold. Try it yourself.
The only thing that I can put a finger on why I made the checking mistake was that I had two crabs on my belay loop after using a shunt when soloing. I think one of them must have obscured my view of the rope. A lesson well learned.
Rack your nuts on a couple of separate carabiniers, so if you manage to let them drop while trying to place them, you aren't left without! (Learnt this one curteousy of my husband! Nothing I cud do to help him, he was quite a bit above his last runner and not an easy down climb. All I could do was keep the rope as tight as possible)
> don't always use a prussik loop when abseiling, they have their place but they also make people very nervous and slow the process down no end, on a loose sea cliff yes, on solid single pitch crags no, your partner doesn't use one when lowering you off a sport route do they?
I would suggest always using a prussik loop when abseiling (and knots in the rope); it only takes a few moments to put one on. Your partner doesn't use a prussik to backup a lower as they not not sliding down a cliff at the time...
I believe abseiling and winter climbing are the two major worldwide causes of climbing deaths (perhaps not in the UK where long abseil descents are unusual though)
People are of course free to ignore this advice, provided they accept that they are deviating from the generally agreed standard :P
When starting an abseil, keep a loose sling as a backup between your harness and anchor. Take the weight on the descender and prussik ( always use one ), take both hands off, bounce a few times and check everything again. Follow the tails from the knot to the end to make sure you're not about to abseil down a 1m tail ( it's been done ). Only then remove the backup and start abseiling.
If you're new to outdoor trad, pay special attention to selecting and navigating routes. A lot of the accident reports involving novices start with them climbing a route they shouldn't have been on. They chose a route that was beyond their ability, or they went off route onto something harder. Even a VDiff can be dangerous. Choose carefully, check UKC logs to see if it's a sandbag, and make sure you are certain of the line before you set off.
On multipitch routes, take a photo of the guidebook page on your phone, so you can consult it at the stance ( or mid pitch if you're really stuck ). A phone is a lot lighter than a guidebook.
Don't drop your phone mid pitch.
Learn to place passive gear before you start playing with cams.
> Learn to place passive gear before you start playing with cams.
I've never understood why some people say this. Learning to place cams well doesn't get much easier if you've learnt to place nuts first, learning to place passive gear well doesn't get much harder if you have the option of placing cams where they're more appropriate, and neither gets any easier if you've injured yourself on a route that the guidebook said was "well protected" because it assumed that people wouldn't be arbitrarily choosing to climb it with half a rack...
Other points are good, though, particularly the one about paying attention to routefinding. In my experience this seems to be a particular issue with people who've done some sport before, and got used to the idea that a) you can just jump on the rock and follow the line of bolts to the top and b) if it turns out to be too hard you can downclimb a bit or safely take a controlled fall on to the previous bolt and then ab off. And I've seen a few cases of people with that attitude getting off route above long run outs and nearly coming to a sticky end...
In my experience, placing cams is a lot quicker and easier and less fidly than placing hexes. There is always a temptation to place a cam instead of a passive because there is less faff.
If a climber starts out leading with cams they will never learn good nut placing techniques on easy routes as they will always take the easy option of a cam.
Then will come a time when they are climbing something hard and there aren't any cam placements (or they've already used the cam of the size they need) and ahve to place nuts, but they panic because they are pumped and not used to palcing them and problems then ensue...
A small piece of advice from me, unless you are climbing with an experienced partner that you have 100% confidence in, never assume your belayer is competent/is paying attention, particularly if it is someone you have not climbed with much before.
Keep an eye on what they are doing, while they within sight and if they do anything that makes you even slightly uncomfortable tell them. Don't worry about seeming to to be whining at them, your safety comes first.
If they try and argue with you, as some belayers do, find someeone else to climb with.
> In my experience, placing cams is a lot quicker and easier and less fidly than placing hexes. There is always a temptation to place a cam instead of a passive because there is less faff.
> If a climber starts out leading with cams they will never learn good nut placing techniques on easy routes as they will always take the easy option of a cam.
Not convinced at all - I started off leading mostly on gritstone (ie classic cam country) with a full set of Friends, and I learnt to place nuts just fine. You can't just avoid ever placing a nut by using cams all the time - most good nut placements would be crap cam placements at best. Also, cams seem like black magic when you're starting out and if you're still a bit cagey about trusting gear then a nice solid wire or (even better) a bomber hex seems a lot more reassuring.
> Then will come a time when they are climbing something hard and there aren't any cam placements (or they've already used the cam of the size they need) and have to place nuts, but they panic because they are pumped and not used to placing them and problems then ensue...
Instead you're recommending that from the very first time they lead, when they haven't had any experience at all of placing passive gear even in totally obvious and solid placements, they're stuck trying to get nuts in fiddly or marginal placements where a cam would be much simpler and safer?
In reply to Ramblin dave: TBH that last point is my limestone bias. If you're learning on grit, then yeah fine, start with cams. If you're learning on limestone and you just stick cams in without knowing much about them, then you could be in trouble when it comes to falling on one. With passive gear even a novice can tell when it's bomber.
I've just checked the OP's profile, and he's a fellow limestoner. So, to the OP, be careful with cam placements, they don't work so well in parallel cracks in limestone. Treat them as a sort of expanding nut IYSWIM.
Yeah, agree on that - I'd definitely advise a beginner to be a bit cagey about trusting cams until they're really sure they know what they're doing, and to place passive gear if possible even on gritstone. Although from my experience, most people starting out seem to be happiest with passive gear anyway because it's really obvious how and why it works.
good post. Really want to learn more about placing gear properly any tips on this too ready for leading outdoors? Thinking of buying some second hand stuff and just having a practise just placing gear on some rock near me (recommend by another climber). Need as much advice as possible sorry to jump in your post and adding zero advice!
> Buy comfy shoes, don't get into the mindset of needing the tiniest shoes in existence to climb better, you'll climb better in a decent fitting pair of shoes even with a tiny bit of slack in them than if your toes are so painful you can barely stand, let alone push hard onto tiny holds.
Cams aren't foolproof, and they're not as easy to place as novices assume. You need to understand how they work, and how and where to place them. I see lots of climbers "whack in a cam" which then either gets stuck or pulls out.
Used correctly, they're a fantastic addition to the rack (although I still have an irrational reluctance to belay off them). Used wrongly, they can give a false impression of security, whereas with passive pro it's usually obvious whether or not it's any good.
No particular order, coming from a still beginner.
- Finding the right climbing partner is hard but don't let that inhibit your ambitions
- You don't need a partner to climb
- Learn all you can
-- You can learn most things from books
-- Accidents in North American Mountaineering is a good read
-- Work out who to listen to and who to ignore
-- Don't get sucked into regional biases
-- Guides are worth it
- Getting injured is really really expensive
- All my climbing shoes survive the washing machine just fine
I always avoid using cams for belay anchors if a passive piece will do because:
1) Placing gear at belays is generally easy as your on some kind of a ledge or stance so plenty of time to fiddle in passive gear and save the friends for use when you want to make quick placements or ones in strenuous positions.
2) There are fewer pitfalls (e.g. slippy cracks not allowing friend to load/grip, walking etc) so less to worry about once the belay is set up.
Though obviously there's no point in placing a crap nut rather than a bomber friend on your belay or a crap friend instead of a bomber nut on the pitch....
No reason that I can think of why they are unsuitable for belay anchors though. Perhaps a hangover from rigid stem days where big loads could snap the shafts if not correctly placed, and orientation was even more important which made them less reliable as belay anchors?
In reply to megamonkeyman: After reading the wonderful and, to be honest, hilarious responses to this topic I thought I'd wade in:
1. Knowledge technically weighs nothing, therefore learn as much as you can.
2. Purchase and carry a first aid kit. It might sit in your bag never being used but at least it is there.
3. Find people to climb with who you enjoy spending time with. You'll enjoy climbing much more.
4. Don't grade chase. The best climber is the one having the most fun, not the one climbing the hardest.
5. Always be respectful and nice to any old-school climbers you meet out on the hill or at the crag. There'll be obvious, normally climbing with horrendously out of date gear but they'll be happy as larry. They normally have good stories as well.
And these are five top tips from the girlfriend (who is also a good climber):
1. Get yourself a hot climbing girlfriend, who can at least belay.
2. Wear a helmet, if you're going outdoors. "Beanies" apparently don't count as appropriate headgear, unless you are bouldering.
3. Always pack a flask on proper coffee and a decent quality cake. This can be used to trade with other climbers at the crag.
4. Bouldering mats make excellent "crag sofa's", also an excellent spot to sit and eat cake and drink coffee. (Top tip: get your cute hot climbing girlfriend to persuade some young rock jock to carry said pad for her... and therefore you).
5. You must climb the direct route on milestone buttress at least once in you're life. Traditionally this route is as good as it gets and it gets better in the rain.
1) Never be afraid to drop your grades when your head's not in it
2) 31 pitches are not going to go in a day, and a sleeping bag / pair of long trousers would have been a good idea
3) The climber to your right is better than you
4) If you happen to meet another climber of the appropriate sexual persuasion, and they agree to go out with you, marry them
5) If you can get up E2, you can climb anywhere in the world
> You mean back when a belay anchor involved bracing yourself on a ledge and praying the leader didn't fall ?
In that scenario, bracing is not necessary, assuming he has pro in, - gravity is your friend.
And many times I have braced myself on a ledge and brought up a second, - when the waist belay is your friend.
Another general bit of advice, respect your leader! (especially if you do not lead your-self) listen to what they tell you, do not question their choice of routes, or argue with them when they criticize/make suggestions about your belaying technique.
Few things have pissed me off more than climbing with a second (who's belaying i did not have 100% confidence in) who was tutting and making comments about me choosing easier routes to lead because I wasn't feeling particularly confident/strong on that day, and then remarking that the routes seemed quite easy to him on second...
1. There's a lot of duff advice out there (particularly here on UKC ;) I'm only semi joking), try stuff out for yourself, understand the 'why' don't just follow someones advice untested, even if they've been climbing for 20 years (you'll meet plenty of those).
In reply to megamonkeyman: 1. The best piece of climbing gear you will ever buy is a car.
2. Climb with lots of different people: you will learn from all of them. Take a chance on UKC Lifts and Partners - I've met stacks of great people through it.
3. The best way to avoid getting injured from overtraining is to climb outside: if I had to guess, 95% or more overtraining injuries are from indoor climbing (especially bouldering). If you do climb inside, force yourself to not overdo it: stop when you still feel strong.
4. Learn how to redpoint properly (not the crap British way of a half-assed getting pumped senseless onsight fail followed by staying pumped senseless by bolt-to-bolting, overgripping every inch of the way as you try to put the draws in when the bolts have been placed to be comfortably clippable with draws already in). If you learn how to redpoint properly, you will be astounded by how hard you can climb, and how easy hard climbing is when you nail the redpoint. It will make you realise that you can climb a whole lot harder still.
5. Learn when it is safe to fall on sport climbs (it often isn't, especially on F6s) and get into falling every time you go sport climbing until you - and your belayer - are really comfortable with it.
6. Bouldering will improve your ability to do single hard moves, which will pay off for your sport climbing and this will pay off for your trad (as Stefan Kruger said up thread).
In reply to megamonkeyman: 7. Whether particular advice is or is not relevant depends on what you want to do. For 15 years I mostly wanted to on sight lots of classic and ordinary trad routes up to E1: I wasn't bothered about trying to advance through the grades. Then I decided to take a totally different approach, wanted to improve without the fear of higher standard trad and got into redpointing.
8. The bit about the car (see 1) applies no matter what you want to do.