27 Oct

When Should I Start Training?



“When should I start training,” is a very good question, but it depends on several things. And the short answer is: “Not yet.”

Training for climbing is strange. A lot of times, you’ll hear experienced climbers tell you to “just climb more.” And, chances are, that’s the right advice. It can be frustrating, but until about two years into your climbing career, the best advice really is to get out and do it more. You should experience as much as possible and spend more time on the wall. Go outside. Feel different angles and different types of moves. Focus on your technique, read blog posts and climbing articles, watch videos, visualize yourself climbing. Do all of these things, but don’t actively train.

This doesn’t mean that your climbing should be totally haphazard. Train with your brain. Try to work on your weaknesses. All too often, climbers will find their strengths and stick with them. As a personal example, I prefer technical climbing and dislike powerful moves. As a result, I typically climb less powerful climbs, when what I should really focus on is my power generation. I typically stay on more vertical walls, when I should really direct my energy towards overhung routes.

You need to develop a solid foundation before you move onto training. But before that, your technique should be near-perfect. Your footwork should be impeccable, your route reading skills should be top-tier, and you should have all of the following moves in your repertoire: heel-hooks, toe-hooks, bicycles, drop-knees, mantles, rock-overs, flags, and the ability to move off high feet. If you feel comfortable with all those moves, then maybe you can move onto training.



One of the important things to remember about training for climbing is that muscles and connective tissues have totally different time-frames for recovery. Muscles heal relatively quickly. They get adequate oxygen and nutrients from the surrounding blood vessels. Tendons and ligaments don’t. They take much longer (think weeks, not days) to heal and will nag at you constantly. If you’ve ever sprained an ankle, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It never feels quite the same, and it’s very easy to conjure up that sensation of pain and instability, even after it has completely healed.

I bring this up because, in climbing, your fingers are what attach you to the holds. And there are no muscles in the fingers themselves. They’re controlled by tendons and tendon pulleys. Movement is generated in the muscles of the hand and forearms, which tug on tendons to move your fingers. Holding those tendons to the bone are pulleys. They are absolutely instrumental to the movement of your fingers (even in your day to day life), so if they start to hurt, it can put a damper on more than your climbing.

For more information about finger anatomy and injury, check out Dr. Julian Saunders’ article, here.

Remember all those things you should be proficient at before you start training? We’ll take a look at those in next week’s blog post.

20 Oct

How Much Is Too Much?

Climbing is addictive. There are no buts about it. Driven by our desire to improve, climbers have a hard time taking days off when we need to. And sometimes your body needs a break. If you don’t take one, you’ll look like this poor guy. He’s out with a paw injury.

Sad Pug

Tendinosis is the bane of every climber. What makes it worse is that it’s completely our fault, and the longer we push it, the longer it takes to heal. You may hear people throw around the term “tendinitis.” I do it, myself. But, chances are, what we’re really talking about is tendinosis. Tendinitis is the result of a sudden, acute trauma to the tendons. Tendinosis results from chronic stress and overuse (read: climbing).

In climbing, it tends to flare up in the elbows, either on the inside (Tennis Elbow) or the outside (Golfer’s Elbow). Tendinosis presents as a burning sensation, which will become pain. It’s usually pretty mild at first, only hurting while you’re climbing or right after you get off a route. If you’re familiar with that sensation, take a break. Wait until it stops hurting, then wait a few more days. It will only get worse. Tendinosis will eventually get bad enough that the discomfort will keep you from sleeping. If it gets to that point, the odds are good that you’ll need up to a month to recover. Don’t be stupid.

There are a few things you can do to help prevent elbow tendinosis. One of the contributing factors to elbow discomfort (other than lack of rest) is a muscular imbalance in your arms (both the forearms and upper arms). Climbing works the flexor muscles very heavily, and we don’t usually do enough work on our extensor muscles. This causes your muscles to pull unevenly on your tendons. Now that you know one of the root causes of elbow pain, you can try to mitigate the damage.

You may have heard of a rice bucket workout. If not,  check out this video from DPM Climbing.

The rice acts like heavy water, for lack of a better image. As you move your fingers through it, the rice imparts resistance. It’s especially noticeable when opening your hands. After your first rice bucket workout, your muscles will be on fire. You’ve never used the tops of your forearms as much as you will with a rice bucket.

You should also be careful about overworking your fingers. Hard crimps and bad footwork can add lots of strain to your finger tendons. If they’re sore, take some time off. Sad fingers make for sad climbers.

Like your elbow tendons, the connective tissue in the hands (and the rest of your body) doesn’t recover as quickly as the muscles do. Even if you forget how much you’ve been working them, your fingers don’t. Common finger injuries are damage to the tendon pulleys, which hold the tendon to your finger bones. You can also build up inflammation in tendons, especially behind the knuckles, which is very aggravating. It feels like you should be able to pop the knuckle and make everything feel better, but it won’t pop.

The best thing you can do for your fingers is rest them. Once you’re done resting them, rest them some more. Be gentle with them. Don’t try to carry all the groceries into your house in one load, don’t do pullups on the doorframe, just grab some ice (or a cold beverage) and relax.

After they stop hurting, you have a decision to make. Some climbers feel that total rest is the best option, and you should wait a few more days. Others think that mild discomfort is okay, as long as you’re in control of yourself and climb well below your max. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. I try to give it three days after the pain subsides, tape them liberally, and stick to easy climbing. Don’t fall into the trap of giving a problem in your upper range “just one try.” It won’t be just one try. Trust me.

The jury seems to be out on NSAIDs. They certainly make things feel better, but some studies have found evidence that they negatively affect connective tissues during the healing process. There is also the belief that during the first few days, when inflammation is high, NSAIDs may reduce inflammation enough to speed up the healing process. Do your own research and decide for yoursself.

Beyond injury, your whole body appreciates rest, too. I’m not a doctor. I don’t even play one on TV, but from what I understand, chronic muscle fatigue limits the amount of oxygen that can be delivered to the muscles and hampers recovery and the generation of strength and power. Overtraining can make you feel tired, grumpy, on-edge, even ill. Give yourself adequate rest and your body will reward you with better climbing.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, a PT, or in any way an authority on health. This is all based on personal experience and my understanding of things I’ve read while suffering various injuries. The things I recommend come from personal experience and you should take them with a grain of salt.

A great resource for climbing-related injuries is Dr. Julian Saunders’ blog.

07 Oct

A Mindful Approach

“I fell off again. What is wrong with me today?”

We all have bad days. It’s inevitable. There’s a powerful mental aspect to rock climbing, and your mindset can either make or break your session. It’s hard to believe, but understanding your own mind can be extremely beneficial to your climbing. It may seem a bit new-agey, but studies continue to espouse the virtues of mindfulness and meditation.

It isn’t something that will be learned in a day. And it’s something you’ll never master. But, like climbing, you can always get better.

On a bad day, you feel heavy. You can’t focus. Your body feels like a sack of bird shot. How did you even climb out of bed, let alone make it to the crag or the gym?

But sometimes there are good days. On those days, everything feels clear. There are no nagging thoughts. You are present with your climbing and focused on what’s happening right now.

It’s elusive, yet obvious. On a good day, we’re focused on what’s happening right now. That’s all. On bad days we’re preoccupied with life. It’s like trying to climb with a backpack full of worries. From “Did I lock the door?” to “I did so badly on that test,” each of these thoughts adds extra weight to the pack.

As practical as it sounds, “forget about your troubles” isn’t helpful advice. Obviously, you don’t try to dwell on your problems. Luckily, you can fight back if you’re willing to try to step back and let go.

First, understand the physical state your body is in. Physiological signs can be easily linked with psychological responses. What is that feeling in the pit of your stomach? Are you nervous? Or did you just forget to eat lunch today? Little things like hunger and thirst can trigger similar physiological responses to fear, which cause you to blow your little problems out of proportion and make your bad day even worse.

So you’re well fed and perfectly hydrated, but something is still nagging at you. Instead of avoiding it, think about it. Figure out exactly what the problem is. Nagging feelings are often linked with uncertainty. Something’s wrong, but you haven’t quite figured it out yet. Identifying the problem can quiet that little voice. Make a note of the nagging problems and let them go.

Allow yourself to be present in the moment. You’re here to climb, so do it. Take a step up to the start hold and close your eyes. Take a long, deep breath in. When your lungs are full, smile and exhale with a big sigh. Allow your abs to tighten. Focus on your breathing and let everything leave your mind. Do it again. The only thing your brain needs to do right now is move your body up the route. Sigh out one last time, take a breath, and climb on.

This mental frame is a glimpse into what Taoists call wu-wei. It’s roughly translated to English as “non-doing” or “effortless action,” and it’s ideal for rock climbers.  Don’t focus on the results. Don’t focus on your pride. Just climb.

The previous breathing exercise has the bonus effect of causing you to tighten your transverse abdominis (TVA). The TVA is the innermost muscle in your abdomen and runs horizontally, like a girdle. Activating the TVA is important to maintaining core tension and will allow you to more easily link your legs with your arms. Plus, it’s the muscle that holds your belly in. So it’s not a bad muscle to strengthen in preparation for swimsuit season.

So you’ve gotten your hunger in check and your life out of the way. Why do you still suck? We’re getting a bit close to the realm of psychotherapy, but maybe you’re holding yourself down with your expectations. Don’t let your ego get in the way of progress. You can’t expect to be at peak performance each day. Just because you’ve done it before doesn’t guarantee you will do it again. It just means you can.

Sometimes, the smart decision is to change tack and work on something else. Don’t become attached to a move or a route. There are plenty more. If you’re falling off over and over again, try something new. That’s what’s so great about climbing. You have all the options in the world.


After all that wishy-washy stuff, here’s something a bit more concrete.  

If you’ve got the yips and no amount of mindfulness seems to help, try something else to save your training session. There are any number of drills that will help you out next time. These are a few of my favorites on low-energy, high-gravity days.

If you’re heart’s not in it, you need to drop-kick it into place. Find a section of wall and a few friends and play Add 2. In Add 2, each player adds two moves onto a sequence. The next person must do each move before adding their own. The game is typically played with open feet, but you can be as sadistic as you like. Add 2 games often create novel movement which can get you thinking in different ways. Remember, climbing is supposed to be fun!

If you’re all alone, or you want to do something a little more structured, you can always give yourself a good workout by running laps on routes one or two grades below your typical level. Climb them up and then back down with proper feet. This will help you develop intuitive footwork and weight shifting, as well as being a good core workout. Doing this on routes with particularly bad feet can be excellent practice for precision footwork.

If you just don’t have it in you to climb up, you can traverse. Instead of traversing regularly, try it with just one arm. Do it in both directions, with each arm. This is easiest on vertical and less than vertical walls. It will  help you drill footwork and balance. You’ll need to adjust your feet much more often than your hands to move statically across the wall. The idea is to move your center of gravity under the next hold.

Since this topic is so subjective, I’ve presented only my perspective on the matter. Help build a bigger picture by posting your thoughts in the comments or on Facebook.


01 Oct

So many shoes…

Shoes and Chalk - 1Ted Bergstrand

Today we’re going to look at one of the most useful (and confusing) pieces of gear in a climber’s bag. I’m talking about shoes. Whether you’re thinking about buying your first pair or you’d just like to learn a bit more before you look for your next one, we’ll cover all the basics about climbing shoes. Different shoes are designed for different applications, so we’ll dive into each of the facets of the climbing shoe before taking a look at some of our favorites.


The rubber on our climbing shoes is what gives us friction against footholds. Rubber can  be hard or soft, thick or thin. Each type of rubber has advantages and disadvantages, which makes a shoe more suitable for one type of climbing than another. The rubber spectrum has two axes: softness and thickness. We’ll take a look at each of these aspects of climbing rubber.

You might hear climbers say that a pair of shoes is really “sticky”. Soft rubber has a higher coefficient of friction and can let you apply more of the shoe to your foothold or smear. There are a few downsides to soft, sticky rubber, though. Since the rubber is softer, they tend to be less durable than stiffer shoes. It also takes Herculean toe and calf strength to climb in soft shoes all day, particularly on footwork-heavy routes. Softer shoes are well-suited to for climbing gyms and rock with bigger, more frictiony footholds. I’m told sensitive slippers are great for sandstone cracks, as well.

Soft rubber is typically laid on a bit thinner to make sensitive shoes. This means we can feel exactly what is beneath our feet, which can be a lifesaver on boulder problems or climbs with small footholds. There is a downside, though. The thinner rubber will abrade quicker, so be conscious of your footwork.

Stiffer rubber can make the smallest footholds seem like huge ledges. Stiff shoes are great at edging. Although they may give you less friction than their softer counterparts, the ability to edge on little crystals can allow you to take advantage of feet that are unusable in softer shoes. Stiff shoes also tend to last much longer, as long as you’ve been practicing your footwork. Another advantage to stiff shoes is the ability to take take some stress off your toes and calves. The stiffness of the shoes allows you to use less muscle power to keep your feet in position on longer, more vertical climbs. As with sensitive shoes, the design of your climbing shoe will also be a factor in stiffness.

Stiffer shoes tend to have a thicker layer of rubber than their softer counterparts. This helps to keep the shoe stable when edging on footholds. The added thickness will make your shoes a bit more durable, as well.

Upper Material


There are two types of materials used for a shoe’s upper (the part that touches your foot). Uppers come in both leather and synthetic varieties. They have their advantages and disadvantages, but all-in-all, the material is less important than shape, fit, and rubber type.

First, we’ll look at leather. Leather shoes will stretch, so keep this in mind when you’re buying a pair. You don’t want leather shoes to be comfortable when they’re new. If you buy them big, they’ll turn into shopping bags by the time you’ve broken them in. That said, the stretch is what lots of people love about leather shoes. If you buy your leather shoes at an appropriate size, they will mold to your feet as you break them in. Leather uppers are also notorious for leeching dye into your feet. Colored feet are pretty much inevitable while breaking-in leather shoes.

The alternative to leather is a synthetic upper. Synthetic uppers are less prone to stretching, though they will over time. Synthetic shoes tend to be more comfortable out of the box. Synthetic materials lend themselves to sewing in a way that leather can’t match, but lack the stretch and durability (which is why you don’t tend to see synthetic slippers). You’ll find that the tongue and the softness of the shoe on your foot will be the main differences between synthetic and leather shoes.



Climbing shoes come in all kinds of shapes. If you’re intimidated, you’re not alone. There are two main shapes to climbing shoes, though they all vary to one degree or another. Shoes are designed around what cobblers call a “last.” A last is a foot-shaped mold that the shoe’s final shape depends upon. There are two main last designs, which are best used in different situations.

The traditional, or relaxed, last results in a standard, flat shoe. It’s the shape of your foot when you’re standing normally. Shoes with a relaxed fit are still meant to be worn tight, but the foot in is in a more comfortable position. These shoes shine on vertical and slabby surfaces because you can adjust your foot to get the most rubber onto your foothold.

The alternative is the more aggressive, cambered last. Aggressive shoes are curved in order to deliver the most power to small footholds. Aggressive shoes shine on overhanging routes and boulder problems, but lack of friction can cause real problems on slab climbs.

Closure System


There are three types of closure systems in climbing shoes. They each have their advantages and disadvantages, which I’ll detail below.


Lace-up shoes provide the the most customizable fit. You can adjust the laces all the way down the shoe to perfectly fit your foot shape. The adjustability also makes them the ideal choice for long, multi-pitch routes where you’d do anything for comfortable feet. They can also be the most annoying thing in the world after a long day of climbing. I’ll set the scene for you…

Your fingers are sore. You’ve been climbing all day and you’re closer than ever to finishing your project. But you have one problem. Your toes are starting to slide inside your shoe. It takes a second, but the realization hits you like a truck. You have to unlace your shoes and tighten them up to stick that last move. So with a heavy head, you spend the next two minutes whimpering as you tighten each pair of laces. If only there was another way to tighten your shoes…


Velcro closures solve the problem of sad fingers. They take no effort to readjust, but they come with a downside. Velcro closures don’t offer much help in the toe of the shoe. So when buying velcro shoes, make sure the shoe fits snugly before closing the velcro. Velcro shoes are generally preferred for bouldering because they’re easy to put on and take off.


Slippers are no-frills climbing shoes. They need to be tight to stay on your feet. Since slippers don’t have a strap or laces to hold your foot in place, they will stretch more than shoes with other closure methods. Slippers shine in the gym, because of their easy removal, and in huge splitter cracks, where laces can often get cut from repeated, odd foot movements.



Climbing shoes are meant to be worn tight. If you’re buying your first pair of shoes, you may not know how tight you really want them. This is totally subjective, so I’ll do my best.

After your shoes have broken in, there should be no extra space in your shoe. This means they should be tight at the store. But don’t go too small. If you’re crying when you put your shoes on, they’re too tight! If you’re thinking about your feet, you’re not thinking about climbing. Climbers don’t tend to wear socks with their climbing shoes, so if you’ve been wearing socks with your shoes, give it a try without them on your next visit to the gym. You’ll probably find you can size your shoes down another half-size.

Here are a few things to think about when you’re trying on new shoes.

Make sure your foot is in an active position when you put the shoes on. Your toes should be scrunched together into one big toe and they should be pressed against the front of the shoe. There shouldn’t be any air between the heel cup and your foot. Wiggle the shoe around on your foot. If it slides, it’s too big. If you can slide it off while it’s closed (excluding slippers), it’s way too big. Remember, leather shoes will stretch more than synthetics. If you’re in doubt, ask the person at the outfitter store how much a shoe will stretch.

So What Should I Buy?


If you’re looking for your first pair of shoes, here are a few that we recommend.

Evolve Defy (or Elektra, for our female climbers)

Mad Rock Flash 2.0

Five Ten Anasazi Moccasym


Other Great Choices

La Sportiva Solution – Bouldering

Scarpa Vapor V – Bouldering and Sport

Tenaya Masai – Slab

Five Ten Anasazi VCS – All-Around

La Sportiva Python – Personal Favorite


23 Sep

Where’d These New Climbs Come From?

Setting is one of the big mysteries for most people at climbing gyms. We get lots of questions about how we set routes. Things like, “How do you come up with them?” or “How do you know where it should go?” And it makes sense. Route setting is generally done behind the scenes. Walls come down and go up during off hours and you guys don’t get the opportunity to see the process.

To answer the those questions, setters have to get a little dodgy. It’s not that there’s some big secret or anything. But it’s important to remember that setting is more art than science. It’s an organic process that’s influenced by all kinds of things. We set based on our climbing history, the moves we enjoy, the moves we struggle with, things we’ve seen in climbing videos, etc. There’s an unending list of influences that float around together inside our heads. To be perfectly honest, we generally don’t really know what’s going to come out until we’ve laid out the foundation of the climb.

These influences all come together when we approach the wall. Before we start, we typically have a glint of an idea for the climb. For instance, we might want to use lots of slopers. Or maybe we want a technical foot move to cross into a hold. With that idea in mind, we’ll find a bunch of holds that will fit the angle of the wall and the grade we hope to set. After that, we put up our main holds and then visualize ourselves on the climb. Then we step back and ask ourselves a few questions. Where do there need to be feet? Does it look like it will be the same difficulty all the way through? Is there any obvious way to cheat through it? These questions help us lay out the climb before we test them.

After we’ve each set a few problems, we’ll typically put on our climbing shoes and fore-run the climbs. Fore-running is when we try everything out to make sure they climb the way we intended and that there isn’t an easier sequence. While fore-running, we make adjustments to the climbs. This is why it’s nice to set as part of a team. If one of us feels that there should be another hold on the route, we add it. If the feet don’t work well, we adjust them. Fore-running also helps to make sure holds don’t spin and that the moves are safe. There’s no room for ego when it comes to safety.

So how do we make sure they’re fun? That’s a really hard question to answer. But with the competition coming up this Saturday, I’ve been thinking about what makes a good problem. After more thought than I care to admit, I’ve decided that I have no idea. Everything I’ve come up with has had this nebulous, intangible quality to it. Things like “it flows” or “it’s fun” are totally unhelpful. Why does it flow? What makes it fun? And how much of that has to do with how we’re feeling when we climb it?

I’ve decided to attack the question in a different way. I’m going to take a look at what makes a problem bad. A boulder problem can be tough, tricky, or frustrating, and still be fun at the same time. But sometimes there are problems that are just plain bad. Now, the odds are good that the problem works for someone, but that someone is not you (and it’s probably not most people, either).

I prefer static movement, so the first thing I hate is bad foot placement. I don’t mean that a foothold is small or slippery. The real headache is when climbs feel reachy or cramped. In a gym setting, there’s really no excuse for this at the lower and moderate grade levels. It’s a little different when you need to force hard movement, but for the sake of this argument, lack of feet can make a climb bad.

Another thing that climbers often malign is an indoor problem that is inconsistent. It may have easy moves on good holds until the crux, but that crux move is near impossible. Bad holds, huge moves, and sketchy fall potential can all play into this. Unless your problem is a one-move-wonder, inconsistency can make a climb bad.

Yet another issue that we run into while setting at the gym is similarity. Now, you might do this on purpose. Say you’ve set a great V6. You know that only a handful of people are going to be able to climb it. So you might set an easier version of it, with better holds, somewhere else to expose other climbers to the movement. And that’s fine. The trouble occurs when you find that your climbs all feel the same or that a certain move is on every one of your problems. Be consistent in move and hold difficulty, but avoid move similarity.

This brings me to one that is a bit more important. Tweaky holds and moves that are hard on the joints make the worst climbs. Some holds seem like they were designed by hand surgeons to increase business. Don’t use them. Tweaky holds and awkward moves can hurt climbers, which makes this one of the worst mistakes you can make when setting. I’m not saying there’s no room for hard drop-knees or twisty shoulder moves. But they need to be set at an appropriate grade and there should be a safe way to bail out of the move (nearby jugs, etc.). Be cognizant of your hold selection and the positions you’re asking climbers to get into. Keep your injury potential low, or you’ll end up with a bad climb.

Another element of bad climbs is awkwardness. The nice part about indoor climbing is that we don’t have to set climbs that are arbitrary. Unlike routes outside, we have creative input in our climbs. Just because a move can be done doesn’t mean that it should. This is starting to get into that ethereal realm with “fun” and “flow,” but it does have a few concrete aspects. Forcing a climber to cut feet and radically reposition them can be awkward. So can making a climber commit to an off-balance dead point. Things like this can make for a cool move every once in a while, but on the whole, they should be avoided.

For setters, forgetting your strengths as a climber can cause problems, as well. It can make your climbs feel awkward or inconsistent. If you have incredible finger strength, you may underestimate the difficulty of a lock-off. If you’re powerful, you might forget how hard it used to be to generate power in certain positions. If you’re tall, reachy moves may feel normal. It’s important to check with someone else on the setting crew if your crux move happens to be one of your strengths. It may not be as easy as you think.

There are certainly more things that make bad climbs, and I’m sure each of us will encounter a few of these this week as we prepare for the competition. We looked at bad feet, inconsistency, similarity, tweakiness, awkwardness, and forgetting your strengths when you’re setting. We want to avoid these whenever we set, but it doesn’t really help us define what makes something good.

Sam SmilingTed Bergstrand

So what makes something good? I’ll tackle this in two ways. First, I’ll start with the opposite of bad. It’s not perfect logic, but it’s not a bad framework. Then I’ll take a look a the more abstract side with a few of my opinions on flow and fun.

This isn’t rocket science. I’ve just gone through the list and written the opposite of each mistake. For a good climb, you should follow these rules. Your climb should have adequate feet. It should be consistent in grade and hold difficulty. It shouldn’t be the same as all of your other problems. You should choose finger-friendly holds and make sure your moves don’t put climbers in awkward of dangerous positions. And finally, try to avoid exclusively setting to your strengths as a climber.

Alright, so let’s see how well I can tackle the abstract side of things. What makes something flow? A climb flows when all of the moves lead seamlessly into one another. If you use the right beta, you should find that each move sets you up for the next. A problem that flows will make the climber use continuous, dynamic movement or subtle weight shifts to link each move. If it feels forced or contrived, you’re doing it wrong.

Regarding what makes a climb fun, everyone will have a different opinion. I know it’s a cop-out, but it’s true. Some people love to launch themselves around with big, dynamic moves. Others prefer more technical moves. Regardless of your preferences, a fun climb will flow. Fun climbs tend to move in novel ways. They make you think. If they’re at your grade level, they make you fall. Not too much, but just enough to learn something new.

Whatever you think makes a climb fun, I hope that you’ve been able to get a glimpse of what goes into making the problems you climb. And I hope you enjoy the new stuff we’re setting for the comp on Saturday (9/26). If you’re not busy, you should come by and watch the competition in action. It’s a lot of fun.

15 Sep

Boulderfest ’15

Getting Ready for Boulderfest ’15 – 9/26/15



This post is written for kids as preparation for USA Climbing Youth Competitions, but it’s really about climbing your best and not getting in your own way (so it’s relevant to adults, too). The first section goes over the procedure for Boulderfest. The second is full of helpful tips to help you climb your best, whether you’re at a competition or just having fun. If you’re not competing, just replace the word “comp” with “practice” or “session.”

About the Comp

This competition is a USA Climbing Local Bouldering Comp. It will be held at Active Climbing on September 26, 2015. For more information, click here.

You will need to compete in two local comps to qualify for Regionals, later on in the season. Regionals will be held on December 12 at Vertical Ventures in St. Petersburg, FL. You will need to become a USA Climbing member for this competition to count towards regionals. You can join at http://usaclimbing.net/shop.

The style of the competition at Active is called a “red point competition.” A red point comp has different climbs, each with a different point value. The higher the point value, the harder the problem. Your five climbs with the highest point value will be counted for your score. The number of attempts will serve as tie-breakers in the event of a tie.

Remember, you must start with both hands on the start hold and finish with both hands on the end hold, to show control. You can’t touch any holds that aren’t taped for the climb, or the attempt will not count.

Each of you will get a score sheet. There will be a list with all of the boulder problems on it. Each time you fall off an attempt, you will put a tally in the “Falls section.” When you finish the problem, you need to get the initials of two people who saw you climb the problem. If you forget to do this, your climb won’t count!

At the end of the comp, or when you think you’ve finished, you can turn your score sheet in at the desk. We’ll count up everybody’s scores and then have the awards ceremony, where you’ll hear the results of the competition.

Check with your parents to see if they’ve gone to www.activeclimbing.com/comps for information on how to register.

If you’re in Youth D or Youth C

You and your parents will check-in at the gym between 8:00 AM and 8:40 AM. After registration, we’ll go over the rules. You’ll have time to warm up in the other room while your parents are checking you in. Climbing will begin at 9:00 AM and end at 12:00 PM. That means you have 3 hours to complete your 5 best climbs.

After climbing ends, we’ll add up everybody’s score and present the awards at 1:00PM.

If you’re in Youth B, Youth A, or Juniors

You and your parents will check-in at the gym between 11:15 AM and 11:45 AM. After registration, we’ll go over the rules. You’ll have time to warm up in the other room while your parents are checking you in. Climbing will begin at 12:00 PM and end at 3:00 PM. That means you have 3 hours to complete your 5 best climbs.

After climbing ends, we’ll add up everybody’s score and present the awards at 4:00PM.

Tips for the Comp


Before the Comp


Eat up!

Eat plenty of food the day before and drink lots of water. If you want to climb your best, your body needs plenty of fuel. If you don’t drink enough water, your muscles won’t be able to work as hard as you want them to.

Get Plenty of Rest

Your body needs to rest so that you can be ready to perform your best. Take a break the day before the competition. Don’t do a bunch of pushups or exercises because you want to be stronger for the comp. It will make you more tired the next day.

Get Excited!

It’s a big day. Competitions are so much fun. You get to see and hang out with your friends from other gyms and learn from the other climbers your age.

Pack Your Things for Tomorrow

Get your things together. You’ll want your shoes, chalk, some snacks, and some water. You don’t want to get to the comp and realize you forgot your chalk bag at home.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

This is super important. You have a big day ahead of you. A good night’s sleep will make sure your brain and your body are ready to go the next day.

During the Comp

Comp Kids

Don’t Climb All the Hardest Things First

If you try to climb all of the hardest things first, you’ll be too tired to make the hard moves on problems you’d normally crush. Start off with some climbs that you’re pretty sure you can get in two or three tries. Once you’ve finished five problems, then it’s time to give that cool, hard project a try.

Rest Between Attempts

Give yourself a full 4 minutes to recover before you try your climb again. Drink some water, shake out the pump, but give yourself the best possible chance to complete your problem in as few attempts as possible.

No More Than 3 Attempts at First

Don’t try a climb more than two or three times at the beginning of the competition. If you’ve fallen three times, it’s time to move onto a different route. You’ll get tired and you might not even be able to complete all five of your climbs.

No More Than 5 Attempts Total

You might be tempted to spend 30 minutes climbing the same problem. There’s just one move you’re having trouble with and you’re almost there. You know what I’m talking about. If you don’t get a problem in 5 attempts, move on. Talk to your coaches about it. Maybe you can come back to it later, once you filled out your score sheet a little more.

Look at the Whole Climb Before You Go Up to It.

You know when you see the older climbers moving their hands around in the air while they’re looking at a climb? They’re visualizing themselves on the problem. That means that they’re imagining themselves climbing each move. They’re looking for all of the footholds. They’re also making sure they don’t put their hands in the wrong places. Try to figure out how the climb goes before you get on it.

Use your feet!

Good climbers spend as much time spotting footholds and they do handholds.

If it’s not working, stop trying it!

You might have the wrong sequence. Take a step back and look at the problem again. There might be a better way up the climb.

Watch how somebody else does it

You’ll have climbers all around you, trying the same climbs. If your beta isn’t working, try their method.

Have fun!

Go up to every problem with excitement. You’re not nervous. You’re not scared. You’re excited to see where the climb goes. These problems were made just for you and we want to see you crush them!

Climb every problem with a smile.

After the Comp

If you think you could have done better, don’t get upset. You were there to have fun! Use your new experience to crush at the next comp! Take what you’ve learned seriously, but not personally. Sometimes things don’t go your way. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad climber. It just means you’re human. Learning from past experiences is what will make you great. We’ll figure out what you had trouble with and work on it, together, at practice.

If you did well, be proud. Be happy. You worked hard and it paid off! Don’t let it get to your head, though. The other kids in your division are going to be working even harder to train for the next comp. You will need to, as well.

We can’t wait to see you on the 26th!