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Rock climbing is a dynamic balance of three centers.

The ego or sense of I that wishes to get to the top yet stay alive.

The unconscious body knowledge which is the learnt engrams that drive the climbing act and allow the climber to perform technically.

The logical head that is the problem solver. Head knowledge is passed to and from the body. Structures are rapidly built up but take a finite amount of time to pass between head and muscle memory.

At the beginning. The climber has few unconscious skills. Every child has a priori knowledge of how to climb a tree but between ending climbing trees and becoming a climber at a later point the skills fade from neglect. When placed on a top rope to climb the novice climber will usually adopt one of two styles.

    Outright thuggery - Predominant in male or tall climbers, they rely on upper body strength and height to guide them through a routes difficulties. There’s nothing wrong with this style of climbing, and it's an often required method, but it falls down when the climbing becomes more subtle, technical or sustained. The ego takes control and little head/body knowledge is developed.

    Timid failure - Predominant in female or short climbers, lacking in upper body strength or reach and the necessary engrams, repeated failure rapidly discourages them from making further attempts. A positive feedback loop develops degrading the ego and again head/body knowledge is not encouraged to develop.

Ego dominates the style and suppresses the learning process. Common complaints are that the novice doesn’t want to ”look stupid in front of their friends” or ”is afraid that the rope will break”. If the person cannot break beyond these points then climbing does not improve and the sport is usually discarded as too difficult.

In the middle The climber breaks past the initial ego driven issues, begins to learn how to solve problems and develops muscle memory. The ego becomes confident. This is the point where some people will plateau in terms of ability. Top rope ability will increase but lead climbing ability which requires more confidence in the self may become static.

Fear of falling is a double edged sword. While it can act as a limiter to stop a climber getting into big trouble and becoming a greasy splatter at the base of the cliff it can also prevent a climber from taking reasonable risks and developing a dynamic technique which is essential to solving the most difficult problems. To succeed you must know exactly where you fail. Less cryptically, it is entirely possible to talk yourself out of a climb you have the skill for.

Climbers must learn how to use their feet and body tension to control the ascent, conserve energy and utilize the rock. Quite often at this point female climbers excel male climbers due to them having to develop the skills more fully than their male counterparts to climb the same climbs. The engrams are developed deeper due to the need to overcome obstacles that other climbers can use brute strength or height to overcome.

In this case the centers are balanced and the climber develops as a whole while the climber who is not improving denies that their ego still dominates the balance and continues to use the same head/body structures which do not work for many problems. The ego has control for them and balance is not achieved.

Climbing nirvana. The skill levels are topped out and engrams become increasingly specific to a given climb. At the highest level a climber may take weeks or even years to develop the necessary abilities to complete a climb. A concrete example is Realization an ungraded climb but thought to be worlds hardest sport climb. The first ascentionist took over 5 years and more than 100 attempts on the route before the structures were locked into him and he was able complete the route. He admits that on the day, he was feeling unpressured and it "...just worked for me" despite feeling tired when commencing the route. A case of balance within the body.

While most people who wish to climb will not take it to the extreme levels shown here, it is worthy to note that to achieve at any level in the sport it is necessary to listen to your body and your head and create a balance. Only then will you know how to climb.

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