Climb grade 5 outdoor sport routes, but want to progress? Getting solid and comfortable climbing 6a will open up a lot of crags to you. But how do you start pushing your comfort zone, and what should you focus on? Two climbing instructors give their top tips.
1 Footwork focus
Footwork is key to climbing hard and pushing your grade. Being able to reduce the weight on your arms will not only make you a more efficient climber but will also improve your confidence and technique.
2 Indoors v outdoors
Climbing indoors is great for developing your skills and getting strong, but getting outside is a different game: the only way to develop your confidence and push onto the harder grades on real rock, is to climb more on real rock.
How many times have you climbed a route without even looking at it? Try visualising the moves before you start, and see if you can work out where the crux sections are. On longer routes you may want to break it down into sections and then try to figure out how to put it all together. It's a great memory game!
Flexibility is often overlooked in favour of strength but a good yoga session can do wonders for your climbing. Try including some stretching into your daily routine and you will soon find that those high rock-overs become possible.
BMC Ambassador Shauna Coxsey practices yoga:
Climb with people who are better than you. While this may give your ego a bashing, it's a great way to learn and develop as a climber.
6 Route choice
Everyone has different strengths, and routes at the same grade can vary widely. Pick the right route for you: slab, overhanging, short and powerful, reachy, covered in crimps, long stamina or jug-fest!
7 Resting on route
Learn when to move and when to rest. It's tempting to hang around on a crux if the holds are small and you're feeling gripped, but you'll get pumped! Likewise if you find yourself in a comfortable spot, consider taking a few moments to shake out.
8 Drill the basics
Practice clipping smoothly and from the right position — your arms should be straight and your fingers shouldn't be over-gripping, if possible!
9 Keep your head
Psychology is as important as strength. Do you trust your belayer, shoes and the rope? Top-rope harder routes so you know the 6a above you is well within your reach — then you'll feel more confident that you can lead it.
10 Go on holiday!
Climbing once a week is good, but climbing for the whole week will help your confidence, technique and the 'pyramid' of your log book.
When the top-out wasn't hard enough. You'll quickly progress on a sport climbing holiday!
Coaching is a great way to improve your climbing. An outdoor instructor or climbing coach can highlight ways to improve your technique and strength in a positive and confidence-boosting way.
Matt Cooper (tips 1-5) has a great beard and he's a pretty good climbing instructor, too! He's based in the Midlands but also takes people climbing in other places, like North Wales. Find him at Facebook/MountainMattMidlands. You can find Matt Woodfield (tips 1-10) of Outdoor Matters at outdoor-matters.co.uk. He offers climbing and skills training courses on the Gower and across South Wales.
And you can find lots more instructors here: Association of Mountaineering Instructors.
12 BMC sport climbing courses for young people
Over the summer, the BMC are holding several one-day outdoor sport climbing courses for 11-17 year olds who are confidently leading on indoor climbing walls. As well as being a fun day out climbing, the course will cover key safety skills for both the participant and the parent.
Find out more here: Outdoor sport climbing courses for young people
First bolt seems a bit far away? Learn how to clip-stick!
WATCH: How to use a clip-stick on BMC TV
14 BMC Sport Climbing Channel
In fact, check out this whole channel of sport climbing tips and tricks on BMC TV: Sport Climbing Channel
Rock out this summer!
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WATCH: BMC Insurance: Get out there
*Policy details: £37 for 7-day single trip Rock policy in Europe up to age 69.
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