How to climb 8a in 10 easy steps

Posted by Peter Burnside on 14/07/2017
Sport climbing in sunny Spain. Photo: Shutterstock / PedkoAnton

So you’ve breached the 7a barrier, but what’s next? It might seem like a lofty goal, but maybe it’s time to give 8a a serious think. All you need is the right 8a, a shot of determination (not the vodka kind), and to read this 10 easy steps on how to climb 8a from BMC ambassador James McHaffie.

Brought into life in the early eighties, the 8a sport climb remains a much sought-after tick by climbers. Obviously you won’t immediately pull onto an 8a and expect to clip the chains (unless you’ve just been hustling us this whole time), but with a little dedication you can build on the already solid base you’ve got and train for the next level. Fortunately, help is at hand from BMC ambassador and all-round rock-god, James McHaffie.

1. Boulder

Being able to climb Font7a/b can really open the doors to many 8as, as many of the cruxes will have some pretty severe moves on them. Do a bit of bouldering to build up enough finger and core strength, so you can demolish those tougher sequences.

2. Circuits

If you’re already pretty strong but get pumped after two moves, do a 20-30 move circuit three or four times during your bouldering session to gain that crucial stamina and up the difficulty if you’re finding it too easy. Circuits get you used to climbing when rinsed and you’ll see gains pretty quick if you do it once a week.

3. Build a solid base

Try and do quite a few climbs of 7b and 7c before embarking on an 8a. Many of the crux moves on 7b+ are as hard or harder than those on many 8as, but if you’ve not climbed to around that level you may find a look at an 8a demoralising. Don’t forget, as the grade increases so does a climber’s chance of getting injured.

4. Plan locally

If it’s your first at a grade it might take you quite a few sessions, so if it’s not too far to get to it it’s more likely to occur without a furnace of motivation. Look through guidebooks for your area and see if a climb catches your eye. Written goals are more likely to succeed than unwritten ones and it’s better to keep them process rather than outcome based.

5. Stick with it

Don’t be put off when you feel like it’s not working. There’s been a few times where I’ve felt terrible and dogged every move up a climb, thinking it’s just horrendous. But then after a rest on the ground I’ve done it next go. It can be tiring working out some moves, but there is often a knack to most that can make them ok.

WATCH: James McHaffie: BMC ambassador on BMC TV

6. Know the top half

Even if it’s very easy, you’d be surprised how you can fluff easy moves when tired. Do some links on the top third or half and do your best to remember key foot placements.

7. Countdown

Do it in three, do it in two, then just do it! Once you’ve done all the moves on your project but you’ve still got a way to go, try and slowly decrease the number of rests on the rope. Eventually, do it in two and once you’ve done that, you’re really close. The more you think about your project, the more likely it is to be done; think about tactics that will help you clinch the deal and always keep the goal in sight.

8. Rest between attempts

When you know the project and are going for the big push, give it at least two or three big efforts per day with at least 45 minutes to an hour rest between goes. Unless, that is, it’s remarkably short or you slip off lower than expected. I usually rest a minimum of one hour between attempts.

9. Rest days

I wish I’d learned this when younger. Having a rest day before a hard redpoint attempt will normally make you climb much better, especially if you’ve climbed hard for more than two days already. It’s one of the unfortunate truths about sport climbing.

10. Pick your location

Go to Terradets and Chulilla for the soft 8as…

WATCH: Our Sport Climbing skills series on BMC TV 

Caff’s cool 8a collection

Staminafests

  • Zoolook, Malham
  • Baboo Baboo, Malham
  • The New Age Traveller, Malham
  • The Main Overhang, Malham
  • Toadall Recall, Malham
  • Defcon Three, Gordale
  • Cold Steal, Kilnsey
  • The Thumb, Kilnsey
  • The Prow, Raven Tor
  • Masterclass, Upper Pen Trwyn
  • Statement of Youth, Lower Pen Trwyn
  • Over the Moon, Lower Pen Trwyn
  • Dr Evil, Chapel Head Scar
  • Central Pillar, Castell Y Gwynt
  • Robinson Cruiser, The Diamond
  • Shine On, The Diamond
  • The Shining, The Diamond
  • The Untouchables, Slate
  • Concorde Dawn, Slate
  • Bobby’s Groove, Slate
  • Manic Strain, Slate
  • Unleashing The Wild Physique, Cheedale
  • Boobs, Cheedale
  • Thormen’s Moth, Manifold Valley
  • Coliseum, Rodellar Total
  • Gracias Fina, Rodellar
  • Lourdes, El Chorro
  • Musas Inquientantes, El Chorro
  • Ace Ventura, El Chorro
  • El Salto del Tigre, El Chorro
  • Atlas Shrieked, El Chorro
  • Pepe el Boludo, El Chorro
  • Las Mulas Comen Muchas
  • Cuerdas, El Chorro
  • Watermark, Wildside
  • Mediterraneo, Wildside
  • Romocop, Wildside
  • Slabazonica, Altea Col
  • L’Ami Caouette, Ceuse
  • La Tombe de Savoie, Ceuse
  • La Petit Tom, Ceuse
  • Trait d’Union, Bionassay
  • Airline, Santa Linya
  • Hydrofobia, Montsant
  • La Mosca, Montsant
  • Rat Apenat, Montsant
  • Un Rato en cada postura, Siurana
  • Pren Nota, Siurana
  • Minimal Techno, Siurana
  • Brot de Fonoll, Siurana
  • Disbarauxa L2, Siurana
  • Larmes de Pluie medium L1+L2,
  • Cascade de Duran
  • Bon Noi, El Falco
  • Millennium, Terradets
  • El Latido Del Miedo, Terradets
  • Dr Feelgood, Margalef
  • Rodillar, Espadellas, Margalef
  • Sativa Patatica, Margalef
  • El Bufa, Chulilla
  • Tequila Sunrise, Chulilla
  • Orquidea Salvaje, Pedriza

Staminafest/burly

  • Breach of the Peace, Malham
  • El Quijote del Montanismo, Alquezar
  • The Bulge, Kilnsey

For the twinkle-toes

  • Tambourine Man, Slate
  • The Medium, Slate
  • Cwms the Dogfish, Slate
  • Pelaez de Yemas, Pedriza
  • La Correvuela, Pedriza
  • La Llambria, Pedriza
  • Reloaded, Siurana

Good for boulderers

  • Calling Mr Hall, Chapel Head Scar
  • Oyster, Upper Pen Trwyn
  • Mussel Beach, Lower Pen Trwyn
  • Stiff Upper Lip, Pigeon’s Cave
  • Never Get Out of the Boat, The Diamond
  • Powerplant, Cheedale
  • The Roof Warrior, Cheedale
  • The Free Monster, Water-cum-Jolly
  • Sworn Enemy, Dovedale
  • Escape to Valhalla, Manifold Valley
  • El Rincon, Dinbren
  • A Cravita, Rodellar
  • Swimming Through a Shark Attack, El Chorro
  • Mama Endika, El Chorro
  • Ergometria, Wildside
  • Dimension Diamente, Wildside
  • Salva Mea, Altea Col
  • Les Collonettes, Ceuse
  • Bourinator, Ceuse
  • Vegetal Sup, Bionassay
  • Anabolica, Siurana
  • Memorias de Una Sepia, Siurana
  • Buscando y Pepillo, Siurana
  • El Senor de los Martillos, Ager
  • La Inflexible, Ager
  • Transilvania, Margalef

 


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1) Anonymous User
17/07/2017
Interesting article but probably only applicable to the 0.1% of super talented climbers. For most the next step after 7a is more 7as and then attempting a 7a+. Thinking about climbing 8a just because you've climbed 7a is like when you climb any grade and instead of thinking about the next grade you decide to think about 6 grades ahead.

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