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Some just need to get OUT. Indoors V’s Outdoors

Over the past 13 years of climbing I have climbed with a lot of people. I have climbed with super experienced people as well as not so experienced people. I have come across so many people who really want to push their climbing though something ends up holding them back. Much of the time, what is holding them back is themself. Climbing is climbing right? WRONG! There is a massive difference between climbing indoors and climbing outdoors. If you are a somewhat of a beginner and want to be the best you can be, it is paramount that you get outdoors early! I cannot stress this enough. I have met so many people who are brutally strong indoors, but when they get outdoors it’s a different story. Doesn’t mean they can’t climb well outdoors, they simply lack the experience of it and all the training they do is to get strong. There is no point getting strong if you can’t implement that strength where it matters.

I started climbing at the tender age of 17 in year 11 in school. I was lucky enough to be introduced to it by my Outdoor Education teacher. Straight away we went outdoors, Trad, Sport as well as Bouldering. Once I was in it myself, I bought a car and every weekend I was away climbing. I know I have mentioned this before, I just know it’s what needs to be done if you want to improve in both domains (indoors & outdoors).

Now, climbing outdoors is hard, totally different to indoors. You don’t initially know where the holds are, don’t know what they feel like or how big they are, there aren’t even bright colourful tags for footers in a perfect spot. Outdoor climbing involves problems solving skills like you would not imagine, no directions, no tips and your way of climbing is probably different to my way of climbing. Yes, climbing outdoors is hard and you are on a big learning curve, but stick with it, you’ll improve like you can’t even imagine.

It is additionally important that you get on all sorts of different types of rock and styles. For example, I basically spent most weekends in Nowra where it is predominantly slopers and powerful body fu*k moves. This shaped my style, I did somewhat neglect the mountains without even knowing. I did not climb up there too often especially in winter mainly due to the distance from where I was living. However, by neglecting this type of climbing it did have an impact on my style which additionally had a direct effect on my strengths and weaknesses. I would say that I developed a weakness in technique as well as finger strength (particularly crimping) as I didn’t do it that often. This took a long time to get over and I still feel it is a strong weakness I have. Doesn’t mean I can’t perform in the mountains or crimp, but it did alter my climbing style (I’d like to think I have ironed most of it out after all these years).

Depending on your focus and way of thinking, it is also important to get on both routes (sport or trad) as well as boulders. If you want to be a well-rounded climber you need to be able to turn on the power of bouldering but additionally be able to keep technique and pump along like when your on a route. The combination is vital, especially in Australia where you have definite cruxes unlike enduro routes. I have heard many times from many people, boulderers tend to continually over-grip holds when on routes leading to being pumped straight away or shortly into the route. On the other hand people who only do routes struggle to find that aggressive power needed to get through difficult cruxes. Now days with extended boulders and super short powerful routes, if you can pump along as well as have power you are increasing your ability to be able to do both, thus increasing your repertoire.

A younger me on "Tripe" 30, Boronia, Blue Mountains.

A younger me on “Tripe” 30, Boronia, Blue Mountains.

Another reason people are held back outdoors is the fear of falling. Initially, sure it can be scary, gravity pulling you down, free falling, waiting for the rope to catch your weight. It’s natural to be hesitant, though don’t let it defeat you. Look at it as a learning curve, don’t get angry at yourself and get negative about it. See it as part of the journey and a part that you will eventually get over. With more experience, you will be focusing so hard on the moves required that you aren’t worried about the fall, especially if you have done it a few times. I remember when I started, when we were attempting to redpoint a route and had everything dialled, if we said “take” (meaning take up the rope), the belayer would give about half a meter of slack, the more you said “take” the bigger whipper you would be getting. I guess it was incentive to focus and commit as best as you could. I don’t recommend the above statement as serious injury could occur, though you get the idea, you need to work out a way to try to get over it. But, don’t become a hater cause your still scared of falling, just see it as something you need to work though. I still get scarred if I’m going to take a massive winger, who isn’t  but keep it in perspective and see it as something you need to improve. As mentioned, once you take the fall a few times it will become natural.

It is also important to be able to trust your feet when climbing outdoors. When indoors, I’m sure you place a significant amount of weight on your feet without even knowing, as you know your safe if you fall. When outdoors, if you aren’t weighting your feet enough and trusting your placement, your going to over-grip and be pumped within a few moves. Trust your placements.


TIP: When your training or climbing indoors, try to climb with precise movements. How often do you see people just grabbing holds with their hands and throwing their feet on a footer. You don’t climb like that outdoors, you need to be able to get a hand hold in a particular spot as you need accurate placement with your feet. Try to hover your hand just above the hand hold you want, just in order to get it where you don’t need to adjust. Your feet placements generally should be slower than your hand placements, unless you’re your doing dynamic moves. Try to slow down the way you climb in order to make as few mistakes as possible.

Climbing indoors is such a closed and predictable environment. As soon as you go outside there are many more variables which come into play, all of which are going to affect your performance.

In conclusion, to be on an equal level regarding your indoor and outdoor skill level you need to climb at different areas, Blue Mountains, Nowra, Grampians, Local, etc. You additionally need to immerse yourself in bouldering as well as route climbing. You need to know how to rest on, you need to know how to recover on a route but you also need to be able to really find that power and strength when you need it. Furthermore, the ability to pump along then get to a rest, recover, then really squeeze through the crux when your pumped is a skill vital for climbing regardless if you’re a boulderer or route climber. You need to do trips or at least attempts where you are fully committing to the route regardless if you are going to fall or not. Assess how bad it’s going to be, sure don’t commit to a 10m run out on a slab, but if its overhung and you ain’t going to cheese grate your knees, go for it! Tell your belayer “I’m committing to this so watch me”, it may give you a little more confidence to go for it. Trust your ability, placement and rubber on your shoes, you’ll be surprised at what it can stick too. Remember to train like your climbing outdoors, SLOW things down and be accurate, this will in the end preserve energy.

At the end of the day, if you want to be a good ROCK climber, you need to go ROCK climbing. If you just want to be a good climber, go to a gym.

Hope it helps.