Outdoor Climbing Visualization

Stand back and look at the boulder.  Find the route.  If you can’t see the route, back up some more and actually look at the boulder – see it!

  1. Hands Only – See.  With your hands, go through each hand hold on the route.  Move your arms and position your hands the way they would be positioned if you were actually climbing the boulder.  Go through the entire problem, start to finish, moving your upper body and hands this way.  Notice the positions that your hands and arms are going to be in identify the crux(es).  What are the holds like?  What kinds of holds are they?  Where are the holds?  How can you more effectively grip or position your hands on that hold?  Is there another, better hand hold?
  2. Hands Only – Feel.  Now that you know the hand holds for your route, move through each hand hold with your body again, and this time feel what each hand hold is going to feel like.  Is it a hard pinch?  What type of rock are you going to be climbing on and how is that rock going to feel on your skin?  Is that sidepull going to be a reach?  Is there a way to reduce that reach so that you’re still feeling and climbing relaxed and calm?  How is your breathing?  When you transfer your weight, feel the release of your hand, or the tightening grip of your hand and arm on a weight-bearing move.  Actually try to feel every hand hold from the beginning of the route to the end.
  3. Hands Only – Eliminate (if possible).  Now that you know where all of your hand holds are and can feel every hand hold, do you need every one of those hand holds?  Are there that you can eliminate to be more efficient in your movement or get into a better position more quickly?  If so, eliminate those hand holds, and visualize the route again, feeling each hand hold and experimenting with eliminating those unnecessary holds.  Pare the hand holds down to the essentials for efficient flow and the best possible balance and movement on the rock.
  4. Feet – See.  Now look at your footholds.  Where, in relation to your hand holds, can you place your feet to keep your body in balance and to move efficiently to conserve energy throughout the route?  Start at the beginning of the route and find your footholds, making note of them and keeping good body position in mind.  Look for edges, smears,  and footholds that are in line with your route from start to finish.
  5. Hands and Feet (and Body) – Feel.  Now put your hand holds and your footholds together.  Move your hands and feet into position as you see yourself climbing the route, allowing your body to relax and shift naturally into the positions that it must to accommodate the positions and angles of your combined hand and foot holds.  Is all the weight on your arms in that position, or on one leg, perhaps?  Is there a better way to position your feet so that your body naturally shifts into balance?  Which way are your heels pointing?  Are all of your combined movements leading your body to flow across the rock in a relaxed and calm manner?  At the crux, what tightens?  Tighten it.  In that stemming position, where are your hands in relation to your feet? Position your hands and feet that way and visualize the climb as your movements lead you to feel every hold, hands and feet both.  Get as much of that into muscle memory as possible to reduce anxiety about the route and to actually feel every bit of it.  Go through all the motions.

Each of these steps builds on the one before it, so they must be done in this sequence, and each step of the sequence must be done thoroughly and completely for this to come together properly.  Go through each step as many times as it takes you to feel comfortable with moving on to the next step in the sequence.  If you don’t feel confident that you have a step in the sequence down, go back and practice that step until that confidence is present and you feel you can move on.  Don’t do the steps out of sequence, as much as you may like to.  It’s important that the steps be done in this order.

There.  Now fire that route!  You’ve already climbed it!!!

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