The outdoor season is upon us, and if you’re anything like me, your anxiously awaiting for the right temperatures that mark the beginning of the outdoor climbing season. So, in order to make the most of it, I’ve created this small list that includes 4 tips that will help make this a super successful climbing season. Enjoy!
1. Understand Good Conditions
Climbing in good conditions can make the difference between a send and a total bust. So, obviously understanding good conditions can put you at a huge advantage. The best conditions for bouldering is when it is cool and dry. This results in the best friction between the rock and your hands, as well as the rock and the rubber of your shoes. Once the temperature gets too cold, your hands can easily become numbingly cold from touching the rock and the rubber on your shoes will be hard and not as sticky. Hot temperatures are not ideal either, but I’d rather climb in the heat than in the freezing cold to be honest. I’ve got Latin blood, I wasn’t bred for the winter 🙂 The heat not only makes you sweat, but can make the rock sweat as well, which sucks for friction. However, that being said, I’ve done some bouldering in the Caribbean in temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) and although I was sweating like a monster I was still able to put down some awesome climbs.
The same conditions are ideal for routes, except that you can usually climb routes in warmer temperatures than you can with bouldering. Just make sure to keep track of the weather leading up to an outdoor trip. Even if the temperatures are ideal, if it’s rained recently, then it might be too wet venture outside.
2. Take Care Of Your Fingers
Whether your making the transition from plastic to rock, or if you’re coming back after some time off, your fingers and your skin need some special attention. Unfortunately, the calluses you’ve worked so hard to build up in the gym don’t really do much for you outside. The rock is really good at shredding your fingers and building new calluses for real rock is something you’re just going to have to accept. If you are climbing frequently then using a hand salve can be your savior if you need quick skin repair. A hand salve helps to re grow shredded and worn down skin so you can get back out climbing the next day. Just note that although your skin may grow back quick, it’s not as durable and strong as it would it if you let it grow back naturally over a couple days. But still, salve is great especially if you’re on a trip and want to get as many climbing days in as possible. I lived off this stuff when I was in Horse Pens. I wore my skin down to the point where my skin was so thin blood was actually seeping through. But, I just slapped on some salve and I was good to climb the very next day! As you continue to climb on rock you’re skin with eventually get used to it and you’ll develop some awesome calluses.
Also, as important as skin is, your fingers are equally important. Climbers can get so excited to get their hands on real rock that they can actually end up injuring their fingers. If your fingers aren’t used to being climbed on everyday then as tempting as it is, don’t go on a climbing spree once the temperatures get good outside. You can end up injuring yourself and put yourself out for part or even all of the season.
3. Know How To Top Out
Most outdoor boulder problems finish by topping out, unless it clearly indicates not to because of existing vegetation or some other reason. Knowing how to top out outside is a good skill to have because it often ends up being the second crux of the climb. Many indoor gyms don’t have top outs, and if they do they give you decent holds and a nice big mat to fall on. This makes learning how to top out outside a bit more difficult. The best way to learn is by actually practicing it. Get a good spotter and, find a decent landing, place a crash pad and practice topping out. You’ll quickly start developing top out technique and become more comfortable. Sandstone, I find, the most difficult. The tops of problems are usually smooth and featureless; then combine that with the pump your starting to feel at the end of a problem and you’ve got yourself a challenging top out ahead. Just remember, the key to mastering top outs is confidence and technique.
4. Have Good Spotters/Belayers
Spotters and belayers play a key role in the success of your climbing. A bad spotter/belayer can make you feel nervous and cause you to hesitate during difficult moves, which in turn makes your climbing skills plummet. On the other hand, a good spotter/belayer makes you feel safe and secure and actually gives you a great boost in confidence. You’ve already got enough things to focus on while you climb, so having distracting thoughts about whether your belayer is watching you or if your spotter has good pad placement is something you just don’t have time for. If you can focus all your attention on the climb ahead of you then that’s a good sign that you’ve got a good partner watching your back. They should encourage you and communicate well with you. This alone is an easy and effective way of improving your climbing. It’s possible that you are holding back when you climb because you don’t fully trust the people that are looking out for you. Don’t underestimate the impact they have on your climbing potential.
What are your tips for successful outdoor climbing? Share them in the comments below!