Don McGrath, author of Vertical Mind and 50 Athletes Over 50 and creator of, guest blogs today, giving us some useful advice on how we can improve our climbing performance by practicing the post climbing mindset. Don’s advice will help you understand your climbing better and learn from each climbing experience. Thank you Don for sharing your wisdom!


I came to know of Conquer The Crux and Cristina while scouring the internet for useful information to use on my blog ( and in my social media. Unlike many of the other climbing related blogs, Cristina weaves in the element of joy into her posts. I know that, while the joy of accomplishment that comes from crushing a problem or sending a route is important to me, the joy of movement, the joy of association, and the joy of good health are also a big reason that I climb. In my first book, 50 Athletes Over 50, I wrote about what I learned from interviews with 50 athletes over age 50. This is where I first discovered these four joys that keep us motivated to train and pursue active interest.

I reached out to Cristina about doing some guest blogging and I’m thrilled that she was excited as I was. In this guest blog for Conquer the Crux, I introduce the Post Climbing Mindset, which when practiced will improve your climbing and help you understand your climbing at a deeper level. I hope you enjoy it.

Post Climbing MindsetThe Post-Climb Mindset

There is mindset that I discovered after writing Vertical Mind. It is the post climbing mindset. This is a mindset of reflection, introspection and learning. Each and every climbing experience is an opportunity for learning. Whether done right after the climb, on the drive home, or with a brew later in the evening, reflecting on your climbing will accelerate your climbing dramatically. Below is an exercise that I have found useful in helping me extract important lessons while reflecting on my climbing.

Post Climbing Reflection Exercise

Ask yourself some questions about your performance, and after you come up with a response employ a technique known as the “5 Whys” (

The 5 Whys is a technique for understanding the true root cause of an observation.

Here is an example:

Q: At any point, did I fall when I didn’t expect to?

A1: Yes. I fell off at the second crux of Apocalypse.

Why 1: Because my right foot slipped off the foothold.

Why 2: Because I didn’t get it set right in the first place

Why 3: Because I was getting pumped

Why 4: Because the first crux took way more out of me than I expected

Why 5: Because I had to wait an hour to get on the route, lost my warm-up, and got a flash pump.

It doesn’t always take 5 whys and sometimes it takes more. The power of this technique is that it helps get to the root of the issue. If I thought that the lesson to take away should be to do more footwork drills, I would have been wrong. Instead, in the future I won’t bother getting on the route if I have to wait too long, or at least I won’t expect great performance.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you reflect on your climbing:

– At any point, did I fall when I didn’t expect to?

– At any point, did I surprise myself by making I move when I thought I wouldn’t?

– At any point, did I feel my climbing was particularly smooth?

– At any point, did I feel my climbing was awkward or off balance?

– At any time, did I have anxiety about getting on a climb?

– At any time, did I have the opportunity to help my partner and didn’t?

– At any time, was there friction between my partner and I?

– At any time, did I provide valuable help to another climber?

– At any point, did my energy or enthusiasm wane?

– At any point, did I feel super energized?

Practicing the post climbing mindset will help you understand your climbing better and lead to higher levels of performance…and more JOY!

Climb on!

Don McGrath

author of Vertical Mind and 50 Athletes Over 50