Originally posted to ydnar.vox.com in July 2007.
Yesterday was a milestone for me in rock climbing. I didn’t ascend a new long route, or best my previous hardest grade. What happened was the ease of which I was able to ascend bouldering problems I’d previously struggled with. On problems I’d previously only barely gotten to the top of, straining the entire way—I could climb laps on. Where I was flailing a week ago, I was able to make every move with confidence and grace. Lunges became static moves.
Bouldering problems (at least at my gym) generally fall into one of the categories: Overhangs, stemming problems, and balancing acts. The latter are usually on sheer, vertical walls with minimal hand and footholds. They tax your ability to get close to the wall, trusting your feet (and to a lesser extent, your fingertips).
Overhanging problems stress grip strength and power/endurance. You need to keep your arms straight and focus on footwork. Otherwise you fall off because your arms are pumped and you simply can’t grasp anything.
Stemming problems have few, giant holds involving flexibility and strength (pushing and pulling). A glance at a stemming/mantling problem is most likely to enlist a “how the f*ck do you climb that?” response.
My arms and grip strength are weak. My core strength is fairly decent, and my legs are most developed. I’ve found I’m climbing these grades:
- Overhangs: V1+
- Balancing: V2
- Stemming/mantling: V3
Need to work on that first one.