Life on the other side of the plateau – Rediscovering your psych

Do you remember when you first fell in love with rock climbing?  That first route you completed?  The exhilaration of climbing so high up? The thrill and excitement of progressively hitting higher and higher grades?  

Climbing, like many other endeavors, has a steep and quick growth phase for most.  Successes seem to almost rain out of the sky: your first time to the top of the wall; your first time climbing more than an hour without your arms exploding; your first 5.7; your first 5.8, 5.9, maybe even 5:10.  Your first belay lesson.  Your lead certification.  

And then it happens: The plateau!  

You seem stuck.  

New grades are almost impossible to break into. 

Worse yet, some sandbagged route that is graded clearly in your ‘I should send this’ range, keeps thwarting all of your efforts.

You notice that you are not as psyched as you leave the gym anymore.  You are no longer planning your week around your climbing days and begin wondering if perhaps this climbing thing just really isn’t for you.


It’s so frustrating.  You remember what a rush climbing used to offer, and you long for those times but it’s just not there.  You know how much progress you have made from those first days and hate the idea of throwing that all away, but it’s just not that fun anymore.

Well good news! I am here to rescue your sorry ass from the hopeless mire you’ve created of your own self-pity (sorry, not sure where that came from).  However, you are NOT alone and there are some pretty simple steps that you can take to get some of the passion back and build on your past training and fitness.

First, we need to re-define progress.  While progress used to be grades, no one can continue to push those numbers for long.  Yes, you will climb higher and harder grades as you improve, but it won’t be weekly.  Probably not even monthly.  That doesn’t mean progress stops though.  Progress can be learning a new move or using a different type of hold or improving endurance or strength.

Which brings up the next steps.  Try something different.  If you are a sport climber, try bouldering.  If a boulderer, check out a rope.  Start each session while you are at your strongest on your least loved type of route (crimpy, sloper, compression, dynamic, etc.).  Take a training class with a coach, sign up for yoga or start hangboarding. Spend a month only working endurance on easier climbs. 

Now there is a problem.  It’s going to be pretty tough to post these great achievements on FaceBook or Instagram.  After sending that V5 jug fest, falling repeatedly on the V2 compression route with no feet just doesn’t make it into your highlight real as easily.  

But if I may, as the old man on campus that has been doing this for a while and that also really struggles with how I perceive others perceive me:  


Seriously, others are mostly concerned with how they look and don’t really care what you just did or did not send. 

However, what WILL happen is that you will slowly but surely become a much more rounded climber with way more tricks up your sleeve.  You’ll start feeling awesome about the fact that you are working out moves or types of climbing that you previously avoided.  And before you know it, you will be loving climbing for climbing’s sake.

And that’s really what climbing is all about. It’s about facing your fear and your failures and refusing to back down. It’s about loving the movement and the experience more than the destination.  It’s about putting yourself out there; mind, body, spirit; and feeling the satisfaction that comes from a day spent well.

Climb hard, climb well my friend, and . . . 

Follow your Bliss,


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