How to climb V9 in six months – Why some climbers progress at breakneck speeds

That is so cool. How do you do that?”  

Wow!  You’re strong!! How long have you been climbing?”  

I am totally jealous of you right now.

I probably hear some version of those comments every month or so. I must be awesome, right? (My mom thinks so).  OK, maybe not. Actually it’s probably more representative that someone of my age is climbing at all (just wanted to get that comment in before you did).   The truth though is that to a newer climber, even modest skill can look very impressive.  However, after three years of running a climbing gym, I’ve learned to not let the praise go to my head.  More often than not, those ‘noobs’ that were so star-struck will within the year be warming up on my projects!  

Of course, not everyone progresses that fast.  And not everyone should even want to.  Climbing is just plain fun.  It’s easy to lose sight of that if you are just pursuing the next grade all the time. I am more impressed with the individual who has been climbing for years and still finds just as much enjoyment and satisfaction with the experience of the climb as she did the first day she came in. 

However, being rather competitive and highly Type-Aish, I can’t help but look with amazement at people who jump from V0 to V8 in just a few years (or sometimes even months).  Are they just freaks of nature?  Have they been super athletes all their lives?  Are they cheating? 

Maybe.  But I’ve also noticed some common trends among most of them as well.  

First, they are almost always humble . . . and teachable.  They are the ones that come up to people like me (and as skills progress, to climbers much more talented than me) and ask: “How do you do that?”  Then they take that advise they get and run with it (or climb with it).  (Ha ha, get it, climb instead of run.)   In short, they become students of climbing, soaking up every bit of information they can find.

Secondly, probably because of the above, they try everything.  And I mean EVERYTHING.  They may still be a 5.8 climber, but you’ll often find them hanging off some 5.11c route. You, me, and everyone in the gym knows they have no chance of sending, but they don’t care.  It’s not about not falling, it’s about experiencing something new. The opposite is also often true about these phenoms:  Once they have developed the 5.12 skills, you will often find them having just as much fun on some beginner route, climbing methodically to dial in their cat-like skills.

Finally, they climb a lot. Bliss Climbing and Fitness hands out small medallions for every 100 visits and posts the names of those individuals on our member board.  Look at the names.  More than likely, those are many of the climbers that you have been in awe of.  All that study and questioning and technique building needs millage.  Yes, I definitely believe that one of our movement classes and some coaching can make you a better climber, but only if you take what you learn and apply it over and over.  It’s true, you can over train.  You can cause overuse injuries.  And so of course you should climb smart.  But I can almost promise that if you don’t spend significant time on the wall, you probably won’t become one of that elite crowd of crushers.

So there you have it: Ask questions, get out of your comfort zone, and practice, practice, practice (hmmm, sounds almost like that could be a formula for success in multiple areas of your life).  Just please, stop coming up and telling me how awesome I am.  I put my climbing shoes on one foot at a time just like you. And besides,  all I’ll really hear anyway is: “Ya, I’ll be schoolin’ you next month old man”.  

Climb hard and often and . . . 

Follow your Bliss,


Skip to content