Climbing skillz

Chris and I have gone climbing at Vertical World the past two Tuesdays. The new “Vertical World 4.0” opened just blocks from their prior location right before Christmas and it’s amazing. More space and higher (55′) ropes than before. Here’s a picture — cool, no?

Chris has been climbing longer than I have and it’s obvious that he’s worked at it. I’m doing harder climbs (I did two 5.10a’s last night and was thwarted by a 5.10b) but he has much better form and climbing skills. He’s by far the better climber.

After thinking about it this morning at the gym1 I believe I know why the 5.10b was so difficult and a previous 5.9 I completed seemed harder than a subsequent 5.10a: I’m manhandling the routes, not finessing them. I have enough upper body strength in relation to my weight that as long as I have one good grip, I can hover to swap feet or stretch to another hand-hold without good footing. The 5.9 and 5.10b didn’t have great grips, forcing me to do better footwork and planning – something I need to work on if the 5.10b is any indication.

Beyond me needing to practice my footwork, the other lesson learned is that just because I can do something doesn’t mean I’m good at it. I tend to equate ability with skill when they are related but distinct. [Makes me reconsider how much skill vs ability I have in things like throwing pottery, writing, and programming.]

After Chris finished one climb last night I was giving him a hard time about him being slower than I was on the same route. He replied that he was focusing on accuracy and precision. In jest I replied something along the lines of “I’m here to have fun, not to be precise and accurate — I do that all day at the office”. While that was off-the-cuff I think it really is true: I enjoy climbing and while I know I can improve my skills I’ll do so to the extent that I’m enjoying it. My objective in climbing is to have fun, not to necessarily become a great climber.

1 Notice a trend? I tend to think a lot at the gym. I’m not entirely certain it’s a good thing.

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I'm a gay geek living in Seattle, WA.

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