Forums: Climbing Information: Technique & Training: Re: [stealth] ON-SIGHTING: Mental Strategy?: Edit Log


Aug 17, 2011, 7:36 AM

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Re: [stealth] ON-SIGHTING: Mental Strategy?
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Sorry in advance for digging up an old thread.

First, I don't understand this pointless bickering between DH and Healy. Clearly the OP is asking what you do in the moments before an onsight and Healy insists on talking about what you should do in the months and years leading up to an onsight. He has a point, but doesn't need to be so obtuse about it...gotta love the internet.

The OPs question is somewhat ill-posed. He asked about the PSYCHOLOGY of onsighting, but then goes on to ask very specifically about reading sequences, which are not the same IMO. Reading sequences before an onsight attempt is an important step, but kind of a boring discussion topic. The psychology question is very interesting, however, because it is so hard to have the right mindset.

What should your attitudes and expectations be (ideally) before and while you attempt a hard onsight? Should you be afraid that you're going to fail? Should you be very confident that the route will be easy for you? It seems that both of these options are the wrong approach, so is it something in between? Then again, even if we knew what the best mental state were, is it possible to create that mental state on-demand before an onsight attempt?

There are a couple of ways to come to an answer. One is to think of your best onsights and try to reconstruct your mental state at the time, as well as the events and circumstances leading up to it that created that state. Often when someone succeeds on a hard onsight, they say it was "easy" or "effortless", so another approach might be to look at all climbs that feel that way, and try to understand why they do. For example, for those that have a regular warmup route they climb often, they probably climb it in a very relaxed state, a state that might be ideal for hard onsighting. This state is easy to achieve during the warmup, but not on a hard route, why is that?

At least a whole chapter could be written on this topic, if not an entire book in itself, so I'll try to "cut to the chase". For me, when I try a hard onsight, I want to be in a mental state I call "cautious optimism". I need to feel that there is a high likelihood I will succeed on the route, but an understanding that it will be hard, and I will have to try hard. This means, I need to have confidence that I am "good" enough to send the route, which you can't lie to yourself about. The only way I know to have that confidence and really believe in it is through a route pyramid. If I'm about to attempt a 13a onsight, I have tangible confidence if I've onsighted other 13a's, or many 12d's, especially if they are of similar styles and at the same crag. The hardest thing to do is onsight at a new crag, so I will start smaller...maybe 12b, and build up a few routes at lower grades before working up to the route I want to eventually onsight. Confidence gives you several advantages on an onsight. It makes you believe that you can recover if you make a mistake, and it makes you believe you'll figure out the right sequence through the crux. This relaxes you, and helps you climb with a relaxed grip, and thus conserve energy throughout the climb. The relaxed mental state makes it easier for you to take the climbing as it comes and solve movement problems as they are presented.

On the other hand, if I think the route is too hard for me, I will likely overgrip throughout the climb, wasting energy. My movements will be very rigid and static rather than flowing because I'm constantly thinking I may need to retreat at a moments notice. I don't believe that I will find good places to rest, so I'm in constant fear of pumping off. When I come to a crux sequence, I'm likely to rush through it too quickly because I'm certain I'm going to get pumped and fall off if I climb slower. On a route I believe I can climb, when I grab a very small or uncomfortable hold, I'm likely to take my time looking for alternatives, whereas, on a route I believe is too hard for me, I'm likely to accept that this is the correct sequence, and I'm simply not good enough to climb it. In short, it is so much easier to climb a route that you THINK is easy, it's just not that easy to get in that mindset if the route is truly near your limit.

That said, there are also make-or-break moments, when you really just have to throw down and bust out some hard moves. That's where you don't want to think the climbing is too easy, but you do want to have the confidence that when you reach that crux, you have a good shot a succeeding. You then spend some time exhausting all of the possibilities to "flow" past it, and if that doesn't work, you just pull hard and go for it, knowing that you only have one shot, so you better climb in a manner that you won't regret later -- try hard! Just make sure you're able to calm back down after you stick the crux sequence so you can keep cruising to the chains.

(This post was edited by rockprodigy on Aug 28, 2011, 12:08 PM)

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Post edited by rockprodigy () on Aug 28, 2011, 12:08 PM

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