Challenging Yourself in New and Different Ways!


Adventure climbing at Cochise Stronghold, AZ. Hörst photo.

The Key to Long-term Improvement: Challenging Yourself in New and Different Ways!

Climbing is an extraordinarily complex activity with motor and cognitive skills that take a decade or more to learn. So while you may progress to the verge of elite-level bouldering or sport climbing in just a few years, applying your abilities to wider range of climbing pursuits will take many more years. Becoming a true master of rock requires a sustained love of the sport and a dedication to learning that lasts a lifetime.

The key to sustaining an upward trajectory over the long term is to challenge yourself regularly and avoid settling into one form of climbing for too long. Mastery demands the ability to perceive and distinguish subtle differences in the rock, hold configuration, and techniques and tactics needed, among many other very fine distinctions. Being able to digest a vast amount of information, figure novel sequences and strategies on the fly, and ascend confidently and economically in completely unique situations is a capability born of diverse experience and many hours of laboring in the steep. This rare capacity is ultimately about challenging both brain and body, which is exactly what master climbers like Chris Sharma, Adam Ondra, Peter Croft, Lynn Hill, and others regularly do.

The bottom line: If you wish to pursue your genetic potential and maximize climbing experience, then it’s essential that you avoid repeating familiar patterns of climbing and instead forge a new and exciting path. While climbing the same routes at the same local crags can be great fun, elevating your abilities demands new, challenging experiences and the willingness to subject yourself to the frustration and failure common to exploring the unknown. One good way to keep things changing is to vary your climbing preference every season—that is, gym climbing in winter, bouldering in spring, adventure or traditional climbing in summer, and sport climbing in fall (or some variation on this theme). Ultimately, you will need to determine your own path into the mountains and discover what great adventures the future holds.

Copyright 2013 Eric J. Hörst. All rights reserved.