I attempted a new V4 Tuesday. I got stuck halfway through and hopped off.

I attempted that same V4 this morning. For some reason, I remembered and channeled something I’d seen “good” climbers do: I weighted my foot on the side I wanted to move toward, trusted it, and shifted my weight onto it. That gave me incredible reach, and bypassed the sketchy moves that didn’t work for me earlier in the week.

I finished that V4 this morning. All because of one change in technique.

Shift. Trust.


Look Down, Not Up

I woke up super early this morning to spend the day climbing at Mt. Diablo. This was an REI outing, which meant they provided a guide and all the hardware. All I had to do was show up with my shoes and harness. (They also provided those, but that’s the climbing equivalent of hockey skates and a stick, or mountain biking pedals and a seat. You’re much better off using your own.)

I signed up for this because outdoor climbing is to indoor what mountain biking is to road. Or ice hockey is to roller? (That second one is a total guess because I’ve never played roller hockey.) IMO it requires more effort, more skill, more care, more thinking.

It also rendered me unable to unlock my phone with my fingerprint. But that’s not why I’m writing this post.

I’m writing this post because our guide gave us a good tip in the form of a sticky mantra: Look down, not up. Your feet placement is so much more important than your hands. Especially on slabs.

I’ll have to remember this at the gym this week.

Not A Fluke

I’ve been attempting more V5 problems since I completed my first one earlier this month, with varying levels of “success”, measured in number of moves I can make before falling off.

I tried one this weekend where I slipped off a hold so hard I couldn’t feel my fingertips for a few minutes.

Today, I examined the move, the options, the balance, and the remaining holds. Then I attempted the problem again.

Success! My second V5! Yaaaaasss!!

I puzzled through a challenging-to-me V3 and V4 before that. Hip turn, hip drive, hang angle, feet high, leg extension, timing. So many details. So satisfying to piece it all together.

I credit today’s tenacity and progress to the guy working on the steep V8. Climb, fall, study, session, climb farther, fall, study, session, repeat, repeat, repeat. He finished the problem.

Balance and Tension

Today in the bouldering room was a climber I’d never seen before. She made up her own routes and used only the most difficult holds. I watched her push and pull and shift her body as if it were a fluid, maintaining balance and tension the entire time.

I introduced myself and asked what goes through her head as she’s climbing.

“Don’t fall.”

It was kind of hilarious. At the same time, it made perfect sense.

After our conversation, I re-attempted a V4 that had been giving me trouble. With balance and tension in mind, I shifted my body farther than I’d previously been comfortable with and completed a move I didn’t think was possible just a couple days prior.

Another check for surround-yourself-with-people-better-than-you.


Despite completing my first V5 last week, there was a V2 in the other room I couldn’t finish. Try as I might, I could not figure out how to hang on to reach the penultimate move. I’ve watched many others try and fail at the same for weeks.

This morning, Evan my Balance and Technique instructor was bouldering when I arrived. He was working on a V6 that he said felt more like a V7 to him, and I made an offhand comment about how I couldn’t even finish a V2. He asked which one, so I pointed to it, then described the move I was stuck on.

“I just skip the move before that. Why use a bad hand hold?”

I hadn’t considered skipping the move before that. It felt like a long vertical reach without it.

Still, I wasn’t making any progress the previous way, so I climbed up to the move before the bad hand hold and looked up.

“Don’t turn your hips like that.”

Oh, right. Plastering my frontside to the wall wasn’t going to help me stick the next move. I turned my right foot to stick my right hip to the wall, sprung for the hold I couldn’t reach, and grabbed it with my right hand. Solid.

So solid.


I finished the problem.


Evan grinned.

I did too. It felt good to check that problem off the list.

Hips Don’t Lie

a.k.a It’s All In The Hips Part 2.

Today I found myself working on a V4 with some not super wonderful (for me) holds. On a couple occasions, I’d reach a hold but not be able to hang on.

After reaching for and sliding off the second to last hold, I took a moment to assess. Clearly I could reach the hold, and in the brief moment I touched it I assessed that it was decent. So why couldn’t I hang on?

Because I was reaching for it. I was reaching with my arm, getting my fingers on the hold, then getting pulled off by my body, which in that moment was about as useful as a sack of potatoes.

Duh! Climbed my way back up, got my body oriented properly, planted my feet, initiated movement with my hips, and drove up toward the hold. Grabbed it hold of it no problem. Super solid.

I’ve been focusing on straight arms during my warmup climbs. Looks like I should add hip drive to the list.

Of Course It’s White

There’s a new V4 I’m working on.

It’s white.

That is all.

Update 2018-12-26 @ 9:15 PM

I left for vacation the next morning, flew back yesterday, and solved it this morning.

Sideways dyno with right hand and foot barn door landing, check!

Update 2018-12-30 @ 12:56 PM

This morning I watched as a middle school aged phenom playfully swung her way up this problem, employing moves neither I nor anyone I’ve watched ever thought to do. It was a beautiful sight, and a wonderful lesson in creativity and technique. There’s so much to learn, in the best possible way.

It’s All In The Hips

The last time I went bouldering, I struggled on a steep (overhanging) V3. Despite having climbed this problem before, I couldn’t get my hand up to a hold and hang on, and I couldn’t figure out why.

At home, I’m slowly making my way through a book on climbing technique. I’m currently reading a chapter on movement initiation, center of mass, arching your back, and leading with your hips.

All of a sudden, everything clicked. I had trouble reaching that hold and hanging on because my hips were pulling me down.

Revisited the problem this morning. Initiated with the hips. Easy peasy.

It’s all in the hips. I’ve learned this lesson over and over again: shooting a hockey puck, riding a manual (the few times I’ve managed one), playing taiko, rotating freestyle, and now on the climbing wall.

I want to start playing tennis again, now that I have a better understanding of body movement and power generation. I’m super curious about doing something I learned naturally as a kid with my new analyze everything mindset.


The day I solved That White V4, I attempted a different white V4 that had recently gone up in the other room.

Three moves in, I hit a wall. Or maybe a gap. The fourth move was a left hand hold 5 feet above the previous hold. I’m 5’6″. That’s a long distance.

I tried jumping, but my first few attempts landed my hand short, or too far from the wall.

I thought about the setup, and what I learned doing that OTHER white V4 earlier this year. (There is definitely a theme here.) I decided I needed to pull in with my arms, push up with my right leg, and keep pushing with my left leg.

That launched me high enough to reach the hold, but I couldn’t hang on with my full body weight and momentum swinging away from the wall. That, and my left shoulder is not super happy at the moment.

I climbed up to the elusive hold, grabbed it, and put my left foot on the hold it had launched from. I didn’t need to launch.

The next go around, I pulled in with my arms, pushed up with my right leg, and pushed up with my left leg with just enough power to boost me to the hold, but not so much that I came off.

I caught the hold, continued swinging left, and fell off.

Back to the drawing board. What was my right hand doing? Nothing. I climbed back up to the elusive hold, grabbed it with my left hand, grabbed it with my right hand, and swung. Solid.

All right, then. Everything I did before, plus put my right hand on the hold for the swing.

That did the trick.

I had the same reaction after watching this video as I did after watching the one from last week. How could something I found so difficult look so easy? Is it actually easy, or am I making it look easy?

I guess that depends on how good a climber you are.

Update 2019-01-02 @ 7:28 AM

Earlier this week I saw a guy do this with one hand and his foot on the launch. It was a good reminder that I probably could do it differently with better grip strength.

If I were super serious about this climbing thing I’d hang board and O-ring and elastistretch thing, but I’m happy to just let that develop with wall time.