Climbing’s not all about numbers but, let’s be honest, it’s still nice to feel that you’re improving.
Grading is always a contentious issue (yawn…) but it’s still arguably the best marker you have for knowing when all that hard work and training is paying off. Everyone has to start somewhere – think back to when you first learnt to climb… Maybe a friend taught you, or you did one of our Beginner Courses? It doesn’t really matter how you started, so much as where.
If you’re not some kind of superhero then it’s likely that your first time climbing was probably physically tough and mentally engaging (or just downright scary, perhaps?). There’s a lot to get to grips with! You see, it’s not just about hauling your way up the wall by any means you can. Far from it! You need to get used to the height and learn how to keep yourself and your climbing partner safe first and foremost. Once you’ve got that sorted, well, that’s when the fun can start.
Most people will start out on the easier climbs. You have my utter respect if you’re happily cranking your way up a 4 or perhaps even fumbling your way to the top of a 4+ on your first few trips to the wall! Routes of this grade tend to have nice big, chunky holds that are easy to grab onto. They also tend to be on nothing steeper than a vertical wall, meaning that they don’t rely quite so much on upper body strength.
Once you’ve got the 4s ticked off and you’re getting a bit of confidence then it’s time to try your hand at some 5s! You’ll notice that 5s will usually differ from 4s in one of two ways. They’ll either be nice big holds on a slightly overhanging wall, or they’ll be slightly smaller but still very positive holds on a vertical wall. They should feel more challenging physically although still a straightforward climb that doesn’t involve too much technique. Make sure you’ve done lots of both the vertical and steep 5s before you take another step up the grades…
5+ is where it starts to get interesting. They come in all angles and styles. Some require you to have a bit of finger strength whereas others you need body strength for. You might find that you suddenly have to have the flexibility of a gymnast or the problem solving skills of Turing. Hell, you could even find yourself with your feet above your head or be jumping from one hold to the next. That’s what makes 5+s so much fun!
That’s also why taking that next step up to 6a is a really big deal.
When you start hitting up the 6as then you’ll start to find routes which combine a number of different styles. At 5+ you can still get away with sticking to routes that “suit” you. There will still be some 6as that suit you better than others, of course. But this is kind of where you become a proper climber. All those skills that you’ve learnt along the way are brought together, opening up a whole new grade for you to start working and enjoying with your well-earned climbing prowess.
And doing a Craggy 6a – well, that’s really something to be proud of!