Photo: Reno Tahoe / Flickr

As a female climber I discovered that I could not climb quite as hard as the boys. I could have made excuses such as I’m not as strong or I’m too short. But instead I learned to use those weaknesses to my advantage. I will save the height discussion for time, but I will tell you how I over came my strength weakness.

In order to become a stronger and more confident climber one must train. “Oh, but it’s so dull!” you might say to yourself. But let me tell you, training well in the gym will directly translate into climbing well on real rock. One important aspect of my training regimen is traversing. For those of you who are not sure what that means, traversing in this context, is a style of climbing which is similar to bouldering, in that you should only traverse from left to right at a height you are comfortable falling off (1 to 2 feet from the ground).

But there is so much more to it than that! In an effort to be brief, I have listed for you some great tips on how to make the most efficient use of your traversing session, and some ideas on how to add variety and fun to it all.

Explore different locations for traversing. Every time I travel I try to visit a local climbing gym. You may also check out the local guide book for any “buildering”–traversing on a man-made structure. Another idea is to take a new look at your favorite crag. Often walls have traverses on them which you may have ignored.

Learn to climb quietly. That may sound silly, but I will tell you how it makes you a better cilmber. If you climb quieter, that usually means you are placing your feet easily and deliberately without much floundering or indecision. Also, this means you are not banging your extremities, such as your knees, elbows, and the back of your hand, against other holds.

For a few weeks, repeat the word “press” to yourself each time you generate movement from your legs. Consciously pressing with your feet gives you more stability and creates more friction. Therefore, when you learn to focus more on pressing with your feet, you will be able to stand on tiniest of holds both in the gym and at the crag.

Try climbing with a very light touch. I had to do this once when I had injured my wrist. But I was amazed afterwards because I could climb longer without getting so pumped. This exercise will also teach you to focus on the balance between your hands and feet.

Climbing with your heels up not only builds big calves, but more importantly this will help you gain awareness of how to use your toes on holds and increase your awareness of how to use your legs. Which by the way are some of our largest muscles!

Let your hips lead you in the direction you want to go. We often forget about our butts when we’re climbing. But that’s a lot of weight, and it’s important to keep your hips as close to the rock as possible.

Focus on flow. Don’t spend just as much time scoping out holds as you spend climbing. Let your body feel the continuous flow of movement. There is no need to rush, and you can still take rests. This exercise will increase your trust in your body’s ability to make movement decisions for you.

Traversing sessions should last anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. If and when you do get pumped, don’t jump off! Use this stress to teach you composure and control. Because when your making that big lead out there, you can’t always just jump off. Stay on, focus on your breathing, and try to make it to the next rest. This will give you the mental confidence on real rock to climb with a pump. By pushing yourself like this, you may surprise yourself and finish a route which you’d had doubts about!

Spicing it up

One technique I always use is to never match on a hold. This can be extremely challenging at times and forces me to think and be creative. An even more challenging trick is to traverse without letting your left and right foot ever use the same hold the other foot has used.

The stick game is one of my favorite games. I personally think a laser pointer would be awesome for this! The drill is to have a partner point to your next hold. This carries on until you fall off, after which it is their turn. Your pointer can also call left and right hand to make it more challenging.

Add-on takes a while to get started, but after a while can be quite fun. The game begins by one person designing a one move wonder. After which the next person must repeat the same move in addition to adding their own new move. The first climber must then be able to do both moves and add a third move. The game can carry on like this until someone can no longer do the move. More than two can play at this game!