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Muscle Memories | Building A Strong Climbing Base

Angela Hawse, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, building muscle memories on Cathedral Peak, Tuolumne CA 1986

Angela Hawse, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, having fun with her sister and building muscle memories on Cathedral Peak, Tuolumne CA 1986. ©Angela Hawse Collection

 

Why A Strong Climbing Base Is So Important 

Going into my 37thseason of rock climbing I’ve learned that I can count on my muscle memories to know what to do and how to do it.

All the easy and moderate climbing I did for years built up an invaluable base that’s supported me through many challenging climbs all over the world and back again.

Building a strong climbing base takes time, mileage and training. There’s no quick fix.

Not long ago, rock climbing was considered practice for mountaineering and you had to find a mentor to learn to climb. Experienced climbers mentored less experienced climbers to deepen their pool of potential partners.

Now, sport climbing is its own “sport” and people learn to climb in climbing gyms. But the 10,000-hour rule, Malcolm Gladwell explains in his book, Outliers, still applies. In order to achieve mastery you have to put in the time. There’s no way around it.

If you want to climb harder, steeper, or bigger, if you want to clip bolts, place cams, or breathe thin air, you have to put in the time to build a base.

Like a solidly built foundation supports a house, your base will support you for the rest of your climbing life.

How do you build a climbing base?

You build a climbing base by doing lots of climbing, especially on routes well below your limit.

Lots of mileage on easy and moderate routes teaches you good technique and efficient skills, and it builds your bank of muscle-memories. These muscle memories are called engrams.

Not only can you rely on these engrams forever. Engrams will serve you well as you push your limits.

Seriously, advance your climbing grade by climbing lots of “easy” routes first!

Sounds backwards?

Climbing lots of easy routes lets you build a bank of engrained skills. These engrams allow you to move in balance and without so much as thinking when you are pushing your limits.

And, finally and most awesome is that base building is fun!

We all start somewhere and have to endure the frustration of over-thinking, overcompensating and dealing with our inner voice challenging our every move.

Repetition, steadfast determination and putting the time in are what it takes to get good at anything and rock climbing is no exception.

Alex Lowe said it perfectly, “The best climber is the one having the most fun.”

Don’t miss out on all the fun you can have moving up the grades.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be interested to read:

Mentors | The Climbing Fast Track | Chicks Climbing

Fun | “It Doesn’t Have to Be Fun to Be Fun.” | Chicks Climbing