How to deal with the pressure of onsighting

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Wobbly legs, sweaty palms, and jacked heart rate. That’s even before you put on your climbing shoes. It doesn’t help when your friends are badgering you to try a route that they swear you’ll send. However, after checking the route, the holds, and moves, it doesn’t seem like is something you can onsight. But your pride had got you into this situation. Send the route and claim that onsight. Your friends will be so happy for you and look at you with such admiration. Or you might just struggle all the way up and get laugh at by your friends who are just waiting for you to fall at the crux with screeching scream. I’m sure many climbers are familiar with this feeling.

The desire to onsight can add a tremendous amount of pressure which affects your performance. Here are a few ways to help you deal with the pressure of onsighting.

Pay no attention to the grade

Knowing the grade of the route might not be a good thing if you have the intention to onsight. Reason being, if you know you the grade is at or beyond your limit you will approach the climb with immense apprehension. Whereas climbing without prior knowledge of the grade will free your mind of any fear or anxiety.

Climb without the desire to onsight

When you climb without the burden of onsighting a route, you’ll climb with less pressure and you can focus more on the climb. Pressure can hurt your performance big time. Enjoy the climb, if you fall on your onsight attempt that is alright the route will still be there. There is no shame in trying a route multiple times before sending.

Focus on the moves

The journey is more important than the destination. Yes, the feeling of onsighting is great. But it is the individual moves that string the route together that make the climb. So rather than focusing on onsighting, focus on the moves. Focus your effort in solving each move.

Don’t anticipate the crux

Yes, the crux is coming. You had been anticipating the crux even before you started the climb. But since you had not climbed the route before there is no way to know where the crux is. Anticipating that the crux is coming can only raise your anxiety. So do not anticipate the crux.

Look for good rest

Resting is the key to onsighting. Take your time to look for good rest. Pace yourself, observe and plan the next few seqence of moves while you are resting.

Pay attention to your footwork

Onsighting means not knowing the route. So having great footwork goes a long way. Spend time looking for good foot placements. It’ll help you rest better and longer which gives you time to read the moves ahead. Having good footwork also enables you to climb more efficiently reducing the strain on your arms.

The next hold will be better

You are barely holding on to a shitty hold and just having enough juice to make the next move. But the next hold is just as bad. Since you are still pretty near to your last draw you’ll natural instinct is to take a short fall rather than a long one. After hang dogging you continue and you find that the subsequent holds are massive and you know you will onsight the route if you’d push on. We all have this experience… only if I’ve known. But this is the beauty of onsighting, you are not suppose to know that is why onsighting is such a big deal in sport climbing.

Always believe that the next hold will be better. It’s easier said than done but by believing in it, that next hold might just be one that helps you onsight the route.

Is ok to fall

The whole point of onsighting is getting to the anchor without falling. But thinking about it can really play with your mind. The fear of falling is very real and it affects most climbers. Many onsight failures can be attributed to climbers’ fear of falling. Since there are only 2 outcomes for an onsight attempt, send or fall why not give the bean. You may send it if not the big fall might even be fun.

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