There are many different forms of rock climbing such as Alpine, ice, mixed, trad, sport, and bouldering. In 2014 there seemed to be a particular trend in trying other forms among professional athletes. Some competition climbers have been facing burn out, and turning to outdoor climbing. Sasha Digiulian has been taking up ice climbing. Several others have tried multi-pitch and trad for the first time. It seems like a lot of people are mixing it up, and this could be a really good thing for their climbing. Trying something new seems scary, because trying new things in general seems to give people some anxiety and hesitation. Many climbers come to thrive on their progression and all the progress they made, they might not necessarily want to go back to the beginning with something new. Especially when they worry it might jeopardize some of that progression they have made.
I have heard a lot of people recently express interest in trying a new form. Many times when I’m bouldering, a sport or top rope climbing friend will say something like “Bouldering seems fun and I’d like to try it, but I probably wouldn’t be good at it.” Chances are high, you might not be great at it. When I first started climbing, it was all route climbing. I was getting pretty good at routes. When I switched to bouldering, the easier grades felt so much harder. There’s just different things factoring in. I don’t face my fear of heights and falling much on a rope because I know it will catch me. When I started bouldering, that comfort was not there. Bouldering also has differences in the kind of power used. The problems tend to be all at the grade, whereas, since routes are longer, there is sometimes some fluff (easier than the grade climbing). It’s different. It takes getting used to. It doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be tried.
In fact, when people stick to one thing, they often fall into ruts. Especially if you stick to your comfort form of climbing. People who love routes and crimps and only climb crimpy routes, can fall into a rut easier than someone who climbs routes, but does slopery routes, cave routes, crimp routes, etc. Sometimes climbers don’t even notice this. It is often more obvious for those who hit plateaus and struggle to get to the next grade. For some people this level of comfort is acceptable. They like having their routine, climbing for social reasons, or just to relax their mind. For others, the challenge and constant problem solving climbing offers is more rewarding. Switching up your style of climbing can be a great way to bring back the challenge and offer a rewarding opportunity. It might reignite that passion for climbing and bring back all those initial feelings of thrill and love of the sport. It also could potentially help improve your all around climbing.
There are many techniques, styles of climbing, and ways to get up a route. Sometimes we get used to what we know and have a hard time seeing some of the alternatives or creative options before us. Trying the different forms of climbing can get us to think about movement, strength, and technique in different ways. This can give a climber a more open view of what can be done on a certain problem. Including variety in your climbing helps for improvement, development, and excitement.
If you’ve been thinking about taking up another form of climbing, you should. Be prepared for the fact that you might not be as great at that particular form, but remember that you’ll probably love it anyway. There is something that drew you into the form of climbing you are currently practicing, and often those things are similar in the varying forms.