Author Archives: Hilary

Building Climbing Confidence

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Most good climbers will say that confidence plays a huge role in their ability to climb well. So much of climbing is mental that not believing you can do a move or make a clip can be the difference between success and failure. I think of gaining confidence like building a wall, each positive experience helps to build up the wall. So what happens when you don’t yet have the confidence to try hard or commit to an insecure move or clip? Or what if a negative experience causes your wall of confidence to come tumbling down?

In my case it was the latter. My mind, which used to be strong and confident, is now filled with self-doubt and insecurity. As I look to the next hold on a route it seems further away and less attainable. My mind tells me that I won’t be able to grab the next hold. My self-doubt makes me expect to miss the dead point before I have even initiated the move. I envision myself botching the clip just as I am about to pull up the rope.

This type of negative thinking holds us back from our goals. So how do we overcome our self-doubt and replace it with confidence? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. It’s something I’m still working on every time I climb. But I do have a few thoughts that are helping me and I hope they can help you too.

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The Value of Non-Climbing Training

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The pros doing some non-climbing “training”. Photo credit: Rock + Run

I used to think that climbing was enough training for climbing. And for a while, it was. A few years ago though, I reached a point where I decided that climbing alone was not enough to reach my climbing goals. I needed to change it up if I was going to get to “the next level”.

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Perseverance: When Fear Raises Its Ugly Head…Again

The author, Hilary, in the background working Predator, 5.13b/c

The author, Hilary, in the background working Predator, 5.13b.

We all have struggles in life. Whether it be with family, relationships, injury, or something else – we all have our own battles. What separates us from where we want to be is how we choose to deal with our struggle. Do we accept it as just the way it is or do we fight for what we want?

November of 2014 I was the most confident climber I had ever been. I was leading climbs that would have previously seemed too scary to consider but I was able to push forward without a second thought. I was feeling safe, secure and strong. Maybe I was too confident, maybe I was bordering hubris. In an instant everything changed. I slipped on a wet hold on my warm-up prior to clipping the first bolt. A climb I had done hundreds of times before with ease now spit me off and sent me tumbling backwards off a ledge. The accident left me with two broken heels, a fractured vertebrae and a shattered ankle.

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Projecting: How to Own Your Climb

Jess working the moves to her project in Kalymnos.

Jess goes through her sequence before jumping back on her project in Kalymnos.

Today we feature a guest post from Hilary Sherman, an exceptional climber who is all about sharing what she’s learned in her climbing journey to help others improve their own climbing. 

One of the wonderful things about climbing is that it can be whatever you want it to be. If you are only interested in bouldering, great. If you prefer to clip bolts, perfect. Maybe you plug gear, awesome. The same attitude applies to the way you climb. Maybe you climb grades well below your ability and just enjoy getting outside with friends. There’s nothing wrong with that. We all climb for different reasons and your reason is not anyone’s business but your own. Me, I climb because I enjoy trying to push myself physically and mentally. One of the things that has helped me to push myself as far as I have has been my willingness to project climbs. I used to only get on climbs once maybe twice and then move on to something else. People would encourage me to try routes again but I would always have an excuse; I’m too tired, I’m not feeling it, I’ll try it next time, I’d rather do climb X, and so on. I don’t know if it was a lack of confidence in myself or a fear of crumbling under the pressure to send. Regardless, it was holding me back.

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Giving a Better Belay

Amy Mary Shagg

In our training, our gym sessions, and in our endeavors outside, our focus is typically on becoming a better climber. Yet, too often we overlook the importance of putting in time, effort, and practice at becoming a better belayer. While becoming a better climber may score you points on 8a.nu, becoming a better belayer can prevent injury and keep your climber safe. One only has to scan the gym or the crag to see that there are far more good climbers than good belayers. For today’s post we turn to one of our local climbing role models and mentors, Hilary, to hear her tips that she’s perfected over the years on giving a better belay. 

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The Importance of Giving A Soft Catch

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There is nothing that makes me shudder more than watching a belayer lock off hard and sit back when their climber falls thus slamming the climber into the rock with such force that you can hear it from across the crag. No wonder climbers are afraid to fall. I’d be terrified too if my partner slammed me into the wall every time I fell! A soft catch allows for the rope, gear, and belayer to absorb some of the force and decrease what the falling climber experiences as their fall is arrested. Think slamming on the car breaks versus coasting to a stop. We want to give that slow stop feeling when we catch someone. Of course we want the falling climber to stop falling but we want it to be a gentle stop whenever possible.

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Overcoming a Fear of Lead Climbing

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Working on my fear of leading at Rumney

Overcoming a fear of leading or topping out boulder problems is a huge obstacle for many climbers. For years I top-roped my partner’s 5.12’s while being too afraid to lead even 5.8. When I did try to lead there were lots of “take”, tears, and frustration. It wasn’t until a birthday that I finally did something to change the way I perceived fear and the way it affected me. I had friends who for their birthday would try and lead as many pitches or send as many boulder problems as the age they were turning. For my birthday I decided I was going to take a lead fall for every year of my age. This was a transition point for me that has lead me down a path of leading my own projects, taking whippers and feeling mentally strong. I think something that many of us don’t realize is that everyone is scared: what separates us is how we deal with it. To me dealing with the fear is best compared to being an addict, it’s a constant battle. An addict considers themselves an addict for life and the fear of falling will never truly go away but the more you lead the better you will be able to deal with the fear. You can’t expect to get over the fear of leading if you don’t lead. Every time you force yourself to move through the fear it will get easier, every time you let the fear get the best of you it will get harder. Below are some tips that have helped me over the years and I hope that they can help you to.

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