Decision points are places where you stop, rest, and assess. We can identify three kinds of decision points: macro, mini, and micro. The sole macro decision point is at the base of a route. Next, on a route, there are mini decision points where you have a stance with protection. Third, there are micro decision points where you don’t have protection. These are places with subtle stances allowing you to stop and quickly assess, such as Dave’s shakeout below the committing crossover move on Echo Wall.
The purpose of a decision point is to make a clear and appropriate choice to which you will fully commit, rather than just climbing on with your head full of uncertainty. You’ll need to prepare by collecting information (END, DAO, and POLR), weigh the risk, and decide whether or not to commit.
Each decision point transitions you from preparation, through a decision, to taking action. You have micro decisions, within mini decisions, within a macro decision; cycles of preparation, decision, and action within larger cycles of preparation, decision, and action. Risks are always constructed this way—cycles within cycles. How effectively you make the macro decision will determine how effectively you make the mini and micro decisions.
Larger strategic issues—such as, “Why am I on this climb?”—cannot be decided quickly at a micro decision point. You’ll simply justify your momentary feelings rather than act effectively to execute a well-considered plan. Motivation must be decided when you have more time and less stress. At the mini points, you assess and decide the more specific, tactical parts of the risk, like the next END, the DAO you now face, and the POLR for the next section. At the micro points, you consider the tactical parts at a more microscopic level. Recall from the Preparation chapter that climbing is a combination of stopping and moving. By understanding cycles, you separate the skills of stopping on a route from those of moving, and you begin doing each more deliberately. You rest more fully when you stop; you climb more deliberately when you move.
How you use the intelligences of your mind also changes as you get deeper into the risk (figure 3-2). The length of time you have to assess decreases as you move deeper, from macro to micro. At the same time, the amount of stress you experience increases. In order to make appropriate choices at micro decision points, where time is minimal and stress is maximal, you need to build a solid foundation at the macro and mini decision points.
Standing on the ground, at your macro point, you can think to gather information. Your feeling of whether or not the risk is appropriate will not be accurate. You’re still too far inside your comfort zone. You are also too far away from the immediacy of the risk to determine the exact fall consequences and the level of pump you will feel. Therefore, at the macro point, you utilize more of your analytical intelligence, thinking through the risk. You thoroughly address strategic issues, like your motivation.
At mini points you have diminished time and increased stress. You are intimately closer to the next section and can see the risk you face more clearly and feel the pump more precisely. Tactically, you can think to identify the END, the DAO, and the POLR for the next section you face. Decreased time and increased stress also move you closer to the edge of your comfort zone, which allows you to feel whether or not the risk is appropriate. At mini points you utilize your analytical and intuitive intelligences equally.
At micro points, time has decreased to the moment and stress has peaked. Less available time requires you to think less to gather information. More stress requires you to feel more and make quicker decisions. You stop at micro points to quickly figure out if the risk has changed.
If you’re in a yes-fall zone, you decide what to do to continue climbing, not whether or not it’s an appropriate risk. You can feel how pumped you are and how you will use your remaining strength to climb what is ahead of you.
If you are in a no-fall zone, then you can feel how pumped you are and determine if you have enough strength to continue without falling. If you feel you do not have enough strength, then you will retreat. At micro points you utilize more of your intuitive intelligence to feel what is most appropriate.

Decision points and how to use our intelligences

Decision points are places where you stop, rest, and assess. We can identify three kinds of decision points: macro, mini, and micro. The sole macro decision point is at the base of a route. Next, on a route, there are mini decision points where you have a stance with protection. Third, there are micro decision points where you don’t have protection. These are places with subtle stances allowing you to stop and quickly assess.

The purpose of a decision point is to make a clear and appropriate choice to which you will fully commit, rather than just climbing on with your head full of uncertainty. You’ll need to prepare by collecting information (END, DAO, and POLR), weigh the risk, and decide whether or not to commit.

Each decision point transitions you from preparation, through a decision, to taking action. You have micro decisions, within mini decisions, within a macro decision; cycles of preparation, decision, and action within larger cycles of preparation, decision, and action. Risks are always constructed this way—cycles within cycles. How effectively you make the macro decision will determine how effectively you make the mini and micro decisions.

Larger strategic issues—such as, “Why am I on this climb?”—cannot be decided quickly at a micro decision point. You’ll simply justify your momentary feelings rather than act effectively to execute a well-considered plan. Motivation must be decided when you have more time and less stress. At the mini points, you assess and decide the more specific, tactical parts of the risk, like the next END, the DAO you now face, and the POLR for the next section. At the micro points, you consider the tactical parts at a more microscopic level. Recall from the Preparation eLesson that climbing is a combination of stopping and moving. By understanding cycles, you separate the skills of stopping on a route from those of moving, and you begin doing each more deliberately. You rest more fully when you stop; you climb more deliberately when you move.

How you use the intelligences of your mind also changes as you get deeper into the risk. The length of time you have to assess decreases as you move deeper, from macro to micro. At the same time, the amount of stress you experience increases. In order to make appropriate choices at micro decision points, where time is minimal and stress is maximal, you need to build a solid foundation at the macro and mini decision points.

Standing on the ground, at your macro point, you can think to gather information. Your feeling of whether or not the risk is appropriate will not be accurate. You’re still too far inside your comfort zone. You are also too far away from the immediacy of the risk to determine the exact fall consequences and the level of pump you will feel. Therefore, at the macro point, you utilize more of your analytical intelligence, thinking through the risk. You thoroughly address strategic issues, like your motivation.

At mini points you have diminished time and increased stress. You are intimately closer to the next section and can see the risk you face more clearly and feel the pump more precisely. Tactically, you can think to identify the END, the DAO, and the POLR for the next section you face. Decreased time and increased stress also move you closer to the edge of your comfort zone, which allows you to feel whether or not the risk is appropriate. At mini points you utilize your analytical and intuitive intelligences equally.

At micro points, time has decreased to the moment and stress has peaked. Less available time requires you to think less to gather information. More stress requires you to feel more and make quicker decisions. You stop at micro points to quickly figure out if the risk has changed.

If you’re in a yes-fall zone, you decide what to do to continue climbing, not whether or not it’s an appropriate risk. You can feel how pumped you are and how you will use your remaining strength to climb what is ahead of you.

If you are in a no-fall zone, then you can feel how pumped you are and determine if you have enough strength to continue without falling. If you feel you do not have enough strength, then you will retreat. At micro points you utilize more of your intuitive intelligence to feel what is most appropriate.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Michael Renggli

    This reminds me of a climb i did where after a easy 10ft slab, a nice hand crack went for another 40, then you move right onto 15ft of runout face. When looking from the bottom looks ok with what looks like enough edges. With great gear in the crack section i can pace myself, looking what i need to do and relax no need to rush. I get up to the face section and place some solid gear for the runout section. The face does have enough edges to use but some of them have been broken and look brittle and its a commited stretch to get there. Gears good and im happy with going forward so onto the edges which seem ok. While on the face i told myself as i climbed’ hands feet hands feet hands feet’ just following the edges. It was nearly trance like, enjoying the movements heading upwards, until i got to the part where i had to move back. I was on ok edges to be able to relax abit but with being 15ft out and in a ‘no fall zone’ i was starting to tense up abit and with not automatically heading back across with security in the same way as i did on to the face, i was feeling abit panicky. Im in a No Fall Zone but im comfortable being where i am at the moment. So after looking at what i might need to do, then down to my gear and belayer, and generally look out at my suroundings as the view is usually fantastic, and makes me feel relaxed and centered. So i look back and notice an edge i didn’t see before, head across (nervously) and climb the rest to the chains. It felt great being on a climb where there was great safety aspects to it at the start, and being comfortable on the runout ‘no fall’ section where you hope all the holds are there, and ends with a committing move done with focus.
    This was my first lead for quite a long time due to confidence problems and depression, and my second climb of the day with someone i just met a couple of hours ago during a climbing club weekend to an area ive never been to in the middle of the bush, which is very different to climbing on the coast as i mainly do.
    Sorry about the long reply.
    Michael R

  2. Arno

    Thanks for your reply Michael. What kind of decision points did you identify on this climb? Remember, there is a macro point at the base of the route, but what about the mini (at pro) and micro (between pro) for this climb? Arno

  3. Michael R

    Hi Arno, the main decision points that i remember from the climb was when i had to crossover to the face. I feel i made a ‘mini’ decision here, as i had bomber gear in and even thou it was tricky to get to the good edges and had to commit to the moves once started, i felt secure. Once i was at the good moves, i feel i again made a ‘mini’ decision here to continue up as the edges felt solid even tho they looked brittle, and knowing i had to make the cross back over again at the top. I also think as i climbed up i was making ‘mini’ decisions with every move with my decision depending on the next next edge i grab, ‘Edge feels good – look for and grab next edge – edge feels good’. As i climbed higher i stopped and gathered info on where am i on this climb, where will i have to go next and how? Here i feel i was at a ‘mini/micro’ decision point, as even thou i was well above my last piece of gear, i was on good edges and only had to make afew more moves to get to where i need to cross back over. But once i got to the cross over point, the stress went up. The Micro Decision Point – i was starting to feel abit stressed at that point, as to get to where i wanted to go required a balancey lean/fall sideways to a jug type move, and an unbalanced fall from where i was would not of been a good option. I thought of having to down climb, but thinking of that made me more nervous as it brought negative thoughts, so my ‘micro’ decision was to relax, look and do. I found an edge to help me balance over and once i had grabbed the edge, i again made a ‘micro’ decision to keep going and commit to getting the jug and ledge.

    1. Arno

      Thanks for your extended description; it helps understand the individual parts of the risk you took. In all the decisions you made you need to consider the fall consequence, determine if it is no-fall or yes-fall, if no-fall (which sounds like it was) to determine that you can climb it without falling. One main thing I notice from your description is that you didn’t rush yourself but rather paced yourself well through the risk. That’s helpful. Arno

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