Whether or not you are willing to fall off a route, and whether or not you actually will fall, are perhaps the most ongoing fundamental questions in rock climbing. The more clearly you understand and address these questions, the less confusion and fear will affect you while climbing. This process requires both analytical and intuitive intelligence. Assessing the falls you’ve experienced in the past utilizes your mind’s analytical intelligence. You can quantitatively determine what type of routes you’ve fallen on, the distance of those falls, the angle of the rock, what obstacles were there, and how often you’ve fallen. You also know the type and grade of routes you’ve climbed without falling. This information results from your mind’s analytical intelligence applied in preparation. In contrast, weighing that information against the particular route you now face with the level of strength you now have is totally intuitive.
Intuitive intelligence isn’t a thinking process but rather a feeling process. No amount of justifying with your thinking mind to commit or retreat will help you determine whether or not you’re taking an appropriate risk. You can only rely on an intuitive feeling for determining appropriateness.
Analytical thinking alone will never tell you for sure if the decision to commit is appropriate. Millions of complex aspects must come together within your body and mind for each particular effort, that are too complex to analyze and think about to make a decision. You must take in all those aspects, meld them, weigh them, and then make a decision. This can only be done effectively by utilizing your mind’s intuitive intelligence.

Laurel KnobWhether or not you are willing to fall off a route, and whether or not you actually will fall, are perhaps the most ongoing fundamental questions in rock climbing. The more clearly you understand and address these questions, the less confusion and fear will affect you while climbing. This process requires both analytical and intuitive intelligence. Assessing the falls you’ve experienced in the past utilizes your mind’s analytical intelligence. You can quantitatively determine what type of routes you’ve fallen on, the distance of those falls, the angle of the rock, what obstacles were there, and how often you’ve fallen. You also know the type and grade of routes you’ve climbed without falling. This information results from your mind’s analytical intelligence applied in preparation. In contrast, weighing that information against the particular route you now face with the level of strength you now have is totally intuitive.

Intuitive intelligence isn’t a thinking process but rather a feeling process. No amount of justifying with your thinking mind to commit or retreat will help you determine whether or not you’re taking an appropriate risk. You can only rely on an intuitive feeling for determining appropriateness.

Analytical thinking alone will never tell you for sure if the decision to commit is appropriate. Millions of complex aspects must come together within your body and mind for each particular effort, that are too complex to analyze and think about to make a decision. You must take in all those aspects, meld them, weigh them, and then make a decision. This can only be done effectively by utilizing your mind’s intuitive intelligence.

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. G’day Arno, A great friend and climber passed your details over to me when I was searching for motivation and information a few months ago. I don’t climb, I race road bikes and to fair degree face mental battles similar to which you and your followers experience as climbers without the risk of falling of a cliff. It’s refreshing to get a different perspective on things from time to time and reading your blog helps me to refocus and overcome any weaknesses I may have let creep into my mind. Indeed, controlling my mind on long hard rides using active thinking has given me results in training and in the peloton. Thanks mate.

  2. Ha! I’m a climber and I think racing road bikes is one of the scariest things ever! At least climbers don’t (usually) have to worry about crashing in to other moving objects.

    Arno, in the email you mentioned that intuitive intelligence is hard to explain. Maybe it’s hard to explain but I think it’s easy to understand and use. Sometimes my intuition contributes to less desirable outcomes, of course, but so can analysis…

  3. Hi Laurel, “hard to explain” in that it isn’t logical. I think we can get better at understanding it though. “Desirable outcomes” require a balance of analytical and intuitive intelligence. Thanks for your post. Arno

  4. G’day Arno, A great friend and climber passed your details over to me when I was searching for motivation and information a few months ago. I don’t climb, I race road bikes and to fair degree face mental battles similar to which you and your followers experience as climbers without the risk of falling of a cliff. It’s refreshing to get a different perspective on things from time to time and reading your blog helps me to refocus and overcome any weaknesses I may have let creep into my mind. Indeed, controlling my mind on long hard rides using active thinking has given me results in training and in the peloton. Thanks mate.

  5. As usual you are right on the spot when I need you the most.
    I recently sprained my neck bouldering and I have been a witness of 3 broken ankles at the bouldering wall in the last 2 month. After 10 days off any type of excercise I went back on the wall only to find out I was dead scared!!! I tryed to boulder and it was scary, I consider myself a multipitch climber, so I said to myself “well, maybe is all these experiences with bouldering”, I tryed an easy lead (which I have done 10 times at least) and I couldn’t pass the third bolt, I went on to TR and even there I was kind of weary. I need to calm down and learn how to get a good intuitive/analytical balance. Trust your belayer and your own strenght and habilities, but is NOT EASY!

  6. Hi Yani, have you put thought into how to find that balance between intuitive and analytical? Let’s dig deeper into that point. Post some ideas and I’ll respond with my own take on it.

  7. Hi, Arno. Thank you very much for your book. It helps me very much in my climbing.
    Short story to intuitive vs. analytical thinking: This week I climbed one of my hardest routes – strenuous climb with two cruxes on the end and small rest point between them. I always had not enough power to do all hard moves after initial strenuous climbing. It was just small trip after work, almost dark, a little wet, acctually not so good conditions for climbing and also my previous climbs this day i wasn’t in good shape… But once I internally feel that’s worth to make a try even all analytical thoughts said: there is no optimal conditions…

    1. Hi Jan, thank you for your comment. So, “there are no optimal conditions.” What was the outcome of your effort? And, how did intuitive vs. analytical impact that effort? Tell us more. Arno

  8. When I consider only analytical aspect (almost dark, high humidity, tired after work)… I wouldn’t made a try and wait for better conditions. But because I internally felt it’s worth to try this climb, I tried it and finished it RP.

  9. Hi Arno!
    Well, after reading your article I did put some thought into it. So I went back on that climb and tried my intuitive sideand It felt good the fact that I trust my belayer and that I know the climb. Yet I stopped at the third bolt and then the entire gym was encouraging me so I went on and finish the last bolt but I didn’t finish the climb. It is kind of weird because I feel so confident outside! My biggest problem is at the gym and I think is related to some anxiety I feel for making it all perfect.
    Outside I feel more confident and I push myself harder. It feels natural to climb a the rock, everything is on, I take my time, I feel like dancing and prancing. At the gym however I feel weak and I don’t trust my technique or my body, even if I have done the climb clean a couple of times.

  10. Hi Jan, Analytical information (darkness, humidity, etc) can give us valuable info for planning. But, to make an appropriate decision we need to feel for resistance. It sounds like this is what you did. You felt a low level of resistance and decided to engage. If there would have been a large amount of resistance, then you probably should stay off the route.
    Thanks for sharing. Arno

  11. Hello Yani, Thank you for sharing additional information. It seems like the difference between climbing in a gym and climbing outside, for you, is the influence of others. In a gym others are “interfering” with your climbing. Their encouragement distracts your attention from the climbing process. There are probably expectations that you create due to others being there and encouraging you.
    Outside, with less bystanders, you can keep attention on climbing. Next time you are in a gym, remind yourself of this tendency to have others distract your attention, and refocus your attention only on what YOU need to do to climb. See what happens. Arno

  12. Thank you Arno. I think you are right on the spot. I will try more focus and some breathing techniques when I’m at the gym. I just read the No-fall-Yes-fall article and it is something I always take in consideration outdoors but I haven’t tried at the gym. I will use this tips indoors and see how it goes.

  13. Hey Arno. I constantly refer to your book before I climb and pick things to work on that day.

    With the anylitical vs intuitive issue, becoming a more intuitive has been an ongoing process. But last weekend before following my partner up a 2-pitch, 190-foot trad route we decided to time it. It took 7 attempts to get to where we were ecstatic. Anyway, I realized that in the effort to keep moving, I climbed with how I was feeling, and it was pretty liberating. We won’t be speed climbing all the time, but the exercise itself made me aware of possible benefits of finding that balance between the two. Just wanted to share. Thanks for your rockin book!

    Chad

    1. Excellent Chad. Glad to hear you’re experimenting. Keep it up. a

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