We each have a specific tendency toward being intuitive or analytical in our climbing. Let me describe both and see if you can pick your tendency.
Recently I taught a class at the New River Gorge in West Virginia. One student, Michael, climbed quite quickly. He climbed right past stances where he could have stopped to rest and assess. He seemed driven by an overall anxiousness to get the climbing over with. Another student, Ann, was the opposite. She lingered at rest stances and then climbed slowly between them. She seemed resistant to engage. Mike was rushing, while Ann was stalling. Both climbers were victims of their comfort-seeking minds, but in completely different ways. Mike’s path through the stress was intuitive whereas Ann’s was analytical.
Intuitive climbers tend to under-think and do poor risk assessment. When they encounter stress, they seek to minimize it and just go. They feel uncomfortable at rest stances and tend to rush into cruxes without resting adequately or collecting the necessary information to create an effective plan. The “pro” for being an intuitive climber is that you tend to climb faster and more continuously, which can improve your flow through cruxes and minimize time spent in strenuous positions. The “con” is that you don’t gather enough information to climb efficiently or avoid inappropriate risks. Climbers of this type often are known for taking scary, out-of-control falls that may stifle their future ability to focus and improve.
Conversely, analytical climbers tend to over-think. If you are this type, you utilize rest stances and gather information quite well. However, you get stuck in this mode and your over-thinking manifests itself in your climbing as stalling out. You stay at stances too long and then climb slowly once engaged. The “pro” is that you do take time to think through a situation, see your options, and avoid getting in dangerously over your head. The “con” is that you are still thinking when you should be focused on moving, causing second-guessing on challenging moves and hanging out too long in strenuous positions. Analytical climbers all too often find themselves pumping out and yelling, “Take!”
Rushing and stalling are the downsides of intuitive and analytical tendencies, respectively, and both are manifestations of your mind using you to avoid stress. Intuitive climbers rush because their minds want to get to the next stance where they will be out of the stress and be comfortable again. Analytical climbers stall because their minds resist getting into the stress and linger in the comfort of the current stance. Whether rushing or stalling, your mind distracts your attention by thinking of where you’ll be comfortable.
Whether you tend toward analytical or intuitive, you need to balance out your habitual mode with its opposite. If you find you are more intuitive and rush yourself, this chapter’s lessons will be particularly challenging for you. You must learn to deliberately stop at rest stances and thoroughly gather information. If you are a more analytical climber and habitually stall out, the lessons in this chapter will come easier. The greater challenge will come later, in the Action chapter, when you will need to adopt a new mode and find ways to engage quicker and stop over-thinking. No matter which type of climber you are, you will use rest stances more effectively by breaking out of habitual behavior and acting from the power base of focused attention.

CR_Rushing/StallingWe each have a specific tendency toward being intuitive or analytical in our climbing. Let me describe both and see if you can pick your tendency.

Recently I taught a class at the New River Gorge in West Virginia. One student, Michael, climbed quite quickly. He climbed right past stances where he could have stopped to rest and assess. He seemed driven by an overall anxiousness to get the climbing over with. Another student, Ann, was the opposite. She lingered at rest stances and then climbed slowly between them. She seemed resistant to engage. Mike was rushing, while Ann was stalling. Both climbers were victims of their comfort-seeking minds, but in completely different ways. Mike’s path through the stress was intuitive whereas Ann’s was analytical.

Intuitive climbers tend to under-think and do poor risk assessment. When they encounter stress, they seek to minimize it and just go. They feel uncomfortable at rest stances and tend to rush into cruxes without resting adequately or collecting the necessary information to create an effective plan. The “pro” for being an intuitive climber is that you tend to climb faster and more continuously, which can improve your flow through cruxes and minimize time spent in strenuous positions. The “con” is that you don’t gather enough information to climb efficiently or avoid inappropriate risks. Climbers of this type often are known for taking scary, out-of-control falls that may stifle their future ability to focus and improve.

Conversely, analytical climbers tend to over-think. If you are this type, you utilize rest stances and gather information quite well. However, you get stuck in this mode and your over-thinking manifests itself in your climbing as stalling out. You stay at stances too long and then climb slowly once engaged. The “pro” is that you do take time to think through a situation, see your options, and avoid getting in dangerously over your head. The “con” is that you are still thinking when you should be focused on moving, causing second-guessing on challenging moves and hanging out too long in strenuous positions. Analytical climbers all too often find themselves pumping out and yelling, “Take!”

Rushing and stalling are the downsides of intuitive and analytical tendencies, respectively, and both are manifestations of your mind using you to avoid stress. Intuitive climbers rush because their minds want to get to the next stance where they will be out of the stress and be comfortable again. Analytical climbers stall because their minds resist getting into the stress and linger in the comfort of the current stance. Whether rushing or stalling, your mind distracts your attention by thinking of where you’ll be comfortable.

Whether you tend toward analytical or intuitive, you need to balance out your habitual mode with its opposite. If you find you are more intuitive and rush yourself, preparation will be particularly challenging for you. You must learn to deliberately stop at rest stances and thoroughly gather information. If you are a more analytical climber and habitually stall out, preparation will come easier. The greater challenge will be taking action, when you will need to adopt a new mode and find ways to engage quicker and stop over-thinking. No matter which type of climber you are, you will use rest stances more effectively by breaking out of habitual behavior and acting from the power base of focused attention.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Robby

    Hey Arno
    I recently worked at the gym that brought home this lesson. A boy about 10yo climbed 3 or 4 times with me belaying, each time getting to the same spot as before. The next time he climbed I said that I was going to ask him to make one more move, and he gave me a puzzled look.
    Sure enough, he made it to the same spot, asked to get down, and I asked him to make one more move. He promptly stiffened, let out a loud I want to get down, and grabbed onto the wall firmly. In the short time I talked him into letting go, and belaying him to the floor (he was about 8 feet up), his eyes were welling with tears, and his fist were clinched. I helped him to calm down by showing him the deep breathing technique, and he quickly relaxed.
    Afterwards, feeling a bit guilty, I realized that young boy’s reaction is somewhat how I used to react when I was growing up, and still can react that way when I fall into that old analytical way of thinking, especially when it takes me so long to make a decision.
    This is tricky for me, because in my recent past, within the last 4 years at my job, I’ve also rushed myself a little too fast, and came close to having a serious accident.
    So, although I tend to overthink some situations, in some, as in my job example, I tend to rush and not take everything into consideration.
    I would have to say that I have come a long way, and learning about climbing has helped me tremondously in my climbing life as well as my personnal life. I never gave a serious thought about lead climbing, and now have 10-15 lead climbs, I work at a couple of gyms for climbing, and I teach at the local college, all of which I never gave a thought about until about 5 years ago.
    So some things do take alittle time, but that doesn’t mean you keep making a decision about doing something or not doing it. So I like to gather my info, stay as close to my plan as I can, but know I can make small adjustments, or even bigger ones, as I go. For me, climbing or life, I do my best to follow this process.

    1. Arno

      Hi Robby, Thanks for your post. It’s definitely a balancing act. The article is intended to reveal general tendencies we have toward being intuitive or analytical. We still have both within us; just need to develop the “hidden” one to balance out the one we usually operate through.
      Your example of rushing at work, even when you see yourself as analytical, reveals how familiarity can cause you to bypass the analytical preparation process. You still need to consciously prepare, even if it is familiar ground. The prep may be quicker but you still do it consciously instead of assuming you are prepared based on familiarity.
      Arno

  2. Laurel

    I have noticed that sometimes I get “stuck” trying to stop at an “ok” stance where a better option would have been to move on (maybe using some momentum that I’ve then lost).

    Interestingly enough I think that I cause this both by underthinking and overthinking. Underthinking: climbing too fast and not looking ahead enough to see where the next hold options are, or not resting when I can so I’m too tired to move off the “ok” hold Overthinking: stopping and trying to get a “better” stance to rest when I don’t have to.

    I’ve also noticed that I tend to get over analytical on the first lead of the day, especially if I’m leading trad or if it’s unfamiliar terrain.

    I’ve recently rediscovered the joy of TR’ing straightforward crack climbs where I don’t have to think at all (especially in contrast to leading, which is very analytical for me, such as remembering which pieces I’ve placed and what I have left, where the last piece I placed is so I don’t kick it while moving above it, where I need to go to avoid rope drag, etc…).

    1. Arno

      Hi Laurel, Sounds like the worst of “both worlds.” There could be an anxiousness throughout the entire climb. Your mind rushes you off stances so you aren’t able to take advantage of the rests to regain energy or to look into the next section to do your preparation. Also, once you do leave the stance, your mind stalls you mid-crux looking for a rest where there isn’t one. You aren’t able to take advantage of the momentum you could have by staying committed.

      Future lessons will give you tools for utilizing stances effectively and then committing fully once you leave that stance. For now, when you feel anxious, ask: “Am I climbing or resting?” Pick one and then commit to it.
      Arno

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