The Plateaus of Perception

plateaus progression climbing

What if the reason you aren’t getting better at climbing isn’t because you can’t improve upon where you’re at, but because you refuse to acknowledge what your current abilities actually are? The plateaus of perception.

An issue that we are seeing more frequently is that people get so entranced with where they wish their climbing was that they forget where it is right now. They lose sight of the challenges that are the most accessible and appropriate for them. They only want to jump several steps ahead. While we can sometimes get away with this in the early years of climbing where progress is fast and nearly guaranteed, it leaves people feeling stuck later on.

plateaus climbing break your plateau

If only we could get to that next grade, then we’d finally get to climb on the routes and boulders that we really want to try. We see the climbs two steps ahead of us. And we want to get there as fast as we can. This leaves us less motivated by the climbs at our level, and more likely to go to unnecessary extremes with our training.

Read also Pro tips to break your plateau

The plateaus of perception

Maybe you’ve climbed a handful of 12b’s and one 12c, and now you want to jump to trying 13a. You’ve gone so far as to convince yourself that there aren’t any good 12c’s and 12d’s around, even though anyone with eyes and a guidebook could tell you otherwise.

You decide to train like someone who climbs 5.13. And only sending a 13a will make you feel like you’ve progressed. This often leads to people doing training that isn’t appropriate for where they are. They are getting frustrated by a lack of progress. And then they are telling themselves that they are stuck. The plateaus of perception !

frustration escalade

You aren’t stuck, you’re just trying to skip too many steps

If you are a V7 climber who wants to get to V10, it’s tempting to find one that fits your style and “put in the time”. It feels like that should be the fastest way to get there. The secret though, is that if you want to get there faster, and be there consistently, you should build your way to it. Go climb all types of V7’s. Do a bunch of V8’s in a mix of styles. Select several V9’s that are a little more narrowly focused towards what suits you. And then find a V10 that fits your strengths. The skills and strengths that you develop on V7’s and V8’s are necessary building blocks to climbing V10 with regularity.

bouldering frustration

Constantly dreaming about being two steps ahead of where you are now is exciting in the moment. But quickly it turns into a motivational black hole if you lose passion for where you’re currently at. We’ve seen countless people make incredible ascents of climbs that they should be proud of, only to feel dejected. Because it’s not as hard as they wished they climbed.

Look ahead to, and even occasionally try, harder climbs to make sure you’re on the right path towards your long-term goals. But learn to appreciate and get excited about where you’re at in this moment. You’re more likely to progress faster for it. And you’ll have more fun along the way.


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