Mental games for climbers

Route Memory

Apr 14, 2020 5:03:00 PM / by Naomi Hatto

I’m pretty sure that I can’t be the only climber out there that sometimes struggles to remember what, exactly, I did to make that essential bit of progress on my latest project.

Having paid for some much needed and very useful coaching, I was given some tools to help me deal with this inability to remember what I was doing whilst climbing - unfortunately they were entirely based upon being able to access the climbing wall to improve. The light bulb moment for me came in the form or a coaching session with the homework being to climb an easy problem, come down, tell someone who was watching exactly what I had done and if I couldn’t remember climb it again and try again - this gave speedy improvements, although like everything not practising does mean that you start to lose the ability.


However, it’s not always possible to access the climbing wall/boulders regularly (and not just during COVID-19), I am lucky (well....when it comes to training anyway) enough to live 2 doors away from the family climbing wall business but during the build we had a good few years of no wall and no car for bouldering access or anything like that, so I can empathise with not being able to go climbing but still desperately wanting to improve/not lose everything you’ve worked so hard to gain 😄!


So...route memory. If you are already pretty good at remembering your beta then maybe this isn’t that revolutionary, however if you go into the wall and can’t remember whether or not you’ve tried x problem or, is that circuit new?!? I mean on the one hand it means you’ve always got something ‘new’ to try but on the other it does make projecting, and improving, much more challenging.


Unfortunately there isn’t really a magic bullet - but it does start with being more present when you’re climbing. Stop worrying about when you’re going to fit the washing up in and concentrate on being in the moment, be that in the room or at the boulders/crag. It’s much easier if you’re not concentrating on external issues at the same time. If you’ve got plenty of time on your hands then I thought this article was pretty interesting.


But - what if you can’t get to the wall for a period of time? Is there anything that you can do at home to improve/keep your route memory? And is route memory a specific thing, or is it actually just the name climbers give to memory??


After a quick google wikipedia gave me the following definition of memory: ‘Memory is the faculty of the brain by which data or information is encoded, stored, and retrieved when needed. It is the retention of information over time for the purpose of influencing future action.’ This does suggest that improving your memory in general will lead to an improvement in remembering beta. On that note I’ve been doing some thinking and along with improving  that there must be something to practise remembering movements and processes (and this time I’m not talking about learning to dance - you need to remember seemingly random movements in patterns). Although being good at remembering lists of things will be of some help for your route memory it is more likely to be more helpful if your practise is more specific and involves both hands and feet and moving through space in a ‘correct’ order…


So...what if you designed your own ‘route’ it doesn’t have to be vertical, rock based or even laid out for you in shiny colourful could find some everyday objects in your house - your favourite mug, some cutlery and a couple of shoes for example - place them around a room (or the entire house) and then determine a sequence for collecting the items - maybe you have to do something with them when you get there, possibly you have to do something on the way but you could write this down - go and do it without the piece of paper to aid your memory and then check to see if you got it right. Whilst this is unlikely to help directly to improve your fancy footwork or dynos it might just help you to remember exactly when you need to use them..!

Give it a try, and let me know how you get on in the comments. Tomorrow I'll be building on this with some talk on visualisation, something else you can work on at home. 

Here’s an example I prepared earlier….



route memory-1


Tags: COVID-19

Naomi Hatto

Written by Naomi Hatto