The Art of Climbing Slowly

Like downclimbing, climbing slowly takes much skill and practice; however, once mastered, this art can enhance your climbing experience greatly. All genres of climbing can be slowed down, from taking as long as possible to set up for a one-move-wonder boulder problem to taking your time to place each piece with perfection on a 10-pitch trad route.

clapping_for_himself copy
Taking a few seconds to clap for yourself is a great way to stay motivated while increasing your time on the wall.

Why climbing slowly is awesome:

  1. You get to enjoy each move, sometimes setting up for it multiple times, making a few half-hearted efforts to get yourself psyched, and then going for it full-value when you’re ready.
  2. Each climb can take up to 7½ times longer, which can mean up to 7½ times more enjoyment for those who think problems and routes are over too soon.
  3. You have time to take advantage of every rest position on every hold available, which will prevent you from getting pumped. You can shake out and reposition on the same hold several times, even resting each finger individually.
  4. You can complete lengthy conversations while sending.
  5. You can find, try out, and then reject every alternate hand and foothold before deciding with confidence that the most chalked holds are indeed the ones to use.
  6. You have more time to complain to anyone who will listen about the trickiness of the climb, any and all loose rock and vegetation you encounter, and how sharp, slopy, sandy, and/or non-existent each hold is.
  7. You can make each movement as perfect as possible, decreasing your energy expenditure.
  8. You will use the greatest amount of chalk possible.

Now that you understand the benefits of moving at a snail-like pace, here are some quick tips to help you slow down:

Enjoy every sit-down rest available, and use the break to test the next holds with ease.
  1. Take advantage of every rest you encounter, even if you rested the move before. Try counting to 10 each time you rest to really slow yourself down.
  2. Shake out on every hold possible.
  3. Always chalk up three times.
  4. Talk to your belayer/spotter about how you feel or what you would like to change about the climb before you make each move.
  5. Try out every crystal that might be a hand or foothold before making difficult (or easy) moves.
  6. Try to sit down whenever possible. If you spot a good sitting ledge halfway up a route, stash a juice box in your chalk bag to enjoy mid-climb.
  7. Place twice the amount of gear you think you’ll need. Also test out multiple pieces each time you place.
  8. Downclimb to rest below bulges several times before committing to pulling over them.
  9. Pretend to move from good rests by chalking up, shuffling your feet, feeling the next holds, and then returning to the rest position to repeat the process at least once more before climbing up to the next rest.
  10. Climb above the chains to “top out” routes and gain an extra two moves.

Remember: Sending is everything, and climbing slowly will allow you all the time you need for an onsight or successful redpoint.

Originally published May 10, 2015, on 


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