from 5.5 up to the 5.9 level, things get harder in predictable ways. holds are farther apart, angles are more forbidding. you have to find increasing clever ways to support yourself with your legs, because the routes are making it ever more difficult to keep from hauling yourself up entirely with your arms, which will wear you out fast. at the 5.10 level, things aren’t harder so much as they are different. it’s like everything starts over again at the 5.5 level, but this time the holds are half the size that they used to be. your weight is still the same as it ever was, but now you’ve got half as much surface area to hang it from.
i’ve always known that it’s a good idea to keep your center of balance as close to the rock face as possible. but it’s easy to forget that in the heat of the moment, and find yourself with your butt swinging in mid-air. if you try that on a 5.10 route, you’re going to fall off. there’s very little room for error.
on 5.9 routes and lower, you can almost always bully your way to the top, if you really want to get there. sloppy moves are forgiven, so long as you’re determined. at the 5.10 level, you can’t ever forget technique. i have to stop and think about every move. it’s a completely different kind of experience. just me and my face pressed against the rock, willing myself not to fall. the world drops away.
i’ve yet to find a 5.10b route i can get up. at that level, not only are they forcing you to make do with tiny holds, but they’re also starting to throw unpleasant angles at you. it doesn’t help that i’m impatient. trying to bully my way up doesn’t work anymore.
as a beginning climber, i was stressing my forearms the worst. when i got good enough to support most of my weight on my legs, the stress moved to my lower back. at the 5.10 level, the focus is now on my fingers, as i try to find ways to hang onto tiny little nubs the size of a wristwatch. the second joints in all my fingers are making themselves known to me right now, as i type.
we haven’t climbed outdoors yet. still too cold. right now, we’ve got a bit of snow on the ground, from a storm that hit us on friday. i suppose that will be yet another kind of experience.