On-Sighting on bolts –
To climb a route that you’ve not climbed before, leading it from bottom to top without resting or falling off & placing your own quickdraws as you climb.
Some thoughts -
Apart from having your head in the right place & a familiarity with the rock you’re climbing on, the most important part of climbing a route high in your On-Sight grade is warming up.
If you’re top on-sight grade is 6b+ then you need to start On-Sighting a route graded 5+, then work steadily through the grades, 6a, 6a+ & then 6b to get both warmed up & also to get your head in the right place. Some people need to get a fairly good pump on before their fully warmed up. If you struggle on 6b then it’s a gauge of how you’re going on that particular day. Have plenty of rest between each route, take your time & don’t leave your main objective till the Friday when you’re heading home from a week’s holiday on the Saturday & have been cranking out the routes all week! Spend a couple of days warming up & getting a feel for the rock & then nail it mid-week.
On a couple of the routes during the warm up, climb them again to a section where the ground is steep enough to fall off & just let go! (Easier said than done!). This really helps get your head around the fact that firstly it’s ok to fall off & you won’t hurt yourself & secondly it gives you more confidence in the belayer & the knowledge that they can comfortably hold you if you were to fall.
This means that when you go for your On-Sight, all you should be thinking about is making the moves, clipping & getting to the top. You need to be totally focused on the route & not looking down on a difficult move & worrying about falling off.
Remember to be Dynamic in your belaying & that doesn’t mean have lots of rope out. Give your mate enough rope to clip & then take the excess back in, giving them just enough to make the moves without pulling on the rope. The job of the belayer if to focus (which can be really hard to do at a busy crag or indoor wall!) & try to anticipate their moves, giving them rope when they need it.
No, Dynamic belaying is to lock off the belay plate when the person falls & allow yourself to make a few steps forward toward the wall allowing the climber to come to a gradual stop. Don’t just lock the belay plate off, stand still & lean back, this just stops the fall too suddenly which generally means they’ll swing hard into the wall. By locking off & stepping forward, being dynamic in your belaying even on a vertical wall the climber doesn’t smack into the boards, they have a much softer landing.
Note, the belayer needs to have a clean area in front of them to be able to move forward & be dynamic, so don’t have your rope flaked out in front of the belayer have it to the side. Climbing outside look for a flat area with no boulders to fall over or trip on when you do step forwards to hold a fall.
It is something you need to practice & it amazing how much more confidence it gives the climber having fallen & held in this way.
On-Sighting feels a very pure way to climb a route & climbing on bolts allows you to push the grade a little, more so than more traditional climbing where you place your own protection in the form of wires & cams.
You can use different evenings at your local climbing wall to try this process of On-Sighting & see how you go.
Go on, you might surprise yourself!
AdePhoto's taken by Andy Teasdale of me On-Sighting in Kalymnos