Academy: Setting Climbing Goals

Part of our "Toes to Knows" Climbing Academy series--covering climbing from footwork to mental preparation.

Tags: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Coaching

My friend Lyti and I are joining forces to try and achieve our summer climbing goals. My goal is to climb 5.14. Lyti is working to lead her first 5.11 outside. In this post, we break down those broad goals into some specific goals and assesses our strengths and weaknesses in achieving those goals.

This is part of the bigger plan that we’re going to follow to get achieve our goals. Here’s that plan:

  1. Set goals, assess strengths and weaknesses (this post)
  2. Do a strength assessment
  3. Build a training regimen to add strength where needed
  4. Tackle non-strength related weaknesses
  5. Work hard
  6. Send!

Broad Goals

Matt Climbing Drone

Broad, or long-term, goals might take months to years to accomplish. They are useful in providing a both a carrot and a compass heading for your life. In climbing, a broad goal might be to climb a certain grade, a particular route/boulder problem, or particular mountain. Climbing grades offer a convenient benchmark and make for great broad goals. Both Lyti and I chose grade-based goals for this year.


  • Get strong, especially in the large muscle groups
  • Lead 5.11 outside


  • Climb 5.14

Strengths and Weaknesses

Lyti Falling

Assessing our strengths and weaknesses helps us pick short-term goals that play into those strengths and overcome weaknesses.

Lyti strengths are good technique, decent finger strength, and great flexibility. Her weaknesses are lack of strength, especially in her upper body, large-muscles and a deep fear of falling. She also struggles at times with low confidence in her ability to get up hard routes.

My strengths are good technique and a high degree of familiarity with my specific goal route since I’ve almost sent it in the past. My weaknesses are lack of sufficient strength to achieve my goal and a tendency to get injured before I can acquire that strength. I’m also struggling with inconsistent day-to-day performance, more so than I’ve ever experienced in my climbing career before.

EyeSend Belay Glasses

Specific Goals

Lyti Climbing Betagraphic

Broad goals are excellent horizon guideposts, but it’s also a great idea to get specific in how one is going to accomplish that goal. Since we’re climbers, we’re choosing specific routes that will hopefully satisfy the broad goal.

For Lyti, she wants to lead a sport route called Betagraphic in Logan Canyon, UT. Betagraphic is a thin, slightly overhanging pocket route. It’s well suited to Lyti’s strengths because it has thin, technical climbing that doesn’t demand excessive power. It also has bolts that are reasonably close together and there are no ledges to land on, so it will be a safe climb that should lessen her fear of falling.  

I have one route I’ve projected off and on over the years that I think is 5.14. I say “think” because I put the route up. The route is called “Drone” (as in a bee). It links Little Bee, 13b, to Rad Race (13c). The route demands both good endurance and a fair bit of power, especially at the end. I was one hold away from sending it a year ago then smashed a finger doing trail work. Another injury resulted in a slow start to this climbing year and I’m just now starting to get into shape again.

Next Steps

Lyti Strength Assessment

We’re going to put a training plan together for each us. To make sure I’m doing this right, I’ve been seeking professional guidance on the subject. I’ve taken three classes from Dr. Tyler Nelson in Salt Lake, including one on strength training for adolescents and another on injury prevention. I’m also going to take a training seminar with Steve Bechtel from Climb Strong in Lander in early August.

Before we start the training program, we’re going to do a simple strength assessment. This will benchmark our basic strength from finger to large muscles. We’ll repeat this assessment toward the end of summer to see if we’ve improved. This assessment will be the focus of next week’s blog post.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.