Whether a passionate amateur or a budding professional, you’re always looking for a way to up your climbing game. You’re probably investing in the best equipment, perfecting your holds, and going to the gym to build muscle mass.

Like many climbers, you’re looking to achieve one notable feat: onsight climbing.

What is onsight climbing, and what makes it so unique? More importantly, how can you perform it successfully?

Let’s dive in!

What is Onsight Climbing?

In a nutshell, onsight climbing is climbing a route in your first attempt without going beta (i.e., getting information about the route beforehand from another climber or a guide) or using binoculars to take a closer look.

Generally, climbers agree that it’s fine to plot your intended route while you’re still on the ground. Once you’ve started your climb, you cannot fall or rest on your rope. You also cannot downclimb during any part of your route. If you do, the climb is no longer considered a successful onsight climb.

Why is Onsight Climbing So Popular?

Onsight climbing is so popular because climbers consider it the ultimate test of their climbing abilities. You can only rely on your experience and knowledge as you climb, and you must be able to react as you go on your route.

As you improve your climbing game, you’ll learn how to spot the perfect route, use your energy wisely, and avoid pitfalls instead of recklessly climbing up.

Remember: the point of onsight climbing is not to go up quickly but perform the perfect climb. Many climbers attempt onsight climbing when on vacation simply because they might not get another chance to climb a particular route. 

There's an unbeatable sense of satisfaction in onsight climbing a route that you’ve never attempted before!

Tips to Onsight a Climb


When preparing to onsight climb, it’s only natural to feel nervous no matter how good you are. After all, there are so many factors that you need to account for when climbing, and you’re pitting yourself against nature!

Here are some tips to help you prepare for an onsight climb.

Get Yourself in the Zone

Your mental state is half the game. If you go into an onsight climb scared, there’s a good chance you’ll overthink things. Trust your gut and your experience while on the climb.

Warm-Up Beforehand

Make sure that your muscles are relaxed and loose before you climb. Stretch your arms and legs while on the ground to get the blood pumping. 

Be Well Rested

Get enough sleep the night before you plan to go onsight climbing. The most critical skill you need is thinking on your feet and making the right decisions quickly. If you’re tired, there’s a bigger chance of making mistakes.

Play to Your Strengths

As a climber, you probably have a particular style in which you excel. If you have strong finger grips, you’ll probably find it easier to onsight an overhanging face rather than a slab face. You should also consider using equipment such as chalk and shoe rubber to increase the chances of a successful onsight climb. 

Find Your Balance

As you ascend, you will feel the adrenaline rush both from your physical activity and the knowledge of your attempt. This is where many climbers make a mistake; don’t give in to the temptation of pushing too fast! Take deep breaths and wait until your heartbeat and respiration normalize.  

Conclusion

There is no getting around it: onsight climbing is one of the most challenging and demanding climbing you can try. However, there is no shame in failing; even an attempt is something to be respected.

When out on your route, take the time to rest. As mentioned earlier, being smart during your climb is a critical factor. Inspect the surface to identify the best holds and allow your body to recover before taking your next step upwards.


Good luck with your climb! 

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