What Are Some Mistakes That Intermediate Boulders (V3-V4-V5) Make?
Two adult intermediate boulders in red and yellow jackets.

If you’re (a little) into bouldering, there’s a fair chance you’re familiar with difficulty grades associated with the sport. In other words: you know that V1 or V2 or V3 aren’t just the names of WWII rockets or something, they also represent the aforementioned climbing grades.

So, what’s the deal with our today’s article? What’s that we’re planning to show you? Well, the thing is: we’ll talk about some of the most common mistakes intermediate boulders (V3-V4-V5) are known to make. If you’re at that stage of your climbing adventure, you’ll most probably enjoy the tips we’ll share with you in the text below. Stay tuned!

Some of the most common mistakes that intermediate boulders (V3-V4-V5) make include not being willing to focus on grip strength (practice hangboarding), ignoring the footwork (employ your feet wisely), and not having a clear strategy (plan out your path from the beginning to end of the climb). 

If you’re planning to rise above the intermediate level, make sure to grab the additional tips we’ll share with you today!

Bouldering grades 101 (with an emphasis on the V scale)

You might already know this, but there are many difficulty scales associated with bouldering (and here’s some info on the difference between this sport and top-roping). However, you’ll find the two of them sticking out from the crowd. Of course, we’re talking about:

  • V scale.
  • Font scale.

Today, we’ll focus solely on the first one (V scale). So, what exactly is a V scale? It’s something you’d call an open-ended difficulty scale. That means there’s no highest level of difficulty a certain climber can reach; the difficult grade will progress together with the sport itself. At this moment, the V scale begins at V0 and goes up to V17.

What about VB or V-Fun?

Yup, there’s also a level called VB. The letter B here stands for beginner or basic. What’s interesting is that this level is seen as easier than V0. Oh, and the thing about V-Fun is that some outdoor climbing problems are graded like that since there’s no way to defy them using normal grading systems. They probably require climbers to employ some weird technique. That’s also why you’ll see some folks calling the grade in question – V-Weird.

What’s the concept?

As one can assume, this grading concept ain’t a hard pill to swallow. In other words: even a 2-year-old can understand it. Okay, that might be an overstatement, but seriously, the idea behind this concept is too darn simple: the higher the number, the tougher the problem. As if you couldn’t have figured that one out by yourself, right?

Anyway, just like we mentioned earlier, the current hardest grades are V16 and V17 and there’s only a small crowd of folks that can climb that hard. Also, you’ll want to know that the standard max grade in most indoor rock climbing gyms is somewhere about V10. Speaking of tackling indoor rock climbing walls, here’s how you’ll want to dress for the occasion.

For better clarity and easier differentiation, sometimes you’ll notice that grades have a “+” or “-” added to them (such as V2+, for instance). There’s probably no need to mention this, but Vx+ is more difficult than Vx, and Vx- is less difficult than Vx. However, know that this practice is reserved for lower grades only. Once you reach V9 or V10, these little pluses or minuses will most probably disappear into oblivion.

What does the V stand for?

Before you delve deeper into our main subject, let’s take a brief glimpse into the history of this grading scale and see where it got its name. First of all, know that the letter V stands for Verm or Vermin. It is the nickname of the legendary climber called John Sherman (some of you know who that is). Sherman is credited with creating the V scale in the 1980s.

According to some sources, he never had the intention to standardize the scale. However, a certain publisher pushed him into it and now we have the V scale. Here’s the full story:

  • He had the intention to write something of a bouldering guide with hundreds of problems, none of which were graded. His publisher refused to publish the piece if these problems had been left ungraded. After hearing the terms, Sherman spent the next year standardizing the scale. Once the book was published, the V scale spread like a wildfire and most climbers today use it. Essentially, that’s how the V scale was born. 

Okay, so it’s safe to say that’s more than enough for an intro section. Let’s see what are the most common mistakes that intermediate boulders (V3-V4-V5) make!

A man with a black cap boulders on a rock.

What are some mistakes that intermediate boulders (V3-V4-V5) make?

If you’re an intermediate boulderer yourself, there’s a good chance you’ll find your technique tucked somewhere between the lines of the text below. Now, what are some mistakes that intermediate boulders (V3-V4-V5) just love to make?

We’ve gathered some info from expert climbers, and this is what they had to say about the most popular mistakes among intermediates:

  • Not willing to focus enough on grip strength. Once climbers reach V4 or V5, their grip strength becomes one of the most important elements. That’s why “nurturing” good grip strength is an absolute necessity once you reach the intermediate grades. Here’s a suggestion: practice so-called hangboarding. More tips on using your fingers in climbing you’ll find right here.
  • Not utilizing their feet. Folks seem to naturally fall back on their arms once they start their adventure in climbing. However, with bouldering – it’s not that easy to do that since you’ll probably burn out pretty quick. You’ll need to learn how to employ your feet (hooking and pivoting) if you want to master and rise above intermediate levels.
  • Not coming up with a strategy. Once you start your climbing career, you’re able to get away with simply winging it. However, once you reach certain stages – you won’t get away with it that easily. Apart from being a physical challenge, bouldering is a mental game, too. You’ll need to plan your path from the very beginning and picture the moves you’ll employ to reach your objective.

Oh, and here’s a friendly suggestion: you’ll want to watch the more experienced boulderers climb. That way, you can compare how your style differs from theirs and what can you do to make it better. There’s a good chance you’ll learn a lot from doing that. Now that we’ve pointed out some common mistakes that intermediate boulders (V3-V4-V5) make, we need to provide you with some useful tips for intermediates!

Useful tips for intermediate boulders (V3-V4-V5)

If you’re an intermediate climber and want to know what can you do to improve your style, please read the following paragraphs.

Footwork is crucial

As we’ve already mentioned, you’ll need to find a way to employ your feet more than you’ve used to. In other words: more focus, no slipping or scratching. You can do this by placing your foot directly on the hold, just so you won’t have to reposition it. They don’t say that a good climber needs to be as silent as a mouse for no reason. Subtlety is key!

Speaking of footwork, here’s an article about whether (or not) small feet are good for climbing.

Learn climbing techniques

An intermediate climber (V3-V4-V5) needs to know most of the climbing techniques, and there’s a fair chance you know them. However, you’ll need to use them in an effective manner by trying to remember each move a boulderer makes. For instance, did you know lead climbers are able to recall up to sixty moves?

No fear of falling

That’s right, an intermediate boulderer needs to possess no fear of falling. Not to mention the fact that bouldering can be a very safe sport if certain conditions are met. Therefore, fear is pretty much absurd here. Okay, we know that it can get a bit scary sometimes, but try not to jump down and give up because you’re somehow certain you can’t do the next move. In other words: there will always be a chance of you proceeding to the next hold.

Breaks and how to use them

To phrase it differently: watch your breaks! The thing is: you’ll want to climb as much as possible during a single session, so make sure you’re not overdoing your breaks. Three minutes between each attempt is the recommended duration.

Surround yourself with quality climbers

It’s important that your crew’s made of folks that are a little above your level. That way, you’ll be able to learn from experienced climbers and you’ll have a normal attitude towards the sport. It’ll do wonders for your climbing technique since it helps you deal with the fear of failure or embarrassment. You’ll be able to really enjoy the sport without being all ego about it. Not to mention the fact you’ll have someone better to watch and learn from.

Lastly, let’s just mention you should try to boulder with straight arms. It’ll save you a lot of energy you’ll need for more challenging climbs.

At the bottom of the climb

So, that’s about it, folks! These were the most common mistakes intermediate boulders (V3-V4-V5) make while climbing. Hopefully, you’ve had some fun and learned something new! For more climbing-related topics and tips, please make sure you visit this page on our blog.

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