Solo climbing is a style of climbing where the climber performs alone without any kind of physical or artificial aid. There are, however, some so-called “aid-solo” climbs. This article does not cover them in detail because they are strongly associated with mountaineering and fall outside the scope of rock climbing. It’s worth mentioning that the word ‘solo’ is not related to ‘soloing’, which is climbing without a partner, while solo climbing means climbing without any form of aid.
Benefits of solo climbing:
Solo climbing can be beneficial to your normal fitness training in several ways:
1. Mental Training:
A big advantage of solo climbing is the mental challenge it provides. The mind has a very demanding job while you climb, no matter how good a climber you are! Your brain has to control every single muscle in your body and has to constantly calculate the climber’s movement, grip, and balance in order to keep you safe. If this is done correctly it can result in a pleasantly charged-up feeling.
2. Improved Technique:
“Practice makes perfect!” People often say that – but is it true? Not really! You need enough practice (the right kind), but perfect practice makes perfect! The correct kind of practice is the one that offers you the most significant challenge – to accomplish what you’ve never done before. This way you are immediately confronted with your weakness. You cannot rely on experience or strength, because usually, both are lacking when you start out soloing.
3. Efficient Recovery:
After a good solo route, you feel more “charged up” than after a climb with your climbing partner. The feeling of being exhausted is mostly mental and it’s due to the fact that the brain only registers the muscles that are moved – not how many muscles are used in total. So when you climb alone, all your other unused muscles won’t be able to relax. There are no resting muscles in the arm, because your brain registers them – even if they aren’t used at all or moved very little. Your brain cannot tell that there is someone else (the rope) assisting you to keep balance, so it will make your back and foot muscles work harder than usual. The result is a well-charged-up feeling and a more effective recovery.
Solo climbing is not dangerous:
As long as solo rock-climbing techniques and safety measures are respected, it’s just like any other form of rock climbing- safe! Many climbers prefer face climbing over roof climbing because the lack of holds makes it very risky. If we would compare solo rock climbing with solo mountain hiking, it would be the same as comparing the risks of a mountain walker and mountaineer. You might not make it to the summit of the mountain, but it’s nearly impossible to die while doing so.
The biggest “danger” in solo climbing is your mental state! If you underestimate yourself and think of solo climbing as a “no risk thing”, you are making a big mistake! You should respect your limitations and only focus on the physical challenge.
Some possible risks of solo climbing:
1- Climbing fatigue, resulting in mistakes that can lead to injuries:
But it’s the same as with any other form of climbing (doubles), even with mountaineering!
2- Flooding of the mind:
The climber might not be able to find a solution, resulting in climbing “paralysis”. This can be very dangerous because it may lead to falling.
3- Mental exhaustion:
Solo climbers should always exercise their muscles by doing other sports or activities as well. Don’t overdo it!
4- Temptation to climb in inappropriate conditions:
Solo climbing is very demanding mentally, so you have to be in a perfect physical state. Always do it in good weather, on short routes, and within your comfort zone! Climbing when exhausted or in bad weather isn’t dangerous, but stupid! If you are not feeling well or the conditions are not good, play it safe and come back for another day.