The Biggest Red Flag of 2018

By: Nathan Drolet

As 2018 comes to an end many of us are reflecting on the past year. I like to think that most of us want to make each year better than the last, and with that in mind I thought it would be helpful to share the one of the biggest red flags that I noticed in people’s training as I traveled and coached throughout 2018.

“I can either do it in a few tries or not at all”

“I’ve done everything in the gym that I can do, and everything else feels impossible”

“I can normally do all of the moves on V(whatever) except the crux which feels impossible”

“I won’t try that problem, it’s (insert excuse for why this problem doesn’t fit your criteria for what a climb should be. Click Link for List of Examples)


Translation = I regularly climb everything in my comfort zone, but struggle when I have to push past it.

If you catch yourself saying these phrases or anything close to it, that should jump out as a big red flag.

Bouldering is hard. Really hard. It’s also very complex. It’s normal to find a move that takes 20 tries to do, and once you do it a single time you never miss it again in isolation. Doing a move 1 out of 20 times doesn’t make it a 5% move. More likely it means that it took 19 tries to understand. This is bouldering.

When you mix the physical difficulty and overall complexity of bouldering with the easy accessibility to new problems in gyms these days it means that the onus is on you to push yourself.

We live in an age of fast food bouldering. Gym boulders are turned over more frequently than ever before. Hop on the Moonboard and you can try 2,500 different v7’s before you have to move on to v8.

It’s easier now than ever before to stay comfortable.

Ironically, I see this happen most often with experienced climbers. Brand new climbers are used to struggling for everything. The longer we climb the easier it is to stick with the things that we are good at.


Not long ago I noticed this in my own climbing. For a while I’ve felt like I’ve been getting stronger and better, but it hasn’t translated into me sending harder boulders. I was climbing the same grades faster, and I could climb styles that had been really hard for me in the past, but it still felt like the next difficulty wasn’t getting any easier.

After a lot of reflection and looking at my climbing the way I would objectively look at someone else’s I finally saw it. At some point I stopped getting uncomfortable. The climbs that used to take me 5 days now took me a few hours at most. As that switch happened I stopped putting in the frustrating hours on things that were truly challenging.

Realizing this was one of the best things to happen to me in 2018.

In one month I’m heading on a trip to Hueco. My goal for that trip is to stay uncomfortable. Starting with this one…

The author about to swing off the final move of Full Monty (v12) Hueco Tanks

The author about to swing off the final move of Full Monty (v12) Hueco Tanks

If none of this applied to you, awesome! Keep working hard. If any of this resonated with you then consider taking steps towards getting uncomfortable. One of my favorite methods from the past that I’m now revisiting in my own climbing is the Seven Go Rule. If you find a move that’s hard for you give it seven goes before you make any judgement on whether it’s too hard or not. If you make any progress in those seven goes then either keep trying or consider coming back to it soon. If you made zero progress (not even upward momentum or hanging onto the holds for longer) after seven honest efforts then maybe it’s too hard for now.

Give it a try and let me know how it works out for you.