How to Onsight Your First 5.12


During the winters, I grab myself a monthly membership to the local climbing gym so that I can keep myself in shape for the next outdoor climbing season. The last thing I want is to start each season at a couple grades below what I was climbing at the end of the previous season.

The last couple of winter, however, left me injured after pushing it too hard on all that plastic. Leaving me on the sidelines at the start of the following seasons, and having to play catchup midway.

This winter has been fruitful and I'm excited to say that I have been seeing many improvements in my climbing over the last couple of weeks. In fact, I just onsighted my first 12. Although this happened in the gym on plastic holds that are arranged by man and not nature, I see it as a sign that I should have what it'll takes to do that same thing outside...finally. 

So how does somebody go about onsighting their first 5.12? I suggest the following:

  • Climbing consistently: Climb at least three times a week to keep the fitness up and to generate muscle memory. 
  • Teach your body to climb when tired: Focus on climbing a hard route, followed by a few easier routes, and then another hard route. I don't like to sit and rest. Instead, I drop the intensity and keep my body in the motions I want them to be able to do no matter how fatigued I am.
  • Stay in shape: Along side my climbing sessions, I do a lot of cross-training to keep lean and fit. I will usually run and do Card Deck Workouts during lunch.
  • Learn to shake out and recover on-route: Become a master at "gaining it all back" while you are in the middle of a route. The secret behind onsighting harder routes is being able to utilize any potential resting holds to flush away the dreaded pump-factor.
  • Don't be afraid to fall: If you are afraid to fall, you won't allow yourself to make that deal-breaker move. Instead, you'll wuss out and sit on the rope. Allow yourself to make that cruxy move with hope that you'll find that last bit of 'umph' that will give you the onsight.

Now, go get after it, have fun, and be safe.