Tip of the day
V grades are relative and can depend on the setters in the gym. Like stepping on an uncalibrated bathroom scale, use V grades as a benchmark for trends and progress. That being said, if you can climb a certain grade outdoors and consistently climb that grade in the gym, then you are probably around there in the V scale.
How long will it take you to get to the next V-grade? Here is what I’ve gathered from books, blog posts, and personal experience. This assumes that you are climbing consistently (2-3 times per week). Please note that this is from personal experience and everybody’s progress will be different depending on body type and strengths/weaknesses.
Not all gyms have VB, but VBs can usually be climbed on a new climber’s first day of climbing. VBs typically follow the movement of climbing a ladder.
V0 is where most beginners start and can usually be climbed on the first day. The holds are big and are a great way to practice technique/drills such as “silent feet.”
A new climber may or may not get a V1 on their first day. I vaguely recall that climbing a V1 sounded scary after my orientation and climbing a couple of V0s. I definitely had trouble holding a teapot on the day after my first V1.
You’ll start climbing V2s after a couple of sessions and in your first ~ second month of consistent climbing.
This is where the climbs start getting tricky. I think this was my first plateau. You might be able to power through some problems, but you’ll need to work on technique and think through the beta. You’ll start using different grips (don’t full-crimp) and oddly-shaped holds. You will start sending some V3s after a few months of climbing.
I remember V4s being my first “what the…” climbs. My first V4 was set using only block-shaped holds, and I had to start thinking about my center of gravity and utilize flagging. I think you’ll begin climbing V4s within six months of consistent climbing.
You may or may not get a few V5s within six-months of climbing. I remember this being my second plateau. I also had to be more conscious of my eating and drinking habits. Climbing, from a fun way to get a workout, became an all-encompassing factor in my lifestyle.
If climbing has become a big part of your life, then you might get your first V6 within a year. Between my first V5 and V6, I started touching problems that were way beyond my skill level. I also took a hard look at what kind of problems I am bad at and started to do more of them during my workouts.
One thing I also started doing more was climbing outside. Climbing outside kept me humble and also allowed me to work on my mental game and footwork.
Depending on how your climbing training progresses, you might get your first V7 around the first-year mark. As I mentioned at the top, grades are relative. But, there was something about the ring of “V7” that made me really want it (this might be because in the Japanese bouldering-grading a V7 is considered the first “dan” or black belt). I played to my strengths and worked on the type of problems I’m good at to get my first V7. It might’ve been an “easy” V7, but the progress gave me a huge morale boost.
It took a little more than a year to get my first V8. I am still working on trying to climb all V8s on any kind of wall consistently. I’ve also completely changed my lifestyle and made my eating/drinking habits revolve around how it’d affect my climbing.
I sent my first V9 within a year and a half. This was when I realized how much growth potential our body has when we put it through a consistent, well-structured training program.
I climbed a V9 that fit my style. This, of course, doesn’t make me a V9 climber. My goal now is to be able to climb V9s and below consistently.
V10 - V11
Gathering from what I’ve seen and read online, a lot of gyms max out at this range or have only a few. I think you’ll need to get in at least 2-3 years of consistent climbing/training to get here (please comment below if you can chime in).
V12 - V13
It seems like this is the range that most super-strong, long-time climbers that #liveclimbrepeat fall into.
V14 - V17
Out of this world. There’s only one V17 so far.
How have you progressed through the different grades? What got you past any slumps or plateaus?
Thanks for reading!
* I’ll keep this post updated throughout my climbing journey :)