What to Record in a Climbing Journal: Beyond Chalk Marks

By: Derek Vitiello | Last Updated on December 22, 2023
At a loss for what to record in a climbing journal? We've listed everything out in this complete guide to journaling all your climbs!
what to record in a climbing journal

When it comes to rock climbing, we’re often so focused on the wall or the rock in front of us that we neglect to look back at the journey we’ve taken. The beauty of climbing isn’t just in reaching the peak or topping out a boulder; it’s in the incremental progress, the lessons learned, and the nuanced understanding of both the sport and ourselves.

That’s why keeping a rock climbing journal can be one of the most rewarding practices for climbers of any skill level. It’s a tradition as old as some of the classics we aspire to climb, yet flexible enough to adapt to the digital age. Trust me, I’ve been scribbling in my own rock climbing journal almost every day for years, and I consider it as essential to my kit as any other piece of climbing gear.

Recording your rock climbing experiences isn’t just about nostalgia. It’s a tool for growth, a way to keep tabs on your technique, and a method to cultivate a deeper appreciation for this multifaceted sport we all love. The act of putting pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard—forces you to reflect on your climbs, your decisions, and even your mistakes, offering a clearer path toward improvement. Plus, the entries become a treasure trove of personal insights and a testament to your climbing evolution.

In the following sections, we’ll delve into what exactly you might want to record in your rock climbing journal to maximize its benefits. Whether you’re just starting to venture beyond the climbing gym or you’re planning your next big wall expedition, a well-maintained rock climbing journal can be your roadmap, your teacher, and sometimes, your harshest critic. Let’s get started.

The Importance of Keeping a Rock Climbing Journal

The act of rock climbing engages not just your muscles but your brain and spirit as well. There’s a lot to process—technical improvements, personal milestones, equipment tweaks, and not to mention, the roller coaster of emotions that can accompany a day at the crag or gym. A rock climbing journal serves as a repository for all these thoughts, memories, and lessons. By tracking your progress and noting down the particulars, you gain a level of self-awareness that can be transformative for your rock climbing experience. This isn’t some abstract concept; it’s a practical tool that acts as a feedback loop, allowing you to refine your skills based on past performances.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably had climbs that felt absolutely phenomenal, where you were in the zone, every move was fluid, and the rock seemed to flow with you. Conversely, there have likely been times when nothing felt right—your footwork was sloppy, your grip felt weak, and even easy routes seemed like monumental tasks. The difference between these days isn’t just luck; there are variables at play. What were the conditions like? Were you mentally prepared? Did you eat right and hydrate? A rock climbing journal helps you capture these factors so you can analyze them later. You’ll start to see patterns emerge—good and bad—that you might not have noticed otherwise.

While jotting down notes after each climb might seem tedious at first, it quickly becomes second nature. Personally, I find this process deeply meditative. The act of writing forces me to slow down, re-experience the climb in my mind, and focus on the details. It’s not just about logging the climbs I’ve completed or beta I’ve used; it’s also a moment to acknowledge my thought process, mental state, and even the emotional highs and lows that come with the territory. When I review my rock climbing journal, it offers me a holistic view of my climbing life, complete with my triumphs, challenges, and everything in between. This nuanced perspective is invaluable in charting a course for future endeavors and fine-tuning my approach to the sport.

What to Record in A Climbing Journal

So, now that we’ve talked about why keeping a rock climbing journal is essential, let’s dive into what exactly you should be jotting down in those blank pages or digital notes. Think of your rock climbing journal as a personalized climbing manual, where every entry serves a specific purpose. It’s an evolving document that can be as simple or as complex as you make it. The key is to record information that will be useful to you, both in the short-term and in the long run.

  • Date and Location: Always start by noting the date and the location of your climb. This gives you a contextual foundation for every entry. Knowing the season and the specific rock climbing area can help you better understand how external factors like weather and crowd levels influenced your performance.
  • Route Names and Grades: Document the routes you climbed, along with their grades. It’s crucial to track your progress, and these hard numbers provide a measurable benchmark. Over time, you’ll notice trends in the types of routes you excel at and those that need more work.
  • Climbing Partners: Don’t forget to note who you climbed with. Rock climbing is often a team effort, and different partners bring out different qualities in your rock climbing. Maybe you’re more daring with a trusted belayer, or perhaps you focus more on technique when you’re with someone more experienced.
  • Weather and Conditions: Conditions can massively affect your rock climbing experience. Was the rock wet? Was it too hot or too cold? Understanding how you perform in various conditions can provide insights for future climbs.
  • Gear Used: This is one of my favorites. Note down what gear you used and how it performed. Was the new quickdraw smooth? Did those shoes offer enough grip? Gear plays a vital role in our climbs, and tracking its performance can help you make better choices down the line.
  • Techniques Employed: Whether you’re working on a particular skill like heel hooking or practicing a new type of knot, write it down. This way, you can review and refine your techniques and take targeted actions for improvement.
  • Physical and Mental State: How did you feel before, during, and after the climb? Were you pumped, scared, or elated? Mental and physical states are intrinsically linked to your rock climbing performance, so keeping tabs on them can offer a comprehensive understanding of your climbs.
  • Challenges and Successes: Were there any cruxes that gave you a hard time? Any surprising moves you pulled off successfully? Celebrate your wins and analyze your challenges. This is how we grow.
  • Personal Reflections: Here’s where you can get a bit philosophical. What did the climb mean to you? Did you learn something new about yourself? Sometimes the climb can be a metaphor for other aspects of life; don’t hesitate to explore that.
  • Future Goals: At the end of your entry, it can be incredibly motivating to jot down your goals for the next climb or long-term objectives. It could be tackling a higher grade, working on your endurance, or mastering a new technique. Having it in writing makes it real and gives you something concrete to strive for.
  • Training Log: Keep track of your training plan and all your training sessions and climbing sessions, that way you can see what works (or doesn’t) over time. Include any cross training you do, and then you’ll be able to see if it helps in the long run.

Each of these elements contributes to a fuller, richer understanding of your rock climbing experience, creating a roadmap for both skill development and personal growth. Whether you’re an old pro or new to the sport, there’s immense value in putting your rock climbing journey down on paper. Take it from someone who’s been at it for years—this simple habit can make a world of difference.

Tips for an Effective Rock Climbing Journal

Starting and maintaining a rock climbing journal is one thing, but doing it effectively is another. An effective rock climbing journal is more than a mere log; it’s an evolving tool for self-improvement and a source of inspiration. Here are some tips that have personally helped me in making the most out of my rock climbing journal experience.

  • Be Consistent: The key to an insightful rock climbing journal is regularity. Make it a habit to jot down your thoughts and observations immediately after your climbing session. The fresher the experience, the more details you’ll remember, and the richer your rock climbing journal will be.
  • Use a Dedicated Space: Whether it’s a specific notebook or a digital app, keep your rock climbing journal separate from other notes and diaries. This will help you organize your thoughts better and make it easier to review and analyze your entries later. Use a second journal for more of a traditional journaling experience, that way you can keep rock climbing separate from your personal day-to-day thoughts.
  • Be Honest: It can be tempting to only write about your successes, but remember, a rock climbing journal is also a tool for growth. Don’t shy away from noting down your challenges, fears, and even failures. An honest account will offer a more well-rounded perspective on your rock climbing journey.
  • Include Visuals: A picture is worth a thousand words. Consider adding photos of the routes, sketches of specific holds or moves, or even diagrams of your gear setup. Visuals can capture what words sometimes can’t and serve as great memory triggers.
  • Review Regularly: What good is a rock climbing journal if you never look back at it? Regular reviews can offer insights into your progress and patterns you may have missed. Use these sessions to also update your future goals.
  • Be Detailed but Concise: While it’s important to capture as much information as possible, try to keep your entries focused. You don’t need to write an essay on every climb, but do include enough details that will be helpful when you look back on it.
  • Engage Your Senses: Rock climbing is a sensory experience. The texture of the rock, the feel of the wind, the sounds of nature around you—don’t forget to include these in your rock climbing journal. They can enrich your entries and offer a fuller account of your climbing experience.
  • Share and Discuss: If you’re comfortable, consider sharing some of your entries with your rock climbing partners or mentors. They can offer additional perspectives that you might not have considered, and it can lead to a valuable exchange of ideas and techniques.
  • Set Aside Time for Reflection: In addition to immediate post-climb entries, periodically set aside time to reflect on longer-term goals, broader patterns, and deeper insights. These meta-entries can offer a higher-level perspective on your rock climbing journey.
  • Have Fun With It: Ultimately, keeping a rock climbing journal should be an enjoyable process. Use stickers, doodles, or different colored pens to highlight specific moods or achievements. The more you enjoy the process, the more likely you are to stick with it.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to a rock climbing journal. It’s a deeply personal practice and you should feel free to adapt these tips to better suit your style and needs. Over time, you’ll find that this simple habit can become one of your most valued rock climbing companions.

Rock Climbing Journal Recommendations

There aren’t many specific rock climbing journals on the market but here’s my favorite ideas for you:

  • Field Notes: This pocket-sized option is perfect for most climbers who like to keep their rock climbing journal on hand while out and about. Its tearproof and water-resistant paper makes it durable enough to withstand outdoor adventures.
  • Moleskine Notebook: This is a classic choice, offering durable construction and quality paper. Its minimalist design encourages you to create your own structure, perfect for those who like a clean, straightforward space to jot down notes and sketches.
  • Bullet Journal: This option is great for those who love the bullet journaling approach. The dotted grid format gives you the freedom to write, draw, list, or create charts and diagrams, making it highly versatile. With a built-in index and numbered pages, it also offers great organization.
  • MyClimb App: Specifically designed for climbers, this app allows you to log your climbs and add notes for each climbing session. While not as flexible as a free-form rock climbing journal, it’s a convenient way to keep track of your rock climbing stats on the go.
  • Passion Planner: While not a climbing-specific journal, the Passion Planner offers ample space for goal-setting and reflection, alongside weekly and monthly calendars. It’s an excellent choice if you want to integrate your rock climbing goals with other aspects of your life.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it—a deep dive into the enriching world of a rock climbing journal. From tracking your progress on paper to scrutinizing the minutiae of your rock climbing experience, keeping a rock climbing journal serves as a mirror that reflects both your strengths and areas for improvement. As someone who’s been doing this for years, I can’t emphasize enough how valuable this practice has been in my own rock climbing journey. Not only has it helped me identify patterns, fine-tune techniques, and set achievable goals, but it has also been a constant source of inspiration and motivation.

When you commit to keeping a rock climbing journal, you’re not just filling pages with words and sketches; you’re creating a personalized rock climbing manual that evolves with you. Over time, you’ll look back on your entries and marvel at how far you’ve come, and you’ll have a detailed roadmap guiding you toward where you want to go next. So grab a notebook or fire up that note-taking app and start your rock climbing journal adventure. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a small investment of time and effort, but the dividends it pays in personal growth and rock climbing prowess are invaluable.

Whether you’re bouldering in the gym or ascending a big wall, remember that every climb has a story to tell. Make sure you tell it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I record in my climbing journal?

In your climbing journal, you should record details of your climbs, including the route, difficulty level, and any specific moves or techniques you tried. You can also include information about your goals, progress, and any training or fitness exercises you did before or after the climb.

How often should I write in my rock climbing journal?

You should ideally write in your rock climbing journal after each climbing session. This will help you track your progress and identify patterns in your performance over time. However, if you are unable to record every day, aim for at least once a week to ensure you have enough information to evaluate your training regimen.

Why is keeping a rock climbing journal necessary?

A rock climbing journal is the most useful tool for tracking your progress, evaluating your training methods, and setting meaningful goals. It allows you to identify patterns in your performance, compare results, and make adjustments to your training regimen. It also helps you stay mentally focused and motivated to achieve your climbing objectives.

How can a rock climbing journal help me improve as a climber?

A rock climbing journal allows you to track your progress and see how you’ve improved over time. By keeping personal records of your climbs, you can identify areas where you need to focus your training, set goals, and develop a plan to become stronger and tackle harder routes. It also works best when combined with regular practice and guidance from a trainer or experienced climber.

Why Trust Know Nothing Nomads?

Since 2017, Know Nothing Nomads has cemented itself as the “approachable experts” in everything camping, hiking, climbing, and adventuring in the Great Outdoors.

With over 60 years of experience in the outdoors, we don’t just talk about outdoor gear or recommend a good hiking trail.

We USE the gear we talk about. We’ve hiked 1000’s of miles. We have camped 1000’s of nights in the wilderness. We have sent hundreds of boulders and projects.

We don’t just know a few things about the outdoors — WE EAT, SLEEP, AND BREATHE IT.

We are not journalists from a magazine telling someone else’s stories from behind a computer. We are the ACTUAL outdoorsmen that those people write about. 

We are not a “gear lab” that runs tests on gear in life-like conditions. We are the seasoned, “trial-by-fire” experts who have taken the gear into the wilderness and USED IT. Read about our gear testing process here

We started Know Nothing Nomads to share our passion and expertise with our readers to inspire, educate, and enable you to explore the outdoors in the way that we have. And you will be more equipped and capable than ever before with the knowledge you gain here guiding you along the way.

And the best part? We are real people that LOVE our readers and this community. If you need anything or have a question about any of the things we have to write about, just reach out. Normally, one of us can respond within 24 hours, sometimes within minutes. THAT is the approachable expert.

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About The Author

Derek, Co-Founder at Know Nothing Nomads

My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers.

Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me.

When I'm not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.

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