Setting SMART climbing goals will help you reach new heights!

As we reflect on the past year and our accomplishments, we start to set goals for the future. Many of us do this in January as we hang up a new calendar on our walls, but with rock climbing season starting as early as March in Colorado, we start seeing many people wanting to climb who are working on different challenges and goals.

It’s possible you’ve heard the phrase “set SMART goals” when trying to accomplish a new fitness challenge. While usually associated with weight loss goals, SMART goal setting can help you in any facet of life from fitness to reading and even home organization.

When it comes to your climbing goals, here are a few tips for success in reaching whatever “heights” you set your sights on. As you set goals, it’s important to make them S.M.A.R.T. Each goal should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and have a Timeline.

-Keep your goals SPECIFIC. A broad goal like, “become a better climber,” is easy to write off and leaves you unmotivated. Instead, try, “climb a 5.10 route without taking” or “climb the Yellow Spur un-aided.” These are clear and specific goals that have a very distinct end.

-Goals should be MEASURABLE. You should be able to track progress with some form of measurement. For our example goal of climbing a 5.10 route without taking, you can measure your progress as you go from climbing a 5.8 route easily, to a 5.9 and then to the 5.10. These benchmarks give you motivation as well along the way

Goals should also be ATTAINABLE. Be realistic. It’s good to shoot for the stars, but not too extreme. If your goal is unrealistic, you may feel discouraged and not make any progress. If your current climbing ability is hovering in the 5.8 range, it might be unrealistic to shoot for that 5.12 by the end of summer. Instead, start with a goal of trying to reach 5.10’s, and then bump the grade up every year.

Your new goals should be RELEVANT to you. Why is your goal important to you? Are you setting this goal for yourself or someone else? This may sound like a no-brainer but setting goals that are not relevant to you can be a recipe for disaster. For example, I personally don’t like climbing hard routes for the sake of climbing hard routes. I am more attracted to the journey of reaching the top of a summit even if that route is only 5.7. I don’t set grade-related goals because that’s not important to me. However, if there’s a summit that I want to reach, I look at the routes leading up to it and set a goal related to that specific climb.

-And lastly, goals should have a TIMELINE; a finish line so to speak. This gives you the motivation to start and to keep pushing to the end. An open-ended goal is not motivating and can leave you to slack off and not put in the time to reach it.

Goal setting can be daunting, especially for something like climbing where route grades and ability are all subjective. But if you take the time to think out a SMART goal, you’ll be able to become the climber you’d like to be in no time.


Not sure where to start? Have a goal in mind but unsure how to reach it? Shoot us an email at and we’ll help you out with some advice!

You can also check out our Rock Climbing Courses and Clinics or book a private half or full day of rock climbing with our AMGA certified guides. All private trips are customizable to what YOU want to get out of the day and your goals. So if you want to work on some skills or learn techniques to reach your goals, then that’s what we’ll do!


Written by Whitney Vestal, part-owner and marketing coordinator for Golden Mountain Guides. Whitney used to be a certified personal trainer and currently coaches high school cross country and Track & Field.

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