As a beginner boulderer, the more advanced problems might seem completely out of reach. Even intermediate boulderers can sometimes experience a plateau, where it seems like no matter how much you train and climb, you can’t advance to the next grade. Being able to climb V10 boulder problems is an ambitious goal, but it is achievable with enough training, dedication, and patience.
So, how do you climb a V10? To climb a V10 boulder problem, you’ll need to climb regularly and follow a dedicated training regimen that targets your strength, stamina, technique, and mental fortitude.
In this article, we’ll cover what the V10 rating means, the differences between bouldering in a gym versus outdoors, and how to train to climb V10s.
What Does V10 Mean in Climbing?
In North and South America as well as some other regions around the world, the V scale is used to indicate the difficulty of bouldering problems. It’s an open-ended scale that starts at V0 and currently goes up to V17, although the highest grade is increased whenever someone finds and climbs a problem that doesn’t fit into the current scale.
Very few people in the world can climb that hard though, so most bouldering gyms will have problems that range from V0 to about V10. Outdoors, you may also find problems that are rated VB (basic or beginner, easier than V0), V-Fun (similar in difficulty to VB), or V-Weird (you might need to use techniques outside normal bouldering moves).
In Europe, a different scale is used—the Fontainebleau or Font scale. This scale starts with 1 as the easiest, although there are rarely any boulders rated lower than 3. Once the scale reaches 6, the letters A-C are used as suffixes to further break down how difficult the problem is, with A being the easiest and C being the most difficult. Plus and minus symbols can also be added to indicate even more slight variations.
Is V10 Climbing Hard?
In a word, yes. Here’s a general breakdown of the difficulty of boulder problems and the conversions from V to Font scale:
- Beginner: VB/V0-V2 (4-5+)
- Intermediate: V3-V5 (6A-6C+)
- Advanced: V6-V8 (7A-7B)
- Expert: V9-V12 (7B+-8A+)
- Elite: V13 and up (8B and up)
Bouldering in a Gym vs. Outdoors
It’s important to note here that bouldering in a gym and bouldering outdoors are quite different. In a gym, you have brightly colored holds telling you exactly where to go next, a 3-foot-thick mat on the ground to protect you from falls, climate control, easy downclimbing holds, and you don’t have to hike in to actually reach the boulder.
Outdoors, you have to drive and hike to find a problem that you want to work on, carry crash pads out to the boulder, look and feel around to find holds, contend with weather/dust/critters, and hope that you’ll be able to downclimb or walk off the back of a boulder safely. If you fall, you’d better hope that you have placed enough crash pads in the right spots to prevent major injuries.
Finally, ratings are often much softer in gyms than they are outdoors. In a gym, the routesetter will typically create a problem and then climb it a few times and give it a rating based solely on their opinion. Outdoors, the ratings are subject to input from essentially everyone who climbs them.
Almost universally, you will find that gym problems of a certain grade are remarkably easier than outdoor problems of the same grade. So, if you can climb a V10 in the gym, you might realistically be able to climb only a V7 or V8 outdoors. Of course, this varies a bit based on how stout the problems are in your gym and where you choose to boulder outside.
Can I Climb a V10?
If you’ve never bouldered before, you will almost certainly not be able to climb a V10 in the gym and you definitely won’t be able to climb one outdoors. In fact, you likely won’t even get off the ground. But, if you’ve been climbing for a while and have been building your strength, stamina, and technique, you can absolutely work towards climbing a V10. It takes dedication and patience, but with enough time, essentially anyone could eventually be able to climb V10.
How Long Does it Take to Climb V10?
This depends on your bouldering experience, your fitness level, and your dedication to training. If you have never touched a boulder, it will probably be several years before you can safely attempt a V10. If you are already an intermediate climber, it might take only a couple of years of dedicated training to reach the V10 level.
How to Train to Climb V10?
If you are training with the goal of climbing a V10, you’ll need to focus on strength, stamina, technique, and mental fortitude. Your entire body will need to be exceptionally strong, but especially your core and grip strength. V10s are often super sustained, so you’ll need the stamina to make many very difficult moves one after another. Your technique needs to be so refined that you don’t waste an ounce of energy by making unnecessary movements.
And finally, you’ll need to develop some serious mental toughness. Especially for outdoor bouldering, the stakes are high and you need to be confident that you can do the entire problem. There are no handy downclimbing holds if you get tired or scared, so if you panic mid-route, you either have to take a big fall or keep climbing. Compartmentalizing your fear and accurately assessing your skills and risk tolerance is a big part of being a successful outdoor boulderer.