Life’s too short not to have fun! Getting caught up in the grind of daily life is easy, and even easier to find yourself in a workout rut. As a climber, you may find yourself doing the same workouts repeatedly. Maybe you’ve come to dread a session because the boulder set has been up too long, and you’ve either sent everything or are becoming increasingly frustrated by your project(s).

At its core, rock climbing is supposed to be fun. You come to love the sport and movement because it differs from other sports, marries mental creativity with physical strength, and brings out your inner child. So, let’s make rock climbing fun again. The next time you head to the gym, grab a friend and play one of the rock climbing games listed below because kids are not the only ones who can enjoy games! Don’t underestimate these games, either. Each will provide an equally rewarding workout, boosting your physical and mental strength, as well as smiles and laughs.

5 Rock Climbing Games that Aren’t Just for Kids.

two rock climbers in an indoor rock climbing gym
  • Add-on

The classic group climbing game. Pick a starting hold and have the first person make one move. The next climber must replicate that move with the specific left/right hand. If successful, they can add a new move with the other hand. Continue taking turns until only one person remains.

Rules for getting out:

On your turn, if you fall before completing the sequence of moves, you’re out. If you fall while adding a new move, you’re still in, but your new move does not get added. You have a certain number of falls or “lives,” which is determined by the word your group chooses, like in the basketball game Horse. For example, if the out-word is A-D-D, you have three chances before being completely sidelined in the game.

  • Elimination Game

Try the elimination game if you’ve sent all the climbs at your level in the gym or aren’t in the mood to try the existing boulders. Grab a partner and find a problem you’ve both completed. Choose someone to go first. They get to eliminate a hand or foot-hold on the climb. Each person participating in the game will try to climb the boulder without using the off-limits hold. Then, have the next person take off another hold. Those who completed the more accessible versions keep moving on and trying versions with more holds eliminated. The game ends when you have removed enough holds that sending is no longer possible.

Tip: If you enjoy the climb’s final elimination version, take a picture of it and circle which hands/feet are on. Return to this version of the climb during another climbing session when looking for a fun but challenging boulder.

  • Makeups

Unlike the elimination game, where you create a more difficult boulder problem from an existing climb, a makeup is when you work with a group or yourself to create a new boulder. You can combine foot holds from one climb with the hands of another or choose foot jibs on one climb as the handholds on your makeup.

  • Red Light, Green Light

This game is for all climbers who can’t quite let go of the training grind.

Grab a partner and pick a boulder at 70-80% of your max effort – it’s okay if you and your partner choose different boulders. Take turns climbing, with the person not actively climbing dictating the speed at which the other ascends the boulder. You can issue three commands as you watch your partner climb – green, yellow, and red. Like the children’s game, green means go, yellow means slow, and red means stop. The person actively climbing will try their best to execute the commands as follows:

  • Green Light – Climb normally
  • Yellow Light – Climb slowly (it should look exaggerated)
  • Red Light – Stop/hold on where you’re at.

You can add points to this game. If you send, you get a point; if you fall, you don’t. Repeat this game for multiple boulders. Whoever has more points at the end of your session wins.

  • Route Reading Competition

This game is excellent on ropes if you want to switch it up. With a partner, pick a lead or top-rope route. Have them set a timer for 30 seconds or 1 minute, during which you get to look at the climb and try to route, read, and memorize as much of it as you can. When the time is up, turn and face away from the wall. Repeat to your partner as much of the hand/foot sequence and hold as you remember. Your partner will track what you get correct and what you miss (they’re facing the climb). Keep track of how many holds you missed, and try the climb. Switch to a new route for your partner and have them do the same thing while you keep track of time and check which holds they don’t remember. Whoever has the lower score is the winner! For an added challenge, add a 10-pushup or burpee penalty if you lose.

If this article has done one thing, hopefully, it has inspired you to enjoy climbing together. Link up with friends and turn training into one big game. You’re always young enough to have fun, and sometimes turning rock climbing into a game can help you try harder without realizing it. So, the next time you get the chance, start a game of add-on, challenge your partner to a route reading competition, or turn an old boulder into a new climb by taking off some of the holds. If you do, share your experiences and let us know how it goes in the comments below. We’re all part of this climbing community, and your stories inspire us all.