• route preview;
  • route finding;
  • perceptual-cognitive;
  • expertise;
  • climbing performance parameter

Pre-ascent climbing route visual inspection (route preview) has been suggested as a key climbing performance parameter although its role has never been verified experimentally. We examined the efficacy of this perceptual-cognitive skill on indoor sport climbing performance. Twenty-nine male climbers, divided into intermediate, advanced and expert climbing level groups, climbed two indoor sport routes matching their climbing level and, where applicable, routes below their climbing level. At each level, one route was climbed with a preview, where participants benefited from a 3-min pre-ascent climbing route visual inspection. Performance was assessed in terms of output (route completion) and form (number and duration of moves and stops). Route preview did not influence the output performance. Climbers using visual inspection were no more likely to finish the ascent than those without the option of using visual inspection. Conversely, route preview did influence form performance; climbers made fewer, and shorter stops during their ascent following a preview of the route. Form performances differences remained when baseline ability levels were taken into account, although for shorter duration of stops only with expert climbers benefiting most from route preview. The ability to visually inspect a climb before its ascent may represent an essential component of performance optimization.