Category Archives: Technical

Technical parts of climbing performance

Gear Placements – Hexes and Tri Cams

The judgement we need to select a placements for Hexes and Tri cams is very similar to selecting a nut placement. First off is the rock secure than then you need to look at how well the device sits in the shape of crack.

How they are placed is slightly different, as both Hexes and Tri-cams can be placed as passive nuts, however they are designed to cam into placement and become more secure the greater the load placed on them. It is also important to seat them in the placement by applying a shock load by jerking down on the tape.

How Hexes are places in cracks. Note how they torque into the cracks.
How Hexes are places in cracks. Note how they torque into the cracks.
Good tricam placements rely on the device to pivot or cam into the crack. They are particular good in quarried shot-holes.
Good tricam placements rely on the device to pivot or cam into the crack. They are particular good in quarried shot-holes.
Learn-to-rock-climb
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Gear Placements – Nuts, Rocks and Wires

Nuts, Rocks and Wires stem from the original running belay placement for cracks were simply small pebbles, rocks or stones placed by climber as chockstones and threaded with a sling; over time climbers started to drill out machine nuts and use them instead. In modern days various companies make a variety of different shaped and sized wedges. They work by being placed in natural constrictions in cracks, wedging themselves in. The constriction stops the nut from being pulled through. When placing a nut you need to consider several things:

Quality of the rock

Avoid using loose or hollow sounding rock, along with superficial flakes. Check the rock by tapping it with a karabiner, a hollow sound will indicate poorer quality. If it is a flake try moving it by giving it a good shake, or hitting the flake with the palm of one hand whilst feeling for vibrations with the other. However you check the rock remember that you are at the top of a cliff and possible unroped, there is the possibility of people being below, so take care not to send anything over the edge of the cliff, especially yourself.

Checking the quality of rock for a gear placement. Left: Hitting it with the palm of the hand and feeling for vibrations. Middle: Trying to move the flake in different directions. Right: Tapping the flake with a karabiner and listening to see if it sounds hollow.
Checking the quality of rock for a gear placement. Left: Hitting it with the palm of the hand and feeling for vibrations. Middle: Trying to move the flake in different directions. Right: Tapping the flake with a karabiner and listening to see if it sounds hollow.

Natural constriction

To select a good nut placement, you rst need to identify cracks in line with the route you are climbing. You then need to nd a natural constriction in that crack where a nut can be wedged in, and won’t pull through. There may be signs of smoothing/wear and tear on popular climbs, often but not always an indication of a good placement.

Contact area

When the nut is securely wedged in the crack the greater the surface area of the nut in contact with the rock the better the placement.Try or simple turning the wire round or a different sized wire.

When placing Nuts, Wires and rock in a tapering wedge. You also need to look to check there there is a large surface area of metal against each side. Left: Is good with lots of surface area whilst on the right the contact area is less so it may work itself loose easier.
When placing Nuts, Wires and rock in a tapering wedge. You also need to look to check there there is a large surface area of metal against each side. Left: Is good with lots of surface area whilst on the right the contact area is less so it may work itself loose easier.

Overlap

When the nut is securely in place there need to be a reasonable overlap between the width of the crack and the width of the nut. The reason for this is that if there is an extreme load on the placement it may simply pull the nut through the placement.

When place a wire look for good overlap, so that the widest part of the wire is bigger than the thinnest part of the crack. The left golden wire has better overlap than the green one on the right.
When place a wire look for good overlap, so that the widest part of the wire is bigger than the thinnest part of the crack. The left golden wire has better overlap than the green one on the right.

Seating

Does the gear stay put when left alone? First you must seat the nut securely. Use the other wires on you rack of wires as a grip and creating a shock load by jerking in the direction of pull on the wire. The nut will probably move slightly in the placement and hopefully drop into a snug fit. Then, if you lightly wiggle the wire you will see if it unseats itself from the placement, a well-seated nut will stay secure. Try not to over-do this, as you may end up with yout gear stuck in the crack, impossible to remove.

Get into the habit of jerking the wires into place to seat your wires as if the wire pulls through when you jerk it, only your arm moves. If you pull with your bodyweight to seat a wire and the placement fails, you will fall away from the rock with it!

Seating a nut by jerking the rack of wires down. Do this as many times as it take to get the wire to stop moving in the placement. Test this seating by wiggling lightly on the wires once it seems placed.
Seating a nut by jerking the rack of wires down. Do this as many times as it take to get the wire to stop moving in the placement. Test this seating by wiggling lightly on the wires once it seems placed.

UKROckTour

Intro To Trad Climbing Course

Our intro to trad climbing course are a great way to get to know loads about basic trad belays and placing gear. You’ll also get a load of chance to place gear and make belays yourself under the watchful eye of our coaches, before you belay off them.

We will also teach you all you need to know to leave the course ready to trad lead climb on your own.

eMail us to find out more.

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Camming Devices

Camming devices are one of the more technical pieces of climbing equipment. They are so effective that very quickly after they were invented they revolutionise rock climbing. Originally design by an aerospace engineer Ray Jardine, who was also a keen climbers.

When he was testing his prototype he used to say he was going climbing with my ‘friends’. He licensed the design the wild country and the name ‘friends’ was kept and still is. The name friends is as synonymous as camping devices or cams as name for this devices.

Good and bad placements of camping devices. Over cammed, just right and under cammed.
Good and bad placements of camping devices. Over cammed, just right and under cammed.

Essentially there are several cams that are spring loaded and when placed in a crack they expand. As the device is loaded the cams push out on the crack with a great force than is trying to pull it out so it stays in place.

As such camming devices are active and can put a large forces pressing the crack apart. This means that if the crack is part of a superficial flake it can prize it off in the event of a fall. As such the cams need to be placed with consideration. However as they can be placed quickly in a variety of width cracks and even hold in parallel sided cracks means they are extremely popular.

Learn-to-rock-climb

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Hexes

Hexes were an extension of the machine nuts that climbing started using for protection. They eventually became ‘hex centric’ in that each side was of a different length. The reason behind this was that someone trying to make their own at home wasn’t very accurate as cutting and made it by accident as realised that the eccentric shape work even better.

How Hexes are places in cracks. Note how they torque into the cracks.
How Hexes are places in cracks. Note how they torque into the cracks.

Hexes are a semi-passive piece of equipment, as although they are just placed into a crack. When they are put under load however they torque into the crack. Also actively forcing themselves into a better placement. Often in order to retrieve them from a placement the climber will have to turn them in the opposite direction and you will hear and feel an audible click and the hex will become loose.

Learn-to-rock-climb

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Rock Shoes

There is a profusion of rock shoes to choose from. At first you are better off going for comfort, rather than performance, although a reasonably tight pair will pay dividends with your footwork. Generally one model of boots will fit better than the others, so don’t go on any recommendations, try on lots of different makes and models until you find the right shoe for you.

This is a cardinal sin in climbing having dirty rock shoes. Not only do you make the route dirty for the next climber, that high performance rubber you paid so much for won't work when covered in mud.
This is a cardinal sin in climbing having dirty rock shoes. Not only do you make the route dirty for the next climber, that high performance rubber you paid so much for won’t work when covered in mud.

Some boots are designed specifically for different types of climbing. A stiff midsole makes for good performance if you are going to climb on edges like slate or volcanic mountain rock. A soft midsole makes for a boot that is suited for smearing on rock like gritstone, sandstone or some type of granite. Many modern boots have a drop toe configuration these are great for steep or pocketed like limestone or bouldering. To start off with you are better getting an all round boot rather than a specialist boot.

A nice tight pair of edging boots
A nice tight pair of edging boots

Fitting a Rock Shoes

If it is your first pair of rock shoes then spending more than 15 minutes trying on different shoes. As a rule of thumb your big toe should be up against the front of the shoe. Not necessary bent right over but a degree of bending in the toe joint will mean the the toe is more claw like and active when standing on holds.

How tight you by them will depend on how much you climb, what you are trying to climb and how long you have been climbing. As it takes a degree of getting used to the tightness required in a rock shoe. Certainly gone are the days when you should be buying a pair one or two sizes too small.

Once you have found the one you think fits you, then walk round the shop in them for 10 minutes to ensure you can wear them for a short while.

Notes for young climber – having overly tight rock shoes has lead to permanent foot deformity in later life. Children need to be at least 16 before they start cramming there feet into overly tight shoes.

Learn-to-rock-climb

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Roof’s

Moving around roofs can be strenuous on the arms, the trick is to move past the obstacle as quickly as possible, to a rest above.

Place gear as close up under the roof as possible, and even above the lip of the roof if you can reach. Going up and down a few times may give you a clear picture of where hand and footholds lie. Having placed gear or taken a peek over the lip descend to a rest below the roof to prepare yourself. When you decide to go, do so with determination and don’t stop until you’re above the roof where it will be far less strenuous to stop and place gear.

Moving through a roof
Moving through a roof

Roof exercises

Below the roof nd a good and look at the moves above. When you have an idea of how to proceed, move up until you are faced with the need to step your feet over the roof.

With strength you will be able to step your foot over the lip of the roof, but to start with and on harder routes you will nd it easier to place your knee over the roof to rock-over and step up with your other foot. Don’t stop until you are stood above the roof.

Roof tips

  • Try and remember that standing sideways on before and after the roof to save energy and helps us develop the least strenuous position or even a hands off rest.
  • Move as swiftly as possible through the roof.
  • Rest after you have stepped over the roof.

Overhanging Walls

By there very nature an overhanging wall is going to be strenuous. At lower grades the chances are that any steep rock will be reasonably short lived and you will be able to rest at either the top or bottom of the section.

Just like a roof find a good rest below a steep section and place gear as high as possible. Whilst stood below try and work out the sequence of moves for your hands and feet. You may be able to mark footholds with a dab of chalk to help you spot them when you are committed to the hard climbing.

After assessing the moves you face a decision. If the section is short, commit to climbing quickly and confidently through it. If on the other hand you are unsure then you can climb up a few moves and place some higher gear before reversing back to the rest. By repeatedly going up and down you can place progressively higher runners and also start to work out the complete sequence to overcome the obstacle.

Contemplating commting to the overhang having built a bomb shelter and worked out the moves.
Contemplating commting to the overhang having built a bomb shelter and worked out the moves.

If you choose to yo-yo up and down like this, keep in mind whether the moves you are making are reversible and just how long can you hang on in that position before you fail? You’ll need to balance working out the sequence versus the need to blast on through the crux before you become too pumped.

At times climbers choose to construct a ‘bomb shelter’ or a cluster of runners just before the crux or steep section in order to build confidence.

Overhang Tips

  • Arms straight and driving from the feet, minimise the strain on your arms.
  • From a good rest below a steep section, work out your probable sequence of moves and where possible, mark any useful footholds as far as you can reach with chalk. Then give it a go. If you find extra holds that would make the sequence easier, reverse back down to the rest and try again. Repeat this until you are ready to move through the whole section. Then take a few deep breaths and tackle the section with determination.
  • To keep your arms straight, imagine there is an iron bar down them, or get some large cardboard tubes that will keep them straight!
  • The principles of climbing sideways and using opposite limbs are key.
  • By getting your feet high and keeping your arms straight you can drive yourself upwards with your legs.
  • Moving swiftly through a steep section of rock is going to use far less energy than hanging around on every hold.
  • Sometimes it is possible to reduce the angle at which you are climbing by nding grooves and corners to bridge out on.
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Laybacking and Arete’s

Cracks, corners or arêtes, many can be con- quered by a series of layback moves. Get it right and you can move quickly and ef ciently, get it wrong and you’ll have a strenuous off-balance nightmare. The basic principle is the rule of opposites, trying to use left hand against right foot and vice versa.

Lay backing exercises

Step onto a vertical wall with your left hand and left foot directly in line with one another and lean right, laying away from the holds. Now push off the wall with your right hand. What happens?

Layback and barn dooring off!
Layback and barn dooring off!

Step back on to the same holds using the rule of opposites. Face in the direction of the hand (so if using right hand and left foot face right) and lean away from your hand. Push yourself away from the wall with your left hand. What happens this time? Is it more or less stable than the using limbs from the same side of the body?

Get back onto the wall, using the rule of opposites. With your foot ‘accelerate’ and ‘decelerate’ like you would in a car. Is there a point you can ‘decelerate’ to where you start to feel the ‘barn door effect’? Try to hold this position. Then ‘accelerate’ as hard as you can. Which felt easier to maintain balance?

Try the exercise again. This time the ‘accelerator’ is a button under your big toe. See whether you can get the same effect just by pressing the button lightly.

Find a corner, arête or flake and link some laybacking movements together, concentrating on keeping your arms straight. Then add the rule of opposites, does this help you stay in balance?

Lay backing a delicate groove in fontainebleau
Lay backing a delicate groove in fontainebleau

Then ascend without crossing your hands over. Always lead with the same hand, keeping the outside shoulder lower than the inside one.

Try again, this time crossing hand over hand, as you layback up the feature. Is this easier or harder than leading with the same hand? Which feels more in balance? As you acquire skill and shoulder strength, it will become easier to cross hand over hand.

Think about your feet. Layback up a feature three times, on the rst go keep your feet really low, the second go bring them really high, and the third go somewhere in between. Which feels easier?

To layback ef ciently the trick is to know when to transfer the weight from one set of limbs to the next.

Laybacking tips

  • Concentrate on keeping your arms straight, pivoting around the hands and shoulders, using your feet to drive you up.
  • Between movements try and develop opposite limbs taking the strain.
  • If it is a short section of laybacking try and climb it as quickly as possible to a rest.

Aretes

Many arêtes will succumb to a series of laybacks. To climb them well requires kinaesthetic aware- ness of the various positions of rest open to you. The change of angle around an arête can be ad- vantageous, if our feet are on one side laying away from the arête even a small hand hold on the other side can become a jug.

Arête exercises

Layback up an arête, using the rule of opposites. You may need to move from one side of the arête to the other as hand and footholds dictate. Try moving around the arête from one side to the other.

Recall the hands-off rests video. Climb an arête and with as many hands-off rests as possible.

Lay backing up an arete can be delicate and strenuous all at the same time.
Lay backing up an arete can be delicate and strenuous all at the same time.

Arête tips

  • Find as many rests as you can.
  • Pivot around your hands by driving from the feet.
  • Practise moving around arêtes from left to right.
  • Most of time you will climb facing towards the arête.
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Corners and Chimneys

Bridgeable features often provide ways to rest the pulling muscles in our arms and make upward progress.

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Climbing using only the flat wall for hands and any hold for feet. A good exercise to work on bridging
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Climbing a corner trying to only push down on holds. Thos will help you realise that you don’t have to pull all the time. When climbing this might allow your forearms to recover.

 

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Pushing off a hold and walking your feet up the opposite wall and then getting back into a bridge/rest position. This might help if there is a long wy to the next hand hold.

Another trick for ascending corners and grooves is ‘back and footing’, see Chimney Rest.

Climb a corner with as many hands off rest as possible, by bridging and back and footing.

Climb aagin but your hands can only grip as if you were holding a cup of tea.

Corner tips

  • Use your hand to pivot around your feet and feet to pivot around hands.
  • Palming off the wall uses different muscles to pulling down on holds.
  • Rest whenever you can, both bridging and ‘back and footing’.
  • Sometimes corners and grooves are like pantomimes, the holds are “behind you!”

Chimney’s

Climbing chimneys ef ciently is often dif cult, as much of the time actually moving up requires an energy sapping ‘thrutching’ that tires the whole body. The only respite you get is when resting in between the struggling up. The best psychological approach for many chimneys is one of rugged determina- tion and that given a good ght you will succeed.

Chimneys cover a vast range of width of cracks; essentially anywhere you can t a body, it is possible to chimney. Generally the way we move is by locking or wedging one part of our body which then allows us to move another part. By continuously repeating this wedge-move-wedge-move it is possible to edge our way upwards.

Chinmey exercise

Find a chimney, doorway or corner and place your back against one wall and feet against the other and try and sit down in a wedged position.

Push off one foot and your back and move the other foot up and then wedge yourself of the higher foot and your back.

Using your hands against the wall you back is on, thrutch your back upwards and attain another sitting position. By repeating this movement it is possible to edge your way upwards.

Back and fitting up a chimney
Back and fitting up a chimney
The tight confines of a narrow off-width chimney
The tight confines of a narrow off-width chimney

Chimney tips

  • Although it is possible to climb a totally smooth chimney, placing your feet on footholds or edges makes the whole process a lot easier.
  • You will have a fight on your hands.
  • You can often rest by simply sitting down, it is the thrutching upwards that is exhausting.
  • Decide which way round you are going to face before you start. Try the first move facing one way and then reverse down and try it the other, decide which is easier before committing yourself. It will often be impossible to turn around half-way up.
  • Thin chimneys are even harder to climb, unforgiving on the body, totally claustrophobic and requiring a lot of energy to move up. Improvisation is the answer, but the principle is the same, wedge-shuffle-shuffle-wedge.
  • It will often be impossible to see your feet, or arms for that matter; so take note of prominent foot holds as they pass you face and struggle relentlessly until you can feel your feet on them (perhaps your only chance of a rest).

 

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Drill Boards: Drop Knee and Flagging

 

The use of these drills boards has help many climbers start to develop a better understanding of climbing on steep rock. Although you can develop one for the rock over it is the tricky techniques of the drop knee, inner flag and outer flag that this drill boards really helps.

For most climbers the first time they use a drill board they struggle with the pattern of movement. In that they can often get the beginning or the end position but it is the transition from one to the other that become the problem.

It is this ability for a climber to repeat many different combinations and permutations of the movements need in order to get the underlying fundamental principles dialled in.

As such whilst know what a drop knee, inner and outer flag are is great this exercise really helps you get to grips with the body positions needs to make the transitions smooth and effective.

HOW TO CLIMB HARDER Courses

Private Coaching Course

Our sister site snowdonia mountain guides runs private coaching courses that are specifically aimed at getting you to a higher level in all aspects of climbing. We can focus on indoor or outdoor technique and training. Covering skills like in the drill boards above.

Alternatively maybe consider a How To Climb Harder Course.

eMail us to find out more.

 

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Corkscrew Rock Over / Rule of Opposites

Although similar to the rock-over as it essentially involves the transfer of weight from one foot to the other. Its difference comes from pivoting during the movement phase so that you arrive at the next point of balance on your outside edge, which as we have learnt from earlier exercises is more efficient. This keeps your hips and centre of gravity as close to the rock as possible, reducing the leverage onto you hands as you lean back.

A break down of the corkscrew rock-ver with the twist towards the end of the movement.
A break down of the corkscrew rock-ver with the twist towards the end of the movement.

Stand on the oor and raise your foot onto a hold using the inside edge of your boot. Use handholds for balance and rock-over. As you reach the point of balance pivot around on your foot to end up on the outside edge of your boot to nish.

Then try the pivot during the rock-over rather than at the end of the move-ment. Pivot round on the higher foot as you move up to arrive at the new point of balance on the outside edge of your boot.

Link a series of movements from foot to foot, concentrating on putting the twist in as you rock-over and arriving at the point of balance on the outside edge of your boot.

Compare this corkscrew rock-over to a standard rock-over, which feels easier? How do they compare on short distances and at the limit of your stretch? Short step or high step? Which type is easier on slabs, vertical walls or overhangs?

Pick a foothold directly above the lower hold and then a hold way out to the side. Try moving the pivot to before, during and after the rock-over. Does one need a stronger grip with your hands?

A corkscrew rock over onto a high ledge.
A corkscrew rock over onto a high ledge.

The rule of opposites

A standard rock-over tends to make us move left and right as we step up, whereas a corkscrew rock-over or a step through can help us to go directly up. Stepping across the centre line of your body and trying to stay sideways uses opposing left and right limbs.

So the rule is: The upper body uses the opposite limb to the lower body (left hand, right foot – right hand, left foot). Combined this with facing towards the hand you are using at the time.

Using the rule of opposites: Stepping up onto the outside edge of the left rock boot, and using mainly the right hand to layaway, and left hand to press down.

Rule of opposites exercises

Use only opposite limbs left hand – right foot and vice versa..

Emphasise the direction that you are facing, if you are pulling on your right hand then face to the right.

Now try making the pivot before you rock over so that you are always rock- ing over onto the outside edge of your foot. This will help keep your centre of gravity closer to the wall, reducing the leverage on your hands.

You may find that if the step is too high you will have to do the twist during the rock-over.

Experiment with higher and higher steps, reaching them using sidepulls.

How does the rule of opposite feel? Easier or harder when stepping through? Is there a height of step when stepping through that it is easier to twist before, during or after the rock-over?

Cork screw rockover/rule of opposites tips

  • Move fluidly, carried by momentum, between one foot and the other.
  • The pivot can happen before, during or after the movement. Experiment with what feels better when doing short or long steps, stepping out to the side or into the centre.
  • When you pivot before the movement you will back step onto the hold.
  • Use opposite limbs.
  • Face the right direction.
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