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Rock Climbing Techniques Explained

By admin - Posted on 02 December 2008

If you are new to rock climbing here is an article written for you to help explain the basic techniques used in rock climbing. Remember climbing is a dangerous activity, this risk is one you accept and undertake at your own risk.



Laybacking or Layback

The layback is a technique used regularly, quite strenuous but effective too.

It is basically opposing pressure from hands to feet  your skeleton does most of the work as you transfer your body weight down to your feet from your hands.

A single maneuver like this is called a layaway

Below you see the young climber laybacking a small overhang. An adult would easily overcome this overhang with reach - but the child had to bridge/stem up then climb the crack by turning it into a layback maneuver.



Overhangs - How to climb overhangs

Climbing your first overhang is often the beginners nightmare problem.

How can I possibly climb an overhang?

Yes, some overhangs can be very tricky but there are plenty with good holds too, confidence and speed will get you over the problem usually.

The trick is to keep your arms straight and roll the body through the shoulder towards holds that are out of reach.You may bend your arms but keep this to a minimum to conserve energy. Feet may be used - usually the toe or heel (most climbing shoes have this covered wih rubber) by hooking a hold above you you can pull or hang from a leg as required, this is known as a toe or Heel hook

If possible when resting on steep ground do not hang out too far as this will hinder you when you wish to continue upwards and you have to pull yourself in before moving up.

jamClimbing cracks

Another beginners nightmare, you can pull down on good incut holds, but how do you climb a vertical crack?

First of all you have several ways to climb a crack depending on it's width.

If its under 10cm wide you will Jam the crack by sliding in your hands and camming your fingers into the crack. You may also wish to jam your feet into the crack for purchase.

Be warned, if you have a good foot jam and your hands come off first it may get nasty! 

As the cracks get larger they require a different approach.

You may wish to jam the whole of your hand sideways in the crack or maybe even slide your arm in up to elbow the full shoulder in some cases.
You may turn your boot sideways on so your toes and heels oppose.

There are no rules here, but if it's painful, you are probably doing it wrong!

You can also utilise the layback technique on cracks. If there is more than one crack you could bridge them.

bridgingBridging technique or Stemming.

Your legs are strong - so use them to your advantage (often overlooked by beginners)

You can climb corners and large cracks by bridging the gap with your feet, pushing with your hands and feet across the sides. Any holds you can use will make this feel more secure as it relies on opposing pressure and friction off the rock. Note the climber on the left, bridging up a series of small overhangs, by climbing in this manner she overcomes the problem easily.

If you start to use your back against a wall and push with your hands and feet it becomes a Chimneying maneuver.

Many climbs rely upon using a variety of these techniques together.


or Smearing

Smearing is a technique where a climber will hopefully have both grippy but smooth rock (eg: granite) and will use the ball of the foot to press down on the surface of the rock allowing upward progress.
Different boots have different smearing properties and this is down to the rubber compound used on the sole.

It is possible to smear on rock and hardly use your upper body or hands as all the work is done by the feet and legs.

Tip: Ensure your boots are clean before you climb as smearing relies on clean contact. I often wipe my boots on my trouser legs on route to rid the rubber of grit and rubbish picked up.


Dyno's or Dynamic Manoeuvre

A dyno is where a climber will hang off a good hold (usually) and rock up and down before leaping upwards to catch a hold above. Ideally the climber grabs the target hold at the highpoint of his jump. A climber may lose contact with the climb during a dynamic move  - always gets a round of applause in competitions.

Beginners tip:
Try and concentrate on moving slowly and smoothly bringing one foot up at a time.




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