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Technique - A magical elixir that we all turn to when our natural strength will no longer suffice in our quest to climb harder. Acquisition of good technical prowess is a long-fought battle and one that is not easily quantifiable and so it is often substituted by beginners for strength training and long gym sessions.

But lose the sleeveless t-shirts and baggy shorts, forgo the weight induced gurn in front of the mirrors, instead don some durable and colourful climbing trousers, chalk up and with perseverance, technique will materialise.

Technique is gained through experience and exposure to moves, body positions, textures and a multitude of holds. It is the difference between a faltering and slow transition up the route to fluid moves instinctively being crafted over the surface of a beautiful piece of rock. It is key to a tranquil mind on classic routes and it is your armoury as you push your grade on the most suspect rock.

Your thinking and deliberation time will be greatly reduced, your wariness with strange body positions and balance will disappear. You will be able to anticipate how an out of reach hold will feel and react when you dynamically move towards it.

As a starter let’s focus on our main contact zones i.e. Hands and Feet (No! knees are definitely off limits)


Hands


Unless you travel selectively to find natural tufa or well pocked limestone, you will rarely find yourself climbing perfect jugs and pockets. So, reading the rock and making the best use of what is presented to you is essential.

The key to maximising what your hands can do for you is searching for the most positive edge and pulling in the opposite direction preferably as close to 90 degrees as possible.

To illustrate this cast your minds back to the 90's and that exceptional piece of Saturday evening television programming. Gladiators. In particular the round known as THE WALL. If you don’t know what this is stop reading now and go here. Imagine being caught by the chasing Gladiator just as you reach a positive horizontal ledge. You stand a reasonable chance of holding on. Now imagine the horizontal edge being rotated to vertical. The added weight of a sweaty Lycra clad D list celebrity will see your hands slide down the edge and your fall toward nationally witnessed indignity.

How then would technique save your bacon in the latter example. Easy. Approach the vertical hold. You assess that the right edge is the most positive so you climb to the left side. Once alongside it you hold with the right arm and shift your body weight to the left by leaning, hip thrust or foot step. The more you lean away the better the hold feels. Gladiator defeated; hero status acquired.

Back in reality, the “body weight pulling at 90 degrees” theory works for all holds and edges however as we know not all holds were created equal…

Crimps:

Small holds that usually take only finger tips.

Make a Lego man hand shape between your four fingers and opposing thumb. Now take the thumb and press against the side and top of the adjacent finger. Squeeze the little finger sideways into the next finger and you have created a nifty little hook for tiny holds.

(If you don’t know what a Lego man hand looks like I give up.)

Slopers (open grips):

Same Lego man hands to start with this time. The four fingers press down whilst the thumb presses in against the side of the hand or into the rock if there are suitable surface features to get some lateral purchase.

If the hold isn’t incut, you will be relying on friction between hand and rock so do everything you can to maximise surface contact.

Pinches:

You pinch a hold in the same way as a crab pinches it’s claws. An effective use of the technique is to pinch a hold between your thumb and the side of your index finger.

Remember Superman crushing a lump of coal.... Why do I bother?

Footwork


Having been bi-pedal from about the age of 2 most of us have stopped looking exactly at where we put our feet and this carries over when we start to climb. Some of us climb with our feet in “high street mode” for quite some time. Others prance and cavort across the rock with graceful and perfected ballerina like ease.

Here are tips for the latter...

Foot-eye coordination:

Watch your foot down onto the hold. Remember how we said technique was born from experience. Well without looking at your feet you won’t get the same visual input to this experience that your handwork affords. You therefore won’t know what works and what doesn’t, and most importantly you can’t build confidence standing on the smallest imperfections and slimmest of smears. Watching the foot down onto the hold also gives you a psychological boost in the moment. “My foot is on, I know it’s on, it won’t move”

Body position:


Two things here, firstly develop belief in the saying “a loaded foot never slips” and secondly apply weight through the foot at 90degrees to the bit of rock you are standing on.

The best way of illustrating these is a standing on a slippery floor. Little steps mean that you are always loading each foot and you are always as close to 90 degrees with each footstep.

Lunge forward with one foot and the opposite applies, less load goes through the foot into the ground and more goes across the surface of the floor aka a SLIP!

For more references to 90's culture and their real-world applications in climbing check out our ranges of courses.

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