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Pete’s hard crack credentials also include the first ascents of Crown of Thorns (5.14a) and Cruzifix (5.14a), and repeats of the legendary Cobra Crack (5.14b) in Squamish, Canada – considered the hardest finger crack in the world at the time – and Recovery Drink (F8c+) in Jøssingfjord, Norway – his hardest crack to date. In 2019 he flashed Ronny Medelsvensson (F8b), also in Jøssingfjord, most likely the hardest ever flash of a pure crack route. He was also the first person to flash a 5.13 offwidth with his first-go ascent of Belly Full of Bad Berries (5.13a/b) in Indian Creek, Utah, in 2011. Pete believes he has only scratched the surface of what is possible with hard crack climbing.

MASTERING THE SKILLS + TECHNIQUES

PETE WHITTAKER

CRACK CLIMBING

On his local gritstone, Pete’s major first ascents include Dynamics of Change (E9 7a), Bigger Baron (E10 7a) and Sleepy Hollow (E10 7a). Further afield, he has made the first ascents of Century Crack (5.14b), the world’s hardest offwidth crack, The Millennium Arch (5.14a), and Lamb of God (5.14b), all in Canyonlands, Utah.

1 Introduction: the Five Rules of Crack Climbing 2 Finger Cracks 3 Hand Cracks 4 Fist Cracks 5 Offwidth Cracks 6 Squeeze Chimneys 7 Chimneys 8 Stems 9 Roof Cracks 10 Placing Gear 11 Equipment and Protection 12 Taping

CRACK CLIMBING

In 2014 Pete flashed the classic Freerider (5.12d) on El Capitan, Yosemite, and in 2016 he became the first person to make a solo-free ascent of El Capitan in under 24 hours. He followed this up in 2018 with a single-day solo link-up of both El Capitan and Half Dome.

Crack Climbing covers the following areas:

PETE WHITTAKER

Drawn to climbing by the challenge and adventure, Pete Whittaker seeks out pioneering first ascents and revels in pushing his personal limits. Having grown up in the Peak District surrounded by the area’s world-famous gritstone crags, he has been climbing since the age of six and has gone on to rack up an impressive mix of climbing achievements on a variety of rock types and styles across the globe. As one half of the Wide Boyz duo with Tom Randall, Pete has become synonymous with hard crack climbing. He has taken techniques learnt on his local crags and has applied them with great effect all over the world, most notably on the huge roof cracks in the desert areas of Utah, and on the big walls of Yosemite.

The ability to climb cracks is at the core of a climber’s craft. Crack Climbing by Pete Whittaker provides a single point of reference for all crack climbing techniques, regardless of the grade you climb. Pete is widely regarded as one of the best crack climbers in the world, having made dozens of cutting-edge first ascents and hard repeats, including the first ascent of Century Crack (5.14b) in Canyonlands, Utah. In this book, Pete has drawn on years of experience to demonstrate the many different techniques and to give you an under­ standing of when, why and how to use them. Develop these skills with confidence and your climbing standard will improve. The book is split into easily accessible sections on techniques for different widths of cracks, including finger cracks, hand and fist cracks, offwidth cracks and chimneys. Pete looks at the basics, including the hand jam – the essential technique in any crack climber’s repertoire – right through to advanced techniques such as the sidewinder and the trout tickler. Step-by-step practical information and how-tos are supplemented with tips and tricks from Pete alongside illustrations by Alex Poyzer and photographs. Additional chapters cover how to tape up, as well as essential gear and equipment. Pete has also interviewed some of the world’s top crack climbers so that you can learn from the best. Gain insights from Lynn Hill, Alex Honnold, Barbara Zangerl, Peter Croft and more. Master the craft and advance your climbing. It’s time to jam!

Author photo © Mike Hutton. Vertebrate Publishing, Sheffield www.v-publishing.co.uk

304j VP Crack Climbing_PB OFC.indd 1

£25 30/09/2019 12:09


Vertebrate Publishing, Sheffield www.v-publishing.co.uk

CRACK CLIMBING

ILLUSTRATIONS BY ALEX POYZER

MASTERING THE SKILLS + TECHNIQUES

PETE WHITTAKER


CRACK CLIMBING

PETE WHITTAKER

First published simultaneously in Great Britain and North America in 2020 by Vertebrate Publishing, Sheffield, and Mountaineers Books, Seattle. Vertebrate Publishing Omega Court, 352 Cemetery Road, Sheffield S11 8FT, United Kingdom. www.v-publishing.co.uk Mountaineers Books 1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134, United States of America. Copyright © Pete Whittaker 2020. Illustrations copyright © Alex Poyzer 2020. Front cover illustration © Alex Poyzer. Cover design by Jane Beagley. Individual photography as credited. Pete Whittaker has asserted his rights under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as author of this work. A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN 978-1-911342-76-2 (Paperback) ISBN 978-1-911342-77-9 (Ebook) ISBN 978-1-68051-215-1 (Paperback – North America) ISBN 978-1-68051-216-8 (Ebook – North America) 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 All rights reserved. No part of this work covered by the copyright herein may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic, or mechanised, including photocopying, recording, taping or information storage and retrieval systems – without the written permission of the publisher. Every effort has been made to obtain the necessary permissions with reference to copyright material, both illustrative and quoted. We apologise for any omissions in this respect and will be pleased to make the appropriate acknowledgements in any future edition. Edited by John Coefield. Design and production by Jane Beagley. www.v-publishing.co.uk Vertebrate Publishing is committed to printing on paper from sustainable sources. FSC logo here Printed and bound in Europe by Latitude Press Ltd. Warning: climbing is dangerous This manual is designed to give climbers the skills necessary to stay safe, but rock climbing and mountaineering are inherently dangerous and so this manual is written for experienced rock climbers and mountaineers only. No one should undertake climbing without the proper training or equipment, and individuals must take personal responsibility for learning the proper techniques and employing good judgement. We strongly recommend that anyone who is unsure about any aspect of this manual seeks instruction from a qualified professional. By using the information contained within this manual you acknowledge that the information herein may be out of date or inaccurate and you agree that the author, publisher or rights holder cannot be held responsible or liable for any damage or injury that may be caused as a result of using this manual.


I started this project with one goal in mind – to provide a resource of crack climbing knowledge: the go-to place to learn about this craft. I hope that everyone who picks up the book – even the very best climbers in the world – can learn something (I certainly have from writing it), or at the very least think about a crack climbing concept in a different way. So, to the readers: this book is written for you.


CONTENTS

Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix A Note . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi Before We Begin: Key Terms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xii 1 . . The Five Rules of Crack Climbing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

. . . .

. . . .

4.3 . Climbing Positioning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.3.1 . . Face cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.3.2 . . Corner cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.4 . Climbing Movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Meet the master: Peter Croft

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

82 82 82 84 87

Meet the master: Beth Rodden . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 2 . . Finger Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1 . Hand Techniques in Finger Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1.1 . . Locker finger cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1.2 . . Baggy finger cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1.3 . . Tips finger cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1.4 . . Tips in corners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1.5 . . Ring locks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1.6 . . Finger bars . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1.7 . . Donut jams . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1.8 . . Pin scars . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

34 34 36 38 38 40 43

5 . . Offwidth Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89 . . 5.1 . Hand/Hand Offwidth Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 . . . . . . 5.1.1 . . Hand techniques in hand/hand offwidth cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 . . . . . . 5.1.2 . . Arm techniques in hand/hand offwidth cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94 . . . . . . 5.1.3 . . Leg and foot techniques in hand/hand offwidth cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 . . . . . . 5.1.4 . . Climbing positioning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99 . . . . . . . . . . . 5.1.4.1 . Face cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 . . . . . . . . . . . 5.1.4.2 . Corner cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 . . 5.2 . Hand/Fist Offwidth Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102 . . . . . . 5.2.1 . . Hand techniques in hand/fist offwidth cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102 . . . . . . 5.2.2 . . Leg and foot techniques in hand/fist offwidth cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106 . . . . . . 5.2.3 . . Climbing positioning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108 . . . . . . . . . . . 5.2.3.1 . Face cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108 . . . . . . . . . . . 5.2.3.2 . Corner cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109

47

Meet the master: Randy Leavitt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111

13 14 14 17 19 21 24 27 28 30

Meet the master: Lynn Hill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 . . . . . . .

. . . . . . .

2.2 . Foot Techniques in Finger Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.2.1 . . Feet in splitter cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.2.2 . . Feet in corner cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.3 . Climbing Positioning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.3.1 . . Face cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.3.2 . . Corner cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.4 . Climbing Movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Meet the master: Jerry Moffatt

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

3 . . Hand Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 . . 3.1 . Hand Techniques in Hand Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 . . . . . . 3.1.1 . . Standard hand cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 . . . . . . 3.1.2 . . Crimped hands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 . . . . . . 3.1.3 . . Thin hands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 . . . . . . 3.1.4 . . Cupped hands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 . . . . . . 3.1.5 . . Cup and twist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 . . . . . . 3.1.6 . . Other techniques . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 . . 3.2 . Foot Techniques in Hand Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 3.2.1 . . Foot jams ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 58 . . 3.3 . Climbing Positioning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 . . . . . . 3.3.1 . . Face cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 . . . . . . 3.3.2 . . Corner cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 . . 3.4 . Climbing Movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Meet the master: Barbara Zangerl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69 4 . . Fist Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.1 . Hand Techniques in Fist Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.1.1 . . Standard fist cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.1.2 . . Alternative thumb positions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.1.3 . . Making fist jams smaller . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.1.4 . . Making fist jams bigger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.2 . Foot Techniques in Fist Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

vi

71 72 72 74 75 77 81

. . 5.3 . Fist/Fist Offwidth Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.3.1 . . Hand techniques in fist/fist offwidth cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.3.2 . . Leg and foot techniques in fist/fist offwidth cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.3.3 . . Climbing positioning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.3.3.1 . Face cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.3.3.2 . Corner cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

112 112 117 118 118 119

Meet the master: Mason Earle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121 . . 5.4 . Arm Bar and chickenwing offwidth cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.4.1 . . Hand and arm techniques in arm bar and chickenwing offwidth cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.4.1.1 . Inside hand/arm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.4.1.2 . Outside hand/arm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.4.2 . . Leg and foot techniques in arm bar and chickenwing offwidth cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.4.2.1 . Inside leg/foot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.4.2.2 . Outside leg/foot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.4.3 . . Climbing positioning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.4.3.1 . Face cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.4.3.2 . Corner cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.5 . Climbing Movement in Offwidth Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . .

122 122 122 126 128 128 131 132 132 133 134

Meet the master: Alex Honnold . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139


6 . . Squeeze Chimneys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.1 . Size 1: Narrow Squeeze Chimneys (basic squeeze) . . . . . . . 6.1.1 . . Technique and positioning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.1.2 . . Climbing movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.1.3 . . Other techniques: T-stack . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.2 . Size 2: Medium Squeeze Chimneys (the sidewinder) . . . . . . 6.2.1 . . Technique and positioning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.2.2 . . Climbing movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.3 . Size 3: Wide Squeeze Chimneys (the hip thrust) . . . . . . . . . . 6.3.1 . . Technique and positioning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.3.2 . . Climbing movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

141 142 142 142 143 144 144 144 146 146 146

Meet the master: Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149 7 . . Chimneys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.1 . Size 1: Narrow Chimneys (back-and-footing) . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.1.1 . . Technique and positioning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.1.2 . . Climbing movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.2 . Size 2: Medium Chimneys (standard chimneying) . . . . . . . 7.2.1 . . Technique, positioning and movement . . . . . . . . 7.3 . Size 3: Wide Chimneys (body bridging) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.3.1 . . Technique, positioning and movement . . . . . .

151 152 152 152 154 154 155 155

Meet the master: Hazel Findlay

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

157

8 . . Stems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.1 . Stemming in Corners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.1.1 . . Technique and positioning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.1.2 . . Climbing movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.2 . Stemming in Chimneys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

159 160 160 162 164

Meet the master: Nico Favresse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167 9 . . Roof Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169 . . 9.1 . Finger-Sized Roof Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170 . . 9.2 . Hand-Sized Roof Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171 . . . . . . 9.2.1 . . Hand technique . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171 . . . . . . 9.2.2 . . Foot technique . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172 . . . . . . 9.2.3 . . Offset/corner crack positioning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173 . . . . . . 9.2.4 . . Movement skills . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174 . . 9.3 . Fist-Sized Roof Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176 . . 9.4 . Offwidth Roof Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176 . . . . . . 9.4.1 . . Hand/hand-sized offwidth roof cracks . . . . . . . 177 . . . . . . 9.4.2 . . Hand/fist-sized offwidth roof cracks . . . . . . . . . 178 . . . . . . 9.4.3 . . Positioning and movement skills on hand/ hand and hand/fist offwidth roof cracks . . . . 179 . . . . . . 9.4.4 . . Fist/fist-sized offwidth roof cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . 180 . . . . . . 9.4.5 . . Arm bar and chickenwing-sized offwidth roof cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181 . . 9.5 . Spin Throughs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183 . . . . . . 9.5.1 . . Spin throughs with the feet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183 . . . . . . 9.5.2 . . Climbing feet first . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184 9.5.3 Spin throughs with the hands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184 . . 9.6 . Lip Turns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185 . . . . . . 9.6.1 . . Finger/hand/fist size . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185 . . . . . . 9.6.2 . . Hand/hand size . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185

. . . . . . 9.6.3 . . Hand/fist size . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186 . . . . . . 9.6.4 . . Fist/fist size . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186 9.6.5 Pivoting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187 Meet the master: Tom Randall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189 10 . Placing Gear���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 193 . . 10.1 Choosing Your Rack . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194 . . 10.2 Racking Up . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 195 . . 10.3 Placing Gear on Route . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 198 . . . . . . 10.3.1 . When are you going to place your piece of gear? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 198 . . . . . . 10.3.2 . Where are you going to place your piece of gear? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199 . . . . . . 10.3.3 . What piece of gear are you going to place? . . 199 . . . . . . 10.3.4 . How are you going to place your piece of gear? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 200 . . . . . . 10.3.5 . Keeping your piece of gear effective . . . . . . . . . . 205 . . . . . . 10.3.6 . Placing gear in corner cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205 . . . . . . 10.3.7 . Placing gear in offwidth cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206 . . . . . . 10.3.8 . Placing gear in roof cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206 Meet the master: Ron Fawcett . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209 11 . Equipment and Protection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11.1 Finger Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11.2 Hand Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11.3 Fist Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11.4 Offwidth Cracks: Stacked Techniques . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11.5 Offwidth Cracks: Arm Bar, Chickenwing and Squeeze Chimney Techniques . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11.6 Chimneys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11.7 Stems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

211 212 213 214 216 218 219 219

Meet the master: Jean-Pierre ‘Peewee’ Ouellet . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221 12 . Taping ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 223 . . 12.1 Taping Up Hands: the Basics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 224 . . 12.2 Taping Up Hands: Preparing to Tape . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225 . . 12.3 Taping Up Hands: the Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226 . . . . . . 12.3.1 . Covering methods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226 . . . . . . 12.3.2 . Anchoring methods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230 . . . . . . 12.3.3 . Wrapping methods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 234 . . 12.4 Taping Up Hands: Building Your Tape Gloves . . . . . . . 241 . . . . . . 12.4.1 . Suggested tape glove combinations . . . . . . . . . . 241 . . . . . . 12.4.2 . Reusing your tape gloves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 241 . . . . . . 12.4.3 . Patching your tape gloves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 242 . . . . . . 12.4.4 . Removing your tape gloves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 242 . . . . . . 12.4.5 . Storing your tape gloves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243 . . 12.5 Taping Up Fingers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 244 . . 12.6 Crack Gloves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 249 Meet the master: Will Stanhope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 251 Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 253 Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 254

CONTENTS  vii


PREFACE

One of my earliest crack climbing memories is of a notorious route on Peak District gritstone called The Vice – a short, steep hand-and-fist crack that requires a bit of brute force and tenacity, but with the correct techniques is not overly difficult. A confident 12-year-old me spotted the HVS (5.10) grade in the Stanage guidebook, thought ‘that’s within my ability’, and then spent the next 20 minutes dangling on the end of a tight rope with my feet paddling the air and brushing the ground. I managed only a single move. It’s not uncommon to have a heartbreaking experience when you start crack climbing as the techniques required are so far removed from anything you might have previously learnt in climbing. But stick with it. Since my own demoralising efforts on The Vice, I have gone on to repeat or establish many of the world’s hardest crack climbs. Miles of outdoor crack experience and indoor wooden crack training, along with many hours of crack climbing coaching, have given me the experience and the confidence to write this book. My goal from the start was to provide a single point of reference for crack climbing technique. The aim is to show you the different techniques and give you an understanding of why and how you use them. Then you can put them into practice with confidence and your climbing will improve. You’ll also have the privilege of learning from some of the world’s best crack climbers. Every climber can learn something from the likes of Lynn Hill, Alex Honnold and Peter Croft. If you think that this book isn’t for you and that you will never go crack climbing, think again. Remember the pocket on that boulder problem you were trying? Or those tufas on that sport climb? There are jams in and between those. Many sport climbers and boulderers miss opportunities to jam, instead pinching, crimping and squeezing around obvious jamming spots. Pick up this book, learn the craft and make climbing easier for yourself. If everybody who reads this book learns just one thing that benefits their climbing, I’ll be a happy author. Get jamming!

The author finger jamming on Mustang (F8a) at Caderese, Italy. © Paolo Sartori

PREFACE  ix


A NOTE

This book has a mountain of information buried inside of it. A lot of it is illustrated, which will help you to visualise what I’m explaining. However, there is a lot of information which is only described in words. After a while a book of words describing actions can become heavy and overwhelming, and even when you are focused it can be difficult to visualise the actions described in those words. To overcome this, I propose two solutions: Use this book like you would a guidebook. Find the information you are looking for, focus on that information, and don’t become distracted by information from the rest of the book (because, at that time, the rest of the book is not needed). If you lose focus, put it down and pick it up another day. Total focus with a particular section is the key to success. Mimic in real life the words that are printed on the page. Use your fingers, hands, arms, legs and feet to literally go through the actions in the air as you are reading about them. You might look like a total wally on the bus, at the train station or down the climbing wall, waving and flapping your arms and legs around, but I guarantee it will help you learn.

Aubrey Hodges gets fingers in Crime of the Century (5.11c) in Squamish, Canada. © Irene Yee

A NOTE  xi


BEFORE WE BEGIN KEY TERMS

Before we begin, it’s worth summarising some of the key terms that you’ll come across while using this book. It should also be noted that for simplicity’s sake, and unless otherwise stated, the techniques described in this book assume that a crack takes a vertical line up a vertical rock face.

Crack features Rock face – the walls outside of the crack. Crack wall – the inside walls of a crack. Crack edge/Arête – where the crack wall meets the rock face. Easily identified if it’s sharp and square cut. Crack entrance – the point where the space inside of the crack meets the space outside of the crack. Splitter – a uniform crack separating two rock faces. Boxed crack – a crack with a back. Essentially the back of the crack prevents you from delving deeper; maybe because of a wall, a narrowing or a chockstone preventing you from doing so. Flare – a rounded and more sloping feature. When a crack is described as ‘flaring’ you can likely presume the crack edge/arête is a difficult feature to distinguish (i.e. the crack wall blends into the rock face). Pod – a slightly larger opening (in comparison to the general width) within a crack feature. Offset/Corner – where one crack edge is set forwards of another, either a little (an offset) or a lot (a corner). Corner wall – the crack wall becomes the corner wall when the crack wall extends past the crack edge, outside of the crack feature entirely, and forms a corner (a large offset).

Technique terminology Technique – the way in which you place a body part into the crack. Positioning – the way the body is positioned on the rock to achieve movement. Movement – the way the body moves to make upwards progress. Jam – a body part placed actively or passively in a crack feature.

xii

Stack – two body parts used in combination in the crack as a single unit. Guppy/Cup – the act of wrapping the palm of your hand around a rock feature, then using your fingers and thumb to clamp either side of it. Imagine wrapping your hand over the top of a large aubergine. Gaston – taking a hold with your palm facing away from you, with your thumb pointing towards the floor and elbow out to the side, is known as a gaston. Imagine trying to prise open elevator doors. Bomber – a jam that is incredibly positive. You could probably hang a car off yourself from something this good.

Jam stability At the beginning of each technique, the jam is listed as either being a powerful, marginal, balance or resting jam. Powerful jam – a jam that can be used forcefully (powerfully) for pulling or pushing. It will feel positive and you should seek out this kind of jam. If it is done correctly you could hang from this jam and nothing else. Marginal jam – a jam that can be pulled or pushed on; this should be done with care and precision to ensure the jam sticks. A subtle movement within this jam can make it suddenly feel very poor and possibly lead to a failure of the jam. Balance jam – a jam that is poor; you shouldn’t expect to be able to pull or push on this kind of jam. You might use this jam to help gain purchase so that you can move other body parts, and you will need to be able to put weight through other body parts when using this jam. This jam alone will not keep you in the crack and on the rock. Resting jam – a jam which is very solid and can be used powerfully, but which can often restrict body movement. This kind of jam is very useful for resting or placing gear from.


Illustrations key Contact area between rock and body part. Red arrow shows pressure and in which direction when skin touches rock. The dotted red arrow indicates an area we can’t necessarily see and may be hidden by another body part. Black arrow shows pressure and in which direction when skin touches skin. Pressure on the wall behind a body part we can’t necessarily see.

A

B C

Movement of a body part: twisting, rotating, flexing, etc. The letter indicates the order in which these movements should be performed. Direction of push or pull to enable the climber to move off a jam. If the arrow points towards the body part which is jamming, this indicates a pushing action. If the arrow points away from the body part which is jamming, this indicates a pulling action. Twisting point around which the body part should move/pivot. Front-on view. Side-on view.

Body parts This book assumes you know the names of the main body parts (i.e. that you know your knee from your elbow), but the different parts of the hand are a little more complicated. Here’s a breakdown of how I’ve referred to the components of the hand throughout this book.

First joint

Second joint Thumb

Index finger Middle finger

Knuckle

Ring finger

Thumb joint

Thumb knuckle

Wrist Pinkie finger

Finger webbing

Back of the hand

Pinkie finger Ring finger Palm Middle finger

Heel of the palm

Index finger

Wrist Tip Pad

Base of the fingers

Thumb Thumb muscle/pulp

Bird’s-eye view.

BEFORE WE BEGIN KEY TERMS  xiii


Mike Hutton making an early morning ascent of Don Whillans’s classic gritstone hand crack The File (VS 4c) at Higgar Tor in the Peak District, UK. © Mike Hutton


1 THE FIVE RULES OF CRACK CLIMBING There are five basic rules to abide by when it comes to climbing cracks. If you follow these rules and apply them to all aspects of your jamming techniques then you will experience less pain and a higher level of enjoyment and success. The different techniques and jams covered throughout this book will refer back to these principles, and while you might return to this chapter later, it’s important to make sense of these five rules at the outset.

Roger Brown soaking up the atmosphere on the granite hand crack of Living in Paradise (VS 4c) at Paradiset, one of the many crack venues on Norway’s magical Lofoten Islands. © Mike Hutton

CHAPTER 1 THE FIVE RULES OF CRACK CLIMBING  1


RULE 1 FILL THE SPACE EFFICIENTLY

Crack climbing is: climbing the spaces between and inside the rock. So, with all jams, you should try to fill those spaces as efficiently as possible. You therefore want to insert as much of the body part you are jamming with inside the crack as possible before you even start doing any of the techniques needed to execute the jam itself. Many people start performing the dynamics of the jam before the body part is in the crack. This means they get less surface area of jam touching the rock – and therefore a poorer jam. Why use only two fingers on a large crimp when you could use all four? It’s the same with jamming: why insert only half of your hand when the crack can gobble your hand to wrist depth? Get that body part right in there. There are three points to remember when filling the space efficiently: 1 Put the body part going into the crack into its thin­nest dimension/ orientation: a thin cross section means more of the body part can be inserted into the crack. 2 Relax the body part going into the crack: a relaxed body part will be easier to wiggle and ease in and will better mould to the crack’s shape. A tensed-up body part will form a rigid block which will stop you getting it further inside. Let’s try and understand this concept better: Imagine you have a large, rectangular stone brick and you want to fit it through a smaller round hole (square peg/round hole concept). The logistics of this are impossible: first, the brick is larger than the hole you are trying to fit it through; second, its shape is different. However, imagine this brick was made of plasticine: you would be able to press, mould and squeeze the plasticine brick through the hole to the other side. The stone brick is rigid and keeps its shape: it definitely can’t fit through the hole. Whereas the plasticine brick is soft, malleable and can change its shape to fit through the hole. So, make those body parts soft and malleable like plasticine when you insert them into the crack. 3 Expand the body part and make it rigid (using one of the jamming techniques covered in this book) only when it is inside the crack: an expanded body part will fill the space more efficiently and will have more surface area in contact with the walls of the crack. A rigid body part with a solid shape will struggle to come out of the crack. So, take that plasticine body part that you have just inserted into the crack and make it rigid – and it won’t come back out! Winner winner jamming dinner. These three points sound very simple, but people often neglect one of them – usually the first or second – which consequently makes it difficult to achieve a solid jam. When the part of your body that you want to jam with is inside the crack, you have to expand it to fill the space and make it stick. There are

2

Common mistakes to look out for: •• The final position of the jam has already been executed outside of the crack, before the body part has been inserted inside. •• The body part you are trying to jam with is not fully inside the crack. Part of it is still sticking out.


RULE 2 USE YOUR BODY AS A JAMMING DEVICE

lots of different ways that this jamming and expansion can be achieved. Let’s imagine your body is a big jamming device, similar to a rack of gear, with lots of different shaped and sized pieces. What you do with your body when you are crack climbing is the same as what you do with your climbing gear: insert it into cracks. •• A rack of gear has lots of pieces of different sizes, from the smallest micro-wires through to the biggest cams and Big Bros. Likewise, your body has lots of different size options available to insert into the crack, from the diameter of your pinkie finger right through to the length of your whole body. •• Your gear has lots of options for ways it can expand and twist to make sure it sticks in the rock. Your body also has lots of twisting and expanding mechanisms thanks to the movement in your joints. •• Your gear generally needs two or more points of opposing pressure to stay in place. Your jam also needs two or more points of opposing pressure on the crack walls to make it stick. (It’s important to remember that a jam will only work when body parts are touching both sides of a crack feature.) There are two ways that your body can jam: passive and active. Passive (like placing a wire): the jam is created by constrictions in the rock which allow a body part to be slotted in and wedged, enabling your jam to stick. The jam works because the constriction becomes too small for the body part to pass through. This type of jam requires minimal strength and you should look to try and use this type of jam as a first option. Active (like placing a camming device): the jam is created by a range of movement from you – either by twisting, rotating or expanding. A downwards force (your weight pulling on the jam) along with this movement of the jam creates outward pressure and friction on the crack walls enabl­ing your jam to stick. A downwards force (or pull) is hugely important in making the jam stick. Let’s try and understand this concept better: Imagine you placed a camming device into the rock and hanging from it was a car. It would be impossible to retrieve this camming device; you wouldn’t even be able to move it. However, if you swapped the car for a feather, you would be able to move or rotate the cam easily inside the crack and retrieving it would be simple. The same principle applies to jams. The more weight you put through a jam, the better it will stick (providing your force of outward pressure against the crack walls can match up to the weight you are putting through it). So, if you lean back, trust the jam and put your weight through it, it will feel more positive. Maybe climbing with a car attached to you would in fact make it easier … !

CHAPTER 1 THE FIVE RULES OF CRACK CLIMBING RULE 2: USE YOUR BODY AS A JAMMING DEVICE  3

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Crack Climbing by Pete Whittaker – Sample Pages  

Sample pages from Pete Whittaker's guide to climbing cracks, published by Vertebrate Publishing in January 2020. More information here: http...

Crack Climbing by Pete Whittaker – Sample Pages  

Sample pages from Pete Whittaker's guide to climbing cracks, published by Vertebrate Publishing in January 2020. More information here: http...

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