Chop, Flare, and Grind
Why crack climbers consume more athletic tape than an NFL team doctor.
There are old, classic cracks in Yosemite with deceptively low grades like 5.7 and 5.9 that regularly reject seasoned gym and sport climbers. The whining and protesting can be heard all over the valley. “How can that thing be 5.7 - I can’t even get off the ground on it!” and “These grades are sandbags!”
There are a couple of special techniques that, once mastered, will make that route feel like it’s graded right. But without them, it might as well be a 5.13.
On a blank wall of glacier polished granite, the only usable feature might be a narrow, parallel sided crack. Inside the walls of the crack there will be little irregularities where it gets narrower, turns a bit, or widens up.
To climb such a crack under your own power (versus aiding it):
1. Pretend you’re making a “karate chop” with your hand and slot it into the crack pinky down just above one of those constrictions.
2. Twist your hand, flaring your elbow up and out to the side of the crack.
Alternately you can slot your fingers into the crack thumbs down and tuck your elbow down to your side to lock it. Now as you cam your fingers into the narrow bit, feel around and find the sweet spot where two, three, or four fingers seem to naturally fit and settle in most securely. It might even only allow one finger—just be careful and don’t rip it off.
3. Ensure the edge of the crack in grinding into the fleshy parts of your fingers between the knuckles.
Pain is good here—that means you’re getting a good lock. This is why crack climbers consume more athletic tape than an NFL team doctor.
4. Hold the positioning of that hand as much as you can as you pull down with your back and shoulders, find footholds, and smear your way up.
5. Once you’ve reached a bit of stability and you can extract one of your hands, pull it out carefully, reach up, find another tight spot in the crack, and repeat.
Spend some time down on the ground experimenting with how your fingers will lock into the confines of a crack, and getting used to pulling on them
Labels: climbing, tips, Yosemite