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Climbing Off-Widths


by Anthony Bubb

December 29, 2001

Adapted from rec.climbing

Well, most of what I've had to say is about face climbing so far. I actually do mostly trad (75%, I bet). I thought about posting some trad tips, but then, what can I say???, it's hard to explain that. Some O.W. techniques came to mind, but I thought "Nahh, nobody wants to read that." Another rec.climber asked if I'd do it, by coincidnce, and I'd been considering it, so here goes... my first try at posting trad technique tip.

--------------------------OFF-WIDTH------------------------------------- Now, I'm not so hot at climbing OFF-WIDTH, so maybe I can convince a few people (Bruce, George, Illana?) who like O.W. to contribute their favorite "tricks." That was one of the main goals of this thread, to get alot of "tip-sharing" lord knows, I could use a few. >From Mon Feb 6 16:49 EST 1995 >(snip) if you ever feel like putting something >together on chimney and o/w, I'd love to read it. >I led a 4 pitch climb yesterday, the second of which was >almost all a flaring chimney, (snip) I must have been >doing something wrong. I did use a foot/knee lock on >the outside of the flare to sit on periodically, and >was able to do a toe jam with the inner foot, but my >upper body got burnt from doing sort of a pushup thing >with the outside arm and hand jams with the inner hand. >Any technique/resting tips for this sort of thing would >be great, as for some reason I really enjoyed it (snip)

Well, I'd been thinking about posting this stuff anyway... There are a few std. tricks that I use in Off-width that I like, that conserve energy. A few of them are kinda funky, so I'll cover them last. Note that there are probably other names for these, but I didn't get them out of a text, so I don't know if they are commonplace, or if they are referred to by other names. As always, I don't claim to be the inventor of any of these, and, YOUR MILAGE MAY VARY.

We have different bodies, and they don't always work the same. Also, remeber that this is intended for the beginner, and I write so that teh least common denominator can understand what I am trying to say. I'm not trying to insult anyone's intelligence. (F%$#, if I did that, spelling flames would start again.)

#1) "Shoulder-Roll". Get one or more shoulder into the crack and lean your back against the wall. Begin to make "shugging" movements by bringing your shoulder forward, up, then back and down. Your shouder (blades?) will roll you up the cliff in back, and if your feet are good, you can just keep walking up that way. No hands are required, except to move the feet at times. DOne plenty O' 5.6 stuff like that.

#2) "INCH-WORM" For squeeze chimney. Get at least 1/2 of your back against the wall and feet and hands forward. (hands not really necessary again). Now arch your back, bringing your rear end up. Plant the butt and straiten the back, moving up the shoulders. Press shoulders back agaist the wall, and arch your back, bringing.... Ad infitum. Hands are somewhat necessary to move the butt, if it's a really tight squeeze. Good to alternate this with #1, so as not to get tired of one or the other. PRogress on both is slow, but sure, and not difficult.

#3) "CHEST JAM" Self explanitory, used for rest. Squueze in, breathe in all of the way, and hold some of it in when you exhale. I can hang my whole body sometimes, for a few minutes of "complete" rest.

#4a) "HIGH-FOOT" My personal favorite!!!! This may require quite a bit of flexibility to be executed well. Whenever I find a good foot-hold/jam, I put the foot on it, and put my other leg (jamming or camming the foot into teh crack) WAYYYY up in the crack, with the leg strait. It's like a balerena doing hamstring stretches on a bar. With that firmly in place, I lean back on that leg (level with waist or higher) and let all of my weight rest on my foot-hold. The leg holds me in, and sometimes helps hold me up, so I can dangle my arms for a "complete" rest, and shake them out. This move is great when you get a good one!

#4b) "HIGH-KNEE" Alot like high-foot, except it's not as good, and doesn't require the flexibility. Raise the "free" leg as high into the crack as possible, while _somewhat_ straight. Bend the leg all of the way, forceably. If the crack is *JUST RIGHT*, your knee and muscle around it will jam into the crack, allowing you to free your arms and shake out, as described for "HIGH-FOOT."

#5) "HURDLER" I like this one, but it's hell on the knees, and is limited alot by flexibility and size of the crack (squeeze chimney only). I bring one foot up beside my butt, knee pointing down, so that the position is kind of like doing a hurdler stretch. The torque generated by my frame (skelital/ligaments) is enough to produce the required friction and whatnot to hold me on a single foot-hold (other foot) with no hands. I used this for the first time on "HEFTY HEFTY HEFTY" (New River Gorge) and kept using it, all counted, probably 5-10 times on that route. It really helped save my hands for the finger-crack top.

#6) "BAT HANG" (DIFFICULT, ADVANCED, PAINFULL) I have to be wearing high- tops to do it. (My Kaukulators have survived this abuse for a long time... good shoes to climb trad in, BTW.) In Red River, there are plenty of O.W. overhangs and rooves. Get inverted (heels over head) and point toes up into crack. The heels will be forced agaist one wall and the tops of the feet & shins against another. Friction MIGHT hold you up. It might not. Best if you can lock the feet onto a feature in the crack. If you think about the implications, you will realize why this is risky on lead. I have used it to place gear though, as My body, other than the feet, was completely free. I have also "walked" (up-side-down) out a section of pretty hard O.W. roof that way, placing one foot ahead at all times. (never crossing feet.) Be carfull not to drop your rack if it's on a shoulder sling, and think about how many sit- ups you think you can do. It takes abs to get the hands back up, cause bending the legs shifts the feet, and I found out that that isn't cool. Keeping the legs straight all of the way to the hip reduces the chance of foot-shift (and thus a fall, or pain) greatly. Some people can NOT achieve this position. I am not a doctor, but I can say, if it hurts REALLY bad, you probably shouldn't do it again.

#7) "KNEE-LOCK" (DIFFICULT, ADVANCED, PAINFULL UNLESS IN PANTS) Again, a trick I use on O.W. rooves. This trick will work for cracks 12-20 (or thereabouts, leg-length dependant) It is best if they are not completely smooth, but I've had it work on some pretty clean cracks. When possible. I get into a position that is like a lie-back, clinging under the roof-crack. Alot of the time, I get some aid in this by a foot twisted up into the crack. Next, I bend one leg (free one) at the knee and point the knee as far into the crack as possible, straight up. Placing a foot on the side of the crack furthest from me, my quadriceps (front of leg) touch donw on the neer side of the crack, camming me in. This is an old face-climbing trick called a "knee-bar" by most climbers. I have also "walked" out of sections of O.W. rooves like this, a few inches at a time, but it sure is rest for the arms! Alot of times, hands are required to move the legs. Try not to let the pressure come on your knees, they're expensive (and painful) to replace. The cam should be between the feet and quads. Oh yeah, if the fit of the crack is a little loose, I always point my toes out and that makes my legs effectively longer. You will be facing head-down again, so assess the risk of climbing like this before you do it. The friction generated on you quads burns and can tear the skin if you're not wearing pants/sweats. Tights don't seem to cut it, for me at least.

#8) Get some nice soft (but thin) knee-pads.

That is all I have to offer for now. I really think that maybe some other climbers might have something to offer here, maybe a few personal favs. Of their own??? (HINT HINT...) I'm not the worlds best O.W. climber, and could use the tips myself. POST AWAY!!! I KNOW I'm not the only OW-lover out there. Feedback? Questions? One source of concern that I have had raised reciently is that these posts tend to "over-explain" things, being explicit to the point of redundancy. If I am over-doing it on the descriptions, please let me know, so that I can try to be more to the point. At the same time, if I get TOOOO "to the point" and am doing a poor job explaining positions (hard to do in words), let me know so I can be more explicit. This isn't worth a damn unless you understand what I am saying. It also isn't worth a damn if you fall asleap reading it! So what say you? Shoud they be less verbose or more explicit, or are they about right?????? -T.

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