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Cross Hooking The Holds


by Anthony Bubb

December 29, 2001

Adapted from rec.climbing

My second try at technique. A post prompted by a request for info on overhang tips (Tammy). Here's a shot. By now, most people have heard of a "twist-lock." A few years ago, I though I was the only one who did it. about a year ago, I started seeing alot of people do it. Just after Xmas, I got a copy of PRC. Lo and behold, there it was. A few variations are printed/described, but one of my favorites (that I have NEVER seen anyone else do) is not in the book. I call it "cross-hooking." It combines a twist-lock with a heel-hook. It's kind of an advanced technique, and kind of specialized. You won't use it a whole lot, but I use it often enough to be glad I discovered it. Here we go...


There are times on a overhanging climb, or just after pulling the lip of a roof, that I find I have a good hold, but can't reach the next hold. Sometimes this calls for making a heel-hook, to take the weight off of your arms, so you have the strength to reach higher/further. Well, sometimes that isn't enough, besides, it drops the loose shoulder further from the hold, as often as not. Here's 2 forms of one solution that I use to solve this probelm. Both make the effort skelital rather than muscular, and actually make gravity work for you. Niether requires much strength or efffort, once you get the hang of it. I'll describe a particular configuration... hooking to the left. Simply switch 'left' for 'right' and vice-versa to get iunstructions for an opposite situation.

Imagine you just got that fabulous left-hand jug, and the next available hand-hold is WAYYYY up there, out of reach. Off to the left appears to be a great heel-hook. You try hooking it, and it takes some of the weight off of your arms, allowing you to reach 6 inches higher. Well, the next hold is still a foot out of reach. How do you get to it? Part of the problem is that your right shoulder hangs below your left shoulder when your left foot is hooked up. Getting it above the left is no simple or easy matter. It involves alot of power and tremendous flexibility. Now, just to do that, you can still only reach a few inches above the left with the right...

All in all, this sucks. I have an alternate solution. This will be hard to describe, so bear with me. Struggling with the same problem in Red River (where the technique I am about to describe works quite often) on a particular climb, I threw the second leg (the right one) up on the hook instead. BINGO! What you do is get the left foot up into a heel-hook, then switch it for the right. You body is now in what SOUNDS like an awkward podition, but is actually not. The right leg is now on your left side, heel-hooking, while the left leg dangles out from the cliff. Your left arm comes across your body to the hold you've been on. Your right shoulder is pointed in towards the cliff. Now, straiten the left leg (the one that was dangling) at the hip and at the knee. Spread your left leg out from the hip, as if you were trying to stretch your groin. This puts your left leg pointing horizontally out from the cliff. Gravity will take over and pull down on this leg, and the result will be ( if you keep your torso strait and don't go floppy) to "roll" your body so that your left side is below your right side. This is EXACTLY what you wanted. You see, now your right shoulder is above the left shoulder, almost touching the left hand-hold you were hanging from.

(I'll try to draw a mental picture of the body position here...) Your left arm is on a hold. On the left side, your RIGHT heel is hooked on a hold. You left leg is dangleing down, straitened at the waist and knee. You body is "crossed over", with your back neerly facing the wall, and your left arm hanging from the hold is lieing flat across your chest. Your right shoulder is ABOVE your left.) (back to the move...) Now that your right shoulder is above the left by the full width of you shoulders (probably 18 inches or more), your right arm just reaches up (18 inches higher than before) and grasps whatever hold was once out of reach. You have accomplished your first "CROSS-HOOK". Get your body uncrossed and finnish the route. I have made reaches of of over 3' (neerly 4') statically on overhangs this way, and above rooves. I'm not exactly what you'd call extremely strong, and DEFINATELY NOT TALL or light. (I out- weigh the average climber in Red River by about 10-20 lbs.)

Once you have tried that, there are a few varriations to consider, which are better in some situations. The first of these is that you may find a smear or a hold with the left foot while it is dangling. Push down and left on the hold (push your body up and right). This will extend your reach a few more inches. Another varriation of this is to leave the left heel hooked, but then bring the right up and over it, crossing above it and straightening it, forcing gravity to twist the body almost 180 degrees. I find this to be more stressfull on the joints, but it saves you trying to switch feet on the hooked hold, if it's a small hold. One more tip... if you use the hold WISELY, and it's big enough, you'll be able to convert the hook into a standing hold without moving it, by rolling the heel into a standing position, as you pull your body up on the right hold you've just gained. This will save the effort expended by screwing off with your feet dangling when you're trying to reset them.

Try all of this out and get the hang of it befor you use it on lead! IF YOU USE THIS ON LEAD BE CAREFULL TO KEEP THE ROPE BETWEEN YOU AND THE ROCK, AND NEVER, NEVER, EVER "OUTSIDE" OF YOUR HIPS. IF YOU FALL WITH THE ROPES OUTSIDE OF YOUR HIPS, THE DOCTOR (OR FUNERAL) BIILS WILL BE EMMENSE! The rope will set you into a terrible spin if it comes tight on the wrong side of yoru body. Hope you enjoyed... Feedback? Did I describe this well enough to be understandable? Keep on climbing! -T.

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